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Case Number 16533: Small Claims Court

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TV Sets: Forever Funny

Paramount // 1951 // 173 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 4th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan is forever unimpressed by this release.

The Charge

Laugh out loud at the premiere episodes of 7 immortal sitcoms!

The Case

TV Sets: Forever Funny is a collection of pilot episodes from seven sitcoms over several decades:

• I Love Lucy
• The Odd Couple
• The Honeymooners
• Taxi
• The Brady Bunch
• Frasier
• Cheers

This is an odd little release, so I'll break it down, starting with the good:

• The shows. These shows don't really need any introduction from me, as over the years each has garnered a devoted following. They might not all be to my taste (I've never been a fan of The Brady Bunch for instance), but there's no denying they're considered classics by most TV fans. Another interesting thing about the show is seeing older sitcoms like I Love Lucy alongside more modern fare like Cheers, especially since I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners pioneered many of the gags that keep getting updated in later shows like Frasier.

• The episodes. Kudos to Paramount for releasing the premiere episodes instead of "fan favorites" or some equally cheesy collection more easily superseded by full-season releases. Starting at the beginning is generally best for TV shows, so that's a plus of this release.

• The presentation. I was frankly amazed by how good even the older shows look. Only The Honeymooners shows significant source damage, and even then it only adds a nostalgic charm to the presentation. It's also interesting comparing the different "looks" of these shows as color palettes and wardrobes changed from the '50s to the '90s, and each of these shows has a distinct look that makes it easy to identify, from the darkened oak of Cheers to the sunny pastels of The Brady Bunch.

• The price. This set has an MSRP in the mid-teens, and can be found on the street for less than a sawbuck if you're willing to look. That's not bad for almost three hours of classic TV comedy seems like a bargain.

Now, for the bad:

• Lack of extras. This is just the episodes, so any opportunity to provide context is completely lost, which is a shame. I'd have at least liked little text intros that set the stage for each show, maybe gave some indication of their relationships, things like that.

• The diversity. Obviously all of these shows have achieved classic status, but they're unlikely to appeal to all tastes. I've known few people who enjoyed both The Brady Bunch and Cheers, or are fans of Andy Kaufman and Kelsey Grammer. I guess this could also be a strength, but a more focused set might be more appreciated by future fans.

• The point. Along with the previous concern, this set really makes me wonder what its purpose is. All of these shows have been in syndication for years, so it's not like this is the only place to get an introduction to these shows. Heck, I bet YouTube provides a good try before you buy option for these shows. Furthermore, with the exception of The Honeymooners, the first season of each of these series is available in a complete DVD edition. With the rise in online film rental (and the relatively low price of classic television on DVD), it's just not that hard to get a taste of just the first disc of each show (or dip into the whole season for around twenty dollars). That makes this release seem like a waste of time and energy.

Despite this, I foresee two possible uses for this collection:

• Stocking stuffers for the classic television fan. For the timid collector, this set could prove to be a useful opportunity to see if these famous shows live up to any nostalgic memories, and, if so, they provide a fine platform for further purchase because very little would be duplicated if full seasons were purchased in the future (in contrast to those noxious "best of" DVDs that sometimes get put out on the cheap).

• Introductions for younger generations. Not all of these shows are in constant syndication, so this set provides an opportunity for grandparents (or great-grandparents in some cases) to introduce young ones to the shows of their youth. From there the younger viewer could decide which shows tickled his or her fancy and warranted following up with the fuller releases.

Ultimately, I guess there's nothing wrong with this set: the presentation is pretty good, the price is right, and the shows are certainly worthy of release. However, the fact that all these episodes are available elsewhere in more appropriate settings makes this set hard to recommend.

The Verdict

Not guilty, but puzzling to the court.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 173 Minutes
Release Year: 1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Classic
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None








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