It’s hard to argue that we’re approaching the twilight of physical media. That makes me a little bit twitchy – stuff that hasn’t made it to DVD needs to make it to DVD soon, while there’s still a DVD market to make it to. The manufacture-on-demand DVD market is one of the best things ever, giving some real niche material a fresh lease on life…but could it be that some things are too niche even for burn-on-demand?
Case in point: the ultra-obscure PBS-produced comedy anthology series Trying Times, which aired two six-season episodes in 1987 and 1989. Produced at KCET, the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, the show had access to big names, some just before their big breakout, and some who were already household names – Robert Klein, Jean Stapleton, Carrie Fisher, Geena Davis, Tim Matheson, Rosanna Arquette, Judge Reinhold, Keanu Reeves, and even David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. Each half-hour episode was its own little universe of ennui and social awkwardness, a one-act play unto itself.
There was talent aplenty behind the cameras too.
With writers like Spalding Gray and Terrence McNally aboard, and directors such as the late Jonathan Demme, Buck Henry, Christopher Guest, and Alan Arkin, the question becomes…how has this evaded a DVD release for all these years?
Trying Times is a rare specimen of PBS in more daring times: rather than British imports or documentaries or filmed stage plays, this was a unique attempt to generate an original comedy just for PBS. Somewhere between its lack of commercial breaks and its short seasons, Trying Times felt like American comedy having taken notes from British comedies. Of course, it’s almost inevitable that someone, somewhere, protested that this wasn’t what they thought their pledge drive money was going toward. How different would PBS be if this had been just the beginning of original comedy or dramatic programming?
What’s amazing is that there’s precious little evidence of Trying Times’ existence anywhere – IMDB listings are vague at best, and I could only locate two episodes on YouTube. On the one hand, I’m relieved that at least one or two other people remember the show. On the other hand…wouldn’t it be great if we could all see this again?
[Via] Dads Volunteer’s Channel
So my challenge, to the DVD publishers of the world, is to ease our anxieties and give us a chuckle in these very real trying times…by bringing back Trying Times for an encore.