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My Favourite Martian-Season 1 (1963)
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Details At A Glance
Outtakes-Extended pilot episode.
Audio Commentary-On pilot episode - Archivist with actress Ann Marshall.
Interviews-Cast-Archivist with actress Ann Marshall (17:50)
Gallery-42 stills, portraits, magazine covers, from the series.
Script-PC accessible unused script, "Sir Charles".
Year Of Production
936:56 (Case: 925)
Multi Disc Set (6)
|Cast & Crew
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Umbrella Entertainment's recent release of The Complete First Series of My Favorite Martian will be very welcome news to the many fans of this 1960s sitcom. Unfortunately Umbrella's slick does in fact call it "The Complete First Series"! Would someone please instruct media employees - including those at Foxtel - as to the distinction between the terms "series" and "season"? That gripe aside, this is a package of six discs that give us all thirty-seven original uncut episodes from the first season, a total of just over fifteen-and-a-half hours of vintage TV nostalgia.
Although this series ran for only three seasons, from 1963 to 1965, this brainchild of creator John L. Greene would become one of the best loved and best remembered 1960s sitcoms. The characters and their situation are established in the pilot episode, with an alien from Mars (Ray Walston) crashing to Earth and taken to live with a young reporter Timothy O'Hara, whose landlady is Mrs Lorelei Brown (Pamela Britton). Tim passes off his other worldly visitor as his "Uncle Martin", and the young reporter's life quickly becomes complicated by his "uncle's" alien abilities and maladies. With its successful combination of standard sitcom fare and "supernatural" phenomena it was a precursor to shows such as I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. The casting of the entire 107 episodes was the responsibility of Lynn Stalmaster and here lies the real key to the success of the series. Every role, from principals, to the guests and the smallest bit role was cast to perfection. There are, sadly, nameless faces galore here that will register with anyone who has watched vintage TV. As the Martian visitor, forty-nine year old Ray Walston was cast in his first TV role. Walston had had a major success with his Broadway lead in D*** Yankees opposite Gwen Verdon, and both repeated their roles in the faithful 1958 Hollywood big screen version - with the title changed in Australia and the UK to What Lola Wants. In the same year Walston was seen on an even bigger screen - Todd AO - as Luther Billis in the screen adaptation of South Pacific. By 1964 the actor was starring for Billy Wilder in Kiss Me Stupid opposite Dean Martin and Kim Novak. Walston was never a particularly likeable on-screen character, and his acerbic edge may have contributed to the public's embracing this series, thankful for this distinctly sharp departure from the saccharine characters usually associated with sitcoms of the period.
Cast opposite Walston in the role of reporter Tim O'Hara was twenty-nine year old virtual unknown Bill Bixby. Earlier in 1962 and 1963 the young actor had appeared unbilled in Under the Yum Yum Tree and Lonely are the Brave and was elevated to "tattooed sailor" in Irma La Douce, but Lynn Stalmaster saw the talent that was needed for the new sitcom. Today watching these episodes the resemblance between Bixby and Robert Downey Jr is remarkable. His portrayal of the naive, youthfully idealistic O'Hara is energetic and inventive, strongly physical as well as injecting a neurotic intensity to many of the situations. This intensity was of course used too much effect in Bixby's later series The Incredible Hulk (1979-1981). There are reminders in his performance in this series of Glenn Ford in his 1950s MGM days and also Dean Jones. The interchange between Walston and Bixby really is the centre of this series. Each complements the other beautifully, listening and reacting to whatever the other is saying or doing. It takes a few episodes for the two actors to settle into one another's rhythms, but from about episode five there is a great deal of pleasure to be found in watching these two polished actors at the top of their craft - one in mid-career, the other just beginning - sparking off each other.
Of the other cast members the most interesting is Pamela Britton. Possibly best remembered as "Brooklyn", Frank Sinatra's eventual love-interest in Anchors Aweigh (1945) and as TV's Blondie. Miss Britton has some very charming moments throughout the episodes, perhaps most tellingly in Martin and the Eternal Triangle, where Uncle Martin first experiences the pangs of jealousy. Various episodes feature guests including Richard Deacon, John Fiedler, Jerome Cowan, Jean Hale, Bernie Kopell, Cecil Kellaway, with Tom Skerritt and Marlo Thomas especially enjoyable in Miss Jekyll, Mrs Hyde, with her as a plain Jane transformed (very smoothly) into a beauty, and him very funny as a nerdy Clark Kent look-alike. Direction is uniformly solid and broad, making the most of every line and situation. The pilot was directed by Sheldon Leonard but almost all of the other episodes are credited to either Oscar Rudolph or Leslie Goodwins. The writing, mainly by James Komack, has fast and clever dialogue, while providing for plenty of visual humour from the two expert leads. There is an astounding variety of ideas in this one season, covering so much ground that you wonder what on Earth (Sorry!) they can find to use in subsequent seasons? Also enriching the episodes is the frequently quite serious undertones to some of the personal and social issues. This is not all pure sitcom froth, though the at times annoying laugh track might seem to contradict that. Other stand-out episodes are How To Be A Hero Without Really Trying, Danger! High Voltage and Blood Is Thicker Than Wine, but there is hardly a dud in the whole batch.
Made at the Desilu studios, all but three of the 107 episodes in this set were produced by Jack Chertok, and the values are high. Sets are varied and quite substantial for the period, and editing, sound and visuals are excellent. Spotting the occasional special effects wires in the "levitation" sequences only adds to the fun. Special mention should be made of the music credited to George Greeley. Listen to the music in the opening few minutes of Episode 32, Who's Got the Power? These full orchestrations do not merely accompany the image, they punctuate and complement what is on the screen. The IMDB credits Greeley with only the pilot and the first three episodes in Season 1, but whoever is responsible the music is outstanding for a TV sitcom.
This is a very enjoyable series, with a bit more thought behind it than most of its era, and the two male leads - wildly contrasting - are excellent.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
It is a pleasure to see vintage TV looking better than we would have seen it in its original telecasts.
The transfer is 4x3 and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
The image is extremely sharp and clear at all times. The restored scenes in the pilot are a shade darker than the rest of the transfer, but apart from this there is remarkable consistency in the image. The clarity on Bill Bixby's youthful features is startling.
There is a modest amount of grain, more obvious in particular episodes, such as Episode 7 (A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine and Peaches) and Episode 19 (Now You See It, Now You Don't).
Shadow detail is rarely an issue, with most sitcoms generally brightly lit. The occasional night scenes are sharp and clear and present no problem. There is no low level noise.
The grey scale only seems limited by the rather flat look of the sets and costumes. At all times it is a very pleasing black and white image, with only the occasional slight flaring.
The extremely sharp transfer does result in a fair amount of aliasing, particularly on the jackets worn by Bill Bixby, but this is a minor distraction.
Film artefacts are virtually limited to the odd white fleck, but basically the prints are in excellent condition. There are a couple of minor scratches at the beginning of the pilot, but after that none were noted.
There are no subtitles.
The set consists of six dual layer discs.
Video Ratings Summary
For its time, and particularly its origins, the soundtrack is excellent.
There is only one audio track, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, except on the pilot episode, which also has the optional commentary track.
The dialogue was perfectly clear at all times and there were no sync problems.
There was very little hiss, with an almost silent sound stage, free of crackles, pops and dropouts.
George Greeley, a name found on old Liberace albums, provides the music for the first few episodes and it is attractive, amusing and well produced, as is the remainder of the music on the set.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
The audio for all of the extras is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps.
Menu The Main Menu is presented 1.33:1 without enhancement.
The initial screen is a simple coloured graphic using a black and white still of the two male leads. The audio used is a vocal rendition of the theme song, rather scratchy but fun.
The options are : Play All Episodes
Select Episodes : A new screen using a reduced image of the still from the previous screen, with two screens of thumbnails for the episodes on that disc. Audio is the instrumental theme from the soundtrack.
Episode List :
The reverse of the slick has the complete list of the thirty-seven episodes, with a brief plot summary and details of writer, director and guest stars. You may need a magnifying glass to read it, but at least it is there.
An off-screen Peter Greenwood, archivist for Jack Chertok, has a sit-down with Ann Marshall who played Pamela Britton's daughter, Angela Brown. Poor Mr Greenwood would have had more response from Ray Walston or Bill Bixby - and they're REALLY dead! I would suspect that Miss Marshall is the only living (?) cast member. Mr Greenwood tries, and tries, and tries, but to no avail. The video quality looks like a rather poor home movie.
Audio Commentary on Pilot Episode : ( 24:30)
Peter Greenwood "chats" with Ann Marshall (Didn't he learn?) about her memories of the series. The poor lady would only have been approaching sixty at the time, 2007, but she can't even remember whom she played! What we get is a huge series of informed prompts from the encyclopaedic Mr Greenwood, with an occasional monosyllable from the interviewee. One point of interest, Mr Greenwood refers to a second "unaired original pilot", but does not enlarge upon this. Maybe I missed something. The third season, released in the US by Umbrella, has an "unaired pilot". Maybe that is the alternate one referred to in this commentary.
Still Gallery :
A collection of forty-two images comprised of proof sheets of stills, individual stills, gallery shots, publicity stills, promotional slides, magazine covers and pages from a colouring book, all related to the series. Most are black and white, with a few coloured. The quality is generally quite good, but it is a pity that the images only take up about half of the screen area. Interesting and nostalgic.
Never Before Seen Script :
This is the script for the "missing" episode, "Sir Charles" which was aborted after a chimpanzee mauled Ray Walston. The injury was serious enough for the entire series to be in danger of being cancelled. The script is accessible via a PC.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release has no extras, and the extras on the Region 4 release are virtually useless. The Region 4 packaging would appear to be better, with the six discs rather than the three in the Rhino US release. Apart from that, price would seem to be the issue. The Region 1 release is available from Amazon for US$21.99, so shop around locally for the best price you can get.
My Favorite Martian deserves a place in any list of superior sitcoms. With consistently inventive and thoughtful scripts, good production values and two classic TV actors with enormous TV résumés, this is a set to enjoy at your leisure. The fact that it looks so remarkably good - better than we ever saw it originally - adds greatly to the enjoyment. Forget the "extras".
© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, June 05, 2008
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|
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