After years of neglect, there has been a flurry of Bing Crosby reissue activity recently. The Crosby family have been working with various companies to release material that has been stored in his archives for decades. In addition to various audio projects, there is also this fine double-DVD collection of classic Crosby television specials.
Bing Crosby: The Television Specials – Volume One contains four full-length specials that originally aired from 1954 to 1970. Each one provides a fascinating glimpse of a world that is gone forever. Bing’s TV debut was on January 3, 1954. He was a bit of a latecomer to television. At the time he was already the largest selling recording artist of all time, and an established film and radio star.
The Bing Crosby Show was basically a live-TV version of his radio program. The half-hour special breezes by, with the unflappable host taking to the new medium effortlessly. As would be the case for all of his television shows, the majority of this one is taken up with musical numbers. There is also an appearance from the one and only Jack Benny, who was the number one TV star of the CBS network at the time.
The second installment of The Bing Crosby Show was actually his sixth network special, and aired on September 29, 1959. They pulled out all the stops on this hour-long affair, with a top-flight assemblage of guest stars. Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Peggy Lee join Bing in this musical extravaganza. The four perform together in every number of combinations; solo, duet, trio, and quartet. There are a number of highlights, but Armstrong’s version of “Mack The Knife” is not to be missed.
Disc two of the set sees The Bing Crosby Show moving from black and white to color. The special guest on the May 14, 1962 was old friend Bob Hope. The two were promoting their final “Road” picture, The Road To Hong Kong (1962). The centerpiece of the program is an extended Hope-Crosby medley of from their Road films.
April 13, 1970 was the date of the fourth special here. Strangely enough, it seems the most dated. Bing Crosby: Cooling It has a “futuristic” theme that would have been out of place in the New Frontier era, let alone in the aftermath of the '60s. Maybe that type of criticism is out of place for something like this though. Crosby’s audience did not necessarily want to be reminded of what was actually going on in the world at the time.
To that end, his guest stars are perfect. How can you go wrong with Dean Martin and Flip Wilson? The theme of Cooling It is leisure, and finds Bing and Dean performing a great medley of tunes about the subject. As Geraldine, Flip Wilson steals the show however. He cracks both Crosby and Martin up repeatedly during one skit.
Each disc contains a selection of bonus features, including vintage interviews, commercials, and an appearance on golfer Jimmy Demeret’s show in 1954.
Bing Crosby: The Television Specials – Volume One is a great way to experience the charm this great performer once brought to the small screen, all those years ago.