Review: Leave It To Beaver Complete Series DVD

STUDIO: Shout! Factory/ NBC Universal Television | CREATORS: Joe Connelly, Dick Conway, Bob Mosher |  CAST: Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow
RELEASE DATE: 6/29/10 | PRICE: DVD $199.99
BONUSES: featurettes, documentary, interviews with cast and creators, pilot episode, board game, more
SPECS: NR | 95 hrs. | Classic TV | 1.33:1 fullscreen | Dolby Digital mono

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

Available in its entirety after its first three seasons trickled out a few years back, the classic family sitcom Leave It To Beaver—all six seasons and 234 episodes of it—finally gets the complete respect it deserves on DVD.

We don’t have to talk about Leave It To Beaver’s place in history and indisputable popularity since its debut in 1957 here—its legend is assured—but we would like to say a few words about the overall collection that has been put together by Shout! Factory, the digital era’s leading packager and presenter of classic television.

First off, the episodes look excellent; the black-and-white cinematography (they were originally filmed on 35mm) is crisp and the contrast is fine (and it looks even better in the latter seasons). Ditto for the quality of the clean, hiss-free monaural audio track.

The centerpiece supplements—and there are many—is the 75-minute documentary Forever The Beaver: The Cleavers Look Back, which features enthusiastic interviews with stars Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsley and Tony Dow, as well as Brian Levant, the producer and co-creator of The New Leave It to Beaver series which aired from 1985 through 1989. They all seem eager to be talking about the show and their stories—including Mathers’s remembrance of his audition—are genuinely fun. Also worth a look are the original pilot (which was available on the Season One release), a pair of original network promos and a special episode-like Beaver “film” funded by the U.S. Treasury to promote the sale of bonds.

Our favorite extra, though, is the fold-out paper replica of the 1959 Hasbro Leave It to Beaver Money Maker Game board. Covered with colorful pictures of the Cleaver family, the object of the game was (is?) to make money, which was a something that the Beaver was regularly trying to do over the course of the series. Now can you think of anything more late 20th century Americana than that?

 

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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.