Lost & Rare Television – Well Done!

Guest contributor Victoria Balloon writes:

As a writer, it’s always fun to discover something new. In this case, what’s new is actually old but that makes it even more fun. A new series has been released on DVD called Lost & Rare Film and TV Treasures. The first from the series to be released is Lost & Rare Vol. 1: Television Pilots—five half-hour shows featuring some serious Hollywood talent from the 1950s golden age of television. For those who don’t know, a pilot is a sample episode shown to a potential sponsor or aired on a network to test audience response.

It’s hard to say which pilot is the biggest treasure—Maggie, featuring a 23-year-old Margret O’Brien in her fourth appearance with Leon Ames as her fictional father? Meet McGraw, with Frank Lovejoy delivering a snappy film noir tight enough to be a movie? The shaggy and bumbling Munroe is utterly unlike the suave Lassie and is a foretaste of other military/buddy sitcoms. Ed Wynn is also a bit shaggy and bumbling, which is what makes The Ed Wynn Show so appealing.

And when I’m in a certain mood, I want to watch a show that I know will have a happy ending. Jane Powell’s films are excellent in that capacity and The Jane Powell Show lost pilot, in which Powell plays a performer-turned-professor’s wife who still manages to pull off two musical numbers, didn’t let me down. What a treat!

Here’s a rundown on the content of Lost & Rare Vol. 1: Television Pilots:

Munroe
(1963)  25 min. — Unsold, unaired and lost but funny pilot about a lovable army K-9 Corp mutt who tangles with a cat and a lion loose on an army base.  Cast includes veteran TV faces Guy Marks, Jan Stine, Joan Freeman, James Flavin and Sig Ruman.

Meet McGraw
(1954)  29 min. — Episode of Four Star Playhouse shown on Feb. 25, 1954 stars Frank Lovejoy as a hard-hitting private eye.  A beautiful woman (Audrey Totter) hires McGraw as her bodyguard when she claims that her gangster husband plans to kill her.  Terrific script with clever plot twists.  Although not intended as a pilot, the popular character spun off into the 1957-58 series Meet McGraw (aka The Adventures of McGraw) with Lovejoy in the title role.

Jane Powell

The Jane Powell Show
(1961)  32 min. — Pilot for an unsold Four Star TV series starring the great Jane Powell in a situation comedy about a big city actress-singer who marries a math professor (Russell Johnson, the Professor on Gilligan’s Island) and tries to fit into his professional life at small town Redwood College.  Directed by Rod Amateau.

Maggie
(1957)  30 min. — Pilot about married actors (Leon Ames and Fay Baker) and their clever teenage daughter (Margaret O’Brien) who move from Manhattan to suburban Connecticut and clash with their new neighbors.  Filmed in 1957, this episode aired on Aug. 30, 1960as part of a CBS summer series, The Comedy Spot, that ran unsold pilots. Produced by George Burns and directed by Rod Amateau, with original commercials.

The Ed Wynn Show
(1958)  33 min. — Amiable situation comedy starring beloved comedian Ed Wynn, who had pioneered a TV variety show in 1949-50, years before this pilot.  At the conclusion Ed address the home audience on a soundstage about his new career move and hopes for this series, which sadly only ran for 16 episodes.

This Lost & Rare DVD collection shows both actors and television in transition, adjusting to a medium only a decade old. Meet McGraw became a series and The Ed Wynn Show ran for a short season, but whether because of difficulties with scripts or behind the scenes conflicts of contracts and management, the other pilots never made it on the small screen. These are the ones most fun to watch and wonder why they were never picked up. Were audiences unwilling to see a grown-up Margaret O’Brien not shedding tears? Was McGraw too seedy and sexy for his time slot? Munroe unable to secure the Ken-L Ration dog food sponsorship?

The Lost & Rare Film and TV Treasures were compiled and released by Festival Films. The uniqueness of these films and the clarity of the prints really make me wonder what other lost and rare treasures are tucked away in the attic. I have a feeling they will surprise us; although in truth, I’ve already been told about the next release in this series: Lost & Rare, Vol. 2: Sports Immortals, which features rare glimpses of Babe Ruth, Joe Louis and so many more.

If you think you already know television and film, Lost & Rare will be a series to watch!

Victoria Balloon is a writer, classic film enthusiast and pop-culture pundit. In addition to knitting small appliances, Victoria is currently involved in helping to bring back the Matinee At The Bijou TV series in an HD sequel to be hosted by Debbie Reynolds. Her insightful articles can be found at the Matinee At The Bijou website.

  • http://bitactors.blogspot.com/ Bitactor Blogger

    Although I haven’t seen these pilots,I think it is great that they exist. So many of the old television shows have been lost forever by the shortsightedness of the networks. I would imagine that pilots were filmed, so the quality is probably much better than the kinescopes of the early “Honeymooners” or other shows.

    Thanks for the review.

  • Bernard

    Talking about “lost” television shows, I wonder what happened to those episodes of “The Julie Andrews
    Hour (?) or Show “, I remember she did that show not too long after the phenomenal success of
     “Sound of Music” or was it after the big flop of “Star!” ?  Either way, her TV show was in color and it had many big name guest stars all doing wonderful song and dance numbers….what company
    owns the video rights ? How come there are no DVDs available ? 

    • Jimg

      Type your comment here.Yes, Bernard – I am with you 100 %. I rememeber the show. It was in 1973. She had guest stars like Donald O’Connor and Peter Ustinov. She ended each show singing “Time is My Friend”. I would also like to have these shows on DVD. The series was cancelled but won many Emmy Awards.

      • Madmanny

         For Bernard and Jimg: There is a 23-episode DVD set of the Julie Andrews Hour being offered on the website “ioffer.” Do a search for “Julie Andrews Hour” and “DVD set.” They are selling them for $25.50.

  • JTWynne

    There is something eternally glorious about the act of discovery.  Whether it be finding a lost $20 bill, unearthing a family secret, or realizing that you have a hidden talent, the rush of adrenaline that accompanies such a revelation is always something to be cherished.  And for fans of old television programs such as those showcased in this wonderful collection of lost and rare television pilots, there is an entertainment treasure chest of delights to be enjoyed.

    Perusing the list of programs on Lost & Rare Film and TV Treasures Vol. 1 is an enticing enterprise which begs the question “what to watch first?”  Is it cute little Margaret O’Brien–that genus of a child actress–all grown up; or perhaps perennial tough guy Frank Lovejoy as a noirish private eye?  I love Ed Wynn’s bumbling, so that might be my first choice, depending on my mood.

    It is surprise collections like this one that are a classic film collector’s dream.  Surprising because chances are you didn’t know these shows existed, and because someone cared enough to package them so that they might be enjoyed.

    I love this kind of stuff. 

    • Nightbeatfan

       Frank Lovejoy played the lead role in Night Beat a great radio show that only ran two years. It’s worth looking for on line are when it occasionally airs on XM/Sirius satellite radio Radio Classics channel 82.

  • Roger Lynn

    wish they would release SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS,,Richard Dean Anderson,and River Phoenix

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713983697 Gordon S. Jackson

    I remember one of my favourite sitcoms of the day, “Meet Millie” starring Florence Halop, Marvin Kaplan and Elena Verdugo used to air Tuesday’s at 9:00 on CBS.  I would love to re-view an old episode just to see how it stands up.  Ditto the one-season, Sunday at 10:00 pm “Appointment With Adventure.”  Regretfully, they both went out live so if still around they would only be stored on those inferior kinescopes.  

    Another fine series, which was filmed so should be retrievable is “Navy Log”, first airing on CBS and then moving to ABC.  That one I would love to see uncovered.  

    • Madmanny

       For “Navy Log,” try the website for Nostalgia Merchant. They are selling a 16-episode set for $19.95.

    • dog888k

      Someone in another oldTV site asked about Meet Millie, and the answer was that only two episodes of it exist on kinescope.     

  • GrizzledGeezer

    There are more-recent series I’d like to see. One is “Bakersfield PD”, a Truly Weird police “comedy”.

    Another is “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe”, a Stephen J Cannell series with Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum (before he became famous). One of the highlights of each episode was Goldblum reading passages from noirish novels by his favorite writer (whose dust-jacket photo was, of course, of Cannell). It was one of those rare series where the episodes were better than the pilot. It lasted only a few months. Cannell later recycled the series’ basic idea in “white bread” form as “Hardcastle and McCormick”, which ran a few seasons.

    • Madmanny

       I couldn’t find a DVD set of Bakersfield PD, but the complete Tenspeed series is all over ebay. Selling in the low to mid $20′s.

      • GrizzledGeezer

        Unfortunately, the Tenspeed set does not include the two-hour pilot. CBS apparently holds the rights to it, and would not realease it.

  • Wade

    would like to see an old series called Decoy with Beverly Garland as a police woman

    • em

      Some of the episodes of Beverly Garland’s show are public domain and can be downloaded at archive.org

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713983697 Gordon S. Jackson

      There is a DECOY DVD with four or so episodes on it out there somewhere.  The quality isn’t great but it is quite watchable.

    • Madmanny

       Regarding “Decoy”:  Alpha Video issued five volumes (four episodes in each volume) a few years ago. So you could get 20 episodes there. You may want to check Alpha’s website for a possible purchase. Timeless TV also issued 10 episodes in a 2-disc set.

  • Karenh540

    I would like to see some of the early tv shows such as My Little Margie and I Married Joan.

    • Madmanny

      You may want to check the website for Nostalgia Merchant, which has 24-episode DVD sets of  “I Married Joan,” “My Little Margie,” and “The Gale Storm Show.” 

    • Karenh540

      Thank you.  I just went on their website and bought 24 episodes of each along with 12 episodes of Your Hit Parade.

  • Terry Peters

    What about “My Little Margie?”  It starred Gale Storm and Charles Farrell!

  • Ursorson

    Wish they would release the pilot The Ginger Rogers Show and all of The Debbie Reynolds Show plus Debbie’s TV specials

  • Bob

    In checking Amazon this DVD is not available.  Does anyone know where to purchase it?

    • Ron Hall

      You read this article at Movies Unlimited’s “Movie Fanfare” section, and you will find that the DVD is available from Movies Unlimited!  You can also find it at Amazon under “Lost and Rare TV Pilots.”

  • Nick

    The television series “Spenser for Hire” is one of the best series ever, and it’s not available anywhere. That’s a great “lost” tv show that needs to be found!

    • Madmanny

       “Spenser” IS available from several video websites. Do a search for “Spenser for Hire DVD set” and you will find a number of sites selling the complete 3-season series. I see a few sites are selling the whole series for anywhere from $40 to $50.

  • Grace A.

    I would love to see the TV series, East Side West Side starring George C. Scott, come out on DVD.  I think there were only 2 seasons (maybe only 1 season) – it was social commentary ahead of its time.

  • Hodge

    Ozzy’s girls was good. It’s a man’s world, Happy, Maya, MR. Ed, Cleo, Out of this world, Kung fu+-, Daktari, The avengers, The Champions, Cro, Corg.  And many more.

  • Jbn321

    I’m still looking for CD’s with episodes of “December Bride”.  Does anyone know where “DB” is available?  And, has anyone heard if the remaining years of “Marcus Welby, MD” will be released and when?  Thanks!

    • Madmanny

       Once again, try the Nostalgia Merchant. They are selling 24 episodes of “December Bride” for $36.95. Go on their website and you’ll find it.

    • Frex59

      My biography of VERNA FELTON contains a 100-page episode guide of December Bride with rare photos.  I have viewed almost all of the 157 episodes.  Hope you’ll check it out at http://www.bearmanormedia.com or order the book from Amazon, etc.

  • Leonard

    I would like to know if the Rod Taylor 80s TV spy series “Masquerade” is available on DVD I think there is only two seasons?

    • Madmanny

       A company called Unforgettable dvds is selling the Masquerade series on DVD. I see it’s on sale now for $31.95. Do a web search for “Masquerade DVD set” and you should probably find it.

    • hypatiab7

       And I want a copy of his tv series “Hong Kong” which was sort of taken from the movie “Soldier of Fortune”. Rod Taylor’s character was taken from Susan Hayward’s husband in the
      film played by Gene Barry. In the show, Lloyd Bochner played Michael Rennie’s role of the
      British police officer. Bochmer was perfect for the part. And, no doubt, seeing Taylor in “Hong Kong”,  “The Time Machine” and “The Birds” again will bring my old crush back to life.

  • Wbluemax

    I would like to see EMERALD POINT TV show.

  • Madmanny

     For those of you who are asking for all these old TV shows, you can sometimes find them available for sale if you’ll just do an internet search. Call up the name of the show and add the words “DVD” or “DVD set” and you might have good luck. It seems that someone always has these old TV shows. Some of them have never been on DVD, unfortunately, but now they are starting to turn up for viewing online.
     So yes, you DO have options!

  • GYSGTOFMARINESRET

    I Loved “Navy Log” and “Silent Service”.

  • Mountrath

    Brooklyn Bridge with Marion Ross. Excellent & never released on dvd.

  • dog888k

    I have been asking tvparty for years about when The Millionaire, The Nurses, Whirly Birds, and The Texas Wheelers are ever going to be out for us.  And Dick and the Duchess.   

  • dog888k

    Shame to CBS for not releasing 2 documentary series they showed back in the 50s and 60s: Air Power (the history of flight in the 20th century), and World War I (showed in 1964) They both had loads of old newsreel films of old planes flying and WWI flims, and both had great music tracks.  And why does CBS not release episodes of The 20th Century, narrated by Walter Cronkite.