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Father Knows Best - Season Four



Release Date: March 23, 2010 (Shout! Factory)
B&W / 1956 – 1957
MSRP: $34.99
Packaging: Slimcases
Number of Discs: 5
Number of Episodes: 33
Running Time: 810 minutes
Running Time of Features: 140 minutes
Audio: English mono
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: Father Knows Best? Radio Program Episodes (3); Window on Main Street Episodes (2)


Robert Young (and the rest) are back for another season of one of the original family sitcoms that helped set the tone, Father Knows Best! Season Four contains all 33 unedited episodes of the 1967-1958 season of the series. The series was truly one of the first sitcoms on television to deal with everyday family problems, with the usual outcome being that father Jim Anderson (Young) “knowing best.” But that isn’t to say that the other members of the family didn’t sometimes know better, including wife Margaret (Jane Wyatt), Betty (Elinor Donahue), Bud (Billy Gray), and Kathy (Lauren Chapin).


The season starts with “Follow the Leader,” where Bud either has to choose to be a leader or join the pack when his classmates revolt against a new teacher. Margaret inherits a small home in the neighborhood in “The Friendly Neighbor,” but before she knows it, she is in court being sued by her new neighbor over a driveway. The family’s former gardener, Frank, returns again in “Sentenced to Happiness,” and it is going to take a lot of effort on Jim’s behalf to keep him out of jail this time. Margaret decides to take a class with Betty at her college in “Mother Goes to School,” but will it work out well for both of them?

In “Kathy’s Big Chance,” Kathy wins a contest that means the world to her--but then gets chicken pox, preventing her from enjoying what she has won. Margaret decides to learn to drive in “Margaret Learns to Drive,” and we get to see Jim’s calm temperament turn into frustration and anger when he tries to teach her. Bud ends up raising Kathy when trying to prove to Jim and Margaret he can do better in “The Way of a Dictator.” Has Jim really sold his soul to the devil? He has in “Mr. Beal Meets His Match,” at least in Betty’s story. In “Man With a Plan,” Bud’s girlfriend is throwing a going away party for him joining the Army, except there is one problem--he isn’t joining the Army.

Betty is a tyrant counselor at a summer camp in “Big Sister,” and Kathy isn’t going to deal with it. Betty makes a date with two boys for the same night in “The Rivals.” This episode guest stars a VERY young Barbara Eden (her early 20s). In “Margaret’s Other Family,” Jim is worried that his wife is spending too much time with another family and not enough with his own. Who knows best? It’s Bud’s turn in court when he is accused of causing property damage in “The Trial.”

Susan Oliver plays a visiting cousin in “Country Cousin.” In “Betty’s Crusade,” Betty finds herself helping a friend improve his home to prevent him from being evicted. Bud finds love in the supermarket in “Young Love,” but there is a problem--she’s married. A four-legged friend shows up at the Andersons in “A Friend in Need.”

Margaret thinks she is a loser in “A Medal for Margaret,” so she seeks to learn fly-fishing and even win a medal for it. Will the plan work? Betty proves to be good at tricking people in “The Weaker Sex.” Bud decides to drop out of school after hearing about a successful businessman who dropped out of school in “Bud Quits School.” He doesn’t stay out too long, though, because in the next episode, “A Matter of Pride,” he is chosen as most popular boy in his class.

Each episode on the set is unedited, running around 25 minutes and 30 seconds per episode. The original opening credits (sans the sponsorships, of course) are used for every episode in this set, which is a change from the past sets (they did not include the original credits for every episode, but instead the general syndicated ones). The original Screen Gems logo can be found at the end of each episode. Runtimes for each episode are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. Follow the Leader (25:34)
2. The Awkward Hero (25:33)
3. The Good Neighbor (25:31)
4. Bud, The Executive (25:34)
5. Sentenced to Happiness (25:34)
6. Mother Goes To School (25:35)

Disc 2:
7. The Indispensable Man (25:34)
8. Kathy's Big Chance (25:35)
9. Margaret Learns to Drive (25:31)
10. The Way of a Dictator (25:34)
11. Mr. Beal Meets His Match (25:31)
12. Kathy Makes a Wish (25:35)
13. Man with a Plan (25:33)

Disc 3:
14. Big Sister (25:28)
15. Calypso Kid (25:27)
16. Father's Biography (25:32)
17. The Rivals (25:33)
18. Bud, the Mind Reader (25:32)
19. Margaret's Other Family (25:32)
20. The Trial (25:29)

Disc 4:
21. Revenge is Sweet (25:31)
22. Country Cousin (25:31)
23. Poor Old Dad (25:34)
24. Betty's Crusade (25:32)
25. Young Love (25:36)
26. Tell It to Mom (25:33)
27. A Friend In Need (25:32)

Disc 5:
28. A Medal For Margaret (25:31)
29. The Weaker Sex (25:31)
30. Jim, The Answer Man (25:30)
31. Bud Quits School (25:31)
32. A Matter of Pride (25:32)
33. Betty Finds a Cause (25:32)


The packaging is basically the same as all of the previous sets, with a light purple color scheme this time. In fact, the cover artwork is practically just a mirror image of the first season DVD set! It isn’t a big deal, though. The back of the box has three black and white snapshots from the episodes and the set information. Inside, there are three slimcases, with the same artwork as the cover but in different colors. The back of each slimcase lists all of the episodes and the original airdates. Each disc contains a picture of each of the family members, with Jim on Disc 1, Margaret on Disc 2, Betty on Disc 3, Kathy on Disc 4, and Bud on Disc 5. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-6, Disc 2 episodes 7-13, Disc 3 contains episodes 14-20, Disc 4 contains episodes 21-27, and Disc 5 contains episodes 28-33. There is no episode booklet in this set as there was for the first season.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are the same as all of the other seasons, just with the purple color scheme this time. The main menu has options of Play All, Episodes, and Special Feature. The theme song plays in the background. Upon selecting Episodes, you get a list of episodes contained on the disc. It is all fairly straightforward. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

Video and Audio Quality:

As has been the case with the previous sets, it appears that the episodes were not remastered, but that doesn’t mean that they look bad. Grain and debris is an issue, as well as low audio levels with a few occasional cracks and pops, but it actually looks pretty good for a series as old as this one. The audio is in mono with closed-captioning available for every episode.

Special Features:

The special features on this set have pretty much become routine, but that is merely an observation, not a complaint. As has been the case with previous sets, there are three episodes of the radio series that aired before the TV series, and two episodes of Window on Main Street, Robert Young’s series post-Father Knows Best (but pre-Marcus Welby, M.D.).

The radio episodes include “A New Housekeeper” (29:31), “New Arrangements” (29:33), and “Vacation Arrives” (29:43). As these runtimes suggest, each of these radio episodes are unedited, even including original commercials. The Window on Main Street episodes include “The Boy Who Got It Made” (25:43) and “The Haunted House” (25:45).

I still would like to see more featurettes involving the cast, particularly Robert Young. Although stories say that he was an unpleasant person in real life, which would suggest that they might show a side of him that isn’t too “special feature” friendly. Still, it would be fun to see.

Final Comments:

Once again, Shout! Factory has produced a fine DVD set for this series. I would have never imagined four seasons of this show being released, and that only leaves two more remaining to be released. Hopefully they will come in due time. This series is a refreshing classic series that fans of older black and white sitcoms are sure to love, but even some fans of more modern family sitcoms can appreciate some of the values and the quality of the episodes. Certainly some (not all or even most) are outdated and just plain wrong, but it is interesting to see how culture has changed over the past 50 years.

I’m looking forward to the final two releases (assuming they happen) and hope that we see more along the lines of special features in the future. In the meantime, the first four releases are fun to watch and enjoy.

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

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 04/15/10

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