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page added: 12/17/08

The Twelve Days of Bits-Mas!
DVD review by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

Holiday Treats

Holiday Treats
1955-1993 (2008) - CBS Video (Paramount)
Released on DVD on October 7th, 2008.

Program Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C

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This single disc release gathers together one of the Christmas shows from each of eight popular TV comedy series: I Love Lucy (1956 Christmas show), The Honeymooners (1955), The Andy Griffith Show (1960), The Brady Bunch (1969), Taxi (1978), Family Ties (1983), Frasier (1993), and Wings (1990). This sort of themed collection is not new, but is welcome nonetheless particularly at this time of year. It gives the many fans of these various series a chance to enjoy the Christmas period as celebrated by their favorites without the financial investment necessary to purchase full season sets.

In the I Love Lucy episode (rediscovered some three decades after first aired), decorating the Christmas tree leads to fond memories of the birth of little Ricky and an eventual unexpected visit from Santa. In The Honeymooners, Ralph and Alice's gift exchange is partly inspired by the "Gift of the Magi" story. In The Andy Griffith Show episode, the Christmas celebration is unexpectedly transferred to the Mayberry jail. The Brady Bunch spends their first Christmas together worried that Carol's laryngitis may not allow her to sing at church on Christmas Day. In typical Louie style, Taxi's Christmas party is interrupted by a poker game in which he risks the company profits. Family Ties finds Alex in a humbug mood that is eventually addressed by a dose of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In the Frasier episode, Frasier's Christmas starts off badly but is eventually saved by a group of strangers in a diner. And in Wings, everyone's Christmas plans fall apart and the gang find themselves at Fay's on the anniversary of her husband's death.

I'm sure not everyone is a fan of every one of the eight series, but most people will have fond memories of many of them and the Christmas episodes presented generally reflect the particular characteristics and strengths of each. In my view, the shows from The Honeymooners, Family Ties, Frasier, and Wings hold up the best. The use of flashbacks in the I Love Lucy episode diminishes its impact while the other three offer typical situations for them in which Christmas feels more like just a plot angle. Still, their heart is in the right place and for many, the mere presence of their comfortable characters will be sufficient.

Paramount and CBS have done a generally above average job in their presentation of these series on DVD full season sets and these Christmas show examples are reflective of that. The transfers (all full frame as originally shown) appear to be the same as those from the pertinent full season releases for the four series available to me (I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Andy Griffith Show, Frasier) and presumably are so for the others. Images are generally crisp with good contrast and the mono sound (stereo for Wings and Frasier) is in good shape. With this sort of compilation disc, supplements are not expected and predictably there are none. Several animated vintage CBS Christmas promotional spots, however, are interspersed between the shows when "play all" is selected from the menu. Recommended.

Barrie Maxwell
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