Everybody loves a clown.
Comedian Red Skelton (I Dood It) personified and embodied FUN. Those who grew up with his long-running, highly popular TV variety show know this, but if you’ve never seen the man in action before, prepare for a jolt of giddiness you’d previously never imagined possible without copious amphetamine assistance–and legend has it the man was a tee-totaler.
Loaded up on pure love, was Red: his usual opening line was “I feel good tonight!” delivered while bouncing on his feet. His enjoyment of the audience and of the people he shared the stage with was palpable, but should all others depart, ol’ Red was ready and willing to keep on going. A world-class pantomime, he adorned each show with a solo “Silent Spot,” that for many, marked the apex of the Skelton experience.
Some of the jokes were too corny, some of them too topical for modern audiences to get the references–and thus, the punchlines–of, and given Red’s penchant for mincing and mugging, I’d advise you not to try binge-watching, but there’s one thing you can’t take away from him: Red Skelton gave his all to every show; there was no phoning it in for this clown, and I’m not being derogatory here–it’s as a clown the man wished to be remembered. Most episodes found him signing off–drenched in sweat, no less– with a hearty “God bless,” and if he didn’t mean it, well, he sure fooled me!
I was too young to have any memories of this show during its original twenty year run (from 1951-1971) but judging from the amount of laughing out loud I did while screening this set, I’d have to concede that The Red Skelton Hour officially qualifies as timeless entertainment. My only disappointments were in the incomplete nature of these episodes, which generally ran from forty to forty six minutes–a bit too short for hour-long shows of that era. Doubtless, the biggest losses were musical (most likely owing to licensing trouble; you know the drill) and it’s a certified shame to be missing such footage, but barring a miracle, I really don’t anticipate this problem being resolved and so I figured it was better to enjoy what there was than despair what there wasn’t.
The title of this set: The Red Skelton Show: In Color: Unreleased Seasons continues to vex me; those last two words, in particular. The twelve segments corralled for this three disc set come from five different seasons and all of this material was previously released in at least one earlier collection. I’ve listed the program here in order to save you from needless double-dipping:
Show #2516– “When Nuthood Was In Flower” Guest: Milton Berle Original Air Date: January 4, 1966
Show #1906–“Autograph Hounds” Guests: John Wayne; Julius Wechter and the Baja Marimba Band. Original Air Date: October 28, 1969
Show #0701–“Hippies Days Are Here Again” Guests: Tim Conway; Nancy Ames; Jackie Coogan. Original Air Date: October 31, 1967
Show #1804–“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” Guests: Boris Karloff; Vincent Price; Ed Sullivan. Original Air Date: September 24, 1968
Show #0601–“Eenie Meenie Minee Schmo” Guests: Mickey Rooney; Simon & Garfunkel. Original Air Date: September 20, 1966
Show #621–“Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Dumb” Guests: George Gobel. Original Air Date: February 14, 1967
Show #721–“Dial M for Moron” Guests: Phyllis Diller; Lou Rawls. Original Air Date: January 23, 1968
Show #1801–“The Revenge of Prudence Pennyfeather or Wide Saddles in the Old Corral” Guests: Martha Raye. Original Air Date: October 15, 1968
Show #614–“The Fastest Cuspidor in the West” Guest: Robert Goulet. Original Air Date: December 13, 1966
Show #1524–“The Red Skelton Scrapbook” Guest: John Wayne. Original Air Date: March 1, 1966
Show #1817–“The Best Thing to Get Out of Marriage Is to Get Out of Marriage” Guests: Audrey Meadows; Ted Mack. Original Air Date: January 14, 1969
Show #2516–“If At First You Don’t Succeed. Forget It” Guest: Merv Griffin. Original Air Date: March 18, 1969
As you’ve come to expect with Time Life releases of classic variety television shows on DVD, The Red Skelton Hour: In Color: Unreleased Seasons features some technically iffy moments in addition to those aforementioned edits. That said, these full-frame presentations look much better for the most part than I expected them to and as I said earlier, these are probably the best we’ll ever get of ’em. Sure, the original mono sound hasn’t aged all that well and English subtitles would’ve helped immensely, but there are none available.
Technically, there are two extras: brief interviews with singer Bobby Rydell and Vicki Lawrence. They’re nice enough, but pure fluff and together add up to less than ten minutes.
On a happier note, with this set, you’ll also get a chance to see several of Red’s beloved, recurring characters, including: Sheriff Deadeye, Freddie the Freeloader, Clem Kaddiddlehopper, Bolivar Shagnasty, Cauliflower McPugg, Willie Lump Lump and of course, those chatterbox seagulls, Heathcliff and Gertrude, the Seagulls. Worried about exposing your children to any of this material? Don’t! There’s nothing but good clean fun here, folks.