Box Set Saturday: Groucho, Dark Angel and Barnaby Jones

Box Set Saturday is going strong, though I have been remiss in reporting our trips down memory lane. But I’m back and let’s dive in to last night’s goodies.

We began with the Buddy Ebsen / Quinn Martin folksy detective series Barnaby Jones. Disc 2 of the First Season begins with “The Murdering Class.” Like so many plots from the era, this one revolved around a spoiled, rich kid at a prep school whose exam cheating scam is threatened by an accidental death. Nerdy Paul (aka Wally from The Brady Brides) gets into a struggle with the headmistress’s (Geraldine Page) ex-alcoholic brother while trying to steal the test answers for the coming finals. The guy hits his head, dies (rather easily) and the boys cover the crime by making it look like he was a drunken thief who drove off a cliff.

It’s up to Barnaby and his smooth, down-home ways, to prove that a) the brother was murdered, b) the tennis coach didn’t do it, c) the boys are responsible for the death and the frame up. It all comes down to a disappearing / reappearing Wimbledon button and then the weak link folds under the pressure.

A solid outing for Barnaby, but without a single second of Lee Meriwether, how sad.

Next up is Dark Angel: Season Two, Episode 1 — “Designate This.” I own only Season Two of this series because it’s part of my Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) collection. A few weeks ago, we watched “Gill Girl” and my husband was so intrigued and confused, he voted we go back to the beginning of the season and watch them in order.

“Designate This” is a setup episode. It introduces the old plot (Max escaped from Manticore, was recaptured and her love Logan can’t stop searching for her even though she’s probably dead), and the new characters. Jensen Ackles joins up as charming X-5 Alec and Kevin Durand dons the mask and wig to play dog-boy Joshua. The less-than-perfect mutant mixes play a big part in the second season, since Max sets them all free at the end of the episode.

With all the plot points and new characters, “Designate This” isn’t one of my favorites of the season, but it’s kind of a necessary evil if you want to understand what’s going on going forward.

If you’re a fan of the second season, pick up the two tie-in novels Skin Game and After the Dark, they tie up a lot of the loose ends that were left after the final episode and give you more Max, Logan, Alec, Joshua and the whole mutant gang.

Finally, with the evening dwindling, we turned to one of our favorite filler DVDs, You Bet Your Life: The Lost Episodes.

Groucho Marx hosted this game show for eleven years on TV and even more years if you include his radio run. Of course, calling is a game show, doesn’t really describe it. On each episode, two or more couples come on to the stage to play the game, but first they have to survive an interview with Groucho. He interrupts, makes jokes, smokes incessantly and leers lasciviously at every lovely lass. About half the contestants get too flustered to speak. Another quarter simply plow forward regardless while the rare few get Groucho back with jabs of their own.

Watching Groucho adlib is fun on its own, but the producers of the series did an excellent job choosing and preparing the guests prior to airing. Some have unusual occupations, famous relatives or have accomplished an amazing feat of their own. You wouldn’t believe that housekeeping could be so funny, until you hear Groucho talk about it with a blushing, newlywed bride.

The episodes we watched were from 1956 and 1958. The best episode had Ernie Kovacs facing off with Groucho in what can only be described as a sharp-witted duel of words.

After the interview portion, the couples play You Bet Your Life where they have to answer trivia questions in order to win a cash prize. The rules and the prizes change slightly from year to year, but some go home with $1,000 in their pockets. Not bad for 1958.

What’s amazing is how knowledgeable people were in regard to history, geography, literature — you know, the stuff you learn in school. I consider myself well read and I miss half the questions, especially ones like “what state is directly west of Missouri?” So much for my college education.

That’s it for this week’s box set Saturday. Did you watch any old TV on DVD this week? Tell us about it in the comments below and maybe I’ll add that to our list for next week.

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