THE DVD SHELF: "Perfect Understanding," Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last!," Political Thriller "House of Cards" and "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"

By Steven Suskin
30 Jun 2013

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Yes, "Dobie Gillis," starring Dwayne Hickman, includes a lot of quaint, small-town humor. But the show has something of an edge, and a sly one at that. To begin with, the episodes (in the first season, anyway) begin and end with Dobie in the park in front of a statue of Rodin's Thinker; Hickman sits there, brow wrinkled, mimicking the statue's pose. Funny, and clever. Dobie's loyal friend and confidant is Maynard G. Krebs, a teenaged beatnik who is indeed very beat and pretty much always amusing. (Taking a cue from Maynard, the typical sitcom background music often flies off into wild jazz licks.) So the series, despite its family trappings, never loses its sense of satire.

Current-day viewers are likely to do a double-take every time Maynard comes onscreen — at least initially — because Maynard is Gilligan. That's right, this off-kilter, jazz-obsessed, unconventional thinker is Bob Denver, who after the series ended got himself shipwrecked on a desert island on CBS. Hickman's wide-eyed innocence (masking his innocent lust for teenage girls) is perfectly matched by Denver's laid-back Maynard, who actually contributed a catchphrase ("You rang?") to the vernacular.

The four seasons spread across 21 DVDs contain numerous surprises. High among them is Dobie's enemy during the first season, the handsome, wealthy and conceited Milton Armitage. Just who is that ultra-handsome, ultra-suave, ultra-snarky jerk? Warren Beatty, that's who. (In the episode "Dobie Gillis, Boy Actor," Beatty does a very funny Brando-as-Stanley-Kowalski.) Also prominent is Tuesday Weld, as the money-grasping vamp Thalia Menninger, along with a host of now-familiar faces — plus many now-forgotten faces. Bonuses include sample episodes from "Love That Bob!" — the 1955-59 Bob Cummings sitcom that featured Hickman — and the early-50s "Stu Erwin Show," which featured Dobie's love interest Sheila James as a preteen).



(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes", "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)