Off-the-Wall TV Shows from the Warner Archive DVDs Review: Heroes and Fathers Galore

In case you’ve ever wondered, there have been millions upon millions of motion pictures made the world over since the very inception of film in the late 1800s. Sadly, it’s impossible to get an exact count on these, due to many movies out there having been made independently and/or never released, lost due to fire or misplacing, or the fact that they just haven’t been “discovered” yet. When you move over to the realm of television shows, however, things don’t seem to be as mind-boggling when it comes to numbers – but if just so happens that there are many forgotten gems that once premiered unto small screen audiences on a weekly basis as well. Here, I am grouping a random assortment of (mostly short-lived) classic television shows – both well-remembered and obscure alike – from the folks at the Warner Archive Collection.

We begin with ABC’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: The Complete Third Season (1971-1972), the last of the brief spin-off dramedy series that hailed from the popular 1963 movie of the same name. For those of you unfamiliar with this series, the family-friendly sitcom centered on the plight of a widowed magazine publisher (Bill Bixby) who attempts to balance work and single-parenthood, while his ever-curious son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz) is always on the lookout for a new mother – much to his father’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Eddie’s father contends with his flaky secretary (Kristina Holland), mod business partner (James Komack). Supporting player Miyoshi Umeki returns to play Mr. Eddie and Mr. Eddie’s Father’s housekeeper for one last hoorah as well here, and that familiar Harry Nilsson theme song will be stuck in your head for days after just one episode.

Much like the regularly-used-at-graduations expression about a road ending where another one begins, another family sitcom premiered the same year the previously-mentioned show was called to a halt. Sadly, this situational comedy too did not appear to fare well with viewers, and thus, The Jimmy Stewart Show was only limited to one fateful season. And it’s quite a pity, too, as this one’s a real hoot. Stewart is positively grandiose here as an aging college professor who starts out with a smokin’ hot wife (Julie Adams, who is sadly not credited on the DVD artwork!) and a brainy eight-year-old son (Dennis Lawson) in a modestly-sized suburban home. But when he accidentally burns down the house of his oldest (29-year-old) son, the entire Howard Family are forced to live under one roof. Jonathan Daly and Ellen Greer play the younger Howards, while Kirby Furlong plays Lawson’s five-day-older nephew. John McGiver gets my vote for Best Supporting Actor in a Short-Lived Sitcom Series (Posthumously) as Stewart’s colleague and next door neighbor, and if Jimmy’s weekly method of signing off – wherein he directly wishes the audience peace, love, and laughter – fails to tug at your heart strings any, you might want to get ’em tuned.

Moving on, we make the transition from heroic fathers to just plain heroes – and what better way is there than to start with a series that made a major transition or two itself? The CBS series The Adventures of Superboy started out in 1988 as just plain Superboy, with John Haymes Newton, Stacy Haiduk, Scott James Wells, and Jim Calvert at the helm. By the time The Adventures of Superboy: The Complete Fourth Season (1991-1992) rolled around, all but Ms. Haiduk had been replaced by other actors. Here, Gerard Christopher returns for his third (last) season to battle villains like Sherman Howard as Lex Luthor, while contending with the fact that Stuart Whitman is his foster father. As amusingly early ’90s as can be, and I suppose that’s just one of its redeeming qualities – the other being it’s still infinitely better than Zack Snyder’s godawful Man of Steel.

Lastly, we move onto heroes of a different color. These men don’t wear goofy, garish spandex outfits – they don themselves in regular everyday early ’70s attire, though with the added benefit of dental/ear implants. Search: The Complete Series brings us the entire run of the 1972-1973 NBC sci-fi show that was spawned from a pilot called Probe. The show focuses on the plight of several spies under the employ of a secret high-tech private investigation company, alternating between leads every episode, and keeping a feisty Burgess Meredith at the control of the men at all times. Hugh O’Brian returns from the pilot as dashing ladykiller Hugh Lockwood, Doug McClure is beach-bum-turned-agent C.R. Grover, and the great Anthony Franciosa is hot-headed ex-NYC police detective Nick Bianco. Throughout the run of this dazzlingly fun show, our Probe agents search high and low for people, rocks, and bombs – and the vague hope of a possible contract of renewal overall.

For better or for worse, the Warner Archive Collection brings us these television gems in the best-possible quality. As Superboy was filmed during a time when video wasn’t as pronounced as it is today, it might pale in comparison (in many ways) when paired next to either of the shot-on-35mm ’70s TV shows it shares an article with here. But all’s well that ends well here – and we should all be thankful the Warner Archive is diligently devoting their time to enabling so many of us to “discover” these series.

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Luigi Bastardo

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