Shout! Factory releasing "Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection" on October 2, 2018 is the latest example of Shout! awesomely furthering the Unreal TV mission of saving classic and cult-classic sitcoms from obscurity. The scope of this set including EVERYTHING from "Bliss" to "Vegas" allows once-and-future fans and newbies to the halls of Bayside High to fully embrace the Zack Attack spirit of the series, Shout! releasing comparable complete series sets of virtually every program that this post mentions provides a sense that that distributor is the perfect home for "Bell."
Shout! notes that the presentation order of the episodes has the seal of approval of producer Peter Engel. Further, it seems that the episodes are the original broadcast versions.
The main thing that earns "Bell" its place in pop culture history is the perfect blending of elements that begin with arguably a happy accident, The majority of the cast first appear in the 1988-89 Disney Channel series "Good Morning, Miss Bliss." The intended focus of that series is the titular eighth-grade teacher (Hayley Mills of "The Parent Trap") in Indianapolis. In true Disney-style, John F. Kennedy Junior High is clean and lacks any of the ills that plague most junior highs and high schools,
The intended formula is an "A Story" that centers around the personal and/or professional life of Carrie Bliss; the "B Story" revolves around a tween problem of a student, who almost invariably finds equal parts solace and solution in the figurative arms of Bliss.
The pilot illustrates both the aforementioned formula and the reverse lesson of most sitcoms that the adults provide most of the appeal in the series. Bliss starts a romance at the same time that cute and charming scamp Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) faces his summer-camp girlfriend being a JFK student. The "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that eighth-grader Zack told the girl that he was in the ninth grade.
The classmates of Zack include nerdy Samuel "Screech" Powers (Dustin Diamond) and BAP Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies). Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins) is their principal.
The talent of Disney for finding cute young male actors with the exuberance of puppies on caffeine pills pays off large both for Gosselaar and for tweens, teens, and tweens and teens at heart all over the world., This demographic adores Goselaar, who can be considered the older brother of Ross Lynch of the Disneycom "Austin and Ally." Early clips of Lynch show that he has the same charm and enthusiasm as "Bliss" era Gosselaar. The parallels continue with both actors subsequently literally showing in mind and body that they are all grown up.
Disney not renewing "Bliss" sets the mental gears of Engel in motion; he sees perfect symmetry between the "Bliss" kids and the dearth of Saturday-morning fare that targets the aforementioned 12-and-up demographic, This leads to transferring all of the aforementioned characters except Bliss to Bayside High in southern California.
The copious insight in the numerous special features include the intended homage to classic sitcoms in "Bell." Casual observance indicates that this show is a modern-day "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." The central everyteen embroils his oddball outcast best friend in schemes to make high school easier and/or best his rival for the hot girl. We learn that Engel actually has "The Phil Silvers Show" (a.k.a. "Sgt. Bilko) in mind with charming conman Zack lavishing praise on authority figure Belding while running circles around him.
The aforementioned appeal of Gosselaar results in Zack immediately establishing himself as the center of "Bell" and the BMOC at Bayside. Introducing jock/Army brat A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) brings in a Reggie to give "Archie" serious competition before those boys figuratively (if not literally) kiss and make up later in the series, The two other new kids on the block are girl next-door/object of the affection of both Zack and Slater Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) and literal girl next-door/feminist/scholar Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley).
Both the high school and "College Years" of the gang largely focus on comic variations of teen and post-adolescent angst. We have boys making fools out of themselves in elaborate efforts to get girls, boys seeking to take rivals out of the picture, trying to pass driver's ed., facing tough teachers, outlandish schemes to earn money to conceal "sins," rifts between friends, etc.
The broadest insight that Engel provides in special features in "Collection" is that "Bell" relatively accurately depicts the high school experience. A stated objective is to support viewers who either are in high school or are anxious about what they will face on achieving that milestone. The effectiveness of that effort including most of the cast portraying his or her actual age evokes thoughts of Gosselaar once dissing fellow teen series "Beverly Hills 90210" by commenting that he was not 30 when he was in high school.
The comments of Engel triggered the thought that kids often are included in a series to provide a relatable character for their real-life counterparts; this led to memories of being a prep. school boy whose academic career paralleled that of the older "Facts of Life" girls. That particularly enhanced the experience of watching the high-school years of Blar and Jo.
The parallel continues with "Life" undergoing significant S2 changes that set the tone for the rest of the nine-year run of that show.
Like "Life," the high-school years of "Bell" are the best. "Jessie's Song" that has the titular over-achiever develop a hilariously dramatic addiction to caffeine pills is cemented as a top-ever campy TV episode. We also get Zack using his powers (no pun intended) for good rather than evil when he learns that Kelly cannot afford to attend the prom. This arguably is when Kelack becomes destined for the "Wedding in Vegas" around which the 1994 TV movie that wraps up their story is centered, Zack having to become an American gigolo with Gilbert Gottfried playing his pimp is one of several ways that that film supports the policy that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
The comprehensiveness of "Collection" allows the enjoyment of "Bell" to extend beyond seeing Zack proportionately physically and emotionally mature; the detailed episode guide facilitates picking and choosing your favorite episodes and/or eras. The aforementioned bonus features, which include interviews with most cast members, provide additional perspective that evoke happy thoughts in current fans and will encourage new devotees to embrace the spirit of the series.
Warner Archive releasing the penultimate 1983-84 eighth season of the workplace sitcom "Alice" provides a nice Halloween treat; this DVD set almost guarantees that Archive will release the final season in time to give your favorite sofa spud the complete series on DVD for Christmas. The final holiday note is that Archive deserves thanks for keeping the packing style consistent for every release.
One spoiler regarding S9 is that it follows the modern sitcom trend of a grand finale. Every lead character has a big life change that makes him or her much happier than he or she was when the series began.
A review of the Archive S7 release provides a chance to read about prior adventures of the titular waitress/aspiring singer (Linda Lavin) and her wacky co-workers at Mel's Diner in Phoenix. It is hoped that the posts on the earlier seasons will be copied from Unreal TV 1.0 to this site by the end of 2018.
Archive beginning the S8 set with two S7 episodes that were intended to air in S8 demonstrates the typical Archive integrity. The third episode "Mel is Hogg-Tied" is the actual S8 season premiere; it also is an early cross-over episode. Additional fun comes in the form of this outing being a twofer regarding "Alice" themes.
The cross-over comes in the form of sleazy redneck good ole boy Boss Hogg of the fellow CBS series "The Dukes of Hazzard" visiting the diner. The first half of the twofer is that he is there for reasons that include visiting Southern-fried waitress Jolene Hunnicutt (Celia Weston of "Modern Family). Hogg is one of the long string of relatives who create comic mayhem on coming to visit a relative who works at Mel's. Aptly the mother of all such guests is Carrie Sharples (Martha Raye), who is the mom of diner owner Mel. Carrie makes 12 such visits throughout the run of the series.
The second half of the twofer is in the form of the Mel foolishly losing ownership of the diner; the rest of the story every time is that the gang must join forces to comically put right what once went wrong. The solution this time fully cements that formula.
The two S8 Carrie episodes have surprisingly dark notes. The first one has her apply for a job as a nightclub singer only to blatantly be told that she is too old for the job; one warning is that this one includes a scene with Raye and Lavin in "Flashdance" style aerobics outfits that you never will be able to unsee.
The second Carrie episode begins with that frequent flyer having a near-death experience that profoundly affects her. Her subsequent devotion to telling the truth leads to a revelation that greatly upsets her son. One spoiler is that there are fewer laughs than usual in this one,
We further get Lavin enjoying her occasional indulgence in playing another character. This time it is Debbie Walden, who is the Jewish mother landlady of Vera. The "sit" that leads to "com" is Mel stringing along this lonely lady in order to taste her goodies.
Although we are deprived of an S8 episode in which a celebrity who plays himself or herself paying a heavy price for coming into the diner, we do get Florence Henderson as singer Sarah James. James comes into the diner seeking directions and finding a fiance. One spoiler is that this does not involve Carol Brady getting busy with Reuben Kincaid.
The icing on the wedding cake is that S8 includes the biggest occasion in "Alice" lore since the S4 departure of fan fave. Flo. (A review of the Archive release of the spinoff "Flo" also is near the top of the list of posts to copy over from Unreal TV 1.0.) S8 E7 is a lucky one for ditzy waitress Vera (Beth Howlnd). She meets and soon marries cop/soulmate Elliot Novak. The "com" includes a wacky misunderstanding leading to Elliot being the second husband of Vera.
The two "issues" episodes provide another reason to watch; Mel learns a hard lesson about the importance of making his business handicapped accessible. The other outing is a twofer regarding cruelty to circus animals and the importance of not discriminating against people based on am unusual physical characteristic.
The appeal of all this is that "Alice" reminds us of a kinder and gentler sitcom era in which most characters were likable and the good heart of the "villain" earned that person a great deal of leeway. Further, the writers provided adequately amusing comedy to not have to rely on shock value. Not only can you watch "Alice" with your grandparents, all of you can equally enjoy it,
The October 2, 2018 DVD release of "The Beverly Hillbillies" S5 coinciding with the CBS DVD releases of the (reviewed) "The Love Boat" S4 V1 and the (soon-to-be-reviewed) "Boat S4 V2 sets starts October well for sofa spuds who are facing increasingly cold and stormy days at home. The facts that CBS recognizes the profitability of these sets and that "Boat" and "Hillbillies" remain in syndication decades after their original broadcast runs are the strongest endorsements of their staying power. One warning is that watching these episodes WILL result in subconsciously singing the themes to yourself.
For the benefit of the folks who both are unfamiliar with "Hillbillies" and do not want to spend roughly 30 seconds watching the opening credits, the concept is that titular "poor mountaineer" Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen of "Barnaby Jones") moves his daughter Elly May and two other relatives (i.e., dim-witted nephew Jethro and feisty elderly mother-in-law Granny) to the titular upscale community after he strikes oil.
TV Land history includes that the original title of the series is "The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills." That title appears in the opening credits of the pilot episode that the CBS S1 DVD set includes.
Much of the "com" results from "sits" that either involve the backwoods folks not understanding city ways, clashing with "civilized" neighbors, or taking a page from "The Andy Griffith Show" by having rural-style common-sense win out over urban knowledge. Their urban friends comically greedy bank president Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) and his truly long-suffering Radcliffe-educated secretary "Miss" Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) do their best to keep all concerned happy.
S5 gets off on an apt foot by having Drysdale return from vacation a few hours before Jethro and Granny get back from visiting the kinfolk back in the hills, The central "sit" that provides "com" in this one is the haul from the latter journey includes a crank telephone that Granny wants to connect to a party line in Beverly Hills. One spoiler is that it turns out that $60M cannot buy everything.
Things take a slightly dark turn in a "very special" two-part episode early in S5. This one revolves around a con that has a city girl masquerade as a girl from back home as part of a "badger game" that involves getting incriminating photos of Jed. Part of the fun relates to the grifters not realizing with whom they are dealing.
A series highlight comes roughly in the middle of S5. 1910s-'20s movie star Gloria Swanson plays herself in an episode that fully embraces the wacky misunderstanding aspect of "Hillbillies." A mistaken belief that Swanson is destitute prompts the clan to visit her with an offer of help. This leads to true hilarity in a "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Clampett" resolution.
Another S5 episode has John Wayne stop by as himself. The "sit" this time is that a peaceful dispute with an Indian tribe leads to involving The Duke to address what is believed to be a pending raid.
Two separate episodes with a common element have the Clampetts believe that little green men have landed almost literally in their backyard and that a hippopotamus is a giant hog. This is not to mention another story arc that has a man in a gorilla suit pay the price for monkeying around with these hard-working folks.
The aforementioned longevity of "Hillbillies" primarily relate to the timeless humor associated with an "alien" not understanding how we live. It is easy to imagine Orkan Mork of (the reviewed) "Mork and Mindy" joining the Clampetts in identifying a large concrete basin full of water as a "cement pond."
More guilty pleasure comes via those of us with toxic neighbors relating to the torment that those "dreadful hillbillies" cause next-door neighbor Mrs. Drysdale. Few (if any of us) must contend with farm animals destroying our yards or with fully noxious odors from cooking outside invading our space. However, nuisances such as frequently barking dogs and feral children that can be even more nerve-wracking than livestock make many of us want to rid the area of these undesirable clans.
'Perfect Strangers' S5 DVD: Odd Couple Cousins Find Themselves in More Sublimely Ridiculous Situations
The Warner Archive September 25, 2018 DVD release of the 1989-90 fifth season of the ABC sitcom "Perfect Strangers" brings us over the hump regarding home-video sets of this eight-season show. This release also provides hope regarding every season being available as snow begins melting roughly six months from now. People interested in learning more about "Strangers" things are encouraged to check out the Unreal TV 2.0 review of the third season and post on the fourth one.
The pedigree of "Strangers" producers Robert L. Boyett and Thomas L. Miller including the "Strangers" spinoff "Family Matters" shows that the team both knows what the public wants and has a talent for catch-phrases that delight fans and annoy less-enamored folks. Trust me; I know what I'm doing.
The S5 "Strangers" episodes provide the perfect context for discussing the talent of Boyett and Miller for producing a likable TV show that enhances tried-and-true elements with nice surprises. The tried-and-true begins with the odd couple roommates concept of high-strung 20-something Appleton, Wisconsin native Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) sharing a Chicago apartment with his laid-back and childlike fresh-off-the-boat naive cousin/co-worker Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). The writers deserve great credit for keeping the "Beverly Hillbillies" style element of "Strangers" fresh after four seasons. An example of this is an S5 episode that has Balki seeing a dentist for the first time.
We also get a nice twist on the evil twin cliche. Even fresher off-the-boat cousin Bartok (Pinchot) visits from Los Angeles, He is a smooth talker who quickly and repeatedly takes advantage of Balki. This adds a "Its A Wonderful Life" element to the episode in that we see how Balki may have turned out on moving to America but for relatively (pun intended) patient and kind Cousin Larry mentoring and supporting him.
"Strangers" shines even better than it knows regarding a very special two-part episode that offers a treasure trove of sitcom gems. The bonanza begins with Larry hoping to make his visiting father (a.k.a. Uncle Walter) proud of his boy. Having James Noble, who is best known of playing the governor on the fellow ABC sitcom "Benson," checks the box for having a popular actor guest star.
The familiar elements continue with the underlying "sit" leading to the regular "com" in the form of Larry ignoring a warning of Balki leading to mayhem that includes two characters in conflict getting locked in a room. Having the "how many times have you ..." joke turn against Larry later in the episode is even more awesome.
The placing of beloved characters in mortal danger that delights viewers comes when the boys and Dad get trapped in a basement that is filling with water. The bonus is an enhanced ticking time bomb in the form of a electrical box that will fry our friends when the water level reaches it. Several decades of television shows and the fact that "Strangers" gets an additional 3.5 seasons makes the fact that the boys escape not much of a spoiler.
The episode title provides the presumably unintended bonus. The words "Father Knows Best?" obviously refers to the '50s nuclear-family sitcom of that name that lacks punctuation in its title. The tidbits from a vintage interview with "Best" star Billy Gray includes that "Dad" Robert Young wanted the title to include the question mark to indicate that his family guy character was not necessarily the smartest guy in the room.
The bonus fun in the interview relates to Gray, who is well-known for a marijuana bust, once laughing and saying "you don't smoke, do you?" The only admissions regarding that are once finding the pot holder in the kitchen of a high school friend hilarious and going to great lengths to avoid my mother on some Friday nights while living with her for a few months after college.
"Strangers" fans further get the "Larry plans a vacation from Hell" episode. The well-intentioned amateur travel agent books the boys and their girls a stay at the worst-ever Caribbean resort. Of course, this includes a strong risk of not making it back alive,
Another outing sets the stage for the sitcom staple of a Rashomon episode in which characters tell different accounts of the events that lead to the interaction in the opening scene. In this case, the drama relates to a bad dude crashing a corporate retreat.
The bigger picture is that the shrewd instincts that keep "Strangers" on the air so long (and warrant a tie-in to the HBO drama series "The Leftovers") include a respect for tradition that largely avoids the series looking dated. The absurd native garb of Balki is amusing in any era and the business casual attire of Larry is adequately timeless. Further, most plots avoid '80s (and '90s) centric references. As the few episodes described above show, the "sits" could mostly occur during any era. One exception is that Trip Advisor protects against staying at dumps,
The final word is time is don't be ridiculous, buy the DVD.
The CBS Home Entertainment October 2, 2018 DVD set of "The Love Boat" S4 V1 is an apt Unreal TV 2.0 inaugural post on a CBS release in the wake (no pun intended) of many such reviews on Unreal TV 1.0. An amusing aspect of this is that a world-class publicist named Tiffany is a former representative of this division of the Tiffany network.
An aside is that this simply mahvelous set (which includes an option of watching the always fun "next week on 'The Love Boat'" promo. that kept viewers excited all week) presents the episodes much better than the butchered and commercial-laden versions on MeTV. This huge fan of that series gave up on those reruns after two weeks but revels in the S4 V1 versions.
Please stay tuned both for a review of "Boat" S4 V2 and for the Unreal TV 1.0 articles on CBS releases to make their way onto Unreal TV 2.0. The icing on the cake is an upcoming post on the CBS October 2, 2018 DVD release of "The Beverly Hillbillies" S5, which includes the series highlight episode with Gloria Swanson.
Sofa spuds whose knowledge of "Boat" is limited to this mid-70s to mid-80s anthology providing large and small screen stars of Christmases past, present, and future current a higher profile are missing half the story. "Boat" essentially is a reboot of the 1969-74 comedy anthology series "Love American Style (which also has CBS releases) that does not limit the setting of its tales all across the relationship spectrum to a cruise ship that typically travels from Los Angeles to Mexico and back again.
The general concept of "Boat" is that the aforementioned celebrities usually play passengers who typically board the titular Pacific Princess in one of three categories. Happily in love, in the period between love and goodbye, or single but not necessarily looking to mingle. These cruisers first bond with one of the crew members who are series regulars and then experience trauma and/or drama before ending the cruise at least wiser and often happier.
Watching the 11 hour (or more) long episodes in the S4 V1 shows that this 1980-81 season is a particularly strong one, The bigger picture is that a TV writers strike is behind delaying the season premiere; this also is the broadcast season in which America learns "Who Shoot JR." A spoiler regarding that one is that resolution in "Dallas" provides good fodder for a cross-network crossover with "Boat."
The S4 season-premiere of "Boat" perfectly illustrates the fun and the themes that make this series '80stastic. Tom Hanks gets his second acting credit by playing a college friend of assistant purser Burl "Gopher" Smith just as Hanks' sitcom "Bosom Buddies" is premiering. The rub is that the former campus Romeo and current playah degrading Gopher prompts the latter to pretend that gal pal/cruise director Julie McCoy is his main squeeze. This charade stirs up feelings that may lead to the co-workers literally and figuratively docking in San Pedro.
The tables are turned in a later episode that has a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader recruit Gopher to help w her fend off an aggressive suitor. This storyline turns particular dark until the squad uses girl power to save their savior.
Meanwhile in S1 E1, comedian Nipsey Russell plays a member of group of Korean War soldiers who are having a min-reunion with their rough-and-gruff sergeant whom Vic Tayback of '80scom "Alice" plays. This leader unduly reliving old days prompts the group to persuade a cabin cleaner (Doris Roberts then of the sitcom "Angie") to pretend to like him. Of course, the Roberts and the Tayback characters enter a real relationship that his learning of the initial deception jeopardizes.
The numerous highlights of the two-hour second S4 episode include it being one of several extended episodes in the set. It also is one of the two completely separate episodes that is filmed during a "very special" cruise that starts in St. Thomas before going through the Panama Canal and then back to the home port of Los Angeles. Both episodes will teach most viewers new things about the Canal.
The second episode also is one of two in this set with a unifying theme. This cruise has several engaged couples vying in a contest to win fabulous prizes. The other cruise has the ship transporting several two and four-legged passengers to a horse race in Acapulco. The disco group The Village People boarding to perform and to race their horse in that one that also has the aforementioned cheerleaders contribute to making that one especially memorable. Gopher racing the People singer who dresses as an Indian perfectly captures the spirit of "Boat."
The episode with the engaged couples has "Happy Days " (yes, CBS has released ""Days" sets) star Erin Moran play an engaged woman whose mother comes on board to discourage her from tying the knot, Moran "Days" co-star Donny Most plays the best friend/best man of a preemptive runaway groom who is engaged to a character whom "Dallas" star Charlene Tilton plays.
The Golden Age representation includes Debbie Reynolds playing a character who forms a friendship with potential benefits with Captain Stubing (Gavin MacLoed) after leaving her husband. MacLoed "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Ted Knight plays a man with sub-zero cold feet who has a comically frequent on-again-off-again engagements with a character whom Rue McClanahan plays in a break between "Maude" and "The Golden Girls." Fellow "Golden Girl" Betty White plays a character married to real-life White spouse Allen Ludden in the horse episode,
Another highlight of the contest episode has Ann Jillian and Dawn Wells play fellow judges of Gopher who want to score with him on every level. Oft-divorced resident doctor Adam Bricker trying to push his buddy out of the way is equally pure "Boat."
This brief discussion of a few episodes in this set should evoke fond memories by current fans and show "virgins" that the classic theme song accurately "promises something for everyone." Seeing the TV Land and silver screen celebrities in pure escapist stories is the perfect cure for an era in which literally every week brings a new event that risks the federal government imploding, "Boat" provided the perfect way to decompress on Saturday nights in the '80s and offers more intense therapy in in the 2010s.
The final endorsement is that your not-so-humble reviewer gets a great deal of review DVDs and Blu-rays but pre-ordered the S4 Vi set to have it on his release date. He also has bought every previous CBS set of "Boat."
Over analyzing the Warner Archive separate September 4, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the first season of the CBS sitcom "Young Sheldon" is consistent with the premise of this amusing program. The titular boy genius is the nine-year-old incarnation of pop culture god DR. Sheldon Cooper ("Young" producer Jim Parsons) of the companion CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory." "Theory" is commencing its 12th and final season as "Young" enters what one hopes is not a sophomore slump that sophomoric humor characterizes.
Like his 40-year-old version, "baby" Sheldon (Iain Armitage) is a brilliant outcast who is much more project than people oriented. Unlike "Theory" in which adult Sheldon has the support of a group of like-minded (and somewhat similarly attuned) friends, "Young" focuses on the related themes of odd boy out Sheldon and his overall average family often struggling with achieving mutual peace, love, and understanding. His mother trying to get this younger son to work and play well with others provides additional fodder for "sits" that create "com." A second-season episode of "Theory" that reflects a common element of both series (and sets the stage for the S10 season-finale cliffhanger) has adult Sheldon compare the intellect of graduate students to that of labradoodles.
In this regard, the dynamic of "Theory" and "Young" is somewhat akin to the relationship between the companion CBS '60scoms "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Green Acres." The analogy continues with the evolution of the modern series,
Just as the redneck Clampetts slowly adjust to life in Beverly Hills and transplanted (pun intended) white-shoes attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas comes to better understand and accept his hick neighbors in "Acres," young Sheldon starts learning how to better interact with his older high school classmates and adult Sheldon increasingly understands the value of illogical social conventions that include giving a friend a birthday gift in exchange for receiving an item of equal value from that person.
The following YouTube clip of the CBS extended promo. for "Young" offers a good primer on the characters and the themes of the program. It also demonstrates that the range of series creator Chuck Lorre extends beyond the crude shock-value humor of "Two and a Half Men" and "Mom" that is kinder and gentler in "Theory."
The bigger picture begins with "Young" reflecting the wisdom of a real-life boy genius. Alan Spencer is a teen when he creates the HILARIOUS ABC '80s com "Sledgehammer," which is a parody of the "Dirty Harry" films about a violent rogue cop. "Sledeghammer" helps pave the way for "Young" to have neither a live (as opposed to dead) studio audience nor a laugh track. The reasoning of Spencer regarding not using canned laughter is that viewers are smarter than labradoodles in that humans have the necessary intellect to know when something is funny without the producers making it obvious.
The broader perspective is that "Young" more closely represents the nuclear (pun intended) families around which many traditional '50scom revolve than "The Simpsons," which satirizes that dynamic. This is nice in an era in which broadcast and cable networks largely reject "TV Land" style shows. Placing the Cooper clan in the not-so-enlightened region of East Texas in the Bible Belt contributes additional humor that traditional sitcoms literally or figurative set in the everytown of Springfield lack. On a related note, "Young" explains why adult (and boy) Sheldon lacks a Texas accent.
"Young" dad George Sr. (Lance Barber) is a brighter Homer but still no theoretical physicist. This high school football coach can relate to elder son "Georgie," who is a smarter and more athletic Bart but far from a Rhodes scholar.
Like many reel and real father, George loves the son regarding whom he struggles to relate. In this case, it is because Sheldon is much smarter and does not share any of the interests of his father. The broader perspective encompasses a father who is prejudiced against gay men struggling with his thoughts on learning that his boy likes other boys.
Sheldon twin sister Missy reflects the young girl side of Lisa while Sheldon represents the advanced intellect of that bright girl. The sassy nature of Missy contributes to the traditional sitcom vibe of "Young." She also is an element of an odd (and arguably creepy) aspect of the series, Although the pilot explicitly states that the testicles of Sheldon are undescended, it seems more apt to have Sheldon and Georgie share a room than have the former and his sister bunk together.
Mother Mary aptly is the Marge of "Young." The analogy extends beyond Mary being religious up to a point and getting married after George knocks her up in high school. Her labors of love include being the glue that tries to keep her actual kids and childish husband happy and compatible.
A cool casting note is that Mary portrayor Zoe Perry is the real-life daughter of "Roseanne" and "The Conners" actress Laurie Metcalf, who plays older (and seemingly more religious) Mary on "Theory." The history of this mother-daughter dynamic continues with Perry playing a younger version of the Metcalf character Jackie on flashbacks during the original broadcast run of "Roseanne."
Like this fan favorite from the '70s, Cooper family grandmother Meemaw (a.k.a. Connie Tucker) clearly is the Fonzie of the series. This analogy continues with the dating life of this senior citizen being age-adjusted equivalent to that of that mechanic/diner owner/high school teacher/fixer. This character being the zany oddball neighbor makes perfect use of the quirky talents of Annie Potts, who is best known for the original "Ghostbusters" film franchise and the CBS '80scom "Designing Women." The final note in this regard is that Meemaw being oft mentioned in "Theory" but only appearing once makes her a sitcom staple, ala Jenny Piccolo in early seasons of "Happy Days."
This aforementioned lengthy discussion of the concept of "Young" and how it reflects television history precludes discussing the dimwitted "Nelson" and the nerdy "Millhouse" who provide the stereotype of weird sidekick as proudly as Skippy Handleman of the classic '80scom "Family Ties," We also have very limited room to discuss the episodes themselves.
"Young" being a consistently amusing series that typically has at least one hilarious moment per episode puts it ahead of most modern broadcast and cable sitcoms. Further, the stories and the action seem credible.
This is not to mention Lorre et al. deserving credit for including elements of the 1989 time frame without either being satirical or unduly bashing the viewer over the head regarding this element. The bigger picture this time is that setting the series in the past reflects the wisdom of "Days" creator Garry Marshall that setting a '70scom in the '50s and the '60s precludes having that show ever look dated.
The arguably best "Young" episode has Meemaw gleefully tormenting George regarding not sharing her recipe for what apparently is the best ever brisket. Watching her mercilessly dangle this secret in front of him and making him literally and figuratively go to great lengths pursuing this knowledge provides numerous hilarious moments. This resulting in serious family conflict brings in a disturbingly dark note, but the clever comeuppance in the resolution is very true to the series and awesomely satisfying.
Meemaw further is featured in INARGUABLY the MOST hilarious S1 moment. Sheldon and Missy being left home alone aptly leads to setting up booby traps, Meemaw getting caught in one is priceless for reasons that include seeing the reaction of Potts. The extra analysis this time begins with the classic rule that watching someone get seriously hurt in a comical situation delights the viewer. The bonus observation is that this reflects the philosophy of comedy legend Carol Burnett.
Burnett repeatedly notes in discussions of her CBS variety series that the humor of the show holds up because it reflects concepts that are funny in any era As aspect of this in "Young" is not having episodes that revolve around plots such as Georgie emulating MC Hammer or Sheldon commenting that he is much more qualified than Dan Quayle to be vice-president.
The biggest picture of all is that "Young" is one of the few modern sitcoms that the entire family can watch and enjoy together. Kids may consider it cool that Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom or Dad and Dad) remember "Theory" premiering. Additionally, the minimal adult content is as family friendly as the numerous references to the "dating" life of Fonzie, not to mention the expression "sit on it" having the EXACT same meaning as go fuck yourself.
The delightful bonus feature "Young Sheldon: An Origin Story" has Lorre and Parsons discuss how a real-life science fair inspires the series. We also hear from the cast regarding their relationship with the characters. This shows that that seemingly illogically named Texan Montana Jordan IS Georgie.
Speaking of Jordan, this teen largely sits and rolls his eyes in the "Sibling Revelry" bonus. It has Jordan, Armitage and Missy portrayor Raegan Revord discuss their roles and their relationships with each other. The biggest treat is seeing Armitage drop his rigid facade and act like a typical kid; Jordan making Armitage seem like a labradoodle is a highlight.
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 summer blues cure that the Warner Archive July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 1982-83 third season of the CBS hitcom "Alice" provides is roughly 20-minute morsels of "unreal" entertainment until the fare that passes for 21st-century network sitcoms return in September. The integrity of Archive extends to including a few episodes produced for S7 that air in other seasons.
This workplace comedy set in greasy spoon Mel's Diner aptly serves up tasty "junk food" that still satisfies after so many visits to the same joint. The quality is consistent and enjoyable to the extent that you look forward to returning for another meal the next week.
The titular waitress is Jersey girl Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin) on an extend detour from her move to La La Land to seek fame and fortune as a singer. Alice being an actual (rather than a grass) widow is one nod of this '80scom to the sitcoms from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
One big S7 change for Alice is that teen son Tommy (Philip McKeaon) is making her a quasi-empty nester by being a freshman at nearby Arizona State University. The proximity of that school to Phoenix facilitates Tommy keeping up his "Hi Mom," "Hi Mel," etc. routine as he strolls into the diner with his most recent adolescent problem.
The owner of thew eponymous eatery is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable cheapskate Mel Sharples (Vic Tayback). Things do not change much for him in S7. He still faces losing the diner for one reason or another, He additionally continues snatching defeat from the jaws of victory regarding opportunities for an improved lifestyle. These include an executive position with a catering company and a treasure hunt in the diner.
Fan favorite "dinghy" waitress Vera Louise Gorman ("Beth Howland") largely is in the background this season. Her big adventures include getting her own hope for a better life and having her "radical" past come back to haunt her. Of course, she gets through her difficulties with a little help from her friends.
Sassy hillbilly Jolene Hunnicutt (Celia Weston) continues her efforts to fill the shoes of uberfan fave Texan Flo, who leaves earlier in the series for a spinoff. Jolene has her own variation of Flo catchphrase "when donkeys fly" and further channels Flo in directing unprovoked zingers at Mel.
The regular "A Listers" who appear as themselves and other household names who show up in character greatly distinguishes "Alice" from the competition. This begins with the S7 premiere in which Debbie Reynolds plays Golden Age film star Felicia Blake. The "sit" this time is that Mel believes that he is the man to whom Felicia refers in her recent memoir that includes the story of a highly memorable kiss. "Com" fully ensues when Felicia comes to the diner to reunite with the one who got away.
An oddly dazed-looking Joel Grey appears as himself in a special two-part episode about Alice appearing in a local music revue. The "com" this time relates to Mel outdoing "The Producers" in his sabotage of the production., Springtime for Sharples truly is winter for Hyatt and Grey.
We also get former Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon to give Tommy a pep talk.
The "B Listers" include Richard Deacon of "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" as the owner of aforementioned catering company and future "Star Trek: Voyager" doctor Robert Picardo in an increasingly regular role as a local cop. We further get a cameo by "Night Court" star Richard Moll.
The nicest thing about this set is that it shows that "Alice" has not jumped the shark. No cute young Cousin Oliver joins the cast to offset McKeaon aging, we do not get a stunts wedding, and any upward mobility becomes a reversal of fortune before the final credits commence,
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.
The most exciting news about the long-overdue (but well worth the wait) December 9, 2014 DVD release of the 95-episode complete series of "Mork and Mindy" is that any fears that this release is intended to profit from the August 2014 suicide of "Mork" star Robin Williams are COMPLETELY unfounded.
The recent (and expedited) renewed surge of DVD releases of "Happy Days" (including the recently reviewed S5 of that '70s sitcom and soon-to-be-reviewed S6) and its spin-offs after long dormancy periods strongly suggests that CBS Home Entertainment planned both this "Mork" release and the concurrent release of S4 before the death of Williams. Additionally, the CS set lacks ANY mention of Williams passing.
The set further comes in a sturdy plastic clamshell case and has each of the 15 discs in separate non-overlapping spots. The outer packaging is a solid cardboard sleeve.
Although having an episode list for each disc is nice, even a one-sentence synopsis of these shows would have been terrific. (The S2 and S3 sets do have short episode descriptions; it is presumed that the S4 set does as well.)
A heartfelt August 2014 Unreal TV post on the value of Williams to the fans who followed his career from "Mork" onward communicates how awful exploiting his death would have been. Williams is the John Lennon, John Belushi, or Kurt Cobain of those of us who spent the late '70s in elementary or junior high school.
Rather than reality, the concept around which "Mork" is based is a character with origins in Williams' standup act. The titular oddly named being is a native of the planet Ork who is on earth to observe our culture and use telepathy to weekly report back to his superior Orson, whose deep voice and wide girth clearly make him a namesake of Orson Welles, on Ork.
The titular Mindy is a 21-year old all-American girl, played by Pam Dawber, who meets Mork almost immediately on his landing on the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado. In true sitcom style, the pair immediately begin platonically sharing the wholesome apartment in which Mindy resides.
The pilot also brings Mork, who first appears in an S5 episode of "Days" several months before the 1978-79 season in which "Mork" premieres, back to his roots. A desire to learn more about male-female relationships has Mork consulting with self-proclaimed love expert Fonzie.
Fonzie provides the requested assistance in the form of having Laverne DeFazio of the "Days" spinoff "Laverne and Shirley" date Mork. (The aforementioned 2014 "Days" DVD bonanza includes the reviewed S7 and also covered S8 of "Laverne.")
This historic episode is the one time that actors from "Days," "Mork," and "Laverne" appear together. One can only hope that the recently reviewed "Joanie Loves Chachi" also would have been represented had this "Mork" episode not predated the premiere of "Joanie."
The chemistry between Fonz portrayor Henry Winkler and Williams in this pilot, the previous "My Favorite Orkan" "Days" episode, and the Spring 1979 "Days" clip show in which Mork explains that he is doing a spin-on to out of appreciation for his spin-off prompts sadness that Winkler and Williams did not go out to co-star in a series or films.
The hilariously catastrophic date with Laverne, a search for a human-sounding voice back in 1978, and a scene in which Mork becomes intoxicated are early examples of opportunities that the "Mork" writers provide Williams to engage in his manic improvisation and frantic physical comedy that makes him so special and that sets "Mork" above sitcoms from any era.
The following classic clip, courtesy of YouTube, in which Mork literally allows his emotions to run wild PERFECTLY illustrates Williams' talent to ride a churning stream of consciousness.
Further, the first harsh lesson in the reality of American life that Mork experiences is very relevant today. His eccentric behavior results in being taken into custody and subjected to an administrative hearing to determine whether he should be confined in a psychiatric facility.
This relates to the long history of labeling folks who do not conform to societal norms as mentally ill. A friend describes this as making someone pay either for hurting the feelings of another or for having the audacity to share awful and/or inconvenient truths.
The need to not have this review rival a latter Harry Potter novel in length requires skipping over the experimental middle seasons that introduced squabbling deli-owning siblings and other secondary characters to touch on the fourth season.
A rapidly-paced story arc at the beginning of S4 has our titular characters tying the knot and Mork laying and hatching an egg that contains their newborn baby Mearth, who has the appearance of a 50-something man. Legendary comedian (and Williams' mentor) Jonathon Winters famously plays Mearth and awesomely provides Williams a playmate who can keep up with him.
The introduction of this character further freshened "Mork" by providing someone who could replace Mork as the naive newcomer to earth.
The introduction of Mearth additionally provides Williams and Winters a plethora of opportunities to assume characters and riff for extended periods that present the challenge of editing that material down to several minutes.
The fourth season is notable as well for having some of the best guest shots of the series. William Shatner appears in a very Kirk-like role and legendary actor John Houseman is hilarious as the voice of a computer gone wonky.
One sad aspect of "Mork" is that filming the season finale before learning that the series would not be getting a fifth season prevents any form of special sendoff. At the same time, it is nice to think that this modern family is still living their daily lives.
The extras include three gag reels, at least one of which provides a great candid look at Williams doing his thing, and the aforementioned "Days" episodes.
Wrapping all this up is very tough (and prompts leaking eyes) because it feels like once again losing Williams. Like many comic geniuses, you either got him or did not.
Further, folks who regularly spontaneously do things such as comically engaging in the style of bitter sniping that makes the Elizabeth Taylor Richard Burton film "Who's Afraid of VirginiaWoolf" so awesome to the confusion of those around them and who understand the world as deeply as Williams feel his pain.
Having to conclude these additionally makes one wish to be more Orkan regarding an enhanced ability to control emotions.
However the desire to keep classic DVD in the public consciousness that drives this site requires encouraging folks to plunk down the roughly $90 for which it is selling.
Unreal TV 2.0 evolves from http://classictvdvdreviews.blogspot.com/ (which still is up.) Both sites are labors of love dedicated to preserving the golden and silver ages of television and film and celebrating new content that values art over commerce. The same principle applies regarding boutique hotels.