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HTF DVD Review: Car 54 Where Are You? The Complete First Season

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#1 of 60 Timothy E

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Posted April 11 2011 - 01:39 PM

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CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? The Complete First Season Set


Studio: Shanachie Entertainment

Year: 1961-1962

Rated: Unrated

Film Length: 13 hours, 0 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono


Release Date: April 12, 2011


The Series


Car 54 Where Are You? is the early 1960s sitcom featuring mismatched officers Toody and Muldoon of the fictitious 53rd Precinct in New York City. Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) is short, stocky, and simple, and partner in Car 54 to officer Muldoon. Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynn) is tall, slender, and sophisticated, at least compared to his partner. Al Lewis appeared in a recurring role as officer Leo Schnauser prior to reteaming with Gwynne in The Munsters, and Charlotte Rae played Schnauser’s wife Sylvia in a recurring role during its 2 seasons. In addition to being set in the Bronx, the series was actually filmed entirely on location at what was then the Biograph Studios.


Car 54 Where Are You? was created by Nat Hiken(Sgt. Bilko), who also wrote and directed many of the episodes. Although he is not a household name today, Hiken was appreciated and admired as a great comedy writer in his time. Carl Reiner has said that "All comedy writers of Hiken’s day agreed that he had no peer." Carol Burnett has referred to him as a "comedy genius."


Car 54 Where Are You? premiered on the NBC Network at 8:30 p.m. on September 17, 1961, and aired for 2 seasons until its last new episode aired on April 14, 1963. The series aired for both seasons against The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. Car 54 received respectable Nielsen ratings in its first season but slipped against its competition in season two, resulting in its cancellation in 1963. The fact that Car 54 is so revered and fondly remembered today, given that it aired for only 2 seasons, is most likely attributable to the high quality of acting and scripting on display in its 60 episodes. This first season DVD set includes all 30 episodes on 4 discs.


Video


The series is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The first 30 episodes, comprising all episodes from season one, have been remastered for this collection from the only complete set of 35mm prints known to be in existence. The image quality is surprisingly sharp with excellent gray scale which is much better from what we are accustomed to seeing on TV shows that are 50 years old. There is some haloing visible around figures and objects but this is very minimal. There are occasional scratches or blemishes perceptible but much less than what we usually see on shows from this vintage. The closing credits even include the sponsor products from the time it was aired originally. It is unfortunate that so few series from that era have been preserved on 35mm film as was this series.


Audio


The English Dolby Digital mono tracks are good with dialogue which is always appropriately audible over sound effects. Audio quality is variable with more audible hiss on the pilot episode Who’s For Swordfish than on the following episodes. The audio elements were obviously well preserved on film as well as the video.  The pilot episode is actually the 6th episode in order on Disc 1.


Special Features


This set includes the following special features:


A round table conversation(32:12) including Charlotte Rae(Sylvia Schnauser) and Hank Garrett(Officer Ed Nicholson) hosted by comedian Robert Klein, who actually grew up in the Bronx. Although these surviving actors did not appear in every episode, they have keen remembrances of the episodes in which they appeared as well as what it was like to work with Gwynne, Ross, and Lewis.
Conclusion


Car 54 Where Are You? is recommended to fans of the Golden Age of television. Leonard Maltin has endorsed Car 54 as "one of the funniest TV shows of all time." I have always enjoyed Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis in their regular roles on The Munsters, and it is fun to see these actors play different roles together in another (earlier) series. Video and audio quality on this first season set are excellent when you take into account the quality of other series from the early 1960s. The roundtable discussion included as a special feature is surprisingly entertaining since some of these programs can be dull when, as is often the case, the interview subjects have poor recollection about things that happened nearly 50 years earlier. The only downside to this collection is that the episodes are not included in order of airdate nor in production order. I find production order preferable generally over airdate order unless this violates continuity. The episodes in this collection are included in seemingly random order, and I hope this pattern is not repeated on the second season set. In spite of this defect, Car 54 Where Are You? season 1 on DVD comes recommended to any fans of the Golden Age of television who enjoy high quality comedic actors in high caliber scripts.  



#2 of 60 Adam Gregorich

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Posted April 11 2011 - 06:23 PM

Thanks Timothy.  I have never seen an episode of Car 54 before.  I was interested, but not having heard of Shanachie Entertainment before I wasn't sure what to expect.  That's too bad about the order on disc, but easily overlooked by me since it looks like they took care with the audio and video.



#3 of 60 Executive

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Posted April 11 2011 - 06:48 PM

There's nothing more I can add about this sitcom, except that the late Nipsey Russell was the only regular to return in the disasterous feature film remake in 1994.  Nipsey's presense was the only way it could be considered a "sequel" -- his Officer Dave Anderson character had since been promoted to Captain of the precinct.  Fran Drescher played a hooker in that film, and Rosie O' Donnell was also in it.

The original early 1960s series was a lot of fun in an "old-school" Bilko style way.

And while I'm going off-topic, when will "The New Phil Silvers Show" from the 60s and "The New Dick Van Dyke" show from the 70s ever come to DVD? Posted Image



#4 of 60 Jack P

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Posted April 11 2011 - 08:56 PM

Arnold Stang was the voice of Top Cat, not Phil Silvers.   Also, Al Lewis was in that horrible film version too.



#5 of 60 Corey3rd

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Posted April 12 2011 - 01:24 AM

Phil Silvers could have made a fortune if he'd sued Hanna-Barbera for all the characters they based off him.


come see the reviews at
http://thedvdlounge.com/

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#6 of 60 Executive

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Posted April 12 2011 - 05:10 AM

Originally Posted by Jack P 

Arnold Stang was the voice of Top Cat, not Phil Silvers.   Also, Al Lewis was in that horrible film version too.


You're right....it was Arnold Stang.    "Grandpa" Al Lewis took on most any project that came his way in his later years, so it

didn't surprise me that he would agree to be in the remake.
But as with Nispey's Officer / Captain Anderson character, Peter Falk in the second Columbo series,  and Gene Barry's return as Amos Burke in the 1990s, Leo Schnauser was also in his 70s --- way past retirement age for a police officer.



#7 of 60 Albert71292

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Posted April 12 2011 - 08:17 AM

Waiting for UPS to deliver my set. Pre-ordered this early in February. Amazon tracking says it is currently "Out for Delivery", so should be here before the day is over.



#8 of 60 WaveCrest

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Posted April 12 2011 - 09:41 AM

My set was posted yesterday, so I'm hoping to receive it in the post by the end of next week.


Thanks for the review Timothy. The episodes being out of order dosen't bother me, as there's the episode list on EpGuides.com.



#9 of 60 MilesH

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Posted April 12 2011 - 04:00 PM



Originally Posted by Timothy E 

Audio commentaries are include on the following episodes:

No More Pickpockets (Wally Cox)

The Gypsy Curse (Maureen Stapleton)

Love Finds Muldoon (Alice Ghostley)

Boom, Boom, Boom (Jan Murray)

Catch Me On The Paar Show (Hugh Downs)

How High Is Up? (Shari Lewis)

I Won’t Go (Molly Picon)


The audio commentaries are also better than average for the same reason. The only downside to this collection is that the episodes are not included in order of airdate nor in production order.


I'm not sure what DVDs you're watching but there are no audio commentaries on the Car 54 DVDs. Unless Shanachie owns a time machine, it will be impossible to get audio commentaries from any of them because they're all dead (with the exception of Hugh Downs). Some of them like Wally Cox have been dead since the 70s.




#10 of 60 Timothy E

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Posted April 12 2011 - 06:25 PM

The review has been updated to correct this error that arose from use of a template from another draft.

#11 of 60 The Obsolete Man

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Posted April 13 2011 - 05:22 AM



One thing I'm surprised that no one has complained about yet is the godawful packaging for this set.


What is this "push down pull up" crap? I've never seen this type of packaging before, and hope to never see it again. No hubs, so the discs are pretty much laying on each other, and you'll be lucky if at least two of the discs aren't floating around inside the packaging when you get it.



#12 of 60 Jack P

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Posted April 13 2011 - 05:34 AM

I agree, this packaging is awful.    I didn't have a hard time taking the discs out but I had a REALLY hard time trying to put them back in.       This idea was dumb on all levels.



#13 of 60 Dave Scarpa

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Posted April 13 2011 - 05:38 AM

I thought Paper Packaging was long gone, the packaging is horrible, its also interesting to note, at least according to the episode guide for the Series over at TV.com that the episodes are presented scattershot to how they were aired unless this is production order, does anyone know?


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#14 of 60 Timothy E

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Posted April 13 2011 - 05:46 AM

Originally Posted by Dave Scarpa 
I thought Paper Packaging was long gone, the packaging is horrible, its also interesting to note, at least according to the episode guide for the Series over at TV.com that the episodes are presented scattershot to how they were aired unless this is production order, does anyone know?


This is unfortunately true.  The episodes are definitely NOT presented in production order nor airdate order.  The pilot episode, which also aired first, is presented as the 6th episode in the set.




#15 of 60 The Obsolete Man

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Posted April 13 2011 - 06:59 AM

TVShowsonDVD.com gets an answer about the episode order...


http://www.tvshowson...-Season-1/15249


Okay, so, the "buffs" who decided to order the episodes by popularity instead of in some logical order... have they never dealt with the TV on DVD Buying public, who usually like their shows presented in either broadcast or production order? Have they never seen the wars over broadcast vs. production order? Or, did they just want to unite everyone on both sides of the debate, and give them a third option that absolutely no one likes?


Or, is the amount of people who really care about such things so low that it really doesn't matter?




#16 of 60 Jack P

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Posted April 13 2011 - 07:46 AM

That is the dumbest rationale I have ever seen in my life.   Some elite group's subjective standard of what is the most "popular" episode decides the presentation?     Where in the annals of TV on DVD has this *ever* been done with a COMPLETE season's worth of episodes?      And on top of that, they don't even spring for insert info to let us who want things presented properly to be able to pre-plan how to do this.


Combined with their idiotic standards of packaging this shows that we have once again people working for a label who seem to check their brains at the door when it comes to common sense presentation of material on DVD (and they are not the first label to do this;  a certain other label that released a season of a show with the wrong encoding and was too dim to figure that out also falls in that category).



#17 of 60 WaveCrest

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Posted April 13 2011 - 08:14 AM

This style of packaging for the set....is it like the packaging used for I think the last two DVD season sets of The Simpsons (Seasons 11 & 12)?



#18 of 60 The Obsolete Man

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Posted April 13 2011 - 08:22 AM



Originally Posted by WaveCrest 

This style of packaging for the set....is it like the packaging used for I think the last two DVD season sets of The Simpsons (Seasons 11 & 12)?



No, it isn't that good.


The packaging is a plastic tray that holds two DVDs. There is no center hub to put the DVDs on, like most tray packaging of that type (think of WB TV on DVD packaging... West Wing or House to get a rough idea of the regular type I'm talking about). What you do with it is slide the DVD under a small plastic lip and press it in to be held in by two small little tabs.


I've never seen anything like it before.



#19 of 60 Jack P

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Posted April 13 2011 - 08:44 AM

The second time I tried to remove a disc from here it was stuck and I had work very carefully to keep the whole thing from snapping.      Consequently these discs will never go back in the case again and I have put them in two safe mylar sleeves for convenience.


Idiocy galore.



#20 of 60 DeWilson

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Posted April 13 2011 - 11:33 AM



Originally Posted by The Obsolete Man 

TVShowsonDVD.com gets an answer about the episode order...


http://www.tvshowson...-Season-1/15249


Okay, so, the "buffs" who decided to order the episodes by popularity instead of in some logical order... have they never dealt with the TV on DVD Buying public, who usually like their shows presented in either broadcast or production order? Have they never seen the wars over broadcast vs. production order? Or, did they just want to unite everyone on both sides of the debate, and give them a third option that absolutely no one likes?


Or, is the amount of people who really care about such things so low that it really doesn't matter?



This is the first TV related release from this company so I am willing to cut them a little slack. :)








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