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TV DVDS

Of talking horses and identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane

Boomer alert: The first seasons of 'Mister Ed' and 'The Patty Duke Show' get the DVD treatment.

September 30, 2009|Susan King

For baby boomers, revisiting TV series from their youth can be a daunting task.

Will the shows make one wax nostalgic for one's childhood or hang one's head in embarrassment? (Did anyone ever try to watch "The Flying Nun" as an adult?)

Thankfully, two vintage titles being released via Shout! Factory -- "The Patty Duke Show: The Complete First Season," out this week, and "Mister Ed: The Complete First Season," set for Oct. 6 -- pass the nostalgia test.

Neither comedy changed the face of television, but each was delightfully acted and boasted a great theme song.

Patty Duke got her own sitcom on ABC after winning an Oscar for supporting actress in 1963 for her haunting performance as Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker."

The comedy was created and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Sidney Sheldon ("The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), who would go on to create "I Dream of Jeannie" and write such bestsellers as "The Other Side of Midnight." The show revolved around a typical teenager, Patty Lane. She lived in Brooklyn Heights with her loving parents, housewife Natalie (Jean Byron) and newspaper editor Martin (William Schallert), and obnoxious brother Ross (Paul O'Keefe). Also residing with the Lanes was Patty's look-alike Scottish cousin, Cathy, who was as demure, sweet and brilliant as Patty was scattered, outgoing and struggling in her studies.

Still, the two frequently would try to confuse parents and friends, including Patty's lovable, goofy boyfriend, Richard (Eddie Applegate).

The plots were quite tame -- the opening episode of the first season finds Patty falling in love with her French teacher (Jean-Pierre Aumont) -- but it was the performers who were the stars, not the scripts. Duke, 16 when the show began, deftly created two distinct characters. And the affection between Patty and her parents, especially her father, often seem as real as if the actors were related. In fact, in a short documentary with the cast included on the DVD set, Duke says Schallert has felt like her father for the last 46 years.

After three seasons, the series said "bye-ee" -- Patty Lane's favorite expression -- on Aug. 31, 1966.

As for "Mister Ed," there's no denying it had one of the silliest premises around: A young married couple move into a rambling house only to discover the property's barn contains a Palomino named Mr. Ed who speaks -- but only to the very perplexed Wilbur Post (Alan Young). That gets him in a lot of hot water with his wife, Carol (Connie Hines), and neighbor Roger Addison (Larry Keating).

But just as with "The Patty Duke Show," the series worked because of the chemistry among the actors -- between Young and Hines and, of course, between Young and Mr. Ed (whose name in real life was Bamboo Harvester). Allan "Rocky" Lane, a former B western actor who had fallen on hard times, was the grumpily endearing voice of the horse.

"Mr. Ed" originally premiered in syndication in January 1961; that fall it moved to CBS, where it continued in prime time until 1965. It spent its last year out of prime time -- 5 p.m. Sundays.

As for the horse: Bamboo Harvester, who was born in 1949, began to suffer from kidney problems and arthritis at age 19 and went to that big corral in the sky in 1970.

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susan.king@latimes.com

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