Tuned In

Robo-James' Time Machine: The Best Show Not on DVD?

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I’m not really sure if I should be embedding this video. The clip above is from Relativity, my favorite Zwick-Herskovits drama of all, which ran one season on ABC in 1996-97. It’s on YouTube, as is apparently the whole rest of the series. Its provenance is, shall we say, open to question. But it’s the only means I have of showing you the series, because as far as I can tell it is not online at any network or studio site, and there is no DVD. (Though Amazon has 16 positive reviews for the DVD that does not exist.)

If anybody associated with the show cares enough and lets me know, I’ll be glad to take down the embed. But if they care that much, then I hope they will also get to work on putting out a damn DVD.

Anyway: it is a rare thing now to find a series, let alone a good one, unavailable on DVD. What I call my “cult closet” in my office is full of almost-forgotten shows of my youth like Quark (Richard Benjamin as a space garbageman) and H. R. Pufnstuf. And with thirtysomething just having come out on the silver disc, Relativity is now the last H-Z drama unavailable in legal digital form. (Yes, quarterlife is still online.)

Relativity (created by Friday Night Lights’ Jason Katims) started off with the frothiest of premises: twentysomething Isabel (Kimberley Williams-Paisley) meets Leo (David Conrad) on a trip to Italy, then continues her relationship with him back home in L.A. At home, however, in the real world and away from the romance of an Old World escape, reality sets in and their relationship gets rocky. It’s sort of a proto-Felicity (another show I loved), but with older characters and a distinctively Zwick-Herskovits twist: exploring how love is affected by context, how a fairytale romance can, in fact, be a product of circumstance and can change, deepen—or fail—if you continue the fairytale past “The End.”

Now, Isabel and Leo could get a little moony and self-involved. Like all of Herskozwick’s shows, really, the strength of this one was that, beyond the pilot, the supporting characters proved to be far more interesting than the leads. In this case, their families: Leo’s working-class Jewish family, Isabel’s WASPs (or whatever acronym “Lukens” represents).

The show had a fabulous cast, many of whom would go on to bigger shows (Richard Schiff and Lisa Edelstein, for instance). And in the above scene, Jane Adams and Adam Goldberg, as Isabel’s married sister Karen and Adam Goldberg as Leo’s best friend Doug. If for no other reason than getting these two actors in the same scenes together, Relativity would be worth watching, and this one (from near the end of the show’s run), is a knockout, as they consummate their flirtation.

The best part about this scene is the aftermath: after Karen and Doug have sex, he’s over the moon, and she’s upset. “I wish I felt different,” she says, and you think you know where it’s going–she feels guilty and wrong and regrets it. But then she continues: “I wish I felt like I made a mistake. You know, like this was bad, like this was all wrong, you were all wrong for me, but I just don’t. I don’t. It’s much worse than that.”

She still says they need to end it, but it’s not about this being a “mistake”: she just knows it won’t practically work. And then—after one of the clumsiest postcoital someone’s-coming-quick-hide scenes in TV—they fall into bed again.

We never did find out what happened with them—or Isabel and Leo—in the long run. But it would be nice if we could watch it again in DVD quality at least.

Until then, we’re left watching Relativity on YouTube. I wish I could say I felt like watching it there was bad, like it was all wrong, but I just don’t. I don’t. I just wish I could watch it in higher definition.