DVD Reviews: WKRP in Cincinnati, Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show & Maude



Shout! Factory is releasing another batch of season sets from TV shows that have already received complete series boxsets. WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Final Season, Sgt. Bilko: The Fourth Season and Maude: The Complete Third Season wraps up two legendary sitcoms while the other brings us to halftime. Fans who have been buying the individual season sets will be thrilled.

WKRP In Cinncinnati: The Complete Final Season brought an end to one of the few shows that came close to reflecting life at a real radio station. “An Explosive Affair” is a two-parter that has the station doing so good in the ratings that its now getting bomb threats from terrorists. The bomb threat seems in bad taste since they finally redid the station’s lobby to make it look more classy for Jennifer (Loni Anderson). For safety, Andy (Gary Sandy) sends Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus (Tim Reid) to the transmitter tower to keep the station on the air while the bomb squad investigates. This would be a smart move except the bomb might be out there. “The Union” has Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump) fretting that his employees might go union and have an actual say at the station. The irony of the episode is that all the actors are part of SAG. “Rumors” has Johnny Fever shacking up with Bailey (Jan Smithers). Is it as it appears? “Who’s on First?” has the staff swapping roles to make up from Herb being out of the office on medical leave. “Pills” has the station promoting diet pills that are pure speed. Everyone on the staff is full of pep thanks to the promotions. “I’ll Take Romance” has Les get hooked up with a computer dating agency that is a sure thing for a reason. “Up and Down the Dial” has WKRP finally at the top of the game with Johnny Fever as the top morning DJ. Everything is great except Mother Carlson wants to change a few things. This was the final episode and while it works as a good stopping point, that wasn’t the intention. The cancellation was a bit of a shocker since the series was still doing fine in the ratings. It seemed destined for a fifth season. Oddly enough, getting canceled allowed the series to get more popular. The series finally had steady viewers in syndication when folks knew where to find the sitcom five days a week. CBS kept swapping nights which was a pain during the era before DVRs and OnDemand. The series was revived for two seasons in syndication in the early ’90s, although it only had half the original cast.

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Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: The Fourth Season was a time when the show had become the cool show on TV. Silvers had plenty of his famous friends wanting to drop by and salute the troops. However it became an issue of figuring out why they’d drop by Fort Baxter in Kansas or Bilko would get another leave to New York City. Ironically, the show was still filmed in New York City instead of Hollywood. “Gold Fever” has Bilko discover a gold map in old army footlocker. He schemes to get his whole crew relocated to Camp Fremont in California so he can find the gold mine. “Bilko’s Vampire” already has him working Hollywood when he tries to get producers to consider Joe E. Ross for the next Dracula. “Bilko’s Big Woman Hunt” has him tracking down an amazing lady he met in an elevator. His only hope might be Paul Lynde. “Bilko and the Crosby’s” has him take charge of Bing Crosby’s kids. Judging from tales of how Bing would attack them with golf clubs, the kids might enjoy a brutal time on a military base. “Bilko Presents the McGuire Sisters” has him book an all star concert with people that merely share the name of the big stars. But what happens when one of the acts really shows up? Mickey Rooney pops up. “Bilko’s Secret Mission” features a secret guest. Close your eyes and read ahead two words if you don’t want to know the massive star cameo: Dean Martin. Are we all back to reading now? “Bilko and the Medium” has Charlotte Rae before she’d end up The Facts of Life. “Viva Bilko” sends him to Tijuana for a wild three days. “Bilko’s Ape Man” has him find the new Tarzan for the movies. Lucille Ball falls for the he-man. “The Weekend Colonel” wraps up the series with an episode about closed circuit TV, a fake colonel and a great scheme. The ending of the show does feel like the proper farewell to fans without discharging Bilko and his henchmen. One of the best shows that was supposedly canceled to take advantage of syndication money. A perfect military comedy that is still being ripped off today for sitcom script ideas.

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Maude: The Complete Third Season captures the series while it was still a Top 10 show in 1974. Bea Arthur had become the female character that people turned to at the height of Watergate. “Maude Meets the Duke” really does feature a cameo from John Wayne. The story is that Arthur (Conrad Bain) has been writing John Wayne fan letters for years so when the Duke is making a movie nearby, he wants to visit his number one fan. Trouble happens when Arthur’s roof collapses. He begs Maude to host his part and begs her not to talk smack to Wayne about his conservative views. Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls) is part of the star gazing fun. “Lovers in Common” has Maude and Vivian discover that they are Eskimo sisters. “The New Housekeeper” has Maude replace Florida who had gone on to be a part of Good Times. “The Telethon” has Maude scrambling to find a charity at the last minute for the TV show. She makes sure that the show goes on. “Walter Gets Religion” has him (Bill Macy) dragging Maude to church. Has he found the Lord? Or is he angling for business connections? “Maude’s Mother” shows up at the wrong time to feel proud of her son-in-law. The show is still a fine example of a woman doing her best to be in charge of her life while still part of a family. There’s a lot of relationship issues to keep it from turning into a political commentary. Maude remains righteous viewing.

The video is 1:33:1 full frame for all three shows. The transfers are fine although Sgt. Bilko looks the best since it was shot and cut on 35mm film. The audio is Dolby Digital mono for all three shows. Sound levels are great for all three shows. WKRP and Maude have Closed Captions. Sgt. Bilko has subtitles.

No bonus features

Shout! Factory presents WKRP In Cinncinnati: The Complete Final Season. Starring: Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Loni Anderson and Tim Reid. Boxset Contents: 22 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: November 10, 2015

Audio Commentary from Larry Storch and Mickey Freeman on “Bilko Joins the Navy.” Allan Melvin (Sam the Butcher on Brady Bunch) does quick audio intros on two episodes.

Footage From “Keep In Step” (20:59) is incomplete. This was a special that aired as part of “The Pontiac Star Parade.” This is a live episode of Sgt. Bilko.

The New Phil Silvers Show Promo (3:20) is his segment from the CBS preview show. He shows off the mail ordering system.

The New Phil Silvers Show (25:34) is the episode “Harry the Good Neighbor.” Phil’s character attempts to fix a young couple’s marriage. Things don’t go right. The sample episode hints why the series didn’t last.

Phil’s Final TV Interview with Sonny Fox (5:06) has Phil mention that the show’s ratings went up when they called it The Phil Silvers Show instead of You’ll Never Get Rich.

Shout! Factory present Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: The Fourth Season. Starring: Simon MacCorkindale, Melody Anderson and Michael D. Roberts. Boxset Contents: 35 Episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: November 17, 2015

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents Maude: The Complete Third Season. Starring: Bea Arthur, Bill Macy and Conrad Bain. Boxset Contents: 23 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: November 10, 2015

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