Courtesy: Shout! Factory
Television has come a long way since its golden age. That is not necessarily a good thing, either. What once provided hope and reason for family togetherness in some of America’s most difficult times has become a divisive medium filled with oversexed and overly violent comedies, dramas, and reality television series. Audiences today are provided hundreds of channels thanks to cable, satellite, and streaming media. Among all of the options out there today, the only outlets that offer anything of real value in terms of programming are: PBS, PBS Kids, Turner Classic Movies, Me-TV and Antenna TV. Few if any other networks out there today truly have anything of substance or value. Enter home entertainment company Shout! Factory. Shout! Factory and its “sister” company Timeless Media have offered audiences an escape from that mind-numbing programming in recent years with some of the greatest television series of the 20th Century. Thanks to the release of classics such as Dennis The Menace, Mr. Ed, The Jeffersons, and many of Nickelodeon’s classic, beloved Nicktoons over the years, Shout! Factory has more than proven itself one of the leaders in the world of home entertainment. It could even be argued that those and so many of the other classic series released by Shout! Factory have made the company the leading company in that realm. The upcoming release of Maude: The Complete Series and others make that argument even more solid. Audiences have to wait until March to get their hands on Maude: The Complete Series. While they wait for its release, they have yet another great classic television series from Shout! Factory to enjoy in the form of Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series. Released late last year, there is plenty to like about Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series beginning with its writing. Regardless of their familiarity with this classic series, audiences will see firsthand a noticeable difference in the writing behind this series and that of the shows on television today. Even with the writing in Sgt. Bilko The Phil Silvers Show being aimed at older audiences, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not suitable for younger viewers. It just means that those viewers wouldn’t get some of the comedy infused into the show. Added to the show’s hilarious writing is a bevy of bonuses. There are commentaries with select episodes, interviews, and other footage including an episode of The New Phil Silvers Show and Phil Silvers on The Dick Cavett Show among much more. Rounding out the most notable of the box’s positives is the show’s footage. The footage looks just as clean as in its original broadcasts on CBS. And it is presented in its original 4:3 format, too adding to the nostalgia. The high quality of the show’s footage completes the set and shows once and for all why this complete series box set is another win both for fans of classic television and for Shout! Factory.
Shout! Factory’s recent release of Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show is a win for any lover of classic television and for Shout! Factory alike. It is especially so in an age when television has become but a pale shadow of its former self. It shows this first and foremost through the writing across all four of its seasons. From its debut season in 1955 to its series-ender in 1959, the show’s writers consistently found fresh, new get-rich-quick schemes for Bilko. To this day, those schemes still provide plenty of laughs, too as audiences will find for themselves when they purchase this set. Right from the series start, audiences will find themselves laughing as Sgt. Bilko tries to con some new recruits out of their money just to get into a poker game. Speaking of poker, Bilko joins the MPs in the Season Three episode “Bilko’s School Days” just so that he and the other officers can get away with playing poker. The original plan to use graham crackers baked with raisins as poker cards is well worth its own share of laughs. As if that isn’t enough for audiences, Season Two sees Bilko having to help a young private get his money back from some other soldiers in “Bilko’s Black Magic.” This episode is one of the series’ best. Bilko makes the soldiers in question believe that the private is practicing black magic and voodoo in this episode. It’s one of those episodes whose writing will reach audiences of almost any age. There’s even a scheme involving a made up pet spa in “Bilko’s Prize Poodle” from Season Three. That episode is another of the series’ best. Of course other viewers will find their own favorites throughout the series’ four seasons. That any of the series’ one hundred plus episodes could be chosen as favorites shows why the writing is at the core of the show’s enjoyment. And it makes clear why the writing earned the series three straight Emmys© for “Best Comedy” in its original run. In the case of this box set, the writing is just part of what makes it a win for both audiences and for Shout! Factory alike. The bonus material that comes with the box plays into its success, too.
It is clear throughout every episode of Sgt. Bilko’s four seasons why the series’ writing is at the center of its success. Every episode reminds audiences of just what used to make sitcoms and television in general great thanks to the laugh-till-you cry jokes and gags. As enjoyable as the writing makes each episode andthe series in whole, it isn’t all that makes this box set so enjoyable. The bonus material included with the box adds even more enjoyment. The bonus material in question includes a number of extras. What is arguably the best of those extras is an interview with Phil Silver’s daughters Nancy and Tracey. The sisters share a number of fond memories of their dad inclyding a funny story about having to meet with famed directour Louis B. Mayer. They talk about how their dad had to sing for Mr. Mayer in relation to a movie he was working on. This is also a little discussion on Silvers’ friendship with fellow acting legend Jack Benny. They note that Benny was their dad’s best friend. And that shows through in another bonus interview featuring both Phil Silvers and Jack Benny on the Dick Cavett Show. Cavett, in the course of the interview, keeps noting both men’s names. He keeps noting Benny’s name before Silvers’. Benny reacts to that by jokingly telling Cavett that he [Cavett] could call off their names in the other order. Silvers’ reaction to that was Silvers stating that he had no problem being second banana to the best. Benny was clearly moved in his reaction. It drives home that the pair really must have been very close friends. It’s one of plenty of moments in that bonus interview that will have audiences laughing. Getting back to the interview with Silvers’ daughters, audiences will be very interested to learn the very history of the Silvers name, their dad’s influence on audiences, Phil Silvers on screen versus Phil Silvers offscreen, and so much more. The interview runs nearly half an hour. And while it obviously isn’t the only worthwhile bonus included with this box set, it is definitely the best of the bonuses. As an addded bonus, Shout! Factory also added in an episode of The New Phil Silvers Show and even what has come to be considered the pilot for Sgt. Bilko in The Lucy Show episode “Lucy and the Efficiency Expert.” There are even commentaries included on select episodes across the set. Whether it be those commentaries, the bonus “pilot” episode of Sgt. Bilko, or the bonus interviews, each one of these bonuses play into the whole that is Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show to show yet again why this box set is well worth the purchase by any lover of classic television.
The mass of bonus material included in Sgt. Blko/The Phil Silvers Show goes a long way toward making this recetly released box set worth adding to any classic television lover’s library. Set alongside the series’ solid writing, the two aspects together make this box set even more of a bright spot in a television world that has become inccreasingly bleak in the twenty-first century. While both factors are of their own importance to Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series, the quality of the footage is just as important to the presentation. Being that Shout! Factory has more than proven itself the leading company in home entertainment, it goes without saying that the quality of the series’ footage is the best possible. Painstaking efforts were obviously taken with each of the series’ previously released standalone sets. Those that weren’t lucky enough to pick up those sets will be pleasantly surprised to see the end result of those efforts in this set. The footage looks as clean now as it did in its original run some six decades ago. One could even argue that it looks even cleaner. And that it is presented in its original 4:3 format without losing its original quality makes it even better. It is the final piece of the whole that is Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Series that makes this box set such a welcome addition to the home library of any lover of classic television. Together with the bonus material and the show’s writing, it proves to be not just a welcome addition to any classic television lover’s library but a desperately needed addition, too.
Shout! Factory has become, over the years, the leading company in the world of home entertainment. It has even knocked the likes of Warner Home Video and other major names from their spots in the upper echelons of home entertainment. It has done so through the releases of The Jeffersons: The Complete Series, Mr. Ed: The Complete Series, Dennis The Menace in its standalone season sets, and so much more. Now it has done it yet again thanks to the release of Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show. Regardless of audiences’ familiarity with this award-winning classic, audiences of all ages will love the show’s pure, comic writing. They will also love the bonus features included in the set, and the high quality of the show’s footage from series premiere to finale. All three aspects will prove so impressive that any viewer will agree that Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show is a must have for any lover of classic television. More information on this and other titles available from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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