You'd be amazed what Judge Christopher Kulik can whip up with his easy-bake oven.
Donna Stone: Enjoy your day at school, darling!
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"
• "Donna Goes To Reunion"
• "Music Hath Charms"
• "The Stones Go To Hollywood"
• "The Geisha Girl"
• "Tony Martin Visits"
• "The Merry Month of April"
• "Jeff, The Treasurer"
• "Military School"
• "Mary's Driving Lesson"
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.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Virgil Films
Review content copyright © 2010 Christopher Kulik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.