In August 2014, StarVista Entertainment announced that they had landed rights to Burt Sugarman's The Midnight Special and would be releasing the show in multiple configurations (single DVD, six DVDs and eleven DVDs) through multiple retail channels under their Time-Life brand in September 2014. This announcement set off a frenzied debate amongst collectors of the previous DVDs as to whether these discs would be more of the same or entirely different performances. The answer would lie somewhere in the middle.
HERC visited the new official site and wasted no time in putting the eleven disc, $100 Collector's Edition on his Holiday Wish List. Then he began rewatching those earlier DVDs which were grouped by year. Then, while perusing his digital copy of the September 2014 issue of The Costco Connection, HERC came across this article, which mentioned a bonus seventh disc "exclusively for Costco members". HERC was at Costco the following day but saw no such set. Two weeks later, he returned once again to Costco's warehouse and once again could not find the now officially elusive seven-disc set. HERC made plans to visit the other two Costco locations in town, hoping for different results.
Then in mid-October 2014, MRS. HERC informed HERC that she was planning a shopping trip to Costco. The following Saturday on said excursion, HERC saw the seven disc configuration of The Midnight Special and after much begging, convinced MRS. HERC he would never ever ask for another thing as long as they both shall live, HERC had that bad boy in his cart. The price on the package was $28.99. MRS. HERC pointed out a small sign above the display that said the set was on sale for a Limited Time for $22.99. Due to circumstances beyond his control, it was a full 48 hours before HERC had ripped the shrink wrap off the set and was enjoying Disc One. The disc begins with a bright, colorful menu, with Johnny River's theme song playing, offering three choices: Play All, Performances and Bonus Materials. This is what Disc One's Menu looks like:
HERC chose Play All and was greeted with the image above followed by the title screen below and short introductions of the episode's musical guests, seen in the screen shots below.
John Denver was the host of the historic Pilot Episode, a contract demand made by his manager and ultimately agreed to by Burt Sugarman after meeting Denver in person. On this disc, he is first seen performing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" which had been a #2 hit a year eariler. After he finishes the song, John introduces the lady standing on the second stage, to his immediate left, Linda Ronstadt.
She sang her 1970 #25 hit "Long, Long Time" looking very earthy and folkish, true to her Sixties roots. It would be a few more years before she would blossom into the rock and roll sweetheart we all know and loved back then. John returns to introduce the band on the third stage, the big stage, Argent.
They performed their then-current hit "Hold Your Head Up" which was in its tenth week on the charts and at #8 on its way to peaking at #5 in the two weeks following the original telecast. Denver then returns to duet on "Leaving On A Jet Plane" with Mama Cass Elliot.
The song had been a #1 song back in 1969 for Peter, Paul and Mary. Next, Denver joins Harry Chapin on the second stage where Ronstadt had performed earlier, for a chat about the song Chapin was about to perform, "Taxi".
Chapin then kicks Denver off the stage and performs the story song complete with high vocal part performed by his bassist. Taxi had peaked at #24 on the Hot 100 in a brief nine week stay earlier in 1972 that ended June 24 when it was #46 - it was off the chart the following week. After Chapin's performance, the credits roll. All the performances were captured live, not a lip sync in the bunch. After the credits, HERC returned to the Main Menu and selected Performances which summed up what he had just seen.
All of these performances had appeared on different discs in the earlier set. What was different this time around was the absence of the graphics before and after each act as the performances are presented in the context of their original episode even though the other ten performances from that Pilot Episode are nowhere to be found. In addition to second performances from Denver, Ronstadt and Argent, musical guests The Isley Brothers, War, Helen Reddy, The Everly Brothers and David Clayton-Thomas also performed.
Here's how the rest of Disc One played out: 10 more performances from three different episodes (1978 above; 1973 and 1976 below) plus a bonus three-song medley from Daryl Hall & John Oates, an interview with Peter Frampton and three mini-documentaries: one devoted to memories of Wolfman Jack, another featuring the outrageous Seventies fashions worn by the show's performers and yet another one with Sugarman sharing the birth and history of the show.
An eight-page booklet is included in the set, featuring an introduction from Burt Sugarman and detailing the contents of each disc. Since HERC already covered Disc One, here's the pages covering those other six discs, including the Bonus Disc, which includes performances and episodes not featured in the eleven disc Collector's Edition, which is now listed at $113 on the Time-Life site. For those fans like HERC, who only want the musical performances and already own the six or seven disc set, there should be a fourth disc configuration, a 2 two DVD set offering discs Seven and Eight from the Collector's Edition, as they each contain seventeen additional musical performances. (Disc Nine has nothing but comedy performances from the show while Discs Ten and Eleven are made up of interviews and documentaries, many newly conducted and created for this set.)
Is there overlap with the performances on the previous DVD issue? Yes.
Are there performances exclusive to the new set? Yes.
Are there performances that were on the older set that are not on the newer set? Yes.
Helpful commentors on this site as well as this one have provided detailed lists to answer the three questions above.