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The Goldbergs - The Ultimate Goldbergs


TITLE: THE GOLDBERGS - THE ULTIMATE GOLDBERGS


Info:

Release Date: March 16, 2010 (Shout! Factory)
B&W/1949-1956
MSRP: $59.99
Packaging: Double Slimcases
Number of Discs: 6
Number of Episodes: 71
Running Time: 1966 minutes
Running Time of Features: approx. 186 minutes
Audio: English Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: 12 radio episodes; episodes before and after restoration; excerpt from “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg” film; pilot episode of Mrs. G. Goes to College series


Introduction:

Yoo-hoo! The Goldbergs is on DVD once again, this time from Shout! Factory in The Ultimate Goldbergs, a six disc set containing all 71 episodes of the series known to exist. The Goldbergs began in 1929 as a radio program. It was a series that was described as a “domestic serial,” and later went on to become a “televised domestic serial” in 1949--or as we would call it today, a television sitcom. Each week, viewers would be invited into the apartment of Molly Goldberg (Gertrude Berg), a Jewish housewife trying to keep her family in one piece in the Bronx. But The Goldbergs was no typical sitcom as we know it today or even a sitcom as we knew it in the mid ‘50s. The Goldbergs had a theatrical quality to it and lacked a studio audience and a laugh track. The characters didn’t seek attention with quick wit or snappy jokes as is common in later sitcoms, but had a strong emphasis on plot and developing storylines within each episode.

The series is largely forgotten today, but it has the distinction of being one of the first truly successful series on TV. It was also unique in that it featured a Jewish family as the central cast, bringing a religion other than the dominant one in America into American homes. Even more fascinating is the fact that the series was able to make it through a time period of anti-Semitism in America, as well as the blacklisting of one of Berg’s co-star in the series, Philip Loeb, although the blacklisting did eventually lead to CBS canceling the series and Loeb committing suicide.

The television series began in 1949 on CBS, and moved to NBC in 1952 after the blacklisting of Philip Loeb and sponsors refusing to sponsor a series that featured an alleged communist. The series didn’t last long on NBC before moving to the already failing DuMont network in 1954. Gertrude Berg saw the move to DuMont as a ploy to help the network survive, but as the network could no longer afford to pay her salary, The Goldbergs left DuMont, and the network soon went under, as expected. In 1955, The Goldbergs came back for one last season, this time airing as a syndicated program. The series underwent several changes in this season in an effort to sell the show in syndication. Specifically, by this time, advertisers were looking for a more “typical” American family, something like the Nelsons of Ozzie & Harriet or the Cleavers of Leave it to Beaver, and as a result, the family moved from the Bronx to the suburb of Haverville. The series lost some of the charm that made it what it was by then, and the series only made it through one final season in this format.

The Ultimate Goldbergs is the second release of the series on DVD, the first being a release from Timeless Media Group a few years ago that contained a handful of episodes from the syndicated era of the series. The Ultimate Goldbergs, however, contains every known episode of the series to exist from all of the eras of the series, including seven from CBS, three from NBC, 22 from DuMont, and all 29 episodes that aired in syndication. The episodes are from the archives at the UCLA Film & Television Archive and have been significantly enhanced and cleaned up for DVD, although considering that many of the episodes on the set aired live and were presented from kinescopes, there are certain limits to the quality. The set also contains several special features, including 12 episodes of the radio series of The Goldbergs.


Episodes:

First and foremost, it is important to note that many of the episodes contained on the set are untitled. I’m not sure if this was just a common practice in the early era of television or if archives of official episode titles have been lost, but many of the earlier episodes on the set are simply identified by airdate.

The first batch of episodes comes from CBS. The earliest episode is the 08/29/49 episode where the family returns from the Catskills and Jake, Molly’s husband, is considering a business partnership with a guest. In the 09/05/49 episode, the building gets a new landlord, and Jake and Molly become demanding tenants when this new landlord comes in. The series deals with potential infidelity in the 09/26/49 episode, when Molly becomes concerned about Jake. In the 10/10/49 episode, Molly and Jake come to the conclusion that they have been too strict in their way of raising their daughter Rosie, and decide to look to new methods--which don’t sit well with Rosie at all.

The NBC episodes contained on this set begin with the 02/13/52 episode, where the family gets to use a vacation home in Florida, with each part of the family gets to use the home for one week, but the scheduling always manages to squeeze Molly and Jake out of their opportunity to go to Florida. One of the neighbors is devastated when her son refuses to name his newborn baby after her mother in the 08/18/52 episode, and it is up to Molly to comfort her. Uncle David becomes jealous of the attention that Jake’s visiting relative receives in the 08/07/53 episode.

Molly learns the rumba in the 05/04/54 episode, the earliest of the DuMont episodes presented on the set. Molly convinces a neighbor to pursue a concert career in the 05/25/54 episode, but this might also endanger the neighbor’s marriage when her husband wants a stay-at-home wife. Tante Elka’s grandchildren come to stay in the 06/15/54 episode, thrilling Molly but upsetting Jake. The issue of naming Tante Elka’s grandchild is visited again in the 06/22/54 episode, just as it had previously been addressed in one of the earlier NBC episodes.

Jake becomes involved in Pincus Pines as a business partner in the 06/29/54 episode, leading to several episodes that take place away from the Bronx. A divorcee arrives at Pincus Pines in the 07/20/54 episode, and she is getting too much attention, making the other women upset. The kitchen staff walks out at Pincus Pines in the 08/17/54 episode, which leaves Molly being a housewife to an entire vacation resort. The family finally leaves Pincus Pines and returns home in the 08/24/54 episode.

In the 08/31/54 episode, Molly is determined to lose some weight, but it won’t be as easy as it sounds. Uncle David visits his son’s new home in New Rochelle in the 09/07/54 episode, but finds that the liveliness of the Goldbergs’ apartment to be more exciting. One of David’s friends is engaged to a woman who isn’t quite right for him in the 09/21/54 episode, so what else can he do but try to break the engagement? The family celebrates the holiday--Yom Kippur--in the 10/05/54 episode, but David is upset because his son isn’t present. In the 10/12/54 episode, Molly is nominated president of the Ladies Auxiliary Committee, which is a problem when she knows her friend wants the position.

Finally, there are the syndicated episodes, all of which are included in this set. The episodes are also titled (finally!) for this portion of the series. This set begins with “Moving Day,” where the family moves from New York City to the suburbs, and Molly has to decide what to let go of as she moves. In “Social Butterfly,” Molly struggles to connect with neighbors in suburban Connecticut. Rosie wants plastic surgery on her nose, because she thinks it is too big, in “Rosie’s Nose,” and Molly tries to come up with a plan to stop her. In “Desperate Men,” Molly willingly invites two escaped convicts into her home when she believes that their game of holding her hostage is part of a college fraternity initiation.

Molly dreams of vacuuming up the family in “Molly’s Dreams,” and is determined to have that dream interpreted. Molly goes on a game show in “Reach for the Moon.” In “Molly’s Pocketbook,” Molly investigates a theft, only to find herself accused of stealing a fellow passenger’s purse. Molly has jury duty in “Molly the Juror” and befriends the defendant, but when he visits her home and she discovers her watch is missing, will she rethink her decision? Jake’s Uncle Sam comes to visit in “Is There a Doctor in the House,” where the family debates whether or not a dentist is a doctor.

In “Obituary,” David’s death is printed in the newspaper, except there is one minor problem: he isn’t dead yet. Molly gets temporary maid and butler service in “Simon’s Maid and Butler,” when Uncle Simon leaves the country for a while and lends the Goldbergs his servants. In “Hobby,” Jakes takes up painting as a hobby, but it quickly becomes an obsession. Molly becomes a Girl Scout troop leader in “Girl Scouts.” Molly becomes a hospital volunteer in “Nurse’s Aide,” but the crowded house is less than pleased when she starts bringing the patients home with her. The series ends with “Sammy Gets Married,” where son Sammy finally gets married.

The episodes contained on the set are complete, and when I say complete, I mean very complete. In fact, many of the episodes contain the original sponsor commercials, including spots from Sanka Coffee, RCA, and others. They even include network bumpers on many of the episodes. This results in many episodes running for almost a full 30 minutes. It is important to note, however, that two of the NBC episodes are 15 minutes long. This is due to NBC airing the series twice a week in a fifteen minute timeslot, a common practice in the early days of television. Runtimes for each episode are as follows:

Disc 1:
*CBS Episodes:
08/29/49 (29:32)
09/05/49 (28:28)
09/12/49 (29:28)
09/26/49 (29:33)
10/10/49 (24:05)
04/30/50 (29:28)
03/19/51 (28:40)
*NBC Episodes:
02/13/52 (14:00)
08/18/52 (14:41)
08/07/53 (29:34)
*DuMont Episodes:
05/04/54 (29:26)
05/11/54 (29:29)

Disc 2:
*DuMont Episodes:
05/25/54 (29:29)
06/01/54 (29:28)
06/08/54 (29:28)
06/15/54 (29:30)
06/22/54 (29:29)
06/29/54 (29:30)
07/13/54 (29:28)
07/20/54 (29:29)
08/03/54 (29:28)
08/10/54 (29:07)
08/17/54 (29:26)

Disc 3:
*DuMont Episodes:
08/24/54 (29:12)
08/31/54 (29:28)
09/07/54 (29:29)
09/14/54 (29:29)
09/21/54 (29:31)
09/28/54 (29:32)
10/05/54 (29:30)
10/12/54 (29:30)
10/19/54 (29:31)
*Syndicated Episodes
“Moving Day” (26:22)
“Social Butterfly” (26:07)
“Picnic” (26:07)

Disc 4:
*Syndicated Episodes
“Beauty Parlor” (26:20)
“Rosie’s Nose” (26:19)
“Desperate Men” (25:37)
“Molly’s Dreams” (25:50)
“Brief Encounter” (26:23)
“Reach for the Moon” (26:25)
“Molly’s Pocketbook” (26:58)
“Bad Companions” (25:44)
“Die Fledermaus” (26:24)
“Molly the Juror” (26:52)
“Is There a Doctor in the House?’ (26:08)
“Seymour Story” (26:12)

Disc 5:
*Syndicated Episodes
“Treasury Book” (25:58)
“Inheritance” (26:30)
“The Car” (26:19)
“Engagement Ring” (26:14)
“Obituary” (26:17)
“Simon’s Maid and Butler” (25:58)
“Rosie the Actress” (26:17)
“In-laws” (25:52)
“David’s Cousin” (26:28)
“Boojie Comes Home” (26:03)
“Insurance” (25:46)
“Hobby” (26:13)

Disc 6:
*Syndicated Episodes
“Boy Friend” (26:17)
“Molly’s Wedding Plans” (26:05)
“Partners” (25:39)
“Girl Scouts” (26:35)
“Molly the Matchmaker” (26:15)
“Where There’s Life, There’s Hope” (26:08)
“Milk Farm” (26:28)
“Molly’s Fish” (26:03)
“Nurse’s Aid” (26:03)
“The Singer” (26:09)
“Silence is Not Golden” (28:07)
“Sammy Gets Married” (25:46)


Packaging:

The packaging for the set is very simple, but functional. The front of the outer box has a picture of Mrs. Goldberg looking out her window, with the title “The Ultimate Goldbergs” above the window and the back of the box contains a brief synopsis of the series and lists all of the special features. Inside, there are three slim cases, each containing two discs. On the front of each slim case, there are various black and white snapshots from the episodes on the set. The back of each slim case contains a listing of all of the episodes on the set. The disc artwork is the same on each disc, with each disc designed to look like a bowl with dumplings inside the bowl. Each disc contains twelve episodes, except for Disc 2, which contains eleven episodes.

The set contains a very nice episode booklet that is actually 16 pages long. Beginning with page 3 in the booklet, there is a nine page history of the series, with contributions by different historians, including Aviva Kempner (director, producer, and writer of Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg) and Glenn D. Smith, Jr., an Assistant Professor of Communication at Mississippi State University who wrote a scholarly book about Gertrude Berg. After that, there is a description of each episode contained on the set, along with the runtimes for each episode.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very simple, with the main menu having three picture frames on the screen containing pictures of the cast members. The largest one, in the center, contains video clips from the episodes. The theme song from the series plays in the background. The options on the main menu include Play All, Episodes, and the bonus features presented on each respective disc. There are no scene selection menus, and although chapters are placed in the episodes, they are not found in all of the usual places.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality on many of the episodes has a tendency to range from poor to slightly above average, but it is most important to note that the episodes on the set were indeed cleaned up and restored very nicely for this set. That being said, there are certain limitations as to what restoring can do when the film elements were in poor condition to begin with.

The episodes of the worst quality are, as expected, in the first batch of episodes, the ones that aired on the networks. The episodes were taken from kinescopes, so this is somewhat to be expected. Issues here include poor framing, reflection of glass off of the television, video feedback, flickering, video dropouts, shadows, poor contrast, and even dirt from the surface of the TV screen. However, as bad as this may sound, one of the special features demonstrates how much the episodes were improved through the restoration process. There is only so much that can be done with a series as old as this one.

The best quality ones can be found on the syndicated episodes. These episodes were all shot on film, and as a result, they were actually intended to be preserved. Still, these episodes have some issues with grain and picture dropout here and there. There are also issues with the steadiness of the camera.

The audio isn’t so much of a problem, but it is just a basic aged mono audio track. There are some pops and some crackle in the audio, and it can be a bit low at times, but it is about what one would expect from a series this old. Unfortunately, the episodes are neither closed-captioned nor subtitled.

One problem that plagues several episodes throughout the set is video and audio that is slightly out of sync with one another. I don’t know if this is a result of flaws with the original prints or if this is due to the fact that so many episodes were placed on each disc.


Special Features:

The set contains many nice special features, beginning with the radio episodes contained on Disc 1. But don’t even attempt to play these through the menus on the DVD player. They can’t be played that way. Instead, you’ll have to use a computer to copy them from the files on the disc. These episodes go back as far as 1939, and include episodes that deal with such issues of the time, including World War II. The quality on the radio episodes vary greatly. The episodes included are as follows:

“The Telegram” (12:24) - The Goldbergs hire a driver, and on their way home, he mysteriously picks up a baby to bring back to New York.
December 10, 1940 episode (14:22) - Sammy struggles over his fascination with a manipulative girl.
December 12, 1940 episode (14:52) - A daughter of a friend of the family visits and is interested in Sammy.
May 1942 episode (13:24) - Rosie’s boyfriend’s family doesn’t approve of Rosie.
May 1942 episode (13:30) - Rosie’s boyfriend goes to work at Jake’s mill.
July 8, 1942 episode (14:11) - Sammy discusses the war with his friend before leaving for the army.
July 9, 1942 episode (12:42) - Sammy goes in to the army.
November 1942 episode (13:25) - Emma agrees to marry Molly’s neighbor Bruce.
November 1942 episode (13:51) - Mary, Bruce’s sister-in-law from a previous marriage, admits that she is in love with Bruce.
June 7, 1942 episode (14:55) - In this D-Day episode, Molly meets Sammy’s fiancée. (This episode even has an announcement at the beginning informing listeners that they will interrupt with any breaking news regarding the historical events of this day.)
May 1945 episode (11:44) - Molly is nominated for a council position at a town hall meeting.
May 1945 episode (13:40) - Molly’s opponent in the city council race is arrested.

Disc 3 contains “Episodes Before and After Restoration” (3:34), which is just a brief featurette that demonstrates how much of a difference was made in the restoration of the episodes. It is very short, but it definitely allows one to appreciate the effort that was put in to the restoration process.

On Disc 5, there is an excerpt from “Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg” (8:33), which was a film about the series and the life of Molly Berg. It includes interviews from those who knew her as well as historians. I have not seen the documentary, but this preview makes it look as if it is worth seeing.

Finally, on Disc 6, we have the pilot episode of the series “Mrs. G. Goes to College” (25:27). It was a series that Gertrude Berg did in the ‘60s about being a 62 year old woman headed off for her freshman year of college. The series was a failure when it aired. It isn’t really that great of a show, but it is nice to see. What IS interesting about this is some of the cast members included in here, which includes some people that we know from other series: Mary Wickes, Marion Ross, and Aneta Corsaut.


Final Comments:

I have always wanted to see this series and was excited a few years ago when Timeless Media Group announced their release of the series. Unfortunately, that release turned out to be a huge disappointment. This release, on the other hand, is excellent! Yes, it does have some flaws, but most of them are part of the original film elements, which were not in great shape to begin with (since they were not intended to be preserved). I really enjoyed watching this series, and I only wish that more episodes of the series had been preserved so that I could see more of them. Despite the flaws still present in the original film elements, the UCLA Film & Television Archives did a very good job in cleaning up these episodes, and these episodes look much better than the ones presented on the previous release. I think that this set would impress Mrs. Bloom, very much.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 2.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall Score: 4/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 03/11/10

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