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6 Degrees Entertainment

'TV Guide Classics: Television Legends'
(Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, and Milton Berle / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2015 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: This collection features the most memorable and legendary personalities of television ... Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, and Milton Berle! Enjoy over 17 hours of their comedy, guest stars, skits, and musical acts that are full of laughs and entertainment.

DVD Verdict: THE JOHNNY CARSON SHOW - This CBS network comedy variety show was the first prime time series hosted by Johnny Carson. This program featured comedy skits, musical numbers and plenty of laughs for the television audience. This program gave the viewers an early look at the man who would go on to become late-night television's king of comedy.

But, delving deeper into this incredible man and his background, did you know that it was while working as a staff writer on The Red Skelton Show, local Los Angeles television comedian Carson filled in as host when Skelton was injured during a show rehearsal. And so, as a direct result of Carson’s performance, CBS created the prime time variety program 'The Johnny Carson Show' just for him! Chock full of a traditional potpourri of comedy, music, dance, skits and monologues it aired on Thursday nights at 10pm ET.

THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM - Star of vaudeville, radio and the big screen, Jack Benny brought his highly-successful radio program to the small screen in 1950 and the show ran until 1965. Along for the ride were his famous cast of co-stars including Eddie Rochester Anderson, Don Wilson, Dennis Day and Mary Livingstone, who all shared in the fun and misadventures of their famous boss. Whether dealing with his love of money, his perpetual age of 39 or his beloved Maxwell automobile, Jack Benny and his gang entertained one and all!

Watching this incredible show now, it's not hard to see why Jack Benny was unique among the great comedians this country has produced. Only his comedy was not the product of gags or situations, though he used them. His comedy arose out of an indelible character he created, the lovable tightwad who came into our homes via radio and television for over 30 years. In real life Jack Benny was not a tightwad, in fact he was a generous man whose charitable giving was known if not publicized. That of course would have ruined the image and the image was the linchpin of his comedy.

Because we knew his character so well, the cheap gags followed. They would mean nothing to anyone else, but because it was Benny we laughed at a burglar saying your money or your life and Benny stalling with a reply of I'm thinking. The sounds of his Maxwell car were second nature, they brought laughs because Benny was too cheap to buy a new car. And his Social Security number, 000-00-0001 in deference to his age!

'The Jack Benny Show' took us inside the pretend world of tightwad Jack Benny. His announcer Don Wilson, real life wife Mary Livingston, butler Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, and the perpetual adolescent with the piping tenor Dennis Day all were part of that world. On radio Phil Harris as the brash band-leader was there, but he didn't make it to television, deciding to strike out on his own. All of these people bounced gags off Benny's tightwad character and all got generous laughs at his expense. But the laughs were coming for Benny's character, not necessarily out of anything he said necessarily.

THE MILTON BERLE SHOW - This comedy variety hour went through a few sponsors but maintained its host, Milton Berle, during the program's eleven year run. Comedy sketches, musical acts and guests stars abound in the show that sold thousands of televisions to eager Americans wanting to watch what Uncle Miltie was going to do next week. Mr. Television never disappointed anyone with his uproarious skits and crazy costumes!

In truth, 'The Milton Berle Show's' format was quite rigid compared to the other two comedians. Berle would begin with a monologue for the live audience. The guest star(s) would perform alone or with Berle. Milton Berle was allegedly one of the biggest stars in show business, a man who knew everyone, so it's dismaying that most of the guest 'stars' on this show were quite minor: often someone whom the ABC bosses wanted to promote for some other production. A welcome exception was always Bette Davis.

A favorite routine that never varied each week was Berle's 'stooge' act, in which Berle would start another monologue ... only to be heckled by some guy in the balcony, whom Berle introduced to the audience as Sidney Shpritzer. Like the drag routine, this was meant to be a 'surprise' but it always happened the same way at the same point in the show, every week. At the end of each episode, Berle sang his perennial theme 'Near You'. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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