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'Abbott and Costello Show' Returns to DVD

27 Jun, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

Jerry Seinfeld patterned his sitcom after it, but few have seen “The Abbott and Costello Show.” The show opened and closed with the pair in front of a curtain, but in between were skits that, similar to “Seinfeld,” were about “nothing”: birthday parties, finding jobs, asking for directions.

The show ran from 1952 to 1954 and was previously available from Shanachie only as $19.98 four-episode DVDs without extras.

That changes Sept. 5. Passport Entertainment will release The Abbott and Costello Show: The 100th Anniversary Collection (prebook Aug. 8; five-DVD set $39.98). In addition to 26 black-and-white, half-hour episodes, the set will feature interviews with Lou Costello's daughters, a selection of home movies from his family and the DVD premiere of the recently restored short “10,000 Kids and a Cop,” starring Bud Abbott, Costello, William Bendix and Jimmy Stewart.

“My dad made [‘10,000 Kids'] to promote his youth center in Los Angeles, a memorial to my brother who passed away on his first birthday when he drowned,” said Chris Costello, who wrote the acclaimed biography of her dad, Lou's on First. The book's title is an homage to the duo's classic “Who's on First?” routine, which appears in one of the first season's episodes.

Sisters Chris and Paddy Costello were happy to be interviewed for this set and the second-season set to come in October — both celebrating the 100th anniversary of Costello's birth. Until now, they'd always been reluctant to share their dad's home movies.

“It's the last private and personal thing we have that has not been circulated to the fans and the public,” Chris said. “But we realized Passport would do a beautiful job with it, and they gave us approval on a lot of the stuff.”

The home movies — some in color — are from parties and a family vacation to Europe.

The home movies also show the duo's real personalities, said Passport president Herb Dorfman.

“It's intriguing watching any star when they're relaxed,” Dorfman said. “Lou was not the child-like bad boy, and Abbott wasn't this shrieking guy twisting Lou's arm all the time.”

Chris agrees: “Bud was such a gentleman, not the character he was on screen.”

Chris laughs when she recalls her grandmother's reaction to seeing Bud slap Lou on TV.

“Every time Bud would slap him, she'd say, ‘Oh, no, not my boy,’ Chris said. “You couldn't see it, though, but Bud had his fingers cupped and would hit with the fingertips. Then they'd put in the sound effects.”

But when the show was made, Chris' father was struggling with health problems.

“You look at the energy of their earlier films and [compare it to the show], and they were slowing down,” Chris said. “But he still had a way with his face, great reaction shots. One director said he learned very soon to have three cameras on Lou. But because of the rheumatic fever, it was taxing to do all those pratfalls.”

Costello died of a heart attack in 1959, just five years after the show wrapped, but his legacy lives on with fans.

“What gives me such a thrill is to watch my niece's kids watch the show,” Chris said. “They realize it's their great-grandfather, and they're doing belly laughs. They do the funniest imitations. I wish he were here.”

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