68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2014
If you've any interest in comedy you need this set. Bilko is the granddaddy of American television comedy and set the template which has been followed ever since. You've heard the superlatives before - they're all true. The series itself is 5 stars and then some. Get this.
That's the show itself out of the way. Now to look at the set itself as a product. All four seasons are included in seperate cases, five discs per case. An episode list with guest stars and brief synopses is included on the reverse of each sleeve. The text is obscured by the discs so the sleeves need to be removed for this info to be read which is a little annoying.
A nicely illustrated booklet is included in the season one case with a history of the show and biographies of Silvers and Nat Hiken. I'd have liked the episode list to be included in this booklet as well to solve the problem with the sleeves.
The menus are nicely designed, simply laid out by episode. Extras are thoughfully also directly accessible from the main menu. An option for subtitles is also included. Unfortunately the planned "play all" feature was vetoed by CBS; it's not really an issue as this isn't a show to be left running, half-watched while doing something else. I won't detail the extras as others have done so; most of the major items from previous releases seem to be included, plus some new material (the BBC documentary "Bilko on Parade" is of note).
Now to look at the already contentious issue of the quality of the episodes themselves. Disagreements are already evident in other reviews and their comments about whether these are better or worse than the episodes previously released on DVD (the anniversary set and the standalone season one). I've been running a side-by-side comparison of the S1 episode "The Horse" for reference, although I've watched about a dozen from different seasons so far.
What immediately struck me with this new set is that the episodes are conversions from NTSC film transfers and not transfered from film to PAL. As the episodes were supplied by CBS to Mediumrare this isn't really surprising. However, those of us used to having watched Bilko on the BBC may find this disappointing (they transmitted directly from film until the late eighties, then from VT transfers of those film prints; as a result the quality was generally very good indeed). The NTSC transfer here results in the rather soft and unstable image which is a signature of the NTSC standard, lacking the finer detail evident on the Season One release. It can be most easily seen in the title sequence, where the flat grey of the background shifts constantly in tone.
On the other hand...the actual quality of the originating prints is much better (or at least the transfers have been cleaned up at some point). The 2010 Season One release prints are very dirty and quite scratchy, clearly not well looked after. There's also heavy grain which some have complained about (a matter of taste I think, but it does seem to be heavier than one would expect).
So picture-wise this is a swings-and-roundabouts situation; nice clean prints unfortunately mastered in an inferior broadcast standard. In an ideal world this series would have received the same love and attention from CBS that The Twilight Zone did; beautifully restored prints transferred in high definition and released on blu-ray; they almost look like they were made yesterday. Unfortunately CBS have never valued this wonderful series; the mere fact that they could have released a set like this themselves at any time since DVD arrived (about 14 years ago) and declined to do so speaks volumes.
I was tempted to give four stars to take the quality issue into account but in my heart I couldn't give this wonderful series anything less than the full five. Whatever your view of the picture quality (and despite my criticisms many won't notice a problem) this is the complete Bilko and for that we must be immensely grateful to the British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society for lobbying for this for so long. Time to start the campaign for a 4k blu-ray release.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2014
I almost cried when I saw this was being released. More to the point, my faith in humanity was restored! The PHIL SILVERS SHOW (also known as YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH; also also known as SGT. BILKO, or just plain BILKO to fans) was voted the greatest sitcom of all time by the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy in 2003, and no less an authority than Larry David (creator of SEINFELD and HBO's CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM) declared it his favorite television show ever.
BILKO ran for 4 glorious seasons (from 1955 to 1959), garnered 3 consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Comedy Series, and had a healthy life in syndication for decades. It transformed Phil Silvers and Nat Hiken into household names and TV icons, and made overnight celebrities of Paul Ford, Joe E. Ross and Maurice Gosfield to boot. It showcased American sports legends like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Red Barber, and was one of television's very first shows to feature an integrated, multi-racial cast. Among the stellar writing staff were Leonard Stern, whose impressive TV credits include The JACKIE GLEASON SHOW and GET SMART, and a certain promising future playwright named Neil Simon. BILKO gave TV audiences their first taste of up-and-coming performers like Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, Harvey Lembeck, Allan Melvin, Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, Charlotte Rae, Dody Goodman, Julie Newmar, Tina Louise, Alan Alda, Bea Arthur, Bill Dana, Larry Storch, Morey Amsterdam, Irwin Corey, Bob Hastings and George Kennedy. (A pre-famous James Earl Jones can be clearly seen in the episode "Operation: Love" from 1958, five years before his 1963 movie debut in DR. STRANGELOVE. An uncredited Robert Morse can be glimpsed as one of the Schmill University linemen in "Bilko Goes to College," long before his breakout roles in The LOVED ONE and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS, and Dick Cavett appears fleetingly as an extra in "Bilko's Godson.") It also served as inspiration for a host of copycat shows, from TOP CAT (aka BOSS CAT in the UK) to McHALE'S NAVY. President Eisenhower numbered himself among the millions of fans who never missed an episode. (Ike reportedly had prints of BILKO delivered from the studio to the White House whenever pressing national business deprived him of catching the broadcast!) In its heyday it was a merchandising bonanza in the US: Bilko's famous dimpled smile adorned comic books, LP records, board games, joke books, coloring books, slide puzzles, holster sets and more, and spawned a truly memorable series of print ads for the show's American sponsors, Camel cigarettes and Amana refrigerators. It was a very big deal, indeed.
There are two long-standing myths concerning this series that really need to be put to bed. First, there seems to be a consensus across the pond that BILKO is forgotten in America and only appreciated elsewhere, particularly in the UK. That's not completely true, however; certainly not among us culturally literate-type Yanks. (We also love vintage Brit classics like The GOON SHOW and STEPTOE & SON!) There may be a few dullards with short memories (and even shorter attention spans) who turn up their noses at it, and many young people have either never seen it or are more familiar with the sorry 1996 Steve Martin rehash. But I've never heard any knowledgeable person deny its status as a classic, occupying the same Golden Age pantheon as Sid Caesar's YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, The JACK BENNY PROGRAM, The HONEYMOONERS and I LOVE LUCY. BILKO has even returned to local airwaves recently, most notably on MeTV, and Silvers has always been revered as a legendary Burlesque and Broadway star. Not to be judgmental, but this needs to be said: he was certainly treated better at home than the shoddy way Benny Hill was in his final years. Silvers' iconic voice and mannerisms are still imitated in animated cartoons to this day. (Silvers was well aware of his popularity in the UK and took great pride in the fact, according to his daughters. As a tip-of-the-hat to his British fans, he would occasionally ad-lib little "Britishisms" into Bilko's dialogue. A self-described Anglophile, Silvers was reportedly delighted that his official Appreciation Society was based in the UK.)
Also, according to popular legend, The PHIL SILVERS SHOW supposedly jumped the shark in the 3rd and 4th Seasons when Nat Hiken left the series for health reasons (and to create CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?) and the platoon relocated from Kansas to California. This is rubbish, however. I just rewatched the later seasons, back-to-back and in sequence. It's true there's an illogical character arc/role-reversal concerning Cpl. Henshaw, but that's virtually the ONLY misstep in an otherwise sure-footed and outstanding series. The show remained to the end as sharp and fast-paced as ever, with MANY classic episodes characterizing its final years.
Personally, I've been waiting for this one for a long time. (My own favorite episode is #44, a gem from Season 2 called "Doberman's Sister." Fair warning: you'll never forget the ending - no matter how hard you try!) Thank you, Mediumrare Entertainment and Shout! Factory, for making this permanently available to longtime fans, and to a whole new generation to discover and savor. There IS hope for Mankind after all!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2014
Congratulations to those who have reviewed this before it was released. Then again, you kind of know what you are getting in terms of quality of content. Mine arrived yesterday. 20 discs covering four seasons and bonus extras which, though I haven't yet watched include: Keep in Step (The Lost Footage), Phil Silvers' last interview with Sonny Fox (extended version), PS on the Paul Ryan Show, Bilko on Parade (BBC Documentary) etc. There's a nice 32 page booklet too.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2014
I remember watching this as a kid on TV and loving it, so I recently bought the complete season 1. Fantastic! Looked on Amazon to see if there was any further seasons available, but only saw the anniversary edition, which I believe are selected episodes from those further seasons, plus extras. I was just about to order it when I saw the complete collection advertised to pre-order. This was surprising, because I also read somewhere that they were not going to release any more seasons. If that was true, then obviously they have relented, maybe to public demand. Reading the viewers comments also gave me the impression that the distributor has done a good job on this and we will get the whole lot and extras too. Like me, this is sure to please all Bilko fans. Can't wait!