A highly popular series that started as a radio show on NBC in the late 40's and early 50's, "Father Knows Best" made its TV premiere in October of 1954 and ran until September 17, 1960, when star Robert Young departed to work on other projects. The series starred Young (who also voiced the role in the radio show version) as Jim Anderson, an insurance salesman who did his best to try to take care of his sunny, rather idyllic family - housewife Margaret (Jane Wyatt) and children James "Bud" Anderson, Jr. (Billy Gray), Betty "Princess" Anderson (Elinor Donahue) and Kathleen "Kitten" Anderson (Lauren Chaplin).
Each week, the series saw Jim trying to assist whenever one of the family members was going through a 50's-style sitcom crisis (football tickets, Jim worrying that Betty is going to elope, being stranded in the woods during Christmas, buying a mink coat they can't afford and the kids slacking off on their chores.
The series may look understandably dated at this point, but the show's ability to deliver morals without seeming too corny or overly heavy-handed does allow it to continue to appeal as a "throwback" today. The show's writing and acting also impress, with Young terrific in the lead role. The cast had excellent chemistry with one another, but Young's fine timing and presence really cemented his status as one of TV's classic parents. Fans should be thrilled that not only is the first season set available, but sets for the remaining seasons are in the works.
1. 1- 1 3 Oct 54 Bud Takes Up the Dance
2. 1- 2 10 Oct 54 Lesson in Citizenship
3. 1- 3 17 Oct 54 The Motor Scooter
4. 1- 4 24 Oct 54 Football Tickets
5. 1- 5 31 Oct 54 Live My Own Life
6. 1- 6 7 Nov 54 Grandpa Jim's Rejuvenation
7. 1- 7 14 Nov 54 Bud's Encounter With the Law
8. 1- 8 21 Nov 54 Thanksgiving Day
9. 1- 9 28 Nov 54 Second Honeymoon
10. 1-10 5 Dec 54 Typical Father
11. 1-11 12 Dec 54 Margaret Goes Dancing
12. 1-12 19 Dec 54 The Christmas Story
13. 1-13 26 Dec 54 Sparrow in the Window
14. 1-14 2 Jan 55 Boy's Week
15. 1-15 9 Jan 55 A Friend of Old George's
16. 1-16 16 Jan 55 Bud the Snob
17. 1-17 23 Jan 55 The Promised Playhouse
18. 1-18 30 Jan 55 Jim the Farmer
19. 1-19 6 Feb 55 Father of the Year
20. 1-20 13 Feb 55 The Mink Coat
21. 1-21 20 Feb 55 The Matchmaker
22. 1-22 27 Feb 55 Bud the Bridesmaid
23. 1-23 6 Mar 55 Proud Father
24. 1-24 13 Mar 55 Father Delivers the Papers
25. 1-25 20 Mar 55 No Partiality
26. 1-26 27 Mar 55 Close Decision
VIDEO: The episodes are presented by Shout Factory in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Considering the fact that this is a show that originally began airing in the mid-50's, image quality is pleasing. The picture appeared moderately soft throughout, although not unreasonably so (and I can only guess that broadcast quality was reasonably similar.)
Some instances of wear-and-tear are seen on the elements used - some specks here, a few marks there. Mild grain is also spotted throughout many scenes. No edge enhancement was seen, but some light artifacting was spotted on a few occasions. Colors looked really, really subdued...probably because the show is presented in black & white.
SOUND: The episodes are presented with their original mono soundtracks. The audio is of satisfactory quality (especially considering the age of the series), but a little TLC may have made a positive difference. There is some mild-to-moderate hiss in the background throughout most of the running time, but this isn't too considerable a distraction. Music sounds rather tinny and flat, but again - it's to be expected for a show from this era. Dialogue actually comes across sounding best, as speech remains crisper and warmer than the rest of the audio.
EXTRAS: The first DVD offers up an enjoyable interview with Lauren Chaplin and Elinor Donahue, who played Betty and Kathy Anderson. The second disc boasts a couple of real treats for fans of the series - Robert Young's Home Movies (narrated by his grandson, Bill Profitt) and rare color "home movies" from the set (also narrated by Profitt.)
We also get 2 additional "episodes", starting with "24 Hours in Tyrantland", which was commissioned by the government for the purpose of selling treasury bonds. "Tyrantland" is located on the third disc, while the fourth disc offers "Window on Main Street", the long-lost pilot episode of Robert Young's next series after "Father Knows Best".
Final Thoughts: Sweet without being sappy, "Father Knows Best" remains a delightful series years later. While the show looks dated, solid performances and writing manage to make it a fun throwback to another era. The DVD presentation offers adequate audio/video quality, but there are some great extras included. Recommended.