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MAGIC IN THE AIR
January 8th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

I’m old, but I’m not old enough to remember the live TV anthology dramas seen in the DVD box set The Golden Age of Television. But I am old enough to remember when these particular eight kinescope films were reshown on PBS in 1981.

Producer Sonny Fox, who’d compiled the PBS series, mostly selected stories that had remained famous via feature-film remakes (Patterns, Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Days of Wine and Roses, No Time for Sergeants, et al).

The box set presents the shows exactly as Fox had re-edited them. The plus in this: the introductions and cast/writer/director interviews Mr. Fox had added at the beginning of each installment. The minus: some of the closing credit sequences are truncated or missing.

Because so many pre-1978 live (and even taped) TV shows were never copyrighted, many other DVDs of live anthology episodes are now on the market, as single discs and in sets. They tend to include the original credits, and often even the original commercials. Criterion, which released this set, could have done likewise.

As for the plays themselves, you get nine and a half hours of raw, Actors’ Studio-style over-emoting, performed by actors who were already famous or who became famous or who aren’t even trivia answers now, performed within tiny studio sets under harsh monochrome lighting.

Utterly fascinating.


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