The Nanny’s Fourth Season Is Loaded With Laughs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/CBS

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/CBS

Early this summer Shout! Factory resurrected CBS’ classic sitcom The Nanny and released the series in its entirety for the series’ fans.  It marked the first time ever that the series had ever been released in its entirety and in one complete set for that matter.  Now thanks to the efforts of the people at Shout! Factory, those that were unable to add that extensive set to their home DVD libraries, there’s some good news.  Shout! Factory kicked off the series’ standalone season releases last week.  It kicked things off with the release of the series’ fourth season.  Now before anyone starts wondering, the reason that it didn’t start with Season One, it all has to do with distribution rights.  At last look, it would appear that Mill Creek Entertainment and/or Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) had the rights to the series’ first three seasons.  That in mind, the fact that Shout! Factory was able to obtain the distribution rights for Season Four (and Season Five, which will be released this December via Shout! Factory, too) makes this kickoff to the series’ second half a good starting point for the collection.  The work of the show’s writers is just as worth noting to the triple-disc set’s positives.  While Fran and Maxwell’s on-again off-again relationship remains a central part of the series throughout this season, the writers don’t let themselves get carried away with themselves, thus preventing the series once more from becoming a serial.  There is also plenty of great, edgy writing that will have viewers laughing within each episode’s story line.  By relation, the work of the show’s cast is enjoyable in its own right, too.  Most notably Daniel Davis is among the most entertaining member of the cast thanks to his timing and delivery of his lines.  Though, Fran Drescher is to be commended for her acting, too.  There are some points at which she pulls off some surprisingly impressive tributes to Lucille Ball as in “The Fifth Wheel.”  It’s just one more example of how the cast’s work proves to be just as entertaining as the work of the show’s writing.  Together with the work of the writers and the presentation of Season Four in its entirety, this new box set is a good fit for any of the series’ original fans and for one more welcome alternative to all of the oversexed and overly violent serials, dramas, and so-called comedies that are out there today.

Shout! Factory’s release of The Nanny: Season Four is a big release for the series and for its fans.  That is because until its release last week, this season had never seen the light of day on DVD.  Up until last week the series’ first three seasons are its only installments that had seen the light of day since Sony Pictures Home Entertainment first released Season One some nine years ago.  This is important to note of this season’s set because it is also the first of the series’ standalone season sets to be released by Shout! Factory following the release of the series’ full series set early this summer.  It would have been nice to have seen Shout! Factory start from Season One.  But unluckily, distribution rights for the series’ first three seasons could not be obtained just yet.  That is not the fault of the people at Shout! Factory.  Keeping that in mind, the fourth season of The Nanny is yet another win both for Shout! Factory and for fans of the modern classic sitcom.  This collection boasts all twenty-six episodes included in Season Four in its original run.  Just as impressive is that every episode is presented in exactly the same format as in its original broadcast.  In simpler terms each episode looks and sounds just as good as it did in its original airing.  And the fact that each is shown in whole solidifies this season’s foundation that much more in its first-ever home release.  The impressive nature of Season Four’s overall presentation is a solid start for the collection.  It isn’t the only aspect of the collection that fans and audiences in general will appreciate.  The work of the series’ writers is just as worth noting in regards to this season’s overall enjoyment and success.

The work of The Nanny’s writers in the series’ fourth season is just as important to note in this collections’ success and enjoyment as the work of those charged with assembling the episode for their presentation.  That is because their work results in just as many laughs today as it generated in Season Four’s original run from late 1996 to mid-1997.  The most notable aspect of the writing that makes it so enjoyable is that Fran and Max’s on-again/off-again relationship maintained its place within the show’s overall structure.  At the same time though, the writers didn’t allow that element to dominate Season Four’s run.  Instead the writers crafted twenty-six standalone episodes that, despite having that ongoing, underlying story element were still their own stories.  One of the best of those stories comes in the form of “The Bank Robbery.”  As noted, the ongoing story between Fran and Maxwell is there.  But this is one of those cases in which it becomes more of a secondary element than a central element.  The main story in this episode sees Fran and her mother being caught up in a bumbling bank robber’s plan, only to end up befriending him.  His very reason for robbing the bank will have viewers laughing just as much as the story itself.  That is because it is directly related to Fran’s own situation with her mother.  Speaking of that relationship between Fran and her mother, “The Boca Story,” which sees Fran’s mother buy into a time share scheme of sorts lead to her own emotional breakdown that will have viewers laughing just as much.  This is another of those stories that sees Fran and Maxwell’s personal story take a welcome back seat to the episode’s central story.  Both episodes show that the writers could be just as successful crafting stories that didn’t rely on Fran and Maxwell as those that did.  For those that were more fans of that ongoing, underlying story line, “The Fifth Wheel” is one of this season’s best featuring that story line.  This episode sees Fran swear off men, leading her to become that proverbial fifth wheel when both C.C. and one of Fran’s friends go out on a double date at an Italian restaurant.  The end result is something that can be compared to Lucille’s Ball’s classic comedy from I Love Lucy.  Speaking of that comparison to Ball’s brand of comedy, that moment ties in to the work of the cast throughout Season Four.  It will be discussed along with the rest of the cast’s work later.  Staying on the topic of this season’s writing, the stories alone are just one part of what makes the writing so enjoyable for fans.  The writing within each episode in regards to the jokes is another element that makes the writing enjoyable.

The stories that were crafted for the fourth season of The Nanny show time and again just how enjoyable the writing is in a bigger picture.  However they are only part of what makes the writing noteworthy.  The more minute elements of each episode’s script shows even more why the writing is so enjoyable.  The writing within each episode is edgy to say the least.  Yes, there is a certain amount of sexual innuendo incorporated into each episode.  But in comparison to what audiences get in today’s so-called sitcoms it is tame.  It’s not all that audiences get either in this season’s more detailed writing.  There are pop culture references, political jabs (including one at then presidential candidate Ross Perot), and even a direct reference to one Harpo Marx in another episode.  That same episode jokes about the low-carb fad that once dominated America and so many other topics.  And that is all just in a matter of minutes early in the episode’s run.  One of the most pleasantly surprising elements of the episodes’ writing comes late in the season in “The Passed-Over Story.”  This episode does something that few if any mainstream series in any genre did at the time.  It actually celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover.  This is extremely important because of how rarely it seemed to happen in mainstream television at the time.  Because of that it becomes a truly welcome and in its own right, heartwarming moment that will put a smile on every viewer’s face.  This is especially the case as the writers timed the scene in question just right, breaking the emotion just enough at just the right time.  it makes for one of the season’s most underrated yet memorable moments.  It is just one more example of how the writing, in its more detailed aspects, makes the fourth season of The Nanny another hit for both the series’ original fans and a whole new generation of fans.

The work put in by The Nanny’s writers throughout the course of the series’ fourth season paid off in spades as it will keep audiences completely engaged and entertained from one episode to the next right up to the season finale. And together with the fact that each episode is presented in whole, the show’s long-time fans are given plenty to appreciate in this first standalone season set from Shout! Factory. While both elements are of equal importance to Season Four’s overall enjoyment and success, there is still at least one element left worth noting about the collection. That last element is the work of the show’s cast. The cast’s work in front of the camera within each episode will entertain viewers just as much as the season’s writing. This applies not just to the cast’s interpretation of each episode’s script but to the timing of each cast member’s lines. Most notable of the cast is Daniel Davis, who plays Maxwell’s butler Niles. Davis’ chemistry with his cast mates and his timing with each line makes him shine as one of the show’s true stars. His constant deadpan delivery of his lines coupled with said lines and the timing of his delivery is a combination that will have viewers laughing uproariously every time he speaks. Drescher is funny in her own right as the show’s star, though in a different manner. There’s something about her acting (just as much here as in the show’s first three seasons) that echoes Lucille Ball’s brand of comedy in I Love Lucy. This applies both to the timing and delivery of her lines and to her occasional physical comedy such as in “The Fifth Wheel.” When Fran gets caught between C.C. and another friend as they make out with their male friends, Fran ends up getting pushed down in the booth, leading her to have to eat her pasta with just her mouth. The way that she did so followed by her line about having to do so instantly conjures thoughts of the late, great actress. Lauren Lane, who plays C.C. Babcock is just as entertaining when partnered with Daniel Davis. The duo’s constant back and forth makes for its own share of laughs. That is especially the case being that the dialogue and acting in question never feel the least bit forced. Both are so dry in their delivery and timing that it feels like it could have been adlibbed, even though it wasn’t. On another note, Charles Shaughnessy is entertaining in his own right, too as Maxwell. Being the bumbling, insecure father figure, it makes Drescher’s job all the easier in delivering her lines. Whether for that pairing, for the pairing of Lane and Davis, or for each cast member’s work alone, each of the cast members show in his and her own way exactly why their work in front of the camera is just as important to the enjoyment and success of The Nanny’s fourth season as the work of those behind the cameras. The work of the cast and the writers together with the season’s presentation in whole makes The Nanny: Season Four just as welcome in the home DVD collections of the show’s long-time fans as those that might be new to the modern classic.

The Nanny: Season Four is just as welcome in the home DVD collection of any of the series’ long-time fans as it is in the collections of those that are less familiar with the series and its rich history. The main reason for this is the fact that all twenty-six episodes from Season Four have been presented here exactly as they were seen in their original broadcasts. The work of both the show’s writers and cast make this season all the more enjoyable for the show’s fans. All things considered, the fourth season of CBS’ modern classic sitcom shows in its first-ever release to be a collection that any of the show’s fans will want to add to their own home DVD collections. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/the-nanny-season-four. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

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Love Happy A Comedy That Will Make The Whole Family Happy

Courtesy:  Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Love Happy, the last of the Marx Brothers’ big screen starring vehicles, has largely been panned by audiences and critics alike ever since its debut almost sixty-five years ago.  The main reason for this is perhaps the story’s script, which was co-written by Frank Tashlin, Mac Benoff, Ben Hect, and Harpo Marx.  Being that Harpo was one of the individuals behind this movie’s script, it should come as no surprise that he [Harpo] was at the center of the story while brothers Groucho and Chico played little more than bit parts.  Now, having taken this into consideration, it becomes clear why the movie has remained one of the least favorite of critics and Marx Brothers fans alike.  But a closer examination of the movie reveals why it deserves more credit than it has gotten over the sixty decades plus since it premiered.  Harpo being placed in the lead role is actually a very important reason that audiences should give this movie a second look.  His brothers may play bit parts in this film.  But even in bit parts, they are still entertaining in their own right.  That is another reason that the movie is more entertaining than some would have audiences believe.  And last but not least, the movie’s musical numbers will entertain audiences—even the relatively unnecessary harp solo played in the park near the story’s end.  It can be forgiven considering it exhibits once more Harpo’s talent.  Anyone that takes all of these factors into consideration in watching the new re-issue of Love Happy from Olive Films will see that the film’s critics didn’t see the film for its true value.

The biggest complaint that critics and audiences alike have had about Love Happy over the years is that the movie takes away from The Marx Brothers’ legacy.  They have argued that it does so because it focuses more on Harpo than on the Marx Brothers as a unit.  Making for even more difficulty is that Harpo has always been considered more of a sidekick style character than leading man.  That’s because his brand of comedy was more physical than verbal.  It forced audiences to actually pay attention to his acting, rather than just hear anything.  The age of the silent film had ended years before this movie.  So, audiences had become quite acquainted and comfortable with movies with sound.  That being the case, it becomes increasingly clear why audiences even today are less accepting of this movie.  But if the same audiences were more willing to invest themselves in the movie more fully, they would see the true value in the story.  Said audiences would see the level of physical comedy on the part of Harpo and just how entertaining said comedy makes the movie in the long run.  It really was and is today an art form that has largely been lost.  So to that extent, it makes Love Happy even more of a jewel of a re-issue for any true classic movie fan.

Harpo Marx’s own brand of physical comedy and mime is a wonderful foundation on which the script behind Love Happy Rests.  It is however, not all that makes the movie truly worth watching.  Even in bit parts, Harpo’s brothers Groucho and Chico were entertaining in their own right.  Their screen time might not have been nearly as much as in past Marx Brothers movies.  But even in more diminished roles, both continued to show their prowess.  Groucho was still just as quick witted both as narrator and as the bit part detective Sam Grunion.  His interaction with a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe as an unnamed client is just as hilarious as his interactions with other female cast members in previous works such as Night at the Opera and Duck Soup.  On the other side of the coin, Chico had his own brand of comedy, too.  Both brothers showed an understanding and a respect for their roles in their own way.  Neither one tried to ham it up at all.  Both men did what they had always done, therefore letting Harpo’s own brand of comedy take the limelight.  That respect on the part of Chico and Groucho in relation to Harpo having the lead made for a fully entertaining story.  And audiences that are open-minded enough to see this will agree with that sentiment, too.

The balance in the acting between Harpo, Groucho, and Chico is key to the success of the script behind Love Happy.  That isn’t to say that the script doesn’t deserve some applause.  It is just outrageous enough to be believable as both a crime story and a laugh-a-minute comedy.  There is one more aspect of the movie’s script that makes the story in whole so enjoyable.  That final aspect is the collective musical numbers included in the story.  Musical numbers were still very prevalent in movies even at the start of the 1950s.  That is one thing that thankfully hadn’t yet changed in the film industry at that point in time.  One of the best of the movie’s musical numbers comes in the form of Harpo’s own harp solo late in the story.  He is with Maggie (Vera-Ellen) in the park discussing her future, when out of nowhere he pulls out his harp in an attempt to cheer her up.  Given it seems a bit out there that he just happened to have his harp right there at that moment.  But his talent is unrivaled. That isn’t to take away from the talent of Vera-Ellen as she sings her own number or what may or may not have been Chico on the piano late in the movie. In an age when the majority of movie makers fill their stories with mostly sex and violence, these musical numbers prove that such substance is just as entertaining today as it was decades ago. And together with the equally impressive acting on the part of the Marx Brothers and a fun story, the musical numbers help to make Love Happy a movie that is more than deserving of a second look whether for the first time in a long time or for the first time ever.

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Olive Films To Release Cagney, Marx Brothers Classics May 6th

Courtesy: Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Olive Films has announced that it will release two Hollywood classics on DVD and Blu-ray next month.

Olive Films will release Jimmy Cagney’s 1943 film Johnny Come Lately and The Marx Brothers’ 1949 film Love Happy on May 6th. Cagney stars as ex-newspaperman Tom Richards opposite Grace George’s Vinnie McLeod in Johnny Come Lately. After McLeod–who is himself the editor of a failing newspaper–saves Richards from serving a jail sentence for vagrancy, the pair teams up to expose political corruption in a small town. Richards and McLeod have to face their evil rival, corrupt newspaper owner Big Boss Dougherty (Edward McNamara) as they attempt to uncover all of the corruption going on in the town. The role was the first for Cagney since his Academy Award ® winning role the previous year in the beloved film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won the Oscar for Best Actor thanks to the movie.

Marjorie Main (Ma and P Kettle), Marjorie Lord (Make Room For Daddy), and Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind) serve as supporting cast in Johnny Come Lately. William K. Howard directed and composer Leigh Harline (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio) handled the movie’s score. Harline would go on to receive an Oscar ® nomination for this movie’s score. Johnny Come Lately will be available on DVD and Blu-ray May6th for SRP of $24.95(DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray).

Also on May 6th, Olive Films will release the Marx Brothers’ classic film Love Happy on DVD and Blu-ray. This movie was the last for the famed brothers. Harpo leads his brothers in this movie in which he plays a Robin Hood type of character.   He is trying to help a group of struggling actors that are trying to open a new musical without any financial backing. When he accidentally takes some smuggled diamonds in a shoplifting heist, Harpo and his friends come face to face with Madame Egelichi (Ilona Massey). Unbeknownst to them, Madame Egelichi has tracked her smuggled diamonds back to the theater where the acting troupe is trying to put on its musical. She hatches a plan to be the sole financial backer for the theater and for the musical so that she can get her diamonds back. The result is plenty of laughs for audiences. Harpo’s brothers Groucho and Chico are along for the ride in Love Happy as are fellow co-stars Vera-Ellen, Raymond Burr, and Marilyn Monroe.

Love Actually will be available in stores and online May 6th on DVD and Blu-ray. It will retail for $24.95 (DVD) and $29.95 (Blu-ray). More information on these and other releases from Olive Films is available online at http://www.olivefilms.com, http://www.facebook.com/olivefilms, and http://twitter.com/olivefilms. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.