This is one of those situations in which a pair of developments has come to light so suddenly and unexpectedly, and with such broad and sweeping impact on one of the major concerns of our narrowly-focused enterprise here at The Golddiggers Super Site, that it just about completely upends every aspect of this venture.

We actually stumbled onto this information as the result of nothing more than a casual Web search earlier today. We have reviewed up-to-date indexes of major entertainment trade periodicals such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Broadcasting and Cable; general media publications like The New York Times; and entertainment-oriented magazines and Websites, and have found no mention of this story anywhere else, so as far as we know, we are the first to break it. If anyone can find an earlier source of reporting on the subject, we stand ready to retract that statement.

And now the news itself:

This past August 3rd, without fanfare, NBC Universal, Inc., parent company of the NBC Television Network, filed a lawsuit against Guthy-Renker Corp., Greg Garrison Productions, Inc., Ronald L Blanc, Black Horse Television Enterprises, LLC, and Barrump-Bump Publishing Co.

The nature of the suit relates to the intellectual property contained within, and copyright governing, The Dean Martin Show. Evidently, NBC, which at one time held an ownership stake in the series, is now attempting to reassert its claim. Since none of The Golddiggers series has ever been re-released, they would not be affected by the suit.

A review of court papers indicates that the case is currently in the Discovery phase.

(above) The actual first page of the case filing.

Incidentally, one of the parties to the suit, Barrump-Bump Publishing Co., listed above, may sound like a gag name, but it isn’t. Rather, it’s the music publisher that owns the rights to (among other compositions) “Whole Lot of Lovin”, the jingle written by Lee Hale, Van Alexander and Geoff Clarkson, performed by The Dingaling Sisters, and shown at the top of every episode of The Dean Martin Show during its 7th season, as well as at the start of every Best Of Dean Martin volume from number 5 to number 28.

We wondered what, if any, immediate consequences this lawsuit might have for the sale of the Best of Dean Martin volumes distributed by Guthy-Renker. Well, a check of the Website through which the product had been sold for years provided a quick and stark answer: The DVDs and videocassettes, which were still being marketed as late as the end of July when the Super Site debuted, are as of now no longer available. Here’s the proof:

A search on ebay showed that copies are still available there, so for those who’ve postponed a purchase up till now but have always thought that someday they might want to buy one or more volumes, this may be the beginning of the end of that opportunity.

But that, as they say, isn’t all.

In addition to the lawsuit cited above, a SECOND suit has been filed against Greg Garrison Productions by the American Federation of Musicians. This case was actually brought on April 25 of this year — again with no press coverage or public announcement. The dispute in this instance is listed as being over Labor/Management Relations, presumably relating to non-payment of residuals to musicians who performed in the show’s orchestra, in a situation reminiscent of, if not similar to, the claim by AFTRA against Garrison’s production company over non-payment of the series’ on-camera regulars, including The Golddiggers and Dingaling Sisters, for their appearances in The Best of Dean Martin sets released by Guthy-Renker. That conflict was settled out of court and resulted in an overall payout just shy of $1 Million dollars to the affected artists.

So what do these developments portend for the prospects of ever seeing complete season sets of The Dean Martin Show, as well as The Golddiggers series, released on DVD or rerun on television? Well, for the time being at least, it clearly means that EVERYTHING is frozen, pending the outcome of the lawsuits and any and all possible legal appeals.

Beyond that, it’s frankly hard to gauge at this juncture whether this sudden turn of events will prove fatally detrimental or, just the opposite, refreshingly auspicious, to our long-sought desire to see all 9 years’ worth of episodes of The Dean Martin Show given new life in complete and uncut form.

On the one hand, it’s possible that the lawsuits could drag on for years and prevent the shows from ever being released; on the other, if a reasonably rapid settlement could be achieved, it’s conceivable that it could actually open the door to an accommodation between Garrison’s company and NBC Universal by which the latter would be able to employ its vast resources to hack through the bramble of rights issues that have so long blocked re-release of the shows.

And before you let the cynic in you come down on the more pessimistic side of the above equation, ask yourself this: Would it really be worth it to NBC to sue to regain rights to The Dean Martin Show if it didn’t see any future value in the series?

Well, if you’d care to speculate on that question as well as others raised by the lawsuits, we invite you to do so in the Comments section of this site; and members of GoldsAndDings and Dinopallies may wish to do the same on their respective discussion boards.

Since The Golddiggers’ three summer series and two syndicated seasons’ worth of episodes are not at issue in these lawsuits, they technically could be rolled out on their own (assuming all of the proper music and performer clearances were obtained), but it’s unlikely that those vessels would set sail without The Dean Martin Show — which was, after all, the flagship of the Garrison production banner — first paving the way.

What’s perhaps most acutely ironic about this latest turn of events is that we fans have had to sit tight for years while the owners of this material kept so much of it out of our grasp, fretting and sweating over clearing rights to the music and paying the performers their fair share of residuals from the re-usage of the shows. And yet, for all of the caution that they exercised, and all of the legal pitfalls that they tried so assiduously to avoid, here they are anyway finding themselves fighting not one but two lawsuits over rights, royalties and residuals (not exactly the three Rs that they taught us in school).

For all of the copyright holders’ efforts to sidestep the legal thicket in which they now find themselves, they might just as well have released ALL of the episodes of The Dean Martin Show in their entirety, so that even in the face of all of the legal wrangling that’s now going to transpire, at least the public would have for once received some justice.

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