On June 9, 2009, "Shout! Factory" released the third season of one of the best sitcoms ever to come down South Maple Street in Springfield (or any other street in America) -- "Father Knows Best".
After watching the first three discs of this 5-Disc DVD set, I'd have to say that Season 3 is even better than the first two seasons of FKB. But Season 1 and Season 2 are darn good too (even if some of the first-year shows aren't "uncut").
I'm not an expert, but it seems to me as though the writing for the third year is a certain degree above the earlier seasons. I haven't noticed a misfire yet (through Disc 3, that is). These episodes are simply outstanding--every one of them--and I just felt like writing this review to say that.
But the thing that really prompted me to dash to the computer today to write these comments is one particular scene in the episode called "Swiss Family Anderson" (on Disc 3). That episode originally aired on network television over 50 years ago (on January 9, 1957), but it still seems fresh and relevant even today.
The scene in question occurs six minutes into the "Swiss" episode, just as the Anderson family is sitting down to dinner. Jim (Robert Young) begins to tell the rest of the family about how a work colleague of his wants him to take a look at an "island" property and size it up for a possible purchase (at the pretty good price of only $1,500).
What impressed me most about that dining-room scene is the way it was filmed and how it was "choreographed" (so to speak). The first 90 seconds of the scene were shot in one long, continuous take, without the camera moving one inch.
During that long, continuous shot, the family members are talking and filling their dinner plates by passing them around the table until everybody's got everything they need. It's like a ballet with the ham and potatoes.
After the camera cuts away from that long take, we get another fairly-lengthy unbroken take from the other side of the dining table, with Betty (Elinor Donahue) providing a very funny moment as she tries to convince "father" to add some more shower heads to the upstairs bathroom -- "Nowadays, everyone has two heads! Lots of people have THREE!" [LOL.]
(BTW, I guess perhaps I'm just old-fashioned or out of touch, but I have never seen a shower or bathtub that has had more than one shower head in it. And why in the world would anyone need two or three shower heads anyway? Does Betty plan on taking a shower with two additional people at the same time or something?) ~shrug~
Anyway, I suppose that scene really isn't anything super-special or unusual (there are probably similar scenes in other FKB episodes, and in other TV series too), but for some reason that scene I just described stood out for me when I watched it (and then rewatched it again right away, because I thought it was very good).
I think it's a good example of the high quality of this television series. The actors never miss a beat, the dialogue seems natural at all times (and the "shower head" banter was a truly hilarious moment), and the "plate dance" was a nice touch too. I just wonder if the aired version of that scene was Take #1? Or Take #21? :)
As for the other Season-Three episodes I've watched thus far, as I mentioned, I haven't seen a dud in the bunch yet, and this includes "Never In Twain", "Margaret Hires A Gardener", "The Great Guy", "The Family Goes To New York", and the very touching episode entitled "The Homing Pigeon".
In addition to the above episodes, this set also contains one of the very best (and surprisingly-exciting) episodes of any TV series I have ever seen. It's entitled "Short Wave", and after watching it for the first time, I found myself wanting to immediately watch this excellent, well-acted, and unusual episode again -- and I did.
I won't spoil the plot of "Short Wave", but if you've got this DVD collection and haven't yet watched that episode -- go watch it now. It's a winner.
The third-season DVD set also has several bonus features (some on each disc), including three complete episodes of the radio version of "Father Knows Best".
Plus, there are two full episodes of Robert Young's short-lived series "Window On Main Street", which premiered in 1961, shortly after FKB left the air.
These third-season episodes of "Father Knows Best" seem to be complete and unedited too (25+ minutes per show), with the word "uncut" appearing on the back cover of the DVD's outer slipcase, which is always a nice word to see in print on a TV/DVD package.
I don't recall having ever seen any of these Season-Three episodes in the past, except for a few minutes of "Man About Town", which just happened to be the episode that was airing on many ABC-TV affiliates between 1:30 and 2:00 PM on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, when news first broke about President Kennedy being shot by an assassin in Dallas, Texas.
Therefore, almost all of these episodes are brand-new to me. And I can hardly believe how really, really good these shows are. I've watched some of them two or three times already....and I haven't even gotten to Disc 4 yet. :)
But even without having seen the last two discs, I want to stamp the "Father Knows Best: Season Three" DVD set with the following two words:
David Von Pein