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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Radio Shows > History > Archive > Judaism > Anti-Semitism > The Ultimate Goldbergs (aka Molly/1949 – 1956/Shout! Factory DVD Set)

The Ultimate Goldbergs (aka Molly/1949 – 1956/Shout! Factory DVD Set)


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



Note: This DVD set is only available exclusively from the separate retail websites of the co-producers of the DVD set: UCLA and Shout! Factory.  You can find the links to those sites below.



When radio became the big new medium of one-way communication, it had its own series well before anyone knew what TV was or would be.  In 1929, writer/actress Gertrude Berg submitted an entertaining idea into the NBC Radio Network and they decided to pick it up.  The Goldbergs was a 15-minutes-long show that was a big hit and without anyone knowing it at the time, it became the first model for what we now know over 80 years later as the situation comedy.


Though some feature film comedies (and Screwball Comedies) helped this along, The Goldbergs was the show that introduced the idea of being welcome personally into a private household and the result is that the show made the transition to TV and lasted non-stop until 1956.  Shout! Factory and the UCLA Archives have teamed up to issue The Ultimate Goldbergs, a 6 DVD set that includes 15 episodes of the radio show, all 71 surviving episodes of the series and other goodies that finally do justice to one of the greatest comedies ever made.  So why has it been lost for so long?


Because it was the target of the infamous Hollywood Witch Hunts by the government-backed House Of Un-American Activities and though that they were going after “communists”, the target (now matter what Ayn Rand revisionists will tell you) was to go after Jews.  The series never hid it Judaism, but was more about the characters and laughs than making serious statements, though it did not shy away from them as WWII set in.  Actor Philip Loeb played her son and was specifically blacklisted a year after the show moved to TV.  Berg did what she could to help him, even when she had to fire him when NBC pushed her to do so, but it drove him to kill himself in one of the ugliest moments in entertainment history and part of the larger nightmare that blacklisting was and still can be.


Even her success and popularity could not stop this and even Lucille Ball was targeted for having a Cuban husband, to which her defenders responded that the only thing “red” about her was her hair.  But Berg was ahead of the Desilu team and it turns out in seeing this legendary show in its surviving copies, it is a very smart, funny and charming series that is seriously overdue for rediscovery.


Most of the seasons were done live and captured in kinescope form (an analog black & white video screen is filmed at the same frame rate; see below), while the final season was filmed.  Though the filmed shows look better, the older live show had an intimacy and richness that the filmed shows could not match as good as they were.  Each week Molly Goldberg (Berg) and her family would let us into their lives and she is as important as any TV pioneer in giving television a heart and soul, yet most people have no idea who she is.  That is why the release of this set is such a landmark and easily one of the best DVD sets we’ll see all year.


The show moved around different networks, from NBC to CBS to DuMont (which had The Honeymooners before the network folded) and in syndication, so the show was a huge commercial and critical success.  It is also great to see her family slowly grow up.  No wonder people loved it.  A classy show as well, the biggest and most unexpected of many surprises is that it does not have a laugh track!


However, the casting is great and Berg was a star for good reason.  A pioneer in radio, TV and the entertainment business in general, she created, had creative control of and owned all her shows, which was unprecedented for anyone in the business, but especially a woman at the time.  Like many shows not owned by larger companies (The Donna Reed Show, My Favorite Martian), these series become almost like orphan films and sometimes even lose their copyright.  However, the series I back for everyone to finally enjoy and discover and hopefully will lead to other gems (like Mr. Peepers, et al) turning up in great copies on DVD.  The Ultimate Goldbergs is a triumph!



The 1.33 X 1 image is varied as the early shows are kinescope/live broadcasts saved on film (ala the ‘Lost Episodes’ of The Honeymooners) while the final season shows were filmed on 35mm film.  The UCLA Archive has done an amazing job of fixing and saving the surviving shows no matter what, though filmed shows that do not look as good tend to be retitled Molly prints.  All are black and white.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also good for its aged and cleaned up without ruining the sound.


Extras include 12 episodes of The Goldbergs radio show on DVD One, but you can only access them via computer.  I wish at least some were DVD player able.  We also get a booklet inside the slidecase with episode listings (including the radio shows), illustrations and an essay, while DVD Three shows restoration of the episodes with before and after footage, DVD Five has a preview of the documentary Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg and DVD Six has the pilot for Mrs. G Goes To College, a second sitcom Berg tried to make into a hit in 1961.  Also known as The Gertrude Berg Show, this one has a laugh track, Cedrick Hardwicke as a professor who is at first skeptical about her arrival, Marion Ross (Happy Days) as her daughter, Mary Wickes as a new friend on campus and is interesting enough that its single season ought to be restored and issued on DVD.



To order, go to either of the following links:









-   Nicholas Sheffo


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