In the past 15 years or so, Leslie Nielsen has done enough mugging for a dozen men. Through most of the half-assed parody films he did in the late '90s and early-aughts, the onetime king of deadpan has become inextricably bound to the art of pulling faces. Which is enough to make those of us who remember the "Don't call me Shirley" salad days long for a dose of old-school Nielsen. We get it on Tuesday, with the long-anticipated release of Police Squad! on DVD.
Years before the Naked Gun film franchise started off pretty-good and wound up dire, the Airplane! team of Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams had an idea for skewering the great cop dramas of the '50s and '60s ("In Color!") with a half-hour parody, which they pitched to ABC to immediate response. Police Squad! was the maiden outing for Nielsen as (usually) unflappable Los Angeles detective Frank Drebin, and not unlike their cinematic outings, the team crammed each episode with enough visual gags and stone-faced one-liners to make an Airplane! fan shit-faced with glee. (Fan favorite: a variety of "special guest stars"—William Shatner and Florence Henderson among them—are instantly killed off in the opening credits.)
The show aired in early 1982 for just six weeks before being yanked by the network; despite all the hype and critical response, the ratings fell fast and the network blamed too many hard, fast jokes for a casual TV audience to keep up. God forbid a little stupid comedy should require you to pay attention, eh? Luckily for those of us who can put forth the effort, this week's DVD features those six great episodes that did make it to air, along with select episode commentaries, a gag reel and assorted other extras.
Also recommended this week: Big: Director's Cut; Cinema Paradiso: Collector's Edition; Debbie Does Dallas: Unrated Edition; The Fallen Idol (Criterion); Flower Drum Song: Special Edition; James Bond Ultimate Collections 1 & 2; Mutiny On the Bounty (1962): Special Edition; The Sopranos: Season 6, Part 1; Wordplay.
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