The anticipated response of fans to the aptly titled Time Life 22-disc release "Robin Williams: Comic Genius" perfectly reflects the spirit of Williams and the set. Said reaction relates to a classic "Mork and Mindy" episode that is not among the equally memorable (including the two-part pilot) offerings in "Genius."
The omitted episode centers around naive alien Mork (Williams) becoming a home shopping addict. A hilarious scene has him frantic to purchase more junk from that service. Straight woman Mindy (Pam Dawber) asks her roomie from another planet if he really needs the item. Williams responds by transforming into his hilariously manic persona and states that he does not "need" it but really really wants it. That is a very valid reaction to "Genius." The larger picture is that the collectibles in the home page photo of this site reflect the lifelong influence of the episode (and Williams) on your not-so-humble reviewer.
A personal memories post a few days after the August 11, 2014 passing of Williams further reflects high regard for that performer. An aspect of this relates to another classic sitcom. A scene from "Chuckles Bites the Dust" in the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" has the minister who is eulogizing the titular clown state that that performer would have hated people to cry and would have wanted them to laugh.
Having a clear (but not delusional) image of Williams telling fans to not be sad about his passing and then going into an improved bit about having his way with 72 virgins in Heaven both provides solace and makes "Genius" very special.
A still "too soon" aspect of the passing of Williams prevents watching the 2018 documentary "Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind" that "Genius" includes. The excellent hype regarding that film indicates that it is must-see for Williams fans who can handle hearing about his life.
A "Mork" episode in "Genius" relates to the above. While "Mork Meets Robin Williams" could have been fully played for laughs (and is a bit sappy), it reflects the psyche of Williams that is an early warning of things to come.
Much of the humor of "Meets" relates to Mork being mobbed because fans think that he is Williams. The meeting of the reel and real Williams has a more serious note in that the actor tells the alien that giving so much exhausts him but that he hates disappointing people. Hilarity soon awesomely ensues when Mork then immediately asks Williams to give. Williams agreeing to do so reflects his character (no pun intended).
The following YouTube clip of the trailer for "Genius" further reinforces the value of the set. The good folks at Time Life amazingly include clips that reflect most of the range of Williams. We see him go off script and off-the-rails during talk-show performances, do his HYSTERICAL cat marking territory monologue from his 2002 "Live on Broadway" special, gleefully add his own spin on the Bob Newhart telephone conversation bit, liven up award shows, etc.
We also get glimpses of the many celebrity interviews (including Dawber) who express their love for that wild and crazy guy.
The highlights of "Genius" begin with the 24-page "Robin Williams: Uncensored" book that almost is worth the price of the set. In includes publicity and candid photos interspersed with jokes and insights from Williams. We additionally get quotes from his fellow comedians and from Barack Obama.
The greatness of "Genius" continues with never-released material; examples are a 2007 stand-up performance at the MGM Grand Garden and a Montreal show on the final tour of Williams. We further get a meeting of comic titans in the form of Williams talking with David Steinberg.
The ONLY criticism regarding "Genius" relates to an omission; the seemingly countless clips of Williams making guest spots on television programs includes a special feature on a guest spot on "SCTV." This extra consists of a handful of skits in which Williams performs. We sadly do not get the hilarious "Bowery Boys in the Band" segment that is available on YouTube. The following clip fills that gap.
A clip of Jay Leno in the aforementioned trailer perfectly conveys the appeal of Williams; Leno essentially states that that genius has a charm that allows him to get away with being outrageous. A prime example of this is an interview for a German television program in which the host asks Williams why he thinks that Germany does not have any humor and he responds that it is because they killed all the funny people. This shows that Williams understood context in a manner that sadly is lacking in 2018.
This is not to mention the unparalleled improv. skill of Williams arguably making him the funniest man of the 20th century. Many others can skillfully deliver their own material or that of their writers; it is hard to think of anyone who both can think as quickly on his feet as Williams and is brave enough to say what comes to mind.
'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame In Concert Encore' Blu-ray: Once More Paying True American Idols Homage in Spectacular Hi-Def & Crystal- Clear Sound
The Time Life September 21, 2018 2-disc Blu-ray release "Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Encore" perfectly illustrates the evolution of this company traditionally known for '70s-era fare such as book series about World War II and albums featuring the music of the '50s and '60s. The television ads from that period further reflect the Disco Age by inviting customers to call Judy the Time Life operator on a toll-free line to place an order. "Encore," along with the reviewed Time Life "In Concert" Blu-ray set, fully proves that this is not your father's Time Life.
The participants in the 2010 - 2013 inductions ranging from ABBA to Tom Waits, and including The Hollies and Public Enemy, illustrates both the range of the inductees and that the programs have something for everyone from 8-to-80. A personal note that MUST accompany each of these Blu-ray sets is being a bunkmate of former Del Fuego/V.P. of Education for the Hall Warren Zanes; one spoiler is that that summer is entirely free of any Liverpool handshakes or even cries of "Farrah Fawcett."
The rest of the story is that older brother/Del Fuego/current kiddie rocker Dan Zanes was a doo woping potato peeler with The Kitchenettes. A cassette of Dan and and autographed photo remain in one of several boxes labelled "stuff" in the basement.
The bigger mandatory picture is that these ceremonies remind us that true American Idols are not people with the looks and the luck to win a three-month reality show contest. The Hall inductors and inductees remind us that the latter spend years working their way up to selling out stadiums. An inducrtor using slightly more colorful language in referencing one inducted band appearing on stage only wearing a strategically placed sock tempers the sense that hard work is the only way to hit it big.
Randomly choosing the 2012 ceremony to watch for this review worked out exceptionally well. A keynote speech comments that the event marks a return to Cleveland after a move to New York. A shout-out to Ohio governor John Kasich in that speech prompting boos reflects the political divide that is far worse 6 years later. The speaker defending Kasich by noting his support for bringing the ceremony back to Cleveland shows that some people have the proper perspective.
An energetic last-minute surprise opening by Green Day starts things off on exactly the right note (no pun intended.) The song "Letterbomb" and the group both reminding the crowd that "this is fucking rock-and-roll" shows that music is one place where being unrestrained and uncensored is integral to the experience.
Late bluesman Freddie King being the first inductee reflects the aforementioned diversity of the Hall; having Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hall of ZZ Top make the induction speech shows how genres can meld together and how music reflects a continuum in which the prior generation pays it forward by mentoring the new kids and giving them the break that sets them on the road to stardom.
The John (do not call him Cougar) Mellencamp induction speech for '60s folk-rock legend Donovan is the best from that category in the evening, The initial theme is the fan love that conveys sincerity and that expresses sentiments regarding which us mere mortals can relate. Mellencamp going on to discuss meeting Donovan in the midst of a literal recording session melee is hilarious and is a good "Behind the Music" story.
This sets the stage (no pun intended) for Donovan to accept the honor in a fun and heartfelt speech. The Blu-ray liner notes share that this is only time that an inductee has read a poem in such an acceptance.
Many fans also can relate to the pure fan-oriented induction speech by Chris Rock. Rock discusses getting turned on to The Red Hot Chili Peppers after attending an earlier performance of theirs instead of the concert of the intended group. Rock hilariously discusses wondering if the unusual look of the Peppers is standard for white groups. Black and white people with similar experiences can put themselves in the shoes of Rock.
The other inductees include the Ron Wood and Rod Stewart band Small Faces/Faces and The Beastie Boys.
Aside from being outsiders with a better than front-row seat for the ceremony by musicians for musicians in what essentially is a grand-scale reunion and jam session back at the hotel after a gig,
The best thing about these Time Life sets is reminding us of the bands that we loved growing up and of becoming fans of new groups from the first note. A strong personal memory is of being a high-school sophomore invited to join two seniors for ice cream; the excitement continued with the guy who was driving popping a cassette in the player of the family station wagon and commenting that it a great new group called The Police.
'The Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special' DVD: Comedy Stars Come Out to Honor Mother of Television Sketch Comedy
One of the most awesome things about the Time Life September 25, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 CBS prime time special (from the original "Burnett" set) "The Carol Burnett Show: 50th Anniversary Special" is that this Stephen Colbert hosted event fare exceeds fairly high expectations. Sofa spuds who are old enough to fully appreciate Burnett by watching the show during its 1967 - 78 run are old enough to recall the cheesy tribute and reunion specials of the era that are little more than clip shows and vanity appearances by has-beens. The Burnett special is notable for learning from history, rather than repeating it.
The following YouTube clip of the Colbert introduction on the special speaks for the aforementioned Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. It also helps Millennnials and Gen Yers a sense of the experience that this DVD and other "Burnett" sets convey.
The Unreal TV review of a Time Life 50th Anniversary compilation of "Burnett" episodes and a post on a Time Life release of lost "Burnett" Christmas episodes provides an additional sense of the literally timeless appeal of Burnettt and her co-stars. This gang consists of the uber-talented Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and incredibly good sport Lyle Waggoner. (Lawrence and Waggoner participate in the special.)
A special note regarding Lawrence is that the segment in which she and Burnett discuss the girl power of the show with female comedians such as Amy Poehler and Tracee Ellis Ross includes discussing how a teen Lawrence comes to join the cast. This topic touches on Lawrence going from playing the younger sister of Burnett to portraying her mother. The reviewed Time Life CS DVD of the hilarious '80scom "Mama's Family" shows how that redneck matriarch endures in pop culture.
The lovefest that Carol has with the boys includes arguably the two most endearing moments in the special. Jim Carrey discussing being a 10 year-old applying to join the "Burnett" cast in 1972 virtually literally sets the stage for re-enacting his receipt of a response from Burnett. This leads to a couple of wonderful close encounters.
The interaction between Burnett and Martin Short in this segment arguably best showcases the current sharpness of the former. Short immediately launches into the celebrity insulting persona of his talk show host Jiminy Glick character. Although momentarily phased, Burnett plays along and lets Short run amok.
The poise and sharpness of Burnett evokes loving thoughts of a still gorgeous 80-something Barbara Feldon at a Paley Center panel for her '60scom "Get Smart" several years ago. The boys look their ages and have minor age-related cognitive issues, but Feldon is fully alert and makes a hilarious quip.
Another highlight has the woman of the hour and former "Burnett" show guest Steve Martin sitting in a set that looks like a darkened movie theater. The chemistry between them is so strong that one yearns for a film co-starring them. Additionally, Martin puts the wry version of his humor on full display.
We do get clips, but they do not dominate the special; they do demonstrate the graciousness of Burnett by focusing as much (if not more) on her cast as on her. The finale to the special is equally apt for the series.
The best way to wrap up this discussion of the special is to note Burnett channeling fellow '70s-era CBS star Polly Holliday of the sitcom "Alice." Holliday was know for responding to fan requests to state her catchphrase "kiss mah grits" by saying that the admirer has heard her utter that phrase many times and that Holliday wants to hear the other person do it. The Burnett twist is having her guests imitate her Tarzan yell.
The truly special features includes a booklet with a gracious note by Burnett and a printed selection of the adorations by modern-day comedians. The best filmed extra shows Burnett engaging the studio audience during commercial breaks in the special. We also get unaired video love letters from the aforementioned admirers.
'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' S6 DVD: Final Season of 'SNL' Predecessor Literally Leaves Us Wanting More
EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV is proud and privileged to announce that '70s child star/"Laugh-In" Cousin Oliver Moosie Drier has granted an interview regarding his experience joining that series in its final year. This interview is scheduled to run during the weekend of September 7, 2018.
The Time Life September 4, 2018 DVD release of the 1972-73 S6 of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" provides a chance to see a genuine TV time capsule. This set also allows completing your collection of this musical sketch-comedy show that straddles the line between vaudeville and burlesque in delicately balancing between edgy social commentary and incurring the full wrath of the powers-that-be.
The larger legacy of "Laugh-In" includes introducing a comparable quantity of catch-phrases and other pop-culture humor as that of the '60s spycom "Get Smart." Would you believe that these expressions include "sock it to me," "look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls," and "The Fickle Finger of Fate?"
We further get genuinely enduring characters. The better known ones are Ernestine the telephone operator and Edith Ann the precious five-and-a-half year-old girl. This is not to take anything away from frumpy Gladys Ormphby and her regular partner-in-comedy dirty old man Tyronne F. Horneigh. We further get the German soldier with the "veeery interesting" catchphrase.
But wait there is more. "Laugh-In" also launches the careers of many household names that include Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Ruth Buzzi.
The legacy of "Laugh-In" begins with starting life as a 1967 special that is such a phenom that is becomes the series that is still loved more than 50 years later. The review of the S2 season, post on S3, thoughts regarding S4, and recent S5 article chart the evolution of the series. These musings include summaries of the past, present, and future film and television stars who help make the series so special.
"Laugh-In" paving the way for "SNL" is comparable to "The Simpsons" making adults watching cartoon cool; this impact of that show about a nuclear (of course, pun intended) American family more specifically makes the once-great three-hour "Animation Domination" block on Fox Sunday night possible,
The comparison continues with "Laugh-In" leaving the air long before any stagnation period that infects any 30-year series. This exit while still strong further allows the copious musical-variety series of the era to fill the gap in the manner that "Bob's Burgers" almost certainly will move into "The Simpsons" time slot when that series completely outstays its welcome on the prime time schedule.
The numerous changes that are apparent from the opening moments of the S6 season premiere reflect methods to freshen up the series in manners that future shows emulate. This effort that reflects an adapt or perish attitude likely would have included adding Ted McGinley and Heather Locklear to the ensemble if those two actors had been performing in 1972 and were a little older.
Adding 10 year-old child star Moosie Drier to the cast a few years before Cousin Oliver moves in with the Bradys reflects dual campaigns to bring in fresh blood and to attract more younger viewers. The primary contribution of Drier and another boy is an adorable and hilarious "Dear Moosie" segment that involves reading kid-friendly letters seeking advice and Mossie providing answers that are pure vaudeville.
The season-opener also introduces the audience to the "Laugh-In" cheerleaders who are akin to the Vegas showgirl style Mermaids who join "The Love Boat" late in the run of that classic. This also is the era in which late-to-the-party McGinley joins the cast as Ace the ship's photographer.
A unexpected diminished amount of political humor and an equally surprising reduction in the edge of the jibes at elected officials in this Watergate era likely reflect a combination of the following considerations., "Laugh-In" may have decided that playing nicer would have helped ratings, they may have been effectively directed to not discuss Watergate, and that scandal may have prompted the American people to decide that the wrongdoings of our leaders have reached a toxic level that no longer is funny.
We further see "Laugh-In" emulate phenom "The Carol Burnett Show" in a "Laugh-In" version of an audience Q & A session. This version being less kind-and-gentle than the comparable "Burnett" segments highlights the differences between the series.
The aforementioned roster of A-Liisters begins with incredibly good sport John Wayne, whose history includes a faux refusal to appear in early seasons. The best brains at "Laugh-In" mine wonderful humor spoofing the conservative tough guy image of Wayne. The Duke playing along illustrates that the best guests on any comedy show are the ones who go with the flow.
We next get Dyan Cannon joking about her recent role in the racy comedy "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice." Her opening bit in which she jokes about playboy host Dick Martin grabbing at her in a dark dressing room perfectly illustrates the era of f**k 'em if they can't take a joke now being a period of f**ked if you tell 'em a joke. The lesson here is to understand the context of humor along the lines of knowing that Ralph Kramden threatening to send wife Alice to the moon is far different then either joking about putting her in the hospital or actually hitting her.
Star of film and television Ernest Borgnine helps wrap things up in the final episode; his role primarily consists of joking about his well-known roles in productions such as "Marty" and "McHale's Navy." A highlight of the episode is pointing The Fickle Finger of Fate in a surprising direction regarding the final bestowing of that award for reprehensible behavior. In many respects this reflects the validity of giving this award to any individual or entity that cannot laugh at itself,
The good news regarding the series finale is that it maintains the quality of the show and literally leaves the audience wanting more. The bad news is that it seems that Rowan, Martin, and company do not realize that this is the season finale, let alone their very last time together in the spotlight. There are no references to any endings, and a preview of the next (apparently lost) episode literally promises more to come.
Cursory online research does not provide any answers; the probable reason is that diminished ratings and/or NBC making a last-minute decision to put another series in the "Laugh-In" time slot denies this ground-breaking series the final exit that it deserves. Either way, this justifies NBC getting the final Fickle Finger of Fate award.
'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Concert' Blu-ray: Stories and Performances Honoring Actual American Idols
he spectacularly clear images and incredible audio of the Time-Life April 24, 2018 Blu-ray release "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert" requires watching it. The perfectly lit dark black background with the blue neon and the flawless enormous slides look fantastic, and the top-notch audio system could not sound better. This warrants inducting Time-Life in the Hall.
Stating that you feel as if you are in the front row is not hyperbole. The very user-friendly main menu easily allowing skipping ahead to a desired induction or specific song in a set (and then keeping the party going without forcing you back to the menu) is beyond awesome.
Two aspects of this set make it personally cool. The first is a link with the "friend from camp" sitcom plot. This storyline typically has a supporting character being unable to get a ticket for a rock concert only to have the lead share that a member of the band is a friend from camp.
The ensuing varying degrees of hilarity typically revolve around the lead being thwarted in efforts to get promised tickets and/or a backstage visit. The climax often involves the rock deity showing up to the intense delight of the starstruck character and equally excited studio audience or laugh track.
The relevancy of this is having shared a summer-camp cabin with former Hall "suit" Warren "Dave" Zanes, whose rock star cred. comes from being a member of the Del Fuegoes.
Current Z Rocker/former Del Fuego Dan "Ray" Zanes simultaneously worked in the camp kitchen and sang doo wop that summer. The Unreal TV archives include what may be the first recording of Dan singing.
Righteous dude Warren currently is literally opening the door to his Jersey home as part of online fundraising to get his latest album out. BTW, your not-so-humble reviewer can get all the tickets that you need when Warren plays Boston. :-)
The final aside regarding this experience is that learning about the copious sex, and drugs, and rock-and-roll among the camp staff required returning to work a decade later. Personal experience regarding that trifecta related to one of the three.
The wider relevance relates to a long-term hatred of "American Idol." The two major peeves regarding that program extend well beyond it being a reality show. One huge bone of contention is that the hard-luck stories are valid bases for sympathy but should be completely irrelevant in a singing contest.
The more relevant basis for loathing "Idol" is an equally long-held belief that winning a contest that lasts a few months does not warrant the title of "idol." Many friends have heard my manifesto about the singers and the bands that deserve that accolade spending years playing dive bars and traveling in broken-down vans before achieving comparable fame to the latest "Idols." The speeches in the Hall induction ceremonies verify this statement.
The "Hall" set contains the full induction ceremonies from 2014-2017. One can only hope that Time-Life does not make us wait four years to see the 2018 event. The inductees ranging from Cat Stevens to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band to Cheap Trick (which sadly disappoints regarding their set), to Nirvana, to Ringo Starr provides some sense of the range of the inductees. Honorees Joan Jett & The Blackhearts arguably deserve the award for the best set.
The first induction speech in the set also is the best one of all speeches. Chris Martin of Cold Play does an awesome job using good humor and fan admiration honoring Peter Garbiel. Hearing English boy Martin share the story of being blown away buying his first Gabriel cassette in Paris and then wandering The City of Light listening to it is relatable to every fan. A somewhat similar story is being a boarding school sophomore getting the twin thrills of seniors inviting me to sneak off campus and this covert adventure involving buying ice cream. An indelible memory is the driver putting in a cassette and telling us that it is a new band called "The Police."
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 gets the best line of any ceremony. He spends much of his 2016 speech discussing the hard-rocking elements of "Chicago" to the extent of expertly imitating that new inductee. This leads to him telling the audience members who label "Chicago" as their mother's band that he wants to (expletive deleted) party with their mother. An equally cool aspect of this is that 37,000,000 online votes is what get "Chicago" in the Hall. One can only hope that "Squeeze" fans demonstrate the same initiative.
Another highlight comes regarding Paul McCartney inducting Ringo Starr in 2015. His funny and heartfelt speech both supports the "Idol" theory and proves that time heals all wounds; whether it wounds all heels is another matter. Seeing McCartney perform with his former bandmate is the only way to end this ceremony; NOTHING could have followed that act.
The footnote to this discussion of the "Hall" set is that it includes music for virtually every taste, honors rockers who do not get money for nothing, and provides a chance to hear speeches that literally run from the sublime to the ridiculous. One challenge is to not hurl obscenities at Michael Stipe copiously bitching about playing in a band during his induction of "Nirvana."
[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 Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas' DVD:: Jonathon Winters, Barbara Eden, and Garry Moore Oh My!
Time Life awesomely does it again regarding the October 24, 2017 DVD release "The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas." This collection of three episodes of that long-running '70s variety series comes on the heels of the four-disc Time Life (Unreal TV reviewed) "Best of " Burnett 50th Anniversary edition release. "Christmas" includes three holiday-themed episodes that have not been seen in more than 40 years.
The "Christmas" set opens with an S1 episode that reminds current fans of the greatness of "Burnett" and introduces newbies to most elements that warrant that praise. The specialness of this one begins with the guests being comedian Jonathan Winters and actress/singer Barbara Eden. Winters represents the A-List caliber of Burnett guests and the equally elite Eden illustrates Burnett especially loving stars who both can do comedy and perform musical numbers.
Eden shining in a scene in which she channels "Jeannie" to entrance "Burnett" announcer Lyle Waggoner shows her comedic side; a later song-and-dance number demonstrates the desire of Eden (and her mother) to be a musical-comedy star that she discusses in a (sadly lost) vintage interview with your not-so-humble reviewer.
Improv. master Winters steals the show as a boozing Santa in a faux interview in a segment in a "V.I.P." sketch that features Harvey Korman as an interviewer. The humor from a clearly missed cue is pure Burnett. Winters performing a political monologue about dolls is pure hilarity.
Winters and Korman later team up again in a mockumentary about prisons. Winters as an unconventional warden is a laugh-a-minute; a surprise guest later in the sketch is a special bonus.
Speaking of special guests, a big-name appearing in character surprising Burnett and the audience is a prime example of such versions of Easter eggs in the series; a similar cameo in the third episode in the set is another stocking stuffer.
The guests in the aforementioned third episode and the second one in the set include comedian Garry Moore, who is the former boss of Burnett on his own variety show. The pair fully relive old times in the sketch "The Trial of Mrs. Peter Piper" that is a Neil Simon piece that premiered on the "Moore" show.
Burnett both having the Bob Mitchell Singing Boys perform and interacting with two of the lads (who show that boys will be boys) demonstrates both her interest in highlighting lesser-known talent and giving the audience a chance to know them.
All of this amounts to more than two hours of a show that was "appointment TV" for most of the '70s and that aces the test of time.
Time Life aptly honors the best of the best in releasing the extras-laden 50th anniversary DVD set "The Best of the Carol Burnett Show" roughly 50 years and one month after the September 11, 1967 debut of this variety series. The October 3, 2017 release of these 16 episodes (including the very first one and the series finale) consist of 12 new-to-retail episodes and 4 all-time classics. Walmart is getting into the act by selling special editions of this set.
It is worth mentioning that this "Burnett" release and the many others of this show from Time Life make a great companion to the awesome Time Life complete series set of the six-season "Burnett" sitcom spinoff "Mama's Family" based on "Burnett" sketches about a wacky lower middle-class Southern family. The pedigree of "Family" includes future "Golden Girls" Betty White and Rue McClanahan (not to mention Burnett) being S1 cast members.
Giving "Burnett" itself and the recurring characters in the sketches proper due is well beyond the capability of an online review of a compilation of episodes. The primary points to make are that "Burnett" is part of the legendary Saturday-night lineup during the "Tiffany Network" era of CBS.
The 1974-75 lineup that starts with "All in the Family," goes onto "The Jeffersons" (which replaces "M*A*S*H" in that time slot), has "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show" next, and finishes with Burnett is representative of a CBS '70s Saturday night. The facts that the age-range of the "Burnett" studio audience essentially is from 8-to-80 and that each of these lucky folks love every minute also speaks volumes about the show. Burnett, her cast (including Harvey Korman and Tim Conway), and the behind-the-scenes folks have incredible comic instincts.
The September 11, 1967 episode immediately starts things strong. Burnett begins with her standard (and oft hilarious) Q&A session with the audience. A wonderful exchange about the age of Burnett ends with her showing her tremendous ab lib skills in stating that her bust size is 26. A reference to this exchange and other moments in a subsequent sketch in which Korman plays a reporter interviewing former child star Shirley Dimples (Burnett) further shows the improvisation and exceptional chemistry among the ensemble members that make "Burnett" (and its fellow Saturday night CBS series) so special.
The close real-life friendship between Burnett and Jim "Gomer" Nabors make him an ideal guest star for this inaugural outing. Both of them put their singing and comedic skills to good use but particularly shine in performing duets and bits in a tribute to Broadway musicals. This performance leaves no doubt that they both do their best when taken off their leashes to freely romp with each other. The many subsequent appearance of Nabors on "Burnett" validate that.
Nabors further is an ideal example of the observation by Burnett in a new interview for this release that her best guests were triple threat ones who could sing, dance, and do comedy. Burnett particularly praises also frequent guest Steve Lawrence (who also conducts an interview for "Best") for this; an anecdote regarding "Burnett" fans approaching Lawrence is hilarious.
The premiere episode also introduces the "Carol and Sis" sketches that are based on the real life of Burnett. Burnett plays newlywed Carol, whose teen sister Kris ("Burnett" star Vicki Lawrence) lives with Carol and constantly annoys new husband Roger. One of the best "Sis" sketches in the current DVD set has Carol and Kris team up to thwart the efforts of Roger to sell their house. The comedy is especially strong, and the twist near the end provides clever poetic justice.
Burnett aptly lauds the evolution of the talent of Lawrence in noting that that actress goes from playing the sister of Burnett in sketches to playing her mother.
Burnett is even better known for the aforementioned Southern "Eunice" sketches and for playing dopey comically inept secretary Mrs. Wiggins to business man Mr. Tudball ("Burnett" "newcomer" Tim Conway). The aforementioned two-hour series finale, which aptly is titled "A Special Evening with Carol Burnett," finds Eunice in therapy and Wiggins and Tudball reminiscing about how she comes to work for him. Both end on perfect notes for these characters.
"Best" additionally includes copious amounts of film and television parodies for which "Burnett" is especially well known. These include the classic "Lovely Story," which has Burnett and Korman play the absurdly devoted homely working-class coed and ultra-wealthy and handsome preppie couple from "Love Story." Another especially memorable sketch has Burnett as a typical housewife whose items come to life to recite the slogans associated with them.
On a larger level, Burnett shows an awesomely progressive attitude right from the first episode in which Nabors repeatedly mines humor from playing the part of a love-struck woman; a later episode in the set has Burnett laud a drag queen and has that up-and-comer perform her Streisand impersonation. This is on top of numerous good-natured gay jokes throughout the series.
Burnett shows her typical grace in the S1 season finale, which she dedicates to her cast to the extent of having them answer questions in the cold open. A similar theme pervades the series finale, which highlights the contributions of all. One of several special finale moments for Lawrence is a 1973 clip of her singing her gold record song "The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia" on the show; Lawrence joking regarding the clip that Burnett was kind to let Lawrence (rather than Burnett) sing the song on the show illustrates the aforementioned chemistry among the cast.
Additional nostalgia in the final episode comes in the form of Burnett showing the many looks of her and Nabors during the 11-year run of the series.
The best way to wrap up these thoughts is to paraphrase the comments of Burnett, which reflect those of the fans. She admits that not every sketch succeeds but states that the ones that do are timeless; she further notes that she shows that good humor does not require using foul language or raunchy themes. It is almost certain that most episodes will prompt laughing out loud at least once.
The aforementioned extras include an (of course laugh-a-second) blooper reel.
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