DVD Review: The Red Skelton Show (The Lost Episodes)

Red Skelton was one of the pioneers of TV comedy. He’d been able to parlay his time as a circus clown and vaudeville performer to movies, radio and finally TV. The Red Skelton Show hit the air in 1951. He became one of the most familiar faces by remaining on the dial with regular show until the early ’70s. He produced nearly 700 episodes of his show. While a majority of them were variety shows, his early seasons were more hybrid sitcoms with major stars interacting with his iconic characters. The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes contains 18 episodes that haven’t been released on home video.

Skelton is up there with Jack Benny, Burns & Allen and Abbott and Costello when it comes to sitcoms. What makes him different is that the others played themselves. Skelton had noted characters that he could easily assume that could carry the show. Clem Kadiddlehopper was a dim wit bumpkin who eventually would get the upperhand on the smart guys. George Appleby was the ultimate henpecked husband. San Fernando Red was a scheming politician. Sheriff Deadeye was an equally scheming lawman. His best known character was Freddie the Freeloader. He was a hobo that lived a mime clown’s life. This character didn’t start until television since a silent character didn’t work well on the radio. All of these characters get screen time on The Lost Episodes. The 16 episodes hosted by Skelton allowed him to create a comedy anthology “Appleby the Muscleman” has him bulking up on TV the help of Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon). “Clem the Candidate” envisions a future where a computer can pick out the perfect candidate for president of the USA. Somehow the logical choice is Clem. William Demarest (Uncle Charlie on My Three Sons) is perplexed.

Red Skelton does also play himself on the show. He enjoy cracking himself up. There’s a promo for a set of Halloween masks featuring his characters. Red seems up for ordering them. You can also sense how big of a star Red was at the time for what happened when he couldn’t make the show. The big bonus are two episodes with guest hosts. Red was able to get Danny Thomas, Arthur Godfrey and Jackie Gleason to fill in for him. That’s like Bill Murray substituting for David Letterman. It’s refreshing to enjoy these lost episodes since they remind us why Red Skelton was a major TV attraction over three decades.

Episodes and guest stars:

Appleby the Muscleman (Guest Starring: Buster Crabbe & Slappy Maxie Rosenbloom)
Freddie Gets Sick (Guest Starring: Jack Kirkwood & Jackie Coogan)
The Nine Live of Freddie (Guest Starring: Warner Anderson)
Bolivar and The Roaring 20’s (Guest Starring: Barbara Nichols & Gerald Mohr)
How to Think up a Television title without Being Sued (Guest Starring: Gordon & Sheila MacRae)
This Goon For Hire (Guest Starring: Sebastian Cabot)
San Fernando’s Phony Fabians (Guest Starring: Fabian)
Appleby’s Bird Woman (Guest Starring: Eve Arden)
Clem the Candidate (Guest Starring: William Demarest)
Deadeye Turns in His Badge (Guest Starring: Terry Moore & Charles Ruggles)
Appleby’s Predictions (Guest Starring: Vivian Vance & Anthony Caruso)
Mr. K. Goes to College (Guest Starring: Ernest Truex)
San Fernando For Governor (Guest Starring: Amanda Blake)
Appleby’s Formula (Guest Starring: Marilyn Maxwell)
San Fernando’s Treasure(Guest Starring: Guy Madison & Amanda Blake)
Freddie’s Shipwreck (Guest Starring: Sebastian Cabot)

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers appear to be kinescopes. The quality is fine for lovers of the golden age of television. The audio is mono. The sound is fine for the era.

Bonus Episodes include when Danny Thomas filled in For Red and when Arthur Godfrey and Jackie Gleason shared as substitutes.

The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes is a treasure trove from the master of multiple characters. Skelton gets to shine with his various characters allowed an entire sitcom. This is perfect viewing for fans of the golden age of television.

Timeless Media Group presents The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes . Starring: Red Skelton. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: February 11, 2014.