DVD Review: Dennis the Menace (The Final Season)

A vice scandal or salary dispute will sink a normal TV show. A series starring a kid will always end up getting torpedoed by biological reality. Puberty changes everything. Jay North was about to celebrate his twelfth birthday as Dennis the Menace entered its fourth and final season. Since the show’s based on a comic strip, there’s a limiting factor. Dennis can’t be a middle-aged guy. The producers couldn’t add youth to the show by giving Dennis a sibling since that goes against the comic strip. It was tough enough that they dumped the Joey character for Tommy (Billy Booth) and switched Mr. Wilsons. But how could they cope with their star hitting a growth spurt? Dennis the Menace: The Final Season extends the boy tornado routine even though he’s become teen trouble.

“The Chinese Girl” doesn’t force Dennis to remain in his old costume. Gone were the overalls and the slingshot in the back pocket. The mature Dennis wore slacks and a striped collared golf shirt. This episode has him wearing a black suit without protest. What’s the allure for dressing up? The Wilsons have a Chinese family visiting and their daughter wants to hang with American kids. Margaret gets jealous that the new girl is getting ice cream with Dennis. “You Go Your Way” takes us back to the good old days when gossip had to be spread from person to person instead of posted on the internet. Rumor hits the town that Mr. Wilson (Gale Gordon) and Mrs. Wilson (Sara Seegar) have split up. Turns out Mr. Wilson has quite a few middle aged neighbors eager to pounce on him. This was back when being a magazine writer had a bit of prestige. “The Little Judge” drags Mr. Wilson to the courthouse for using his incinerator at the wrong time. How many people have incinerators nowadays that aren’t serial killers? Dennis thinks his neighbor is broke during “Poor Mr. Wilson.” “Dennis in Gypsyland” blasts Mr. Wilson for being a lazy writer. His article about gypsies is rejected since he didn’t do any interviews with real gypsies. So he puts on a disguise and rides a donkey into a gypsy camp. Trouble happens when Dennis has to pose as his son. Things get worse when Mr. Wilson breaks bread with a single gypsy woman. Turns out he’s now engaged. How will Mrs. Wilson take the news?

“The New Principal” puts the big baseball game in jeopardy. Turns out Dennis is the star pitcher. He gets in trouble with the new principal for rubbing the guy the wrong way. Dennis is off the team and the townpeople are furious. Both Mr. Wilson and Charles Lane fake being Mr. Mitchell to get Dennis back on the team. “San Diego Safari” journeys the Mitchells and Wilsons down to the San Diego Zoo. Bob Hastings (McHale’s Navy) acts as the tour guide for the new tourist location. “Dennis at Boot Camp” almost gets him and Mr. Wilson shipped off to Vietnam. “Henry’s New Job” makes plans for the family to move to India for his new job. Kinda ironic seeing how many people just have their job go to India now while they get to stay at home. Mr. Wilson hangs out with the kids in order to get the scoop on the youth of today in “Wilson’s Second Childhood.” Nowadays the neighbors might get suspicious about a middle aged guy hanging with preteen boys.

“Hawaiian Love Song” gets Mr. Wilson in trouble with his wife since he forget about a promise to take her to Hawaii. He tries to keep it a secret, but Mrs. Mitchell (Gloria Henry) thinks Henry (Herbert Mitchell) is taking her. It’s a good travel mess. “Aunt Emma Visits the Wilsons” wraps up the series with a rich aunt ready to leave her prized possessions to Dennis. Mr. Wilson is rather jealous since he was counting on grabbing the loot when the old lady kicked it. But he learns for Dennis that you shouldn’t count on dead relatives to keep you rich.

Dennis the Menace: The Final Season has 38 episodes that get as much out of the child actors before their voices break. Jay North never loses his annoying, “Mr. Wilson” whine even as he grows into a big kid wardrobe. Gale Gordon’s take on Mr. Wilson would come in handy with his tenure on The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Gordon was able to perfect his ability look annoyed yet get sucked into a foolish situation with North. What’s amazing is how they were able to make 146 episodes in four seasons. That’s seven seasons of a modern TV series or 15 seasons of an HBO sitcom. The producers understood that they had a race against time since nobody wanted to tune into seeing a middle-aged Dennis the Menace.

The Episodes
“The Chinese Girl,” “You Go Your Way,” “Dennis and the Circular Circumstances,” “The Little Judge,” “Poor Mr. Wilson,” “Dennis in Gypsyland,” “The New Principal,” “San Diego Safari,” “Dennis at Boot Camp,” “Henry’s New Job,” “Wilson’s Second Childhood,” “Jane Butterfield Says,” “Dennis and the Hermit,” “My Uncle Ned,” “Junior Astronaut,” “Wilson’s Little White Lie,” “Dennis, the Rain Maker,” “The Creature with the Big Feet,” “Dennis, the Confused Cupid,” “Dennis Goes to Washington,” “The Big Basketball Game,” “Wilson’s Allergy” “Baby Booties,” “My Four Boys,” “Dennis and the Homing Pigeons,“ “A Tax on Cats,” “The Uninvited Guest,” “Dennis Plays Robin Hood,” “The Three F’s,” “Never Say Dye,” “The Lost Dog,” “Tuxedo Trouble,” “Hawaiian Love Song,” “The Lucky Rabbit’s Foot,” “Listen to the Mockingbird,” “First Editions,” “A Man Among Men” and “Aunt Emma Visits the Wilsons.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers look fine. You get the full detail of Gale Gordon’s facial reactions to Dennis’ helpful destructions. The audio is mono. You might end up turning down the volume when Dennis lets out a “Mr. Wilson!” whine. It could hurt your dog’s ears.

No bonus features.

Dennis the Menace: The Final Season wraps up the antics of the most annoying neighbor child of the early ‘60s. For the fourth season, Dennis has grown up in size, but still can mess things up with good intentions. If you’ve enjoyed the first three season, this final outing will keep your attention in the ways the producers tweaked the character as puberty made him bigger than the comic strip version.

Shout! Factory presents Dennis the Menace: The Final Season. Starring: Jay North, Herbert Anderson, Gloria Henry and Gale Gordon. Boxset Contents: 38 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 10, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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