What? No, of course Judge Clark Douglas' horse didn't just talk. Clark is a ventriloquist.
Our reviews of The Best Of Mister Ed: Volume One (published March 24th, 2004), The Best Of Mister Ed: Volume Two (published August 3rd, 2005), Mister Ed: The Complete Fourth Season (published December 15th, 2010), Mister Ed: The Complete Fifth Season (published July 27th, 2011), and Mister Ed: The Complete Third Season (published June 21st, 2010) are also available.
"Hey Wilbur…the complete first season of our show is now on DVD!"
No one can talk to a horse, of course.
Facts of the Case
Wilbur Post (Alan Young, The Time Machine) and his wife Carol (Connie Hines, Bonanza) have just moved into their very first house. It's a nice place in a nice neighborhood. There's a lovely yard, a barn in the back, and…why, there's a horse in the barn, too. Initially, Wilbur and Carol consider selling the horse, but then Wilbur makes a remarkable discovery: the horse can speak English! He attempts to convince others of this exciting discovery, but unfortunately the horse (who goes by the name of Mister Ed) won't speak to anyone other than Wilbur. Ed's remarkable gift and his stubborn refusal to share it with anyone else will bring a ceaseless array of both joy and misery to the life of Wilbur Post.
All 26 first season episodes are spread across four discs.
It had been a pretty long time since I had watched an episode of Mister Ed when I received this first-season set. Though I enjoyed some of these episodes during my childhood, I remembered very little about the show other than that it was about a talking horse who was friends with a guy named Wilbur. Looking at Mister Ed again through my oh-so-jaded modern eyes, I certainly noticed a number of problems that completely flew over my head when I was young. Even so, I'm pleased to report that many of these first-season episodes still hold up quite well as light, entertaining, well-crafted comedy.
You wouldn't think that one could do a whole lot with talking horse jokes, and you'd be right. There are a few different gags that are repeated over and over again. For instance, Ed loves listening in on other people's telephone calls, and offers a guilty "Whoops!" every time Wilbur catches him. Wilbur constantly forgets that he isn't supposed to tell anyone that Mister Ed can speak, and has to find a way to back out of such declarations whenever he accidentally makes them. Mister Ed will toss out a sentence or two every now and then around someone else, and Wilbur will attempt to convince that person that he was the one who actually said it. And so on and so forth. Fortunately, these routines are merely conventional spices rather than the meat and potatoes of the program.
The actual plotting can be quite comically inventive at times, usually centering on the hapless Wilbur's attempts to carry out some sort of terribly complicated plan. Most of this material works thanks to actor Alan Young, whose portrayal of the ineffectual Wilbur Post is consistently amusing. Young has the breezy comic grace of someone like Eddie Cantor, and manages to provide an entertaining combination of physical and verbal comedy during his scenes. Connie Hines is also quite good as Wilbur's sweet wife, though her character does suffer from being forced into some stereotypically sexist situations (more on that in a moment). My favorite cast member is Allan Lane as next door neighbor Roger Addison, who tends to look on the semi-preposterous events of the program with a sense of perplexed superiority. Lane is deservingly given much of the best dialogue in the program.
The full frame transfer is quite solid, with exceptional detail and a surprisingly minimal level of scratches and flecks. The folks at Shout have done a nice job of cleaning these episodes up. The mono audio is perfectly adequate, despite a bit of distortion from time to time. Extras are limited to a single audio commentary with Alan Young and Connie Hines in addition to a video interview with the same pair.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Though Mister Ed has avoided dating as badly as many sitcoms of the 1960s, some of the less-than-progressive social values of the era are unfortunately very much intact in this program. The biggest problem is the way the show treats women (particularly Wilbur's wife). For instance, one episode ("Busy Wife") has Carol joining a women's political activism group. That's all good, right? Sure, until you see the derisive manner in which the writers treat the group. In addition to belittling the political efforts of women, the episode suggests that Carol has forgotten her place by stepping out of the kitchen (and by default, her husband). How dare a woman spend her time doing something good for society rather than cooking or cleaning? That's just what Wilbur wants to know, and he unleashes a plan to make sure that Carol gives up such "silly" ideas and resumes her role as his doting slave. In addition, you'll find a handful of racial stereotypes that pop up from time to time (Wilbur answers the phone by saying, "Velly velly solly, nobody home light now.").
The first season of Mister Ed isn't quite my cup of tea, but I have to admit that it does what it does quite effectively. Fans of the show should be happy to have the complete season made available for the first time.
Not guilty, considering that Mister Ed is better than it has any right
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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