Saturday, March 05, 2011

Digital Digest: Pioneers of Television - Season 2 DVD Review

It's been a busy news week for Charlie Sheen, but for us, it hasn't been in the world of home media news. The world of DVD and Blu-ray gets a little slower each and every week, but that doesn't stop us from being here, no matter what! This week, we've got a review of the PBS series Pioneers of Television - Season 2, the series that gives a retrospective of the earliest days of television. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

A few months ago, TMG released a two-disc set of the classic Betty White series Life With Elizabeth, but they aren't stopping there! Now, they are preparing a two-disc set of Betty White's other series from the 50s, Date with the Angels. The 12-episode set will be released on April 26 at a very low $9.98 MSRP.

A few weeks ago, Shout! Factory announced that they would be releasing the first season of the Nickelodeon series The Wild Thornberries. We didn't mention it because it is a bit beyond the scope of our website, but something that didn't catch our eye was this post from Brian Ward on the Shout! Factory Community message boards mentioning that other Nickelodeon series are in the works from Shout! Factory. Now, as to what they'll be or when they'll be announced, there is no telling, but hopefully this will include some sitcoms from the Nickelodeon library.

BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

Pioneers of Television - Season 2

DVD Review: Pioneers of Television - Season 2
by Todd Fuller

Pioneers of Television - Season 2 (PBS Direct, $24.99)

Nearly 100 stars from TV's formative years bring their stories to PBS in season two of the Emmy-nominated documentary series Pioneers of Television. Narrated by Kelsey Grammer, each episode melds compelling new interviews with irresistible archival clips to offer a fresh take on TV's founding celebrities. This season's four new episodes profile science fiction, crime dramas, local kids' shows, and westerns. Featured stars include James Garner, William Shatner, Angie Dickinson, Fess Parker, Linda Evans, Robert Conrad, Mike Connors, Leonard Nimoy, Bill Cosby, and many others.

These specials began in November 2005 on PBS with The Pioneers of Primetime which focused on vaudeville headliners, radio superstars and television legends. In 2008, four one-hour specials were made that profiled late night, sitcoms, variety and game shows. Season two premiered in January and February 2011 and took a look at science fiction, westerns, crime dramas and local kids' tv.

The cover art features a montage of black and white photos of James Arness, James Garner, Barbara Stanwyck, Linda Evans, Angie Dickinson, Rod Serling, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Chuck Connors, Johnny Crawford and Jim Henson. The episodes are presented in widescreen format. The recent interviews look excellent, but some of the vintage show clips vary in quality. The main menus features the same montage of black and white photos as the cover art. There are options for Episode Selection, Scene Selection and Set Up. Subtitles are available for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The set has a running time of approximately 220 minutes.

Here is the breakdown of the four episodes, including the original airdates and runtimes:

Science Fiction (01/18/11 - 55:09) - Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, and Nichelle Nichols reflect on the birth of Star Trek. Lost in Space is remembered by Bill Mumy and Angela Cartwright. And a lost interview with Rod Sterling highlights a look at The Twilight Zone.

This episode focuses on three key science fiction series: Star Trek, Lost in Space and The Twilight Zone.. A surprising connection between Star Trek and Lost in Space is uncovered. Star Trek topics covered include Gene Roddenberry's story and the development of the show, William Shatner and how he was cast, Leonard Nimoy and the development of Spock's ears, and Nichelle Nichols and TV's first interracial kiss. Lost in Space topics include Irwin Allen's story and the development of the show, Jonathan Harris' portrayal of the Zachary Smith character, Irwin Allen's creation of The Time Tunnel, and the classic The Great Vegetable Rebellion episode. The Twilight Zone section details Rod Serling's early days, memorable episodes with guest stars William Shatner and Bill Mumy, Rod Serling's favorite episode, the special effects on the show, and the end of the show and Rod Serling's later projects. Others interviewed include Marta Kristen, Veronica Cartwright, Peter Graves, Lee Meriwether, Adam West and Martin Landau. Some bonus pioneering moments in science fiction are shown in the closing minutes.

Westerns (01/25/11 - 55:08) - James Garner (Maverick), Robert Conrad (Wild Wild West), and James Arness (Gunsmoke) are just three of the pioneers who talk about their experiences in this episode -- which also includes Linda Evans (Big Valley) and Fess Parker (Daniel Boone). Classics like Bonanza and The Rifleman are also featured.

From the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, there were more than 100 different western series. In the 1959 season alone, there were more than 30 on the schedule. Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Rifleman are among the iconic series profiled in this episode. James Garner talks about how he never wanted to become an actor, how he was picked to play Bret Maverick on Maverick, and his later television roles. Sam Peckinpah created his first TV series, The Rifleman, in 1958 starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. Mr. Peckinpah left after the first season. Bonanza topics include Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, and the lack of female characters on the show. The Big Valley would be the first western with a female in the lead role. Barbara Stanwyck played the matriarch of the Barkley family. Linda Evans played her daughter and offers a touching new perspective on her co-star.

Premiering the same season as The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West was one of the most unconventional westerns. Robert Conrad did many of his own stunts and details the on-set accident that cracked his skull. Gunsmoke's story details the casting of James Arness as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, the show's popularity over 20 seasons, and some of the show's other cast members including the break-out character of Chester played by Dennis Weaver. In the last interview with Fess Parker, the star of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, he talks about his effort to cast African-American guest stars at a time when that was rare. The High Chapparal featured Henry Darrow as Manolito Montoya and had Hispanic actors speaking in Spanish. Others interviewed include Robert Culp, Ed Ames, Linda Evans, Veronica Cartwright, Rosey Grier, Ernest Borgnine, Johnny Crawford, Darby Hinton, Henry Darrow, Peter Graves, Stephen J. Cannell, Stefanie Powers, Pat Crowley, Mitch Vogel, Adam West, Chuck McCann, Martin Landau, Mike Connors, Dennis Weaver, Angie Dickinson and Buddy Ebsen. A montage in the closing minutes features some other westerns and cast members.

Crime Dramas (2/1/11 - 55:09) - This episode begins with the 1950s Dragnet and the Untouchables; includes 1960s hits Mission: Impossible I Spy and Hawaii Five-0; and wraps with 1970s favorites Rockford Files, Columbo, and Police Woman.

Dragnet began as a radio drama on NBC on June 3, 1949. In 1951, the television series debuted. Topics include an innovation by Jack Webb that made it possible for them to shoot an episode in just one or two days, close-ups to show emotion, and the famous "just the facts, ma'am" quote. The Untouchables was one of the most violent shows on television. Another show created by Desilu, Mannix starred Mike Connors. Mike Connors talks about how they sped up the pace of the show with 50 set ups a day. Mission: Impossible stars Peter Graves, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain independently reveal the eerie connection between their series and actual cold war events. They talk about the make-up and how they got to play somebody different each week.

I Spy featured Bill Cosby as the first African American male in a lead role on TV. Bill Cosby talks about his groundbreaking role and the challenges he faced. Co-star Robert Culp also discusses his work on the show. Hawaii Five-O featured Jack Lord as Jack McGarrett. Lord's involvement in the show is detailed. Most of the actors on the show were local Hawaiian actors. Women stars of crime drama included Anne Francis on Honey West, Stefanie Powers on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Angie Dickinson on Police Woman. Stefanie Powers talks about her outfits on the show. Angie Dickinson explains her conflict with the feminist movement. Columbo starred Peter Falk. He made the character his own and brought his trademark trenchcoat from home and picked out Columbo's car. Stephen J. Cannell discusses the creation of The Rockford Files. James Garner talks about his role and stunt driving on the series. Others interviewed include Leonard Nimoy, Pat Crowley, Veronica Cartwright, Stan Freberg, Gavin MacLeod, Bruce Bilson and Rita Moreno. Some still images and trivia are shown in a montage in the closing minutes.

Local Kids' TV (2/8/11 - 55:09) - Jim Henson, Willard Scott, and Fred Rogers are among the performers who started their careers in local TV. These three icons -- and a dozen others -- are featured in this episode that highlights the clowns, pirates, spacemen, and puppets who made local kids' TV memorable for a generation.

The Wallace and Ladmo Show began in 1954 and aired in Phoenix, AZ for over 35 years. Bill Thompson, Sharon Kelley and Pat McMahon discuss their work on the show. Stan Freberg talks about a Time for Beany which aired in Los Angeles for 5 years. Jim Henson got his start on Sam and Friends in Washington, DC. His innovations in puppetry are discussed. Joan Ganz Cooney talks about the development of Sesame Street. Fred Rogers disusses his early work on television off camera and the start of his own show where he would appear on camera. Chuck McCann comments on Puppet Motel and later The Chuck McCann Show. Steven Spielberg recounts the Arizona kids' show, The Wallace and Ladmo Show, that shaped his career. Marlene Manderfield discusses Romper Room, which had localized versions across the country. Socorro Serano talks about the strictness and uniformity of the show. Mary Ann King documents the chain of events that led to a lion escaping on the set of Romper Room in Los Angeles. The history of Bozo the Clown is detailed. Willard Scott explains the surprising physical challenges of playing Bozo in Washington, DC. Dan Castellaneta reveals the inspiration for The Simpsons' Krusty the Clown. The Action for Children's Television is briefly mentioned. Bill Cosby, Prof. Gordon Berry PH.D., and Lou Scheimer talk about Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Others interviewed include Ernest Borgnine, Bill Mumy, and Susan Harmon.

This is a very interesting and entertaining series on the pioneers of television. These episodes are well made with many new interviews, vintage clips and still images. It's sad to watch some of the final interviews of Robert Culp, Peter Graves, Fess Parker and Stephen J. Cannell, who we all lost in 2010. They are able to put a lot of information in one-hour episodes, but they could really benefit by extending them to two hours. There are only able to cover so many shows and people in detail with the one-hour format. The science fiction and crime drama episodes were the most interesting to me, since I've always been a fan of those television genres. The local kids' tv episode was fun, but I think it focused a little too much on The Wallace and Ladmo Show, which may have only been familiar to people who live or have lived in Phoenix, AZ.

Season two is a nice follow-up to the first four episodes. I liked the first season with sitcoms, late night, variety and game shows a little more than the second season, but there should be something for everybody to enjoy on this release. It seems like they are taking ideas for more episodes on the Pioneers of Television Facebook page. I would like to see new episodes on network news and live events, Saturday morning kids shows, animated series, medical shows, music shows and reality television. Thanks to PBS for bringing us some quality programming.

(4/5 stars)

To purchase this DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Main DVD Reviews Page
Pioneers of Television Official PBS Site

UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (March 8) is mostly a dead day for new releases, although there is one classic TV release that we won't be covering here. VEI is releasing McMillan & Wife - Season Three in Canada at a $39.95 MSRP.

LOOKING AHEAD

This has been a very sad and disappointing week, but we can only give you what we have when it comes to news. But we'll still be back next week with more news (let's hope this stuff starts to pick up) as well as a review of the Canadian hit comedy series, The Red Green Show - The Delinquent Years. Until then, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, April 18

The Big Bang Theory - "The Inspiration Deprivation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The concept of what it would mean for women everywhere if Amy were to win a Nobel Prize causes Amy to have a meltdown. Also, Koothrappali and Wolowitz try to relive the good old days after Wolowitz buys a scooter that looks like the one he had years ago. Oscar-winning actress Regina King returns as Janine.

Life in Pieces - "Jungle Push Resort Anniversary" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When the Short family arrives at their vacation resort in the Yucatan, their accommodations aren’t quite what they expected. Also, Heather is ridiculously overprotective of Sophia during the family activities; Jen and Greg discover that Matt and Colleen have been duping everyone; and John and Joan get separated from their tour group in the jungle. Nat Faxon guest stars as Hayes, an expat proprietor at a Yucatan eco-resort.

Mom - "Lumbar Support and Old Pork" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bonnie has an unexpected reaction when she learns that Adam’s bar is doing well. Also, Christy and Tammy go on a double date.

Life in Pieces - "Demo Nosebreath Surgery Match" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Colleen and Matt try to impress a potential birth mother, they have a hard time competing against another rich, swanky couple. Also, Jen’s pregnancy takes a toll on Greg; Heather lets John take credit for her housekeeping while Joan recovers from knee surgery; and Tim arranges for Tyler to record a demo at a friend’s studio. Joey King guest stars as Morgan, a 17-year-old pregnant teen who is considering placing her baby for adoption with Matt and Colleen.

Superstore - "Easter" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Suspicious that people are making fun of her, Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) spy on Cloud 9 employees through the security system, while Dina (Lauren Ash) tries to track down an unsanctioned Easter Bunny in the store. Glenn (Mark McKinney) preps for his church’s Passion play.

A.P. Bio - "Personal Everest" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jack is outraged when his old high school bully is hired as a motivational speaker at Whitlock. Meanwhile, Mary, Stef, and Michelle set their own personal goals of female empowerment, unintentionally causing a rift between Helen and Durbin.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "The Bimbo" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Holt and Jake investigate a case at Kevin’s university. Back at the precinct, Terry and Amy take the squad out for lunch.

Abby's - "Book Club" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When it’s revealed that Fred has a crush on a bar patron, Abby and Beth encourage a reluctant Fred to start dating.

Better Things - "Easter" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Sam helps Max and bakes for Phil.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 15)

Thursday, April 18

  • Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney (Catastrophe) - Catch Sharon and Rob on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC. They will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Retta (Parks and Recreation) - Retta visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Lake Bell (Bless This Mess/Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp/How to Make It in America) - Lake appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Bill Hader (Barry) - Bill is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna stops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Michael chats with the ladies of The View on a repeat on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Tichina Arnold (The Neighborhood/Survivor's Remorse/Happily Divorced/Everybody Hates Chris/Martin) - Tichina guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew drops by The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Beth Behrs (The Neighborhood/2 Broke Girls) - Beth is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • James Brolin (Life in Pieces) - James chats about Life in Pieces on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie/Malibu Country/Murphy Brown) - Lily drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP/Scream Queens) - Keke guest co-hosts ABC's Strahan & Sara at 1pm.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) and Rick Fox (The Game/Mr. Box Office) - Holly and Rick talk about Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Morning Show Mysteries on Access Live, so check your local listings. Holly will also be on E!'s Daily Pop at 12pm.
  • Fiona Gubelmann (Wilfred) - Fiona appears on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (February/March/April)

Step by Step - The Complete Fourth Season What I Like About You - The Complete Fourth Season Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Second Season Alice - The Complete Ninth Season The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fifth Season

02/05 - Family Guy - Part 1 - Volumes 1-5
02/05 - Family Guy - Part 2 - Volumes 6-10
02/05 - Family Guy - Part 3 - Seasons 10-14
02/05 - First Lady of Television - Betty White Collection (40 rare and acclaimed episodes from her early days in television)
02/05 - Mama's Family - Seasons 1-6 - The Complete Series
02/12 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-3 (Blu-ray)
02/12 - Step by Step - The Complete Fourth Season
02/26 - What I Like About You - The Complete Fourth Season
03/05 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
03/12 - Alice - The Complete Ninth Season (WBShop.com)
03/26 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
04/02 - Archer: Danger Island - The Complete Season Nine
04/09 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fifth Season
04/12 - Evening Shade - The Complete Collection
04/16 - The Big C - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

04/18 - Netflix Gets More Original Comedies Including Mike Myers Series; The CW Summer 2019 Schedule
04/17 - Archer: 1999 Launches May 29; Hulu Gets More Aidy Bryant
04/16 - Remembering Georgia Engel of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; BET Gets Another Comedy Series
04/15 - ABC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Bless This Mess - Premieres Tuesday (April 16); Hallmark Picks Up 7th Season of When Calls the Heart
04/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of April 15, 2019) 04/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Disney Announces New Streaming Service Including Every Episode of The Simpsons; NCIS Gets Renewal from CBS
04/12 - Fri-Yay: Why NBC's Abby's Deserves a Chance; Netflix Orders Adult Animated Comedy Q-Force
04/11 - ABC Summer 2019 Schedule; HBO Renews Barry for 3rd Season
04/10 - Younger Stays on TV Land for Season 6; ABC Gets Game Show from Ryan Reynolds
04/09 - Joel McHale Set for Card Sharks on ABC; Christine Lakin to Guest Star on American Housewife
04/08 - MeTV Presents Rarely Seen Carol Burnett Show Episodes; Sherri Shepherd to Host GSN Trivia Series
04/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of April 8, 2019)
04/06 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Could One Day at a Time Move From Netflix to a Linear Network?; Adam Sandler to Host SNL in May
04/05 - Fri-Yay: You’re the Worst Ends with a Memorable Finale; Family Guy Heads to Freeform and FXX
04/04 - ABC Season Finales for May 2019; Lily Collins Set to Star in Paramount Network Series
04/03 - BET Picks Up 2nd Season of Boomerang; FX Scores with Vampire Comedy Series
04/02 - Netflix Schedules Applegate & Cardellini Comedy; NBC Adds More to Summer 2019 Schedule
04/01 - Better Things Gets 4th Season in 2020; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Returns in May on Fridays
03/31 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of April 1, 2019)
03/30 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Renewals for Law & Order SVU and More; Evening Shade Complete Series DVD Release Coming Soon
03/29 - Fri-Yay: Broad City Goes Out on a High Note; Freeform Summer 2019 Premieres Includes grown-ish
03/28 - NBC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Abby's - Premieres Tonight (March 28); Fox 2019 Finales and Summer 2019 Premieres
03/27 - Tiffany Haddish Says 'They Ready' for Netflix; CBS Summer 2019 Drama Schedule
03/26 - TBS Celebrates Family Guy's 20th Anniversary; Apple TV+ Launching This Fall
03/25 - Hallmark Channel Upfront: New Podcast; ABC Gets 2nd Season of The Conners
03/24 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of March 25, 2019)
03/23 - SitcomsOnline Digest: The Conners Renewed for a Second Season; (Almost) Everything Brady Related Coming to a DVD Box Set
03/22 - Fri-Yay: Original Comedies at Netflix; ABC Announces April Finales, Including TGIF
03/21 - Antenna TV's Gimme a Break! Spring Break Marathon; Netflix Gets Mindy Kaling Comedy Series
03/20 - COZI TV Celebrates April Fools with Pranks; HBO Comedy Gets 4th Season
03/19 - Sabrina Returns April 5 on Netflix; Remembering Character Actor Richard Erdman of Community
03/18 - Antenna TV Coming to Ft. Myers, Makes Minor Spring Change; NBC Brings the Funny This Summer