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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Leave It to Beaver - The Complete Second Season
Leave It to Beaver - The Complete Second Season
Universal // Unrated // May 2, 2006
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted June 2, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The second season of Leave It to Beaver (1958-59) is basically a confident refinement of everything that was good about season one. The series became such a familiar staple in syndication that, looking at it again for the first time in many years, this reviewer is consistently amazed by how well it holds up and how genuinely funny and sometimes sweet and charming it is, and how in many ways its scripts were ahead of their time.

Despite their reputations as stock Eisenhower nuclear family types, the show's rich characters and their surprisingly sophisticated relationships with one another and various friends and neighbors is impressive. Father Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont), for instance, is a well-meaning family man but bemused and often quite frustrated by his children: high school freshman Wally (Tony Dow), and especially Wally's third-grader brother Theodore, nicknamed "Beaver" (Jerry Mathers). They drive him to distraction, his patience continually tested, but his well-meaningness counts for a lot even if in the end, as in season opener "Beaver's Poem," Ward ends up causing as much trouble for the family as his son.

One of the key ingredients to the show's success is its great understanding of the way children really behave, think and interact. "Hey Dad," Beaver reasonably asks, "At the restaurant, can I pick up my chicken?" Today's kids may no longer trade marbles or use expressions like "Gee, whiz," but otherwise they're still pretty much the same.

If there's any noticeable shift from the first season, its how it expands upon and enhances its great cast of supporting characters, such as Beaver's none-too-bright pal Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), snotty would-be teacher's pet Judy Hensler (Jeri Weil), and malicious troublemaker Gilbert (Stephen Talbot, now series editor for PBS's Frontline/World).

The show also breaks away from the wholesomeness of other '50s family sitcoms with a genuine subversiveness worthy of Seinfeld. In the charming and quite hilarious "Beaver and Chuey," for instance, Beaver befriends a boy his age who speaks not a word of English. As is often the case with children, the fact that neither speaks the other's language barely slows them down, until Wally's smooth-talking, no-good pal Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) offers to teach Beaver some high school Spanish to impress Chuey. Eddie teaches Beaver to say "Usted tiene una cara como puerco," telling Beaver it means "You're a swell guy!" When Beaver cheerfully repeats this to his new friend, an appalled Chuey runs out of the room in tears: "Usted tiene una cara como puerco" is Spanish for "You have a face like a pig!"

In the same episode, Beaver's mom, June (Barbara Billingsley), amusingly tries to converse with Chuey's South American mother, motioning for her to sit on "La Mesa" - the table.)

Another neat aspect to Leave It to Beaver's second season is that it's more or less told in "real time": The season begins with Beaver and Wally back in school after summer vacation, and wraps up with the end of the school year when everyone's getting ready for the summer break. (Actor Tony Dow, who turned 14 in the spring of 1958, shoots up a good 12 inches over the course of the season, eventually towering over Mathers for a time.)

The series had been shooting at the Republic lot in Studio City, but was getting ready to move to the Universal backlot (and a new "house") a few miles away. In another clever move, this is worked into scripts, with episodes later in the season referring to the Cleaver's efforts to sell their house and preparations to move across town into a new one.

Second season guests include John Hoyt, Irene Tedrow, Richard Lane, Veronica Cartwright, Richard Deacon, and Bill Idelson.

Video & Audio

Leave It to Beaver is presented in its original 4:3 format, with episodes uncut and not time-compressed, running about 25 1/2 minutes apiece. Show look good if overly grainy for some strange reason. 39 episodes are spread over three double-sided discs (Episodes 1-14 on Disc 1, 15-28 on Disc 2, and 29-39 on Disc 3), though this reviewer experienced no playing problems with the episodes sampled from each of the six sides. Episodes are in English mono only, with optional English subtitles. Gone are the Spanish subs that were offered on Universal First Season set. There are no Extra Features, even though the set would seem to cry out for commentaries from the surviving cast.

Parting Thoughts

Leave It to Beaver is a timeless comedy that's as funny and fresh as it was when it was new, nearly half a century ago.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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