Judge Bill Treadway gnawed a stinky old stogy while penning this appreciative review.
They made as loving a couple off screen as they did on.
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show is one of the funniest and best shows of its kind. Few realize the influence this show has had on television since the last show. Let's take That '70s Show for starters. What is Kitty Forman but an updated version of Gracie Allen? What about the popular cantankerous next-door neighbor? You can find the genesis here in the form of Harry Morton, played by five actors over the show's run. (The fifth Harry Morton was Larry Keating, best known as Roger Addison on Mister Ed. Also of note is that Morton's wife Blanche was played by Bea Benederet, best known as the first Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.) How did the team start? In 1922, the comedy team of George Burns and Harry Lorraine was in tatters. Allowed to pick out a partner from the team, Gracie decided to form a team with George. Initially, Gracie was the straight "man" and George the comic relief. Shortly after, George decided to switch roles and the result was comedy magic. It was around this time that George fell in love with Gracie. After years of resistance, Gracie married George, and they remained together until her untimely death in 1964. Few know that it was her heart problems that led to the show's premature end in 1958.
Eight of the best episodes from the 1950-58 CBS television show are featured on four discs. The accompanying documentary appears on the set's fifth disc. Rated on a scale of zero to five stars, here are the episodes:
•"Gracie's Tax Return"
•"Gracie's Checking Account"
•"Gracie's Wedding Plans"
•"Beverly Hills Society"
Hollywood Couples: George Burns and Gracie Allen
This box set was released by Passport Video, a public-domain outfit. Only in rare instances are public-domain prints renowned for top quality, and, as expected, the transfer isn't very good. Most of the problems arise from the fact that these are public-domain dupes. Some of the episodes look fairly good considering their age. Others look terrible. Grain actually isn't a problem here. The main culprit is ghosting, the annoying process of the image eerily multiplying in front of your eyes. Scratches and specks galore appear, along with those annoying black vertical lines that indicate a messy splice or tear in the print.
Audio is much better. I was surprised at how good this set sounded. Dialogue always comes through loud and clear, which is extremely important given that the humor is of the verbal variety. Music also comes through clean and loud, although there is some slight muffling, which is most likely due to the condition of the elements used for this transfer.
Despite the shaky transfer and lack of extras, I am still recommending The Burns and Allen Collection. Columbia remains hesitant to give us an official release, and TV Land no longer airs the program on Sunday mornings. For the time being, how else are we going to get a Burns and Allen fix? The sheer brilliance of the duo and the timelessness of the comedy make it easy to recommend a purchase. $29.99 for five discs is a good deal in the end, and that's really all that matters. At least until an official set comes to light, that is!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Passport Video
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