"The Passion of the Christ" isn't the only popular title to arrive on DVD today. The first season of "Touched By An Angel" will appear on the new release shelf also, giving spiritual seekers another manifestation of God's love, according to the show's executive producer.
Roma Downey and Della Reese star in 'Touched By An Angel,' being released on DVD today. (CBS/Paramount)
"Touched By An Angel," executive produced by Martha Williamson, ran on CBS for nine seasons, from 1994 to 2003. It starred Roma Downey as Monica and Della Reese as Tess—angels who were dispatched to help people in crisis. Monica's youthful enthusiasm would often require Tess' seasoned approach to help calm the storms in people's lives.
Released by CBS DVD and Paramount Home Entertainment, the four-disc box set includes all 13 episodes from the show's first season, as well as the two-part series finale from 2003. It retails around $40.
"I think the DVD has come about really because fans of the show have demanded it," Martha Williamson told EthicsDaily.com on the phone from Los Angeles.
A lot of viewers discovered the show in its second or third season, she said, so the first season may still be unknown to quite a few viewers. After the finale aired in 2003, Williamson said the network received a flood of calls from viewers wanting a copy.
In response, CBS and Paramount decided to package the two-part finale with season one.
The first season features guest stars Randy Travis, Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Jack Black, Melissa Joan Hart and Gregory Harrison. The series finale, "I Will Walk With You," is introduced by Carol Burnett, and it guest stars Patty Duke, Patrick Duffy, Randy Travis and others.
Plans are in the works to release subsequent seasons on DVD, Williamson said, depending on how well the first DVD set sells.
"The truth is, I expect it to do well," she added.
The show will play differently on DVD, Williamson said, mainly because there won't be commercials. Viewers can stay with the storyline without being interrupted three times by blocks of advertisements, as they were when it ran on network TV.
Williamson also said viewers can go back and see "an evolution from the very beginning" of the show. When "Touched By An Angel" began, Williamson and the producers were still working with CBS to harmonize somewhat different intentions for the show.
CBS wanted a more innocuous, "New Age" product, but Williamson wanted to deal with difficult issues. She didn't want to highlight the sort of special effects the network wanted.
"We start out with special effects," she said of episodes from the first season, "and slowly they become fewer and fewer."
Those who purchase the DVD can learn more about the show's pilot and how Williamson shaped it. Such insights come from the DVD's inclusion of Williamson's interview on "60 Minutes," as well as two other featurettes about the show's production.
Four of the episodes on the DVD set also include feature commentaries by the directors and/or stars.
"Touched By An Angel" was filmed on location in Utah. Williamson and company produced 212 episodes, and the show was nominated for 11 Emmys and two Golden Globes.
Williamson said the show helped prove to some in Hollywood that there would be an audience for other faith-friendly projects—like "The Passion of the Christ."
"Touched By An Angel" also helped initiate a string a life-affirming shows that, coincidentally or not, have been run by women.
Williamson ran "Touched By An Angel" and "Promised Land." Barbara Hall runs "Judging Amy" and "Joan of Arcadia." Brenda Hampton runs "7th Hampton."
"I think it is interesting that the rise in programming that goes beyond the violent or graphic is being produced by women," Williamson said. "That seems to certainly be on the rise ever since women have been given more opportunities in television."
Williamson is currently developing a new series and writing a screenplay. She also said she's having a lot of fun raising her two girls with her husband.
And she's very gratified about the show's migration to DVD, where it will last "a long, long, long time."
"There are messages there that will never be out of date," she said. "A whole new generation will be reminded that God exists and that God loves them."
"God is not a trend," she added. "The trend is really about whether the networks are willing to acknowledge that ongoing search that is in everyone."
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Click here to order "Touched by an Angel" first season DVD box set from Amazon.com.