Review: The Abbott and Costello Show Complete Series DVD

STUDIO: E1 | DIRECTORS: Jean Yarbrough | CAST: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Hillary Brooke, Gordon Jones, Sidney Fields, Joe Kirk, Joe Besser
RELEASE DATE: 3/30/2010 | PRICE: DVD $59.98
BONUSES: 44-page booklet, 1978 TV special, classic routines reel, home movies, restored 1948 short film, interview with the Costello family
SPECS: NR | 22 hrs. plus extras | Classic TV | 1.33:1 fullscreen | mono | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Program | Audio | Video | Overall

The Abbott and Costello Show ran on TV as a syndicated program for only two years from 1952-54, but said syndication never appeared to end, as its been popping up on the tube steadily for more than half a century. No wonder so many generations have enjoyed it and so many collectors are psyched that it’s being issued “in toto” on DVD.

The show’s set-up found the comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello portraying unemployed actors who were perpetually six months behind on their rent at a boarding house owned by the irrepressible, cigar-chomping Sid Fields. The simple premise was the easiest framework for A&C to present their catalog of classic comedy routines dating back to their burlesque and radio days, including “The Susquehanna Hat Company,” “7×13=28,” “The Dice Game,” “Loafing,” “Mudder and Fodder” and, of course, their signature bit “Who’s on First?”

True, the series has been issued in various inferior versions of dubious legality over the year. But E1’s fully-authorized Collector’s Edition is the finest we’ve ever seen, offering nice-looking versions of all 52 episodes (the press notes say they’re digitally restored, but they’re far from flawless) and a generous number of supplements, including a 1978 retrospective TV special hosted by Milton Berle and a bunch of home movies from the Lou Costello family archive.

The handsome accompanying booklet features an episode and cast breakdown and an informative essay by Ron Palumbo that gives the history of the boys’ television adventures. Okay, here’s something interesting that I picked up from Palumbo’s piece: In the early 1950s, a forward-thinking Lou Costello formed the Television Corporation of America, which produced their show, and made a five-year deal exclusive deal with NBC in 1951 guaranteeing the pair $15 million, which was the biggest deal in TV up to that time. Costello was the sole owner of TCA, making his partner Bud Abbott an employee who drew a salary for his contributions!

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.