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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Urban > Drama > Soap Opera > Murder > Mystery > Police > Burgulary > Adventure > Fanta > Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season (1961 – 1962/Shanachie DVD Set) + Dallas Movie Collection (Warner DVD Set) + Dragnet 1970 – Season Four (Universal/Shout! Factory DVD Set) + H.R. Puf

Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season (1961 – 1962/Shanachie DVD Set) + Dallas Movie Collection (Warner DVD Set) + Dragnet 1970 – Season Four (Universal/Shout! Factory DVD Set) + H.R. Pufnstuf – The Complete Series (w/Pufnstuf Bobblehead/1969/Vivendi DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+ (Car: C)     Extras: C+/C+/C/B-     Episodes: B- (Dallas: C+)



And now for some classic TV on DVD long overdue and wrapping up a long road of DVD release.


It has taken a very long time for some shows to arrive on DVD or in any format and one of the most successful classic hits has hardly been seen since it disappeared in the 1970s.  Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season (1961 – 1962) was never syndicated heavily like many of its hit contemporaries due to rights issues and the fact that color TV was driving all the TV stations to forget black and white series were ever made.  Like Mr. Peepers, it faded and a later theatrical film (which sat on the shelf for three years before being dumped) in the early 1990s.


The original show not only took place in New York, but was totally shot there (using the Biograph Studios) and that alone makes it a very special series, but it also happens to be a truly funny, charming, entertaining show that is so long overdue for rediscovery that it is shocking it is only hitting DVD on its 50th Anniversary.


Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne play Toody and Muldoon, good cops who get involved in the wackiest hijinks driving the famously enumerated cruiser.  Created by Nat Hiken of Sgt. Bilko/You’ll Never Get Rich/The Phil Silvers Show fame (another hit show just now hitting DVD that was a huge hit in its day (reviewed elsewhere on this site) lost in the shuffle to color), there is chemistry to spare, the talent is amazing (including Charlotte Rae, Hank Garrett, Al Lewis (later Gwynne’s co-star on The Munsters), Paul Reed, Beatrice Pons and Nipsey Russell among them) and even the guest stars (Wally Cox of Peepers, Maurine Stapleton, Jan Murray and Hugh Downs among others) are of great note.


The comedy is pure and authentic, not forced and it is definitely urban for its time, as well as very, very New York.  I feel there is a huge audience for this show just waiting for it and is a set worth going out of your way for.  The 1.33 X 1 black and white image looks really good throughout from 35mm prints in fine condition (wish there was a Blu-ray set) and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good, though the audio can sound compressed depending on the episode.  There is also a little dropout in a few spots, but overall, this is impressive for a show its age that is essentially a near-orphaned series and it holds up well to TV shows on DVD from the same period released by other companies all around, including imports.

The only extra is a good one and a new one.  Megafan (and hilarious stand-up comic) Robert Klein interviews two of the stars who are still with us from the show: Hank Garrett and Charlotte Rae, the latter of whom is known for later playing Mrs. Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes and even longer on spin-off The Facts of Life.  I recommend seeing it after watching the series and hope further seasons have more extras.



With the new Dallas Movie Collection, Warner Bros. has finally issued every single part of the classic catalog of shows and reunions on DVD after getting all 14 (!!!) seasons out on DVD, which you can read more about starting at this link:





This set has all three TV movies and a reunion special where the cast talks about the success of the show.  The best of the three dramas is The Early Years (1986), showing how The Ewings came to power and how all of their struggles were set up.  Rightly set up as a one shot telefilm, it has been retransferred here in a new HD 1.33 X 1 transfer centered in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 frame and looks good.  It is smart, more serious than the show eventually became and worth revisiting.


J.R. Returns (1996) is the first of the films with the cast after the show was cancelled and despite J.R.’s fate at the end of the final episode, he is back in the mortal world to raise some new hell.  It is not bad, but can be uneven, though the ending works.  War Of The Ewings (1998) gets silly early and never recovers, down to its ridiculous ending and the franchise has been pretty dead ever since.  That leaves Return To Southfork (2004) is better with a fun reunion of the actors being more fun as themselves as they had been on the show.


Of course, a new Dallas series is on the way after an ill-fated theatrical feature film with John Travolta as J.R. and Jennifer Lopez as Sue Ellen imploded badly.  When the new show debuts, it will extend the record of the original returning actors as some of the longest-running characters in TV history.  See this set now to compare.


Another long running character is Sgt. Joe Friday, the classic policeman created by and played by Jack Webb, starting in the radio drama years.  Friday became a hit in the 1950s when the show moved to TV and was later revived in a very successful color series.  Dragnet 1970 – Season Four was the final season of that final run, fun as ever in the last 26 episodes he would ever made.  You can read about the show at these links:








The show looks and sounds as decent as a DVD in a 1.33 X 1 presentation with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono could be, presented on 4 discs.  Harry Morgan was with him to the end as Bill Gannon and they had a fun chemistry that made the show always watchable.  A nice extra includes their last appearance in character and together in a great skit in Jack Benny’s Second Farewell Special.



Vivendi has picked up the Sid & Marty Krofft catalog and starting at the beginning, have reissued H.R. Pufnstuf – The Complete Series (1969) in the same transfers (sometimes missing the very opening part of the credits on show episodes) with new art and our edition includes a Bobblehead of the title character.  One of the episodes of this show was recently included in the terrific DVD compilation Saturday Morning Hits which we covered at this link:




The show has aged well and was shot on film, so this is a rare case where maybe a Blu-ray of the series (plus maybe the Pufnstuf theatrical feature film) could be issued on Blu-ray, but this is fun either way and you can see why the company had such a great launch.  The comedy is amusing, it is a family show, it remains child-friendly and it includes semi-memorable songs sung in the middle of the stories that became common on all such shows of the time.


The 1.33 X 1 image is sometimes rough, but is usually not bad and color is decent to really good, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sounds pretty good.  Extras include the Bobblehead, downloadable Coloring Book with Vintage Sheet Music and a clip from the Krofft Superstar Hour (hosted by The Bay City Rollers!) from the internal show Horror Hotel with Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) reprising her role from this show.  Nice packaging overall and hopefully the beginning of all the Krofft series finally making it to DVD.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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