Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wish List: The Next "Best of Danny Kaye Show" DVD

Any future Best of the Danny Kaye Show release would be wise to include a Louis Armstrong episode.

We're still a few weeks away from the release of The Best of The Danny Kaye Show DVD, featuring six terrific shows. But that's still not too early to begin planning for the next batch (assuming sales of the first set are strong, along the lines of the two Christmas shows released two years ago).

Here are the six shows I'd like to see on the next disk:

Episode 13 (originally aired Nov. 27, 1963) Similar to next month's initial "Best of" collection, I'd be content with one disk featuring three black-and-white episodes from the funnier first two seasons and three living-color episodes from the more musical last two seasons. I'd start out with this wonderful time capsule:  taped the night after JFK was assassinated. The emotion is real, with Danny bravely holding guest performer Mahalia Jackson and the rest of his team together.

Episode 29 (April 8, 1964) This episode is not only historic (featuring the first time Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors ever sings on TV), and nostalgic (Nabors is joined in a cameo by former co-star Andy Griffith), but it's also great fun. (Kaye plays Fat Daddy, a comically ruthless Southern tyrant in a spoof of The Long, Hot Summer, to such great effect, it became be a recurring character).

Episode 49 (Dec. 23, 1964) Season 2 featured the series' best Christmas show, marking the debut of Billy Barnes' classic "Waltz Around the Christmas Tree;" Danny reteaming with his favorite co-star, Gwen Verdon; and the first appearance of Victoria Paige Meyerink, the pint-sized sensation who would change the direction of the show. This is the episode where it all began. (If the DVD producers decide to save this gem for another special Christmas DVD, I'd happily substitute another Verdon classic, Episode 36, which features a stunning three-act musical spoof, Top Hat, White Tie, and Green Socks. Other solid choices are Episode 16 with Dick Van Dyke and Episode 42 with Lucille Ball, but those are among the few shows you can already find a bootlegged copy of, if you look hard enough.)

Episode 76 (Nov. 10, 1965) Whereas most of the musical guests in the first two seasons were featured interacting with Danny, starting with Season 3, younger pop singers and bands began to appear, whom Kaye would merely introduce and then get out of the way. This episode provides a nice balance, with Danny joining Freddie from Freddie & the Dreamers and soprano Marguerite Piazza in a special song Bernie Rothman wrote for—and about—the threesome. It also has a fun sketch with one of Danny's favorite characters, the shy, Brooklynese shoestore clerk, Jerome.

Episode 104 (Nov. 16, 1966) Louis Armstrong swings with Danny, and it's not just another "Five Pennies Saints"(which Satchmo would return a few weeks later to again perform).

Episode 119 (March 8, 1967) Besides Jerome, Danny's other favorite character from the series was a gentle, old Italian named Giovanni (featured in a sketch on the first Christmas with Danny Kaye DVD release from 2012). By the spring of 1967, the series was nearing the end of its run and the writers decided to send the character off in fine fashion, by devoting an entire hour to a five-act musical, "Giovanni's Wedding." The episode, which generated a record amount of fan mail, also has Danny breaking the news to his audience that the series was about to end.

Hopefully we won't have to wait another two years for the next DVD release!

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