China Beach has long topped lists across the Internet and in countless magazines of the most-requested TV show still not available on DVD, despite being off the air now for more than 20 years.
Well, our long national nightmare is finally over. Star Vista has just turned over a massive, 21 DVD collection, boasting all 62 episodes of the critically-lauded show, commentaries, gag reels, a slew of interviews, a 25th anniversary cast reunion and tons more. Amazingly, they were also able to secure the rights to music from hundreds of classic Vietnam War-era songs by everyone from Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. You can only imagine how much that bill ultimately came to, but the music was always part of the formula for the series. It just wouldn’t have worked as well with lesser-known music.
The show, which ran on ABC from ’88-to-’91, was like catnip to Baby Boomers. Starring Dana Delany and a slew of other actors just getting their start at the time (like Marg Helgenberger, Ricki Lake and Michael Boatman) the series was set in a beach city in Vietnam during the war and focused on the lives of the American doctors, Red Cross volunteers and soldiers (obviously) dealing with the war and being away from home. Think MASH, but without the laugh track.
The pilot is admittedly shaky (not that unusual for first episodes) with some stilted, sometimes forced dialogue, but the writers and actors quickly get the feel for the terrain and just a few episodes in you can clearly see how this show managed to quickly catch on with TV critics and the small, but soon-to-be devote following. The writing was original and remarkably fresh for the time. Even if it were released today, it would be hard to see one of the traditional Big Four Networks giving the show a fighting chance. More likely it would find a home and flourish at a channel like AMC or HBO.
It may have taken decades to finally end up on DVD, but the wait was clearly worth it.
China Beach: The Complete Series/21 DVDs/59 hrs. and 13 mins./Star Vista Entertainment/2013