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post #1 of 1 Old 07-25-07, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Bootleg Reviews

Before the moderators panic, the bootleg DVDs of these 'lost' sitcoms are legal to own. They are all public domain shows. You can get them on ebay. Like all bootlegs, the quality is poor but unfortunately, it may be the only way to see them since it's unlikely any distributor will pay to track down the negatives (if they exist) and master them professionally when anyone can then copy and sell them afterwards.

Here are the shows:

"The Mothers in Law" Two Seasons (1967-1968) 38 Episodes

"Captain Nice" (1966-1967) (One half season) 15 Episodes

"It's About Time" (1966-1967) One Season 26 Episodes

First a brief history of how a TV show becomes 'lost'...

Many people assume that sitcoms have a longer life than theatrical movies. We all know that "The Honeymooners" and "I Love Lucy" have been broadcast for decades and have always been there for us to watch. Other favorites include "Bewitched" and "MASH". However, when you examine
the history of the medium, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Unless a show was on for more than one season and immediately went into syndication, it was usually forgotten about or 'lost' in that the original negatives (or videotapes) were just left in some lab that eventually folded or a storage vault that was later cleaned out of materials that weren't generating income. Even Emmy winners like "My World and Welcome To It" (1969) have disappeared. If you add up
all of the prime time television that's been broadcast for the last 57 years, only a handful of titles continue to be shown.

Aside from the actual loss of the negatives (through neglect or intentional destruction to save storage costs) there is the copyright problem. Until 1978, copyright law required all films to be renewed after 28 years or they would fall into the public domain. Why this arbitrary number? I believe it had to do with the original nitrate film stock (manufactured from the late 1800's through 1951) which was chemically unstable and had the tendency to decompose within that time period. For example, when Columbia opened up the cans of the nitrate negative of "Lost Horizon" (1937) in 1967, it had crumbled to dust. They had to restore the film from surviving release prints which is why the quality is so poor. I guess the copyright office figured few films were going to last beyond that number so that's what the time period should be before
renewal. No one anticipated the introduction of tri-acetate 'safety' film in 1948 which replaced the dangerous nitrate by 1951 nor the television market which gave extended life to all sound films. In fact, the main reason so many movies were transferred to safety film from nitrate was specifically for broadcast. If it hadn't been for the boob tube, few of them would have survived. So TV shows that didn't go into syndication were not renewed after 28 years and fell into the public domain. DVD distributors are
businessmen and they're not going to market anything that can immediately be
pirated and they have no legal resources to prevent it. So when TV buffs say,
"Why don't they release this show?"...that's often the reason. That means we're
stuck with these lousy bootlegs but it's better than nothing.

The final problem is color fading. Most color shows were filmed and printed in Eastmancolor which faded to red within 10 to 20 years. The exceptions were network premieres of Technicolor movies (i.e. new dye transfer prints of "Vertigo" and "The Wizard of Oz" were made for broadcast) along with Disney's "Wonderful World of Color" which was also in the process. Disney was actually the first and
last to use "Glorious Technicolor". (First three strip Technicolor film was "Flowers and Trees" in 1932 and last Technicolor film printed was a re-issue of "The Swiss Family Robinson" in 1974 before the lab switched to Eastmancolor) So color shows made between 1966 and 1983 (the advent of low fade Eastmancolor stock) are going to be deteriorated
providing you can find a copy at all. Networks broadcast in 35mm and the syndication stations in 16mm.

Now for the shows themselves. I guess I'll review each one with the proviso if you liked...

If you liked "I Love Lucy", you'll like "The Mothers in Law". Produced by Lucy's ex-husband, Desi Arnaz, he used the same writing team for this sitcom. The first season is a riot and I actually laughed out loud. The cast is very good and each uses their real first name for the character they play. The premise is simple. Wisecracking Eve Arden and her grouchy husband, Herb Rudley, live next door
to crazy neighbors Kaye Ballard (a loudmouth lunatic) and her nutty TV writer husband Roger C. Carmel. They both have kids who elope making them inlaws even though they hate each other. The situations that arise are exactly what you would see between Ricky/Lucy and Fred/Ethel. Petty arguements blown
out of all proportions with lots of slapstick. It's possible some of the stories were recycled from the Lucy shows but it's still funny material. Arnaz even does a cameo as a matador. The theme music is catchy. Unfortunately, Carmel quit after the first season and was replaced by Richard Deacan who's a very funny character actor (Mel in "The Dick Van Dyke Show") but just wasn't suited for this role. He's best playing pompous executives, not bohemian artists. On top
of that, the couple had children and whenever you bring a baby into a sitcom, you know it's on it's last legs and getting corny (i.e. "Get Smart", "All in the Family"). The second season stinks but I do recommend the first one if you're a Desi fan. The show was briefly syndicated in the eighties which is why there are still some 16mm prints that have color. Although 16mm is much grainier than 35mm on DVD, the quality of these bootlegs is pretty much
what you'd see back then and acceptable. Desi forgot the renew the copyright after it left the air.

If you liked "Get Smart", you'll like "Captain Nice". This show only lasted 15 episodes before it was canceled. Created by Buck Henry (co-writer of "Get Smart" and "The Graduate" feature film), this is a really off the wall spoof of the super hero shows on the air at the time (Batman, Superman). It's all played in a dead pan humor that I'm very fond of. People do and say completely absurd things
but very straight faced as if they made sense. The type of dialogue the "Chief" in "Get Smart" would recite which is why he was my favorite character on that show. For example in one show of this series the Mayor states, "If we don't stop this crime wave, the public is going to think we're a bunch of incompedent morons". The Police Captain replies in a mock serious tone, "It's never bothered us before!" William Daniels plays a momma's boy who works as a chemist at the police lab. He invents a formula that turns him into a half assed superhero who wears pajamas. It sounds stupid but it's actually very witty. Lots of amusing one liners and satire about small town politics and corruption. The second bananas are all topnotch including Alice Ghostly as his domineering mother and Ann Prentiss (Paula's sister) as his girlfriend. (If you want to be really freaked out, do some web surfing and see what became of her...but after you watch the show so it won't spoil the fun). All 15 episodes were Broadcast on the defunct "HA" network in the eighties so these bootlegs dubs have good color although they're very fuzzy since they're from VHS sources. I could detail the inside jokes and gags but it's better if you just discover
them for yourself. I think it's actually funnier than "Get Smart" but it bombed in the ratings and was pulled.

If you like "Gilligan's Island" you'll love "It's About Time". This was my favorite show as a kid. Shot on the same sets and with the same producer (Sherwood Schwartz), the premise has two astronauts fly thier space capsule through a time warp and end up in the stone age where people speak English and wear designer animal skins. Not only that but they live on "Gilligan's Island". The two goofball astronauts are Frank Aletter and Jack Mullany. The cavemen include Joe E. Ross (who starts each sentence with "OOoo OOoo"), Imogene Coca, Cliff Noton (as the boss of the tribe) and Mike Mazurki as his henchman. It's dumb, stupid, rediculous and I laughed my head off then and now. The animated opening and theme song stuck in my mind for thirty years before I finally found the bootleg DVDs to watch them again. In later episodes, the astronauts get their ship working again and drag back the cave family which get displaced in modern LA. They changed the theme song to accomodate the change in setting. And strangely enough, Schwartz actually ended the show rather than just leave you hanging after cancellation like "Gilligan's Island". Rather than turn their prehistoric friends over to the military for exploitation, they decide to adopt them as a weird extended family. Curiously, in all the documentaries and interviews with Schwartz, this show is never mentioned as if it never existed. It was rerun briefly in the summer of 1968 then forgotten about and fell into the public domain. Unfortunately, the surviving 16mm prints were very faded which they tried to color correct a bit when making the bootleg DVDs but without much success. I like watching them in black and white which is how I saw it when I was 10. Once again, this is a dumb, rediculous and assinine sitcom exactly like "Gilligan" but if you're in the mood for that type of silliness it's a lot of fun.

Good luck finding them and feel free to comment on the shows after screening them.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 08-17-07 at 10:44 AM.
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