Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
March 30, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Brilliantly written, hilarious and fun! “Car 54, Where Are You?” is a delightful, classic comedy series that made me people laugh back in 1961 and will continue to make people laugh today! All 30 remastered episodes from the first season plus a 2011 interview with two of the cast members from the series. If you loved this series, it’s a must-buy! Highly recommended!
© 1961-1962 Eupolis Productions. 2011 Shanachie Entertainment Corp. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season
DURATION: 30 Episodes (780 Minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Standard Definition, Full Screen
COMPANY: Shanachie Entertainment Corp.
RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2011
Directed by Nat Hiken, Al De Caprio
Written by Nat Hiken, Terry Ryan, Tony Webster, Gary Belkin, Art Baer, Ben Joelson, Will Glickman, Sydney Zelinka
Produced by Nat Hiken, Billy Friedberg
Associate Producer: Louis Melamed
Music by John Strauss
Cinematography by George Stoetzel, J. Burgi Contner
Casting by Edith Hamlin
Art Direction by Richard Jackson
Set Decoration by J.C. Delaney, Fred Ballmeyer
Joe E. Ross as Officer Gunther Toody
Fred Gwynne as Officer Francis Muldoon
Paul Reed as Captain Martin Block
Al Lewis as Officer Leo Schnauser
Beatrice Pons as Lucille Toody
Hank Garrett as Officer Ed Nicholson
Ruth Masters as Mrs. Muldoon
Charlotte Rae as Sylvia Schnauser
Albert Henderson as O’Hara
Nipsey Russell as Officer David Anderson
Gerald Hien as Katz
Mickey Deems as Officer Charlie Fleischer
Lawrence Fletcher as Inspector
Frederick O’Neal as Officer Wallace
Martha Greenhouse as Rose
Ossie Davis as Omar
The show is set in the Bronx’s 53rd precinct, where the cops depicted are all great comedic characters, as are the residents of the neighborhood they patrol. The central figures of the show are the Mutt & Jeff squad car team of Toody and Muldoon, played by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne. In real life the actors were also an odd couple for the ages – the crudest burlesque comedian from the lower rungs of show business paired with a trained Harvard-educated actor. Muldoon plays the long-suffering voice of reason who invariably reins in his short stocky partner’s dimwitted schemes and patiently listens to his hilariously inane prattle.
The ensemble of supporting actors was perfectly cast. With a naturally shrill voice, Beatrice Pons was ideal as Toody’s domineering shrew of a wife. Circus veteran Al Lewis, blessed with a face that could find a contortion to accompany every passing thought, was the irascible Officer Leo Schnauser. Charlotte Rae, who stole the show with her pitch perfect comic performance in an early episode, was written in by Hiken as Schnauser’s moody, hot-tempered wife and became one of the most memorable characters on the show.
To fill out each episode, Hiken drew on a wealth of New York talent – seasoned film and TV veterans, borscht belt comedians and some of the brightest young talent from the Broadway stage. Regulars Paul Reed, Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis were on the set during the day and appearing in Broadway shows in the evening. Episodes in the first season featured show business pros Wally Cox, Jan Murray, Molly Picon, Maureen Stapleton, Jake La Motta and many more.
Back in 1961, one of the popular comedy shows on television was “Car 54, Where Are You?”. The series had a New York flavor as it was shot in the Bronx and despite rumors at the time that the series used canned laughter, an audience did watch the series and their laughter was recorded and synced to the series before airing on NBC.
Featuring episodes written by Nat Hiken (known for his work on many sitcoms) and episodes directed by Hiken along and also Al De Caprio and Stanley Prager, the series would last two seasons from 1961-1963 but the only reason for it being canceled was not due to ratings but because NBC wanted to own 50% of the show, which the owners/studio responsible for the sitcom was unwilling to give up.
While the series remained dormant for many years, it wasn’t until 1987 when many people had a chance to watch the show on “Nick at Nite” back in 1987 and it would run on that cable channel through 1990 and then later on airing on Comedy Central throughout the early ’90s and led to a 1994 film adaptation which was poorly drafted and didn’t do well in the box office (although, original cast members Lewis and Russell did appear in the film).
But many have wanted a DVD release of “Car 54, Where Are You? and finally, Shanachie Entertainment will be releasing the series newly remastered on DVD starting with the complete first season in April 2011.
“Car 54, Where Are You?” is a series about two NYPD police officers Gunther Toody (played by Joe E. Ross) and Francis Muldoon (played by Fred Gwynne). Both work for the fictional 53rd precinct in the Bronx and are assigned to Patrol Car 54.
Unfortunately, both officers are not too bright and are an embarrassment to the police force as they tend to cause more trouble than capturing the criminals. While the short and stocky Officer Gunther Toody who is not so smart, is more apt to getting in trouble, the tall and skinny officer Muldoon is one to have bright ideas but somehow, due to Toody being the person who tends to make the decisions, ends up getting both in trouble.
“Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season” includes the following episodes (spoilerless summaries):
NOTE: Episodes are not listed by airdate
- EPISODE 1: What Happened to Thursday - Officer Gunther Toody and Officer Francis Muldoon try to prevent the Schnauser’s from fighting on Thursdays by pretending it’s Friday.
- EPISODE 2: No More Pickpockets – Officer Toody volunteers to catch pickpocketers at Yankee Stadium. Starring Wally Cox.
- EPISODE 3: Quiet! We’re Thinking – Toody’s 11-year-old nephew Marvin tends to help Toody and Muldoon solve tough cases and others want to have Marvin around as well.
- EPISODE 4: The Gypsy Curse – A gypsy curses Toody when he exposes her theft ring. Starring Maureen Stapleton
- EPISODE 5: Love Finds Muldoon – Lucille wants to play matchmaker to Muldoon and a high school chum. Starring Alice Ghostley.
- EPISODE 6: Who’s For Swordfish? – Toody and Muldoon try to catch a swordfish.
- EPISODE 7: Today’s Paradise - Toody goes undercover with a female police officer and a boy to catch a purse snatcher.
- EPISODE 8: The Beast Who Walked the Bronx – Cpt. Block needs to take a vacation, meanwhile a temporary replacement is assigned to the precinct.
- EPISODE 9: Put It In the Bank – Toody decides to invest the precinct’s money in the stock market.
- EPISODE 10: The Courtship of Sylvia Schnauser – After attending a large wedding, Sylvia Schnauser is upset that she and Leo were married by the Justice of the Peace.
- EPISODE 11: The Taming of Lucille – Gunther wants his wife Lucille to be more submissive.
- EPISODE 12: Toody and the Art World – An artist gives Toody one of his paintings but Toody is unaware how much it’s value is.
- EPISODE 13:Boom, Boom, Boom – The Whipporwills enter a barbershop quartet contest. Starring Jan Murray.
- EPISODE 14: Toody and Muldoon Crack Down – The chief feels that Toody and Muldoon’s performance is unacceptable.
- EPISODE 15: Home Sweet Sing Song – Toody and his wife attempt to rehabilitate an ex-con by letting him live with them.
- EPISODE 16: Catch Me on The Paar Show – Toody and Muldoon cite Hugh Downs for speeding. Starring Hugh Downs.
- EPISODE 17: How Smart Can You Get? – Toody and Muldoon are assigned to have an intellectual rookie join them.
- EPISODE 18: I Love Lucille – Lucille dyes her hair blonde and Officer Toody goes crazy for her new hair color.
- EPISODE 19: Something Nice For Sol – The 53rd Precinct wants to get a surprise gift for Sgt. Abrams for 25 years of service.
- EPISODE 20: The Auction – The officers of the 53rd precinct decide on what to give Cpt. Block for his wedding anniversary.
- EPISODE 21: Today I Am a Man – Muldoon is tired of having a reputation of being a clean cut guy.
- EPISODE 22: How High Is Up? – Muldoon doesn’t know what to do when he thinks his short height may disqualify him from the force. Starring Shari Lewis
- EPISODE 23: Change Your Partner – What happens when Muldoon gets a new partner.
- EPISODE 24: Muldoon’s Star – The Muldoon’s try to keep Theresa Tangere out of the public eye and Francis starts to find her as attractive.
- EPISODE 25: The Paint Job – The Precinct tries to stop a group of car thieves who try to repaint cars they are trying to steal.
- EPISODE 26: I Won’t Go – A woman finds out that she is to be evicted and tries to use her charm to manipulate her evictors. Starring Molly Picon
- EPISODE 27: Get Well, Officer Schnauser – Muldoon accidentally becomes a bank robber.
- EPISODE 28: Thirty Days Notice – The Toody’s give their landlord thirty days notice.
- EPISODE 29: The Sacrifice – When Toody’s TV breaks down, he takes up reading.
- EPISODE 30: Christmas At the 53rd – The precinct puts on a special Christmas program for their friends and family.
VIDEO, AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season” receives the special treatment with remastering (mastered from the original 35 mm film) and presented in black and white (full screen), although there are scratches and dust that can be seen if you are focused on looking at them, the picture quality for this TV series that is 50-years-old is fantastic.
I’ve seen old series that look terrible and it’s good to know that the series looks great on DVD. You do see interlacing and edge enhancement but for the most part, I don’t think any fan could feel bad about the picture quality as this series looks very good considering its age. While the majority of all the episodes have very good contrast, strong blacks and good grays, there are some episodes where the interlacing and dust is a slight bit noticeable such as “How High Is Up” but for the most part, the majority of all the episodes look very good.
I’m not too familiar with Shanachie’s DVD releases but if they continue the quality for their classic series as they have done with this release, that would be awesome!
Audio is presented in monaural and dialogue is clear and understandable. No hissing, pops, crackle or any terrible audio issues at all!
There are no subtitles in this release.
“Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season” comes with the following special features:
- Interview – (30:00) A special interview for this DVD release featuring actor/comedian Robert Klein interviewing cast members Charlotte Rae (who plays Sylvia Schnauser) and Hank Garrett (who plays Officer Ed Nicholson) about the cast, memories of the series and Nat Hiken and to also comment on rumors of the series that have lasted for so many years. A very entertaining round table conversation.
“Car 54, Where Are You? – The Complete First Season” is presented in a digipack case.
Brilliantly written, hilarious and fun! “Car 54, Where Are You?” is a delightful, classic comedy series that made me people laugh back in 1961 and will continue to make people laugh today!
This series written by Nat Hiken was an absolute blast because the comedy was well-written, the laughter by the audience helped enhance the excitement of the series and interesting enough, the partnership of Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne as Officer Toody and Muldoon and the other police officers of Precinct 53 were just fun to watch. The series had a touch of vaudeville but it was its writing that made it so hilarious and fun!
My first introduction to this comedy series like many people during the ’90s was on “Nick at Nite”. I have never ever heard of this series until it was shown on television late during my high school years and suffice to say, you would imagine that this series would have received a VHS release during the ’90s but unfortunately by the time it did come out on VHS, it was already 1999.
So, there was no doubt that many people have been awaiting the release of “Car 54, Where Are You?” on DVD. And when these were released on VHS, you were only treated with two episodes per video tape. And many wondered if the format if the series was release on DVD would be four episodes per DVD but time had pass and I figured, may this series was lost. Sure enough, “Car 54, Where Are You?” gets its HD treatment courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment, a company that I was not familiar with and sure enough, this is a solid release!
Among my favorite episodes from this DVD release was “What Happened to Thursday”, “No More Pickpockets”, “Today I am a Man” and to tell you the truth, every episode was entertaining. I don’t think there was one that I found to be terrible. Each episode made me laugh and there were many episodes I have not seen before, so it was great to finally watch the first season in its entirety.
In fact, once I received this DVD for review, it was a “Car 54, Where Are You?” marathon at my home as I could not stop watching. It’s that good!
As for the DVD, all 30 episodes from the first season, were remastered from the original 35 mm film and picture quality is great. As mentioned, there is a bit of interlacing and some dust but by no means is bad or does it take away from the enjoyment of the series. The majority of the episodes do look good especially considering the age of this series. As for audio, there is no audible hissing or pops at all. And although it would be nice to have some featurette included for the special features, I’m so happy that a 2011 interview with Charlotte Rae and Hank Garrett was included and the information from this Q&A roundtable was pretty awesome, especially hearing how Joe E. Ross was during the taping and how he presented himself in public! Wow!
But I was very pleased with this DVD release and fans of the series should expect to be entertained. Personally, “Car 54, Where Are You?” is one of the best situational comedies ever created and it’s sad that this series has not been replayed on television as much as it should have.
But its release on DVD featuring all 30 episodes for the first season for under $25 is an awesome deal! And I look forward to watching the second season!
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