The Donna Reed Show: It Won’t Hold Up
The Donna Reed Show aired on ABC from 1958 to 1966. While it was a historical touchstone for the American sitcom, it is a snapshot of a time between societal movements. Starting as the initial Post WWII boom was waning and ending before Youth Culture exploded, this show could never exist again. The naivete produced week after week can’t find a foothold with knowledge changes even 6 months after the show ended. What hope does it have past that point?
The series is notorious for having been cut up, repackaged and altered to suit the growing needs of television markets. Thankfully, MPI has captured the original music and openings for the earlier shows.
When you cover a release like this, most of the fan attention goes towards the special features. You get the vintage promotional spots, classic TV tributes and rare footage. There are new featurettes and interviews with the surviving cast members. It’s enough to keep your parents busy for ages. Well, the older readers’ parents.
I’m thoroughly impressed by these MPI TV releases they keep popping out. However, I’m starting to wonder about the natural audience appeal. When you hit a certain point beyond the existence of a TV show, the audience appeal diminishes. While The Donna Reed Show helped get the modern sitcom started, it’s been out of circulation for a generation outside of METV. Regardless of how you feel about over the air channels, that’s not exactly defining entertainment for new viewers.
In that sense, The Donna Reed Show takes on historical importance. It becomes less entertainment and more academic pursuit. If you believe that, then the MPI release is a stunner. However, the casual viewer will struggle getting past the first disc. That’s why I can only recommend it to Donna Reed fans that are already onboard with the show.
Also, it’s said that the show lasted five seasons but it was on the air for 8 years. Not totally sure what happened there, but I would love for a reader to give me the history on it.