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Anchor Bay presents
That Girl Vol. 1 (1966)

"She's tinsel on a tree... She's everything that every girl should be!"
- Theme song

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: April 28, 2001

Stars: Marlo Thomas, Ted Bessell
Other Stars: Lew Parker, Rosemary DeCamp
Director: Bob Sweeney, Saul Turteltaub, Hal Cooper, Richard Kinon, Russ Mayberry, James Frawley, Alan Rafkin

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild sexual content)
Run Time: 03h:49m:06s
Release Date: April 10, 2001
UPC: 013131133196
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B-B+ D-

DVD Review

Old sitcoms are great, aren't they? Every problem, no matter how serious, could always be solved in 24 minutes (plus commercials and wacky theme song). Every joke, no matter how lame, drew peels of annoying laughter from the "audience" (The Flintstones was the worst offender in this area - drawn in front of a live studio audience!). Why, who wouldn't want to tune in week after week to see the same plots rehashed by the same unchanging, cardboard cutout characters?

Once in a while, though, a show came along that changed things up, and actually deserved a few of the chortles on that laugh track. That Girl, which ran from 1966-1971) was such a show. It was revolutionary, for one - the first series to star an independent woman, free from the confines of the "man's world." Marlo Thomas played the titular girl, Ann Marie, a freethinking actress, living in New York and searching for a career (and not a man). Of course, because things couldn't get too radical, she did have a boyfriend, Don (Bessell), and much of the series focused on their relationship. True, it was the man looking to land a wife and not the other way around, but the sociological implications are still there. But methinks I'm treading too far into the area of "I just got done writing a 20-page paper on TV criticism," so I think I'll stop.

Social commentary aside, That Girl is, simply, an entertaining show. Right from the get go, Ann is a great character - spontaneous, scatterbrained, and intelligent. Don is no slouch either. Though Bessell has a tendency to overplay the part, he is very warm, with a great face for physical comedy. The two share a lot of chemistry as well, ala Sam and Diane. Fortunately, the creators were wise enough to keep them apart until the end of the series. That Girl trades the lowbrow, gag-oriented humor of '60s sitcoms for smart, character driven comedy that will keep you amused, if not wholly entertained.

This DVD contains nine "best of" episodes of the show, broken down into thematic units of three episodes each.

Oh, Donald: This section collects three episodes that prominently feature the courtship between Ann and Don.

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There

"I'm not a gum seller, I'm an actress!"
-Ann

The first episode aired, this one features the historic meeting of Ann and Don. They have a "meet cute" when they both try to buy the same piece of furniture. Later, Ann is shooting a commercial, and Don mistakes it for a kidnapping attempt and "rescues" her. Hilarity ensues. This is an entertaining episode, but the series definitely had yet to find its niche - far too prevalent are wacky sight gags and misunderstandings.

This one rates 3 mod daisies out of 5:





Anatomy of a Blunder

"If I've hated them, it's because they're dummies. And I don't see how this Donald is any different!"
-Lou

Another early show, this is probably the worst on the disc, but it still has a few laughs. Ann and Don are going to meet her parents, but first they decide to stop for a picnic. A series of mishaps, first with Don's contact, then with bees, then with the car, ensure that Don won't be making a good impression on Ann's father. Like the previous episode, this one is far to reliant on time-tested gags. Not only that, it spends far too much time setting them up. The car is stuck in the mud, and Don kneels behind it. Hmmm, do you think he'll be splashed with mud? I don't know, Davey!

Clunky writing earns this on 2.5 mod daisies:





Counter Proposal

"I think it's strange that a man that's supposed to love somebody hasn't even noticed that I'm wearing my hair completely differently."
-Ann

Watching this episode after the other show really illustrates how a program can mature in four years. This one aired during the last season; it's the lauded (and inevitable) proposal episode. Don gets a deal on an engagement ring for Ann, but then feels guilty about buying his beloved used baguettes. I appriciated the total lack of humerous misunderstandings in this episode. It is funny because both characters are going out of their way to make the other happy, but they still manage to mess things up.

4 baguettes and 4.5 mod daisies:





Auditions, Auditions, Auditions: This sections follows Ann as she pursues her dream of an acting career.

Call of the Wild

"Honey, you don't want a guy that understands everything you say, the next thing you know they'd be taking him out in a net!"
-Don

After landing a wholesome soap ad, Ann is worried that she doesn't have any sex appeal. Don would beg to differ; unfortunately, so would the aggressive director. I realize the time period in which this episode was made, but the talk of sexuality still seems stilted and awkward. Plus, I found it very uncomfortable watching Ann be (basically) sexually assaulted for laughs. Still, there are enough laughs to keep this one afloat, and possibly the first over-enthusiastic audience "woo!" in history.

A well-scrubbed 3.5 mod daisies:





Nobody Here But Us Chickens

"Major, I want you to know that I'm going to do my very best to be the greatest chicken that ever... chickened."
-Ann

Ann gets a job hawking "Chicken Big," which requires her to dress the part. The Col., owner of the restaurant chain, is the latest in a line of men to force himself upon her, but at least this time she asserts herself. Unfortunately, that leaves her miles from home, in the middle of nowhere, dressed as a chicken, with an hour to get home for an award banquet for her father. Oh, Ann! The set-up may be a bit outlandish, but this one is still a golden egg.

Cluck! Cluck! 4.5 mod daisies:



The Snow Must Go On

"It's my hobby. I sniff lockers and try to guess what's in them.
-Lou

The strongest episode in this section is also the second best on the disc. Ann and Don go to the airport to see her parents off, but the snow is so bad, they all end up stuck for the night—with no food. Also, Ann has an audition to get to. How to get her home in time? Ann and Don were good here, but all the gems come from Ann's parents. Cute ending, too.

A choice 5 mod daisies:





Guest Stars: Over the years, the show welcomed many prominent guest actors and celebrities. These are some of the biggest.

This Little Piggie Had a Ball

Ann: "Van Gogh painted with one ear! Well, you know what I mean."
Don: "Yes, I do, and it scares me."

An odd inclusion in this section, considering the biggest guest star is the pre-All in the Family Rob Reiner in a supporting role. The rest of the episode isn't all that memorable, either. Ann is bowling when she gets her toe stuck in the ball (don't ask). She can't get the ball off, and she has (another) awards banquet to attend. Parts are funny here and there, but the joke is overplayed - this show is best when the humor comes from the characters, not the situations. Watching Ann act like she was high on muscle relaxants was a bit amusing though, so the final score gets bumped up a notch.

A drugged-out 3 mod daisies:





Pass the Potatoes, Ethel Merman

Don: "You're not going to forget how to walk..."
Ann: "Donald! Bite your tongue!"

Ann comes face to face with an idol when she lands a part in a show starring Ethel Merman. Unfortunately, she's so star struck, she becomes clumsy! She has even more opportunities to make a fool out of herself when the famous actress decides to cook dinner for Ann and Don. The gags with Merman are a bit stilted, but there is a nice emotional center to the episode, as Merman encourages Ann to "give it her all." Much less corny than it sounds.

An inspiring 4 mod daisies:



Those Friars

"It's the fame you've always wanted! You've been established as a starving unknown."
-Don

What's that they say about the best for last? This episode is the real bright spot on the disc. It combines all the best elements of the series: a realistic plot, character-centered comedy, and sharp writing. Plus, the guest stars are truly stars this time: Milton Berle and Danny Thomas visit Ann after she inherits her uncle's old show-biz trunk. It seems the two were great fans of her uncle, and they want to repay all the favors they owe him. Of course, Ann, being Ann, thinks they just want money. A top-notch episode all around, and the interaction between Berle and Thomas is great. And who knew Marlo Thomas could sing?

And to Ann Marie, I bequeath 5 mod daisies:



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: For a 30-year-old TV series, these episodes look pretty good, but it's clear that Anchor Bay didn't go all out with a full restoration. Colors generally look good, but the quality varies, between episodes and even within episodes. For instance, in Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Ann is wearing a chicken suit. Within the same shot, you can watch it go from bright yellow to dull yellow. The same problem occurs with the clarity of the image. Some shots look nice and sharp, others look rather soft. Other than that, black level looks good and there is little visible grain. The prints used are generally clean, with the occasional scratch or line.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono mix sounds good for what it is. The dialogue and music are well balanced, with the speech always clear and audible. The music sounds suitably big and brassy for a sitcom track, and there is no audible hiss to distract us from Marlo Thomas' adorably squeaky voice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:51m:29s

Extras Review: Nothing is included beyond some brief production notes about the origin of the series. As is usually the case with Anchor Bay, no subtitles are provided. Boo! Hiss! At least there are a lot of episodes.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

That Girl was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s, and it's easy to see why. Providing the mold for later series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it focuses on smart, well-developed characters (as opposed to sight gags and stereotypes). Though the episodes have dated a bit thematically, they are timeless in their ability to entertain. Anchor Bay gets high marks for the disc as well - nine episodes! I guarantee we'll never see near that many Friends on a single disc!

 


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