Case Number 23113: Small Claims Court


TV Time Machine // 1962 // 600 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // January 12th, 2012

The Charge

Get ready to hammer out the laughs!

Facts of the Case

That's Harry Dickens (John Astin, The Addams Family) and Arch Fenster, (Marty Ingels, Pac-Man) day-laborers at the McKendrick Construction company and full-time best friends. Harry's wife Kate (Emmaline Henry, I Dream Of Jeannie) is as pretty and sweet as a spring bouquet, while bachelor Arch dabbles in the spice of life, squiring a variety of young beauties, including former Miss America Lee Meriwether (The Time Tunnel), future "Batgirl" Yvonne Craig, and a lovely young woman called Ellen McRae who'd go onto become an Oscar-winning actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore) after changing her last name to Burstyn.

Arch and Harry split their time fairly evenly between (Harry's) home and work, where they're comically (if not ably) abetted by manager Myron Bannister (Frank DeVol, the prolific composer and conductor, responsible for many of the movie and TV themes you can't get out of your head), and fellow hard-hats Mel Warshaw (Dave Ketchum, Camp Runamuck) and Bob Mulligan (Henry Beckman, Here Come The Brides).

Despite critical acclaim, I'm Dickens...He's Fenster lasted one lonely season on ABC. But after half a century in mothballs, the good people at TV Time Machine have sought to answer the prayers of a dedicated (if not extremely patient) cult following, by resurrecting this long gone but never forgotten half-season at a time.

I'm Dickens...He's Fenster: Volume One features sixteen episodes on two discs.

Disc One
* "A Small Matter Of Being Fired" -- Harry gets his dream promotion to crew foreman, but his first official duty is to fire his best friend Arch.

* "Nurse Dickens" -- 'Trust is a 24 hour job,' says Harry Dickens. Then his beautiful wife Kate goes back to work as a nurse in a hospital full of handsome bachelor doctors. Guest star: Peter Lupus (Mission: Impossible).

* "The Double Life Of Mel Warshaw" -- His co-workers notice that Mel bears an uncanny resemblance to a notorious bank robber, apparently still on the loose.

* "Harry, The Father Image" -- Arch's engagement hinges on the approval of Harry, who suddenly gets very paternal about his best friend's future.

* "Part-Time Friend" -- Arch talks in his sleep, and says the most hateful things about Harry!

* "The Acting Game" -- The opportunity to audition for a television commercial puts stars in Arch's eyes, but gives Harry an extreme case of stage fright. Guest star: Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles).

* "The Toupee Story" -- Does he or doesn't he? Dickens and Fenster practice the fine art of hair (piece) spotting. This one's a real showcase for egg-headed Frank Devol.

* "A Wolf In Friend's Clothing" -- Harry has always admired Arch's ability to pick up any pretty single girl he meets. That is, until Harry's young single niece comes to visit.

Disc Two
* "Party, Party, Who's Got The Party?" -- Harry convinces Arch to throw a party, only to get himself kicked off the guest list.

* "The Yellow Badge Of Courage" -- Arch gets fired for goofing off, taking the fall for Harry, Mel, and Mulligan, who feel awful guilty...just not guilty enough to share the blame.

* "The Joke" -- Some think it's funny, some don't, and that leads to the kind of war that threatens to not only ruin friendships, but construction projects as well. Special Guest: Edy Williams, (Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls) the former Mrs. Russ Meyer.

* "Love Me, Love My Dog" -- Harry buys Arch a dog for companionship and then suffers from no longer being man's best friend.

* "Here's To The Three Of Us" -- The Dickens plan a married couples only party, but Harry can't bring himself to tell Arch.

* "Get Off My Back" -- Harry fakes a back injury, to get some time away from Arch who's becoming a clingy pain in the neck.

* "How Not To Succeed In Business" -- Arch and Harry decide to go into business together, but nobody seems to want to do business with them.

* "The Godfathers" -- Mel's wife is at the hospital having the eleventh Warshaw child; guess who's home tending to the rest of the brood?

What is it about inept carpenters? From cinematic pioneers Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges, to iconic television characters including Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington, One Day At A Time) and Tim "the Tool man" Taylor (Tim Allen, Home Improvement), fumbling fix-it men have proven themselves comedy mainstays, but why? Sure, there's the visceral slapstick of seeing some clown take a biff to the noggin from a healthy chunk of lumber. And who can resist giggling as the bruised bozo stumbles around while his eyes roll in concentric circles and a halo of cartoon birdies swirl around his swelling forehead? That's a given. But let's take the concept of the woefully unqualified builder to its logical conclusion: He puts up your house and it falls down upon you, resulting in your death -- or at the very least, your extreme disadvantage. A laugh riot, right?

Neither Dickens nor Fenster are responsible for any fatalities, but their comic adventures are liable to leave you in stitches. Created by two-time Emmy winning writer-producer Leonard Stern (Get Smart), this short-lived side-splitter benefited from a cast and crew steeped in classic sitcomic credentials: Your Show Of Shows, Leave It To Beaver, Green Acres, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Odd Couple, and All In The Family, just to skim the surface of the surface. And while the world's social structure has changed dramatically since I'm Dickens...He's Fenster debuted (e.g. the women on this show are presented as little more than eye candy), it's comforting to know that some things never change: Funny is funny, even fifty years on.

Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, there are bits of dust and debris floating through these episodes, but remarkably only in trace amounts; evidence of a meticulous transfer process. The 2.0 Dolby mono track is sparkling clear, which is a good thing considering no subtitles are available.

You want bonus features? They've been laid on with a trowel, as the set includes an entire disc devoted to original network promos, sponsor bumpers, retrospective tributes, and several episodes with audio commentaries from key players. There's an argument to made for overkill (especially since the pilot episode is repeated three times, each with a different commentator!), but who really wants to complain about getting too much for their money these days?

Anyone who can't derive even a modicum pleasure from this rib-tickling collection is hereby advised to seek medical help...or at least to get a second opinion from another inept carpenter.

The Verdict

Guilty? I'd say...Not.

Review content copyright © 2012 P.S. Colbert; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile
Studio: TV Time Machine
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

* None

Running Time: 600 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Episode Commentaries
* Featurettes
* Vintage Promos

* IMDb

* Official Site