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Chris Hicks: DVDs eliminate the annoyances of TV programs

My wife and I have been spoiled by DVDs — especially TV series season sets.

Which we didn't realize we were missing until we started seeing it again.

It's kind of like that old joke about the guy who's hitting himself on the head with a hammer, and his friend asks him why he keeps doing that. And he replies, "Because it feels so good when I stop."

Over the summer we stopped. And it felt so good. And we forgot all about that hammer.

Then fall rolled around.

That is to say, during the summer we found ourselves watching very little television as it aired. But we did watch several DVD sets of shows we hadn't seen before — collapsing an entire season into a few weeks or over a few months.

So, a week ago, when we began sampling some of the new shows as the 2007-08 TV season kicked in, we were immediately annoyed by those spinning, walking, talking, flashing, splashing, wildly colorful promos that appear at the bottom of the screen. And they show up every time a show comes out of a commercial. (But never during a commercial.)

This can't possibly please the people who make TV programs. It's like having your particular brand of art used as a paintball target.

Typically, when a show returns from a commercial, it's with some attention-grabbing moment designed to keep you there. It might be a funny line of dialogue or the continuation of a suspenseful sequence or a dramatic confrontation meant as a set-up. ...

But instead of hearing the line or getting caught up in the suspense or understanding the set-up, you're distracted by a shrunken character from an upcoming show at the bottom of the screen; or a colorful logo that pops up and sizzles, burns or spins (sometimes with a sound effect); or something you have to read: "Here's what's coming up next" — or "Here's what you're watching right now, dummy!"

OK, that last one is an exaggeration. But not by much.

During the summer, "The Simpsons Movie" had a "crawl" at the bottom of the screen promoting a fictitious Fox TV show, followed by: "That's right, we even advertise our shows during movies now."

I laughed, but then I winced, fearing that it might give some studio executive an idea.

Of course, some DVDs have their own annoyances. How about when you put in the disc and it starts blaring that loud, obnoxious, accusatory "warning" that we shouldn't be copying or stealing movies?

Hey, I just bought (or rented) this DVD, so why is it yelling at me?

Then there's this new trend of releasing TV series in half seasons.

"The Untouchables" and "The Streets of San Francisco," for example, each had "Season 1, Volume 1" released last April, with half-season episodes. Each show's "Volume 2" came out last week.

This wouldn't be such a bad thing if it meant that each was priced at 20 bucks. But no. Would you believe they retail at $42.99 each? With no bonus features!

That's $85.98 for one season!

Most complete Season 1 sets range from $50 to $60 ("Heroes," "Shark," "Supernatural") or $30 to $40 ("Friday Night Lights," "Dynasty," "Dallas" "Gunsmoke").

Maybe split-season sets — which also include "Perry Mason," "The Big Valley" and "Touched By an Angel," among others — are just intended for rental stores.