‘Get Smart’ Reigns at TV DVD Awards

(Nov. 13, 2007)  The complete-series boxed set of “Get Smart” won the top honor at the fourth annual TV DVD Awards Nov. 12, while shows featuring Jim Henson's Muppet characters won three awards.

“Get Smart: The Complete Series,” a collaboration between Time Life and HBO Video, earned the Best of Show prize. Judges pointed to the set’s simple yet clever phone booth packaging that mimics the show’s elaborate opening sequence, as well as such bonus features as commentaries, new interviews, bloopers and rare footage.

“This is a classic show, and it’s good to see the care and consideration that fans should expect put into this DVD set,” said Thomas K. Arnold, Home Media Magazine publisher. “So many catalog TV DVDs are just thrown out there with little added value beyond the episodes themselves.”

The awards were handed out at a gala dinner held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, Calif. The TV DVD Awards are presented annually by Home Media Magazine in cooperation with TVShowsOnDVD.com, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and The Hollywood Reporter.

Also revealed were the winners in 16 categories chosen by consumers in an on-line vote. A blue-ribbon panel of judges, comprised of top DVD critics and journalists, selected four finalists in each of the 16 categories from a field of more than 160 studio submissions of titles released between Sept. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007. Consumers voted for their favorites Oct. 15 to 26. The judges panel selected the Best of Show winner from among all entries.

In addition to its Best of Show prize, “Get Smart” won the consumer vote for best 1960s series DVD and tied for best complete-series set with 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment's “M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection.”

Judges bestowed a special award on Anchor Bay’s “Greatest American Hero” limited-edition collector’s set for its packaging, which included replicas of props from the show. Disney and Fox led all studios with three awards apiece, followed by BBC Video, Warner Home Video, Time Life/HBO Video and Paramount Home Entertainment, which each had two.

Winners of the fourth annual TV DVD Awards included:

Best of Show: Get Smart: The Complete Series, Time Life/HBO Video;

Best 2000s Series: Heroes: Season 1, Universal Studios Home Entertainment;

Best 1990s Series: Seinfeld: Season 8, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment;

Best 1980s Series: Fraggle Rock: Season 3, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment/HIT Entertainment;

Best 1970s Series: The Muppet Show: Season 2, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment;

Best 1960s Series: Get Smart: The Complete Series, Time Life/HBO Video;

Best 1950s Series: Adventures of Superman: Seasons 5 and 6, Warner Home Video;

Best Animated Series: The Simpsons: Season 10, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment;

Best Children’s Series: The Muppet Show: Season 2, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment;

Best Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie: Roots: 30th Anniversary Edition, Warner Home Video;

Best Foreign TV Series: Doctor Who: Series 2, BBC Video;

Best Bonus Materials: Lost: Season 2, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment;

Best Complete-Series Set: M*A*S*H: The Martinis & Medicine Collection, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; Get Smart: The Complete Series, Time Life/HBO Video.

Starz Sues Over U.N.C.L.E. DVD Release

REVISED (Oct. 6, 2007) — Starz Home Entertainment has filed suit against Lindsay Dunlap and her Ember Entertainment company, charging them with fraud, breach of contract and other offenses in connection with Dunlap’s attempt to market “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on DVD.

According to the civil suit filed July 2 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Anchor Bay — the home-video company that was renamed Starz earlier this year — paid Dunlap $500,000 for the “exclusive home and commercial video rights” to both “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” and another $125,000 for “certain value-added bonus materials” to accompany a DVD release.

The deal blew up in April 2006 when Warner Bros. asserted its rights to any home-video release of “U.N.C.L.E.,” forcing Anchor Bay to halt its plans to distribute the series on DVD. The suit demands the return of its $625,000 and asks that additional,  unspecified, damages as well as civil penalties, interest and attorneys’ fees be awarded.

The 18-page complaint (which misspells Dunlap’s name as “Dunlop”) contends that Dunlap claimed that she owned the rights to the series and that, because she was “in possession of the original recordings of the properties and a significant amount of the value-added bonus materials,” Anchor Bay felt her claims were “reasonable.”

However, the suit says, the company has not been provided “with any documentation supporting… claims of ownership in the rights to the properties” and that she has failed to “clear up the dispute with Warner Bros.”

The complaint spells out this chronology of events:

In July 2005, Ember solicited Anchor Bay’s interest in the “U.N.C.L.E.” series; negotiations continued through August, September and October; and on Oct. 15, 2005, they signed a seven-year license agreement to market the series in the U.S. and Canada.

Between November 2005 and February 2006, the company paid Dunlap $500,000 for the rights to the series.

They negotiated for “bonus materials related to the properties” between October 2005 and February 2006, and in February 2006 Anchor Bay paid her “a recoupable advance of $125,000.” Those materials were delivered in March 2006, the suit says.

Anchor Bay announced its plans to market “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in April 2006 and began taking pre-orders. Within days, Warner Bros. demanded that Amazon.com and eBay remove the listings because “it owned the exclusive distribution rights to the properties,” the complaint states. A cease-and-desist letter to Anchor Bay from Warner Bros. followed.

According to the suit, Dunlap maintained that “Arena Productions had the original copyright rights to the properties and that Arena Productions had quitclaimed their rights” to her. In April 2006, the suit indicates, Dunlap/Ember “stated that they would ‘sort out’ the dispute” with Warner Bros.

When this did not occur, the suit says, Anchor Bay demanded its $625,000 back in December 2006, a demand which it says has been “repeatedly refused.”

Starz contends that their agreement “is void based on defendants’ fraud and/or mistake because the representations and warranties provided in the agreement [between Anchor Bay and Ember] were false.”

The various causes of action spelled out in the succeeding pages – including breach of contract, fraud and intentional misrepresentation – indicate that Starz now believes that Dunlap/Ember “are not the owners of the rights to the properties and did not have these rights to grant Starz.”

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was an Arena Production for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television and aired on NBC from 1964 to 1968. Arena was, and is, executive producer Norman Felton’s company. Copyright in the program itself, however, belonged to MGM. MGM television properties were later acquired by Turner Broadcasting, which in turn was acquired by Warner Bros., which now holds the copyright.

Longtime observers of the scene have noted that any “U.N.C.L.E.” projects, including “The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in 1983, and several long-planned but unrealized motion-picture and television revivals, were jointly agreed to by the two rights-holders: Felton’s company and the various successors to the original MGM rights.

Dunlap had repeatedly stated on U.N.C.L.E. fan Web sites that she held the rights to the popular series and was pursuing not only a big-screen feature but also a home-video release. Felton’s family maintains that she only acquired feature-film rights from Arena.

Time-Life will release a fully authorized, 41-DVD set of the entire “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” series, approved and sanctioned by Warner Home Video (along with nearly 10 hours of extras, including the first joint interview by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in over 20 years), on Nov. 27.

Dunlap/Ember have not formally responded to the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Attempts to reach her for this story were unsuccessful.