Pioneers of Television (2008)

by | Jan 13, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Pioneers of Television (2008)

Four-part PBS Series: Late Night, Sitcoms, Game Shows, Variety
Studio: Boettcher Trinklein Television/PBS Home Video 705213
Video: 4:3 B&W & color on video segments, 16:9 color on interviews
Audio: PCM Stereo/Mono
Extras: Extended interviews with some of the pioneers
Length: 220 minutes
Rating: ****

Back in 2005 PBS had good success with Pioneers of Primetime, and this is the sequel.  This time the nostalgia is parceled out in four separate hour shows.  I was erroneously excited upon first hearing about this series, and then somewhat disappointed to discover that the title referred not to the pioneers of TV technology – in other words, the early inventors (which fascinates me) – but the stars of the shows.  The various kinescope and film clips are well-chosen, and remind those of us old enough to remember of the many hours we spent with  Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson – just to stay with the Late Night hosts. Excerpts from sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and The Dick Van Dyke Show are shown.  Skipping the game shows, which I can’t stand, the Variety section brings us Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey, Carol Burnett, The Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In.

The newly-taped interviews are mostly with very-senior-looking stars who were involved, such as Phyllis Diller, Andy Griffith, Art Linkletter, Betty White, Ed McMahon etc. and are well worth seeing. But it’s surprising that some interviews made at the time of the various shows – with people like Jackie Gleason and Sid Ceasar – were not included at all. Also, there seems to be little attention to the role of radio in launching TV, and the many shows that transitioned from one to the other.  Still, the series is a fun trip down nostalgia lane, and made me want to get out my Ernie Kovacs, Sid Ceasar and I Love Lucy DVDs and look at some of them again.

 – John Sunier

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