The big release this week for fans of classic and relatively obscure television is Criterion’s The Golden Age of Television, which includes the kinescope recordings of eight live dramas from the 1950s. These were broadcast on PBS between August of 1981 and March of 1982 as a special series also titled The Golden Age of Television, packaged with new interviews from cast and crew. Among those interviewed were Andy Griffith, Carol Serling, Kim Hunter, Jack Palance, Mickey Rooney and Richard Kiley. These interviews have been retained for the DVD release. There are also commentaries from directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson, and Daniel Petrie.
I believe a few of these episodes were released on VHS in the 1990s but I’m not sure. Here‘s the official Criterion page for the collection and what follows is a list of the dramas included in the set, the programs they were part of and their original air dates:
“Marty” – The Philco Television Playhouse (May 24th, 1953)
“Patterns” – Kraft Television Theatre (January 12th, 1955)
“No Time for Sergeants” – The United States Steel Hour (March 15th, 1955)
“A Wind from the South” – The United States Steel Hour (September 14th, 1955)
“Requiem for a Heavyweight” – Playhouse 90 (October 11th, 1956)
“Bang the Drum Slowly” – The United States Steel Hour (September 26th, 1956)
“The Comedian” – Playhouse 90 (February 14th, 1957)
“Days of Wine and Roses” – Playhouse 90 (October 2nd, 1958)
Reviews of The Golden Age of Television note that the video and audio quality isn’t all that great. Matt Hough at the Home Theater Forum gives the overall collection a 5/5 but both the video and audio get 2.5/5. He states that “every program has that flat, soft look that kinescopes of the period almost always contain.” Joseph Jon Lanthier of Slant Magazine is more critical of the dramas themselves, giving the collection 2.5 stars out of 5, and writes that “the kinescopes used for Criterion’s set are at times nearly unwatchable.”
If kinescopes of live dramas aren’t your thing there are quite a few other releases out today. You can pick up Hogan’s Heroes: The Komplete Series, Kommandant’s Kollection from Paramount Home Video, with all 168 episodes. According to TVShowsOnDVD the set also includes a variety of bonus features which presumably weren’t part of the individual season sets, which is frustrating for fans who have been faithfully buying them one after another. Another complete set out today is Laredo - The Complete Series 1965-1967 from Timeless Media Group. In addition to all 58 episodes it also includes an interview with actor Peter Brown.
Other new releases include Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Four from Universal Home Video, with all 36 episodes from the 1958-1959 season and two new collections featuring episodes of Daniel Boone. The first, Daniel Boone: Fess’ Favorites, includes eight episodes selected by actor Fess Parker, one of which is the original color pilot episode. The second, Daniel Boone: The Best of Mingo, includes eight episodes selected by actor Ed Ames. Both are from Liberation Entertainment.
Finally, Infinity Resources is releasing The Jerry Lewis Show Collection. Unfortunately, according to the description available at Amazon.com, the two-disc set includes “the hilarious ‘best of’ highlights from 13 episodes of The Jerry Lewis Show, which aired on NBC from 1967-69.” So these aren’t full episodes.