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The Donna Reed Show Seasons 1-5 DVD Review

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The first five seasons of the classic TV series “The Donna Reed Show” hit DVD in a big box set.

Donna Reed (best known for “It’s A Wonderful Life”) starred in the beloved wholesome classic 50’s and 60’s family sitcom that revolved around the Hilldale based Stone family comprised of wife and mother Donna, a pediatrician father/husband Alex, and their two children Mary and Jeff. Throughout the first five seasons (there were 8 total), viewers can expect to plots involving decisions, Alex’s job, Jeff and Mary winding up in trouble, trips and getaways, gender, responsibilities, Mary’s romances, school bullies and fights, fundraising events, family members, holidays, sibling rivalries, David Barker, clubs, school events, illnesses, the Stones helping friends and neighbors, stressful situations, quarrels, Alex and Donna’s marriage, matchmaking, Donna’s college reunion, cars, compromises, facial hair, plays, an RV, a pilot for a proposed series titled “The Roberta Sherwood Show,” music, Mary’s high school graduation, Mary in college, and Jeff’s romances.

Despite being dated and having some very old fashioned and sexist 50’s and 60’s sensibilities, “The Donna Reed Show” was actually ahead of its time in that it depicted Donna as a strong, smart, take charge woman who solved problems, ran the house, and was someone people trusted and went to for advice instead of just another housewife and mother that you’d see on TV so often. She was known as TV’s mom for a reason after all.

In terms of the actual show, it’s a pretty standard laugh track filled family sitcom in which there’s never a dull moment in the life of the Stone family. The one thing that sets this show aside from others, however, is that it feels more grounded. The first 3 seasons in particular don’t go for cheap jokes, but rather make a real effort to depict a believable family life full of real-life drama and problems especially in episodes like “Three-Part Mother.” This approach does lead to a lack of really funny comedy compared to other similar sitcoms like “Leave It To Beaver.” The show also has a tendency to be a bit dry at times, but the series definitely leaned into comedy more in seasons 4 and 5 with more traditional comedic antics. Unsurprisingly, the post season 3 episodes aren’t nearly as rewarding as it’s clear the writers are running out of ideas and the premise and characters are wearing thin.

The real reason the series works at all is due to the chemistry between the main cast members Donna Reed (Donna), Carl Betz (Alex), Shelley Fabares (Mary) and Paul Petersen (Jeff). They play so well off of each other and come across as a believable family unit. Donna Reed herself is also such a charming and underrated actress who never gets the adoration she deserves. Like many sitcoms, the series is also notable for guest stars which include the like of Buster Keaton, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman and so many more.

Overall Thoughts: It’s easy to see why the relatable “The Donna Reed Show” was such a hit. It’s an easy watch and you’re essentially being invited into the Stone household in each and every episode and seeing the family grow and age before your eyes. It may not be one of the best shows nor is it challenging, but as far as family sitcoms go, it’s a bonafide classic.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: Fullscreen. How does it look? The B&W episodes have print defects but the digital restorations make the episodes appear noticeably sharper.

Audio Track: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. How does it sound? A perfectly adequate 2.0 track.

Extras:
* Original sponsor opening and closing billboards and commercials, daytime opening and bumper closing, and original network promos
* “Featurette Recollections By Shelley Fabares”- A half-hour interview with the actress who played Mary.
* “Donna Reed Tribute On This Is Your Life”- A full episode of the show featuring Donna Reed and those involved in her life.
* An interview with Paul Petersen who played Jeff.
* “For More Tomorrows”- An educational short film starring Paul Petersen.
* “Donna Reed For U.S. Savings Bonds”- An ad for bonds starring Donna Reed.
* 2 commercials starring Paul Petersen and Donna Reed.
* “The Donna Reed Show Remembered”- Jimmy Hawkins talks about “The Donna Reed Show” and more.
* Photo gallery.
* “Donna Reed Public Service Spot.”
* A text production note.
* “Donna Reed Recollections”- Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen talk about the series
* “The Donna Reed Show Rocks!”- An interview with music producer and composer Stu Phillips
* 7 cast and sponsor commercials, 2 outtake songs, and public service spots.
* “La Famille Stone”- “The Donna Reed Show” in French.
* “Donna Reed Recollections: Paul and Patty Petersen”

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May 24, 2019 - Posted by | DVD review | , , , ,

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