Saturday, June 7, 2014

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting!

So, I basically have 3 television shows that have completely and utterly shaped who I am as a man today. I alluded to this fact once in a poignant post I wrote in 2008 early on in this blog's existence called: "My Three Dads." I reposted it 2 years ago on Father's Day here. Perhaps some of you might recall that.

As that article pointed out, my three all-time favorite tv shows from childhood are, in no particular order: Star Trek: The Next Generation; Kung Fu: The Legend Continues; and Highlander: The Series. With the latter receiving top billing in both my estimation and impact on who I am as both an adult and as a writer.

However, while two of these shows have been readily available on DVD and Blu-ray formats for some time, for years now I have been maligning the fact that the remaining series has never seen the light of day in North American home video release -- not even VHS tapes! I mean, ever since I first got a DVD player in 1998 I've been scouring the 'net and retail stores alike for this series to release, and to no avail. Back in 2001 I even joined online petitions and Amazon's own mail notification service in the hopes of having my dream fulfilled, and still -- bupkis!

That is, until now:

Behold, the day has finally come. The day that my beloved television show, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues has at last arrived in a professional, officially sanctioned video release. Sure, it's only a DVD release in an age where everything is inevitably switching over to the Higher Definition format afforded by Blu-ray disc, but it's better than nothing. And since HD tvs were not in existence when this show first aired way back in 1993, I can't say that I mind too much watching these episodes in Standard Definition. That's the only format I've ever seen them in!

Kung Fu: The Legend Continues was one of the flagship shows to air on the new and untested independent station, The Prime Time Entertainment Network in early 1993. It told the tale of one Kwai Chang Caine, an elderly Shaolin Buddhist monk and gong-fu master who, after 15 years of wondering the world, is reunited with his Westernized son-turned-police detective, Peter. The show was a spinoff of the original Kung Fu, which aired from 1972-75, and whose's protagonist was also named Kwai Chang Caine. Since that show took place in the American Wild West of the late 19th century, it was explained early on in the new show that this other Kwai Chang Caine was in fact the grandson of that now legendary figure. Both characters were portrayed by the late, great David Carradine.

Press play up there to watch the show's very memorable opening sequence.

The series was a wonderful attempt to blend your typical cop procedural with martial arts know-how and even some tinges of Eastern philosophy here and there, albeit sometimes in a heavy-handed, kitschy sort of way. Okay, not sometimes. Try ALL of the time! I was 16 at the time this show aired, though, and too young to know any better. But the young, unsophisticated teenage me ATE IT ALL UP! I loved it so much. For me, although it looks quite dated now, nothing like this had ever been done on television before. The themes were very adult back then, and the father-son dynamic at work really spoke to me, a kid from the Bronx who never had a father figure to look up to, let alone bond with.

In just a few short episodes, I was hooked and a die-hard fanatic of this series. It not only sparked my interest in learning gong-fu as not just a martial art, but a way of life -- it also put me firmly on the path of my lifelong love affair with all things Chinese. This interest in that far East culture always existed within me, to be sure; but Kung Fu fanned the flames into a full-blown passion! And Kwai Chang Caine was my role model.

For years the parent company which owned the rights to this show, Warner Brothers, sat on it and would not budge. No matter how many fans clamored for some sort of home video release, we were never appeased. Not even a hint that we might someday get what we wanted. Until suddenly, just a little under a month ago, word came out that the company would be releasing the entire 1st season on DVD via their manufactured on demand (MOD) endeavor exclusively from their online site. I found out about it just a few days after the series became available on the Warner Archive Collection website for just under $50. I received the set in the mail earlier this week, and I swear tears of joy nearly streamed down my face as I began watching the 90-minute pilot episode again after more than 2 decades. All the memories were back in a flash!

What a way to start off the month of June! I know it's silly, but despite my cynicism over nostalgic home video releases, I actually find myself these days with a spring in my step, humming the opening theme, and waiting to get home so that I can sit down to dinner and watch another episode of this classic action show from my youth.

That's the magic of television, folks. That right there! And if you would like to own your own copy of the show, click on that link just above. I believe this was a first-run service straight from Warner's website, with plans to allow Amazon and other online retailers a chance to sell their own stock sometime later in the month. This particular fanatic just HAD to get his hands on it as early as possible, though, so . . . NYAH!


Yvonne said...

I like that you have a "spring" in your step. That's a great thing! My brothers share your love for this series.

Ashe Hunt said...


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