Bud Abbott and Lou Costello of the famous Abbott and Costello comedy duo, had pretty much exhausted all that radio and the movies could offer when television came around in the early fifties. The Abbott and Costello Show lasted 2 seasons --Lou Costello died after season-- and was a thirty minute sketch comedy show where the comic duo reprised the routines they had honed on the radio and in the movies. The 26 episodes of season one The Abbott and Costello Show have been lovingly and almost always perfectly restored for the Abbott and Costello 100th Anniversary Collection and this 5 DVD box set is a must for fans of these comedy giants. If you question giants: no other comedy duo has been on radio, film, television, and cartoons.
The format for each TV Abbott and Costello Show followed the tried and true recipe of their radio show. A routine, a sketch, a short segue, the rest of the sketch. If you are a hardcore fan of the comedy duo you will certainly be able to pinpoint which movie or radio show some of the 26 episodes of this 5 DVD set comes from. More casual fans, like myself, will sometimes have a certain impression of déjà vu --like the drugstore bit on DVD 1 where Costello goes up and down the ladder to fetch the same jar of candy-- but still enjoy the episodes either because you can finally see the radio sketch or get an adaptation of the best moments in their movies.
The highlight of the 100th Anniversary The Abbott and Costello Show Season One is certainly The Actor's Home on DVD 4 where Lou and Bud get to perform their timeless classic Who's On First? This comedy routine alone is worth the price of this DVD box set though the other shows are also quite good.
Another personal favorite from The Abbott and Costello Show Season One is The Vacation, DVD 1, which has Costello playing around a sporting goods store and him packing and unpacking his suitcase as Abbott keeps changing his mind about whether or not they should go on vacation. For some reason though Abbott switches to a foreign accent in the middle of that bit. Costello is the one who does all the comedy work in this episode. The Birthday Party on the same disc is simply okay but well worth watching if only for the routine between Costello and landlord Sid Fields.
There is a great bit of pantomime by Costello at the beginning of The Vacuum Cleaner Salesman on DVD 2. Of course, Costello with a vacuum is a recipe for some pretty funny disaster. The Haunted House features the old comedy premise of having to stay in a haunted house to inherit it. Aside the guy in a gorilla suit the gags are pretty good and the special effects interesting. The Western Story features a really bad pun about meeting a guy who once was Ponce de Leon but is now only de Leon because he lost his pants. Here the boys tangle with bad guys. There is some good verbal sparring and comedic gun play but it is not the best episode here.
Verbal sparring was the Abbott and Costello trademark and all 26 episodes of the show feature at least one instance of it. A pretty good one is in Getting A Job on DVD 3 where Abbott talks about getting a job at a bakery and getting dough for loafing. The show itself is not particularly good though. The same can be said for Hungry where the Costello on the phone bit has some good one-liners but not much in terms of story. The segue segment of The Politician episode is one of the few instances where the show shows its age as it is obviously dusty and scratchy. You cannot expect all 26 episodes of a sitcom to be brilliant and this is a case in point.
DVD 5 features Police Rookies which leads to mayhem in the gym, and Safari, the episode where the comedy duo returns Bingo the Chimp to his African home. I never quite understood the reason why the monkey was on the show in the first place but this allows Abbott and Costello to leave the streets and go on safari in a very small jungle to return the chimp to its home and the guy in a gorilla suit. I still do not get Mike the Chimp but it does allow for this episode.
Bonus material in this box set features parts one of an interview with Lou Costello's daughters and eight or nine of Costello's home movies some introduced by Chris and Paddy Costello. Personally, I would have liked to have the interview in its entirety but there you go. Also included is the 1948 restored documentary style short 10,000 Kids and a Cop filmed at the Lou Costello jr. Youth Foundation building to support the youth center Costello started after the death of his son.
The only flaw with The Abbott and Costello Show 5 DVD box set is there is no indication on any of the 5 slimcases which disc it is. The shows themselves have aged quite well both in terms of comedy and in terms of how they look on a modern large screen TV. I noticed only a couple of instances where restoration had not made a segment almost pristine.
The Abbott and Costello Show 100th Anniversary Collection Season One is a must for fans of the comedy duo. It is also great if you like slapstick and verbal repartee comedy.