The Mill Creek Entertainment August 21, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray complete-series releases of the early 2010s series "Masters of Sex" and "Happy Endings" is wonderful news for current fans of those series and for folks who have yet to experience the good quality of both programs. In what seemingly is backwards on a couple of levels. "Endings' is a review topic before "Masters."
The enhanced video of Blu-ray is tailored made for the truly vibrant and detailed colors that extend well beyond the red feathers of Tyler the racist parrot, The crystal-clear rich sound is a bonus.
"Endings" producers Joe and Anthony Russo also are the best brains behind the even more subversive cultcom "Community, which Mill Creek is releasing in separate DVD and Blu-rays sets in September 2018. Fanboys know that the Russo brothers go on to bigger (but not necessarily better) things in the form of "Captain America" and "Avengers" films.
The Russos particularly show that they know their stuff in not adding laugh tracks to either "Community" or "Endings." This reflects the wisdom of Alan Spencer regarding his '80s cultcom "Sledgehammer," which is about a cop who makes Dirty Harry look like Sheriff Andy of Mayberry. Spencer notes that viewers do not need to be told when something is funny. A related note is that the somewhat subtle but hilarious "Endings" joke "Rivers Thicke Johnson" likely would not have triggered the laugh track.
"Endings" begins on a high note for the audience that is a low point for one of the friends around whom the series centers. Future food truckeuter Dave Rose (Zachary Knighton of "Flashforwrd") is standing at the altar with childhood friend/fiancee/failing boutique owner Alex Kerkovich (past literal cougar bait Elisha Cuthbert). The first of an almost "Community" level amount of pop culture references begin with a nod to both "Xanadu" and "The Graduate," A 20-something guy with an open shirt rollerblades down the aisle and turns Alex into a runaway bride.
The action aptly fastforwards a month to Dave living in the bedroom in the apartment in which gay "chubby" and slovenly college buddy Max Bloom (Adam Pally of "The Mindy Project") is couch surfing in his own shabby loft that has rats in the main living area and a belatedly discovered human squatter in a previously unknown attic space.
Penny Hartz (Casey Wilson of "SNL") is a childhood friend of Dave and Alex. Her dating Max in college seeming to be the highlight of her romantic history states quite a bit about this current fag hag. She and Max being the Jack and Karen of "Endings" makes having Megan Mullally play her mother apt.
The fifth member of the sextet is Eliza Coupe of "Scrubs" 2.0 playing Alex sibling/ruthless ice queen/successful executive with an initially undisclosed profession Jane Kerkovich-Williams; the obvious joke comes late in the run of the series.
Damon Wayans, Jr. proves the truth of like father like son in his portrayal of the object of the jungle fever of Jane. His Brad Williams is almost as successful as his wife but is much more silly. His many shining moments include his role in a "Get Out" plot years that has the third Kerkovich sister engaged to a black man years before "Out" is released.
The "Endings" characters themselves and the overall series successfully combine the best elements of "Friends" and of "Seinfeld." The likability of our gang falls right between that of the group that sets the standard for this genre of television comedy, and Team Jerry, Especially in the first two seasons, the "sits" that provide the "com" in "Endings" are closer to the "nothing" end of of the plot scale than silly shenanigans that include scouring Manhattan for a carelessly lost baby or getting trapped in an ATM vestibule with a super model. This is not to mention the old chestnut of accidentally seeing a character of the opposite sex naked.
However, "Endings" specifically mentions "Friends" on a few occasions; the most direct connection is the group once discussing which of them is which "friend." This involving an existential crisis is pure "Endings."
We also get an outing in which Max and Amy rebel against being the "poor" members of the group, A broader connection is the habit of flashbacks that highlight poorly thought out fashion and hairstyle choices.
The "Seinfeld" connection is stronger. Like Jerry and Elaine, Dave and Alex are exes; one difference is that our current couple are on=again-off-again far more than their predecessors. We further get Max engaging in Krameresque escapades that include using his vintage limousine to conduct comically inept tours of Chicago.
"Endings" goes further back in an episode that has Alex, Dave, and Max playing "Three's Company." Dave wondering why his landlord is so obsessed with the sexual orientation of his tenant is a highlight of that one.
Notable episodes that fall in between "Seinfeld" and "Friends" include selfish reasons being behind the rest of the group comically trying to provoke Brad and Jane to fight. That couple playing along contributes to the hilarity. We also get the gang full entering TV Land to help save a struggling toddler play center.
One highly relatable episode has Brad using a pretense to avoid annual visits by a sorority sister of Jane. Once again, the awesome twists are "must-see" TV.
This new set seems to have the same plentiful bonus features as the (much-more expensive) DVD sets from a few years ago. They go beyond deleted scenes and outtakes to include a hilarious parody song and a fun joint interview with Pally and Wilson.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review is of Australian DVD releases of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," which has not been released on DVD in the United States. These releases require using an international DVD player; they will not play on a standard Region One U.S. player.]
These thoughts on the April 2104 Australian DVD releases of the first and secondseasons of the 1968-1970 U.S. fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" are breaking news in the sense that a "fourth scene twist" a few nights ago prompted writing on this topic in favor of a (subsequently published) less positive three-part series titled "Back to Dystopia Days: How the Cunninghams of the '50s Would Fare in 2015."
The aforementioned development was the bedside Scooby-Doo telephone of your (sometimes humble) reviewer ringing at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. On coming down to my home office the next morning with thoughts of dystopia in my noggin, I was thrilled to see that the call was from "Muir" child star Harlen Carraher. Carraher is the former tow-headed moppet who played the young son of the titular widow.
Carraher, whose last listed acting job aptly was a guest shot on "The Brady Bunch," kindly provided his private number weeks ago on learning of the great love of "Unreal TV" for "Muir." The call last night was the latest round in a game of telephone tag that a three-hour time difference and other factors have caused to last for months. An interview with Carraher will run after we connect.
As an aside, the incredibly gregarious Carraher asks that fans please not contact him at his current literal day job. Unreal TV is glad to pass along messages and ask questions that reach here before Carraher does.
Returning to our main topic, "Muir" is an all-time after-school reruns favorite that is a frequent subject of posts regarding series that are overdue for U.S. DVD releases. This love is behind spending roughly $70 total for the aforementioned Australian releases of both seasons. This follows spending an embarrassingly large amount on the Australian release of the third season of fellow '60s fantasycom "My Favorite Martian" years ago following interminable delays in then-Warner division Rhino releasing that season.
The premise of "Muir," which is based on the 1947 film of the same name, is that Carolyn Muir (wonderfully played by Hope Lange) moves Jonathan and his slightly older sister Candy to Gull Cottage in the small coastal Maine community of Schooner Bay. The Muir clan soon learns on moving into that rented abode that original owner Captain Daniel Gregg (well portrayed by "Knight Rider" star/character actor Edward Mulhare) haunts the house and does not welcome "Others" living there. One spoiler is that this stalwart sea captain is not allergic to sunlight.
The following clip, courtesy of "YouTube" and a fellow "Muir" fan, of several moments from the series shows the wonderful slapstick element of this terrific program.
The pilot achieves an excellent balance between exposition and getting down to business in that it opens with a moderately spooky scene in which current owner (and Gregg heir) Claymore Gregg (perfectly played by over-the-top campy actor Charles Nelson Reilly) arrives at the haunted mansion to inform his ancestor of the imminent arrival of the Muir family. One dystopian note is that this scene explains the need to rent the house to prevent a tax foreclosure. This scene ends with a series staple of the titular spirit rousting the Mr. Chicken of the show out of the house. However, this night-time scene contrasts with the later consistently daytime expulsions of Claymore.
Another dystopian element of the pilot has freelance writer Carolyn telling her unexpected housemate that she cannot afford to move. That hardship and a growing admiration/love for this widow leads to a workable detente following a hilarious scene in which the Captain and the widow wrestle for control of the family station wagon.
The on-screen chemistry between Lange and Mulhare is not perfect, but each plays his or her part well. It is also nice to see that they are largely equals and that the Captain must accept the nature of a modern liberated woman while Mrs. Muir must understand (and respect) the nineteenth century sense and sensibility of the Captain.
A particularly hilarious scene in an episode has Carolyn asserting her independence prompting the Captain undoing his good deed after magically fixing a flat tire. This outing also has Carolyn establishing the rule that she will take care of people and the Captain can take care of the ghosts only for the former to (predictably) soon learn that having a supernatural man around the house is helpful.
A somewhat related (and even more amusing) episode has Carolyn trying to cure herself of the "delusion" that she is sharing her home with an increasingly friendly ghost. Watching this frustrate said spirit is must-see TV.
A more ripped from the headlines episode has the medicine that the Captain prepares for an ailing Mrs. Muir transport her back to the Gull Cottage of the nineteenth century. This led to (unrealized tongue-in-cheek) hope (no pun intended) that lightning would strike twice when consuming massive amounts of maximum-strength NyQuil during a recent personal bout with severe pneumonia. Alas, a very relaxing near comatose state was the only result.
Other memorable segments from the roughly 50 "Muir" episodes include adorable family terrier Scruffy announcing the presence of an invisible Captain only to have the latter exact incredibly cute revenge, a temporarily powerless Captain struggling to telepathically move a teapot, and uber-successful dreamy singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson play a dreamy young performer who seeks refuge at Gull Cottage after the Captain attempts to drive him off the nearby beach.
Other notable guest stars include Bill Bixby of "Martian" as a determined paranormal investigator, "Oliver" star Mark Lester as a love interest for Candy, Richard Dreyfuss as a newspaper editor, and comic legend Dom Deluisle as a bumbling ghost who gets haunting lessons from the captain.
On a larger level, this incredibly fun and entertaining series has a few elements that continue to delight. Your (sometimes humble) reviewer derived a laugh from his significant other when recreating the overhead wave that a beach-walking Lange uses to gesture to Mulhare in the opening credits during a scene in current theatrical film "Still Alice" in which Julianne Moore walks on the beach. We also crack up whenever there is a reference to matronly live-in housekeeper Martha (played by Reta Shaw) using her "sweet cherry pie" to coerce the dessert-loving local handyman to do her bidding. Martha withholding that treat prompts particular hilarity.
On an even broader level, "Muir" and its ilk (such as "Martian") are simply awesome "unreal" shows that provide great entertainment without dumbing it down or relying on sexual innuendo. Other than Claymore and a few small-town stereo types, no one really plays the fool.
Further, the respect and love that our lead characters feel toward each other clearly drives the show. Seeing the Captain wanting to get into the heart (rather than the pants) of the object of his affection flames the desire for a return to nineteenth century values (absent the rampant racism and sexism and anti-homosexuality hysteria).
As a second alas, the DVD sets do not include any extras. The picture and sound quality are very good, and the episodes seem to be the broadcast versions
The Warner Archive March 13, 2008 DVD relrelease of the 2006 first season of the Julia Louis Dreyfus sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine" provides those of use who missed out on the discontinued 2008 release of this season a second bite of the apple. History suggests that Archive will do the same regarding the other four seasons of this amusing show that soon learns the lesson that the adult characters have more long-term comedic potential then those who are not tall enough to ride every rollercoaster.
One of the more amusing aspects of "Christine" is watching Dreyfus play it relatively straight in this traditional sitcom between her stints as the gleefully manipulative Elaine on "Seinfeld" and the titular hilariously foul-mouthed and constantly angered loser who is "a heartbeat away" on her current series "Veep."
The titular mess is women's gym owner Christine Campbell, whose life changes in the pilot drive the series through its respectable five seasons. She is newly divorced from contractor Richard Sr. (Clark Gregg of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") and is getting young son Richard Jr. (a.k.a. Richie) ready for his first day at the elite Westbridge (a.k.a. White Bread) School that a Google search awesomely reveals is an actual educational institution.
Adorably slacker/garage-dwelling late-in-life baby younger brother Matthew (Hamish Linklater) plays the Kramer role in that he is doofus loser of the group. The character of comedian Wanda Sykes fills the need for the cynical best friend.
The memorable first day at school involves meeting the WASPy moms who respectively are the queen of Westbridge and her lady-in-waiting. Lindsay rules the school and has dim-witted Marly to do her bidding. Christine suffers an additional hit on seeing her ex sucking face with current main squeeze "young" Christine. This provides further proof that many men desire romantic partners who are younger and prettier than him.
A standout episode revolves around the common sitcom and real-life issue of elaborate birthday parties for children. Old Christine tries to keep up with the Kasdashians but ends up throwing a more basic event. This predictably initially falls flat but turns around in an amusing unexpected manner.
Another one in which actual hilarity ensues relates to the hypocrisy of some liberal ideals. The set-up this time is that Christine is delighted to meet a woman at the school who shares her views regarding the elitist environment. The one-two punch is that learning the status of the new friend creates embarrassment and discovering the rest of the story is an example of something being mortifying when it happens to you and providing everyone else incredible amusement.
The appeal of the concept and the characters of "Christine" reflects the success of "Seinfeld." We see ourselves and the people in our lives in the characters and live vicariously through them in that they act how we would love to respond to the irritants in our lives.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Christine" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy,
The expression "don't be ridiculous, of course it does" is the apt response to whether the Warner Archive June 19, 2018 DVD release of the 1988-89 fourth season of the 8-season sitcom "Perfect Strangers" shows that this program (which admittedly jumps the shark in S7) stands the test of time. The applicable principle is the observation of Carol Burnett that funny always remains funny.
An additional perspective is that the DVD set serves the purpose of that format by providing another bite of the apple regarding a hit in its day with a limited syndicated run. The modern aspect is that owning the DVD does not leave one at the mercy of the whims of streaming services.
As the review (which illustrates a close link with a top novel of the 21st century) of the Archive DVD release of S3 states, the successful variation of the odd couple formula this time is that uptight cynical 20-something ambitious cub newspaper reporter Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) shares his apartment and his work space with always cheerful 20-something recent immigrant from the Mediterranean island of Mypos Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). This adorkable innocent having the wisdom of the fool shows that natives of industrialized countries often are not superior to our kin from more primitive cultures.
The charm of the constant elan and naivety of Balki is the primary draw of "Strangers." The next most appealing factor is the incredible skill of Linn-Baker and Pinchot at physical humor; they achieve perfect symmetry and often toss each other and themselves around with such flexibility that it seems that their bones are rubber.
The bigger picture is the skill of the writers at keeping the "com" fresh regarding the wacky "sits" in which our Chicago-dwelling dudes find themselves. A highlight of this is skillfully combining the classic storylines of a character accidentally getting hypnotized without the knowledge of the people in his or her life, an alter-ego taking over, and a character facing a tax audit.
We also get a variation of the main men (or women) being forced to fly and land a commercial jet; a Christmas episode that does not center around "A Christmas Carol," "It's a Wonderful life," or "The Gift of the Magi;" and a flashback episode that does not involve a character facing imminent peril. Many of the other episodes are more of the same.
The "Strangers" crew provide sofa spuds who reside in TV Land an extra-special treat by having S4 further setting the stage for the 9-season sitcom "Family Matters" featuring Steve Urkel, who proves that one man's Top-10 sitcom creation is another man's Jar Jar Binks. The roots of "Matters" dates back to the "Strangers" S3 season premiere in which Balki joins Cousin Larry in the basement of The Chicago Chronicle. New friend sassy and loving elevator operator Harriette Winslow comes to the rescue.
S4 introduces Harriette spouse Carl Winslow, the jolly doughnut-loving cop. The involvement of this (seemingly childless) couple with Balarry extends to moving into their apartment building. More fun comes via Harriette telling the boys that something that she wants to discuss with Carl is a family matter. Another episode has an even better reference to the best-known sitcom set in the midwest.
In the spirit of the heart-felt epilogue that ends every "Strangers" episode, the modern lesson regarding this series is that it well-represents the Silver Age of television comedy in which the depicted world is not perfect, unmarried people having sex is not always shameful, and the show does not rely on extreme personalities or innuendo to get laughs. A prime example of this is having the mother-of-all-80s and beyond sitcom mothers Doris Roberts do her thing in an S4 outing.
'Perfect Strangers' S3 DVD: Sitcom Version of Pulitzer-Prize Winning 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay'
The Warner Archive April 17, 2018 DVD release of the third season of the '80s sitcom "Perfect Strangers" provides Gen Xers cause for the dance of joy. This release comes a decade after the DVD release of the first two seasons of this series about 20-something bosom buddies odd couple cousins Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) living and working together in Chicago. The other good news is that the S3 release creates reasonable hope for releases of future seasons over the next several months.
This release also provides an opportunity to address an 18 year-old issue. It is amusing that the 2000 Micheal Chabon Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is so highly praised as great literature despite essentially being a novelization of "Strangers." Kavalier tells the tale of the legendary comic book artists of the '30s through the '50s in the context of an 20-something New Yorker and his Czech cousin living, working, and (if memory correctly serves) dating together.
The core relationship is essentially the same in both the novel and the show. One difference is that Larry is a Midwesterner boy on his own until sweet and naive Balki knocks on his door almost literally fresh off the boat from the Mediterranean-adjacent island of Mypos. A broader perspective is that Larry and Balki can be considered the Lucy and the Ethel of the '80s. A narrower perspective is that "Strangers" has a significant role in the (reviewed) modern HBO series "The Leftovers," in which Linn-Baker plays himself.
S3 finds Larry starting a new job that brings him one step closer to his ideal career. He is a cub reporter at The Chicago Chronicle newspaper. Balki stopping by the office in the season premiere leads to him becoming the new mail boy at the Chronicle. The co-workers of the boys include sassy elevator operator Harriette Winslow, whose home life becomes the center of fellow TGIF series "Family Matters."
Business soon gets down to usual with fairly typical "sits" lead to "com." As is the case in all good and great shows, the distinction is in the quality of the writing and the talent of the actors. "Strangers" awesomely has shining moments in both regards.
The second episode of S3 finds Larry dealing with the shock of many of us on discovering a minor weight gain in our late 20s. This ultimately leads to Larry agreeing to go on a diet from Mypos only to lead to the typical conflict of his trying to get Balki to abandon his integrity only to ultimately learn that the high road is the better route. The hilarious physical comedy that is "Strangers" trademark revolves around Larry frantically trying to prevent Balki from discovering a delivery of a pizza.
The next outing is a special treat on many levels. Having Holland Taylor play a newspaper editor who is the virtual twin of the advertising executive Ruth Dunbar that Taylor portrays on the earlier '80scom "Bosom Buddies" (which shares creators with "Strangers" and "Matters") nicely ties that show in with "Strangers." "Buddies" costars Peter Scolari of "Newhart" and the father of Colin Hanks as childhood friends from Ohio now dressing in drag to live in an inexpensive New York apartment while they pursue professional and personal goals.
The next nice surprise relates to the nature of the "Strangers" plot about the character of Taylor trying to coerce Balki into having sex. Knowledge of several lesser shows leads the audience to reasonably predict that the "sit" will involve Larry trying to convince his cousin to give one for the team to help the career of our aspiring Clark Kent. "Strangers" does not disappoint regarding either the actual conflict or its resolution.
This pattern continues regarding an episode in which our boys engage in a three-minute dash around a grocery store. The physical comedy during that frantic effort is exceptional. More importantly, an audience expectation that greed results in the cousins only walking away with a can of Spam or an item of equal comedic value is unmet. The epilogue provides yet another good surprise.
The hilarity continues with adventures such as Balki creating chaos by assuming that corporate America has integrity, Larry having his effort to present a false front to his successful brother face obstacles, and the boys breaking into their office to obtain an incriminating document.
Nitpickers may comment on the order of episodes in the Archive set not coinciding with the order on IMDb. The most probable explanation is that the Archive order reflects the intended running order. To paraphrase the trademark line of Balki, anyone whom this bothers is ridiculous.
Part of the joy of pure sitcoms such as "Strangers" is that not much occurs that requires watching episodes in any particular order. The journey is the joy regarding starting at the development of the "sit" and ending up at the heartfelt discussion of the learned lesson as the picture freezes, there is a flourish of the theme song, and the end credits begin appearing on the screen.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: A desire to attempt to do justice to the phenomenal design of the complete series locker edition of "The Wonder Years" and to the series itself requires a two-part review. This initial discussion focuses on the set itself and the early seasons. The follow-up covers the later seasons, including the precedent-setting series finale.]
Time Life very aptly extends its recent pattern of releasing DVD sets of variety shows (including the reviewed "Laugh-In" and also reviewed "Carol Burnett Show") from the '60s and '70s to rerelease a CS DVD set of the 1988 -93 dramcom set in the '60s and the '70s "The Wonder Years." This one is the product of Carol Black and Neal Marlens, who also are the show runners of the '80s ABC famcom "Growing Pains."
The figuratively mind-blowing special-edition locker set requires beginning this discussion of "Wonder" with details regarding this set that deserves every design award out there. The Unreal TV library includes roughly 20 deluxe CS DVD sets, and this one far outshines all of them in cleverness and construction quality.
Our accolades begin with the locker itself being good quality metal that does not bend or warp. It sits on four small padded feet that keep the locker steady.
The delight continues with opening the locker and discovering more-than-ample room for the two loose-leaf binders that will bring back memories of personal wonder years; you also get a yearbook. The "but wait, there's more" item is a set of magnets for adorning the locker.
Each sturdy binder consists of the discs, complete with detailed episode synopses, of three of the six "Wonder" seasons. Each disc is in its own sleeve that allows removing it without any risk of scratching it.
The equally sturdy yearbook begins with fun autographs by most of the cast and crew; we also get copious photos and profiles from both back in the day and the present.
Moving on to the actual show, this early 30-minute series with almost equal "dram" and "com" also almost certainly is the first in which an adult narrator (Daniel Stern in this case) comments on his "wonder years" roughly 20 years earlier; this concept dates at least to the early '60s in which teen Dobie Gillis regularly breaks the fourth wall in the spectacular "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" sitcom.
"Years" is notable as well for following the wisdom of the '70s sitcom set in the '50s "Happy Days." Producer Garry Marshall builds that series around the concept that a series that is based in the past does not look dated in the future.
An observation in the aforementioned yearbook addresses the use of era in the series. This notes that we do not see how our childhoods parallel national events and trends until we achieve full adulthood.
Future television show director and occasional adult actor Fred Savage plays "Years" lead Kevin Arnold. The expressiveness of Savage and talent for expressing non-offensive disgust at the stupidity of peers and parents alike show the reason for casting him in the classic film "The Princess Bride." (Seeing him get in the spirit of "Years" fantasy scenes also is fun.)
Despite a well-known predictable element, the "Years" pilot deserves classic status. We meet 12 year-old Kevin during the summer of '68 before he enters the newly renamed Robert F. Kennedy Junior High. Early narration includes commentary that the suburban setting of the titular period in the life of Kevin lacks the benefits and the disadvantages of the city and the country but provides a pretty good place to grow up.
A related amusing aspect of this is that the series is set in the northeast (most likely New Jersey) but that wide shots clearly show that the neighborhood is in California.
Older brother Wayne gets right down to humiliating and pummeling Kevin without provocation; this sets the stage to establish the appeal of literal boy-next door Brian Cooper, who is the big brother of series-long love interest/ literal girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar).
Nineteen year-old Brian has gorgeous blonde hair, a rock-hard body, a cool car, and smokes. He steals his first scene by calling out to Wayne to either leave Kevin alone or endure the same punishment that Wayne is dishing out.
The narrator sharing that Brian goes onto Viet Nam makes the fate of this character predictable even to new comers to this series.
Other '60stastic early episodes center around Kevin and nerdy best friend Paul getting excited to reap the benefits of the brand-new law requiring adding sex education to the public school curriculum, the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon and safely return to earth, oldest Arnold child high-school flower child Karen entering a relationship that is more open than she understands with a radical college student (John Corbett of "Northern Exposure" and "Sex and the City,") and a Christmas episode in which the Arnold children and their housewife mother Norma try to persuade gruff middle-management job holding Dad to buy a color television.
All of this works because the Arnolds are a real family with real issues that are nor presented in an overly comic or dramatic fashion. No one is extreme, and the problems often are not solved in 30 minutes. One early example is Kevin still incurring some wrath from his friends and classmates after mercilessly ridiculing them. There is not any third-act grand-gesture by our everyboy.
The spectacular copious special features include a 2014 cast reunion.
Classic TV royalty Time Life creates a made-in-Heaven marriage regarding granting Wal-Mart the exclusive right to sell the October 17, 2017 "Mama's Family: The Complete Collection" DVD set.
This 130-episode six-season series, which is a spin-off of the fan-favorite "The Family" sketches in the "Carol Burnett Show," revolves around feisty small-town Southern middle-class matriarch Thelma Harper and her dysfunctional family. The best way to think of this is to imagine Aunt Bee of "Andy Griffith" as more irascible.
It is equally cool that youthful Vicki Lawrence rivals Estelle Getty in her talent for playing a character who is significantly older than her. The age disparity between Vicki and Thelma warrants an aside that is highly relevant to this review. Vicki stated in an interview at the time of a 1988 S4 three-episode story arc in which the Harpers go to Hawaii that requiring that she be in character on exiting the airplane in our 50th state was moderately distressing.
"Mama" further can be considered a PG version of the more adult Del Shores "Sordid Lives" franchise, which revolves the eccentric middle-class residents of Winters, Texas. "Sordid" elements that are absent from "Mama" include a cross-dressing senior citizen, a gay white man married to a black man, and a philandering redneck who literally pays a leg (but not an arm) for his adultery with a significantly older woman. That is not to say that "Mama" may not include some or all of those elements if Lawrence et al film a reunion movie.
The "complete" set, which offers the original broadcast versions of the episodes, does Lawrence and and her co-stars particularly proud by including the copious extras that the end of this review describes.
The following YouTube clip of the Time Life promo. for this set provides a small overview of this perfect gift for yourself, for your mama, or for anyone with a sense of humor. Thelma would express this sentiment as good Lord, just go out and buy the damn DVDs already; what the Hell are you waiting for?
"Mama," which is the brainchild of "Burnett" and "Fact of Life" veterans Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, begins life as a 1983 mid-season replacement on NBC. This initial concept is that widowed housewife Thelma lives with slightly more sophisticated sister Fran (the late Rue McClanahan of both "The Golden Girls" and "Sordid") and dim-witted adult son Vint (Ken Berry of "F Troop.") Buzz and Sonja, who are the teen offspring of Vint, round out the original household.
Moderately sexed-up neighbor/supermarket cashier Naomi (Dorothy Lyman of "All My Children") quickly moves in after marrying Vint in a "very-special" two-parter early in the first season.
Burnett occasionally drops by the Harper household in her role as neurotic daughter Eunice. We more regularly see Golden Girl Betty White as snobbish daughter Ellen.
Like the four (highly popular) retooled syndicated seasons that follow, the two NBC seasons reflect the highly successful principle of not fixing what is not broken. Virtually every episode is pure '80s sitcom down to an outing in which the Harpers compete on the Richard Dawson version of the game show "Family Feud."
Another early episode has Eunice and Thelma working out their differences while sharing a jail cell; we further see the ex-husband of Naomi threaten her current marriage.
"Rashomama" is a classic episode in two senses in that it is one of the most funny "Mama" episodes and is a standard sitcom take on the Japanese film "Rashomon" that centers around conflicting versions of an incident. This one has Naomi, Ellen, and Eunice offer differing accounts of an kitchen accident in which Thelma gets knocked out.
The genuinely triumphant return of "Mama" to the airways in 1986 reflects the related increased demand for programming that newly widespread cable creates and independent stations and basic-cable networks giving cancelled broadcast series a second bite at the apple. "Mama" finding tremendous love the second time around is spectacular.
The third season opens in the wake (no pun intended) of the death of Fran; Thelma is keeping mum regarding the presumably embarrassing (and hilarious) circumstances of that demise, Vint and Naomi are almost literally drooling over the prospect of moving from their basement dwelling into the vacated room of Fran, and we meet middle-aged spinster neighbor Iola (Beverly Archer of "Major Dad.") Further, Ellen refuses to forgo a previously scheduled appointment to attend the funeral.
The related developments in this jam-packed outing are that Eunice and husband Ed now live in Florida and delinquent teen son Bubba (mentioned but believed never seen in "Burnett") is very recently out on parole from an unfortunate incarceration. Thelma et al return from the funeral to discover hilarious damage from Hurricane Bubba.
The excitable boy facing the decision that Thelma describes as "the old lady or jail" leads to the hi-jinks that comprise the final four seasons of this series.
An S3 episode offers a two-fer in that lonely Iola becoming an unduly frequent visitor to Chez Harper leads to the family using the '80s-era matchmaking technique of a personal ad in the newspaper to find her a beau. The two-fer enters in the form of Iola getting mad at Thelma when the gentleman caller transfers his affections to the widow Harper without any encouragement from this mother of all mothers.
An especially memorable S3 episode has even more hilarity ensuing after Iola freeze dries her cat after that feline uses up all nine of his lives; "Weekend at Bernie's" has nothing on "Mama" in this regard.
We further get two memorable instances of Thelma engaged in the sitcom staple of cross-dressing as a disguise. Her change of heart regarding sabotaging the effort of Vint to join a lodge has her don the garb of that organization to infiltrate a meeting; she further dresses as Santa and gets in the Christmas spirit after an upsetting incident destroys her holiday spirit. Of course, the episode ends with a miracle.
Another beloved sitcom could not provide better context for the timeless appeal of "Mama." One of the best moments of "Friends," which spawns the unmarried single urbanites hanging out sub-genre of sitcoms, has sarcastic Chandler comment on seeing an episode of "Three's Company" that that outing is the one with the wacky misunderstanding.
"Mama," "Friends," "Company," and other TV Land faves all have the common elements of good writers who can make familiar fare adequately fresh to keep it entertaining and the right actors playing entertaining characters who can make us at least smile on watching a variation of something that we have seen many times before. Good perspective regarding this comes from the late Garry Shandling, who was the master of making sitcom cliches hilarious.
Shandling states in his his late-night talk show character in the finale episode of "The Larry Sanders Show" that sometimes you get something special and sometimes you get "Company" failed spin-off "The Ropers."
The aforementioned plethora of extras is far too extensive to address here; one highlight is the surprisingly dark and dramatic TV-movie "Eunice," which airs in the period between "Burnett" and "Mama." This one is more Tennessee Williams than Sherwood Schwartz.
Bubba-centric extras include a hilarious "Burnett" sketch in which guest-star Maggie Smith is his teacher holding a conference with parents Eunice and Ed regarding the misconduct of their young son. We further get an interview with still energetic Allan Kaysar (who is a Columbine High graduate), discussing how he comes to play Bubba after moving to Los Angeles from Colorado to pursue an acting career.
Time Life also awesomely gets the band back together to sit around the Harper kitchen table to reminisce. Their topics include the break between the network and the syndication runs and actress/series writer Dorothy Van playing hilariously elderly aunt Effie,
It sincerely is hoped that devoting so much time and thought to writing this post on "Mama" triggers adequately fond memories by current fans and inspires enough interest in future fans to go to your neighborhood Wal-Mart to get a set. It almost is certain that you will not be disappointed. Two additional endorsements are that your not-so-humble-reviewer bought a set and "Mama" is one of the relatively few shows that has universal appeal in the Nelson household.
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