I was really sad to learn that Network Distributing, (Also known as Network DVD) has gone into liquidation and ceased trading. The company, founded by the late Tim Beddows, has made a hugely significant contribution to the preservation of film and television over the last twenty five years; Anyone with even a passing interest in vintage television has at least one of their releases in their collection. This is a sad week.
Personally, the news left me with a heavy heart. Their mix of the once mainstream, niche and extremely niche releases was a revelation to my burgeoning curiosity about vintage media. They opened the door to an entire world that I didn’t know existed, one which I could never have truly contemplated. It rewrote my thinking, and helped to enrich my understanding of British TV history beyond the greatest hits that often saw repeats.
Network releases were my bread and butter during my teens and twenties, I collected so many of them; Especially in the genre of Children’s television and Comedy. Nowhere else was I able to get access to such classics from the 1970s as Children of the Stones, Agony, A Fine Romance, The Paper Lads and Shadows. These titles, and more, were signs that a lot of modern conventions had been invented and mastered decades previously.
One only has to watch the many serials made by ITC in the 1950s, to know that cinematic television isn’t just reserved for the last twenty years. Surviving Comedy, such as The Arthur Haynes Show, The Larkins, George and the Dragon and Lucky Feller were poignant reminders of long-lost laughs and the people who created them. Network’s entire catalogue a demonstration of life and the many roads that writers, performers and directors have travelled down before (and after) reaching their peak. Without Network releasing some of these titles, I believe the world would be less aware, and that would he a shame.
I’m not sure that any other physical media company has niched down quite as hard as Network, and the consumer has benefitted immensely. The likes of Indoor League, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club and The Comedians had been thrown to the television scrapyard long ago then were saved and given new life on DVD. They dived deeper into Emmerdale Farm than ITV3 will (possibly) ever go. ITV’s vast archive of short-lived series seemed abandoned until Network demonstrated audiences still loved them. Lesser known Gerry Anderson series, such as Four Feather Falls, received the treatment they deserved; And fans lapped it up.
I’ve lost count of the number of items I bought during one of their trademark sales. Bundles of titles would enter the basket that I would have never bought otherwise. Their catalogue was like a treasure trove, a lucky dip. I, for one, enjoyed it while it lasted.
Thank You Network
I will be forever grateful to Network for broadening my horizons and keeping vintage material out of the vault and into the hands of fans. Those releases will continue to float on the market and be a source of nostalgia and discovery, but the sad notion of what might have been will linger.
Their recent extensive releases of Crossroads and Give Us A Clue were a sign that they still had things left to give. Let’s not forget their contribution to remastering older titles in HD, and making sure some titles were reissued to maintain their prescience. Newer titles were ushered in, presumably to widen their buyer base, but they never forgot their roots. Now the demise of Network is upon us, neither will I.