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Shout Factory presents
That Girl: Season 2 (1966)

"I'll take...that girl!"
- Ethel Merman

Review By: Ross Johnson   
Published: November 20, 2006

Stars: Marlo Thomas, Ted Bessell
Other Stars: Lew Parker, Bonnie Scott, Ethel Merman, Bernie Koppell
Director: Hal Cooper

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 13h:03m:00s
Release Date: November 14, 2006
UPC: 826663102031
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BAB+ B

DVD Review

I missed That Girl, mostly due to age, and it's a show that's been oddly absent from television for as long as I can remember. People seem to recall it fondly, and it's certainly respected as ground-breaking, but people just don't seem to be all that interested in watching it again. So this was my first experience with Marlo Thomas' flip-haired dreamer, striver, and icon. Season 2 seems as good a place to start as any, especially since most shows don't hit a stride until at least then. In my research, my friend Sue had this to say:

"My parents didn't approve of it. It was considered very racy back then because she was a single girl with an apartment and a boyfriend who came over a lot."

My, oh, my how times have changed. And that might be a big part of why this program has been absent from the airwaves. The mildly scandalous nature of the relationship between Thomas and her boyfriend, Donald (played by the late Ted Bessell) certainly seems quaint by comparison. In the interview that shows up as an extra in this set, Thomas comments on the differences between working on this show and, for example, guest-starring on Friends during the 1990s. On her show, they were constantly fighting Standards and Practices over anything that provided even the slightest hint of a physical relationship. On Friends, there was a fight over who was going to sleep in the "wet spot." I'm not sure that you'd call this progress, but the show did much more than provide that crack in the door to an acknowledgement of women's sexuality. At the time, it was still incredibly rare for a woman on TV to be much more than an appendage to a man: a wife, a daughter, a secretary. It was unheard of for a single woman to have a career—she wants to be an actress—and aspirations that didn't involve marriage. Ann Marie is an aspiring actress, single, confident, and independent in spite of constant struggles with her family.

How does this sitcom hold up as entertainment? Pretty well, actually. Thomas and Bessell are charming, and they have a great comic chemistry. Their dialogue and relationship are mature and interesting in a way that belies the necessarily sexless nature of their time together. In the manner of programming at the time, the plots can be repetitive, but it's pretty well written and has a great '60s style. In that vein, this season has a good many guest appearances by names of the era: Ethel Merman plays herself in the season premiere, getting to point at Ann Marie and utter the series signature phrase. Any other young woman in the city would probably be annoyed at having so many people point to her and yell "That girl!", which happens at least once per episode, but not Ann Marie, she takes it in stride. In her episode, Merman selects an ecstatic Ann Marie for a non-speaking part in her new play. It's another step on the road to fame. The season highlight is probably ODPDYPAHIMCAIFSS, during which Donald's mother finds a pair of his pants hanging in Ann Marie's closet (just back from the cleaner's, of course). It's a well-written episode, but it's particularly funny as one of the occasional reminders that, as much as it might seem to the audience and to their parents that there would be sex in the relationship, they mostly just eat dinner and talk showbiz. It's light, fun, and stylish entertainment put together in a wonderfully designed package by Shout Factory. So many older shows get tossed into a box with a faded still on the cover; it's great that this package gets a retro-cool layout on the box and the discs that carries over to the animated menus themselves. It may seem like a small thing, but presentation is important, and they've nailed it with this set.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio4:3 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The show has a great and stylish color palette, which is brilliantly represented in the transfer. I'd heard anecdotally of some color fading issues with the first season, but I don't see any evidence of that here. It's bright, crisp, and probably looks about as good as it ever did, if not better.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack sounds quite good, in spite of the intervening years. No complaints: the original sound is presented well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Marlo Thomas and Bill Persky
Packaging: Cardboard Tri-Fold
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Unaired pilot Two's Company
Extras Review: There are two commentary tracks with Marlo Thomas and co-creator Bill Persky—one on Pass the Potatoes, Ethel Merman, and the other on ODPDYPAHIMCAIFSS. They're cute, but don't really add much value; you're mostly just listening to them watch episodes that they obviously haven't seen in quite some time and pointing out things that are happening on the screen. There is some interesting subtext though that comes out in these commentaries and That Show…That Woman…The Creation of That Girl: A New Beginning for Women. One gets the strong impression that while Thomas felt somewhat hemmed in by the restrictions of the time, and is more-or-less pleased with the frankness now possible on TV, Persky feels as though TV has gone too far. It takes some reading between the lines, but I was struck by the impression. In the interview segment, Marlo Thomas is rightly proud of the show and its place in TV history, and has a healthy perspective. She also has a nice sense of responsibility, realizing early that what began as a marketing tool for Clairol quickly made her into a role model and someone that young women were going to look to. This is a nice sit-down with Thomas that covers a good deal of ground. Well worth watching.

Finally, the unsuccessful pilot Two's Company starring Thomas from 1965 is included. It's, um, not very good. But it is a nice bit of history to include.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A fun bit of TV history in a super-cool '60s-style package. The sound and audio are as good as you could ever want, but most of all the show is a ground-breaker that's easy to watch. The great chemistry between the leads carries this one along through some repetition and silliness. Those born a bit before me should enjoy rediscovering this. Others might want to sample before buying. I didn't catch it the first time around, but still dug the classy retro fun.

 


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