Judge Cynthia Boris wrote half this review with a British accent.
They laugh alike. They walk alike. And, at times, they even talk alike.
In the bonus interview on this DVD, Patty Duke says that creator Sydney Sheldon was the first person to diagnose her bipolar disorder. He didn't send her to a doctor. He wrote it into the script. It's no laughing matter, but it is ironically funny that the woman who has become the poster child for surviving mental illness made her mark playing two versions of herself at the same time. This is The Patty Duke Show: Season One on DVD.
Facts of the Case
If you want to know the plot of this 1963 sitcom, all you have to do is listen to the theme. It talks about cousins—identical cousins all the way. One pair of matching bookends, different as night and day. Patty Lane (Patty Duke, The Miracle Worker) is a typical teenager. She loves rock 'n roll, bowling, hanging at the soda shop with her boyfriend Richard (Eddie Applegate), and she's constantly steamrolling right into one mess after another. Cathy Lane is the daughter of a foreign correspondent and has been raised in Europe with art museums, opera, and etiquette. She comes to live in New York with her Aunt Natalie (Jean Byron) and Uncle Martin (Williams Schallert, True Blood) so she can finish high school and not have to keep moving around with her nomad father. Rounding out the cast is Patty's younger brother, Ross (Paul O'Keefe).
There are 36 episodes in season one and here they are:
The Patty Duke Show premiered in a year that was loaded with popular sitcoms such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and My Three Sons. But what made this show so unusual was the fact that every episode required extensive special effects, and that was something you just didn't do on a half hour comedy.
With Patty Duke playing both Patty and her cousin Cathy, it wasn't enough to only show one girl in frame at a time. To make this work, they had to show both girls in frame, actively speaking and relating to each other, and that meant extensive use of a split screen. To top it off, the show's teen star had to memorize two sets of lines and perform dozens of scenes each week first from Patty's POV and then from Cathy's. It was a monumental task and no one has ever done it better.
Patty Duke does an incredible job of building two very different characters, particularly as the season progresses. It's not just the hair and accent that makes Cathy, Cathy. Her posture is different than Patty's. She's stiff and reserved and shy, where Patty is wild and loose and a little unkempt. Honestly, there are times where you forget that it's the same actress. This feeling was so strong, I even felt like someone was missing on the cast interview bonus feature (other than the late Jean Byron, of course, who passed away in 2006).
Even though the plot was based on cousins who look alike, very few of the stories revolved around that premise, and that's a good thing. The old switcheroo is funny the first few times but you can't base 36 episodes on such a hackneyed comic devise. The majority of the storylines revolve around typical teenage humor. Patty and Cathy run against each other for President of the Girls' League, Patty goes babysitting in order to raise money for a prom dress. The girls eat a cake meant for the school bake sale and so they try to bake a replacement before mom finds out. Tame by today's sitcom standards but still very funny.
Where the show takes a turn is in its use of ethical, moral, and socially conscious storylines that usually end in a firm stance by Pop-O (aka Martin Lane). "Patty the Foster Mother" deals with notion of "adopting" a Korean orphan through one of those Save the Children Programs. These programs were hugely popular in the early sixties. I remember my family receiving letters from our "adopted" daughter after we sent a monthly allowance to the program. In the episode, Patty gets very attached to the boy, but what to do when the child actually shows up on her doorstep?
In "Drop-Out," Richard decides to quit school and get a job because he thinks his father's business is in trouble. Now there's a plot you could use on any sitcom today. And in another storyline that fits today's star-struck news world, Patty takes over the school paper but instead of following in her father's footprints, she forgoes journalistic integrity and turns it into a gossip rag.
I guess what I find most appealing about The Patty Duke Show is its normalcy. Despite the look-alike cousin bit, the Lanes are a normal, functional family, something you don't see in today's sitcoms. Natalie and Martin are understanding and patient, but they expect a level of decency and respect from Patty, Cathy, and Ross. I think that the relationship between Patty and her dad is one of the best father/daughter relationships on TV, then or now. Even though Patty is a rebellious, fiercely independent teen, in the end, she always goes back to her father when things fall apart. And no matter how mad he is over the choices she's made, it's clear that he loves her and he'll always be there for her.
On a trivial note, if you're a West Wing fan, you'll get a kick when you see a very young John Spencer (Leo McGarry) playing one of Patty's teenaged friends in several episodes. Also look for cameos by Frankie Avalon (Grease), Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz), and David Doyle (Charlie's Angels), just to name a few of the familiar faces.
As always, Shout! Factory does an excellent job with the packaging. The discs come in three plastic cases that slide into a slip. Each disc/case set is a different color with graphics that fit the early sixties era. Note that the show is black and white so all of the art has been colorized. The episodes are listed on the back of each case and there's a booklet with episode description, photos from the show, and guest star notations.
The video quality is above average. There's some color bleeding in some of the black and white patterns used in the wardrobe but it's not bothersome. Otherwise the prints are free of debris and there are no pops or cracks. The audio is suitable for a sixties comedy.
The only bonus is the featurette "A Look Back at The Patty Duke Show," which features new interviews with all of the surviving cast members; William Schallert, Paul O'Keefe, Eddie Applegate, and Patty Duke. Nicely edited together with clips from the show, the interviews are loaded with trivia and behind the scenes stories, but the best part is that you can hear the fondness in everyone's voice. It's clear that this was a project they all loved worked on and it shows.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Patty Duke Show is very much a product of its time. There's plenty of sixties teen lingo bandied about, mom wears pearls and heels to cook dinner, and a kiss goodnight on the doorstep is as far as any girl is going to go. If you're used to watching modern sitcoms, this one is going to look pretty cliché and slow, but if you're tired of pregnant, alcoholic, and rude teens—you'll enjoy spending time with Patty.
The biggest reason to watch The Patty Duke Show is for Patty Duke herself. This woman's career has lasted over 40 years and in that time she's amassed a huge body of work that includes TV, movies, theater, game shows, and talk shows. She was the youngest person to ever win an Oscar when she took it home for The Miracle Worker and she was nominated for an Emmy for The Patty Duke Show (losing to Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show). Patty Duke is show business royalty, and The Patty Duke Show is a TV classic.
This court finds The Patty Duke Show: Season One to be as innocent as
they come, and that's a refreshing change from the modern sitcom.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
Review content copyright © 2009 Cynthia Boris; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.