TITLE: THE DONNA REED SHOW - SEASON ONE
DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008 (Arts Alliance America)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 37
Running Time: 936 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English subtitles
Special Features: Photo Gallery; Original Commercial; Original Press Release (PDF file); Original Production Notes (PDF File)
America’s first favorite TV mom from the golden era has finally come to the digital era on DVD! Season One of The Donna Reed Show is a four disc set that brings you all 37 episodes from the 1958-1959 season of the classic sitcom, along with a sampling of special features.
The Donna Reed Show stars Donna Reed (who else?) as Donna Stone, a 1950s era housewife trying to raise her family in the town of Hillsdale. She has to deal with all of the big problems that all mothers have in keeping the family together, although the problems obviously aren’t so big in this era. She is married to Alex (Carl Betz) a doctor and has two kids, Jeff (Paul Petersen) and Mary (Shelley Fabares).
The series could be dismissed by a naive person as “just another 50s family sitcom,” but the angle on this series is that it focuses on the Donna, and not a male leading cast member. This certainly wasn’t the first series to do that, but it was the first successful family sitcom to accomplish that. The series is an innocent series that doesn’t go into controversial territory, but it does provide a way to escape the harsher realities that a modern sitcom explores. It’s innocent TV at it’s best.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The series begins with “Weekend Trip,” where Donna and Alex want to take a trip for the weekend, but how will Donna react when a young patient is keeping Alex from leaving? Donna does what any mother would do when Jeff is bullied in “Pardon My Gloves.” She teaches him how to box! Jeff has to raise money for a football uniform in “The Football Uniform.” The milkman may have just left than milk on the doorstep in “The Foundling.” In “Change Partners and Dance,” Mary has found the boy that she likes and he has found the girl that he likes--except the girl is Donna!
The family has to deal with Uncle Fred in “The Busy Body,” but do they really want to deal with him? Donna isn’t feeling the true meaning of Christmas (but wants to) in “A Very Merry Christmas.” Mary has two dates in “Mary’s Double Date,” and can only choose one of them. In “Have Fun,” Does the family love Mary more than Jeff? That is what Jeff thinks in “Jeff vs. Mary.” Mary has a bad date, so Alex and Donna try to tell her the story of their first date--and both have very different stories.
Donna just can’t let a bachelor stay a bachelor in “Donna Plays Cupid.” In “The Report Card,” Jeff is just an average student, but does Donna want just an average son? Donna is tired of being the ideal wife and loses it in “The Ideal Wife,” but will she regret snapping? Mary wants to be class vice president in “Mary’s Campaign.” A teen idol is hiding out at the Stone house in “April Fool,” so can Mary keep the secret?
Alex might be able to make money off of the misery of others in “Grateful Patient.” In “Miss Lovelace Comes to Tea,” the Stones hire a housekeeper when Donna is busy with charity work, but will she be able to do everything Donna does? In “Advice to Young Lovers,” Mary needs more advice on love and turns to Donna and Alex once again.
The packaging is very simple but perfectly functional. There is nothing all that fancy about the packaging, with the cover art having the family standing on the staircase (why is it that none of these typical American families of the 50s ever lived in single-story houses?) and the typical show information on the back of the case. Inside the box, we have the two slimcases, each containing two discs. Each slimcase has the same artwork as the cover art, only in a different color scheme. The back of each case contains a listing of the episodes on each disc. Unfortunately, there are no episode guides included in the packaging, which would be very nice to have for this series.
There really isn’t much to the disc art. We just have discs that have just basic designs on a blue (Discs 1 and 2) or a green (Discs 3 and 4) background. Disc One contains episodes 1-10, Disc 2 contains episodes 11-20, Disc 3 contains 21-30, and Disc 4 contains episodes 31-37.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are fine, but honestly, kind of boring and dull. The main menu has the theme music playing with rotating cast photos, and options of Play All, Episode Selection, and Subtitles. The menus honestly look like they were made in somewhat of a rush. Episode Selection takes you to a menu where you select the episodes. You are presented with five episodes per screen, complete with a snapshot from the episode. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. There are no scene selection menus, nor are there chapters within the episodes.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video quality on the set is generally pretty good. Of course, pretty good does not mean perfect. First, to focus on the positives, every episodes appears to be fully intact and appears to be cleaned up fairly well. In fact, it would be unfair to fully criticize the set, as some might say that the episodes look fine. But there are a few minor issues. First, the black levels on the episodes seem to be slightly off. Second, there is always the typical issue of grain, and although it isn’t a major issue, I’ve still seen less grain on older shows such as this one. Still, the episodes don’t look like public domain episodes or anything that bad, so there isn’t that much to complain about. As far as the audio, it is decent, although it can be dull and a little low at times. It tends to crackle every now and then. There are subtitles for those that require them.
Although I am no expert on the show, I believe that every episode is most likely unedited, with each one running at 25:50. It makes you wonder how much is being edited out of the syndicated versions (that is, whenever we even see them anymore).
We don’t have a whole lot of special features, but what we do have is pretty good. First, we have an original promo (1:03), which is (as it sounds) an original commercial from the series from when it originally aired on ABC. We also have a photo gallery that shows us over 40 different photos relating to the series. If you are watching the series on a DVD player connected to a DVD player, this is basically all you are going to see.
If you put Disc Four into a computer, you’ll find some more special features, specifically two PDF files. The first is a press release relating to the series that was put out by Screen Gems during the first season of the series. The second is production notes relating to the first season. It is very interesting to read these documents, as they give a look into the series from the time period when it originally aired.
This isn’t a bad show at all, in fact, I found myself enjoying it much more than I expected. I am very picky on these older shows from the 50s, but generally, you can’t go wrong with a solid family sitcom such as this one. It is actually kind of nice to see a family sitcom where they actually start with kids that aren’t too young, because a lot of times, stories about the young kids in these older shows can be kind of lame (although Leave it to Beaver was an obvious exception to that rule). This is a solid series, and it is obvious why it was so successful. It is just too bad that it doesn’t get much attention on television these days.
The DVD set is certain to please fans, as it presents all of the episodes in their complete form and presents them all beautifully. The special features, while not exactly numerous, are also very nice to see. The set indicates that the second season will be coming soon (before Mother’s Day, specifically), so hopefully we will eventually see all of the episodes released.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 10/30/08
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