Leave it to Beaver - The Complete First Season Limited Edition Gift Set (1957) Review

Leave it to Beaver - The Complete First Season Limited Edition Gift Set (1957)
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"LEAVE IT TO BEAVER: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON" .........
At-A-Glance DVD Stats:
Number of Episodes -- 39.
Number of DVDs -- 3 (Dual-Sided; Dual-Layered; DVD-18).
Video Aspect Ratio -- Full Frame OAR (1.33:1).
Audio -- Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English only).
Color or B&W? -- B&W.
Any Bonus Stuff on the DVDs? -- Yes ... The LITB "Pilot" Episode ("It's A Small World").
Subtitles -- English and Spanish.
"Play All" Option Included? -- Yes.
Chapter Stops Included? -- No.
Are These Episodes Complete and Unedited? -- Yes.
Booklet Included? -- No.
DVD Distributor -- Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
DVD Release Date -- November 22, 2005.
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The 1950s-1960s family sitcom "Leave It To Beaver" had never been made available to fans via any kind of major studio release on home video throughout all these many years of home-video formats (Beta, VHS, LD, or DVD) -- until the long-awaited date of November 22, 2005, when Universal Studios Home Entertainment released "Leave It To Beaver: The Complete First Season" on DVD.
And the first 39 "Beaver" episodes look just terrific here. The video quality for these black-and-white programs is extremely good, and the audio is very good too (by way of the very pleasant and clean-sounding Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks that faithfully reproduce each episode's original Mono audio).
Thankfully, Universal has done a bang-up job with the digital transfers here, and these shows (which were originally photographed on film, not videotape) look and sound fabulous on these DVDs.
There is, however, a good deal of fine "film grain" contained within a lot of these episodes, but I'm assuming that is simply inherent to the type of film stock that was used for this series. The grain isn't very distracting (at least I don't have a major problem with the grain speckles that exist here). Interestingly, though, I've noticed that many scenes in these episodes don't seem to have any "grain" in them at all, while other scenes contain a lot more. The "outdoor" shots look almost completely grain-free.
Another very pleasing thing to me personally is the fact that all these DVDs pass the "freeze-frame test" with flying colors (i.e., when pausing or freezing an image on screen, the video doesn't "blur" at all; it stays rock-solid and clear while in "pause" mode; which, IMO, is a sign of a good film-to-DVD transfer).
All things considered, I could not be happier with the way these episodes look on these DVDs! And thus far I have no complaints about the performance of the sometimes-temperamental two-sided discs that Universal insists upon using for its TV-DVD releases. Nary a hitch has been experienced while playing these discs.
According to the stats on the packaging, the episode running times here average out to exactly 26 minutes per program (including the 40th episode in the set, the Pilot), which indicates to me that the following pleasing terms apply here: "Full"/"Complete"/"Uncut"/"Unedited"! And this is great to see, because the syndicated versions of this series that have aired on commercial TV for decades have all been hacked to pieces, with each episode having at least a few minutes sliced out of it due to commercial time restraints.
I did a "time check" for each of the seven LITB shows on Side A of Disc #1. The results made me smile (in an "uncut" and "complete" sort of fashion). Here are those run times (not counting the 22-second Universal fanfare and logo that's included prior to every episode, which can be quickly bypassed via the Chapter button):
"Beaver Gets 'Spelled" -- 25:48.
"Captain Jack" -- 25:48.
"The Black Eye" -- 25:49.
"The Haircut" -- 25:44.
"New Neighbors" -- 25:44.
"Brotherly Love" -- 25:37.
"Water, Anyone?" -- 25:44.
So I think it's safe to say that when fans view any of these 39 programs, they will probably be seeing them uncut for the first time since their original network TV airings in the late 1950s. I'm guessing that everyone who buys this DVD set will be seeing some scenes in a lot of these episodes that they had never seen previously. That fact kind of serves as an "added value" item all by itself.
I'm also glad to see that these DVDs retain all of the "Previews" (or "Teasers") for the first-season "Beaver" programs. These brief preview clips were shown just prior to the opening titles and give an overview of what's coming up in that episode. These pre-show snippets, which last about 20 to 30 seconds each, were only done for the first season. Hugh Beaumont served as "narrator" for the teasers on the first 16 episodes. For the year's final 23 shows, however, Hugh's voice is not heard, with just an episode clip provided (sans any voice-over narration).
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"Leave It To Beaver" premiered on CBS-TV on Friday, October 4, 1957, and continued on network TV for a total of six seasons, finishing its 234-episode run in 1963. Each of the six seasons consisted of exactly 39 episodes, a hefty number by today's seasonal standards. CBS carried the show for the first season only. For the final five years, "Beaver" was a part of the ABC-TV schedule.
The storylines used for "Beaver" were always very simple and uncomplicated, which is probably why it's so charming and appealing. No major earth-shattering disasters ever befall the Cleavers. Nobody ever gets hurt (except an occasional scraped knee), the parents (Ward and June) rarely fight about anything serious and never threaten to leave each other (like you might see on a show today), and above all, these characters really seemed to care about each other, without getting overly sappy and sentimental about it. All of these traits helped make "Leave It To Beaver" what it was each week in 1957, and what I believe it remains today: just a good, clean, fun, uncomplicated half-hour of entertaining television.
Starring Jerry Mathers as "Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver", Tony Dow as his brother "Wally", Barbara Billingsley as "June", and Hugh Beaumont as "Ward", the excellent cast of "Leave It To Beaver" was a well-chosen group in my opinion. While it's true, I suppose, that the acting was a bit on the "stiff" side on many occasions, I still think that this ensemble did quite well on this show. A sense of true believability and realism finds its way quite comfortably into each of these episodes.
Toss into this cast grouping the very funny Richard Deacon, who portrayed Ward's friend and co-worker, "Fred Rutherford", plus Ken Osmond as the ever-sarcastic "Eddie Haskell", Frank Bank as the wimpish (but always likeable) "Lumpy Rutherford", Rusty Stevens as "Larry Mondello", and all of Beaver's and Wally's other various friends, classmates, and schoolteachers, and you've got a really first-rate supporting cast of characters to build stories around.
Some of my favorite shows from this Season #1 Beaver batch include ..... "The Black Eye", "Beaver's Short Pants", "Party Invitation", "The Bank Account", "Train Trip", "The Perfect Father", "Beaver Runs Away", "Tenting Tonight", and my #1 fave from this season, "The Haircut", which has Beaver getting scalped by barber Wally in one of the funniest episodes of the whole series.
There's also the funny "Captain Jack" episode -- which was the very first show to be filmed; but was the second program to be aired. "Captain Jack" has Wally and Beaver sending away for a pet alligator, and includes the very funny scene where "Minerva" (the maid who we never see again) comes running up the basement stairs screaming "Help! A monster! There's an alligator in the basement!" .... This is followed by Ward's skeptical -- "An alligator?!" (LOL.)
"Captain Jack" also has the distinction of being the very first episode in television history to show a toilet on screen. (The "tank" portion of the Cleaver toilet is shown, not the [~gasp!~] "bowl" itself.) :-)
In fact, it was the "toilet" scene in "Captain Jack" that kept that episode from being aired by CBS as the debut show of the series in late 1957. But LITB show executives, including writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher (who authored a great number of the 234 "Beaver" programs throughout its 6-year history, including "Captain Jack"), stuck by their guns and won the "toilet battle" with CBS bigwigs, and thus "Captain Jack" (toilet scene intact) was approved for network broadcast one week later, being aired on October 11, 1957, as "Leave It To Beaver" episode #2.
And yet another winning Season-One entry is entitled simply "Lumpy Rutherford" -- where we get our first look at "Clarence Rutherford", known to most people as "Lumpy" (or "The Lump"). You'll note how Lumpy goes from being one of Wally's feared enemies to one of his best friends as the series progresses.
There's also a very nifty bonus program located on Disc 3 of this set -- the original "Leave It To Beaver" Pilot episode, entitled "It's A Small World", which originally aired on April 23, 1957, as an installment of the syndicated anthology program "Studio 57". The pilot episode is a pretty decent show too, IMHO, with a good storyline (unlike a lot of series-launching pilots I've seen). It's fun to be able to see the "genesis" of the series via the pilot, and I commend Universal for including it in this collection.
Both Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers co-star in the "Small World" pilot program, but different actors were cast in the roles of Wally and Ward. Paul Sullivan played Wally; while Casey Adams (aka Max Showalter) filled Ward's shoes for the pilot only.
A 13-year-old Harry Shearer (famed voice actor on...Read more›

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Finally, one of the most beloved series from television's Golden Age comes to DVD for the first time ever! Join the Cleavers, America's quintessential family, in all 39 digitally remastered, unforgettable episodes from the complete first season of Leave it to Beaver! Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) can't seem to avoid trouble, and his older brother Wally (Tony Dow), and mischievous pal Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond), aren't any help. But with some wise advice from his father Ward (Hugh Beaumont) and mom's (Barbara Billingsley) home-cooked meals, Beaver learns that all's well that ends well. Complete with the original pilot, brought out of the studio archives, this must-have DVD collection will have you declaring, "Gee, that Beaver sure is a swell guy!"

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