i actually figured it out on my own, prior to revisiting the thread!
whisperer: i was aware of that feature, but never used it. i figured, why have menus when i have to put my stuff on 2 discs anyway? i was just copying full episodes (6 ft under, Sopranos, etc.). that is why i was going through so much media Webslinger. Some of my discs have 3 episodes on them. i was backing up 2 episodes to 1 disc, and the 3rd to another. what a waste. i went through almost 100 discs to back up those 2 series alone!
on my recent successful attempt, i ripped using CloneDVD, compressed with DVDShrink, and then used CloneDVD again to burn. now everything is on one disc. all episodes, as well as commentary and special features (which i never backed up before).
thanks for the replys! special thanks to the mods and all others who make this board great and don't treat noobs like $hiT.