Blu-ray & DVD reviews: Police Squad! – The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour
Here’s a look at a pair of classic TV shows, Police Squad and I Got You Babe: The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour that are now available on home entertainment.
Police Squad!: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment, not rated, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, 150 minutes, $24.99)
The short-lived television show that launched a mega-successful film franchise arrives on Blu-ray offering its only six gut-busting episodes in existence. Plus some welcomed extras for fans.
For those unaware simpletons, the brilliant minds behind the hit movie “Airplane!” (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) delivered a skewering of the episodic police crime drama way back in 1982 for the ABC Network.
Starring the normally distinguished actor Leslie Nielsen as the bumbling Det. Lt. Frank Drebin, head of the infamous Police Squad, Nielsen redefined the later part of his career as a comedic powerhouse.
Each beloved episode pelted viewers with about 25 minutes of deadpan repartee and nonsequiturs mixed between moments Tex Avery and the Three Stooges would embrace.
Guest stars that died in the series, a staple during the opening credits of each show, included Lorne Greene, Florence Henderson, William Shatner, and Robert Goulet.
By the way, I still laugh every time during the opening credits when President Abraham Lincoln aggressively gets in a successful firefight with potential assassins at Ford’s Theater.
The high definition release offers some sharp detail through most of the later episodes, but an apparent non-remastering of the classic shows as dirt and noise has not been cleaned up in early episodes as wells as unacceptable levels of grain.
Police Squad best extras:
Fans will really appreciate three previously released optional commentary tracks tied to the episodes “A Substantial Gift” (the Zuckers, Mr. Abrahams, and producer Robert K. Weiss); “The Butler Did It” (same group); and “Testimony of Evil” (writer Robert Wuhl).
Other featurettes worth a look include a vintage 17-minute interview with Mr. Nielsen discussing the comedic nuances of failed TV shows and the successful films and a collection of production memos about appeasing the censors, the dress code, and cancellation notice.
I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny & Cher (Time Life, not rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 503 minutes, $40.99)
During the waning glory days of variety show television programming, a popstar duo struck gold on the CBS network between 1971 to 1977.
The irresistible charm and chemistry between Salvatore “Sonny” Bono and his uber-talented wife Cher “Cherilyn” played out each week in a show packed with corny comedy, musical performances, and wild fashions for the lead songstress designed by legendary costumer Bob Mackie.
This five-disc antiquated DVD set offers a scant 10 episodes from the original series “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.”
They feature memorable skits such as an opening monologue that had Cher treat Sonny like a verbal punching bag and the infamous “vamp” (Cher acts as some of the more notorious women in history).
Notable guest stars of the time included Art Carney, Jim Nabors, Jimmy Durante, Joe Namath and even rockers Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
It’s hard for us oldsters not to grin with nostalgia while watching Tony Curtis, Carol Burnett, Glen Campbell, and Dinah Shore gang up to ridicule Sonny as he sings. Jerry Lewis flawlessly performing nearly every facial and verbal gag he was known for during his appearance. And Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) popping out of the audience to ask a question of Carol O’Connor pretending to be President Richard M. Nixon’s assistant to marketing, research, and economic stability.
Fans hoping to watch the entire version of the shows will be greatly disappointed.
For whatever licensing reason, some of the musical numbers have been cut. For example, almost the entire finale from “Sonny & Cher Years Special” (Part 2) costarring The Coasters, Neil Sedaka, and Peter Noone is gone.
It would have been nice if Time-Life had offered full disclosure on the packing or website to let buyers know what they were ultimately getting.
It’s also ridiculous that I can watch much of the content missing from the episodes on YouTube with roughly the same levels of clarity and resolution.
I Got You Babe: Sonny and Cher Best extras:
The bonus content leads with a 17-minute interview with Cher and 16 minutes with producers Allan Blye and Chris Bearde. Both segments explore the production of the show and the relationship between the stars and the cast.
Next, an 8-minute-long, vintage 1970 segment from “The Barbara McNair Show” features Sonny and Cher performing a familiar bit that would later become the opening monologue of their first TV show.
Equally vintage is a 14-minute interview with the duo on “Jerry’s Place” from 1970.
The local Philadelphia show, hosted by disc jockey Jerry Blavat, finds Sonny mainly talking about the current state of Hollywood cinema and the pair singing “I Got You Babe.”
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.