Saturday, December 11, 2010

Digital Digest: The Lucille Ball Specials - Happy Anniversary & Goodbye/What Now, Catherine Curtis and The Honeymooners Christmas Special DVD Reviews

Welcome to this week's edition of Digital Digest, our weekly feature where we bring you news and reviews of some of your favorite shows on home media formats! This week, we have reviews of The Lucille Ball Specials - Happy Anniversary & Goodbye/What Now, Catherine Curtis?, and The Honeymooners Christmas Special. Plus, we have some very exciting news about a classic sitcom coming to DVD for the very first time! Let's get going.


DIGITAL NEWS

They've been hinting around about it for a long time, but now Shout! Factory has officially confirmed it: the black and white TV series Dennis the Menace is finally coming to DVD! According to information that we found at TVShowsOnDVD.com as well as on the Shout! Factory Community forums, the first season of the classic series is being prepared for a DVD release! Dennis and good ol' Mr. Wilson finally enter into the digital era! Few details are known at this time, but this is one release that we are looking forward to!

We've already seen Gilligan's Island completed on DVD, but what about "the rest" of the stories about the seven stranded castaways? Well, Warner Archive (Warner's MOD arm) is going to give us some of the rest, as they have recently indicated that both Gilligan's Island cartoons are in the pipeline! The New Adventures of Gilligan's Island from the 70's and Gilligan's Planet from the 80's will be released sometime next year from Warner Archive. When we have more information on this, we'll be sure to let you know.

It was just two weeks ago that we reviewed the CBS Home Entertainment release of The Fugitive - The Fourth and Final Season, Volume 1, and now, The Fugitive - The Fourth and Final Season, Volume 2 is already scheduled! On February 15, the final installment of the man on the run comes to DVD in a four disc set, at a $39.98 MSRP. We'll have a review of this as soon as we are able to do so!

Finally, before we look ahead at what is coming out on DVD next week, we think it is worth mentioning that Married... With Children - The Complete Series appears to NOT be on the horizon for next week. The studio, Sony, has never confirmed that this release is even on the way (although the pre-order listing on amazon.com would suggest that it is at some point in time) and the release date that was given for it was on a Sunday, as opposed to a Tuesday (a sure sign that it was the wrong release date). But we'll have more on this when we know something more about it.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (December 14) isn't a busy day for DVDs, but we do have Shout! Factory's release of Leave it to Beaver - Season Five. The six disc set contains every episode from the fifth season at a $39.97 MSRP. We will have a review of this set soon. Also, it is time to "book 'em" with CBS Home Entertainment's release of Hawaii Five-O - The Tenth Season. The six disc set comes at a $49.98 MSRP. We will be reviewing this set (our first time reviewing the series) next week in Digital Digest. Finally, MPI has two releases for Tuesday at a $14.98, both of which we will be reviewing today. First is The Lucille Ball Specials - Happy Anniversary & Goodbye/What Now, Catherine Curtis?, both specials about love going wrong and divorce for characters played by Lucy. The second is The Honeymooners Christmas Special, which reunites the Kramdens and Nortons once again (this time in the 70s) for Christmas.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

This week, we are going to take a look at another DVD of The Lucille Ball Specials. After Here's Lucy left the air in 1974, Lucille Ball began a series of specials for CBS where she played characters similar to her roles in her previous series. We have reviewed some of these specials in the past, and now we have a new double feature from MPI Home Video, containing Happy Anniversary & Goodbye and What Now, Catherine Curtis?, two stories about love and marriage... and divorce.

DVD Review: The Lucille Ball Specials - Happy Anniversary & Goodbye/What Now, Catherine Curtis?
by skees53

The Lucille Ball Specials - Happy Anniversary & Goodbye/What Now, Catherine Curtis? (MPI, $14.98) contains two specials starring Lucille Ball in her post Here's Lucy days. The first special, Happy Anniversary & Goodbye, is a comedy starring Ball as Norma Michaels and Art Carney as her husband, Malcolm. As Norma and Michael approach their 25th anniversary, they realize that their marriage has been a disaster, and decide to seek independence from on another. The second special, What Now, Catherine Curtis? is a drama (a rare format for the "Queen of Comedy") divided into three stories, where a recently divorced Catherine Curtis (Ball) tries to readjust to her new life as a divorcee.

Happy Anniversary & Goodbye (52:01) was Ball's first special post-Here's Lucy. The comedy begins in Norma and Malcolm's bedroom just before bedtime. An argument is taking place in the bedroom about the lack of romance in the marriage and, well, his lack of performance in the bedroom. It ends with the two deciding to go their separate ways, just shy of their upcoming 25th anniversary. Norma decides to readjust to this new independent lifestyle by improving herself with the help of her friend Fay (Nanette Fabray). Fay has many ideas that just don't seem to work out well for Norma, including hiring a personal trainer (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his very early roles). Meanwhile, Malcolm has teamed up with his associate Greg (Peter Marshall), who tries to make him young and independent as well. But this youth and independence doesn't seem to work for him either. So where will each of them find romance that is up to their speed? The special even includes the Timex sponsorship at the beginning.

In What Now, Catherine Curtis? (51:13), we have three separate (but connected) stories about a recently divorced Catherine Curtis trying to readjust to her new life after divorce. The story is divided into three parts, with the first part featuring nothing but a monologue from a very depressed and upset Catherine talking to herself about what went wrong and why her marriage failed. In the second segment, Catherine finally gets back into the dating game with a widowed carpenter (Art Carney). In the final segment, Catherine has found love again, but this time in another man, Peter (Joseph Bologna), but this time there is a slight problem... an age difference. He is 14 years younger than she is.

Both specials are contained on a single disc in a standard DVD case. The cover art features both titles, with the top picture portraying the cast of Happy Anniversary & Goodbye, and the bottom picture portraying the cast of What Now, Catherine Curtis?. The same artwork is contained on the disc itself. The back of the case features a brief description of each special as well as some photos and a list of special features.

The main menu on the DVD begins with options of which special you want to play. Once you have selected a special, you can choose to Play it (with or without introductions from cast members), go to the Special Features menu, or to turn the subtitles. There are chapters placed at all of the appropriate places in the specials.

As far as the video and audio quality of the DVD, it is far from perfect, but is adequate for the specials. The video does look very old and as if it was not remastered at all, but it is perfectly watchable. The mono audio is clear enough, even if it does have a few pops here and there. English subtitles are available for both features.

The DVD has plenty of special features, beginning with introductions for each special. Happy Anniversary & Goodbye has an introduction (1:59) featuring Peter Marshall and Nanette Fabray. What Now, Catherine Curtis? has an introduction (1:25) featuring Joseph Bologna. The same cast members included in the introductions can be seen again in extended featurettes about the specials, with Happy Anniversary & Goodbye Revisited (19:59) and On the Ball: Joseph Bologna Remembers (13:56), where they all look back at the behind-the-scenes of the specials. These are very interesting to watch. The next special feature has very little to do with the specials, but is very interesting to listen to. It is a radio interview from 1965 that Lucille Ball conducted where she interviewed Mary Tyler Moore (19:18). The interview took place over two days during the fourth season of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and we get a good glimpse at Moore's earliest days of television here. Finally, Outtakes (2:49) is a series of outtakes from Happy Anniversary & Goodbye.

Once again, MPI has put together an excellent DVD for these specials! I really enjoyed both specials, although What Now, Catherine Curtis? was not the typical style of Lucy that we have all become accustomed to. These specials are great paired together, as they are both about the pitfalls of love and marriage. There is quite a bit of sex talk in these specials, which is also something that Lucy fans may not be used to, but it makes them much more interesting. Any Lucille Ball fan will definitely want to own this DVD.

(4.5/5 stars)

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Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
Here's Lucy on TV.com


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

The Honeymooners originally ended in the 50s, but it continued all the way into the late 70s with lost episodes and specials. The last of these specials, The Honeymooners Christmas Special, from 1978 brings the Kramdens and Nortons together for a Christmas that almost doesn't happen due to Ralph putting all of their money into the lottery. Check out our review of this special below.

DVD Review: The Honeymooners Specials - Christmas Special
by skees53

The Honeymooners Specials - Christmas Special (MPI, $14.98) reunites the Kramdens and Nortons for the last of four hour-long specials. This time, it is Christmas for the families, and Ralph's latest get-rich scheme may put the family finances in jeopardy at Christmas, the worst time of the year for that.

The main feature (48:25) begins with the two families preparing for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Ralph is trying to find a way to make money to have a Christmas full of joy, and decides to make an investment. Unfortunately, his "investment" isn't a very wise one, and the idea is to play the lottery. He takes money from his and Alice's life savings, Ed Norton's holiday bonus, and Alice's mother's social security check and puts it in the lottery for a chance to win a million dollars after he sees a "sign" that tells him that he'll get rich from it. Needless to say, the "investment" doesn't pay off as he plans, but luck does strike a bit, and he wins $1500 in the lottery--enough to pay back his losses and gain 12 cents. In the end, Ralph learns a lesson about family and friends and learns from Alice that, despite winning 12 cents, he isn't a winner after all.

The DVD is packaged in a standard DVD case with a photo of Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows on the cover. The back of the package has a few snapshots from the special along with a brief description of it. The disc artwork contained inside contains the same photo as the cover art.

The menus on the DVD are fairly basic. On the main menu, we have a snapshot of Alice and Ralph, with the theme song playing in the background. We are given options of Play, Bonus, and Setup. Play immediately takes you to the main feature. Bonus gives you a menu that contains the only special feature. Setup allows you to turn on the English subtitles. Chapters are placed throughout the special.

The video and audio quality on this DVD looks better than any of the previous releases. There really aren't any major problems of note. The video isn't as sharp as it could be, but for the most part, it is fine. The audio is presented in mono and suffers a bit of echo due to the venue in which the special was produced. The DVD contains English subtitles.

The DVD contains only one special feature, but it is a good one at least. Honeymooning: Behind the Scenes (5:28) is essentially just a new interview with Jane Kean (Trixie), where she talks about her experiences of working with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney on The Honeymooners.

This is a great special, and is a little bittersweet since it is the last time we see this cast work together. I think that this one was one of the best of the specials, and is very enjoyable to watch. Fans of The Honeymooners and the work of Jackie Gleason are sure to enjoy this special, but fans of classic comedy in general may be interested in seeing this special as well.

(4/5 stars)

To purchase The Honeymooners Christmas Special, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
The Honeymooners on TV.com


LOOKING AHEAD

We'll be back next week with a little bit of criminal action with our reviews of C.S.I.: Miami - The Eighth Season and Hawaii Five-O - The Tenth Season. Plus, we'll have more news (who knows, there could be something big) and more in the upcoming weeks. Until then, keep it digital!


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, December 11

The Simpsons - "The Nightmare After Krustmas" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Krusty tries to impress his daughter as they spend Christmas with the Simpsons. Meanwhile, Reverend Lovejoy seeks converts after church attendance plummets, and Maggie is haunted by a spooky Christmas toy.

Son of Zorn - "The War on Grafelnik" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Torn between Edie’s Christmas and Zorn’s Grafelnik – the Zephyrian holiday of revenge – Alan realizes he can play his parents off each other to get better presents.

Family Guy - "How the Griffin Stole Christmas" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Peter is asked to fill in for the mall Santa, until he gets drunk on the power when he realizes that Santa can get away with anything. Meanwhile, Stewie and Brian crash holiday office parties for the free food, drama and women.

The Last Man on Earth - "If You're Happy and You Know It" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Carol is bummed about Gail’s absence, so Tandy tries to cheer her up with the honeymoon vacation they never had. Meanwhile, Lewis finds new success with his pursuits in aviation and Melissa is contained.

The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now in Living Color - (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Spread the holiday cheer with “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color!,” a new one-hour special featuring two newly colorized back-to-back classic episodes of the beloved 1960s series, to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 11 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Series creator and co-star Carl Reiner personally supervised the colorization of the episodes.

The special features the groundbreaking episode “That’s My Boy??” and “Coast to Coast Big Mouth,” which ranked #8 on TV Guide’s list of the “100 Greatest TV Episodes of All-Time.” Both episodes were written by Bill Persky & Sam Denoff. The main titles and end credits of the two episodes are seamlessly combined into one set – at the beginning and end of the hour – with no interruption between the episodes.

In “That’s My Boy??,” as Rob and Laura host a dinner party with a few friends, Rob recalls the hectic days after their son Ritchie was born, when he was sure the hospital had given him and Laura the wrong baby. The episode, originally broadcast on Sept. 25, 1963, was the third season premiere.

In “Coast to Coast Big Mouth,” Laura Petrie blurts out a top secret on a national television quiz show, revealing that comedian Alan Brady wears a toupee. The episode, which was the show’s fifth and final season premiere, was originally broadcast on Sept. 15, 1965. “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 1966.

Bizaardvark - "Agh, Humbug" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Bernie gets bummed about not being invited to the Vuuugler-only holiday party, so the gang tries to turn him into an overnight online star so that he can attend, too.

Best Friends Whenever - "Revenge of the Past" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Shelby gets trapped in the 16th century after trying to save Daisy from marriage, so the friends join forces to help rescue her.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 12)

Monday, December 12

  • Jennifer Lawrence (The Bill Engvall Show) - Watch Jennifer Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) - Bryan is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He also chats about the film Why Him? on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • John Goodman (Roseanne/Normal, Ohio) - John appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Chris visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Olivia is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Matthew Perry (The Odd Couple/Go On/Mr. Sunshine) - Matthew stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan/Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin appears on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Will talks about Collateral Beauty on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Henry Winkler (Happy Days/Out of Practice/Arrested Development) - Henry will be on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) - Megan is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 4pm.
  • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Kathy appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.