Blondie: The Complete 1957 Television Series Blu-ray Review

3 Stars Crisp looking high definition transfers of a vintage television series
Blondie: The Complete 1957 Television Series Review

While Blondie won’t likely replace I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners in viewers’ minds as a supreme comedy classic of the 1950s, it’s still a pleasant and very faithful rendition of a much beloved comic strip.

Blondie (1957–)
Released: 04 Jan 1957
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 30 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Family
Cast: Arthur Lake, Pamela Britton, Florenz Ames
Writer(s): Chic Young
Plot: Arthur Lake had played Dagwood in a long series of "Blondie" movies. This show, retelling stories and situations familiar to readers of the comic strip, lasted one year.
IMDB rating: 7.5
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: ClassicFlix
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: None
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 11 Hr. 16 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 04/18/2023
MSRP: $49.99

The Production: 3/5

Chic Young’s extremely popular comic strip Blondie, initiated in 1930 and continuing unceasingly to the present day, has had a charmed show business life, that is, until the advent of television. Produced first as a continuing series of comedy films at Columbia starting in 1938, the series ran for twelve years and twenty-eight movies, and its radio life was almost as lengthy: eleven years with hundreds of broadcasts. But for some reason, the show has never played well on television: two separate attempts have never lasted beyond a single season, and the 1957 version, unquestionably the better of the two efforts, brought its saga of bedeviled husband and father Dagwood Bumstead to the small screen with particularly apt casting and a decent production that, despite its faithfulness to the comic strip from which it sprang, never quite achieved a favorite spot in the viewing habits of the audiences of its day. Viewed today, these whimsical comic episodes have an odd charm; they aren’t as farcical and unbridled as Oh, Susannah or I Married Joan nor were they as endearing as Life of Riley nor as witty as The People’s Choice, all shows of the era that had longer runs than Blondie.

Dagwood Bumstead (Arthur Lake) enjoys a happy marriage to usually level-headed Blondie (Pamela Britton) and has close relationships with son Alexander (Stuffy Singer) and daughter Cookie (Ann Barnes) and shares their modest but comfortable home with them and his dog Daisy and her five pups. Dagwood works as an executive assistant to the irascible, penny-pinching J. C. Dithers (Florenz Ames) whose promises of raises and promotions are as fleeting as yesterday’s weather. He also has a friendly rivalry with nosy neighbor Herb Woodley (Harold Peary) whose wife Harriet (Hollis Irving) is Blondie’s best friend.

The show features all of the tropes so beloved in the comic strip: Dagwood’s frenetic morning dash to work: an assembly line operation that almost always results in a letter-scattering collision with mailman Mr. Beasley (Lucien Littlefield), Dagwood’s inexplicable ability to be able to do complex mathematical equations in his head (which forms the basis of one of the series’ best episodes when he uses that gift to go on a quiz show), the infamous “Dagwood Special”: a towering sandwich which no human on Earth but Dagwood could consume in one sitting, and his continual hirings and firings at the Dithers Construction Company by a boss so cantankerous that even Dagwood’s weekly value to the company’s bottom line goes mostly unnoticed by the miserly employer. In direct opposition to Father Knows Best which was very popular in this same era, in this show, “Blondie Knows Best”: she’s the source of the household’s most level-headed decisions even though she occasionally lets her attraction to glamorous clothes or expensive furs get the best of her. Quite a few of the episodes feature the Bumsteads trying desperately to improve their lot in life by various money-making schemes, risky investments, or financial windfalls that fall into their laps.

The show was pretty perfectly cast. Arthur Lake, who played Dagwood in those twenty-eight Columbia feature films, was brought back to reprise his unforgettable live action creation: his frantic, cracked vocal cries of “Blondie!” when things go awry are always good for a chuckle (the filmed show’s canned laugh track, very typical of the era and never for one moment suggesting a real live studio audience, is fairly annoying). Pamela Britton doesn’t have quite the charm or abandon of Penny Singleton who played Blondie in the films, but she’s a more than adequate substitute, and she does get to show off her singing voice in “Blondie’s Double” warbling “This Can’t Be Love” and “Gimme a Little Kiss.” The best casting is Florenz Ames as J.C. Dithers. The very visual incarnation of the comic strip character in look and manner, Ames’ quick temper and tightfisted ways elevate every scene in which he appears. Elvia Allman who plays his overbearing wife Cora may not be as heavy as the comic strip character, but she captures the essence of Cora’s dominant control over her husband. Stuffy Singer and Ann Barnes are most obedient Bumstead children who adore their parents despite their eccentricities. Hal Peary and Hollis Irving are fine as the pushy Woodleys, and the familiar faces of guest star actors who make brief appearances during the season are like a Who’s Who of 1950’s television: Barbara Nichols, Herb Vigran, Max Showalter, Frank Nelson, Fritz Feld, Richard Karlan, Larry Blake, Don Beddoe, Alan Reed, Alan Mowbray, Doris Singleton, William Schallert, and even George “Foghorn” Winslow who makes three early appearances as a neighborhood kid.

Here are the twenty-six episodes contained on two Blu-ray discs in this set:

1 – Sudden Wealth

2 – It’s for the Birds

3 – The Folks Who Came to Dinner

4 – The Other Woman

5 – Home Sweet Home

6 – Get That Gun

7 – The Feud

8 – The Quiz Show

9 – Husbands Once Removed

10 – The Payoff Money

11 – Hard Luck Idol

12 – Oil for the Lamps of Blondie

13 – Blondie the Breadwinner (the best episode of the season)

14 – The Glamour Girl

15 – The Rummage Sale

16 – Deception

17 – Puppy Love

18 – Made to Fire

19 – Blondie Redecorates

20 – Blondie’s Double

21 – The Spy

22 – Cupid’s Question Column

23 – The Tramp

24 – Follow That Man

25 – The Party

26 – Howdy Neighbor

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The program’s 1.33:1 original broadcast aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in these 1080p transfers using the AVC codec. Most of the episodes look very nice with good sharpness, more than adequate detail in close-ups, and a consistent grayscale which gives us particularly crisp white levels without too much contrast. There are occasional shots that look dupey and less than pristine, and you’ll notice dust and dirt specks come in and out. But, for a 1957 show, it looks pretty smashing. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.

Audio: 3.5/5

The original soundtracks are output here with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono encoding. There is light to moderate hiss in most of the episodes, never particularly distracting but certainly noticeable. There is a disclaimer before the episode “The Rummage Sale” warning of a bothersome soundtrack whose deterioration prevented problem-free presentation, and there is a constant low hum/flutter throughout that show. None of the other episodes, however, are so afflicted.

Special Features: 0/5

There are no bonus materials included in the two-disc set.

Overall: 3/5

The 1957 television version of Blondie comes to Blu-ray looking very crisp in its home video high definition presentation. While it won’t likely replace I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners in viewers’ minds as a supreme comedy classic of the 1950s, it’s still a pleasant and very faithful rendition of a much beloved comic strip.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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John Sparks

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Just watched all the episodes on Decades TV and that was enough for me. Don't remember watching this show as a kid and I really didn't miss anything from what I saw.
 

Rodney

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Thanks for the review, Matt. This is a new one I'll be adding to my television collection.
I remember ClassicFlix unsuccessfully trying a Kickstarter back in 2018 to bring this to blu-ray. Judging from the two posts above mine it doesn't seem to garner much love. I hope it sells well, so we get further television releases from the 50's and 60's.
 

BobO'Link

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I enjoyed watching the series - purchased it on DVD when it was originally released by ClassicFlix. I'm just trying to decide if the DVD is good enough... Guess I really need to dig it out and watch it again.
 

smithbrad

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Cheap put out. No CC are SDH.
PASS. I have watched them all on TV.
I'm guessing they had to confine the cost to produce to the expected return in investment. Likely, this isn't going to have a high return, so to even release it they had to put constraints on the cost, even if that means some don't buy due to no subtitles.
 

Sega

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I'm guessing they had to confine the cost to produce to the expected return in investment. Likely, this isn't going to have a high return, so to even release it they had to put constraints on the cost, even if that means some don't buy due to no subtitles.
 

Sega

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I'm guessing they had to confine the cost to produce to the expected return in investment. Likely, this isn't going to have a high return, so to even release it they had to put constraints on the cost, even if that means some don't buy due to no subtitles.
True! It's all about money. And they are not thinking of the millions of people they are leaving out. There loss.
 

smithbrad

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True! It's all about money. And they are not thinking of the millions of people they are leaving out. There loss.
I think they know their business model better than anyone else as to what it takes to turn a profit with the types of titles they are releasing. I'd even fair a guess that the majority of those interested in this title are much more willing to go without subtitles to support a release than those that will boycott it due to the lack thereof. The fact that you even use the phrase "millions of people" just shows how out of touch you are with the market for such a release.

To call them "cheap" would seem to indicate you know something to the contrary. So exactly how much do you think the licensing and transfer costs were? How much would it cost to create subtitles for the release? How many sales do you think such a release will attain to compensate for the production costs? Please, enlighten us.

It's so easy to criticize. Now show us you have the knowledge to justify the criticism.
 

RBailey

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I think they know their business model better than anyone else as to what it takes to turn a profit with the types of titles they are releasing. I'd even fair a guess that the majority of those interested in this title are much more willing to go without subtitles to support a release than those that will boycott it due to the lack thereof. The fact that you even use the phrase "millions of people" just shows how out of touch you are with the market for such a release.

To call them "cheap" would seem to indicate you know something to the contrary. So exactly how much do you think the licensing and transfer costs were? How much would it cost to create subtitles for the release? How many sales do you think such a release will attain to compensate for the production costs? Please, enlighten us.

It's so easy to criticize. Now show us you have the knowledge to justify the criticism.
This is the reason why I use the "ignore" feature to not see the poster's content.
 

dstrong

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I watched the entire series on tubitv and was unimpressed. I'm glad I didn't waste my money on buying the DVD set. The most annoying thing about the show was Arthur Lake's constant "Huuuuuuuhhh???" when somebody asked him something.
 

ClassicFlix

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I think they know their business model better than anyone else as to what it takes to turn a profit with the types of titles they are releasing. I'd even fair a guess that the majority of those interested in this title are much more willing to go without subtitles to support a release than those that will boycott it due to the lack thereof. The fact that you even use the phrase "millions of people" just shows how out of touch you are with the market for such a release.

To call them "cheap" would seem to indicate you know something to the contrary. So exactly how much do you think the licensing and transfer costs were? How much would it cost to create subtitles for the release? How many sales do you think such a release will attain to compensate for the production costs? Please, enlighten us.

It's so easy to criticize. Now show us you have the knowledge to justify the criticism.
Exactly.

We are a tiny company in a subset of a shrinking physical media market and we'll be lucky to sell 3,000 units of this title on BD.

And while we put subtitles on our top line feature film releases, TV already takes several months or years to recoup costs (even then it's a risk to go in the black at all), so spending upward of $5K to do subtitles on a release like this is not realistic given the market that is in its sunset years.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer
 

ClassicFlix

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Also, the reason this is available at all on TV or streaming is because we took the gamble in 2018 to license the series, pay an advance, pay tens of thousands of dollars to restore. If we hadn't taken that risk, the series would still be in the vaults deteriorating away...

Additionally, it is only because we eventually went into the black on the DVD release that we were able to release the BD. Is the DVD okay upscaled in HD? Maybe for some, but to my eyes and most viewers the BD is the way to go for the sharpest image.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer
 
Last edited:

GMBurns

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Exactly.

We are a tiny company in a subset of a shrinking physical media market and we'll be lucky to sell 3,000 units of this title on BD.

And while we put subtitles on our top line feature film releases, TV already takes several months or years to recoup costs (even then it's a risk to go in the black at all), so spending upward of $5K to do subtitles on a release like this is not realistic given the market that is in its sunset years.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer

David, thank you for giving us some context for how your company operates. It makes me more appreciative for what you are doing for the few of us still interested in classic tv on physical media. Thanks a lot!
 

ClassicFlix

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David, thank you for giving us some context for how your company operates. It makes me more appreciative for what you are doing for the few of us still interested in classic tv on physical media. Thanks a lot!
Thank you to you both.

We restore and present classic TV on BD/DVD because we love these old shows (and because no one else is touching them!).

To give even more context, we released ABBOTT AND COSTELLO - SEASON 1 on Blu-ray a year and a half ago. Bob Furmanek and his team produced the restorations and the bonus content and did an phenomenal job with it, but to do a release as stellar as this costs a lot of money.

Bottom line, 18 months later and we still are in the red on it (without subtitles). This leaves less money for other projects and shrinks the pool of available classics on BD/DVD. If you wonder why other labels have stopped doing rare TV look no further than this example.

Having said that, we are excited to have started our new "RARE TELEVISION" line. It will bring to light of day many shows/programs which have never or rarely been seen.

We hope the line will be supported (in spite of no subs) and we have 3 releases that are definitely going to be released and several more planned, but the line can only continue with the support of fans spending their hard-earned money on them.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer
 
Last edited:

Gary OS

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Thank you to you both.

We restore and present classic TV on BD/DVD because we love these old shows (and because no one else is touching them!).

To give even more context, we released ABBOTT AND COSTELLO - SEASON 1 on Blu-ray a year and a half ago. Bob Furmanek and his team produced the restorations and the bonus content and did an phenomenal job with it, but to do a release as stellar as this costs a lot of money.

Bottom line, 18 months later and we still are in the red on it (without subtitles). This leaves less money for other projects and shrinks the pool of available classics on BD/DVD. If you wonder why other labels have stopped doing rare TV look no further than this example.

Having said that, we are excited to have started our new "RARE TELEVISION" line. It will bring to light of day many shows/programs which have never or rarely been seen.

We hope the line will be supported (in spite of no subs) and we have 3 releases that are definitely going to be released and several more planned, but the line can only continue with the support of fans spending their hard-earned money on them.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer

Super-excited about this new line, David. Right up my alley. You'll get all the financial and vocal support I can muster.


Gary "can't wait for these new titles" O.
 

Gary OS

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Will the shows you present in that line be mostly from the 50s and 60s?

I think David mentioned the one early 60's show that's already been alluded to, and everything else after that 50's material. And I'm personally really excited about that. 50's TV has been somewhat underrepresented when compared with 60's and 70's material, imho.
 

The 1960's

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Having said that, we are excited to have started our new "RARE TELEVISION" line. It will bring to light of day many shows/programs which have never or rarely been seen.

We hope the line will be supported (in spite of no subs) and we have 3 releases that are definitely going to be released and several more planned, but the line can only continue with the support of fans spending their hard-earned money on them.

- David
ClassicFlix Founder, Producer
Super-excited about this new line, David. Right up my alley. You'll get all the financial and vocal support I can muster.


Gary "can't wait for these new titles" O.
Yes couldn't agree more. My physical media purchases are now just about non-existent. But your new line will keep me active as long as it lasts. In addition to 21 Beacon Street - The Complete Series, can you give us any teasers David? Thanks in advance!
 
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