Judge Daryl Loomis menaces the elderly by screaming, "Hello, Mr. Wilson!," right before pushing them down.
Our reviews of Dennis The Menace: Season One (published March 23rd, 2011), Dennis The Menace: Season Three (published November 6th, 2011), A Dennis The Menace Christmas (published November 23rd, 2007), and Dennis The Menace: The Final Season (published January 15th, 2012) are also available.
Right here is karma attacking me for putting my parents through this show as a kid. In payment, I must review it as an adult, and 38 episodes is more than enough punishment. I struggled for 19 hours through Dennis the Menace: Season 2, but am both sane and alive, so I guess it's time to write about it. For all the classic television masochists out there, this one's for you.
Facts of the Case
Things are starting to change on Elm Street. Dennis Mitchell (Jay North, The Big Operator) is going to school and Alice Mitchell (Gloria Henry, Kill the Umpire) skips town, but Henry Mitchell (Herbert Anderson, Joe Butterfly) still goes to work like a good boy and George Wilson (Joseph Kearnes, Hard, Fast, and Beautiful) still hates everything except his nerve tonic.
A few things are different in the second season of Dennis the Menace. Not a lot, but enough to change the dynamic a little. The biggest thing to note is the absence of Alice Mitchell; she's in the first half and the final few episodes. Gloria Henry got pregnant and, though they cover it up for a while with larger, higher-waisted dresses, they eventually had to ship her off to "take care of a sick uncle." Like so many pregnant teens at the time, this excuse kept busybodies at bay. She appears now and then to talk on the phone to her son while sitting behind a ridiculously high desk, so she isn't completely gone, but her role in the show is taken over by Grandma Mitchell (Kathleen Mulqueen, Japanese War Bride). I guess that's the best they could do, but the female figures for Dennis are two elderly women. It doubles up the role of Martha Wilson that Sylvia Field (Junior Miss) plays just fine. It's redundant and confusing, especially when Henry constantly calls his mother Mrs. Mitchell, like it's some kind of pet name.
Everything else is basically the same as in Season One, except for one sad exception. Good ol' Mr. Wilson's nerve tonic addiction has gone out of control. He swills it constantly and it has begun to affect both his life and those around him. In one episode, "Dennis and the Camera," Mr. Wilson has agreed to take a picture of a flower that only blooms at night. When the bud finally opens, there lies Mr. Wilson, passed out in the chair. Next to him sits a half-drunk bottle of nerve tonic and evidence of the horrors of codeine addiction. Add to that his bizarre fever dreams, one of which features him in a doggie suit being trained by Dennis, and you've got a man on the verge of a breakdown.
Other than that, it's business as usual on Elm Street. Margaret (Jeannie Russell) and Tommy (Billy Booth) have more pronounced roles this season, and there are a couple more regular guests, but the situations and jokes are identical to the first year. The writers begin to hit their stride a little, I guess, with slightly more involved plotline and a weirdly extended dog-humping joke, but the shrill repetition of the show is too much to bear. The saving grace of the entire set is the single episode, "Miss Cathcart's Friend," which is actually funny and features a brilliant extended cameo by Mel Blanc. Otherwise, if you've seen one episode, you've seen them all and, if you're a fan, you know exactly what you'll get. Also, I feel bad for you.
Shout! Factory has done their usual great work on an old television show. Dennis the Menace: Season 2 features all 38 episodes, uncut over five discs, and it's an improvement over the first season. Some of the inconsistencies in the image have been resolved, leaving us with a really sharp looking picture that's nearly defect free. There's a bit of damage to the prints here and there, but it's minimal. The contrast is good and, overall, it's a very solid transfer. The mono sound mix is, unfortunately, a little worse than the previous set. There's a lot of variation in levels, from whisper quiet to ear-blistering, depending on how badly you want to hear what Jay North is saying. The only extra is a credit sequence that shows the full advertisement from Shinola, which is funny to watch, but ultimately unnecessary. The set may be sparse on extras, but at least I don't have to watch another episode of The Donna Reed Show, which I consider a positive.
It's hard for me to believe that there would be a market for Dennis the Menace beyond octogenarians who just realized that DVDs exist. For them, though, this is the best representation available for terrible television from their golden years and, to them and nobody else, I will recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Original Titles
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