10 shows featuring today’s biggest stars … that you can never watch again (TV commentary)


t’s not as bad as the case of the old “Doctor Who” episodes that were intentionally destroyed after their broadcast, but in this age where it’s easy for a streaming service to make something available to its subscribers, there are still a lot of TV shows you simply can’t see.

They most likely exist, but I imagine they are locked in vaults somewhere in Hollywood, collecting dust. And unfortunately, they don’t have much more chance of seeing the light of day on home video or streaming than those nonexistent “Doctor Whos” – curse music rights snafus and other shortsightedness – even when they feature today’s biggest names in movie and TV.

Here are 10 of today’s biggest stars and their TV shows that you can’t stream or purchase on home video – at least not yet.

They most likely exist, but I imagine they are locked in vaults somewhere in Hollywood, collecting dust.

1. Emma Stone, “Drive” (2007, Fox) – The leads of 2016 Best Picture nominee “La La Land” – Stone and Ryan Gosling – both had prior roles in “Drive.” But they were different “Drive”s. The 2011 Gosling movie is more well-known, but Stone had a role as moody teenager Violet in a 2007 TV series of the same name. It chronicles a cross-country road race, and it lasted only seven episodes, never reaching the finish line. Maybe it was because leading man Nathan Fillion and showrunner Tim Minear brought the quick-ax curse with them from “Firefly.” Or maybe audiences were bored by the fact that the cars merely run on gasoline. In the similarly themed but much weirder “Blood Drive” (2017, SyFy), the cars run on blood … for 13 episodes.

WB screenshot

2. Zac Efron, “Summerland” (2004-05, WB) – Before prowling the beach as a lifeguard in the 2017 comedy-actioner “Baywatch,” a lanky teenage Zac Efron – who could be effortlessly snapped in half by the adult Zac Efron – did the same for two seasons on the WB series “Summerland.” It’s on the short list of most popular shows to never get a home-video or streaming release, but at the time, Efron was not on the short list of the show’s big stars; he appears in just 16 of the 26 episodes as Cameron, the befuddled-looking boyfriend of Kay Panabaker’s Nikki. “Summerland” made a teen heartthrob out of Jesse McCartney, who plays a surfer. But don’t feel bad for Efron: He would earn teen-dream status one year later with Disney’s “High School Musical.” (Season 1 review) (Season 2 review)

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3. Jennifer Garner, “Time of Your Life” (1999-2000, Fox) – Garner headlines wide-release films like “Peppermint” and she’s on your TV – asking you what’s in your wallet – more often than during her “Alias”-starring years. Before becoming an action star and pitchwoman, Garner played Romy, the roomie of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Sarah in “Time of Your Life.” This “Party of Five” spinoff chronicles the often-horrifying experiences of 20-somethings in the Big Apple, making one wonder if the title is ironic. Adding to the strangeness of this 19-episode series never seeing a commercial release is that all six seasons of “Party of Five” are now available for purchase – although it did take 17 years.

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4. Evan Rachel Wood, “Once and Again” Season 3 (2001-02, ABC) – Wood’s current character, the robot Dolores, is learning about the cruelty of human behavior on HBO’s “Westworld.” In her breakthrough TV role as Jessie Sammler, she goes through a similar – although slightly less violent – process as a human teenager. “Once and Again’s” first two seasons are on DVD, but the third hasn’t been made available. That’s too bad, because the final year includes a wonderfully acted and risqué-for-the-time romance between Jessie and Katie (a pre-“The O.C.,” pre-career-collapse Mischa Barton). (Review)

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5. Milo Ventimiglia, “The Bedford Diaries” (2006, WB) – Everyone’s favorite TV dad — and crock-pot cautionary tale – on “This Is Us” used to have another patriarchal role of sorts as the editor of the Bedford College newspaper on “The Bedford Diaries.” This wannabe-edgy Tom Fontana show – where each episode is built around that week’s lesson in human sexuality class – had a lot of what The CW’s “Gossip Girl” would boast a year later: Penn Badgley, a wintery New York setting, and upper-crusty names (Ventimiglia plays Richard Thorne III). But it aired on a network that was closing up shop, rather than a shiny new one that would eventually “dare to defy,” and it lasted only eight episodes. (Review)

CBS publicity photo

6. Viola Davis, “Century City” (2004, CBS) – Before she taught students “How to Get Away with Murder” and oversaw mass murder in “Suicide Squad,” Davis was prosecuting murderers as district attorney Hannah Crane in “Century City.” This courtroom drama is set in the titular locale, but more interesting is when it’s set: in 2030. While it’s not a great show, it has some fun futuristic legal premises. And it peppers in predictions of the future that range from “whoopsie” (people go into bookstores to download books) to plausible (Oprah is the president) to right-around-the-corner (smart-fridges order milk when you run out) to “yes, please” (cherries that don’t have pits). (Review)

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7. Ted Danson, “Help Me Help You” (2006, ABC) – “Cheers” is Danson’s gold-standard sitcom, “Becker” is the punchline and “The Good Place” is his comeback vehicle. Filling the “everyone forgot it exists” slot is “Help Me Help You.” You’re forgiven for spacing on it, as it only lasted 13 episodes. It wasn’t too bad, though. It features Danson as therapist Bill Hoffman, who oversees an offbeat bunch of patients. Notable pop-in roles are filled by Jane Lynch, Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen. (Review)

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8. Brittany Snow, “American Dreams” Seasons 2-3 (2003-05, NBC) – Snow sings in the “Pitch Perfect” films, but in “American Dreams” she dances her way through “American Bandstand” episodes as Meg, the oldest daughter of the Pryor clan in Philadelphia. Meg does edgy things like listen to Beatles records and almost end up in a romance with her black friend, Sam (Arlen Escarpeta). The first season of this nostalgia-fest 1960s-set series – which, admittedly, has gotten better with age – is available on DVD. But because of music-rights hang-ups, Seasons 2 and 3 have not been released. At least not yet; we can always dream. (Series overview) (Season 3 review)

ABC publicity photo

9. Carla Gugino, “Karen Sisco” (2003-04, ABC) – Gugino is one of the most steadily employed TV actresses-of-a-certain-age today, having starred in “The Haunting of Hill House” after recent runs on “Roadies” and “Wayward Pines.” But “Karen Sisco” is still among her best roles, and it should’ve been her most iconic, as she plays the U.S. marshal from Elmore Leonard’s novels, taking the baton from Jennifer Lopez in the movie “Out of Sight.” The 10-episode series’ surprising bad luck upon airing has continued since, as it has never been commercially released.

WB publicity photo

10. Ian Somerhalder, “Young Americans” (2000, WB) – Somerhalder went on to star in two hit series, “Lost” and “The Vampire Diaries,” but he came onto the scene with an eight-episode “Dawson’s Creek” spinoff that is under the radar among TV historians perhaps because it was before its time. “Young Americans” featured threads that “Riverdale’s” writers would find bizarre, including Somerhalder’s Hamilton having a thing for a guy who turns out to be a straight girl pretending to be a guy (Katherine Moennig’s Jake) – allowing them to have a heterosexual relationship even as the show makes a coded commentary on transgenderism. Thanks to creator Steve Antin’s Shakespearean references and the gorgeous lakeside campus, “Young Americans” is more substantial than its surface silliness suggests. (Review)

Click here for more TV shows lost to history.

Main photo: Fox publicity photo