Actors: AC, DC, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, John Denver
Director: Time Life
Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 6
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Time Life Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 9, 2014
Run Time: 505 minutes
Today’s generation can joke about the fact that MTV once played music videos without much gravity, mostly because there are endless opportunities to see music videos and live performances on the internet. We have grown accustomed to having multiple media options for fandom at all times, so it is difficult to imagine what the impact must have been in 1972 when the late-night music performance show was born with “The Midnight Special.” The oddest thing about the series wasn’t the smash success it was for music fans all over the country, but the fact that it started at 1:00 a.m. rather than midnight.
This in itself was a daring move for the network, NBC, in the early 1970s. Another modern change in television has been the constant broadcasting at all times, while the stations used to go off of the air at a certain point at night. It was a risk to air anything this late at night, even if it was on Friday with some amazing performances from popular bands. There was no lip-synching, and the show offered complete freedom to the artists in their performances. They could play their hit single, or choose to introduce fans to a new song. There were even three stages, so that there was no delay in jumping from one live performance to the next.
This six-disc set includes a range of appearances from artists that performed on the show, from the 1972 pilot with John Denver to a 1979 episode featuring Alice Cooper. The collection of episodes are clearly meant to represent the variety of talent that appeared on the show, including such legends as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, The Cars, America, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Aerosmith, Barry White, AC/DC, Marvin Gaye and the Village People. There are also bonus interviews with many of the performers, and extras for the episode specific hosts. There were often famous comedians and performers chosen to host each episode, providing even more reason that this innovative show has great historical significance.
Additional extras on the DVDs include featurettes on the history and making-of “The Midnight Special,” along with plenty of bonus interviews with performers included in the set. There are excerpts from 21 episodes of the show, along with tons of bonus performances and interviews, so that this is the ultimate in concentrated moments from the series run. A more extensive collection is also available for the more die-hard music fans.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 9/10