During a film career that lasted nearly 60 years, celebrated actor Jimmy Stewart appeared in a number of classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rear Window, Harvey, Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder, just to name a few. His list of stinkers is much smaller, but one thing's for sure: Stewart's presence as a leading man embodied the approachable, "everyman" demeanor he remained famous for. His rare TV appearances were mostly limited to one-shot roles, with two exceptions: the short-lived 1973 series Hawkins and, of course, The Jimmy Stewart Show just two years earlier. Though this sitcom ran for just 24 episodes before NBC pulled the plug, it was resurrected on DVD earlier this year as part of Warner Bros.' burn-on-demand Archive Collection.
Though undoubtedly rooted in the decade the came before it, The Jimmy Stewart Show has a punchy, less predictable aura than less seasoned viewers might expect. It thankfully avoided the lure of the laugh track (whether through a live audience, inventions like "the laff box" or post-production sweetening), which gives it a more natural feel that adds to its approachable charms. Stewart leads the cast as James K. Howard, a small-town college professor whose grandfather founded the university. His family includes wife Martha (veteran TV actress Julie Adams) and their eight year-old son Teddy (Dennis Larson), as well as James' independent older son Peter and his wife Wendy. To make matters more interesting, Peter and Wendy have an eight year-old son of their own, and the two small families end up living together after an unfortunate accident. Naturally, both young boys---oddly enough, uncle and nephew respectively---end up sharing a room and widening the generational gap, but that's just one of many little hurdles they'll learn to overcome.
Not surprisingly, the temperament of The Jimmy Stewart Show is relatively sweet and wholesome, despite the occasional bites of sarcasm and/or matter-of-fact advice by our lanky, likable patriarch. Stewart even addresses the camera before and after each episode (and in some cases, during actual scenes) that may take viewers aback the first time through, as if some long-lost episode bookends were somehow preserved for home video. In any case, The Jimmy Stewart Show does rise above the typical blandness associated with shows described as "sweet and wholesome", largely due to Stewart's presence and, on several occasions, a handful of surprising guest stars along the way. Warner Bros.' Archive Collection package serves up all 24 episodes of this short-lived series on three DVD-Rs, arranged in their original broadcast order and in their full, uncut form. More often than not, it's a dependable series worth watching.
List of Episodes
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.33:1 tube TV-friendly format, The Jimmy Stewart Show looks pretty darn good; certainly a few notches above what I was expecting. Image detail is solid from start to finish, dirt and debris are kept to a minimum (aside from the opening titles, which look a little less impressive), colors look fairly good and even a number of textures came through nicely. Thankfully enough, digital eyesores like DNR, interlacing, edge enhancement and compression artifacts didn't seem to be an issue, rounding out the visual presentation quite nicely. In all honesty, The Jimmy Stewart Show is one of the stronger looking classic TV-on-DVD releases I've seen in recent memory, especially considering this is a burn-on-demand title. Unquestionably, fans will be pleased with Warner Bros.' efforts here.
DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent this DVD's native 480i image resolution.
The series' modest Dolby Digital 1.0 mix has been preserved for this DVD and, with few exceptions, gets the job done perfectly. There are no excessive defects or audio drop-outs, so this dialogue-driven series remains relatively crisp and easy to understand. It's a thin experience, to be sure, but seems entirely faithful to the source material. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly), no optional Closed Captions or subtitles have been included during these 24 episodes.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap interface includes no sub-menus and minimal pre-menu interruptions. This three-disc set is housed in a clear hinged keepcase with attractive one-sided cover artwork. These DVD-Rs have not been tested for non-Region 1 compatibility. No inserts, episode descriptions or bonus features have been included with this package.
Though it's buried deep in the actor's resume (and, of course, was cancelled after one season), The Jimmy Stewart Show is a light, enjoyable series worth checking out. His natural charisma carries the bulk of these 24 episodes, though a handful of supporting characters---and the occasional guest star---help to keep everything running pretty smoothly. Warner Bros.' burn-on-demand treatment of this title will delight original fans of the show, not the mention those who had forgotten it over the years: featuring a surprisingly solid A/V presentation, only the lack of bonus features keeps this plain-wrap release from scoring higher. Firmly Recommended for sitcom enthusiasts and die-hard Stewart fans.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.