Knight at HOME at the Movies
Perry and the Girls
We're deep into For Your Consideration season but between all those screeners a dedicated movie goer needs a breather
-- and needs to watch lots and lots of TV! Here are three of my favorite new TV to DVD releases that have given me a
delightful case of "TVOD."
I pretty well summed up my take on one of TV’s greatest courtroom dramas – “Perry
Mason” – when Paramount Home Video released the first 19 episodes of the 1957
Season One of the show. Now, with the 5-disc release of Perry Mason Season
One Volume 2 I’d like to add to that background on the show by emphasizing the
distinct pleasure that arises when watching these expertly made 52 minute dramas
(presented uncut in their original form – something rarely seen since the episodes
first ran back in the late 50s). “Perry Mason” was a weekly staple in my home when
I was growing up and the expert writing, directing and playing of its creators always
seemed a rather remarkable achievement of solid entertainment. Then, of course,
as I’ve written before, there was that effortless sophistication that was inherent in
the show, a cool intelligence that stemmed from Raymond Burr’s portrayal of the
defense attorney who never lost a case (well once, I think, in nine seasons).
With the current vogue for serial dramas, it’s also nice to watch a show that
absolutely had to wrap things up in the given time slot. Being backed into a corner
forced the writers to come up with some pretty melodramatic reversals but that’s part
of the fun. Though attitudes have changed – and some of the moral superiority of
Perry and his cohorts is a bit dated to say the least – these are still as fresh and
reliable a source of entertainment as they were when first broadcast. I look forward
to future releases.
A sophomore edition of a wildly different show – the first situation comedy to feature
a single girl in the Wicked Big City – is having its sophomore season released on
DVD. This is Shout! Factory’s 4-disc That Girl – Season 2 from 1966. The
seminal sitcom which starred Marlo Thomas was truly groundbreaking – something
the star and producer discusses at length in a supplementary look back
documentary. Thomas recounts how the show immediately became a touchstone for
young women across the country hungry for a character that spoke for them.
Thomas’ fan mail quickly included letters from women needing help in a multitude of
areas and this led the young comedienne to become an ardent feminist who has
used her celebrity to highlight women’s issues.
But though the show certainly was a precursor for many of the single girl sitcoms to
come what has made its appeal so eternal for me is the fact that it’s so fresh and
funny. This is because Thomas herself – decked out in her 60s pop art Cardinali
outfits – is such an unbeatable combination. Ann Marie, her comedic creation, is
part klutz and part heart – and her earnestness is so easy to like. And the expert
supporting cast, headed by straight man Ted Bessel as Ann’s boyfriend Donald, was
smart enough to give Thomas plenty of room to work. Season Two of the show
includes 30 episodes – two of which are among my all time favorites – the first with
guest star Ethel Merman (who of course belts out a song) – and the second a two-
part episode (“It’s a Mod, Mod World”) in which Ann gets the rush by a high fashion
British photographer (who in retrospect seems like he should be lusting after Donald
instead of Ann). There are some other welcome extras – including the unsold pilot
that brought Thomas to the attention of ABC executives and paved the way for “That
Girl.” Overall, a delight.
From "That Girl" to "Those Girls" -- Golden Girls – Season Six to be exact. The
3-disc, 26 episode continuation of the series is out now from Buena Vista Home
Entertainment. I completely missed this hugely popular show during its long run
throughout the 1980s and discovered it on Lifetime repeats and now these
continuing series of excellent DVD releases. The combination of Bea Arthur, Betty
White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty must have been a dream for the writers
and directors – and in the set’s only extra – an insightful chat with White and
McClanahan and several of the show's creators – that’s exactly what we’re told. This
nice featurette – taped during a Museum of Television Broadcasting tribute to the
show – has a lot of nice anecdotes and tidbits. The gay writer, and later creator of
“Desperate Housewives,” Marc Cherry, is part of the panel.
Season Six finds the GG’s involved in their usual list of personal traumas and social
mores (cross dressing and sexual orientation are on the bill here) and the usual
retinue of guest stars are in attendance (Debbie Reynolds, Hal Linden, Alan King).
Unlike other sitcoms, Golden Girls never really had an ebb and flow – it was ALWAYS
in top form – so while the characters grew and changed – it was never in a manner
drastic enough to change the basic premise. Pretty much every season is worth
picking up – and that, naturally, includes Season Six.