A Toronto-based company called VEI first acquired the rights to "Gimme a Break" back in Spring 2006 and released Season One just a few months after Universal did the same in the U.S.
Universal, however, never bothered with a follow-up while VEI brought viewers Season Two in January 2007.
Since then, it seemed as though "Gimme a Break" had fallen off the DVD radar. There were rumours in 2008/09 that a series set was on its way, but nothing was set in stone, until now.
Proving once again that the smaller companies are the go-to people for Classic TV on DVD, whether it be the '50s, '60s, '70s, or in this case, '80s, VEI is to be commended for putting out the complete Six Seasons in one fell swoop.
I wish all my favorite shows would get this kind of DVD treatment.
VEI also recently brought us "Kate and Allie: The Complete Series" for a price point under $40. Some hold-outs are still waiting for Universal to do the same in the U.S. (They may be holding their breath: Universal never got past Season One on this show either). I cannot understand some U.S. customers' hesitation in ordering from Amazon.ca when the DVDs are all Region 1 and will be compatible in all North American players. However, it's their loss.
The same can be said of "Gimme a Break: The Complete Series". There are no compatibility issues with these discs so those skeptical U.S. buyers should pick this up while they can. VEI's release of "The Stockard Channing Show" quickly went out of print and became hard to find just two years after release.
The first two seasons of this show were my favorite when it was just Nell, The Chief and the three girls.
Season Three brought a new '80s-synth theme song and the arrival of little Joey Lawrence as the orphan boy Nell eventually adopts. Telma Hopkins also became a regular as Nell's best friend Addy, with whom Nell gets into many Laverne-and-Shirley type predicaments. Addy's first appearance in "Nell's Friend" remains one of the best, funniest scripts the cast ever played.
In Season Five, Dolph Sweet who played Chief Carl Kanisky passed away and the show began to flounder.
For the sixth and final season, the producers moved Nell, Addy, Joey (and his little brother Matthew) to New York, where a young Rosie O'Donnell joins the cast.
Many of the jokes are lame and the situations predictable. However, Nell Carter does have the personality and charisma to evelate the show, and the cast work well together. Dolph Sweet has the thankless task of playing straight man and does so admirably.
Of the three girls, I always liked Lauri Hendler as brainy wallflower Julie the best, with her dry, observational humor, though Kari Michaelson and Lara Jill Miller do have their moments as boy-crazy, somewhat defiant Katie, and pubescent tomboy Samantha, respectively.
Though not one of the best-written or acted sitcoms of the '80s (It's certainly no "Cheers" or "Golden Girls") there's something comforting about "Gimme a Break".
The outer box is not as sturdy as I would have liked, but that's my only real complaint about the packaging. The artwork is basic but nice and they matched the correct cast photos with each volume. Each snap-case securely houses 6 discs that contain two seasons each.
For those times when you crave a small dose of '80s nostalgia, this set will surely satisfy your appetite.
Kudos to VEI for finally coming through and also for not making us wait for season-by-season volumes.