Barbara Billingsley


Leave It to Beaver: Complete First Season

by Starbucks (Comedy & Satire Movies)

Leave It To Beaver: The Complete First Season marked the first full-season DVD release of a classic 1950's children's television series - an ambitious undertaking in itself, as a full season in 1957-58 meant 39 episodes. Spread across three double-sided platters, the shows are all in an excellent state of preservation, in crisp black-and-white (full-screen: 1.33-to-1) with a healthy volume and detail to the audio as well. Each disc opens to a simple, easy-to-use menu with a "play-all" option for the truly ambitious. The fact is that the writing on these programs is nothing less than brilliant - watching a few of them at random in his 50's, this reviewer realized that no series ever captured the day-to-day anxieties and joys of childhood better than Leave It To Beaver; but that said, the shows are best absorbed one or two at a time, so that they can be savored properly, because there is a lot here to appreciate. The one bonus feature on the set is a real treat for any fan of the show, the unaired pilot for the series, titled It's A Small World, which featured Jerry Mathers and Barbara Billingsley as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver and his mother, June, but had Casey Adams as Beaver's father and Paul Sullivan as his older brother Wally - Adams was entirely wrong as the father figure, too flinty and neurotic, with a smiling visage that made him look like a serial killer; Sullivan was acceptable as the brother, but a little too bland, and he lacked the easygoing warmth that Tony Dow brought to the part. But even the pilot episode looks great - one just wishes that the producers hadn't buried it on the second side of the third disc (the show also features future series regulars Richard Deacon and Diane Brewster in guest roles, plus a guest appearance by future Dennis The Menace co-star Joseph Kearns). There is inevitably a tiny bit of grain in some shots, but that can be forgiven, considering we're dealing with 50-year-old film material that was never even conceived of as having an extended shelf-life. The episodes have only a pair of chapters each, but each one also comes with the Universal logo running ahead of it, which one will want to skip past - and the text introductions on the menu, containing detailed plot summaries and trivia, are superfluous, and only slow down the transition from episode-to-episode.
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