TITLE: THE DONNA REED SHOW - SEASON TWO
DVD Release Date: July 28, 2009 (Virgil Films)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 37
Running Time: 960 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English subtitles
Special Features: Photo Galleries; Episode Scripts (PDF); Biographies (PDF); Letter to Donna Reed (PDF); Chicago Tribune Review (PDF)
When you hear that ringing of the telephone, you know it is time for more of The Donna Reed Show on DVD! Season Two of The Donna Reed Show brings the 38 episodes from the 1959-1960 season of the series to DVD on a four disc set.
Donna Reed, the title star, plays Donna Stone, a woman that is proud to be a housewife based upon her perception of what a housewife is. Carl Betz plays Alex, her husband, who has a successful career as a physician. She has two children, Jeff (Paul Petersen) and Mary (Shelley Fabares),
The series is much like most other sitcoms from the era in a sense, but at the same time, it is different. While it certainly wasn’t the first family sitcom or the first sitcom with a female lead, it was among the first successful family sitcoms WITH a female leading character. The episodes mostly centered around Donna and her life, although that doesn’t mean that the other characters never got story lines. She always liked to think of herself as more than just a housewife, somewhat of a domestic engineer so to speak, but that doesn’t mean that the series was a new wave in feminism or anything like that. It was still a light-hearted late ‘50s/early ‘60s family sitcom. But a great family sitcom, for sure.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Mary gets stuck with the “short guy” in a dance for a school show in “That’s Show Business.” In “Sleep No More My Lady,” Alex gives Donna a tranqulizier to help her sleep on a plane flight. The mother of a friend of Jeff’s gets a reality check in “A Friend Indeed.” Mary decides to use her sweet brother Jeff to get a boy in “Going Steady.” Donna tries to introduce the family to high society in “Nothing Like a Good Book.” Marion Ross guest stars in “Flowers for the Teacher,” where the boys at school just don’t like their new teacher. Donna has to help another mother overcome her worries in “All Mothers Worry.”
Jeff gets a lesson in popularity (and why sometimes it isn’t cool to be popular) in “Jeff Joins a Club.” Donna and Alex face questions about how to discipline the kids in “The Punishment.” Donna and Alex get into an argument that they try to hide from the children in “Difference of Opinion.” In “The Homecoming Dance,” Mary has a date for the homecoming, but he happens to be in college! Why has Jeff been acting so perfectly for a while? Find out in “Broken Spirit.” Is Mary going to be going to be getting married? Find out in “The Secret.” Donna goes on the defense for her status as a household engineer in “Just a Housewife.”
In “The First Quarrel,” Donna and Alex get involved in a lover’s spat. Jeff and his friends are hanging out in an abandoned home in “A Place to Go.” Jeff decides to take a proactive stance against homework in “The Editorial.” How will Donna react when Alex is invited to a bachelor party? See for yourself in “The Fatal Leap.” Jeff is good at playing the trumpet in “The Perfect Pitch,” but he’d really rather play football. Donna goes on a pickle making spree in “Pickles for Charity.”
A friend of Donna’s shows up in “The Career Woman,” and is wanting to live the kind of life that Donna lives, but is she really ready for that? Jeff learns the American way of going into debt in “Jeff, the Financial Guru.” Donna learns that she has a big mouth sometimes in “The Gossip.” The Stones are frantically trying to find a wedding present to put out when Aunt Lettie visits in “The Wedding Present.” The season ends with “Cool Cat,” where Jeff wants to keep a cat that he brings home.
There is no way around it--the packaging on the set is kind of cheap. The release of season one had decent packaging (though it was nothing fancy), but this one just looks and feels cheap. Basically, the set is presented in a double thick keepcase. On the cover, there is a color photo of Donna with the other family members in a black and white photograph hanging on the wall behind her. It is all on a blue-green background. It is certainly functional, but looks almost like something that could have just easily been made in Microsoft Paint. Packaging may not sound like a big deal to fans of the series, but it is a big deal, because cheap packaging suggests a cheap set, and some fans may want to avoid cheap DVD sets. The back has four black and white episode snapshots. Inside, we have the discs, which have much more professional looking artwork. Disc 1 has a photograph of Donna, Disc 2 has a photograph of Alex, Disc 3 has a photograph of Jeff, and Disc 4 has a photograph of Mary. Each disc contains 10 episodes, except for Disc 4, which contains 8 episodes. There is a sheet inside which lists all of the episodes and original airdates, but no descriptions are given.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set certainly do the job, but personally, I thought that they were a little boring, and in a way, they don’t even look all that professional. Just as with the packaging, the menus go further to make this look like a cheap DVD set. The main menu on each disc has the exact same artwork that is seen on the cover of the set, along with rotating cast photos inside the picture frame. The options on the main menu are Play All, Episode Selection, and Subtitles. Additionally, there is a Bonus Features option on Disc 4. The Episode Selection menu lists all of the episodes, along with episode numbers and episode snapshots, five at a time. The set is a little ambigous about how to return to the main menu from any screen. Basically, you have to just move around the arrows at the bottom of the screen until you get there. The set lacks scene selection menus, and there are no chapters within the episodes except for one placed right after the opening credits of each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The episodes on the set look mostly normal considering the age of the series. There are vertical line scratches here and there, some contrast issues, some ghosting on the edges, and some grain, but honestly, as bad as all of that sounds, none of the problems are too severe. I’ve seen far worse quality on other series from the same era, but at the same time, I’ve seen better too. One thing that annoyed me (though it probably won’t even be noticeable to most viewers) is the black space before the opening credits of each episode. There is up to six seconds of this black space before each episode, and although the DVDs are set to automatically skip past this, it is still a little annoying to see that they couldn’t remove this instead. The audio has fluctuating levels and does tend to have a crackle in it every now and then. Each episode on the set is subtitled in English.
MOST of the episodes on the set are unedited, running at approxmiately 25:45. Of course, most is a dangerous and scary word, and fans have every right to be worried. This set definitely contains at least two syndicated episodes, and another episode that has a suspiciously low running time. The episodes “Flowers for Teacher” and “The Gentle Dew” both run around 22:30. Given that low runtime, along with the abrupt chopping found within the episodes, there is no possible way that these two are unedited episodes. Additionally, the episode “The Cool Cat” runs at just over 24 minutes. While this is less of a tale-tale sign for a syndicated episode, and I did not notice anything nearly as abrupt as far as any editing, I am concerned that something is most likely missing from this episode as well. To add fuel to this fire, some episodes have a closing logo on the end which is far from original--a 1980s Colex Enterprises logo.
That’s Show Business (25:43)
Sleep No More, My Lady (25:44)
A Penny Earned (25:45)
A Friend Indeed (25:46)
The First Child (25:45)
Going Steady (25:42)
The Neighborly Gesture (25:46)
Nothing Like a Good Book (25:45)
Flowers for Teacher (22:25)
All Mothers Worry (25:45)
Jeff Joins a Club (25:49)
The Punishment (25:49)
Difference of Opinion (25:45)
The Homecoming Dance (25:44)
Lucky Girl (25:46)
Broken Spirit (25:45)
The Secret (25:45)
The New Mother (25:47)
Just a Housewife (25:45)
The Free Soul (25:50)
The First Quarrel (25:46)
A Place to Go (25:46)
A Night to Howl (25:46)
The Editorial (25:45)
The Gentle Dew (22:32)
The Fatal Leap (25:46)
Perfect Pitch (25:44)
Pickles for Charity (25:45)
Mary’s Growing Pains (25:50)
Alex Runs the House (25:45)
The Career Woman (25:49)
Jeff, the Financial Genius (25:49)
Mary’s Crusade (25:50)
The First Time We Met (25:50)
The Gossip (25:50)
Love’s Sweet Awakening (25:45)
The Wedding Present (25:45)
The Cool Cat (24:12)
The set does contain special features, all of which are good ones, but none of them include any real video footage of anything. Some of them, in fact, must be viewed on the computer. They can all be found on Disc 4. On the DVD player, you’ll find a photo gallery (4:15), which just shows some basic cast photos, as well as a photo gallery from Donna Reed’s movie, “From Here to Eternity” (4:15). The latter really has nothing to do with the series, but it is still nice to have. On the DVD-ROM (which you will have to put into a computer to see), you’ll find scripts from the episode “A Penny Earned,” “All Mothers Worry,” and “The Career Woman.” You’ll also find PDF files of a Chicago Tribune review of the series, a letter to Donna Reed from a public relations manager, and official Screen Gems biographies of Paul Peterson and Shelley Fabares.
I really have been enjoying this series, but I wish that this could have been a nicer DVD set. To begin with, the set just feels cheap with the lackluster packaging and menus. Add in the two (probably three) edited episodes and that only makes matters worse. Still, I don’t believe that any of this should be a deal breaker for those interested in this set. Yes, it sounds like the set may have a fair share of problems, but at the same time, this is a great series and the episodes are very much enjoyable. I would just sincerely hope that Virgil Films can rectify these problems on future sets, because it appears to me that they are off to a decent start when it comes to putting out a quality DVD release.
I honestly find it difficult to get into sitcoms from this era, but as I’ve been watching this series on DVD, I am finding myself getting in to it more and more. Fans of the series and Donna Reed will enjoy the series, of course, but fans of family sitcoms will also find themselves enjoying this series. The third season has already been announced for October. I just hope that Virgil Films continues to release this series. Eight seasons is quite a bit, but the best thing that a company can do to promote sales of any TV series is to prove that they are committed to finishing the job.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 08/03/09
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