DVD Review: Fan Favorites: Best of…

Back when there were record stores, there seemed to be two kind of folks buying albums. Completionists had to have every record put out by their favorite band. They hunted down every LP, EP and 45 with stray b-sides available. They’d import 8-Tracks from Mongolia to get that special mix. They were obsessed. Average fans merely wanted a good Greatest Hits collection so they only own the songs they liked to hear on the radio. The same can be said about DVD collectors. There are viewers who want complete sets while others merely want a compilation disc with their favorite episodes. Fan Favorites: Best of… features the best episodes of seven different TV shows according to a poll that ran on Facebook.

Fan Favorites: The Best of the Honeymooners provides a sampler with 8 of the 39 legendary episodes. Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) is a Brooklyn bus driver barely scraping by in a sparsely furnished Brooklyn apartment with his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows). He often plots with his upstairs neighbor Ed Norton (Art Carney) on various get rich schemes. “Better Living Through Television” puts Ralph and Ed on TV to pitch a gadget for housewives. They were QVC and Billy Mays in the early days. “Funny Money” has Ralph find a suitcase overflowing in cash. He’s ready to spend the money except there’s a major issue with the loot and its rightful owner. “$99,000 Answer” puts Ralph on a game show. He seems a lock to claim the big prize when things get derailed. Jackie Gleason was in his prime as Kramden, He had such a magnificent cast with Carney and Meadows. This was the jewel sitcom of television’s golden age. Episodes include “TV or Not TV,” “Funny Money,” “The Golfer,” “The Sleepwaker,” “Better Living Through Television,” “The Man From Space,” “$99,000 Answer” and “Young at Heart.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of Hogan’s Heroes contains 8 episodes of Allied fun beneath a German P.O.W. camp. This was the most controversial sitcom with a long network run. How do you laugh at Nazis? Col. Hogan (Bob Crane) appears to be just another American solider spending the rest of World War II behind the barbed wire of Stalag 13. But the men in his barracks are an active unit. They’ve built secret tunnels that go beyond the barbed wire, but they don’t want to escape. They merely sneak out to terrorize the Nazis and stop their plans of world conquest. “The Flight of the Valkyrie” messes up their system thank to one of their own. Hogan needs to smuggle a German Baroness out of the country. What’s not in the plan is the arrival of the captured Col. Crittendon (Titanic‘s Bernard Fox). The Brit is eager to stage a break out. He has no clue that the reason nobody has escaped from Stalag 13 is they don’t need Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer) transfered to the Eastern Front. He’s the perfect patsy. Sgt. Schultz (John Banner) kinda knows, but doesn’t want to see anything. “The Safecracker Suite” makes Hogan rescue Klink from the Gestapo. This is the greatest TV series that Hollywood hasn’t turned into a lame feature film. Episodes include “The Flight of The Valkyrie,” “Hogan’s Hofbrau,” “Happy Birthday, Adolf,” “The Safecracker Suite,” “Praise the Führer and Pass the Ammunition,” “Some of Their Planes are Missing,” “D-Day At Stalag 13″ and “War Takes a Holiday.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of The Odd Couple packs eight conflicts between the worst roommates ever trapped in a single Manhattan apartment. Oscar Madison (Quincy‘s Jack Klugman) is a sports reporter who thinks the world is his garbage can. Felix Unger (Tony Randall) is a neat freak with OCD. No matter how insane they drive each other, the divorced pair need each other. The show lasted five seasons until it came to a logical conclusion. “The Blackout” features a Poker pot theft when the lights go out in the apartment. Which of the pals is a rat? “Security Arms” takes being safe in an apartment to an extreme. “Take My Furniture, Please” is ‘70s decor dream. Felix dumps Oscar’s living room for an extreme update. The new chairs are a handful. “Password” has them play the game with Betty White. The Odd Couple is an addictive show since Klugman and Randall work each other like top tennis pros. The episodes include: “The Blackout,” “Security Arms,” “I’m Dying Of Unger,” “Password,” “Take My Furniture, Please,” “The Murray Who Came to Dinner,” “Cleanliness is Next to Impossible” and “The Insomniacs.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of Happy Days features only episodes from the first three seasons. This is a good thing since the show went downhill after Richie, Potsie and Ralph graduated from high school. This collection is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to remember when Fonzie jumped the shark. These early episodes played more with the comic conflicts of a family living in the ‘50s. “All the Way” is the pilot episode. Richie (Ron Howard) takes out the girl with a reputation. Is he ready to lose his virginity? “Haunted” scares up thrills during a Halloween party. “Richie’s Flip Side” turns him into an utter jerk when he gets a radio gig. “Fonzie Moves In” was the true start of the Fonz (Henry Winkler) taking over the show from the Cunninghams. “The Motorcycle” is the Fonz’s worst nightmare. Someone has destroyed his bike. This will not stand. The early episodes are the best of this show. “All The Way,” “Fonzie Drops In,” “Haunted,” “Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas,” “Richie’s Flip Side,” “Fonzie Moves In,” “The Motorcycle” and “They Call It Potsie Love.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of Cheers is actually 9 episodes since they included a two-parter. The Boston bar based sitcom is still a good happy hour spot. The episodes lean heavily on the seasons Diane (Shelley Long) was making life hell for owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson). She was employee, lover and ex-lover during her tenure. “Give Me a Ring Sometime” brings her into the bar for her first meeting with Sam. She thinks it’s just a stop for her boyfriend to share a champagne toast before they fly out to get married. Turns out things don’t work out that well. In the middle of her crisis, she finds a new identity as a cocktail waitress. “Thanksgiving Orphans” has the bar regular’s drop by Carla’s house for a holiday feast. Or what they hope will be food. “An Old Fashioned Wedding” is a two episodes covering the marriage of Woody (Woody Harrelson). This is a disasterpiece as everything goes wrong for the Woody’s perfect in-laws. Can the gang save things? The episodes include “Give Me a Ring Sometime,” “Diane’s Perfect Date,” “Pick A Con, Any Con,” “Abnormal Psychology,” “Thanksgiving Orphans,” “Dinner At Eight-ish,” “Simon Says” and “An Old Fashioned Wedding.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of Fraiser kept Dr. Fraiser Crane on TV after Cheers. He splits the Boston bar scene to become a radio shrink in Seattle. He lives with his elderly father (John Mahoney), a dog and Jane Leeves (The Benny Hill Show). It’s not quite the dream life of a bachelor, but what can he do? Mostly he gets tortured by his brother (David Hyde Pierce). Turns out the brother has the hots for Jane, but not the guts to leave his wife. Or does he? The show is fine, but not quite up to the level of Cheers. There is still a bit of phone fun guessing the celebrity callers with issues they want to put on the public airwaves. The episodes include “A Midwinter Night’s Dream,” “Frasier Crane’s Day Off,” “Daphne’s Room,” “Moon Dance,” “The Two Mrs. Cranes,” “Ham Radio,” “Ski Lodge” and “Three Valentines.” Available at Amazon.com.

Fan Favorites: The Best of MacGyver gives four barely classified adventures from the world’s greatest gadget making spy. “Phoenix Under Siege” starts with the mundane premise of MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) and his dad dropping by the office to pick up hockey tickets. Also visiting are terrorists wanting to cause trouble for the Phoenix Foundation. Can he put them down before the puck drops? “The Widowmaker” is a high elevation battle between MacGyver and an old target. MacGyver is a bit shaken up since his climbing partner has died. Can he focus or will he be another mountain fatality? “Legend of the Holy Rose” is an Indian Jones adventure for a lost treasure. Richard Dean Anderson looks right on the trail of artifacts. “Halloween Knights” is a trick or treat arrangement. A rival spy promises to capture enemies if MacGyver can spring his sister. Is the deal worth it? Will both men hold up to the bargain? MacGyver is still a thrill for people who only remember the show through MacGruber sketches. Available at Amazon.com.

The video for all the shows is 1.33:1 full frame. The audio is Dolby Mono for everything except Cheers, Frasier and MacGyver. Those are in Dolby Digital Stereo. Things sound good except for the low soundtrack on The Honeymooners‘ “TV or Not TV.” You’ll have to crank it. The episodes are subtitled.

No Bonus Features.

Fan Favorites: Best of… are great for gifts for people who always bring up a series, but you know they don’t care to collect all the episodes. They just want enough to watch when the cable goes out. Each collection is a fine sampler of why these shows are beloved. The voters on Facebook did a rather good job of selecting episodes. Most of the shows are available as complete sets except Happy Days which stalled after Season 4.

CBS DVD presents Fan Favorites: Best of…. All titles released on DVD: March 4, 2012.

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