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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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 (December/January)

American Dad! - Volume 11 Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One

12/06 - Family Guy - Season Fourteen
12/13 - American Dad! - Volume 11
12/13 - Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, January 19

The Big Bang Theory - "The Romance Calibration" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Penny feels that Leonard is taking her for granted, she decides to go on a spa weekend with Amy. Also, Wolowitz and Koothrappali try to fix a squeaky floorboard in the baby’s room.

The Great Indoors - "Mason Blows Up" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jack tries to reassert his dominance as a reporter after Mason scores an investigative coup that turns him into an overnight celebrity. Also, Clark’s low self-esteem causes him to give Emma relationship advice about other guys instead of asking her out himself

Mom - "Good Karma and the Big Weird" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bonnie encourages Christy to pursue Marjorie’s charming nephew, Nick, despite the fact that he’s been declared off limits. Chris Pratt, husband of MOM star Anna Faris, guest stars as Nick, Marjorie’s nephew.

Life in Pieces - "Tailgate Spiral Souvenir Seating" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Colleen and Matt host the family tailgate party at the L.A. Rams game, they invite former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner to spice up their so far dismal event. Also, Tim’s in danger of missing the game when Sophia makes him take her to the restroom and they get sidetracked returning to their seats; Joan and Jen try to sneak into seats closer to the field; and Greg wins a chance to participate in a halftime contest involving a football toss.

Baskets - "Freaks" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Chip has to decide between a tarp and snacks.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 16)

Friday, January 20

  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons) - Catch Anthony on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • JoAnna Garcia Swisher (Reba/Better with You) - JoAnna visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years) - John is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jim Gaffigan (The Jim Gaffigan Show/My Boys/Welcome to New York) - Jim stops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) - Cristela drops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Nicole Byer (Loosely, Exactly Nicole) - Nicole appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Joe Jonas (Jonas L.A.) - Joe guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Bernadette Peters (Mozart in the Jungle/All's Fair) - Bernadette is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Queen Latifah (Living Single) - Queen Latifah is a guest on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Andrew Dice Clay (Bless This House/Hitz) - Andrew stops by Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory/Roseanne - Johnny discusses his role in the new film, Rings, and dishes on this season of The Big Bang Theory on the AOL Build Show at 1pm.