CBS Won’t Let Episodes of Show Starring One of Johnny Carson’s Idols Be Put Out on DVD

Jan 19, 2010  •  Post A Comment

Two dozen recently rediscovered episodes of the long-running series starring one of Johnny Carson’s idols won’t be released from the vault to be put on DVDs because CBS won’t let them, the New York Post reports.

The series is the classic "Jack Benny Show." Carson made no secret about how much he admired Benny.

Laura Leff, president of The International Jack Benny Fan Club, told the paper that the fan club had offered to pay for the digital transfer and preservation of the episodes, but CBS refused, citing unspecified issues that Leff thought were costs associated with potential musical copyrights.

The episodes were discovered in 2008; the show aired from 1950-64.

The paper didn’t say what CBS’ comment was.

–Elizabeth Jensen and Chuck Ross

13 Comments

  1. Please show your support at the FB page Tell Les Moonves to preserve the Jack Benny Program masters.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tell-Les-Moonves-to-preserve-The-Jack-Benny-Benny-Program-masters/287864780538?ref=mf

  2. Laura Leff, the “President” of the Jack Benny Fan Club she began a few years ago, is adept at generating P R and has done a very good job at starting a Facebook petition against CBS, getting articles published and giving interviews pleading for the release of 25 Benny shows she is missing from her DVD collection. She says that CBS has “locked” these films away and will not be preserved. This is not the case.
    The 25 Benny shows as well as the full run of the series is stored in state of the art facilities, with low humidity and at a cool temperature of approx. 45-50 degrees. The film elements are safe and in good shape. CBS is also aware of the fact that Ms. Leff has a library of many existing shows and charges for making copies; dupes of both copy written and PD shows are offered from her website.
    While I applaud her tenacity and love for Jack Benny (she organized a fine website and a convention a few years ago), it seems that the truth has been diluted and the actual state of the predicament has been reported in error. She is great at “self promoting”.
    What it boils down to is this: She is a huge fan who just wants to have copies of the shows and has gone this route to try and obtain them. How she was “supervising” a transfer of one of the color shows as that is not her job is beyond me. True, it was an NBC special and maybe she was invited to see a conversion but “supervising”? She is friends with Joan Benny (Jack’s daughter) so perhaps that’s how she was invited to see the inner workings. Yet she is quoted as “supervising” the session. She has gained attention to her fan club, her plight and herself, however misrepresented it is.
    CBS is not the enemy here; they will sub contract The Jack Benny shows out. As these are supposedly P D shows (and that’s not definite) there are other sources to locate them and once they’re out, anyone can dupe them and sell them for no fee. CBS isn’t the only source for 16mm kinescopes. They even told her to try to find them through other avenues, fully aware she wants to add them to her “collection”. She has asked me in the past for shows she didn’t have to add to her library.
    Should these films be available for all to see – of course. However, business is business and CBS pays for the storage of these and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of elements and that’s not cheap. To give copies to MS. Leff for her archive is not so simple even if she pays for her copies. Maybe some company will come forward and these shows will be seen. Time will tell.

  3. This makes a good arguement for CBS and other networks to consider offering streams of older shows that might be public domain and/or have a limited market. The material doesn’t necessarily have to be released on dvd. CBS is already streaming several older programs through their site.
    It’s a bit like the Warner Archives model, which makes more obscure or special interest material in their library available.

  4. even if the episodes she is asking for are in the public domain CBS has to consider the legal issues for the episodes moslty royalaties to parties plus giving the episodes to her would open up the flood gates of demand by other fans for episodes. besides no doubt CBC could someday fine a way to let fans have those jack Benny episodes that are now a bone of controversy over release

  5. Whoever the film preservationist is, makes it painfully obvious that they have an axe to grind with Ms. Leff. The facts in this case have been either misunderstood or distorted to make the reader believe Ms. Leff is trying to create publicity and is a fervent fan trying to “get away with something” so she can have copies of these programs for herself. As a broadcaster of over 30 years and a CBS veteran, I can tell you that what she is trying to do has been an ongoing effort to preserve the films of Mr. Benny- AND get them out to the public to enjoy, partnering with the Benny Estate to expose these films for the enjoyment of fans and new generations. Being preserved in a locked room does zero benefit to the memory of Mr. Benny, his fans, in fact if prevents the historic and cultural benefits these programs can continue to have on our society. She has worked very closely with the Benny Estate for years, and the “Fan club” that is insinuated in “selling” dvds, is merely charging a small supplies fee to cover the cost of getting material out to Benny fans, and fans of classic comedy, who have no other option because the availability of these programs are bot released like sitcoms of later years. I can also tell you that as a CBS insider- I know for a faxt that she was indeed “Supervising” a transfer of the color prints from the NBC benny specials, and was fully in charge of the project, as part of a preservation procedure with the Benny Estate! Imagine, if the Benny Estate has put their faith in this person, and she has acted on behalf of them inmany occassions, she should not be painted as an opportunist, and indeed she is doing a great service on behalf of all Benny and comedy history fans who would love to see this material digitally preserved and released! All other arguments are simply hyperbole, when compared to the final result- the preserving and releasing of rare films from one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century, for americans today and in the future to enjoy.

  6. Thanks to The Truth Watchdog for setting the record straight. I have long been aware of Laura Leff’s efforts as an advocate of all things Benny. We are both members of an internet newsletter discussion group of old-time radio fans, including historians, professionals and young fans, often attracted to the group after they had heard Jack Benny’s radio programs. Laura is the one everyone turns to for answers to Benny questions She is not doing anything for profit; she is dedicated to the finding and restoration of Benny’s work and is doing a great service to current Jack Benny fans now and future fans, for his work is timeless. Networks in both radio and TV seem to be shortsighted in general. The number of masters unceremoniously tossed out, both radio and TV, usually for more space, has deprived us of a look at an important as well as personal history of our past. CBS’s efforts to spin and to cast themselves in a good light on this issue are laughable, and casting Laura Leff in a negative light is insulting.

  7. I can also attest to the fact that Laura Leff’s efforts are in the best interest of all Jack Benny fans! She’s IN FACT NOT in it for personal profit other than to supply a great resource to be able to see and hear Jack Benny. On her web site, she does not stipulate that a fan needs to purchase any of the programs, but asks for donations. She WILL dub and send out programs for FREE if it came down to it. But, I feel that personally I need to make a donation anytime I ask for a program from her Jack Benny Club. I wouldn;t have it any way. It’s all in the cause of keeping Jack Benny alive and well in our lives where he is sorely missed. CBS to me comes off as the greedy ones here. Unless they have intention of releasing the uncirculated shows, THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT!!

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