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DVD Review: THE PATTY DUKE SHOW: SEASON ONE



Studio: Shout Factory
Year: 1963
Cast: Patty Duke, William Schallert, Jean Byron, Paul O'Keefe, Eddie Applegate
Director: Stanley Prager, William Asher
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 15h:00m:00s
Genre(s): television, comedy

"You'te the most exciting thing that's ever happened to this family!" - Natalie Lane (Jean Byron)

THE PATTY DUKE SHOW: SEASON ONE

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The fine folks at Shout Factory have put together a quality presentation of a surprisingly tasteful and entertaining (if never brilliant) TV classic.

Movie Grade: B

DVD Grade: A-

Perhaps the most surprising bit about Patty Duke is the general lack of silliness. Sure, it's a mid-60s sitcom about a pair of genetically unlikely cousins, but the show plays it cool for the most part. That hook itself is, indeed, oft-ignored in the episodes of the first season. The girls may occasionally pull a fast one on their parents, teachers, etc., but real use of the contrivance is rare. So rare that it's easy to wonder why they even bothered. It would be as if Gilliganís Island only occasionally featured Gilligan. Iím not sure if thatís a compliment or not: on the one hand, it feels a bit like a gyp to tune into a show about identical cousins only to see them pursuing their own storylines, and generally avoiding doing much that required identicality. On the other hand, itís a pretty silly premise, and the show most likely benefits from glossing over it. The young Duke, by then already an Oscar-winner at 16, elevates the show by her presence. Patty and Cathy both play as distinct characters, as only a young actress of Duke's caliber could have pulled off. It ain't Shakespeare, but by taking both characters seriously, she prevents the show from descending into the wackiness that could've otherwise ensued. She lends a bit of poignancy to prim and worldly Cathy, a friendless and awkward fish out of water in 1960s Brooklyn Heights. When watching the first season of the show, I often found myself forgetting that Cathy was a bit of a gimmick. Itís not because the split-screen special effects and body-doubles were particularly impressive. Theyíre pretty good, actually, but the suspension of disbelief comes because the cast plays it straight. Character actor and TV-mainstay William Schallert (of too many series to recount, but most recently the mayor of True Blood's Bon Temps) similarly anchors the show with a straight face. While the show generally lacks laugh-out-loud moments, it also blissfully lacks much of the sickly sweet quality of sitcoms of its era. Patty is lazy, messy, and even rebellious in a TV-friendly way, and is probably the most realistic teenager of the eraís TV (which, granted, is not saying much).

Still, this is standard sitcom fareóPatty takes up a babysitting gig with predictably wacky results, the girls fight over a dreamboat of a foreign-exchange student, Cathy takes lessons in how to be popular. And, like any big sitcom of its era, the show has its share of then-and-soon to be stars that pop in: Jimmy Dean appears as himself; the ubiquitous Charles Nelson Reilly shows up as the football coach. Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch) recurs as the Lane's oft-stupefied maid. A very young but otherwise recognizable John Spencer (The West Wing) appears once or twice as Cathy's love interest.

Best-selling author and Academy Award-winner Sidney Sheldon created the show and writes almost every single episode, an almost-unprecedented feat that lends the show a consistency of tone absent from many shows before or since. The show definitely doesnít achieve all-time great status, but it manages to be charming, soothing without being treacly, and a little bit addictive. The Patty Duke Show and get appropriately respectful treatment from the fine folks at Shout Factory, who do a consistently great job with these types of things. The box includes a booklet with episode descriptions and trivia, and the one extra is slight, but a treat. Itís a fourteen minute set of cast interviews with Duke, William Schallert and Paul OíKeefe (Pattyís long-suffering boyfriend Richard). There are no scandalous tales, as all three have nothing but nice things to say about the show and their time involved. Thatís not such a bad thing. The video quality is generally quite good for a show of its age, and it looks quite a bit better than the reruns that I recall seeing on Nick-at-Nite in the early 90s. The audio is sometimes less than spectacular and often a bit muddled, but itís not distracting. Clearly, this type of thing isnít going to be for everyone. There are probably two main audiences: those nostalgic for the show as they saw it in the 60s, and those a bit younger who caught the show later on cable. Both groups should be pleased with the presentation and should also, as I did, find that the show still works on its own modest terms.

Posted by: Ross Johnson - November 4, 2009, 1:17 am - DVD Review
Keywords: television, comedy




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