DVD Release Date: April 12, 2011 (Shanachie Entertainment)
Packaging: Clear plastic “book” like case with overlapping discs
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 30
Running Time: 780 minutes
Audio: English: Dolby Mono
Special Features: Roundtable discussion with Charlotte Rae and Hank Garret, hosted by Robert Klein
“There’s a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child, Khrushvhev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54, Where Are You?”
That theme song kicked off one of the funniest sitcoms of its era. Car 54 was created by Nat Hiken, who was also responsible for The Phil Silvers Show/Sgt. Bilko. The show, an attempt to poke fun at the large number of cop shows on the air at the time, follows two police officers, bumbling Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) whose wife is a shrew, and cultured Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynne) who lives with his mother. The two are also best friends and, therefore, get in all sorts of crazy situations both on the job and off. The supporting cast also included Gwynne’s future Munsters co-star Al Lewis, Charlotte Rae, Nipsey Russell, and Paul Reed.
The show has been hailed by many as one of the funniest of all time, and even though it only lasted two seasons on NBC, it is quite witty and hilarious.
Some of the episodes featured on the set include: “Who’s for Swordfish” --Muldoon and Toody plan a big fishing trip… until they realize they’ve ticketed the boat’s owner and he’s in traffic court. In “Paint Job,” Muldoon and Toody accidentally uncover a stolen car ring when they go to have the squad car painted. Maureen Stapleton guest stars in “The Gypsy Curse” as a gypsy woman who puts a “curse” on Toody for forcing them to leave their fortune telling shop. Hugh Downs appears in “Catch Me on the Paar Show” as Toody tries to convince a fellow officer to become a standup comic. In “What Happened to Thursday,” Toody tries to convince Officer Schnauzer (Al Lewis) that the day is Friday instead of Thursday to keep him from commencing in his weekly Thursday night fight with his wife (Charlotte Rae.) Other well-known guest stars include Jan Murray, ventriloquist Shari Lewis, Alice Ghostley, Robert Morse, and Wally Cox.
My first of only a small handful of complaints with this set is the episodes seem to be on the DVDs in a completely random order. Going by every episode guide found online, some of which also list production order, the order on the discs doesn’t match up with any of them. For that reason, the following list of episodes will include which episodes are on which disc, but will not be numbered. All episodes are uncut, running 25 to 26 minutes. The episodes “Quiet! We’re Thinking” and “Toody and Muldoon Crack Down” include the original sponsor announcements.
What Happened to Thursday (25:36)
No More Pickpockets (25:35)
Quiet! We’re Thinking (25:51)
The Gypsy Curse (25:32)
Love Finds Muldoon (25:30)
Who’s for Swordfish? (25:26)
Toody’s Paradise (25:30)
The Beast Who Walked the Bronx (25:30)
Put it In the Bank (25:25)
The Courtship of Sylvia Schnauser (25:26)
The Taming of Lucille (25:36)
Toody and the Art World (25:37)
Boom, Boom, Boom (25:28)
Toody and Muldoon Crack Down (25:55)
Home Sweet Sing Sing (25:11)
Catch Me on the Paar Show (25:24)
How Smart Can You Get? (25:23)
I Love Lucille (25:31)
Something Nice for Sol (25:36)
The Auction (25:19)
Today I Am a Man (25:31)
How High is Up? (25:31)
Change Your Partner (25:17)
The Paint Job (25:21)
I Won’t Go (25:24)
Get Well, Officer Schnauzer (25:34)
Thirty Days Notice (25:37)
The Sacrifice (25:29)
Christmas at the 53rd (25:34)
The discs come in a unique package. The case opens like a book (with no outer cardboard sleeve) to reveal the four discs. At first, one would think this is another case of overlapping discs that cause you to have to remove one disc to get to another, but that is not the case. The discs are not on hubs. Instead, they are in an almost spring-loaded configuration. You push down on the disc to release it, then lift it out of its slot. It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’re looking at it in person.
The outer artwork features the shows logo, along with a nice photo of Gwynne and Ross in front of Car 54. The interior has a maroon motif, which is carried over onto the discs. Behind the two discs on one side of the case is a list of which episodes are on which disc. The back has another photo of the cast and a long description of the set.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The main menu is nice, but a bit bland. On each disc we get the same photo of Gwynne and Ross along with a list of episodes to choose from. There are no subtitles or closed captions. There are also no chapter stops within any of the episodes, which is a shame.
Video and Audio Quality:
Shanachie claims these episodes are remastered from the only existing 35mm fine grain prints. The video quality, however, is very nice. Everything is crisp and clear. There is some grain and specks from time to time, and a few episodes have noticeable splices, but considering the age and relative rarity of the show, those can easily be overlooked. Audio is also in very clear 1960s mono.
The single special feature is quite nice indeed. An extended interview with surviving cast members Charlotte Rae (Sylvia Schnauser) and Hank Garrett (Officer Ed Nicholson) in a roundtable-like discussion with huge Car 54 fan and comedian Robert Klein. The 32:11 interview reveals fascinating details about the show and personal reminisces from Rae and Garrett. It’s a must watch for any fan of the show. I’m sure there are other items that would also make worthy special features (promos, etc) but this well-crafted interview more than makes up for that. Plus we still have another season to go.
This set is a must-own for any fan of 1960s situation comedy. The writing is top-notch as is the acting. If you don’t laugh hard at an episode of Car 54, Where Are You, there may be something wrong with your funny bone. It’s too bad that this show has had such limited rerun life, but for a show with only two seasons and 60 episodes, I guess that’s understandable. It’s too bad that those that are hard of hearing will have a hard time enjoying this set, and I still don’t under stand why the episodes are on the discs in a random order, but I’d rather watch them randomly than not at all. There’s very little continuity from episode to episode anyway.