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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Family Drama > Father Knows Best – Season One (Shout! Factory DVD)

Father Knows Best – Season One (Shout! Factory DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B-     Episodes: B-



In the 1980s, everyone screamed about “family values” yet the programs from that period are dysfunctional, angry, shrill, immature and regressive about sitcoms of the time that are a total contradiction of what a healthy family should and could be.  The resulting backlash against bad shows from the 1980s hurt shows from the 1950s and 1960s that were to total opposite and class acts.  One such casualty is the underappreciated Father Knows Best, a hit for six seasons with a politically incorrect title that remains one of the best family shows of its time ever made.


The title character was Jim Anderson, played by the great Hollywood leading man Robert Young, a class act who was perfectly cast as a hard-working, easy-going dad whose wisdom and experience helps him raise three great kids (Lauren Chapin, Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray) and maintain a wonderful marriage with his wife Margaret, played by the also-great Jane Wyman.  They never got credit for their chemistry, but these two Hollywood ‘Big Screen’ stars and one-time studio system players worked well together and it is more apparent now than it might have been at the time.


Long before shows like The Brady Bunch imitated their success and turned it into formula, this was an original family show, not a phony imitator or distorter of its original intent.  It is also the sheep’s clothing later shows (and sinister ideologies) hid behind when trying to hijack the family and turn it into a commodity.  All 24 half-hour episodes of the 1954 – 1955 debut season are here, and even when they get a bit melodramatic, it is from a smart comic, drama that always had its act together and after being absent from TV for so long, its long-overdue arrival on DVD is most welcome.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image is soft, though the copies are on the clean side.  This show was shot in 35mm film, but this is not as sharp as comparable classic TV produced the same way from its time period.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also weak, a little lower in fullness than expected and both point to second-generation masters being used for this set.  But this is a good looking show and we can’t wait for the Blu-ray versions.  Extras include interview featurette Daddy’s Girls where Chapin and Donahue are interviewed on DVD 1, two sets of home movie footage by Young on DVD 2 including rare color footage of the show in production, DVD 3 has a 1959 special episode funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury called 24 Hours In Tyrantland and DVD 4 has the pilot for Young’s follow-up series Window On Main Street from 1960, which did not do as well, but was a nice change of pace for him and worth a look.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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