Dennis Mitchell always means well when he wants to help out his parents, or good ol’ Mr. Wilson, but he also just wants to have a good time. ¼ helpful young lad but ¾ mischief, Dennis made the leap from the beloved comic strip by Hank Ketchum to the small screen for four seasons.
Compensating for when ABC took over Leave it to Beaver from CBS, Dennis the Menace was the attempt to grab some audience back for CBS. Jay North is the titular Dennis, and does well to carry the spark of this character’s “menacing” namesake. Each episode sees Dennis with the best of intentions, but always managing to create more damage than his help is worth. Along for the ride are his best friends Tommy and Joey (the latter seeming to be a strange mute boy), his rival Margaret, his parents played by Herbert Anderson and Gloria (who could not look closer to the original characters) and Joseph Kearns as the ever-frustrated Mr. Wilson.
Like many a series of the late fifties to early sixties, the stories play things very safe, but thankfully not with as much of the cozy corniness of their aforementioned competitor Leave it to Beaver. This program’s comedy is not always of the “aw shucks” variety, but has a little more slapstick injected into Dennis’ mishaps. It may be gentler than contemporary family comedies, yes, but it is doubtlessly superior to anything Disney Channel has produced in the last decade (or longer). This show remains one of, if not the, best adaptation of the comic strip to date.
Fullscreen. Some spots of age are to be expected in transfers of shows this old. Alas, there are spots of digital haze noticeable in the movement of some characters. These might only be noticeable in larger screens as they are very easy to look past either way.
English Mono. Like the picture quality, there are points of digital garble that find their way into the canned laugh track mostly. Beyond that, this is an acceptable update.
A Conversation with Jeannie Russell and Gloria Henry (2010): The interviewer from Shout Factory is very enthusiatic and well researched. Fans of this show and TV history in general will appreciate his efforts. Personally, I found that Jeannie Russell tried taking over things way too much, no matter how many times we’re reminded that she is a chiropractor now.
Jeannie Russell and Gloria Henry Audio interview from “Stu’s Show”: A multi-part interview set to images of the show. Similar to the previous interview made by Shout Factory, but appreciated for what it is never the less.
The Donna Reed Show “Donna Decorates”: As excruciatingly misogynistic as this show can come off, this episode’s cameo by Dennis and Mr. Wilson are appreciated (as if they heightened this show to the level of their own superior program, if only for a few minutes).
Promo: An original ad for the show circa 1960.
Commercials: Their product tie-in to Skippy and Bosco are revealed in these quaint ads.
This debut season is packed with plenty of charm to satisfy nostalgia junkies out there. I know many are pre-sold on this show coming to DVD and all should be very pleased with the quality of Shout Factory’s deliverance.