So you want to read a review by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart?
"Ladies and gentlemen, meet Joe McDoakes. Hey, Joe, c'mon out, you got company!"
So you think The Three Stooges were the only comedy stars in short subjects? Warner Bros. has dipped into its archives to introduce Joe McDoakes. The character first appeared in 1942, but most of his shorts were churned out in the decade after World War II. George O'Hanlon plays the hapless hero. Chances are you'll recognize his voice, but not his face, since O'Hanlon is best known today as the voice behind hapless cartoon hero George Jetson.
In the first Joe McDoakes shorts, you won't hear much of O'Hanlon; an omniscient narrator—usually Art Gilmore—is heard throughout. The narration gradually disappears, leaving Joe to face his wife Alice and dubious friends Homer and Marvin without the narrator's advice.
His wife may look familiar, too; Phyllis Coates, who played Superman's Lois Lane on 1950s TV, was one of three actresses to play the role. If you're looking for other familiar faces, you might spot Joi Lansing, who appears as marital trouble for Joe in several of the shorts. You'll also recognize the voice of Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) as he makes a few appearances. Director Richard L. Bare went on to direct lots of television episodes, including "To Serve Man" on The Twilight Zone.
Facts of the Case
The Joe McDoakes Collection includes all sixty-three shorts, written and directed by Richard Bare:
• "So You Think You Need Glasses"
• "So You Think You're Allergic"
• "So You Want to Play the Horses"
• "So You Want to Keep Your Hair"
• "So You Think You're a Nervous Wreck"
• "So You're Going to Be a Father"
• "So You Want to Be in Pictures"
• "So You're Going on Vacation"
• "So You Want to Be a Salesman"
• "So You Want to Hold Your Wife"
• "So You Want to Be a Gambler"
• "So You Want to Build a House"
• "So You Want to Be a Detective"
• "So You Want to Be in Politics"
• "So You Want to Be on the Radio"
• "So You Want to Be a Babysitter"
• "So You Want to Be Popular"
• "So You Want to Be a Muscleman"
• "So You're Having In-Law Trouble"
• "So You Want to Get Rich Quick"
• "So You Want to Throw a Party"
• "So You Think You're Not Guilty"
• "So You Want to Hold Your Husband"
• "So You Want to Move"
• "So You Want a Raise"
• "So You're Going to Have an Operation"
• "So You Want to Be a Handyman"
• "So You Want to Be a Cowboy"
• "So You Want to Be a Paper Hanger"
• "So You Want to Buy a Used Car"
• "So You Want to Be a Plumber"
• "So You Want to Get it Wholesale"
• "So You Want to Enjoy Life"
• "So You Want to Go to a Convention"
• "So You Never Tell a Lie"
• "So You're Going to the Dentist"
• "So You Want to Wear the Pants"
• "So You Want to Be a Musician"
• "So You Want to Learn to Dance"
• "So You Love Your Dog"
• "So You Think You Can't Sleep"
• "So You Want to Be an Heir"
• "So You're Having Neighbor Trouble"
• "So You Want to Be Your Own Boss"
• "So You Want to Go to a Night Club"
• "So You Want to Be a Banker"
• "So You're Taking in a Boarder"
• "So You Want to Know Your Relatives"
• "So You Don't Trust Your Wife"
• "So You Want to Be a Jury"
• "So You Want a Model Railroad"
• "So You Want to Be a V.P."
• "So You Want to Be a Policeman"
• "So You Think the Grass is Greener"
• "So You Want to Be Pretty"
• "So You Want to Play the Piano"
• "So Your Wife Wants to Work"
So you think you've got a handle on Joe McDoakes? Let's see what you might have picked up from these titles and descriptions:
There's a certain Mad quality to Joe's postwar life, as everything from the move to suburbia to popular radio shows and movies gets sent up. That mockery gets a little less pronounced as the series goes on, but it's always present in the patter of the fast-talking salesmen or the dubious expert advice Joe gets from friends and professionals alike.
Joe is slow at times, but he's always trying to improve himself or learn something new, either to get ahead or save a few bucks. Correspondence courses and self-help books pop up throughout the series. Even when he's relaxing, Joe's reading up on how to play the ukulele. The usual course of things finds Joe acting timidly until the fast-talkers around him have given him enough, at which point he loses his temper, and things get even worse. He's a cheapskate who thinks he can do better than the professionals, especially when they condescend and pile on outrageous charges.
The people in Joe's world are stock types: the demanding wife, the slickly charming friend, the bumbling handyman, the fast-talking salesman, the nasty boss.
George O'Hanlon makes a great Joe, with pantomime, slapstick, sight gags, verbal sparring, and mimicry all a part of his repertoire. He's silly and sympathetic at the same time.
The gags here will produce a lot of smiles, and a few laugh-out-loud moments. As the shorts shift away from the satirical, the jokes are more clichéd, though. My personal favorites were "So You Want to Be a Detective" and "So You Want to Be a Paper Hanger," both of which poke fun at film noir, but others could tickle your fancy, especially if you're into retro culture or vintage Mad.
So you want to play these DVDs? "This disc is expected to play back in DVD video 'play only' devices, and may not play back in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives," the message on the back reads. I noticed that message after finding out that these discs won't play in my DVD player/recorder, so I wouldn't recommend this set if you have anything other than a "play only" device. Otherwise, the picture is decent, with the usual flecks and lines. Since this is a Warner Archive release of a relative rarity, it's obviously not a tricked-out presentation.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
So you want a Joe McDoakes marathon? While many of Joe's escapades are funny, there's a sameness to them after a while, as the same character actors and setups keep popping up. As a reviewer, I watched ten or so a night for six nights, but these would best be watched over a longer time frame. It might also have been better for Warners to come up with a best-of collection of maybe ten for $9.99 as a way of introducing viewers to the character.
So you think you'll like this set? Could be. It's got some good laughs, although it descends into sameness after a while. Its take on postwar America could appeal to the nostalgic and retro hipster alike (even without Joi Lansing).
So you think Joe McDoakes isn't guilty? You're right.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review content copyright © 2009 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.