We told Judge Cynthia Boris to evaluate this '60s series based on objective criteria like acting and video quality. She called us squares, grabbed a woody, and paddled out looking for the Big Kahuna.
"If you're in doubt about angels, being real…I can arrange to change any doubts you feel. Wait'll you see my Gidget, you'll want her for your valentine…You're gonna say, she's all that you adore, but stay away, Gidget is spoken for, you're gonna find, that Gidget is mine!"
Surf, sand, and teenage angst—you might be watching The O.C.. No sex, no violence, no alcohol…nope, you're watching Gidget, the 1960s version of teen television. Gidget was based on the popular movies of the same name and it made a star out of its young lead, Sally Field. It is innocent, sweet, groovy, and fun. It's a thirty-minute beach party movie and a close-up look at the trials and tribulations of being a teen. So slip into your baggies and break out your board, we're about to hang ten with Gidget: The Complete Series!
Facts of the Case
Teenager Frances Lawrence (Sally Field, Steel Magnolias) is known to her family and friends as Gidget. (Girl / midget = Gidget.) She's an ever-moving roller coaster careening from this to that, committing to every idea with all the passion she can muster and causing a little havoc with her best-intention ways. Like many TV shows of the time, Gidget is without a mother, but lives a nice suburb California life with her father, Professor Russell Lawrence (Don Porter, Dallas). Her sister Anne (Betty Conner) lives a few blocks away with her psychology student husband, John (Pete Duel, Alias Smith and Jones) and her best friend is a gawky, geeky girl named Larue (Lynette Winter).
Except for the surfing, Gidget is pretty much your average teen (a 1960s version of Clueless's Cher). Her day-to-day problems include a long distance relationship with a boyfriend gone to college, spearheading the protest to reduce movie ticket prices, and finding a way to get rid of the voodoo curse that has turned her into a walking disaster area. Okay, so not everything about her is average! She pines for the Big Kahuna, hopes for a hearse as her first car, and pre-writes her diary with what she wishes would happen instead of waiting for what does.
On this DVD set you get:
Gidget started out being a story about a girl and her relationship with her surfer boyfriend Moondoggie. As the premise evolved from movies to TV, the focus shifted from boyfriend to daddy—and this is what really makes it work. Don Porter is natural and warm as Gidget's ever-loving, long suffering father. They have a wonderful relationship which apparently worked as well off screen as on. This familial connection gives the series plenty of poignant moments—along with comedic ones—and it's a great ride for Sally Field. This was Sally's very first series, so her experience as an actress was limited when she got the role. Maybe this is why she comes across so charming and real. There's no fear here. Sally just opens up and gives, making faces at the camera, throwing herself physically into her scenes, and just generally doing what comes naturally.
While the plots are interchangeable with any teen comedy series, Gidget has benefit of the '60s lingo and lifestyle to set it apart. People are "so square they're cubes," "tootles" is an acceptable goodbye, and life really is a beach. Add to that a never-ending parade of fun clothing (including sensible swimsuits), and groovy hairstyles—it's better than flipping through your old yearbook!
The packaging on this set is as fun as the show. It just screams "sixties!" Lots of orange, pink and lime green spread over a slipcase and two slim snapcases. It makes nice use of cast photos and a perky bubble motif which is carried through to a very plain, but easy to use, navigation screen.
The box set touts two extras. One is the original pilot episode of the series; nice for completists, but nothing to get too excited about. You can get excited about the second extra, a current-day interview with Sally Field. Sally talks about how she got the series and gives a genuinely fond accounting of her days working the show. There's a rare look at Sally's screen test, still shots, and there's even a killer moment when Sally talks about co-star Pete Duel. "Bless him and goddamn him," she says expressing what so many of us have thought since Duel took his own life at the height of his career. Duel was only 31 and the star of the hit TV series Alias Smith and Jones when he committed suicide on New Year's Eve in 1971. I am a huge fan of Duel's (though admittedly, Gidget is not his best work) and to see Sally barely able to talk about him…well, it was touching, and I'm glad they included it on this DVD.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Hey, when that big wave comes in, nothing else matters. So a couple of episodes have a band of color marring the print here and there. It's not like wiping out on a forty-foot wave. Cowabunga, dude, you can't complain about Gidget.
For anyone who's ever been California Dreaming, Gidget is the show for you. It's the visual representation of "life's a beach," happy and innocent and carefree. If only real life could be like Gidget, we'd all have great tans, no worries and smiles that never quit.
This court finds Gidget: The Complete Series completely and enjoyably innocent.
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Scales of Justice
• A Look Back at Gidget Featurette
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