Judge Cynthia Boris would still like to write team reviews with "Dean."
The Best of the World's Reigning King of Comedy
The "King of Comedy" on the big screen tries his hand at a regular TV series.
Facts of the Case
Jerry Lewis' first claim to fame was as the comedy half of an act with Dean Martin but it wasn't long before Lewis began to outshine his partner on the big screen and the two split—a wise move for both of them. Dean Martin went on to become a wildly successful singer while Jerry Lewis parlayed his slapstick skills into box office bucks.
In the early sixties, Lewis tripped, bumped and bumbled his way through a half dozen hit movies including The Patsy, The Errand Boy, and The Nutty Professor. Shortly after, ABC gave the actor a variety show on Saturday nights, but it only lasted 13 weeks. In 1967, Lewis moved to NBC and gave it another shot. This show ran from 67-69, but I couldn't find a clear indicator of how many episodes were actually made.
According to the box notes on the DVD, The Jerry Lewis Show has not been seen in the US since the original broadcast, making it very rare indeed. But does rare mean good?
There's no doubt that Jerry Lewis is a comic genius whose works has influenced generations of comedians and filmmakers that came after him. Slapstick was his trademark, as was playing the loveable idiot or scatterbrained professor. On The Jerry Lewis Show he plays nerdy Sidney, clueless Professor Frobisher, bumbling Inspector Lichee, and a whole range of inept workers, from a hospital orderly who can't handle a stiff on a stretcher to an exuberant autograph hound who gets mutely muddled at a Hollywood premiere.
Guest starring along side of Lewis is a wide range of popular actors from the era and a solid crew of supporting character actors. Shirley Jones plays a Chinese detective's wife who is desperate for a little attention. Janet Leigh plays an archeologist who makes an interesting "discovery," the Osmond Brothers appear as part of Lewis' scout troop and Don Rickles…well, he just causes havoc where ever he goes.
Other guests include Flip Wilson, Joey Heatherton, Lynn Redgrave, Barbara Feldon, Richard Kiley, and Frank Gorshin.
It's the guests that really make this DVD watchable. Seeing many of them performing outside their comfort zone is fun, and watch them try to resist laughing when Lewis begins ad libbing throughout the sketch. Poor Ben Gazzara really has his hands full in a routine that has Jerry Lewis pretending to be a limp ventriloquist dummy in order to impress a talent agent. You can tell there's a lot of ad libbing going on in that sketch, and it's one of the funniest ones on the set.
You'd think with all talent on the screen, this DVD would be a winner. Sadly, it isn't.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When the creative people behind The Jerry Lewis Show put together an episode, they undoubtedly stocked it with a variety of short sketches and long sketches with musical numbers. Unfortunately, that's not what you'll see here. At first look it seems like they simply removed the musical numbers, probably due to the cost and complications of getting clearance. But as you watch these shortened episodes, you realize that some of the sketches have been cut and edited together in a very sloppy manner. It really makes no sense, unless these episodes have been remastered from already cut syndicated versions of the series.
Because of this, the shows lack a sense of rhythm, and that's such a big part of comedy. Even the complete sketches don't always flow because of the lack of proper lead ins.
To make matters worse, Infinity has included the most annoying menu screen I've ever experienced. It's a short loop of Jerry's irritating, manic laugh and you're stuck listening to it at least two times every time you access the main menu. Heaven forbid you have to scroll through the menu to get to a later episode title because the sound of that laugh will drive you mad before you get there.
Still, even without the annoying cuts and the grating laugh, there's something not so funny about The Jerry Lewis Show. I'd say it's that we've become to sophisticated for this type of humor, but the popularity of Adam Sandler movies proves that's not the case. Maybe it's just that this kind of broad humor doesn't work all that well on the small screen. I see the same problem on current episodes of Saturday Night Live, sketches that go on forever seemingly without a punch line.
As for the DVD itself, it's satisfactory for what it is. The soundtrack is mono. The video is quite clear given the source material. The box uses a classic portrait of Jerry Lewis and inside you'll find a pack of collectible trading cards. (That's what you'll hear rattling around in the box when you buy it, so don't worry, your discs are safe.)
On one hand, it's great to see classic material like this preserved for future generations. Jerry Lewis is one of a kind and there's nothing like watching him and Don Rickles try to out-ad lib each other. It's a shame they couldn't have found a way to package the episodes as they were originally aired.
The court will render a verdict as soon as the defense council frees his hand
from his briefcase and gets untangled from his own necktie.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Infinity Entertainment
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