The Midnight Special Collector’s Edition – 6 Disc Set (DVD Review)

Midnight-SpecialAvailable now, the TV DVD archivists at StarVista Entertainment/Time Life bring consumers back to the ’70s for the seminal, groundbreaking live music TV show on DVD, featuring extensive bonus features!  The Midnight Special Collector’s Edition 6-disc set that we are reviewing today is available through retailers like Amazon.  For the 11-disc and 20-disc sets you’ll have to head on over to StarVista Entertainments site to pre-order them.  But, today we are discussing the retail version of this release, which includes the first 6 discs from those bigger sets.



Midnight Special John Denver


If you previously owned this show via the Guthy Renker release from 2006, hold on to what you have, these are pretty much identical to those releases.  I did not own those, but I did work on them back in the day and I struggled to find a difference between the two aside from the company logos at the beginning on the disc.  The menus, setup and bonus seemed like it was all the same to me.

From 1972 to 1981 at 1am on a Friday night, the youth of America tuned in to Burt Sugarman’s The Midnight Special to see all their favorite music and comedy acts spanning all different genres.  From funk to disco, from the hard rock of Alice Cooper to the mellow acoutstic sounds of Jim Croce, all the talent was showing up to performon Friday nights at NBC studios.  The vibes were good and the music was rich.

The common phrase from all the people involved is “back in the day there was no MTV”.  There’s barely an MTV now.  But the truth of the matter was that back in the day, there wasn’t anything.  At 1pm, the big 3 Networks at the time (ABC, CBS, NBC) went off the air until the morning.  Sugarman had an idea and full bought himself into it, thinking he could carry over Johnny Carson’s audience from 1am to 2:30am.  And it worked, teens and people all the way to their 30s were staying up on Friday nights to catch the latest artists.

One of Sugarman’s staples was that the musicians had to play live.  At this point in time, when a band, group or singer appears on TV, they pretty much lip synced to pre-recorded music.  Seeing something like this was a whole new wave of excitement and added a new layer of challenge and artistic merit for the musicians.  Not only would great performances come about, but unique ones with collaborations from artists because they were on the same show at the same time.  There’d be flubs and rough performances, but that was part of the fun (Aerosmith’s performance of “Dream On” is pretty ugly on this release, for example).

DJ legend Wolfman Jack was the announcer for The Midnight Special, but the hosts were  revolving door, usually a musician or comedian set to play for that night.  Except for almost one year, Helen Reddy hosted The Midnight Special week in and week out.  It was pretty remarkable too, because at this time, there weren’t very many women hosts for anything, if at all.  The “Hip and hot housewife” not only charmed with her music, but fully proved she was capable of leading the show’s charge.

As a fan of music from this era, the release of The Midnight Special is not only great to see live performances from legendary artists and their classic catalog, but it also is sort of a gateway to some of their personality and who they were.  A lot of them didn’t just show up, play and leave.  There was interaction with the host and unique presentations in their songs.  Alice Cooper’s stuff is still awesome to see today as it was then, I’m sure.  Yes, this show is very very 70s, but that’s also part of the charm in traveling back to it.

Midnight Special Wolfman Jack


Disc 1

Pilot (Air Date: August 19, 1972) – John Denver “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Linda Ronstadt “Long Long Time”, Argent “Hold Your Head Up”, John Denver & Cass Elliot “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, Harry Chapin “Taxi”

Episode 271 (Air Date: June 2, 1978) – Crystal Gayle “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “American Girl”, Chuck Mangione “Feels So Good”, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Listen To Her Heart”

Episode 3 (Air Date: February 16, 1973) – Mac Davis “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me”, The Doobie Brothers “Jesus Is Just Alright”, The Doobie Brothers “Listen To The Music”, Billy Paul “Me and Mrs. Jones”

Episode 170A (Air Date: October 22, 1976) – Peter Frampton “Show Me The Way”, Joan Baez “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

Disc 2

Episode 33 (Air Date: September 14, 1973) – Sly & The Family Stone “Everybody Is A Star”, Jim Croce “I Got A Name”, Jim Croce “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, Bee Gees “Lonely Days”

Episode 160 (Air Date: March 5, 1976) – The Miracles “Love Machine”, Electric Light Orchestra “Evil Woman”, Electric Light Orchestra “Strange Music”

Episode 173 (Air Date: June 11, 1976) – Gary Wright “Love Is Alive”, Gary Wright “Dream Weaver”, Fleetwood Mac “Over My Head”

Episode 308 (Air Date: February 16, 1979) – Alice Cooper “Medley: Eighteen/Only Women/Billion Dollar Babies”, The Cars “My Best Friend’s Girl”, Alice Cooper “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)”

Disc 3

Episode 152 (Air Date: January 9, 1976) – LaBelle “Lady Marmalade”, Electric Light Orchestra “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”, Janis Ian “At Seventeen”, Minnie Riperton “Lovin’ You”

Episode 81 (Air Date: August 16, 1974) – Golden Earring “Radar Love”, Aerosmith “Train Kept A Rollin”, Eddie Kendricks “Keep On Truckin”, Aerosmith “Dream On”

Episode 98 (Air Date: December 13, 1974) – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan “Tell Me Something Good”, The Stylistics “You Make Me Feel Brand New”, Redbone “Come and Get Your Love”, Barry White “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe”, Barry White “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up”, Olivia Newton-John “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”

Disc 4

Episode 304 (Air Date: January 19, 1979) – Blondie “Heart Of Glass”, Peaches & Herb “Shake Your Groove Thing”, Blondie “One Way Or Another”, Peaches & Herb “Reunited”

Episode 56 (Air Date: February 22, 1974) – Gordon Lightfoot “If You Could Read My Mind”, Maria Muldaur “Midnight At The Oasis”, Gordon Lightfoot “Sundown”

Episode 49 (Air Date: January 4, 1974) – Loggins & Messina “You Mama Don’t Dance”, Billy Preston “Will It Go Round In Circles”, Stories “Brother Louie”, Edgar Winter Group “Frankenstein”, Curtis Mayfield “Superfly”, Charlie Rich “Behind Closed Doors”, Dobie Gray “Drift Away”

Disc 5

Episode 105 (Air Date: January 31, 1975) – Helen Reddy “Angie Baby”, Aretha Franklin & Ray Charles “Takes Two To Tango”, Gladys Knight & BB King “The Thrill Is Gone”

Episode 127 (Air Date: July 4, 1975) – The Hollies “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)”, Frankie Valli “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, Orleans “Dance With Me”

Episode 144 (Air Date: November 14, 1975) – Helen Reddy “Delta Down”, Neil Sedaka “Bad Blood”, Neil Sedaka “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, Captain & Tennille with Neil Sedaka “Love Will Keep Us Together”, KC and the Sunshine Band “That the Way (I Like It)”

Disc 6

Episode 220 (Air Date: June 3, 1977) – Bread “Make It With You”, Andrew Gold “Lonely Boy”, Eddie Rabbit “Rocky Mountain Music”

Episode 251 (Air Date: January 13, 1978) – The O’Jays “For The Love Of Money”, Billy Preston “Nothing From Nothing”, Sammy Hagar “You Make Me Crazy”

Episode 135 (Air Date: September 12, 1975) – Bee Gees “Jive Talkin”, Bee Gees with Helen Reddy “To Love Somebody”, Bee Gees “Nights On Broadway”, Helen Reddy “I Am Woman”

Episode 84 (Air Date: September 6 1974) – Marvin Gaye “Let’s Get It On”, Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”

Midnight Special Doobie Brothers


Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 4×3

Clarity/Detail:  This is live 70s television video and there’s no way of getting around that. Its really soft and a bit interlacy.  Putting this on a DVD is probably the best its ever going to look.  I’d imagine up’ing this to Blu-ray quality may make the image look a little worse.  What we get is pretty well restored and looks rather impressive even if it is a tad blurry at times due to distance and the encoding.

Depth:  This is a pretty flat image, based on where the sourcing is coming from.  Not much was expected going in, but people do have at least a decent separation and distance from one another.

Black Levels: Blacks are solid and hide some detail.  There’s a little of a lighter tint to them, but if something is rather dark, you won’t find much detail.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are kind of tame.  There’s a good various, but they get sucked into being flat and aren’t very striking.  Once again, this is probably a source thing.

Flesh Tones:  Hot from the lights, and consistent throughout.  Not as much flickering as one might expect even though it is present.

Midnight Special Aerosmith


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The 2.0 track is actually quite impressive.  Its very clean and features no distortion from its source which could have well been something to have happened.  While the variation in sound from instrument to instrument is compressed, its not too bad and actually sounds rather good for a DVD coming from something of such low quality to begin with.  The sound is definitely a highlight of the release.  And I think in this case, that’s probably more important to most than the video.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clean and clear with just a hint of analog hiss.

Midnight Special Jim Croce


This collection comes with an insert booklet that has a Disc/Episode breakdown as well as a short piece from Burt Sugarman.  Please note that the time codes provided are rough estimates as all episodes and bonus features drive off of one title set and not split.  If you play from the beginning each episode will play followed by all the bonus.  If you start one bonus feature, the rest of them will play til the end.  So on and so forth.

Also still present on the discs is a functionality error that was present in the previous release as well.  If you go from the bonus features, back to the main menu and then select the “Performances” menu, you’ll be taken right back to the “Bonus Features” menu.  Then next time you go back out, it will work fine, however.

Disc 1

Bonus Songs

  • Medley: Darryl Hall & John Oates “She’s Gone/Sara Smile/Rich Girl” (SD, 7:00)

Interview: Peter Frampton (SD, 10:00) – The musician discusses being on Midnight Special at the time and he’s career in that era.


  • Wolfman At Midnight (SD, 12:00) – Focuses on the MC of Midnight Special, Wolfman Jack
  • Star-Studded Stage Fashion (SD, 8:30) – Goes over the glamor and fashion of the 70s and the stuff that appeared on Midnight Special.
  • The History Of The Midnight Special (SD, 10:35) – Burt Sugarman along with people involved in the production and musicians who appeared on the show discuss its history from the ground up and what it meant to music and a generation for 9 years.

Disc 2

Bonus Songs

  • Todd Rundgren “Hello Its Me” (SD, 4:00)
  • Rupert Holmes “Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (SD, 5:00)
  • America “Sister Golden Hair” (SD, 3:30)

Interview: Alice Cooper (SD, 8:00) – Rock legend, Alice Cooper has a great interview about the show in general, how he realized hard rock is still “showbiz” and his clever hosting spot on the show.


  • No Safety Net: Live On TV (SD, 7:00) – Discussion of how you had to play live and that it was a challenge to the bands and that there would be flubs and such, but that was part of the show.

Disc 3

Bonus Songs

  • Village People “Y.M.C.A.” (SD, 4:00)
  • Chic “Good Times” (SD, 4:30) 

Disc 4

No bonus material on disc

Disc 5

Bonus Songs

  • Bee Gees “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (SD, 2:30)
  • Eddie Money “Baby Hold On” (SD, 3:00)
  • Linda Ronstadt “When Will I Be Loved” (SD, 2:30)
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips “Midnight Train To Georgia” (SD, 3:30)
  • Earth Wind & Fire “Devotion” (SD, 6:30)

Disc 6

Bonus Songs

  • Ted Nugent “Cat Scratch Fever” (SD, 4:00)
  • AC/DC “Sin City” (SD, 5:00)
  • The Kinks “You Really Got Me” (SD, 3:00)


  • I Am Woman: Helen Reddy As Host (SD, 7:30) – Focuses on Helen Reddy’s almost 1 year stint as host on The Midnight Special.

Midnight Special Bee Gees


StarVista has brought you a loaded set of The Midnight Special covering some of the best moments from its 9 year stint on late night television.  It features an incredible range of talent and music from all genres.  The presentation is what I believe is probably the best you’ll ever see.  The bonus material, extra songs and interviews are quite a treat to compliment the set and get some insight on then and its legacy now.  If you’re interested in this version of the collection, you can pre-orde it by clicking the Amazon link below.

Midnight Special 6 Disc DVD


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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