It took decades for the dramatic series China Beach to get to DVD. But it's still making its way to retail stores only gradually.
The series, which aired on ABC from 1988 to 1991, focused on people working in and around a military hospital and rest center in Vietnam. That might not have seemed unusual — the series even used sets from M*A*S*H — but China Beach had its own take on the war, seeing it largely through the eyes of women.
The main character, Colleen McMurphy (Dana Delany), was a nurse; others included Red Cross worker Cherry White (Nan Woods), conniving businesswoman K.C. Koloski (Marg Helgenberger) and, in the first season, entertainer Laurette Barber (Chloe Webb).
It could be poetic, starkly realistic, earnest, humorous and engaged in big issues, including race, but always through the filter of personal stories. It was often nominated for Emmys, and Delany and Helgenberger won. But it was another element — the l iberal use of pop songs from the '60s on the soundtrack — that delayed the release on DVD. StarVista Entertainment and Time Life, the companies distributing it on DVD, ended up getting rights to more than 250 songs and even then had 17 more that could not be licensed; the DVDs in those cases either substitute songs, use sound-alikes for the originals or simply delete the music (and, in one second-season episode, delete a piece of dialogue that includes quoting a song lyric).
In any case, for months the series has been available online in two complete-series boxes, one including all 62 episodes plus extras ($199.95) and an even more elaborate set adding scripts, photographs and more extras ($274.95). If you want the whole thing, you still have to get it online, preferably via Chinabeachondvd.com because it's more expensive on Amazon.
As for those of you who buy DVDs and Blu-rays in stores, this week brings the release of China Beach: The Complete Season One ($22.95). It includes the two-hour series premiere and six ensuing episodes that aired in spring 1988 along with extras.
These DVDs were released this week:
Films: The Croods; This Is the End; A Fierce Green Fire; The Frozen Ground; Morning; Branca's Pitch; So This Is Christmas; Cold War (aka Laan jin); Treasure Guards; With Love ... From the Age of Reason; The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition; Going Underground: Paul McCartney, the Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture; North America (Discovery Channel documentary); Dead Before Dawn; Fright Night 2: New Blood; Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: Best of Collection; Shaquille O'Neal Presents All Star Comedy Jam — Live From Atlanta.
TV series: Glee: Fourth Season; How I Met Your Mother: Season Eight; Downton Abbey: Seasons 1, 2 and 3; New Girl: Season Two; Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Series (1984-1996, 63-disc set); Beauty and the Beast: First Season; Awkward: Seasons One and Two; Magnum P.I.: The Complete Series; Jack Irish, Set 1; Agatha Christie's Poirot, Series 7 and 8 (2000-02); China Beach: Season One; Teen Mom: First Season; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ultimate Showdown; Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel.
THE WASHINGTON POST