This is an incredible historical document. Following her triumphant Carnegie Hall concert in 1961, Judy Garland set out to conquer the world of television with The Judy Garland Show. Although it only lasted one season, she earned four Emmy nominations, and hosted some extraordinary guests.
Infinity Entertainment is in the process of releasing all 26 shows, on 13 separate DVDs. Although this material was previously issued by another company, Infinity’s digital re-mastering is spectacular. The images pop right off the screen.
The debut features the marvelous Count Basie Orchestra, and the footage of this legendary band is something to behold. Bowing to the conventions of the day, there is a running gag with Jerry Van Dyke trying to sit in with Basie’s band, on the banjo. Thankfully this material is kept to a minimum, and the music and dance numbers are the focus of the program.
Folksinger Judy Henske does a fine job with “God Bless The Child.” But things become a little surreal when Van Dyke and Mel Torme join her for a Peter Paul and Mary parody. A very young-looking Torme performs a couple of solo songs as well.
Episode two features a 17-year-old Liza Minnelli, already a seasoned show-biz pro. Liza and Mom perform a number of song and dance routines, and are really quite remarkable.
Besides series regular Jerry Van Dyke, comedy relief is offered by the one and only Soupy Sales. His bits are really funny. The other musical guest slot here is filled by the Brothers Castro, who were sort of the Los Lobos of their day.
The Judy Garland Show premiered on November 10, 1963, a mere 46 years ago. But good music always stands the test of time, and the performances of Count Basie, Mel Torme, Liza, and Judy herself are outstanding on these programs.
Special features are kept to a minimum, featuring a few outtakes of each episode. There is also the option of playing the DVD in the original 1963 mono format.
Judy Garland was only 41 years old at the time, and some say she never recovered from the ultimate failure of her show to catch on. It’s our loss, because based on this DVD, she had a superb series here.