Sunday, December 28, 2014

Some Recent DVD Purchases and Reviews

I have a sizable DVD collection. I especially collect old television series. However, being as broke as I have been for the past four or five years, I have run behind as more and more titles become available.

I am currently viewing two television series that lasted just one season each.

The Mickey Rooney Show, (1954-1955), also called Hey Mulligan, was a very funny sitcom that should have lasted far longer than one season. Unfortunately, it was up against Jackie Gleason's show, so it was doomed from the start. In this sitcom, the 34-year-old Rooney, with a visibly receding hairline, plays a twenty-something page at a fictional television network. (An interesting note is the use of the old NBC Burbank studios, with the "N" replaced with an "I," being featured as an establishment shot in most episodes.) He is a character who has all of this ambition, sort of like Lucy Ricardo, but he keeps screwing up. His partner in mischief is the talented character actor Joey Forman (appeared in Get Smart and many other shows during the fifties and sixties). Rooney's character still lives with his parents while trying to hit it big in show business. They are around to help him get out of trouble, which always happens. Rooney's friends Blake Edwards and Richard Quine were involved in the series' creation and in the scripts. Their involvement helped this show become a cut above the rest, but not enough to overcome Jackie Gleason's show. Rooney wrote fondly of this series in his autobiography. It showcased his numerous talents as a performer, not least his ability to do physical comedy. The 30 episodes are available on DVD, along with extras including a Mickey Rooney interview and a couple of appearances on the Red Skelton Show. As an aside, Skelton helped Rooney tremendously in his career. As another aside, Skelton often mercilessly joked about Rooney's numerous marriages in his opening monologue.

The other show I am watching episodes during my two weeks off from work is the 1965-1966 sitcom Gidget, which appeared on ABC. I never saw it when it first aired, but I knew this was the show that put actress Sally Field on the map. The funny thing reading about this show is it was canceled because of low ratings, but during the summer reruns, it started to develop a following and became a hit of sorts, but ABC didn't reinstate it to the fall lineup. Instead, they rushed for its new star Field the sitcom The Flying Nun, which lasted three years. From there, Field went on to the big time of the big screen, including winning an Oscar. However, she has fond memories of her first television series, which despite the dated sun, surf, and bikinis rampant during the "beach movie" era, still rings true. The situations are realistic, and I like the interplay between Field--petite and cute as button at 18 playing a 15-year-old and shockingly her looks haven't changed all that much in the past fifty years--and her co-star Don Porter, who played her widowed father. There was some drama and tears mixed in with the laughs. An added bonus is seeing the ill-fated Pete Duel (billed under his real name of Peter Deuel in this show) playing Gidget's psychologist brother-in-law who was always psychoanalyzing her. He was just 25 at the time, so this was one of his earliest acting roles. As we all know, he hit the big time a few years later with the television western Alias Smith and Jones, but he killed himself on December 31, 1971, midway through the second season, I believe it was. The show never recovered after that.

Anyway, Gidget is a lot of fun to watch and is available at very inexpensive prices. I paid less than $5 for my set.

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