Saturday, December 06, 2008

Blog DVD Review: A Shari Lewis Christmas

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the blog DVD review! Since we are in the middle of the holiday season, it makes sense today to take a look at S'more Entertainment's A Shari Lewis Christmas. The Shari Lewis Show of course was the popular children's series starring Shari Lewis and her sidekick Lamb Chop! See skees53's blog DVD review of A Shari Lewis Christmas:

A Shari Lewis Christmas (S'more, $9.98) features Shari Lewis and her (both figuratively and literally) right-hand man (well technically girl), Lamb Chop, in three classic Christmas episodes of the children's series The Shari Lewis Show. For those unfamiliar with Lewis, she was a multi-talented ventriloquist that found success in sock puppets, particularly one that was a lamb that she named Lamb Chop. But Lamb Chop was hardly her only puppet. She also had Charlie Horse and other sock puppets as her "leading stars." Lewis and Lamb Chop made their debut on a WNBC morning show in New York City, and by 1960, they had their own children's show on NBC called The Shari Lewis Show, which is featured on this DVD. Her success continued on for generations and hit a new high in the early 1990s when she revived the Lamb Chop character for the "modern" generation in the PBS series Lamb Chop's Play Along. Here, we have three Christmas episodes from the original series that aired from 1960-1963, as well as one of the Christmas episodes from the WNBC morning show.
In the 12/24/1960 episode (21:05), Charlie Horse and Lamb Chop have a disagreement on Christmas presents. Lamb Chop thinks that people should buy Christmas presents for each other while Charlie Horse thinks that everybody should just buy one present for himself or herself. But is that what Charlie Horse really wants? We get to see even more of Charlie Horse's greed in the 12/23/1961 episode (22:56). Finally, the 12/22/1962 (22:05) involves Lamb Chop getting very upset about opening presents on Christmas, but just exactly why is he so against the idea of opening presents?
The DVD contains a few minor special features. Christmas Wishes from Shari and Lamb Chop (1:19) is just a short message that aired in movie theaters to wish movie-goers a merry Christmas. There really isn't much more to be said about it. Next, we have a Christmas episode of the WNBC morning show Hi Mom! (58:02), which was a weekday variety series that featured many different topics, but part of the entertainment in this episode comes from Lewis and Lamb Chop. This episode is completely intact, including commercials for movies, butter, baby bottles, and even Bosco.
The set is presented in a standard DVD case with a black and white snapshot of Shari and Lamb Chop on the cover (with color decorations surrounding them). Inside, we have just one disc with very basic artwork. As far as the menus, there is nothing truly out of the ordinary about them, with just a little Christmas music in the background and options of Play, Shows, and Bonus. There are no chapters placed within the episodes, nor are there any scene selection menus.
The unfortunate reality of the whole DVD is that this series is old and was not very well preserved. In fact, the video and audio, while it looks as if efforts to clean it up were indeed made, can be described as being pretty bad. Of course, these are not the originally filmed versions that were filmed and placed on the shelf and designed to remain perfect over several decades. These are all kinescopes that were preserved at the UCLA Film & Television archive.
What you'll notice about these shows is that the lighting levels are pretty bad, the picture sometimes jumps around, and the audio levels are INCREDIBLY low. No closed-captioning is available, at all. The runtimes for the episodes seem to suggest that perhaps some things were edited and removed from the episodes. In fact, you'll notice some strange edits here and there. However, my gut feeling is that the only thing that was removed was sponsorship elements, as these were episodes preserved in an archive. It seems unlikely to me that an archive would preserved materials that are intentionally edited to allow more commercial time.
This is a great DVD for those that love true vintage children's television, although personally I have to say that isn't really something I'm in to. Still, it was fun to see what children were watching on TV back in the "golden age" of television, and to see how much children's TV has changed over the decades. Back then, it was much simpler to entertain the youth of America, but these days, you have to go over-the-top, be cutting edge, and be flashy to attract the attention of children. Even Shari Lewis had to adapt to the "modern era" in her PBS series Lamb Chop's Play Along, which was nothing at all like this series. One thing that I find interesting, though, is that these are all Christmas episodes, while Lewis herself was actually Jewish. Of course, having a Hanukkah episode of a series would have been a little out of the ordinary in the 1960s, but she did do a Hanukkah episode of the PBS series in the 1990s. In any event, fans of Shari Lewis, puppets, or just vintage children's programming are sure to enjoy these episodes. They also have a lot of positive messages about what the Christmas spirit is all about that anybody is certain to get a lot out of.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(3.5/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
The Shari Lewis Show TV.com Page


New on DVD/Blu-ray (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, August 21

Kevin Can Wait - "Unholy War" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After reluctantly settling on a date for Kendra’s wedding, Kevin learns that his childhood nemesis, Terry (Kim Coates), is trying to reserve the church on the same day. As the two battle for Father Phillip’s (Jim Breuer) approval by becoming more involved in the church, Kevin’s drive to get the church for Kendra becomes an insatiable desire to get revenge on his old rival.

Superior Donuts - "Man Without a Health Plan" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The group decides to take up a collection to pay for Franco’s medical expenses when he’s hurt at work and doesn’t have insurance. Also, Tush experiences unusual side effects when he participates in an experimental drug trial.

Mom - "Cornbread and a Cashmere Onesie" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Christy and Bonnie worry about Jill after her cry for help on the anniversary of her mother’s suicide.

Life in Pieces - "Babysit Argument Invention Butterfly" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Matt and Colleen have a disastrous time babysitting Lark while Jen is at work. Also, Sophia is far from pleased when John buys her a butterfly kit for her birthday; Tim and Heather rehash an old fight from the early days of their relationship; and Greg gives Samantha questionable advice about being an entrepreneur for her school project.

American Dad - "Kloger" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Roger and Klaus start having a secret affair after they accidentally end up on an online date together; Steve tries to catch Hayley's pink eye to get out of doing a fitness test at school.

People of Earth - "Why Can't We Be Friends?" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Ozzie confronts Walsh about being an alien; Richard gets fired from his job and joins Agent Foster on her search for Walsh.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 21)

Monday, August 21

  • Nick Kroll (The League/Cavemen) - Watch Nick on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Sutton Foster (Younger) - Sutton appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She will also be on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Kumail is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Hank Azaria (Brockmire/The Simpsons/Free Agents) - Hank appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Al Madrigal (About a Boy/Welcome to The Captain/Gary Unmarried) - Al is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Matt LeBlanc (Man with a Plan/Episodes/Friends) - Matt stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) - Amy chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Aziz Ansari (Master of None/Parks and Recreation) - Aziz drops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Sabrina Carpenter (Girl Meets World) - Sabrina appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Rachel Dratch (Imaginary Mary) and Jenna Elfman (Imaginary Mary/1600 Penn/Accidentally on Purpose/Courting Alex/Dharma & Greg) - Rachel and Jenna are guests on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Yara Shahidi (black-ish) - Yara opens up about beauty standards in Hollywood on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Marlon Wayans (Marlon/The Wayans Bros.) - Marlon talks about Marlon on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Lilla Crawford, Taylor Louderman and Elan Luz Rivera (Sunny Day) - The stars of Nickelodeon's upcoming series Sunny Day are guests on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 8:45am.