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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > TV > Abbott & Costello (live action TV show, 5 DVDs)

The Abbott and Costello TV Show (5 DVDs)


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



In 1940, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made their feature film debut and the team went on becoming legends for the next 20 years.  In the middle of all of this, they decided to take a crack at television and The Abbott and Costello TV Show was the result.  The show only lasted for about a season, and these 20 episodes are among the first TV shows ever issued on DVD.  Issued at four half-hour shows per disc, Shanachie used original 35mm film materials and the results are not bad.


The first two volumes were issued in 1998, the next two in 2002, and the fifth volume in 2003.  They do not feature extras, but do feature two types of openings.  The original opening has Lou yelling for his partner and in old-fashioned book-like print.  Newer opening credits, likely from syndication, offer a screen split into several sections showing their exploits.  Either way, Bud & Lou certainly were in peak form, and from the network radio work they had done, used to t6eh kind of weekly grind it took to make such a show.


The shows are hit or miss, with the better the show, the less laugh tracks you will hear.  Why it was thought that more “laughter” was needed to pump the material can only be a sign that they were losing confidence in the show, or is some of that just added for syndicated prints?  Teleplays became repetitious, but the show has its moments.  The episodes are as follows:



Duck Dinner

Hillary’s Birthday (beings Chapter 5, not 4 like Box says)

Million Dollar Refund

Actor’s Home



Lou’s Birthday

Getting A Job

Uncle Bozzo

Stolen Skates



Lou Falls For Ruby

Hillary’s Father

Uncle Ruppert

Bingo’s Troubles



The Drugstore

Square Meal

$1,000 Prize

Wife Wanted



Police Academy

Charity Bazaar

Killer’s Wife

Well Oiled


Some are average, some are disappointing, then you get very funny episodes like Lou Falls For Ruby which is more like what they did so well in their best theatrical films.   Million Dollar Refund also has some good moments.  The joke of the Mob going after Lou, since he looks a bit like a guy who did not make the cut, has humor but was used one too many times.  This is one of the times it worked.  Regular characters like the landlord are underdeveloped and Bingo the Chimp is the weakest, most desperate point of the show.  Bacciagalupe (Joe Kirk) and Stinky (Joe Besser) are a hoot, both of whom could have saved the show if pushed further.  With more focus, this could have improved and gone on for a few more seasons.  Their feature films also started to slip around this time, but their performances were still good.  Like The Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy, the talent outlasts the material.


The full frame, black and white image gets better on each DVD, but even the earliest holds up well enough.  These are very clean for TV shows of their time, so the archive is in good shape.  I hope these are being stored properly.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is stereo-boosted from the original monophonic sound and it further enhances the pleasure of watching these shows.  There are two theme songs.  The only special feature is that the few chapters on each episode denote routines, which comedy fans will like.


All the networks races to sign top talent to boost their standing in the new medium and Abbott & Costello were no exception.  Their films were no racier, except for the occasional comment about sexy women, the only thing not consistent with those films.  Even at its poorest, it is still far more watchable than most of the sitcoms since the 1980s and the talent is undeniable.  The Abbott and Costello Show is worth a look, every single episode, of which there are 52 total.  If only the animated show would come out to DVD!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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