July 29, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES II, III & IV • Page 19 Television comics headline new collection by Dennis Seuling Television has provided a showcase for some excellent comedians from the early years of the medium with Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, and Sid Caesar, to such later comic talents as Carol Burnett and the casts of “All in the Family” and “Seinfeld.” Comedy has always been a primary attraction for viewers, whether in the antics of the larcenous Sergeant Bilko, the misadventures of a group of pals in New York City, or tales of a young movie star and his posse in Hollywood. “Comic Legends” (MPI Home Video) is a four-disc box set focusing on the work of a quintet of TV comics, whose styles range from vaudeville to slick, street-smart observations. The first disc, “Dick Van Dyke: In Rare Form,” showcases the star of the self-named, top-rated series performing many of his earliest routines on variety and panel shows. The bits include “Babysitting Father,” “Mailing a Letter on a Windy Corner,” “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “The Pet Cat,” and “The Tennis Champ.” You can see the influence of Chaplin, Marcel Marceau, and Stan Laurel as the long and lanky Van Dyke incorporates pantomime and exaggerated facial expressions to milk laughs. “Phyllis Diller: Not Just a Pretty Face” features one of the first female standup comics who turned up frequently on 1960s variety shows. Here, in get-ups that can best be described as retro Norma Desmond, she is seen delivering some of her best-known routines on relationships. Dean Martin and Don Rickles are on hand to exchange roastlike barbs. “Tim Conway: Timeless Comedy” features rare standup performances, not seen in over 40 years, by the “Carol Burnett Show” cast member. This disc includes guest appearances by Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, and Steve Lawrence. The final disc in the set, “Redd Foxx & Groucho Marx,” contains a double bill of old-school comedy recorded in front of a studio audience. Foxx, in a performance taped shortly before his hit series, “Sanford and Son,” debuted, riffs on poverty, race relations, the Vietnam War, and more. Groucho, complete with his trademark cigar and deadpan delivery, interviews audience members and answers questions with often hilarious impromptu observations about such classic Marx Brothers films as “A Night at the Opera” and “Duck Soup.” Bonus extras include a Phyllis Diller appearances on the quiz show “What’s My Line?” and in a soap commercial, an episode of the 1959 Dick Van Dyke show “Laugh Line,” and a Tim Conway appearance with Joan Crawford on the 1960s variety show “The Hollywood Palace.” “Agatha Christie: Poirot & Marple” (A&E Home Entertainment) is manna for mystery lovers. This 17-disc box set contains 21 full-length episodes featuring two of Christie’s best-known detectives, the Belgian fussbudget Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) and the indomitable elderly Englishwoman Miss Jane Marple (Joan Hickson). The 12 Poirot episodes feature lavish settings, distinguished supporting casts, and wonderful period details. Miss Marple, an amateur sleuth and crime stopper, uses her intuition to discover clues, reading people’s personalities and snooping around to solve mysteries. Both characters have been played successfully on the big screen by others. Peter Ustinov was a delightfully quirky Poirot, and Margaret Rutherford starred in a series of British films as the no-nonsense Miss Marple. It’s to the credit of Suchet and Hickson that they manage to make the characters their own. Given the luxury of developing their characters through a series of well produced episodes, both actors take full advantage of the opportunity to maximize and enrich their portrayals. Hickson was Christie’s personal choice to play Marple. These shows have been available in one form or another previously, but this collection -- called a “megaset” – is a gem. Extras include biographies of Agatha Christie, Joan Hickson, and David Suchet; complete indices of all the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple stories; and a bio of the fictional Miss Marple. Shout! Factory has released several TV episode box sets of shows that aired during the 1960s and 1970s. “Peyton Place,” based on the bestselling potboiler by Grace Met- Phyllis Diller and Groucho Marx are featured in ‘Comic Legends.’ alious, began airing twice a week in 1964 on ABC. It was the first serialized primetime soap opera. Mia Farrow, Ryan O’Neal, Dorothy Malone, and Barbara Parkins starred, but the extensive supporting cast included Leslie Nielsen, Ruth Warrick, Mariette Hartley, Lee Grant, John Kerr, Wilfred Hyde-White, Gena Rowlands, Diana Hyland, Ruby Dee, and Barbara Rush. The series is available in Parts 1 and 2, each set containing five discs. “That Girl: Season Five,” the last season of this popular sitcom starring Marlo Thomas, portrayed preparations for the wedding of Ann Marie (Thomas) and Donald Hollinger (Ted Bessell). In a September 1970 episode, the characters became engaged, but the marriage was never shown. 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