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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Leave It To Beaver – The Complete Series (1957 – 1963/Universal/Shout! Factory DVD Set)

Leave It To Beaver – The Complete Series (1957 – 1963/Universal/Shout! Factory DVD Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: B+



Never expecting to see an entire Complete Series set of Leave It To Beaver anytime soon, I said what I thought of the series in some earlier DVD set releases of the show as follows:


First Season



Third Season




Now that all six seasons are all here, there are a few things to add.  For one thing, the show was smart to quit while it was ahead and still on top; something too few hits do today.  Also, the show’s success is uncanny in its idea of creating the near-perfect family or the kind everyone wished for because form the outset, the cast and its acting meshed exceptionally well.  Despite the time, the child acting is not as bad as so many other movies and TV shows of the time.


Barbara Billingsley (who was later perfect as the voice of the mother figure nanny in the animated Muppet Babies) became one of the more realistic safe “good mothers” in TV history and Hugh Beaumont (the second big screen Michael Shayne) was father Ward, making up the seamlessly happy suburban marriage and all the myths that followed.  Tony Dow was very believable as older brother Wally with all of his problems and Jerry Mathers had already been playing cute kids in comedies, a drama (see Bigger Than Life on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and even an Alfred Hitchcock film (The Trouble With Harry in 1955) before becoming immortalized in the iconic role.  Yes, he could have been a legend just a few decades ago if he was around for Our Gang/The Little Rascals, but he got his own show instead.


The show had outside actors playing one-time roles (or a few) over the years, but it is surprising how few are name actors and how much the scripts managed to naturally focus on the main characters.  For the record, other actors we noticed in the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Seasons of note include Lurene Tuttle, Veronica Cartwright (Ridley Scott’s Alien), Alice Backes, Hal Smith, Barry Gordon, Keith Taylor, Edgar Buchanan, Lee Meriwether, Ryan O’Neal, Bert Remsen, Don Drysdale (playing himself), Tim Matheson, Ed Peck, Kathleen O’Malley, Ralph Montgomery, Diane Sayer, Fletcher Allen, Carole Wells and Frank Sully.


It should also be noted that Director David Butler, who helmed so many episodes, was a longtime film director whose work includes the 1930 Science Fiction/Musical dud Just Imagine whose model work was recycled repeatedly in hundreds of other projects.  That became a sort of camp classic and Butler more than proved he could handle comedy directly here as he had in other such feature films.


For what we might think of now as a children’s show or conformist show or family show, this is more savvy, intelligent, rich and fun than the stereotypes about it would have you believe, much like Father Knows Best, another underrated quality classic of the period.  This family is very functional, believable, workable, pleasant and is the kind of show with the kind of characters that made TV a permanent fixture worldwide.  They made up the kind of family millions wanted to be in, even if it was for w while and the writers found a way to make this work for seven years.  Leave It To Beaver has not lost its charm and if anything, is an otherworldly time capsule of a 1950s that never really existed, but when you watch, all you have to do is dream.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image throughout is, when all is considered, very impressive for a show of its age.  It may not look as good as the original Twilight Zone or I Love Lucy, but it is in better than just about any other show from the early period of TV filmed in 35mm.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is about on par, though I wonder how good the show could sound in an uncompressed audio format and with some more work.  The combination as it stands brings the show to life in a way no one could have imagined when it first hit the air or played in syndication in the decades since.  It suddenly does not seem as stuffy or as nostalgically distant.


Extras include a booklet with an episode guide for each season,  a more recent radio interview with original series co-stars Jerry Mathers and Frank Bank from Stu’s Show across several seasons from the individual releases (the last three of which will likely happen later), plus we get a bonus DVD that includes a reproduction foldout of the original 1959 Money Maker game, a couple of rough-looking promos for the show on ABC, Forever The Beaver featurette made when the New Leave It To Beaver was launched, Ken Osmond & Frank Bank Remember interview piece, The Drum Major Of The Toy Parade clip with theme composer Dave Kahn of the hit Hopalong Cassidy who later worked on Mister Ed and It’s A Small World, the original pilot episode of the series that did not have Dow or Beaumont.  Instead, Max Showalter (The Anderson Tapes, Sixteen Candles) was Ward and Paul Sullivan was Wally.


Leave It To Beaver is an American TV classic and this box set shows why.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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