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On DVD: Final seasons last but not least

Christian Borle as Tom Levitt, Liza Minnelli as

Christian Borle as Tom Levitt, Liza Minnelli as herself in "Smash," Episode 210, "The Surprise Party." Credit: NBC

What's so great about a TV series' final season coming out on DVD?

Then fans don't have to worry about collectus interruptus: When you start buying a show's season sets, only to see the studio suspend releases before all seasons come out.

"It's a common complaint," says Gord Lacey, who runs, the Web's go-to site for news and data on series releases. "They start to buy a five-season series, and it gets to Season 3, and then nothing else gets released."

Just ask fans of "Malcolm in the Middle" -- first-season DVD in 2002; none since, with six to go. Or fans of coroner drama "Crossing Jordan" -- Season 1 out in 2008; five seasons still no-go. Even tube landmarks get discontinued, like "NYPD Blue" (four seasons out 2003-2006, eight unreleased) and "Hill Street Blues" (two out in 2006, five unreleased). But the real heartbreaker may be Fox's animated fave "King of the Hill." Its DVD run reached halfway -- six seasons out 2003-2006 -- then nothing, leaving collectors seven seasons short.

Some shows do eventually start up again. This month, Season 3 of sitcom "George Lopez" lands on DVD shelves after a six-year wait. (Still to go: Seasons 4-6.) Four years after its previous set, the Michael J. Fox comedy "Family Ties" resumed on DVD in April; Season 7 completes the run Aug. 13.

TV DVD guru Lacey says studios continually reassess series' sales prospects. "Sometimes the markets change a little bit" -- "George Lopez" is doing well on Nick at Nite -- "and maybe they've lowered their sales expectations," if only to keep the TV DVD pipeline flowing.

Third parties can rescue stalled shows, too. The pop culture mavens at DVD distributor Shout! Factory stepped up to create complete-series boxes after studios stopped midway on "Barney Miller" (after three seasons, of eight), "Route 66" (three, of four), "Leave It to Beaver" (two, of six), and "The Larry Sanders Show" (one and a best-of, out of six seasons).

Other series find renewed life online, as manufactured-on-demand DVDs not available in stores. has become a busy seller of previously stalled series from several studios. After '80s sitcom "Night Court" offered its first three seasons at retail, the other six have been made available by mail. That's how Showtime's "The Big C" is finishing its DVD run. Currently continuing on disc at Warner Archive are "Knots Landing," "Falcon Crest," "Cheyenne," "Party of Five," "Rules of Engagement," "The Ricky Gervais Show" and -- fittingly, considering how some shows vanish altogether -- "Without a Trace."

Final seasons now out

DAMAGES: SEASON 5 Glenn Close and Rose Byrne meet in ultimate courtroom battle, with Ryan Phillippe, plus outtakes; $45, Sony.

CSI NY: SEASON 9 Gary Sinise and Sela Ward sign off, with behind-the-scenes extras, "CSI" crossover episode; $65, CBS.

ALPHAS: SEASON 2 Summer Glau helps David Straithairn's brainy team hunt renegade terrorist; $45, Universal.

MATLOCK: SEASON 9 Cast changes around Andy Griffith's wily lawyer; $50, CBS.

THE BIG C: SEASON 3 Showtime's Laura Linney series says goodbye; $30,

NIGHT COURT: SEASON 9 Harry Anderson's quirky crew moves on to new gigs; $30,

WAGON TRAIN: SEASON 8 Western's final season reverts to black-and-white, comes in custom tin box; $60, Timeless.

THE VIRGINIAN: SEASON 8 James Drury/Doug McClure's 90-minute Western in tin box, with Desi Arnaz, Art Carney; $60, Timeless.

BONANZA: SEASON 6 Not the Western's final year (it ran 14), but the last for Pernell Roberts (oldest son Adam); $60, CBS.

Final seasons on the way

Aug. 6: "Smash" Season 2; "The Borgias" Season 3

Aug. 13: "Enlightened" Season 2; "Southland" Season 5; "Combat" Season 5; "Family Ties" Season 7; "Perry Mason" Season 9/Vol. 2

Sept. 3: "The Office" Season 9; "Spartacus: War of the Damned"

Sept. 17: "Leverage" Season 5

Oct. 1: "Silk Stalkings" Seasons 6-8

Oct. 8: "90210" Season 5 (CW)

Nov. 5: "Dexter" Season 8

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