Straight from the vaults of CBS/Paramount comes another edition of their very modestly priced TV Sets collection. Like TV Sets: Action Packed, Forever Funny includes the pilot episodes from several classic TV shows. But, wherein most (or all) of the entries on TV Sets: Action Packed are often referred to as comedy by cynical bastards like me, TV Sets: Forever Funny only offers us intentional comedy shows, shown in no specific order whatsoever.
The fun begins with “The Girls Want To Go To A Nightclub,” (aired October 15, 1951) the pilot episode of the immortal favorite I Love Lucy starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Things go from normal to very “Lucyd” as Ethel (Vivian Vance) and Fred (William Frawley) argue about what to do for their wedding anniversary: a nightclub or the fights.
Next up is “The Laundry Orgy” from the television adaptation of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (broadcast September 24, 1970). It’s kind of fun to watch Tony Randall and Jack Klugman still settling into the characters made famous by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau a few years before. In what I can only guess was a way to assure audiences that these were in fact the same characters, the famous Pigeon Sisters from the film (Monica Evans and Carole Shelley) guest star.
From October 1, 1955 comes another historic event in vintage television comedy: The Honeymooners. In “TV Or Not TV,” neighbors Ralph (Jackie Gleason) and Norton (Art Carney) pitch in and buy a television set together. From then on, the two are at each other’s throats (which is typical for an episode of The Honeymooners) over what to watch on their new toy. Personally, I’d put my money on the boys’ wives, Alice (Audrey Meadows) and Trixie (Joyce Randolph) to win the fight.
The multiple award-winning sitcom Taxi episode “Like Father, Like Daughter” is fourth in line here. Debuting on American television on September 12, 1978, this first installment of Taxi has all of the guys lining up to call anywhere they can think of when they discover that the station’s payphone allows free calls. Alex (Judd Hirsch) can’t think of anyone to call until his daughter heads off to school abroad.
Sadly, no compilation of classic sitcoms would be deemed complete unless they managed to include an episode of The Brady Bunch. Of all the nauseating sitcoms that television producer Sherwood Schwartz dreamt up, The Brady Bunch is my least favorite, and its phony wholesome image makes me squirm. This premiere episode, “The Honeymoon” was first aired September 26, 1969 and has the newlywed Mike and Carol (Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, respectively) feeling a bit shameful over yelling at their kids during their wedding. Just send ‘em off to boarding school already!
Even sadder than the mandatory inclusion of The Brady Bunch is the fact that a two far superior shows, Frasier and Cheers are forced to take a backseat to the Bradys. Frasier, itself a spin-off of Cheers, opens with “The Good Son” (September 16, 1993) as a newly-divorced Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) unwillingly gives up his “freedom” by letting his father (John Mahoney) move in with him. This episode also introduced us to the ultra-sexy David Hyde Pierce as Frasier's brother, Niles, and (although briefly), Jane Leeves as Daphne Moon.
Lastly on this disc is the Cheers pilot, “Give Me A Ring Sometime” (aired September 30, 1982). While preparing to start life anew, Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) is dumped by the her fiancé and left stranded in a Boston bar. Taking pity on the poor deranged soul, the bar’s owner, former Red Sox pitcher Sam Malone (Ted Danson), offers Diane a job so that she can get back on her feet again. But how well will the prim, proper, and very well-educated Diane fit in with a group of washed-up uncouth beer lovers?
The overall quality varies from episode to episode in this assortment. Some episodes were taped live with analog video equipment while others were filmed with more traditional 35mm materials. Either way, the quality here is not up to par with the individual season sets since this is a budget disc meant to whet the appetites of fans and would-be fans alike. The soundtracks range from English Mono to Stereo, depending on the sitcom and when it was made.
While it’s not recommended for the serious collector,TV Sets: Forever Funny is a good way to figure out if you’d like to be a serious collector of any of the series featured in this DVD compilation. It also makes a very cheap gift for friends or family.