DVD Release Date: December 4, 2012 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment On Demand)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: approx. 613 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: None
Jewish working-class cab driver Bernie Steinberg (David Birney, TV's "St. Elsewhere") falls in love at first sight with privileged Catholic teacher Bridget Fitzgerald (Meredith Baxter, TV's "Family Ties"), and they find themselves in a whirlwind romance. While their love is constant, their parents are constantly meddling, both sides uncomfortable with each other's social status and religion. Also starring David Doyle (TV's "Charlie's Angels") and Audra Lindley (TV's "Three's Company"), Bridget Loves Bernie was a situation comedy ahead of its time.
Bridget Loves Bernie premiered on CBS on September 16, 1972. It aired on Saturday nights at 8:30pm between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Other stars included Harold J. Stone, Bibi Osterwald, Ned Glass, Robert Sampson, William Elliott and Ivor Barry.
In the pilot episode, "Bridget Loves Bernie," Bridget Fitzgerald marries Bernie Steinberg, despite very different backgrounds and religions. The contrasts between the Fitzgeralds and the Steinbergs are made even more apparent when the Fitzgeralds have the opportunity to visit Israel and the Steinbergs win a chance to see the Pope in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Vatican." Bridget and Bernie decide to have another wedding ceremony to please their families - but a dispute immediately breaks out on whether a priest or a rabbi should conduct the proceedings in "Wake Up, We're Getting Married Today." The Steinbergs are proud of Bernie and anxious to see the play he has written, unaware that he pokes some fun about their way of life in the script in "The Last of the Red Hot Playwrights." When the Steinbergs leave town on a trip, an over-confident Bridget tries to step in and manage their delicatessen in "Who's Watching the Store?" Bernie and Bridget receive more wedding presents, in this case, two new beds from their two sets of parents in "The Newlybeds." Fiesty uncle Moe develops an interest in Bridget's aunt, sparking more controversy among the Jewish and Catholic families in "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Moe." Bernie's working-class Jewish roots become a factor when he and Bridget want to move to a upscale housing complex in "Bernie's Last Stand."
Wanting to please Bernie, Bridget gets a crash course in Jewish customs and traditions and tries to act them out at home in "How to Be a Jewish Mother." Bernie believes that it's a good idea to pass Bridget off as Jewish when his aunt Ruthie comes visiting in "The Little Lie That Grew and Grew and Grew." Bridget's father is afraid to acknowledge the Steinbergs in front of a snobby friend, Ross, who stops by unannounced in "The In-Laws Who Came to Dinner." Hoping that the trappings of wealth will influence him, Walt Fitzgerald tries to convince Bernie to accept a change of career during a weekend at the country house in "The Homecoming." Moshe Dayan is coming to a party thrown by the Fitzgerald family and Bernie's parents are left off the guest list in "You Are Cordially Not Invited." Disagreements abound on how to celebrate the holiday season as the Steinbergs are Jewish and the Fitzgeralds are Catholic in "Tis the Season." Bridget and Bernie are in the middle of a family dispute over where to send the kids for the honeymoon they missed in "The Belated Honeymoon." Revelations of past relationships cause problems for the married couple in "Honest is the Worst."
Moe needs some involvement when he is feeling left out and useless in "Life Begins at 65." Bridget can't find her engagement ring in "With This Ring." Bernie and Bridget's fathers take a hunting trip together and it doesn't go well in "Into Every Life a Little Snow Must Fall." After being asked to teach sex education, a mix-up of an educational movie and a stag film almost causes a major disaster in Bridget's elementary school classroom in "Teach or Not to Teach." A homely work of art may be hiding something valuable within it in "Painting, Painting -- Who's Got the Painting?" Bernie doesn't fit in when he goes to work for the family deli in "Steinberg and Son." A number of misunderstandings lead the families to believe that Bridget is going to have a baby in "The Information Gap." Bernie considers a career opportunity that would mean re-locating far from the families in New York in "Greener Pastures." Episode summaries courtesy of TV.com .
Notable guest appearances included John Fiedler, Nancy Walker, Anson Williams (pre-Happy Days as the young man), Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Jack LaLanne and Ray Walston.
All of the episodes appear to be unedited, with running times of over 25 minutes. They are presented in their original CBS broadcast order. Runtimes are as follows:
Bridget Loves Bernie (25:42)
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Vatican (25:35)
Wake Up, We're Getting Married Today (25:38)
The Last of the Red Hot Playwrights (25:36)
Who's Watching the Store? (25:39)
The Newlybeds (25:37)
Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Moe (25:36)
Bernie's Last Stand (25:35)
How to Be a Jewish Mother (25:36)
The Little White Lie That Grew and Grew and Grew (25:36)
The In-Laws Who Came to Dinner (25:37)
The Homecoming (25:37)
You Are Cordially Not Invited (25:37)
Tis the Season (25:38)
The Belated Honeymoon (25:33)
Honesty is the Worst Policy (25:36)
Life Begins at 65 (25:36)
With This Ring (25:34)
Into Every Life a Little Snow Must Fall (25:35)
To Teach or Not to Teach (25:36)
Painting, Painting -- Who's Got the Painting? (25:36)
Steinberg and Son (25:34)
The Information Gap (25:37)
Greener Pastures (25:34)
The packaging is a standard Viva case. Meredith Baxter and David Birney are pictured on the cover. Some New York City buildings are in the background. The show logo is at the top of the case. The tagline "Upscale Meets Downtown" is used on the front, while the back lists "Interfaith meets interference." A photo of Baxter and Birney hugging is on the back cover. There are small headshots of six other cast members. A short synopsis of the series and the DVD specs are provided. Baxter and Birney are featured on the spine of the case. Inside the case, there is a sheet that promotes some other Sony Choice Collection DVD releases. Unfortunately, there is no episode guide included. It would have been handy to have one. There is a flip holder that holds disc 1 and 2. Disc 3 is an embedded holder in the back of the case. The discs just have a white background with the show logo in black. Each disc holds 8 episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Sony's typical generic on demand menu is used. It has blue-tinted televisions in the background. The episode titles are listed vertically in black text in a box on the left side of the screen. There is a tiny blue film reel icon that turns yellow upon your selection. A Play All button is available. Unfortunately, there are no chapter stops within the episodes. The menus may not not be flashy, but they are a breeze to navigate. There were a couple of episodes on the second disc that I couldn't play from the main menu, but they did play when using the Play All button. It may have just been a glitch with my DVD player.
Video and Audio Quality:
These episodes aired over 30 years ago, but they likely didn't look this good when they originally aired. Sony has done an excellent job remastering them for this release. Bridget Loves Bernie was shot on film. There is very little dirt or other digital artifacts in these episodes. The picture is very sharp and the colors are vivid. You can really see the sweat on David Doyle's face. Their lighting seemed to make other actors noticeably sweat as well. They had some nice exterior shots of New York City in the opening credits, but the regular show was filmed in Los Angeles. The packaging states the episodes are in anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 format, but that is obviously incorrect. The episodes are presented in their original full screen 1.33:1 ratio. For the closing logo enthusiasts, they have the original Douglas S. Cramer Company in association with Thornhill Productions and Screen Gems logo with a yellow background and a red "S".
The audio is an English mono track. The volume seemed a little low to me, but it can easily be adjusted. Although the show was shot on film and without a studio audience, they did have an added laugh track. I loved the instrumental "Love is Crazy" theme by Jerry Fielding. Fielding and George Romanis also provided a nice background score. I like how they had a different theme for the families. Since this is a manufactured on demand release, there are no subtitles or closed captioning.
There are no special features included. It would have been nice to have an interview or commentaries with Meredith Baxter. Some original networks promos would have also been great to see.
It has been a long wait for Bridget Loves Bernie to arrive on DVD. Sony had originally scheduled it for a September 5, 2006 release, along with another Meredith Baxter series: Family. Family - The Complete First and Second Seasons did arrive on that date, but the plans for this one-year wonder were scrapped. I've only seen two episodes that were aired in 2002 and 2003 on TV Land, so it's great to finally see the complete series available. Meredith Baxter and David Birney had some natural on-screen chemistry. They began dating during the show and later married in 1974 after the show was cancelled. The rest of the cast was filled with dependable and veteran actors. David Doyle and Audra Lindley were especially funny as Bridget's parents. Audra Lindley received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role.
Some people may think the series was a flop because it ran for only one season, but it actually did quite well in the ratings. It aired on Saturday nights between the powerhouses All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Although it lost a fair amount of All in the Family's huge audience, it still finished the season as the fifth highest rated show and did better than The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Bridget Loves Bernie holds the distinction of being the highest-rated show ever to be cancelled after only one season. Religious groups complained that the show condoned and publicized mixed marriages. It's hard to believe that a controversial show like All in the Family could air, but CBS caved in to the pressure. The show looked poised to have a long and successful run. It was a different era back then. I don't think there would be any issues with a similar series airing today.
It's a pleasant surprise to see the show finally available on DVD and in such excellent quality. I'm not sure how big of a seller it will be, but it's great to see that Sony went to such lengths to make the episodes look as nice and clear as possible. The show may be largely forgotten by many, but it also appears to have a solid fan base who fondly remember it. I always saw it on lists of short-lived series that people wanted on DVD. Meredith Baxter was so beautiful here, just as she has always been. Note that this is a manufactured on demand release, so it won't be available in retail stores. It can only be ordered online at Amazon.com or WBShop.com