Judge P.S. Colbert got beat up a lot as a child, while his pet rock did absolutely nothing to help!
Our review of Gentle Ben: Season One, published October 17th, 2013, is also available.
"I've tried to be reasonable, but if you go back over there to that gator hole and try and clean them out, I'm gonna give you a ticket for molesting the wildlife."—Tom Wedloe (Dennis Weaver, Duel), Florida game warden.
It's another go 'round the 'glades for Tom, his beautiful wife Ellen (Beth Brickell, Death Game), and their son Mark (Clint Howard, Ping!), the little buck-toothed boy with a very very big best friend.
Gentle Ben: Season Two comes chock-full of moments guaranteed to tickle the ribs, warm the heart and occasionally chill the blood. Imagine: You're fishing off a quaint little pier when you notice that you've caught the eye of a predatory grizzly. Sure, you can jump in the lake and swim away, which is exactly what that watchful alligator is hoping for!
Another thing these twenty eight half-hour episodes are sure to do is inspire a strong sense of deja vu for those who happened to catch season one.
Remember when Clint's big brother Ronny (The Andy Griffith Show) did a guest shot, playing against type as a mud-caked, motherless boy who took out his aggressions on Mark? Well, in this season's "The Bully," guess who's back, playing the title character—another mud-caked, motherless boy with an anger management problem? To be fair, last season his name was "Jody," and this season, he's "Jerry."
Hey! how about that great season one episode featuring Bob Gibson, pitcher for the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals? Turns out that Bob was a heckuva guy who never let his superstar abilities go to his head, and he was able to impart some humbling wisdom to star little league pitcher Mark Wedloe, whose own head was growing faster than the wind coming off his brush-back speedball.
This set has one of Tom's old buddies dropping by to check out the pee-wee football team, which features Mark as its star quarterback—in his own mind, at least. During a break in the action, Tom introduces the two.
Tom: "Mark, I want you to meet somebody. I'd like you to say hello to
Mr. Starr. This is Bart Starr."
None other, son! Turns out that this MVP quarterback (who just happened to lead his team to five NFL Championship victories, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls) is another heckuva guy—nothing if not down to earth—and more than willing to teach Mark the greatest gridiron lesson of all: teamwork.
Lovable, irascible swamp neighbor Henry "Boom" Boomhauer (wonderfully played by Clint's father, Rance Howard, Dean Teaster's Ghost Town) is back, on a much more regular basis than last season, along with such other returning favorites as Mother nature's revenge (wind and rain storms, flooding), bumbling crooks, greedy land developers (shout out to special guest star Rory Calhoun, Motel Hell), and poachers, poachers, poachers—one of whom puts an arrow into Tom!
Don't get me wrong—for all its over-familiarity, I loved reviewing Gentle Ben: Season Two just as much as I loved revisiting the first season, released last fall. Admittedly, I've got a problem: I'm a completist of such kitsch that I wouldn't be able to live without the entire series on my shelf, but if you're especially averse to redundancy, or perhaps just a reasonable shopper, wanting a recommendation about which one to take home, I'd suggest flipping a coin.
Unfortunately, the tech side of this release also mirrors season one's, so here's a redux: The transfers here are not always the best (though they may very well be the best available), with some segments showing a surfeit of grain, resulting in some fairly blurred imagery. None of the damage I saw was enough to render events incomprehensible, or take away my enjoyment of the story at hand. I also took in several episodes that looked just fine, so just be prepared for a bit of optic pot luck here. The mono sound ranges from fine to serviceable, and Paramount has helpfully provided English SDH captioning, which never hurts.
A bit more painful: This set does not include those wonderful Clint/Rance Howard commentaries that graced several first season episodes; in fact, there are no extras at all.
Still, Gentle Ben retains its original magic, and gains something in hindsight—a unique ability to transform audiences to a simpler, safer time, where a child could wander freely, secure in the knowledge that immunity from bullies and other societal pressures was just one pet 650-pound black bear on a chain-link leash away…
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