The Golden Age of Television

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Deal Score0

The hugely popular live American television plays of the 1950s have become the stuff of legend. Combining elements of theater, radio, and filmmaking, they were produced at a moment when TV technology was advancing and making art accessible to a newly suburban postwar demographic. These astonishingly choreographed, brilliantly acted, and socially progressive “teleplays” constituted an artistic high for the medium, bringing Broadway-quality drama to homes across the count… More >>

The Golden Age of Television

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  1. If you want to leave with bad feelings; this is for you. Acting may be OK, but to write about such sad reality is not for me, especially at this time of the year. Christmas Carol by Dickens would be a better replacement. After the first disc, could not even think of watching the other two.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. We haven’t watched all the plays yet, but this DVD set offers a unique opportunity to see some of our finest actors (some at the very beginning of their careers), in plays written and directed by master craftsmen.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. This set is an enormous disappointment, and an affront to fans of classic television. What is presented in the set is a direct copy of material originally released on laserdisc, using the same kinescope film transfers that were originally done back in the 1980s.

    “Requiem For a Heavyweight”, for instance, has had minimal corrections made (a slight tint to the original transfer was removed, and the sound was re-synched, that sort of thing.) No serious effort was made to stabilize the image, or to remove considerable dirt and moire artifacts in the old transfer.

    Not only would the above-mentioned corrections be fairly trivial to accomplish, there is now a process that has been developed called LiveFeed Video Imaging that restores the “live broadcast” look to programs that were preserved as kinescope films. And since these programs were originally aired as live performances, they’re **exactly** the sort of material that the process was invented for! Why on earth would Criterion think people would rather have these shows look like jittery old movies?

    When one considers the source of this release, the only words that come to mind are “travesty” and “lost opportunity”. While a release of this quality might have been passable in say, 1985, this is the year 2009– it’s inexcusable for a company that heavily trades on its customer’s passion for quality presentation to essentially ignore 25 years of advances in restoration technology. (And this from a set that lists 8 different restoration technicians **and** a QC Manager!)

    For those who have the original laserdisc sets.. take heart– there’s no need to buy this. For everyone else, please keep in mind that (just as with “The Fugitive” and “My Three Sons”), there’s nothing to be gained by encouraging companies to release substandard product, when they’re fully capable of providing something vastly superior.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  4. Early in the days of television, the teleplay was made popular with independent one and two hour segments on shows named after the sponsor, such as “The U.S. Steel Hour”. These were early showcases of the excellent talents of young writers such as Rod Serling. Because you didn’t have to leave your living room to see a fine drama, they had a huge negative impact on the film industry and led to such innovations as making both the color film and the widescreen film common, since these were two things you couldn’t get from television. Up to now many of these early teleplays have been shown only in the public domain if at all, because they only existed on kinescope, and then only for the purpose of rebroadcasting to different time zones. The concept of the rerun and syndication had not occurred to producers at the time these were made – with the exception of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. New digital techniques have allowed these early kinescopes to be transferred and viewed with better clarity than ever before, and this new package by Criterion boasts some fine dramas from the 1950’s, many of which went on to be made into acclaimed motion pictures.


    Marty (1953) – The motion picture was a Best Picture Oscar winner in 1955. This version has the role of Marty played by Rod Steiger and the role of the girl with which he connects played by Nancy Marchand. Written by Paddy Chayefsky.

    Patterns (1955) – Written by Rod Serling. Show starred Richard Kiley as young executive Fred Staples. However, Staples can see his possible distant future in an aging executive (Ed Begley) who is constantly berated and belittled by the boss (Everett Sloane).

    No Time for Sergeants (1955) – Andy Griffith is cast as Will Stockdale, a backwoods fellow who is drafted into the army. Harry Clark plays the sergeant that is his nemesis. This play was the basis for the TV Show “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C” which ran from 1964 until 1969.

    A Wind from the South (1955) – Stars Julie Harris.

    Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956) – Written by Rod Serling with Jack Palance as the slow-witted mountain of a man who suddenly finds his boxing career over and doesn’t know what to do next.

    Bang the Drum Slowly (1956) – Written by Mark Harris and starring Paul Newman in one of his earliest performances. It’s a story of a baseball team that is a thinly disguised version of the New York Yankees whose catcher gets Hodgkin’s disease and tries to conceal his ailment.

    The Comedian ((1957) – Written by Rod Serling and starring Mickey Rooney as a difficult TV comedian who picks on his brother (Mel Torme) and drives one of his gag writers (Edmund O’Brien) to the brink of insanity by his behavior.

    Days of Wine and Roses (1958) – Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie are a couple whose lives are ruined by alcoholism.

    Extra features:

    Commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson, and Daniel Petrie

    Interviews with key cast and crew, including Frankenheimer, Andy Griffith, Julie Harris, Kim Hunter, Richard Kiley, Piper Laurie, Nancy Marchand, Jack Palance, Cliff Robertson, Mickey Rooney, Carol Serling, Rod Steiger, and Mel Torme

    PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by curator Ron Simon and his extensive liner notes on each program
    Rating: 5 / 5

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