Monday, March 19, 2012

On DVD: The Red Skelton Show (1951)

Clem Kadiddlehopper. Freddie the Freeloader. George Appleby. Sheriff Deadeye.

Those were just some of the memorable characters created and performed by entertainer Red Skelton, who made the transition from radio to television in 1951, and began a 20 year run, most of it at CBS. Skelton began his series at NBC from 1951-53, and finished there in 1971. I barely remember seeing the show at the end of its run, when NBC suits tinkered with the format, hoping that Skelton could reel in the same audience that was watching Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, but it didn't work out that way.

Amazingly, much of the series is in the public domain, and in 2002, Madacy Entertainment released a 2-disc DVD compilation that was entirely from the CBS run, mostly from the mid-to-late 50's.

The disc opens with a December 1954 show with Red hosting the Look Magazine Awards, featuring Bing Crosby, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Lemmon, Walt Disney, & Judy Garland. Bear in mind this was before Disney began his own television show on ABC. The rest of the set features the following:

*"The Original Da Vinci", a Freddie the Freeloader tale with guest stars Vincent Price & Jackie Coogan.
*"Shipwrecked", with Buster Crabbe and an early appearance by Jamie Farr, well before M*A*S*H made him an icon in his own right.
*"Oil", in which Clem Kadiddlehopper becomes a millionaire after striking black gold.

Uploaded by Turbo Toilet, and featuring guest star Carol Channing:

There's also Mickey Rooney in a Freddie-centric show, with Mickey as a spoof on Perry Mason, and, in another Clem-centric tale, John Carradine appears as a painter whose work is overshadowed by Clem's surrealistic abstractions.

The Madacy package is heavily edited, and some of the episodes, sad to say, were badly preserved. Some sponsor tags were left off and closing credits left incomplete. Art Gilmore, better known for his work on Dragnet, was the announcer for much of the run.

Personally, I wouldn't mind finding a collection that includes the later, color episodes.

Rating: B-. Have to take points off for the packaging issues.


magicdog said...

It was my parents who introduced me to Red Skelton (not to mention other stars of the Golden Age of TV).

It's a shame TPTB dumped him from his 1971 show. He was getting the ratings but not the demos the suits wanted. From all accounts, I've been told Skelton was a class act.

My parents also remembered the sad tale of Skelton losing his young son to a rare disease. His character, "The Mean Widdle Kid" was based in part as a joke on his son to make him laugh. When the son died, Skelton publically announced he'd never reprise the role of the "Kid" again.

hobbyfan said...

I don't think Junior (Mean Widdle Kid) ever made it to TV. He wasn't included on the DVD, so perhaps by then, Junior, as you noted, was retired.