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Hail DVD, Goodbye Reruns

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 25, 2005

A couple of co-workers complained to me today about the ''Lost'' reruns on ABC. As I mentioned some time ago in a mailbag column, the network is skipping some episodes on rerun because it doesn't have enough weeks to replay the entire season in order during the summer. But for people who are trying to catch up on plot turns, or simply refresh their memories, episode skipping just adds to the confusion about a show that can be confusing enough when you're playing close attention.

One of my colleagues flatly said she's just going to wait for the first season of ''Lost'' to come out on DVD -- it's due Sept. 6 -- and will use that as a catchup instead of slogging through the broadcast repeats. It's a wise move, and yet another reason why an increasing number of shows are rushing to DVD.

The first season of ''House'' comes out on Tuesday, just a couple of weeks before the second season begins. Late September brings the first season of '"Desperate Housewives'' on DVD. ''Nip/Tuck'' for that matter will release its second season on DVD next week, not long before the third season begins on Sept. 20. The expectations for previous-season DVDs have become so high, some reporters were disappointed that the first season of ''Veronica Mars'' won't be on DVD until after the second season starts.

And all those DVDs are good for the shows. It gives you a chance to race through a season, commercial-free, at your own pace. If you're late to the dance, you could even record the latest season's episodes and get to them after getting done with the most recent season on DVD. In fact, as I'll be pointing out in my fall preview package in the Beacon Journal on Sept. 11, the availability of DVD goes hand-in-hand with the success of shows like ''Lost'' in encouraging viewers to participate in open-ended, serialized storytelling. Once a show goes to DVD, there's a complete, season-long narrative. Well, except for silly cliffhangers.

Of course, in the not too distant future, the DVD itself may be obsolete. We're moving ever closer to on-demand viewing as commonplace. We're already seeing it with select shows. I can easily envision a day when every episode of every TV series is available on demand through your cable, satellite or Internet provider, so you can watch any show, in order, when you want.

But, until then, DVD is the next best thing. And certainly better than depending on capricious scheduling by a broadcast network.

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