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Christmas Treats DVD Review

Buy Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets on DVD from Amazon.com Christmas Treats (1962-1982)
Series & DVD Details

Featured Series: "The Beverly Hillbillies", "The Lucy Show", "Petticoat Junction", "Happy Days",
"Laverne & Shirley", "Mork & Mindy", "The Odd Couple", "Cheers", "Love, American Style"

Directors: Richard Whorf, Jack Donohue, Guy Scarpitta, Jerry Paris, Joel Zwick, Jeff Chambers, George Tyne, James Burrows, Charles R. Rondeau / Writers: Paul Henning, Mark Tuttle, Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Martin, Bob Weiskopf, Bob Schiller, James Ritz, Paul B. Price, Stephen Nathan, Dale McRaven, Bruce Johnson, Ronald I. Friedman, David Lloyd, Gene Thompson

Cast: Al Molinaro (Al Delvecchio, Murray), Buddy Ebsen (Jed Clampett), Irene Ryan (Granny), Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett), Max Baer (Jethro Bodine), Raymond Bailey (Milburn Drysdale), Harriet MacGibbon (Margaret Drysdale), Lucille Ball (Lucy Montgomery), Vivian Vance (Vivian Bagley), Candy Moore (Chris Carmichael), Jimmy Garrett (Jerry Carmichael), Ralph Hart (Sherman Bagley), Joe Mell (Ernie the Butcher), Bea Benaderet (Kate Bradley), Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe Carson), Jeannine Riley (Billie Jo Bradley), Pat Woodell (Bobbie Jo Bradley), Linda Kaye (Betty Jo Bradley), Smiley Burnette (Charley Pratt), Rufe Davis (Floyd Smoot), Frank Cady (Sam Drucker), Roy Roberts (Norman P. Curtis), Don Washbrook (Herby Bates), William Benedict (Willie Trankis), Gloria Marshall (Miss Evans), Charles Lane (Homer Bedloe), Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), Henry Winkler (Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham), Anson Williams (Potsie Weber), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham), Verne Rowe (J.B.), Paulette Breen (Angela Buvay), Penny Marshall (Laverne De Fazio), Cindy Williams (Shirley Feeney), Betty Garrett (Edna Babish), Michael McKean (Lenny), David L. Lander (Squiggy), Phil Foster (Frank De Fazio), Eddie Mekka (Carmine Ragusa), Hamilton Camp (Rags), Robin Williams (Mork), Pam Dawber (Mindy McConnell), Elizabeth Kerr (Cora Hudson), Conrad Janis (Fred McConnell), Jeffrey Jacquet (Eugene), Morgan Fairchild (Susan Taylor), Tony Randall (Felix Unger), Jack Klugman (Oscar Madison), Larry Gelman (Vinnie), Ryan MacDonald (Roy), Garry Walberg (Speed), Ogden Talbot (Messenger Boy), Ted Danson (Sam Malone), Shelley Long (Diane Chambers), Nicholas Colasanto (Ernie "Coach" Pantusso), Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), Ellis Rabb (Eric Finch), John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin), Henry Gibson (Flower Delivery Man), John McGiver (Filbert "Foobit"), Ann Miller (Dorothy), E.J. Peaker (Phyllis Fenceton), Craig Huebing (Charles Fenceton)


Running Time: 218 Minutes (8 episodes & 1 segment) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned; Airdates: December 1962 - December 1982
DVD Release Date: November 2, 2010; Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Clear Keepcase; Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)

Buy from Amazon.com Buy in 2-Pack with Holiday Treats

Since I reviewed and extolled Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets two years ago, the multi-series compilation concept has grown more popular. Paramount developed the T.V. Sets line to bundle premiere episodes of shows by genre, but the Christmas episode compilation remains where it's at. Last year, Shout! Factory put out Merry Sitcom! with holiday installments of "Bewitched" and five less popular shows. Universal released the Holiday TV Comedy Collection; sticking to contemporary shows, they had to add "House" and other hour-long dramas to fan favorites "30 Rock" and "The Office."
Warner Archive Collection is soon putting out a 2-disc Classic TV Christmas Collection with ten holiday sitcom episodes (which I've requested but doubt I'll get to review).

I feel like I can take a tiny bit of credit for the seasonal sitcom compilations thriving as much as they are, despite them being a hard sell and not widely promoted. After all, plagiarized on Amazon.com, my Holiday Treats review is considered most helpful, with 37 of 37 people finding it helpful to date. Thank you, customer D.C. Squires high in the sky traveling at Mach-2!

I was psyched when I learned that Paramount would be dipping back into its vast CBS Television library to give us a second holiday collection, this one called Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets. Online listings and artwork for this title have alternated from including eight episodes like Holiday Treats to including nine, with one of the Christmas cookies of the cover (the one bearing the title of "Love, American Style") missing some of the time. It has been included on the final product, but it is just one segment (i.e. one-third of an hour-long episode) of that anthology series. None of the nine featured shows was a part of Holiday Treats and many of the episodes chosen tend to be one of the series' first of several Christmas episodes, meaning there's ample room for the Paramount/CBS library to be further tapped in similar fashion. They haven't even gotten to "Becker" yet!

Vivian Vance (Vivian Bagley) and Lucy Montgomery (Lucille Ball) hurriedly try to make one happy Christmas tree from the two they've ruined for each other in "The Lucy Show" episode "Together for Christmas." Felix (Tony Randall) is Marley and all three ghosts to Oscar's Scrooge (Jack Klugman) in this ulcer-induced A Christmas Carol nightmare of "The Odd Couple."

Christmas Treats gives us a more narrow range of television comedy than Holiday Treats, which spanned forty years from "The Honeymooners" to "Frasier." This newer disc is really big on the 1970s, with episodes of the popular Garry Marshall shows "Happy Days", "Laverne & Shirley", "Mork & Mindy", and "The Odd Couple" joining on-the-bubble inclusion "Love, American Style." The only thing more recent than them is "Cheers", which, approaching the thirtieth anniversary of its debut, isn't quite a TV spring chicken. Those who don't consider anything in color to be classic television will be pleased to find some older programs represented here as well.

The disc is rounded out by episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies", "The Lucy Show", and "Petticoat Junction."

Even with the other compilations I mentioned cropping up, you'd think that with all the television DVDs out there, we'd see a lot more of such creatures being released by the major studios. Christmas Treats and discs like it offer an altogether different experience than the typical complete season approach. Bundling shows together is truer to television's design; only in recent years has it become really popular to follow series in isolation with complete disregard for their primetime neighbors. Clearly, variety is what makes this DVD so appealing. Every show on the disc likely had stronger episodes than the one featured here. But the very fact that holiday television continues to flourish -- from cheery low-budget TV movies and ABC Family's accommodating 25 Days of Christmas to Turner networks' 24-hour A Christmas Story marathons and the old standby Yule log -- illustrates that the medium is an integral part of the season, something it's been at least since the 1960s boom of beloved animated specials.

As on Holiday Treats, the episodes here are arranged in a semi-chronological fashion. Though their settings include Los Angeles, New York, and various Middle America locations in between, the sitcoms are marked by commonality, providing the Christmas carols, traditions, gift-giving, generous gestures, and redemptions that have clearly been an integral part of December for a long time. A few of the episodes deal with the holiday merely in passing. If not for the silver tinsel above the bar and the wreath on the door, I'm not sure how you'd know it was Christmastime at Cheers. Most, however, deal with Christmas head-on, appropriately enough.

And now, let's take a closer look at the featured episodes...

Granny (Irene Ryan) and Jed (Buddy Ebsen) try to make sense of the new washing machine the Drysdales have given them in "Christmas at the Clampetts." (It's a television.) Ayyy! Fonzie (Henry Winkler) takes his Christmas card photo with some of his many ladies plus Al (Al Molinaro) as an elf in one of the few holiday moments of "Richie Branches Out."

1. The Beverly Hillbillies (2.14): "Christmas at the Clampetts" (25:21) (Originally aired December 25, 1963)
The Clampetts, backwards country folk turned millionaires, spend their first Christmas in California. Misunderstandings abound as neighbor couple The Drysdales give them a television, a boat, and a chimpanzee named Skipper.

2. The Lucy Show (1.13): "Together for Christmas" (25:49) (Originally aired December 24, 1962)
Excitement over their families' first Christmas together fades, as Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Vivian (Vivian Vance) clash over every aspect of the celebrations, from the color of the tree to the dinner's main course.

3. Petticoat Junction (1.14): "Cannonball Christmas" (25:40) (Originally aired December 24, 1963)
Much to everyone's dismay, grouchy executive Homer Bedloe (Charles Lane) seeks to put a stop to the Hooterville Cannonball on the eve of its traditional decorated Christmas carol run. The weakest episode on the disc, this may explain why "Petticoat" isn't as well-known as most of the other featured shows.

4. Happy Days (4.11): "Richie Branches Out" (25:36) (Originally aired December 7, 1976)
In one of the less Christmassy episodes here, Richie (Ron Howard) falls in love with the Wisconsin Cola poster girl and takes extreme steps to meet her (guest Paulette Breen).

Diane (Shelley Long) feels guilty for not indulging in the spy roleplay of tale-telling patron (Ellis Rabb) as the wreath on Cheers' door oozes the holiday spirit. The drink spilled on his trousers is only the first taste of Christmas punch this flower delivery man (Henry Gibson) experiences in the included "Love, American Style" segment.

5. Laverne & Shirley (4.14): "O Come All Ye Bums" (25:08) (Originally aired December 19, 1978)
Laverne (Penny Marshall) and Shirley (Cindy Williams) are bummed to learn their annual Christmas dinner for the homeless may be cancelled due to Laverne's father's (Phil Foster) lack of funds. Lenny (Michael McKean) and Squiggy (David L. Lander) serve as fairy and elf assistant to a department store Santa.

6. Mork & Mindy (1.12): "Mork's First Christmas" (25:04) (Originally aired December 14, 1978)
Mork (Robin Williams), an alien from the planet Ork, learns about Christmas and tries to do right with handmade gifts for Mindy (Pam Dawber) and their guests,
including the snobby Susan (guest Morgan Fairchild).

7. The Odd Couple (1.12): "Scrooge Gets an Oscar" (25:39) (Originally aired December 17, 1970)
Oscar (Jack Klugman) refuses to play Ebenezer Scrooge in a children's play directed by Felix (Tony Randall), creating a rift for the contrary roommates. But Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol still finds Oscar, with Felix giving him a nightmarish look at his past, present, and future.

8. Cheers (1.12): "The Spy Who Came in for a Cold One" (24:59) (Originally aired December 16, 1982)
Like most early episodes of this decorated, long-running hit, the disc's least Christmassy component stays in the Boston bar, as Diane (Shelley Long) is skeptical of a patron (stage actor Ellis Rabb) claiming to be a British spy, then a poet.

9. Love, American Style (4.36): "Love and the Christmas Punch" (14:30) (Originally aired November 17, 1972)
In his fourth of five appearances on the show, Henry Gibson plays an unlucky flower delivery man who keeps getting individually discovered in his groovy boxer shorts at the house of a married couple hosting the husband's inebriated boss (John McGiver). Despite being separated from its episode, the segment retains its opening and closing credits.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Everything is presented in television's classic 1.33:1 standard aspect ratio. All but one episode have already been restored and released to DVD in complete season sets, so perhaps it's no surprise that they look pretty great. The one unavailable elsewhere -- the "Love, American Style" segment -- isn't as polished, but it's completely watchable. You'll notice a few errant lines on "Hillbillies", a few scattered marks on "Lucy", and some softness and lack of focus to certain shots from the newer shows. But anyone not nitpicking will be beyond satisfied with the generally high picture quality, which is vastly superior to public domain releases of the older series' contemporaries.

The sound is A-OK as well. With the exception of 2.0 surround "Cheers", all the episodes are presented in two-channel monaural sound. The basic mixes remain true to the series' original design. Save for "Cheers", none of them have the clarity and depth of today's TV shows. But while it may be limited and primitive, the audio is not at all distorted or tough to understand. In a nice, far from usual touch from Paramount, the studio has included English SDH subtitles on all nine episodes instead of closed captions. It's a Christmas miracle!

Frank Capra veteran actor and future centenarian Charles Lane tries to make life less than wonderful by shutting down the Hooterville Cannonball on Christmas Eve. Mmm... the Christmas cookies of the cover art return on the DVD's three efficient menu screens.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Once again there are no bonus features, nor is there really room for any on a disc with over 3 hours of content. This time, there aren't even the CBS holiday bumpers found in between episodes on Holiday Treats. That's not even possible with the disc's glaring omission of a "Play All" option, probably its biggest shortcoming.

Inserting the disc gives you the choice to jump right to the menu or watch some previews first. Of course, I opted for the former, which treated to me for promos for Paramount TV comedies, the third seasons of three Garry Marshall sitcoms, "The Odd Couple": The Final Season, and The Official First Season of "Petticoat Junction."

The two silent, static 4:3 main menu pages reformat the cover art, divvying up titular cookies on the appropriate episode selection pages and laying them all out on the simple Set Up screen. Lacking interior artwork and a colorful disc label, the clear keepcase seems awfully barren inside.

Laverne (Penny Marshall) and Shirley (Cindy Williams) wait for their Christmas tree's "blinker" lights to turn back on in "O Come All Ye Bums." A first Christmas calls for excitement (an emotion Robin Williams knows a thing or two about), as Mork sits under the tree with Simon and R2-D2.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It obviously helps, but you don't really have to be too fond of television or the holiday season to appreciate Christmas Treats as a delightful and culturally significant survey of sitcoms past. On a compilation like this,
the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. On their own, only a few of the episodes would merit a strong recommendation, but bundled together at such a low price, the disc is a no-brainer as a stocking stuffer or free shipping qualifier. It's tough to imagine anyone who'd be let down by such a full platter of fun programming.

This even improves upon the studio's Holiday Treats disc. Perhaps there are fewer iconic series featured here, but they provide a stronger collection of Christmas episodes with widely entertaining observations. I'm looking forward to other studios realizing the strength of this concept and applying it to their own TV libraries. With this DVD currently carrying just a triple-digit sales rank on Amazon, they'll have to take notice.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy Holiday Treats from Amazon.com / Buy 2-Pack

Buy from Amazon.com

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Featured Series: Happy Days: The Third Season The Odd Couple: The Third Season Laverne and Shirley: The Third Season

Season Sets with Christmas Episodes:
The Golden Girls: The Complete Fifth Season Home Improvement: The Complete Fourth Season NewsRadio: The Complete Series
Modern Family: The Complete First Season Scrubs: The Complete First Season Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: The Third Season

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Reviewed October 31, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1962-1982 CBS Television Network, Paramount Pictures/Television and
2010 Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.