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The 'Five Families' of New York Crime

The aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks revitalized New York City's mafia organizations. That's one of the revelations of former 'New York Times' crime reporter Selwyn Raab's new book, 'Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires'.

29:22

Other segments from the episode on September 19, 2005

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 19, 2005: Interview with Selwyn Raab; Obituary for Robert Wise; Review of the television program "Lost."

Transcript

DATE September 19, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Selwyn Raab discusses his book "Five Families"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in this week for Terry Gross.

Few people in America know more about the Mafia than my guest investigative
reporter Selwyn Raab who spent 25 years covering the mob for The New York
Times. He's just written a detailed and colorful history of the Cosa Nostra
called "Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most
Powerful Mafia Empires."

Raab's book illuminates the mob's influence in dozens of areas from its
control of New York's Fulton Fish Market to it decision to market heroin in
American cities to its racketeering in the construction and waste-hauling
industries which drove up costs for millions of consumers and businesses. And
Raab details the uneven record of the FBI from the days when J. Edgar Hoover
denied the Mafia's existence to more recent investigations that took down John
Gotti and other mob leaders.

Besides his reporting for The New York Times, Selwyn Raab worked as a
television producer in the 1970s. As a reporter, he exposed critical new
evidence in the Hurricane Carter case. He's also the author of two other
books: "Justice in the Back Room" and "Mob Lawyer."

Well, Selwyn Raab, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. SELWYN RAAB (Author, "Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of
America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires"): Good to be here.

DAVIES: You know, most of us have seen "The Godfather" films, and there's
that memorable scene in "Godfather I" where the heads of all of the crime
families sit around a big oak table with their cigars and make decisions as if
they were, you know, the president's Cabinet, deciding how organized crime in
America's going to be run. I think most of us look at that and think, `That's
just a little exaggerated.' How close did the Mafia have to having a ruling
body, a commission?

Mr. RAAB: No question, they did have a commission which was started by their
organizational genius, Lucky Luciano, in 1932, in which the point was that
they needed some kind of regulatory oversight over territorial disputes and
about other policy questions. Eventually, with the diminution of many of the
families in other cities, it became essentially a New York-based commission
with other cities and families from other cities coming to them to run things
through, including who was to be the boss of the other cities except for one
place and that was Chicago. Chicago made its own decisions, but outside of
Chicago, whether it was Philadelphia or Boston or Milwaukee or St. Louis or
Detroit or Cleveland, they came to New York, to the five big bosses, to make
sure that the five bosses in New York, by majority vote, approved of any
decision like who was going to run the enterprises in those other cities,
so...

DAVIES: Well--and if a boss in Atlantic City defied the New York commission's
rulings, what risk did they take?

Mr. RAAB: They risked being eliminated, being assassinated on the idea that
New York wanted everything to run smoothly. And the theory was the New York
people considered themselves very imperious and that they were really the
masters of the realm. So it wasn't a wise decision, it wasn't a smart
decision to defy New York.

DAVIES: Now you wrote that Lucky Luciano's rules for organization kept the
Cosa Nostra functioning well for 50 years. What were these rules?

Mr. RAAB: Well, the rules essentially were an adaptation of what had been
established in Sicily. The most important rule was Omerta which is both code
of silence and loyalty and manhood. That's the word they like to use and
honor. So the point was you never cooperated, and anything that took place in
a family within a gang or a Borgata was secret and could not be discussed with
anybody else. So the major point was, one, silence and, two, absolute loyalty
to the regime or to the boss, that you never questioned a decision regardless
of what it was--to kill, to maim or to rob, to destroy--and that your personal
family was secondary. Even if perhaps your wife or child was on her or his
deathbed, if you got a call to do something, you had to respond.

The other major thing that Luciano created which was really an American
adaptation and an American invention was he created a chain of command on the
idea that the family unit or the Borgata would always exist regardless of what
happened. If a boss died, was assassinated, was arrested, there was a
structure. People could fill those jobs below the boss and the boss at the
top if the boss was eliminated, the way they were in other ethnic gangs, the
Jewish gangs, the Irish gangs, which all existed, but had not table or
structure of command. If you took out the top leadership of one of the other
ethnic groups, they just disintegrated. They were loosely knit, but the Mafia
organization continued to exist. They were replacement parts. And that's why
they've outlasted every other organized crime faction that has ever existed in
the US.

DAVIES: As a measure of the penetration of the Mafia in the early 20th
century, you mention that they moved in on the kosher chicken industry. Why
did they go there?

Mr. RAAB: Well, it was an example of what happened in the '30s essentially
in New York. It was a very profitable industry, the kosher industry in New
York City or the New York metropolitan area. And it was essentially--the
Lucchese family saw this as a terrific opportunity. They had been shakedowned
by Jewish gangsters of the whole industry, the slaughterers, the people who
raised chickens and the sales of it. What they did was they saw it was a
million-dollar industry. Prohibition was over. The Mafia was looking for
other ventures, and this looked perfect. They had the muscle. They moved in,
kicked out the Jews and ran it as simple as that. Maybe they didn't eat
kosher chicken, but they certainly profited from it.

DAVIES: There's also been this idea that the Cosa Nostra did not want its
members to get involved in the drug trade, at least not directly. What does
history tell us about the accuracy of that notion?

Mr. RAAB: Well, it's a mixed industry. It's a mixed story. What happened
was the Mafia actually was pretty big in narcotics since its origin in the
'20s and the '30s. But for the most part, as late as the late '30s, the
Jewish gangsters or Jewish mobs that were still functioning were prominent or
pre-eminent in narcotics. It was an important part of the Mafia but not an
essential or not the most vital aspect of their business.

Things changed after World War II. And what happened after World War II,
there was some legislation passed in the '50s which for the first time made
narcotics a very heavy crime for penalties if you were convicted. You might
get 20 to 30 years. And the bosses got together and said, `This could be a
problem.' The problem is, for the most part, what the Mafia was doing did not
lead to lengthy prison sentences, so there was no compulsion perhaps for
people to become rats, to talk and to turn in higher people. The Mafia was a
little worried, especially Joe Bonanno who ran one of the most powerful
families in New York, the Bonanno family.

Bonanno came up with an idea in the mid-'50s that the best thing to do was to,
in effect, create franchises, get the Mafia out of the actually daily sale and
the routine of doing business on the streets, the retail business. So what he
decided to do was he went to Italy, met with the Italian Mafia in Sicily.
There was a famous meeting in 1956 in Palermo where Bonanno made this offer.
He said, `We'll help the Sicilian Mafia,' which was beginning to thrive on
narcotics and getting plants from the Middle East and from Turkey, `and we'll
help you bring in heroin. You bring it in. The American authorities have no
real line on what you're doing. You're unrecognizable to them. You come in.
We'll tell you where to set up shops and how to handle the street trafficking.
You bring in the big supplies. You take care of the wholesaling, and what
we'll do is we'll help you out, especially in the inner cities.'

And what organized crime, what the Mafia got was a kickback. They got a
percentage, but they did not have to do any of the dangerous dirty work. So
you had very few American mafiosi who were arrested for decades in the '50s
and the '60s, even into the early '70s, on narcotics charges. It was the
Sicilians who were doing it.

DAVIES: You know, another part of Mafia lore is that the mob controlled
politicians and judges. How accurate is that? I mean, could they have a hand
in deciding who the mayor was? Could they get help from the top, from the
highest levels of city hall?

Mr. RAAB: No doubt that the Mafia controlled many big city governments. New
York, Philadelphia, they had a hand there, Boston, Chicago. No question. One
of the ways they were able to do it is they had money and they had volunteers,
workers. They could get the vote out, and they could provide you with
election campaign funds. The best example of that was New York where Frank
Costello was really Mr. Tammany Hall, the major Democratic political
organization in New York for 20 years and made no bones about it. Costello
would have big fund-raising affairs, sometimes for charitable groups,
sometimes for the Democratic organization. Judges would appear. Legislators
would come. Nobody wasn't at least embarrassed.

Now for the most part, this continued into the '70s. You still had many big
cities where there were these almost open affiliations. When things began
getting hot in the '70s and in the '80s, it was done more discreetly.

DAVIES: My guest is investigative reporter Selwyn Raab. We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining me, my guest is Selwyn Raab. He's a veteran
reporter from The New York Times and has a new book about America's most
powerful Mafia families. It's called "Five Families."

One reason that I guess the Mafia could operate with such, you know, wanton
abandon in places like New York was that the FBI just was not--was leaving
them alone. I mean, for decades, J. Edgar Hoover not only didn't investigate
the Mafia, he essentially denied its existence. Why do you think J. Edgar
Hoover was so opposed to investigating the Mafia?

Mr. RAAB: Hoover was very savvy about the Mafia and he didn't want any part
of it. The reasons are very simple. One, he did not have the ability with
the kind of agents that the FBI recruited into the '70s, almost into the '80s.
They were usually people from small towns who had no identification, no
knowledge whatsoever about how the American Mafia operated, and they were
incapable of infiltrating them. Hoover was also very worried. He knew the
only way you could undermine the Mafia was actually by doing undercover
infiltration, and that was dangerous, dangerous in two degrees: one, that
your own people might be corrupted and, two, that they might have to commit
crimes. It was all to--it wasn't worth it for him.

Hoover wanted easy opportunities. He went after the bank robbers in the '30s.
That got him plenty of headlines. In the '40s, during World War II, it was
after spies. It was after German or Japanese agents. And then later, he got
obsessed with communism and leftist movements in America. And those were easy
things to do. And, secondly, the American Communist Party was not going to
corrupt you, not going to pay you off. So he left the Mafia alone.

DAVIES: Well, Selwyn Raab, once Hoover was gone and the FBI did begin to
investigate the Mafia, they found it was very hard to make cases stick, very
hard to get long penalties which would put big guys in jail. And as you tell
the story, perhaps the greatest hero of law enforcement is essentially a
lawyer and eventually a law professor named Robert Blakey. What did he
contribute to the fight against the mob?

Mr. RAAB: Without Robert Blakey's intervention, we'd probably still have the
most powerful Mafia in the world operating in most of our big cities. Blakey
almost single-handedly created the law that has led to the evisceration and
the first crackdown on the Mafia. It's called RICO, Racketeer Influenced
Corrupt Organizations Act. And that act was passed in 1970. It was slipped
in. It wasn't a separate bill. It was part of a larger omnibus crime control
bill. And what that did was it had two essential facts: one, that the
government or federal agencies could investigate what were called criminal
enterprises. And if they saw, if they could prove that there was a pattern of
activity, that anybody involved in that enterprise would be subject to
conviction.

Now the important part of that was that until RICO, the higher-ups, the
bosses, the capos, the consiglieres, the counselors, the underbosses were
virtually immune from prosecution. If somebody in the gang or the Mafia got
caught, they were usually low-level people. They never ratted. Nobody higher
up was ever implicated. So they went out scot-free. The big shots continued.
The organization was self-sufficient and just continued to prosper. Under
RICO, if you were anyway involved with that enterprise, you were equally
guilty whether or not you committed the crime. This, for the first time, gave
the government, or at least the FBI, a shot at getting the big operators.

What happened, however, was this law was passed in 1970 and neither the
federal prosecutors nor the FBI wanted anything to do with it. They said it
was a hair-brained scheme invented by some law professor who had no idea about
what was really going on. Blakey proselytized for a decade. He went around
like an itinerant preacher, going to US attorneys' offices throughout the
country, lecturing FBI agents. Nobody wanted to take advantage of this new
law. RICO was something new no one dared to use for 10 years.

DAVIES: So what changed? When did prosecutors take advantage of this tool?

Mr. RAAB: The big breakthrough in RICO came in 1980. What happened was
there was a new head of the FBI office in New York by the name of Neil Walsh,
who's an iconoclast. Hoover had hated him but Hoover was dead, and now Walsh
was in the driver's seat in New York. And Neil Walsh was also a lawyer and
read law journals, and he knew about RICO. And he sent two of his agents up
to Cornell University where in the summers in the '80s Blakey was lecturing.
He was lecturing about RICO. He had these seminars where he tried to bring in
prosecutors and law enforcement agents to hear about the RICO law, the new law
that nobody was using. And they were impressed. They sat through these
hearings, these lectures, and they said, `This is a perfect weapon. Nobody's
used it.' They came back to New York and said, `We've got this terrific
weapon that nobody wants to use.'

At the same time, Rudy Giuliani became the US attorney for what is called the
Southern District, which is in Manhattan of New York. He knew about RICO. He
was interested in RICO. He knew about Blakey. They had their own sit-downs,
and they decided a perfect case would be a case against the commission in New
York, the heads of the five families that ran New York and, for the most part,
ran the country. Giuliani was willing to gamble. The FBI had changed.
Hoover was gone. Judge William Webster was now in charge of the FBI. He gave
the green light. The FBI in New York pitched in entirely.

The theory was to make one big case against the five--the heads of the five
families in New York. Call it the commission case. Giuliani didn't
personally prosecute it. It was prosecuted by Michael Chertoff, who's now in
charge of Homeland Security. And that case became a milestone. They didn't
convict the five bosses, but they convicted major people, including several
bosses, in this celebrated commission case in 1986. And that was the
breakthrough. It showed prosecutors throughout the country what you could do
with RICO.

DAVIES: It was clear that an informer from the mob who--somebody who talked
to the government risked execution. But there were plenty of situations where
someone would cooperate with the government and prepare to rat on his Mafia
brethren, but the families were still around. Now was there any rule about
whether you could kill or threaten family members, wives, children, parents,
of a mob member cooperating with the government?

Mr. RAAB: Civilians were technically immune or technically safeguarded. You
weren't supposed to touch anyone who wasn't involved in Mafia matters.
However, that's broken down. It started essentially in the '80s where this
whole new generation of younger mobsters came in. They started going after
family members, threatening anybody who had turned or had become a government
witness, that maybe they couldn't reach you but they would go after your
family. And there have been many cases of that.

And the most recent was only a year ago in the Bonanno family. Some of the
tapes were picked up by the FBI overhearing mobsters saying, `Well, if
someone's gonna rat on me and I have to go away for 20 years or 30 years, why
should that rat and his family, why should his kids survive when my kids will
be in trouble?'

So all those rules are broken down. It's no longer a gentleman's game.
That's one of the theories that they'll now use to try to prevent snitches,
turncoats, rats, that, `We'll get your personal relatives.' There are no
longer civilians. Everyone is now in danger if you rat.

DAVIES: And what happened in that case? What? Did the family members get
harmed?

Mr. RAAB: Well, the people who made the threats were arrested and the family
members were put into the Witness Protection Program. So that's part of the
Witness Protection Program. Another element that Blakey dreamed up in the
RICO law, another great positive step, the RICO law for the first time created
a Witness Protection Program, which meant that after you testified, after you
served whatever sentence you served, you and your entire family would be given
new identities, the government would take care of you, and that was a great
encouragement to become a government witness.

DAVIES: Investigative reporter Selwyn Raab. He's written a history of the
American Mafia. He'll be back in the second-half of the show. I'm Dave
Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies filling in this week for Terry
Gross.

My guest, Selwyn Raab, is an investigative reporter for The New York Times who
spent 25 years covering the Mafia. He's written a new history of the mob
called "Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most
Powerful Mafia Empires."

I wanted to ask you also just a bit about the mob and popular culture. These
are wonderfully entertaining stories, even though they involve such serious
matters. You've written about them for The New York Times, where you don't
use nicknames like Sammy "The Bull" Gravano and Fat Tony Salerno. But I'm
wondering, do you think that writing these stories, in effect, glorifies these
criminals and helps, you know, give them a prestige that maybe they don't
deserve?

Mr. RAAB: Hollywood, TV and, I must say, my own profession of print medium
have in many ways romanticized organized crime and the Mafia. What they've
done is they've shown you essentially that there are two kinds of Mafiosi:
good guys, bad guys; white hats, black hats. And they've made them almost
mythic creatures. John Gotti was a great example of how the press created
him. "The Godfather" movies are another example of how there were these myths
created about the Mafia as an organization or a people who had no choice but
to go into crime, and people got vicarious kicks out of seeing how they
operated. "The Sopranos" has done the same thing, but if you put...

DAVIES: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, 'cause that's arguably a more
nuanced, a guy who has family problems and difficulties. What do you think of
Tony Soprano as a Mafia guy?

Mr. RAAB: "The Sopranos" essentially is not about the Mafia. It's a soap
opera about suburban change-of-life problems. Tony Soprano--anyone who
operated like Tony Soprano wouldn't last a day as a Mafia leader. He picks up
his newspaper in the morning in his pajamas and bathrobe--easy target. He
sits in cafes, making himself an obvious target. He commits crimes which no
major Mafia boss would ever do. For the most part, what you've got is here's
a guy struggling in midlife. His kids are revolting. His kids are
rebellious. His wife doesn't want to live with him anymore. She's become
independent. His old friends are gone. And the only distinction is instead
of going to an office, he goes to his crew to operate.

So what you really have here is Tony Soprano, suburban father, suburban
husband, doesn't know where the rest of his life is, doesn't know if he's done
the right thing, doesn't know how to continue. And what he does is the most
criminal act he would commit as a Mafiosi: He goes and sees a psychiatrist, a
female psychiatrist, which is a total no-no: one, that he would never see a
psychiatrist, and two, he would never get advice from a woman. But again,
it's done in a manner, it's great entertainment, a nice sexy show, but it has
no relevancy to the modern Mafia.

DAVIES: The government's gotten some huge Mafia players, you know,
underbosses, bosses, capos. But, you know, kind of the base level, there's a
couple of hundred soldiers which each of the family has, who--and they're the
ones who are going out, committing extortion, running bookmaking, running
prostitution, running narcotics and making money. If they take the bosses
away, aren't the guys still out there on the street, you know, committing
crimes and raising prices and, you know, corrupting unions?

Mr. RAAB: The Mafia in America is never going to be eliminated for two
reasons. One is called gambling, and the second is called loan sharking.
They're symbiotic. They work together. It's the bread and butter. It's
always been the bread and butter for the Mafia, and that is continuing to go
on. And as long as you have that, they have the seed money to do other
things. They'll go into labor racketeering, Wall Street. All the new
high-tech frauds, wide open to them. They don't have to have the knowledge of
how to function or create these rackets. What they do is they pick up on it.

Often, I--a fine example of how the mob moved into Wall Street was that many
brokers on Wall Street got into financial problems. They couldn't go to banks
for loans. They went to loan sharks. And that was--once they got into loan
sharks, the mob guys wanted not only their money to repay the loans, they
wanted a piece of their action, whatever fraud they were committing in the
brokerage industries. And that's the way they've functioned for 70 years, and
there are still plenty of wise guys who are ready, willing and able to handle
Mafia business in America.

DAVIES: Thanks so much, Selwyn. A great book.

Mr. RAAB: Thank you.

DAVIES: Enjoy your tour. All right. Take care.

Investigative reporter Selwyn Raab. His new history of the Mafia is called
"Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful
Mafia Empires."

Coming up, a look back at filmmaker Steven Wise, who died last week. This is
FRESH AIR.

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Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Review: Premiere of new season of "Lost"
DAVE DAVIES, host:

The ABC series "Lost," about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a
remote and mysterious island, won the top prize for a drama series at last
night's Emmy Awards. The series returns for its second season on Wednesday.
In the meantime, the Disney Company's home video division has been trying to
generate momentum by releasing a boxed set DVD of the entire first season. TV
critic David Bianculli says it's an obvious ploy, but it works.

DAVID BIANCULLI reporting:

There's a new video revolution happening right before our eyes, and it's
happening, quite ironically, in fast forward. For the past three decades,
since the invention and popularity of the videocassette recorder, there have
been two types of TV viewers. There's the old-fashioned type who still watch
television the way it was watched in the 1940s, waiting for the networks to
put something on then watching in real time and setting still for the
commercials. Call them the TV generation.

Then there are the ones who have figured out how to program their VCRs and
watch the shows they want to watch when they want to watch them. They also
fast forward through the commercials, saving themselves minutes, and very
quickly hours, of leisure time. Tape an episode of "Conan O'Brien" and zip
through all the ads, and a one-hour program suddenly turns into almost half
that. Call those fast-forwarding folks the VCR generation.

But now we have DVDs. It was only a handful of years ago that Hollywood
discovered the new gold in them thar hills by packaging a mammoth season-one
box set of "The X-Files" that sold an astonishing number of copies. Now box
set releases of TV series on DVD account for 25 percent of all DVDs sold. And
the networks have discovered the value of releasing these sets at the end of
the summer to spread an additional kind of word-of-mouth and program awareness
for fall.

Didn't catch the medical series "House" until part way through its run? No
problem. FOX released the first season on DVD last month. The most recent
seasons of "Nip/Tuck" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" are being rolled out this
month, weeks before those shows return with new episodes on cable. And at
ABC, the first season of "Desperate Housewives" arrives just before the return
of the show itself. Meanwhile, fans of a certain deserted-island show can get
lost in "Lost," seven discs' worth.

There are people who wait for shows like "Lost" to come out on DVD and don't
even bother to watch them on television. As a result, they never have to mess
with commercials, and can not only watch the shows when they want, but
navigate through them effortlessly and delight in all the extra material.
This is the DVD generation. And while they have to watch enough TV to get
excited about a show in the first place, this is the generation and the
technology that may well turn out to be the tail that wags the dog.

"Lost: The Complete First Season" isn't just a good DVD box set; it's a great
one. It doesn't hurt that it's built around a terrific, very intricate
series, one of the most multi-layered and puzzling TV shows since "Twin Peaks"
and "The Prisoner." One season in, and we don't know yet why these people
survived the plane crash, why the plane crashed, where it crashed, who and
what on the island is out to get them, and what special gifts each survivor
may possess. Obsessive fans of the show even like to swap theories about
what's in the hatch in the middle of the jungle, a mystery the producers
promise to solve in the second season premiere, and what's the meaning of
those unlucky lucky numbers on Hurley's winning lottery ticket?

Watch a series like "Lost" in great gulps on DVD, and it's both more fun and
more clear. Best of all, though, is all the extra material. The show's 24
episodes are spread out over six discs, some with alternate audio commentary
by the producers and stars. That's not uncommon. What is uncommon is that
when you're watching an episode with the alternate audio turned on, sometimes
series co-creator J.J. Abrams will interrupt himself and the show to take
viewers somewhere else entirely. It's the DVD equivalent of reading a passage
from a book and jumping down to check out a footnote, and I've never seen this
before.

Here's a part of the opening scene from the pilot, when Jack, the doctor, is
running around, trying to help other survivors of the plane crash. A
precariously tilted wing from the plane is about to break off and explode, at
which point Abrams, with is audio commentary, takes viewers somewhere else, to
behind-the-scenes footage of the explosion being filmed.

(Soundbite of alternate audio commentary from "Lost: The Complete First
Season")

Mr. J.J. ABRAMS (Director and Co-creator, "Lost"): We did the engine
explosion first, and then we were doing the wing explosion next. This is one
of my favorite shots that Larry Fong, our great photographer, helped pull off.
Let's just stop the film for one second.

Unidentified Woman: And two, one, boom!

(Soundbite of explosion)

Mr. ABRAMS: So we did the engine explosion first. The next day, we were
doing the wing explosion. And we were told that the wing explosion was going
to be huge. There was going to be this enormous explosion. And so we were
all just prepared for this enormous, you know, crazy--this detonation. And it
was the most...

Unidentified Man: Unimpressive?

Mr. ABRAMS: Yeah, it was so unacceptable. It was, like, literally, it was,
like--well, it was firework.

Unidentified Man: Yeah.

Mr. ABRAMS: So Kevin...

BIANCULLI: I've watched a lot of TV shows on DVD, and I've never seen that
before, nor have I seen a show so clearly determined to film stuff for DVD
release from the very start. The entire seventh disc is full of additional
material, from documentaries on pre-production design and the genesis of the
show to the original audition tapes by the entire cast. There are deleted
scenes, including two flashbacks from the season finale, and so much
background and backstage information, your head will swim.

The more you watch, the more you can't wait for the new season to begin, and
that's the new marketing muscle that is driving these DVD releases.
Television used to attract new fans to a show by repeating episodes during the
summer. Now the summer is dominated by bad, cheap reality shows. And even
those few scripted shows that are repeated aren't done so with respect. ABC
tried repeating "Lost" this summer but botched it big-time by skipping certain
episodes and infuriating any new fans that had been attracted. I know,
because I've gotten lots of their angry letters.

No one will be angry with the DVD release, well, except for the advertisers
who will miss out on those DVD fanatics who will wait for the box set releases
and skip the broadcast episodes entirely. But after 50 years of driving TV
into the ground, it's awfully hard to feel sorry for advertisers.

DAVIES: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

(Credits)

DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
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52:30

'Fresh Air' remembers Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim (Part 3)

We conclude our tribute to Sondheim by listening to archival interviews with collaborators and performers, including Stephen Colbert, James Lapine, Paul Gemignani and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

52:30

'Fresh Air' remembers Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim (Part 1)

Sondheim, who died Nov. 26, was the lyricist and composer who gave us Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and other shows. In 2010 he spoke about his writing process, from rhyming to finding the right note.

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