For those of you too young to remember what it was like to have a video collection in the pre-digital days of VHS, lemme tell ya… It was a pain in the butt. Bulky, inconvenient plastic blocks of ridiculously fragile tape that usually held a mere two hours took up tons of shelf space and took forever to navigate. And if you wanted to own a TV show on video, the few that were commercially available would clear your bank account and fill an entire media room!
And then came DVDs. Squishing all those ones and zeroes into small, manageable, resilient discs made the concept of a video library far more appealing. Unlike a VHS tape, a DVD is more archival, easier to access a specific scene, way more durable and often stuffed with bonus features. It became way easier to rationalize dropping big bucks on every season of "Star Trek" if it would (theoretically, anyway) last forever and only take up a mere 6 & 1/2 inches of shelf space.
Over the years, I've acquired hundreds of DVDs… and as of this writing, 122 of them are TV box sets. That's a lot of hours of TV, ensuring I'm prepared for the next five dozen bouts of the flu or other illness that leaves me bundled and brainless on the couch.
But barring any debilitating occurrence, most of those sets will probably resemble a library of books in one key way: many DVDs, once purchased, are watched just once, then set upon a shelf to gather dust for all eternity…or at least until a spring cleaning.
Anyone who's accumulated a collection of anything needs to periodically purge (lest ye end up the subject of an episode of "Hoarders"). Some books, records, or, in this case, DVDs that once seemed essential suddenly become dross (that could potentially bring in some cash).
But how do you decide what DVD sets to purge? Every DVD collector has a handful of favorites that actually get re-watched periodically (for me, they include "The Sopranos," "Dexter," "Mr. Show" and "WKRP in Cincinnati"). And then there are those classics that are the video equivalent of a complete Shakespeare or Poe set, something that you're proud to display even if they don't get a ton of use ("The Dick Van Dyke Show," "SCTV," "The Adventures of Superman").
Certain sets make perfect background for parties, either with the sound on ("This is Tom Jones," "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In") or off ("Wonder Woman," "The Venture Brothers"). And of course, there are those rare shows like "Lost" that actually reward repeated viewings as what initially seem to be innocuous events later turn out to be of great significance.
But deep discounts can prompt impulse TV DVD purchases, and suddenly you find yourself sitting on complete seasons of "My Name is Earl" or "Tales From the Crypt." And while those shows can be fun, do you really -ahem- NEED to own them? Imagine your home was robbed and your entire DVD collection was stolen. If you had to buy it again at full retail, would you? If not, then maybe it's time to let go of "The Brak Show Starring Brak."
Of course, ubiquity makes ownership of some TV boxes seem superfluous. Who needs to own "Seinfeld" or "The Simpsons" on DVD when those shows remain in constant syndication rerun? At least those sets contain enough bonus features to warrant keeping.
In fact, as more and more TV shows become available for instant viewing on the internet, bonus content becomes more and more important to lure consumers to plunk down cash for something they can see for free on their computers anytime they want.
And it's only going to get worse for studios trying to sell hard copies of TV shows (or anything, for that matter). Technology will someday make pretty much anything you want instantly stream to your 96" unobtanium-based 3-D holo-TV on demand. For better or worse, the notion of paying money for boxes of encoded plastic will be as quaint in the future as the concept of a machine that does nothing but rewind videotape is now.
Which makes the concept of DVD spring cleaning more than just a good idea to make some extra room or money… as with the Egg Nog leftover in the fridge from the holidays, the time to get rid of those "Friends" DVDs is now. Spring may be sprung, but your DVD collection is fast approaching the autumn of its years.
Story by Karl Heitmueller
Starpulse contributing writer