Archive for the ‘1955’ Category
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
I have seen only a handful of episodes of The Honeymooners in my life. You know, when it comes on TV in reruns and I happen across it. And I’m pretty sure that the only five episodes I have ever seen are included on the Honeymooners Fan Favorites DVD out March 6th from Paramount Home Entertainment.
There’s one where Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton share a TV set and hilarity ensues. Another where Ralph finds a suitcase full of money on the bus, the one where Norton keeps sleepwalking, a show where Ralph and Ed make an infomercial to sell a do-it-all kitchen gadget, and the one where Ralph goes on a game show and embarrasses himself. Now, apparently, the fans who voted for their favorite episodes on facebook have seen all the same episodes I have. In fact, I’m starting to think that there ARE only eight or ten episodes that show up in re-runs.
It’s neat though to see Ralph Kramden’s progression from the beginning of the show to a few episodes after the beginning of the show. At first, he threatens Alice with a punch that will send her right to the moon. By the end, he’s just using hand gestures to show her how quickly she will get there. What a character arc he had, that Kramden!
Sunday, July 25th, 2010
Years: 1955, 1956
Genre: TV series, Comedy
Country: United States
Starring: Phil Silvers, Paul Ford, Allan Melvin, Harvey Lembeck, Maurice Gosfield, Joe E. Ross, Billy Sands, Herbie Faye
Creator: Nat Hiken
Run time: 14 hours, 42 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
At the peak of its four-year run, The Phil Silvers Show was ranked #23 in the American TV ratings. At a time where only 30 shows were measured. And I assume only about 35 were on the air. Not a huge success, by any standard. Now, before I watched Season One of The Phil Silvers Show, out July 27th from Paramount Home Entertainment, I had never heard of it. I had vaguely heard of Phil Silvers himself, from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But this show was entirely unfamiliar to me.
That is, the title of the show. The character played by Phil Silvers, Sgt. Bilko, was quite a familiar name. And not just because of that godawful movie starring Steve Martin. But because “Sgt. Bilko” is a character often referenced in pop culture. Which is odd, since the character appeared on a show that lasted from 1955-1959, that very few people saw. Why would this show be remembered at all? And why bring it back on DVD now?
I put on the first disc with the expectation I normally have with comedy TV shows from the 50s. I could stomach a few episodes of Petticoat Junction, I could see the charm, briefly, in The Honeymooners. But I could never watch an entire season of any of them until now. The Phil Silvers Show has suddenly become my absolute favourite TV comedy of the 50s. I watched the entire season. I watched the special features (which consist of a few commercials from the cast, a “Lost Audition Show”, and an episode of I Love Lucy). And then I showed the kids.
The kids (aged 11 and 15) are a good barometer for me when it comes to old, old TV shows. They tend to love the shows that were popular. I put on I Love Lucy, Dragnet, Gunsmoke or Perry Mason and they won’t let me turn it off until the DVD is done. But when I put on Wild Wild West, Rawhide or now The Phil Silvers Show, they just don’t care. This is my own, minor, sociological theory. Audiences in the 1950s correspond to my step-children today. They have the same intellectual capacity, the same attention span and the same tastes as the regular adults 60 years ago.
Which is why I think certain gems exist that didn’t get nearly as long a run as they deserved. There have been many military comedies over the years, some terrible (Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.), some great (M.A.S.H.). And some have simply flown under the radar (so to speak). The Phil Silvers Show was one of them. Although this show is set on a military base, that just happens to be where it takes place. The show could have been set in a motor pool or a high school teachers’ lounge, and it would have worked just as well. The cast is wonderful, Phil Silvers himself has an incredible sense of timing, and the writing was magnificent.
The thing is, Phil Silvers doesn’t have a lot of belly laughs. There are no catchphrases (“pow to the moon”, “you got some ‘splaining to do”), the things that made 50s audiences and my kids happy. There are just a series of hilarious happenings, where the corrupt yet charming scoundrel Sgt. Bilko tries to bilk his platoon out of their money. Some of his schemes fall flat and produce counterproductive results. Others succeed admirably, most depending on how altruistic those schemes are. For example, when Bilko sneakily tries to win Soldier Of The Month so he can get a three day pass, he whips his platoon into such good shape that one of his soliders wins the award instead. But when a woman slights a member of the platoon, and he plots revenge, it works perfectly.
All the schemes are clever, they are all well presented and I really looked forward to watching the next episode. It sounds silly and trite, but I wanted to See What Sgt. Bilko Would Be Up To Next! And now I’m eagerly awaiting Season Two.
Monday, May 25th, 2009
To hear the review
To hear the review
Thankfully, on Paramount Home Entertainment’s Forever Funny TV Set, there is no Walker Texas Ranger to ruin the mood. Instead, this is just a solid collection of the premiere episodes or pilots of some of the most classic comedies ever to grace the television sets of North America. I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, Frasier, Cheers, and Taxi are all represented here. Now, Paramount also distributes The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Happy Days and several other classic comedies which might have made a little more sense than Frasier, in terms of old-school classics, but I love Frasier. So I won’t complain. Much. Here are the premieres, in chronological order:
I Love Lucy (1951):
“Happy Anniversary, Ethel.”
The very first episode of I Love Lucy sees Fred and Ethel fighting over what to do on their anniversary. Fred (and of course Ricky) wants to go to the fights, while Ethel (and of course Lucy) wants to go to a nightclub. Soon, the old cranky couple have decided to go sepearately, and Lucy stirs the pot by trying to find dates for her and Ethel. Of course, this makes Ricky and Fred decide to find dates for themselves, which end up being Lucy and Ethel in disguise and…well, you can guess the rest, I’m sure. We all know I Love Lucy, we all know it’s hilarious, and one of the best comedies ever.
The Honeymooners (1955):
“You wanna go to the moon? You wanna go to the moon?”
Although Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) is constantly threatening his wife Alice with phyiscal violence, he has, to my knowledge, never actually struck her. At least, not on screen. But The Honeymooners must at least present Ralph as a potential domestic abuser and a ticking time bomb of rage. As he and Ed Norton (Art Carney) split the cost of a TV set, and then fight over what programs to watch, I got the sense that Gleason was, at any moment, capable of snapping and commiting a brutal murder. And I found that hilarious.
The Brady Bunch (1969):
“Dad’s gonna take the girls’ side on everything from now on.”
I wasn’t aware that when The Brady Bunch began, Marsha wasn’t yet old enough to be smoking hot. But she was still a little girl in 1969, when the show began with a wedding. The man, you see, has a bunch of boys. The boys have a dog. The woman, obviously, has a bunch of girls. And the girls have a cat. Because men like boys and women like girls and boys like dogs and girls like cats. And they are all going to live together after this big ol’ wedding, and hilarity will ensue! In the meantime, the little kids say all kinds of cute and smarmy things, paving the way for the 80s and the Olsen twins saying “dude” on Full House. Thanks a lot, Brady Bunch.
The Odd Couple (1970):
“They think I’m a hypochondriac? That makes me sick.”
The people who made the Odd Couple TV show must believe that everyone tuning in already knows the whole concept, either from the movie or the Neil Simon stage play. And they’re probably right. I think we all know the idea. Felix is neat and anal. Oscar is slovenly and rough. And they have troubles…the premiere episode of this classic comedy introduces the weekly poker game, the Pigeon sisters who live upstairs, and the angrily tolerant dynamic between Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
“I’m playing the horse.”
Genre: TV series, comedy, sitcom
Country: United States
Starring: Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, Jeff Conaway
Eye candy: Marilu Henner
Creators: James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, Ed Weinberger, David Davis
Run time: 30 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
The first episode of Taxi is a surprisingly sweet one, as Judd Hirsch runs off to attempt to re-connect with his daughter whom he hasn’t seen in fifteen years. And of course, Tony Danza is a stupid guy and a terrible boxer, Danny DeVito is a tiny little loudmouth jerk, Andy Kaufman is just learning to speak English and acting creepy, Jeff Conway is an actor who gets no roles and isn’t very good, and Marilu Henner is the smoking hot woman who just started working as a taxi driver. And they’re in New York. And that’s the show.
“A drunk? A drunk? Why, Sam was the greatest drunk there ever was!”
The first episode of Cheers introduces Cliff and his stupid and questionable facts, Norm and his apathy toward his wife, Carla and her scathing wit, Sam and his womanizing, Coach and his idiocy, and Diane. Mostly, the episode is all about Diane, who has come into the bar for the first time on her way to the airport with her soon-to be husband. He is an intellectual, of course, and he will ditch her in the bar to go back to his ex-wife. Of course. So Diane sits there and annoys everyone in the bar for hours with her snobby holier-than-thou attitude, and eventually ends up with a job there. And so began Cheers.
“My wife had left me, which was very painful. Then she came back, which was excruciating.”
The debut episode of Frasier opens with Frasier Crane on his radio program, explaining succinctly and in a neat little package why he left Boston and Cheers and moved back to Seattle for his own spinoff show. Quickly, we meet neurotic Niles and space cadet Daphne and of course Frasier’s dad Martin, who moves in with his son in the first episode. And the dog Eddie, who stares at Frasier. And Martin’s chair, which drives Frasier nuts. We don’t get to see Maris, but we know she’s a cold ice queen. And Roz is sardonic and mean, but has a heart of gold. Yep.
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
“So far, you haven’t said anything remotely clever.”
“Well, stick around.”
Many clever things are said in To Catch A Thief, one of Alfred Hitchcocks lesser classics. The dialogue is snappy, if not brilliant, and Cary Grant and Grace Kelly appear to be absolutely comfortable throwing off their lines with aplomb. The story is taut and tense, as Hitchcock was wont to do, and the cinematography is masterful. To Catch A Thief won only one Oscar in 1955, that for Best Cinematography, and deservedly so. Certain scenes will not be terribly impressive to modern audiences, such as the blue-screen car chase scenes, but the rest of the look of this movie remains incredible to this day.
Adding to the look of the movie are the looks of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Grace Kelly, one of the most stunningly beautiful women ever to appear on a movie screen, is as gorgeous as ever in To Catch A Thief, and Grant remains one of the great heart-throbs in movie history, one of the few who also had remarkable acting ability. As with many movies of this era, the age difference seems to be irrelevant when it comes to a central romance at the heart of the story. Grant, at this point, was 51 years old, and Kelly was 26 – half his age. This is the one part of the movie that does not translate over time. It still looks incongruous to see the two of them together, and strains credibility to think the two of them might end up in love.
Hitchcock chose to shoot this movie in technicolor, and that means that the age difference is that much more noticeable. In black and white, somehow it never leapt off the screen that Bogart, in some of his most iconic roles, was making time with women less than half his age. In colour, it is obvious. That being said, the colour is fantastic in To Catch A Thief, which really is a visual treat. The Centennial Collection edition, out March 24th from Paramount Home Entertainment, comes with an 8-page booklet and some terrific special features.
The last edition of To Catch A Thief to appear on DVD had a few great special features – The Writing And Casting of To Catch A Thief, The Making of To Catch A Thief, Alfred Hitchcock and To Catch A Thief: An Appreciation, Edith Head: The Paramount Years (a retrospective on legendary costume designer Edith Head), and the trailers and galleries and all the standard DVD special feature stuff. On this new DVD, all those features are once again available on the second disc, and the first disc has a feature-length commentary by a very interesting Hitchcock historian named Dr. Drew Casper. The new features on the second disc include Unacceptable Under The Code: Film Censorship in America, A Night With The Hitchcocks, and Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. There is also a fascinating interactive travelogue.
When I say that To Catch A Thief is a “lesser” classic of Hitchcock, all I really mean is that it isn’t Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, North By Northwest, The Birds, The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, Shadow of a Doubt or Rebecca. The man had quite a career. To Catch A Thief is still a magnificent achievement, a simple movie about a cat burglar (Cary Grant) trying to clear his name in a string of burglaries while Grace Kelly attempts to weasel her way into his schemes and his heart. It isn’t Vertigo. But then, only one film is, and this is a film that really complements the rest of the Hitchcock catalogue and belongs in any collection with the best of his work.