|Does the new Best of The Danny Kaye Show DVD really contain the series' best episodes?|
After a two-year wait, a second collection of episodes of The Danny Kaye Show are finallly about to be released on DVD. Come Oct. 7, The Best of The Danny Kaye Show will contain six episodes on two discs—three black-and-white shows from the first season and three color shows from seasons three and four.
Usually, those who put together any “Best of” collection aren’t overly concerned with selecting the absolute best. It’s a marketing ploy. They typically opt for the episodes or clips that are easiest to get the rights for (which explains why the “Best of Danny Kaye” VHS release of 20 years ago lacked third-party songs and big-name guest stars).
And, certainly, ease of rights issue must have been a factor with this new DVD. Nevertheless, the producers are indeed telling the truth: the release does feature the Best of The Danny Kaye Show.
Here’s what they chose:
Episode 1 (aired Sept. 25, 1963) Critics consider the premiere to be the finest episode in the history of the series. It guest-stars Jackie Cooper, short-lived co-star Lovelady Powell, and a terrific cameo by Jack Benny. Three baseball-themed versions of popular musicals (like My Fair Umpire) are the highlight, and Danny also does a sketch playing the “Nervous Guy,” which would become his first recurring character.
Episode 5 (aired Oct. 23, 1963) Even though this episode had a troubled production, with Lovelady Powell’s scenes all cut out and Michelle Lee stepping in to tape replacements, the installment is considered a minor classic. You can thank guest Gene Kelly, who works wonderfully with Kaye, performing “Ballin’ the Jack,” a medley, and Danny’s linguini recipe. Kaye, in drag, also introduces beauty expert Miss Schmeckenvasser—his second recurring character.
Episode 20 (aired Jan. 22, 1964) Another winner, the show—taped on Danny’s 53rd birthday and airing four days later—guest stars Art Carney (who was always at the top of his game during his three appearances on The Danny Kaye Show) and includes a Twilight Zone spoof featuring Rod Serling.
Episode 70 (Sept. 15, 1965) The episodes on the second disk (like most of the series’ third and fourth seasons) aren’t nearly as funny as earlier shows, but they’re always sunnier (few series gained as much from switching to color as did Kaye’s) and a notch above musically. Guest Harry Belafonte worked wonderfully with Danny, who seems particulary at ease—his old director returned to direct this one episode. It was so good that the five episodes taped before it were aired later in the season, so this one could be the season premiere.
Episode 83 (Jan. 5, 1966) Visits from Liza Minelli, Alan Young, and singer John Gary, whom Danny’s production company was grooming to host a variety show as Kaye’s summer replacement.
Episode 101 (Oct. 5, 1966) Danny hits it off with Ella Fitzgerald and performs one of his ethnic fairy tales, this one Irish: “Little Green Riding Hood.”
All in all, it would be difficult to pick six better episodes. That won’t stop me from trying. Next week, I’ll share six episodes that I’d love to see on the next Best of The Danny Kaye Show release.