DVD Review: Mr. Warmth! Don Rickles – The Ultimate TV Collection

Don Rickles is one of those performers that couldn’t get started in the internet age as an entertainer. His caustic wit and ability to poke fun at people for their race, religion, ancestry and socio-economic background would get him banned on Twitter. He knew how to take on an entire theater audience. He’d drown in hashtag protests. He’d have various 24 hour news channels filled with outraged pundits. He would have protesters blocking any theater that dared to book him. Ultimately Don Rickles would have to run for Congress to get his wit into the public via diatribes on C-Span. Thankfully this was not the case when Don Rickles was coming up in the middle of the 20th Century. His grouchy schtick slayed them in Las Vegas, Broadway and Hollywood. Now his ’70s prime has been collected together on Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles – The Ultimate Collection. His four TV specials and his short lived series are included in the boxset.

The Don Rickles TV Specials: Volume 1 kicks off with The Many Sides of Don Rickles. Rickles seems to be just hanging out with his pals Don Adams (Get Smart), Harvey Korman (Blazing Saddles) and Robert Goulet (Atlantic City). Don performs as a Monk watching his life story get butchered into a Hollywood movie. Goulet later comes out and kills it in a song. Shame his life has been reduced to a Will Ferrell character. There’s also a fine sketch where Don and his uptight wife show up at a hippie love commune. They get lost in the revolution. Don gets analyzed by three professionals that’s a rather daring moment for a comic. Don Rickles: Alive and Kicking proves he’s back in 1972 for more. Johnny Carson makes a rare appearance on a CBS show. He sets up how Don Rickles got the TV special. Rickles hosts an award show for plastic surgeons. There’s a fine sketch with a nervous Don married to Ann Meara. They go to see Don Rickles perform. It’s odd to see Don Rickles tear into himself.

The Don Rickles TV Specials: Volume 2 starts with Mr. Warmth. This is a tricky special since it seems to hint that it was supposed to be a regular variety show that dominated the early ’70s. They refer to it as The Don Rickles Show between breaks. Rickles does load up on the guest stars including having John Wayne show up to learn how to be a comic. Don surprises school kids by claiming to be an Indian chief. There’s a radio play where Don must improv while Bob Newhart, Loretta Swit and Jack Klugman must read lines from vintage script. The duo from Adam-12 patrol the soundstage. Frank Sinatra has a fantastic cameo. Maybe his variety show didn’t get picked up because he ran out of stars after the pilot. Rickles captures his routine from the stage at Caesar’s Place in 1975. This was that time when audiences had dinner before the show. This isn’t the same space where Celine Dion now holds court. After ripping into the audience with his sweetness, Rickles breaks into a song about being a nice guy. This turns out to be a moment full of guest stars. Jack Palance (City Slickers), Bobby Riggs in a Sugar Daddy outfit, Otto Preminger, cast of M*A*S*H* and Bruce from Jaws take a line. Boxing great Joe Louis appears in the audience. He drags James Caan (The Godfather), Elliot Gould (M*A*S*H*) and Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) onto the stage for a mini-roast. He grabs a guy out of the audience to screen test with the trio stars. They do a sketch involving them playing Apache. You think a network would allow Tom Cruise, Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt do this with CarrotTop? This is the power and joy of Rickles. There’s a fine sketch of Don before the Gates of Heaven needing the help of Don Adams to get past St. Peter. He needs Jack Klugman as back up.

CPO Sharkey: The Complete Season One & Two brings together Don’s only sitcom that survived pilot season. After constantly guest starring on sitcoms including Get Smart, he finally got his own vehicle. Rickles had gotten his start in performing while in the Navy. He didn’t have to do any research to know what it’s like training for the water. Here’s all 37 episodes that probbly haven’t aired since the early ’90s on Comedy Central.

CPO Sharkey (Rickles) is in charge of training recruits at a naval boot camp. Here’s there to whip these young kids into sailors of the future in the post-Vietnam War era. That lack of a major conflict allows the military humor to seem lighter. The men serving under and around Sharkey are racially diverse with various heritages. This allows Sharkey to unleash Rickle’s United Nations of sarcasm on them. There are plenty of jokes that wouldn’t fly in this era of twitter rage and online petitions to ban people from TV. It was easy to dismiss the show back in 1976, but with the state of current comedy, Rickles is still cutting edge. Nothing seems offbase besides tearing into a captain to their face.

Rickles doesn’t completely work alone. He has the giant Seaman Pruitt (The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh‘s Peter Isacksen) keeping a constant eye on the recruits. He’s got the innocence of Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. Chief Robinson (Sledgehammer‘s Harrison Page) is Sharkey’s chief rival. The two love to give each other trash talk. They have the kind of racial discussions that would get MSNBC outraged at this former NBC sitcom. Page would eventually get elevated to Rear Admiral Stiles Morris on JAG.

The episodes are mainly about Sharkey whipping his recruits into shape. He’s like Sgt. Carter without having to deal with a constant Gomer Pyle in the barracks. Rickles plays to his comic strengths with his wit, eye rolls and facial expressions. Shame that Rickles couldn’t take his recruits out to sea. Although odds are that he’d use them as buoys.

Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles – The Ultimate Collection is bliss that only a hockey puck can grasp.

The video is 1:33:1 full frame. The transfers are medium since the show was shot and recorded on standard definition videotape. The images are soft on resolution. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine when he tears into the fresh meat. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

Introductions with Don Rickles sets up the various specials.

The Tonight Show (3:35) is from the night Don Rickles broke Johnny Carson’s cigarette box when Bob Newhart was the guest host. Johnny returns the next night and storms on the CPO Sharkey set to confront Rickles. It’s gold.

TV Land Awards Legend Award (7:36) recaps Don’s career with Jimmy Kimmel giving out the honor. Might be the only reason to watch Kimmel.

Never-before-seen Deleted Segment: Don’s Talk Spot (5:30) features his James Cagney impersonation.

Unedited Segments with New Introductions From Don includes all of the moments in the studio that were snipped. Mostly Don riffing on the crowd moments. Bob Newhart isn’t a one take wonder. Don has sweet memories of Frank Sinatra. The complete extra time with Sinatra is 23 minutes long.

CPO Sharkey Cast Reunion (20:04) happened in Las Vegas, April, 2015 with Don Rickles, Harrison Page, David Landsberg, Tom Ruben and Barry Pearl. Everyone is happy to get to hang with Don again.

Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles – The Ultimate Collection is just the perfect way to spend a week engrossed in the glory of Don Rickles. The specials are specials an not just hour long time fillers. Your kids need to know about the voice inside Mr. Potatohead in Toy Story.

Time Life presents Mr. Warmth: Don Rickles – The Ultimate Collection. Starring: Don Rickles, Don Adams, Frank Sinatra & Bob Newhart. Boxset Contents: 37 episodes & 4 Specials on 8 DVDs. Released: October 20, 2015

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