DVDs mean never having to say 'goodbye'


I have a new addiction and it manifests itself like this - I race home from work, scarf down dinner and pop in a DVD. As soon as The X-Files' spooky opening music begins, I can feel my muscles begin to relax.

In a matter of seconds, some unsuspecting person will be attacked/eaten/abducted. And my next hour will be spent engulfed in a sci-fi high as FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder traipse across the country, deciphering the paranormal mess du jour.

Many evenings have passed in this fashion since I began my quest to watch the Emmy-winning Fox series in chronological order on DVD.

Lately, however, the high has been dampened by a stark realization - the series ended last year. And there are just nine seasons.

With the recent DVD release of Season Seven, I am inching toward the inevitable, a night when I will have watched every single episode with nothing new ahead. And I will be the only one mourning this loss.

TV watching, in recent years, has become something of a communal experience. No longer does one merely follow a popular series and, perhaps, discuss it over the water-cooler the next day. Instead, there are online chat-boards and Web sites galore for fans of almost every TV series. And when a biggie comes to an end, there are the requisite viewing parties for fans to mourn together and toast its existence.

But, what happens if you grow to love a show long after it's off the air? When the end draws near, who will be there for you?

Sure, the DVD market, filled with thousands of TV series box sets, is flooded with series that are still on air. But there also is a growing number of old series, including The Jeffersons, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman and Baltimore's own Homicide: Life on the Street, which will be released Tuesday.

With sales and rental figures of TV series DVDs gaining tremendous momentum in the past year, I'm probably not going to be the only one pondering this question.

Since the release of the first TV DVDs in 1997, networks have been quick to realize the draw of these shows in disc form. In the past year, fans of shows old and new have snapped up DVD box sets of shows they used to love, from Friends to Star Trek. In 2001, the first season DVD of the Simpsons set a record when it sold more than 1 million in a year.

Just this year, Amazon.com spokeswoman Kristin Schaefer said, "consistently, half of our top 25 bestsellers will be TV series DVDs." The biggest sellers are HBO's Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Other popular box sets include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek.

Online DVD-renter Netflix.com has noted a similar leap in popularity of TV series. In the last year and a half, spokesman P.H. Mullen reports a more than 50 percent increase in rentals of TV DVDs.

"This is a genre that is rapidly growing for people, and the level of interest is high," Mullen said.

He noted that people seem to be renting the discs to watch the series chronologically, instead of parachuting into the middle of a season and only watching one DVD. Many renters list the DVDs they want in their rental queues so they get a season's episodes in order.

Gord Lacey, creator of www.tvshowsondvd.com, said many fans of TV DVDs are people who long have loved a particular series.

"These are the people who are viewing 10-year-old VHS tapes that have gone through their player 30 times," said Lacey, who is based in Edmonton, Canada. "When they get home after work, they'll pop a tape in and watch one of these shows. Now that these DVDs are out, they're thinking, 'Wow, I have to get this. I can watch this a million times and the quality is going to be good.'"

But some, like me, are using the DVDs to catch up on series they liked but had little time to regularly watch.

"You're going to find some people discovering the show for the first time," Lacey said. "Or, maybe say, in the case of shows like Felicity, they got into it in the third season and say, 'This is my chance to watch season one or season two when it comes out.'"

As for my problem, Lacey had some answers. Fan Web sites, apparently, don't die quickly. And with a wildly popular series such as The X-Files, there is no dearth of fans internationally who still want to wax about Scully's rare cancer or Mulder's zany theories.

And when I get to the end of season nine - whenever it's released - just for the heck of it, perhaps I'll even throw a party.

'Homicide' now on DVD

Baltimore's biggest claim to fame on the tube hits the DVD circuit this week with Tuesday's release of seasons one and two of Homicide: Life on the Street.

Even if you've seen or have hoarded tapes of these 13 episodes, the DVDs ($69.95 for the box set of two seasons) offer some extras:

"Homicide: Life at the Start," an in-depth interview with executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana.

Commentary by Levinson and Fontana accompanying the pilot episode, "Gone for Goode."

"To Catch a Killer: Homicide Detectives" episode of A&E;'s American Justice.

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