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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Too Close for Comfort - The Complete First Season
Too Close for Comfort - The Complete First Season
Warner Music // Unrated // November 2, 2004
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 14, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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 The Program

Ted Knight was a comedic genius, but I suppose that's hardly news to anyone who saw more than three seconds of the original Caddyshack. His masterfully searing slow burn as the unctuous Judge Smails provided for the perfect counterfoil against Rodney Dangerfield's obnoxious hilarity and Chevy Chase's glib smugness. That's where I fondly remember the man, but I suppose most would highly cherish his role as Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran for seven seasons in the 1970s and became one of the most popular sitcoms ever produced for television. His portray of pompous anchorman Ted Baxter was certainly the most memorable aspect of that show, although to be honest I was never that much of a fan. Still, if anything made an episode worth watching it was usually Ted Knight. I mean, the man narrated the Super Friends, for God's sake! If that doesn't elevate someone to near Geek Sainthood, I don't know what does...

Anyway, before he succumbed to cancer in 1986, Knight's final project was the series Too Close For Comfort, a moderately successful show which ran for five seasons and returned him to sitcom territory. The show took place in San Francisco and starred Knight as Henry Rush, a cartoonist and family man. Rush owns a duplex in which he lived with his wife Muriel (Nancy Dussault) and two daughters Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and Sara (Lydia Cornell). The main cast is supported by a group of colorful characters who weave themselves in out of various episodes, including the crusty Mildred Rafkin (Selma Diamond) and the terminally retarded yet sweet-natured Munroe Ficus (JM J. Bullock), who became such an endearing and popular character that he graduated to the status of series regular.

The series begins just after the death of Mr. Rafkin, the transvestite tenant who lived in the apartment downstairs. After much soul-searching (and strange interviews with an escort and a performance artist) Henry reluctantly rents out the apartment two his two nubile young daughters. The show revolved around Henry's stuffy and easily-aggravated personality, as he attempted to reconcile his own sensibilities with those of his early 20-something daughters, and his reluctant acceptance of their entrance into a much more open and permissive world than he remembered.

Or so it seems. When you boil it down, Too Close For Comfort is, pound for pound, just another dopey early 80s sitcom. Here's your typical episode breakdown: Muriel is trying to land a journalist position, and invites her prospective boss over for dinner. Meanwhile, the girls have lent out their apartment downstairs to be used in the filming of a motion picture, and the director insists upon using a live lion (?) for several scenes. The lion somehow makes its way upstairs and parks itself in the kitchen as Henry and Muriel are about to sit down for dinner with the boss. So now what will they do? Hilarity ensues...

Yeah, there's nothing here that couldn't have been done in an average episode of Three's Company or Hello Larry or Silver Spoons. Hell, half the time you expect Wayland Flowers and Madam to break into the scene (where's Judy Landers when you need her?). Yet, I have to admit laughing more than once. In fact, despite the fact that most of these episodes were clich├ęd, prefabricated televidiocized crap, there was some definite humor to be found. Ted Knight is just so entertaining that he elevates the show into a higher echelon than it probably deserves, simply because he's do damn funny. If anyone else puffed out their cheeks, bulged their eyes, and stammered uncontrollably as frequently as Knight did, we'd accuse them of severe overacting and criticize accordingly. But he does it all too well. The rest of the cast performs admirably. Certainly both of the actresses playing the daughters are about 300 degrees of lusciousness, but I always preferred the smarter, more confident Jackie to the ditzy, curvaceous Sara. Maybe it's because I've dug Deborah Van Valkenburg since her performance in the 1980 classic The Warriors. Your mileage may vary.

But no discussion of Too Close For Comfort can be complete with bringing up Monroe. Indeed, if you were to ask anyone who remembers the 1980s what they liked best about the show, they'd poke you in the eye with a snorkel. But what they would really be thinking about is the relationship between the stuffy Henry and the annoying Munroe; how Munroe would say or do something idiotic, and Henry would inevitably end up throwing him off the roof of a panty factory, or whatever. It was the quintessential comedic relationship: the straight guy and JM J. Bullock... er, I mean, the straight guy and the comic foil. But didn't anyone else in the 1980s see that these two characters were in love with each other? Food for thought...

The following episodes are contained in Two Close For Comfort: The Complete First Season:

Disc One:

  • Pilot Episode
  • It Didn't Happen One Night
  • The Bag Lady
  • Sara's Monroe Doctrine
  • Que Sara, Sara
  • Tenants Anyone?
  • Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolfe?

Disc Two:

  • Mister Big
  • The Location
  • A Friend In Need
  • A Fine Romance
  • The Boy in the Band
  • Deadline for Henry
  • Huey

Disc Three:

  • Centerfold
  • What's Wrong with Mr. Right?
  • Up Your Easter Bonnet
  • Cosmic Cow vs. The Oval Office
  • The Return of Rafkin

The DVD

Video:

Too Close For Comfort is presented in its original fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Twenty-four year old source material original captured on videotape cannot be expected to look like computer-generated wizardry from Pixar. And that's certainly the case here. The transfer is shaky and soft, with plenty of magnetic noise and ghosting throughout. Colors are stable if not exceptionally vibrant, but there's a bit of compression noise visible throughout the disc. Nonetheless, I suppose from an objective standpoint the episodes look better than they do on late-night cable, but I wouldn't refer to them as "good looking" either.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a standard monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There's not much to report here, either. The opening theme sounds somewhat clipped and limited, but the dialog sounds sharp and acceptable. There is a little hiss and occasional distortion, but nothing overly distracting. Is the soundtrack reasonable? Most assuredly. Is it expansive, engaging, or dynamic? Not even a little bit. Nor should it. It gets the job done, sounding pleasant and consistent throughout.

Extras:

There are no extras on this release.

Final Thoughts

The show itself probably isn't as great as you remember it, if you remember it with positive feelings at all, but I tell you what, I'd sooner watch a single episode of Too Close For Comfort before revisiting All In The Family or MASH. The latter two shows may have had the accolades, the critical acclaim, the Emmys, the kudos, etc., but at least Too Close For Comfort made me laugh, despite my more snooty sensibilities. The DVD collection of this first season isn't perfect: the transfer is meh, and there are zero extras, but it's pretty cheap and includes 19 full episodes. Worth a purchase for fans, but otherwise give this set a rental first.

 

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