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FRASIER: COMPLETE SERIES (DVD)

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FrasiercoverGrade: A-
Entire family: Yes, but . . .
1993-2004, 5,895 min. (263 episodes), Color
Rated TV-PG (mostly for innuendo)
CBS/Paramount
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Featured audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Includes: 44 discs in two sturdy plastic cases w/cardboard slipcase
Bonus features: C+
Amazon link

Modern Family may be King of the American Sitcoms now, but in the ‘90s it was Frasier, a spin-off from the popular sitcom Cheers starring Kelsey Grammer as a pompous but endearing psychologist who reveled in his intellect and haute culture tastes, but also yearned to be “one of the guys.” Frasier won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series for each of its first five seasons and continued to win Emmys in other categories for all of its 11 seasons—though it wasn’t a runaway hit with audiences. Its best showing came with Season 6, when Frasier finished as the #3 most watched TV show in America, behind Friends and ER.

In Boston’s Cheers bar, Grammer made arrogance endearing as he played a good-but-jilted doctor who hung out with a dim-witted Iowa bartender, a narcissistic ex-ballplayer, a know-it-all mailman, and an overweight, professional barfly. Sometimes you laughed with him, while at other times (most of the time, actually) the humor came at the doctor’s expense—a book smarts vs. street smarts face-off. In Seattle, fresh from a divorce from his domineering wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), Frasier found a fresh start as a Dr. Phil-style radio psychologist and acquired a new hangout: Café Nervosa, where he and equally effete brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) would indulge their cappuccino tastes and parade their knowledge in front of a generally apathetic public.

FrasierscreenThe show, with chapter tiles that played with puns, had two main sets. The first was KACL-Radio, where Frasier dispensed his psychiatric bromides and producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) was a perfect “give it a rest” foil to his pompous side. Obnoxious sportscaster Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe (Dan Butler) took him down a few more pegs with his cuts and practical jokes, and restaurant critic Gil Chesterton (Patrick Kerr) was the uncomfortable mirror that showed reflections of what Frasier might be like without such irreverent and frequent shots to keep him grounded. Much of the at-work time is spent with Frasier talking to unseen call-ins with a host of problems, and much of the fun for fans is watching the end-credits to see what famous celebrities posed as the callers from week to week.

At home, the brandy-oriented Frasier met his match with his blue-collar dad (John Mahoney), a Ballantine-loving ex-cop who walks with a limp and has a live-in therapist, a Brit named Daphne (Jane Leeves). With dad and son facing off and Daphne offering her humorous third-party, third-culture take on things, it made for more dry humor. And Niles visited so often that it felt as if the four of them lived—and bantered—there. His epic crush on Daphne and the brothers’  sibling rivalry and sharp contrast with their down-to-earth dad became series-long storylines.   More

Don Rickles sitcom C.P.O. SHARKEY debuts on DVD May 19

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CPO SharkeyThe ’70s sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey, starring acerbic comedian Don Rickles, comes to DVD for the first time on May 19 when Time Life releases The Complete First Season.

Rickles, a stand-up comic nicknamed “Mr. Warmth” because of his politically incorrect insult humor, plays U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, a sharp-tongued veteran in charge of a company of new seaman recruits on a San Diego naval base. C.P.O.  Sharkey was a satirical look at Navy life and the perfect vehicle for the abrasive Rickles, who served in the Navy during WWII. The cast of “recruits” includes an African American (Jeff Hollis), a Jew (David Landsberg), an Italian American (Barry Pearl), a Puerto Rican (Richard Beauchamp), and a Pole (Tom Ruben). Though the men of Company 144 were bunglers and blockheads, they were his bunglers and blockheads, and if you looked past the insults Sharkey was a softie who’d do anything for his men.

SharkeyscreenFifteen Season 1 episodes are included, and this season Sharkey quells a boot camp mutiny, serves as marriage counselor for a disruptive new recruit, and goes to Tijuana to bail out his guys (who were thrown in jail for cheering the bull at a bullfight). Total runtime is 374 minutes and the DVD has an SRP of $29.99—though it’s currently selling at Amazon for $26.98.

Will Rickles humor work for a new generation? That’s hard to say. The series only ran for two seasons, but it was written and produced by Aaron Ruben, who had previously worked on The Andy Griffith Show, Sanford and Son, and Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C.  Could it have been a case of bad timing? Possibly. America’s involvement in the Vietnam War had ended just three years before Season 1 of C.P.O. Sharkey debuted on NBC. Maybe the public had had enough of all things military.

Aside from the uncut episodes, the DVD will include a special bonus feature:  a legendary ’70s clip from The Tonight Show featuring Johnny Carson storming the C.P.O. Sharkey set during filming, in retaliation for Rickles accidentally breaking Carson’s cigarette box while a guest on the show several days earlier.