DVD Release Date: March 20, 2012 (MPI Home Video)
B&W / 1964-1965
Packaging: Amaray Case
Number of Discs: 2
Number of Episodes: 11
Running Time: 280 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: 105 minutes
Audio: English mono
Subtitles and Captions: English subtitles
Special Features: "Remembering My Living Doll" featurette; "Let's Talk to Lucy" Interview with Julie Newmar; Alternate Opening Credits; Original Commercials and Bumpers; Soundtrack Album; Photo Gallery; Premiere Episode Presentation; Episode of The Bob Cummings Show
In the 1980s, the TV series Small Wonder was on the air, a series created by Howard Leeds about a family living with a girl who was actually a robot, pretending (to the rest of the world) like she was a real human being. But this was far from the first series with a premise, and not even the first one involving Howard Leeds. In 1964, following the success of the series My Favorite Martian, CBS turned to producer Jack Chertok to create something new. And out of this request came My Living Doll, television's original series about a "living android."
The series starred Bob Cummings, who had already made a name for himself in television years earlier as the star of his own series, The Bob Cummings Show, as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychiatrist for the government space program (yes, much like Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie!). Things change quickly for Bob when he meets the mysterious woman wrapped in nothing but a bath towel, who turns out to be a robot named Rhoda (played by Julie Newmar, pre-Catwoman). Meeting this new woman turns out to be much more than he anticipated, though. Now, he has the responsibility of training her to function just as any human would, but at the same time, keeping Rhoda's secret from the rest of the world... which certainly isn't easy with his sister and neighbor Peter constantly in the way!
The series only ran for one season on CBS before being canceled. The series didn't quite have the ratings necessary to move ahead, and that matter was only complicated when star Bob Cummings asked to be released from his contract due to those low-ratings before the first season even ended. With only one season of episodes produced, the series simply wasn't viable enough to be re-air in syndication, despite efforts to make that happen. As the years passed by and the series went unaired, episodes simply became "lost," with even the copyright owner not knowing where they can be found. But now, the "lost" status of the series changes a bit, as the series debuts on DVD, marking the first opportunity for most people to even see the series. With that, we have eleven of the twenty six episodes presented in MPI's release of My Living Doll - The Official Collection: Volume One.
As previously mentioned, the series has been a "lost" series for years in the sense that it hasn't been broadcast anywhere, but the real story of this series is that it is "lost" in the sense that many episodes of the series actually ARE missing. This DVD set compiles the eleven episodes of the series which have been found so far, and they are not eleven consecutive episodes. Instead, what we have are eleven episodes from the first twenty one episodes, with the producers (and us, as well!) hoping to recover the rest for a future release of the series.
The series begins with "Boy Meets Girl," where Bob first encounters Rhoda (when she wanders into his office wearing nothing but a bath towel), but he is in for much more when her creator is suddenly reassigned to Pakistan and he is forced to take over for her care. Rhoda is ready her first date (even if Bob isn't ready for her to go on one, of course!) in "Rhoda's First Date." In "Uninvited Guest," Rhoda reads Alice in Wonderland, and subsequently becomes afflicted with the only known case of robot vertigo. In "Something Borrowed, Something Blew," Rhoda may be on the verge of getting married. Bob uses Rhoda to take computer dating to a whole new level in "The Love Machine." In "The Beauty Contest," Bob's sister sneaks Rhoda into a beauty contest, where Bob is a judge.
In "My Robot, the Warden," Bob asks Rhoda to not let him leave the apartment no matter what, something that he quickly regrets. A millionaire will do anything to keep his fortune out of the hands of his domineering sister in "I'll Leave it to You," and of course, Rhoda may be able to help in that. Rhoda plays the (perfect) pool shark in "The Pool Shark." In "The Kleptomaniac," Rhoda decides to help herself to some items at a jewelry counter at a department store. In "The Witness," Bob's new role on a road-safety committee is off to a really bad start when Rhoda decides to "tell all" about a crash.
The episodes that are presented on the set are all unedited, and one of them ("The Witness") even contains all of the original commercials. Note that the episode "Something Borrowed, Something Blew" is actually presented as a bonus episode on Disc 2 since it is supposedly of lower quality (though I didn't think it was that much worse myself). Episode runtimes are as follows:
"Boy Meets Girl" (25:04)
"Rhoda's First Date" (25:18)
"Uninvited Guest" (25:13)
"The Love Machine" (25:30)
"The Beauty Contest" (25:25)
"My Robot, The Warden" (25:30)
"I'll Leave it to You" (25:27)
"The Pool Shark" (25:24)
"The Kleptomaniac" (25:18)
"The Witness" (29:05)
"Something Borrowed, Something Blew" (25:49)
The packaging for the DVD set is rather simple, with the set using a standard DVD case (with a tray inside for the extra disc) with a pink color scheme and cover art featuring Julie Newmar and Bob Cummings. On the back of the case, there are a few publicity photos, along with a description of the series and a list of special features. Inside the case, we have a listing of all of the episodes and original airdates, but the one thing that is missing that would have been nice is episode descriptions. There are two discs, with the first disc containing seven episodes, and the second disc containing three episodes, along with all of the special features. The disc artwork contains publicity photos of Julie Newmar and Bob Cummings.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are very basic, but nicely done, with a photo of Newmar and Cummings, and options of Play All, Episode List, English Subtitles, and Special Features (Disc 2 only). Once you select Episode List, you get a text list of all of the episodes, and the episode plays immediately upon selecting it. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
I honestly didn't expect much when it came to the video and audio quality of the episodes on this set, but surprisingly, the episodes look pretty good. There is definitely more grain and debris than usual on the episodes, and the one "bonus" episode (which was said to be of best available quality) had a less-than-crisp and unfocused quality, but generally speaking, it isn't bad at all. The audio has a few crackles in it and has some static noise in the background, but again, it isn't that bad, either. The episodes all contain English subtitles, except for the "bonus" episode on Disc 2.
The special features can all be found on Disc 2, beginning with "Remembering My Living Doll" (29:10). Here, we have a very nice retrospective where Julie Newmar, Howard Leeds, and Jackie Joseph (she guest starred on one of the episodes) look back at their memories of the series. It is amazing how clear their memories are of this series that many people don't even remember.
"Let's Talk to Lucy with Julie Newmar" (18:56) is a special feature that should sound very familiar to anybody who has purchased any DVDs from MPI in recent years. Here, we have two daysí worth of interviews that Lucille Ball did with Julie Newmar from Lucy's radio series from the mid-'60s. Some of these "Let's Talk to Lucy" interviews are great, and some are not-so-great, but the ones that are included on this set are very interesting and thorough ones that fans will certainly enjoy.
"Alternate Opening Credits" (1:58) gives another very brief interview with Julie Newmar as she discusses an alternate version of the opening credits (we also get to see this version here), a version that didn't quite make it to air. In this version of the opening credits, her character wears a dress (or a nightgown as she describes it) that is way too short.
"Sponsor Commercials" (7:22) gives viewers plenty of vintage commercials to see from the sponsors of the series. Among these commercials, you will find some of those classic commercials of the '60s which glamorized cigarette smoking as being the coolest and sexiest thing that anybody could ever possibly do. Seeing classic cigarette commercials on a DVD set is always interesting, because it is amazing how far they went out of their way to glamorize something that is so carcinogenic.
"Soundtrack Music Album" (approx. 13 minutes) is a very interesting "jukebox" style featurette that gives you a chance to play many (if not all) of the different audio cues from the episodes in their extended and unedited form. It is difficult to describe the feature, but there are eleven different tracks here, which come straight from the musical cues that are used in scene changes from the episodes. Except here, you can listen to the full versions of the cues, and some last up to two minutes.
"The Bob Cummings Show" (25:39) is exactly what it sounds like, an episode of Bob Cummings earlier series which he starred in. In this episode of the classic sitcom, Bob gets jury duty and tries to get out of it with the help of his secretary (played by series regular Ann B. Davis in her earliest television role). This is actually the second time that MPI has included an episode of this series as a bonus feature on a DVD set. It would be nice to see more episodes of this classic series on DVD.
"Episode 1 Promo Presentation" (7:55) is essentially a trimmed down version of the first episode of the series. I'm assuming that this was used to attract sponsors for the program, although I'm not completely sure.
Finally, there is a photo gallery of about 40 different publicity photos from the series.
This is a very impressive DVD set, and despite containing only eleven episodes, it is one of the nicest sets that I have ever seen. It takes a very dedicated producer and a very dedicated studio to put together a really great DVD set with a series that has been lost in the shuffle, and that is precisely what has happened here. This DVD set has actually been in the planning stages for a very long time, and what we have received in the end is one of the few DVDs that we've reviewed here that has actually earned a "five star" rating.
This isn't just a nicely put together DVD set, though. This is actually a very enjoyable series, and I was surprised to discover how much I found myself enjoying it. It takes a lot from other science fiction series of the 60s (they were very common in this era), but it has the unique angle of the "different" person being a robot, which of course as we mentioned was done again in the '80s with the series Small Wonder. I really do think that fans of Small Wonder would enjoy this series, as it has a very similar feel to it, but fans of lost series from the past will enjoy this series even more. I think that it is a shame that this series didn't last longer, as it was very creative and innovative for the time. Of course, perhaps that was why it wasn't ready for television. In any event, all I can say about this set is something that Rhoda wouldn't say: it DOES compute!