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'Father Knows Best' on DVD

29 Dec, 2007 By: John Latchem

Father Knows Best: Season One

Shout! Factory is bringing the 1950s sitcom “Father Knows Best” to DVD for the first time April 1.

“It's a classic piece of Americana,” said Lorrie Shapiro, VP of DVD for Shout! Factory. “That it hasn't been offered before legitimately on home video is astounding to me. Fans have been trading bootlegs and VHS tapes for years.”

Father Knows Best: Season One includes 26 episodes from the 1954-55 season in a four-DVD set at $34.99. Orders are due March 4.

An idealized portrait of American life in the 1950s, “Father Knows Best” starred Robert Young as Jim Anderson, reprising the role from an earlier radio series. Jane Wyatt played his wife, with Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin as their children.

Shapiro said Young's grandson and heir, Bill Proffitt, was sitting on a vault filled with footage related to the show.

Notable among the extras is the rarely seen episode “24 Hours in Tyrantland,” paid for by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1959 to promote savings bonds. It was never broadcast, but was shown in schools, churches and civic groups, and features Jim teaching his children a lesson by acting like a dictator for a day.

“It's an incredible piece of Cold War propaganda,” Shapiro said. “It's chilling on a lot of levels, and such an indication of the Cold War era. It presents the threat of living under a tyrant if you don't buy savings bonds.”

The DVD also includes Robert Young's home movies, behind-the-scenes color footage, new interviews with Donahue and Chapin, and the pilot episode of Young's follow-up series, “Window on Main Street,” which has never been in syndication.

Shapiro notes “Father Knows Best” was one of the first shows to inspire a letter-writing campaign to save it, when CBS canceled it after one season with poor ratings in a lousy time slot (10 p.m. Sundays). NBC brought the series back for its second year, and the show lasted for 203 episodes over six seasons, plus two reunion movies in 1977.

One caveat about the DVD, according to Shapiro, is that Shout! Factory couldn't locate the original version of the episode “The Promised Playhouse,” and the version on the DVD is culled from a fifth-season episode that used the footage in a flashback.

UPDATE: Lost 'Father' Found

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