During the 70s and 80s made for TV movies were staples of television programming, routinely earning high ratings (often eclipsing their theatrical counterparts). Yet outside of iconic ones like “Duel” or “The Day After”, few of them have ever been offered on DVD. Why not?
Made-for-TV movies are in the same category as direct-to-video or drive-in or b-list movies. While there are good movies released in these formats, it’s undeniable that these are formats where the quality standards are lower.
But I will say this: I’d love to see a set of Martin Sheen’s early made-for-TV movies. For whatever reason, Sheen starred in several topnotch made-for-TV movies early in his career: That Certain Summer; The California Kid; The Missiles of October; The Execution of Private Slovik; The Last Survivors; Sweet Hostage; Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol; No Drums, No Bugles; The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd; Taxi!!; In the Custody of Strangers - all were well-regarded as I recall but most of them have never been released for home viewing.
I’d love to see Wecome Back, Johnny Bristol again, but I’m in a minority, and there are very few TV movies that anyone cares about. Most were pretty dire.
There also may be a rights issue. I’m sure the contracts were written before home video was a market and thus everything needs to be renegotiated with the people involved in the production.
Netflix lists an estimated 800 here: Netflix: Made-for-TV Movies. I made no effort to check for completeness or accuracy. I’m guessing somewhere in excess of 120 are 70s-80s.
We watched “A Shining Season”, an award-winning TV movie, for a class when I was in high school. It was based on a true story and was about a champion runner who was coaching kids, and found out he had terminal cancer and it slowed him down but didn’t stop him almost until the day he died. The school where he coached was renamed after him, and AFAIK is still there. I’d love to see it again.
There’s a similar movie called “Eric”, also based on a true story and a best-selling book that I’m pretty sure is still in print. It starred Mark Hamill, several years before he was in “Star Wars”, as a young man with leukemia. This all happened in the late 1960s, and his mother died just a few years ago.
As for the gold standard of those movies, “Brian’s Song”, my opinion about it was this: Black football player and white football player become best friends. White football player gets cancer and dies. The end. zzzzzzzzzzzzz
YMMV, of course.
Another I’d like to see again is “Sarah T.: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic.” It starred Linda Blair as - you guessed it - a teenage alcoholic.