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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Stand-Up > TV > George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection

The George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection (Passport)


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



In the battle to get top names for TV, CBS outbid NBC to get George Burns and Gracie Allen, though they were on NBC radio at one point.  With financial backing from Carnation, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show made the leap from radio to the new medium.  The new The George Burns & Gracie Allen Collection collects eight half-hour episodes, but on 4 DVDs!  It is nicely packaged, but for 5 DVDs (even if they were the limited DVD-5s and the fifth is devoted to a documentary), there could have been more episodes per DVD or less DVDs.


Regardless, the show is funny.  The jokes center on the crazy persona of Gracie as the not-in-touch-with-any-reality-but-hers wife of serious jokester George.  At the least, it is top rate entertainment with very talented comic actors.  At its best, there are some real laughs that come out of nowhere that hold up very well.  Considering the show is even older than I Love Lucy, that is most impressive.  The episodes are as follows:


1950 Pilot Show

Gracie’s Tax Return (Bob Sweeney went on to Our Miss Brooks)

Speech Writer

Gracie’s Checking Account

Gracie’s Wedding Plans

Teen Visit

Swami (Walter Woolf King (The Marx Bros.’ A Night at the Opera))

Beverly Hills Society


Burns went on long after Allen’s untimely passing, so people know how great he was, but Gracie left too early.  To put it bluntly, she is a gem!  Though it is not said much, she had to be one of the 20th Century’s greatest comic actresses.  Her energy and timing are unbelievably good, so much so that she could go a few rounds with the best of them.  Add the chemistry she had with George and it is no wonder that they are still one of the most legendary performing couples of all.


Announcer Harry von Zell, Fred Clark and Bea Benadaret are among the more recognized regular faces here, but all the performers were top rate and too much was at stake competition-wise.  The result was a show that helped CBS become the number one network and hold that position into the 1970s.  This show ran until 1958, then Gracie retired and George tried to do the next season on his own.  It only lasted that one season.


The full frame image is average, off of kinescope materials that are lucky to have survived.  They are not great and The Honeymooners – The Lost Episodes are more like what such material should look like, and   With that said, it is not bad and the sound is better than the box would let you believe.  The Dolby Digital Mono diagram indicates 1.0, but it is better 2.0, which is in surprisingly good shape.  It shows its age, but has no pops, clicks, or major background hiss or warping.  That should make fans happy.  Not including the documentary on DVD 5, which we are not counting as an extra, there are no extras.  There must be some promos on the show, maybe in the CBS vault, but they are not here.


As for that documentary, it is part of a series called Hollywood Couples and runs about 50 minutes.  It repeats footage form the episodes in this box, but has good footage outside of that.  It is a nice wrap up to this set, making me forget a bit that more shows could have fit.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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