Virgil Films // 1960 // 855 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // January 13th, 2010
Donna Stone: Enjoy your day at school, darling!
Jeff Stone: Mom, you have got to be kidding!
It's pretty much official. After viewing over 100 episodes of The Donna Reed Show, I'm a certified fan. There's just something about the Stone family that brightens my day and puts a smile on my face, no matter what mood I'm in. As with the first two seasons, the third exhibits moral lessons amidst light comedy and family warmth, while also dodging syrup and sludge. Spontaneity and unpredictability remain in short supply, but The Donna Reed Show: Season Three has some interesting developments woven into its sitcom aesthetic.
Pediatrician Alex Stone (Carl Betz, Judd, For The Defense) and his wife Donna (Reed, From Here To Eternity) have been married for 15 years. Like all '50s housewives, Donna takes care of the home and children while Alex works out of the house and also pulls double duty at the local hospital. Daughter Mary (Shelley Fabares, Coach) spends her time with boys, listening to rock n roll and preparing for school dances. And son Jeff (Paul Peterson, Houseboat) loves to embarrass her sister and leave a mess everywhere he goes.
Virgil Films presents all 38 episodes of the third season. Obviously, going through each one would take forever, so I shall do a standardized list of standouts:
* "How the Other Side Lives"
Mary makes friends with Jenny, a rich girl who attends a private school. Ashamed of her middle-class existence, Mary attempts to give a house a makeover before Jenny comes over for dinner.
* "Donna Goes To Reunion"
Just as the title suggests, Donna goes to a weekend class reunion and drags Alex along. Upon arriving, they are given lodging in the girls' dorm and Donna must put on a cheerleader outfit for the first time since high school.
* "Music Hath Charms"
Mary begs her parents to keep the family piano, which has been gathering dust for years. Promising to practice every day, she begins to audibly aggravate the other members of the household.
* "The Stones Go To Hollywood"
The Stones become discouraged when their weekend trip to Tinseltown gets ruined by heavy rains. Still, they manage to meet director George Sidney and Lassie.
* "The Geisha Girl"
One of Alex's new colleagues is married to an Asian woman who waits on him hand and foot. Some of the other pediatrician wives, excluding Donna, are taken aback at this unusual union. That's Miyoshi Umeki, of Sayonara and Flower Drum Song fame, in the title role.
* "Tony Martin Visits"
Singer Martin is travelling through Hilldale when he gets a speeding ticket. He ends up in the courtroom where he bumps into Donna, who claims he sang a couple of songs at her friend's wedding.
* "The Merry Month of April"
After he gives Jeff a lecture on last-second work, Alex realizes he has less than 24 hours to get his taxes done.
* "Jeff, The Treasurer"
Jeff has been elected as school treasurer, and now must watch over a ball of cash to be used for a field trip. When he loses the roll, he now must endure the consequences of playing around with it so much.
* "Military School"
Mary falls head over heels in love with Herbie's older brother, a military cadet. Herbie gets overly jealous (again), and proceeds to get another date for the next dance.
* "Mary's Driving Lesson"
Mary's friend offers to give her driving lessons, but she keeps on screwing up to the point of ignoring lights and getting into accidents.
The most significant difference in Season Three involves the children. Mary is involved in a lot of storylines this time around, dating at least six different guys. Naturally, most of these guys are complete jerks, hounding Mary via phone while also pursuing her at the same time. She also remains devoted to music, whether it's playing on the piano or listening to albums by Ding Dong Danny. As for Jeff, he seems absent more often than not, usually coming in to be smart-aleck for a minute and then disappearing within the blink of an eye. He appears to have achieved puberty, but of course it's never really acknowledged, not even subtly; what's weird is that he would be interested in a girl one episode and then ignore them the next.
Donna is still the dream Mom, putting up with the kids' antics and her workaholic husband. Refreshingly, she doesn't act as the Voice of Reason, but just as a loving mother who only wants the best for her children. Reed is ingratiating and lovely as ever, but it's a little disappointing that she refrains from physical comedy this season. Carl Betz nails it once again as the ideal husband who wants to maintain some kind of order in the household. Aside from Donna Reed, Betz did very little acting, but he still remains a talent, with his priceless facial reactions and exceptionally kind nature.
As for Season 3's treatment on DVD, it is apparent Virgil Films is again drawing from a multitude of sources. The majority of the episodes are re-releases which were syndicated by Screen Gems, although some have the Columbia Pictures Television moniker from the '80s when the show played on Nick At Nite. Only a handful of episodes appear to be originals, complete with sponsor Campbell Soups doing their thing at the end. This cherry-picking is no doubt going to upset fans, although it's possible Virgil could be including the best-looking prints available.
Regardless of the source, all of episodes sport moderate grain and scratches. Few episodes come off as excellent, notably the originals. Most of the tinting issues from Season 2 have been corrected, while the mono tracks have been cleaned up considerably. English subtitles are provided. Extras begin with a 27-minute Q&A with Peterson and Reed's daughter, Mary Owen, which was taped at a Barnes & Noble in NYC. While clip-heavy, this is a modestly entertaining piece, with Peterson doing the lion's share of talking. He even gets to perform his one-time hit "My Dad," in honor of Carl Betz. Also included are an original fan letter written by a WW2 soldier to Reed, and a It's A Wonderful Life photo gallery.
Virgil's treatment is a mixed bag, but they are cleared of all charges, while
the show is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2010 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Virgil Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 855 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Photo Gallery
* Fan Letter