DVD Release Date: October 6, 2009 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: approx. 13 hours
Runtime of Special Features: 15 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed-captioned
Special Features: Commentary on “The First Meeting” episode; “A Horse Tale” featurette; Studebaker Commercial
Hey, Wilbur... the first season of our show is now on DVD! The famous Mister Ed, the talking horse, makes his way back onto DVD for the first time since the previous releases from MGM Home Entertainment have gone out of print. Now, Shout! Factory presents The Complete First Season, a four-disc set containing the first 26 episodes of “the famous Mister Ed.” The series had a simple premise: Wilbur and Carol move to a home that has a barn in the backyard. But there is a lot more in that barn than anybody could ever anticipate. There’s a horse in there. A talking horse. It’s the “famous Mister Ed!”
Premiering in January 1961, Mister Ed was one of the few successful sitcoms of the “golden era” of television to air without being on a network. It was one of the first successful syndicated series. In fact, it was so successful that a few months later, CBS decided to pick it up for the remaining five seasons. The first season, of course, is where it all started.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The series premieres with “The First Meeting,” where Wilbur Post and Carol move into their new home and discover a talking horse. But will anybody but Wilbur hear him talking? Mr. Addison sees Mister Ed talking to Wilbur in “The Ventriloquist,” so how will Wilbur explain this? Mister Ed runs away in “Kiddy Park.” Is the stable a stable environment for guys that get kicked out of their home by their wives? Find out in “Stable for Three.” A horse-napping occurs in “Sorority House.” Mister Ed gets revenge after Wilbur takes out a phone extension in “The Pageant Show.”
Aunt Martha visits in “The Aunt” and brings her parrot with her. Can two talking animals coexist? Mister Ed might be able to save Wilbur from jail time if he could only testify in court in “Ed the Witness.” Wilbur and Ed find Ed’s mother working as a plow horse in “Ed’s Mother,” but will Ed take a firm stance against this slavery? Ed prove to be good at predicting horse race winners in “Ed the Tout.” Richard Deacon guest stars in “Psychoanalyst Show,” where Wilbur hires a psychiatrist for Ed.
Ed helps out a neighborhood boy that is being bullied in “Little Boy.” In “Ed Agrees to Talk,” Carol uses Ed as a form of transportation, but Ed isn’t happy and declares, well, horse abuse. Is Wilbur having an affair? Carol thinks so, in “The Other Woman.” In “Ed Cries Wolf,” Ed tries to be a “watchhorse,” but is he really all that effective? Ed answers a quiz show question on Wilbur’s behalf in “The Contest,” but now, Wilbur has to be the one to compete for the $5,000 prize. William Bendix and Nancy Kulp guest star in “Pine Lake Lodge,” a pilot for a spin-off that didn’t quite make it. Ed is willing to put himself up for sale for the sake of love in “Wilbur Sells Ed.”
The set has pretty standard packaging, using the slim case style of packaging. The cover art has a picture of Ed and Wilbur standing in front of the barn, and on the back, there is the basic information about the set. Inside, the two slim cases (each holding two discs) have different snapshots of Ed and Wilbur, as well as Carol on the case holding Disc 1 and Disc 2. The back of each slim case lists all of the episodes and original airdates for the episodes. Additionally, there is a very nice episode booklet that contains descriptions for each and every episode on the set, as well as production notes and trivia. The disc artwork is plain and simple, with wood paneling and the series logo on each disc. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-8, Disc 2 contains episodes 9-16, Disc 3 contains episodes 17-24, and Disc 4 contains episodes 25 and 26.
Menu Design and Navigation:
I don’t normally complain much about menus, particularly with Shout! Factory products, but I honestly can not say that I like the menus on this set. They are a somewhat annoying and very cumbersome to navigate. They start out very nice, with Mister Ed greeting viewers and introducing himself, followed by some videos, and a menu that gives options of Play All and Select Episode. But Select Episode is where it all falls apart. You don’t get a nice menu that lists all of the episodes or even a few episodes. Instead, you get the first episode listed, with a snapshot from the episode, and options of “Play Episode,” “Previous,” “Menu,” and “Next.” Basically, you have to use the “Previous” and “Next” options to navigate through each and every episode. It is a very obnoxious design! The menus look nice, but they certainly do need to be improved to be more navigation friendly. There are no scene selection menus, but chapters are within each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on the set isn’t perfect, but the few flaws that are to be found are not too major. The biggest problem that I noticed was that the video seemed to have some lighting issues. Additionally, there are some grain issues which, while not major, seem to be more pronounced than we often see on TV series of this age. The audio is mostly fine, being presented in mono. Closed-captioning is also available.
Now that we’ve gotten through that, we have to talk about the problems with this set. And boy, does this set have a big problem. There are a lot of edited episodes on the set. In fact, nearly 1/3 of the episodes are edited. While most run around 25 to 26 minutes, a few run at 22 minutes or so. I don’t know what exactly is missing from these episodes, although the episodes do appear to be speeded up somewhat. Still, I don’t think the episodes are JUST time-compressed, and I believe some material is missing as well. Runtimes are as follows:
The First Meeting (25:56)
The Ventriloquist (25:38)
Busy Wife (22:02)
Kiddy Park (22:03)
Stable for Three (22:04)
Sorority House (25:34)
Ed the Lover (22:05)
The Pageant Show (22:17)
The Aunt (22:04)
The Missing Statue (25:36)
Ed the Witness (25:30)
Ed’s Mother (25:33)
Ed the Tout (25:31)
Ed the Songwriter (25:05)
Ed the Stoolpigeon (25:30)
Psychoanalyst Show (25:32)
A Man for Velma (25:31)
Ed’s New Shoes (25:32)
Little Boy (22:04)
Ed Agrees to Talk (25:34)
The Mustache (25:30)
The Other Woman (25:33)
Ed Cries Wolf (25:31)
The Contest (22:03)
Pine Lake Lodge (25:31)
Wilbur Sells Ed (25:31)
There are a few special features on this set, beginning with a commentary, and what an impressive commentary it is! It is very rare that we even see commentaries on a series this old, but even more impressive that we have both of the two main stars (Alan Young and Connie Hines) doing the commentary on it. Both of them seem to remember the series like it was yesterday, even if Connie Hines says she hasn’t seen it for years.
Next, we have “A Horse Tale” (32:03), where we get a VERY thorough and in-depth look at the history of the series and more interviews from Alan Young and Connie Hines. This is a really good featurette that talks about how the series failed to garner interest from the networks and led to the creation of a little studio called Filmways (which later became a major force on television with series such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Addams Family, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres). They had to go through some painstaking efforts to get the series on the air, particularly with going to Studebaker dealerships all across America to convince them to buy airtime from local affiliates to sell the series. Although you never know all of the details, it appears that they all worked well together and really enjoyed the series.
Finally, there is one additional special feature that can be found on Disc 4 that is mentioned nowhere on the packaging. It is a Studebaker promo from the series (0:36) using the characters of Ed and Wilbur. Studebaker was one of the original sponsors of the series. The video quality of it is a little rough.
This is a fun and quirky show that people of all ages can enjoy, but this set has some flaws that need to be worked on. The biggest flaw is the edited episodes. Having nearly 1/3 of the episodes on the set edited is a serious problem, and many fans may not be able to get past this. The menus are very annoying, as well. But on the positive side, the episodes are fun to watch, and the special features on the set are pretty impressive to watch, particularly the “A Horse Tale” featurette. This set had a lot of potential; it is just too bad that the detractors are there. Still, it is nice to see the series finally make it onto DVD in season sets, “of course,” and if you can get past the issues, you’ll want to pick up this set.