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Pioneers Of Television

review by Zach B.



Starring: Harlan Saperstein, Jay Leno, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Phyllis Diller, Arsenio Hall, Ed McMahon, Bob Barker, Betty White, Hugh Downs, Dick Cavett, Marlo Thomas, Tony Orlando, Art Linkletter, Monty Hall, Doc Severinsen, Barbara Eden, Milton Berle, Joyce Randolph, Tim Conway, Sigourney Weaver, Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Rose Marie, Florence Henderson, Jerry Stiller 

Running Time: 220 minutes

Written by: Michael J. Trinklein and Jack Jones

Directed by: Steven J. Boettcher


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Extended Interviews

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Stereo, Chapter Selection (6 chapters per episode)

Released: January 29th, 2008



"Pioneers Of Television" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. There isn't exactly much visual splendor to this documentary, since it's all old footage of TV shows and famous personalities being interviewed. Obviously the archive footage isn't in the best shape, but that's not the main concern. (I will note though that footage is all windowboxed, and not stretched out.) The interviewees look fine, as the fleshtones seem accurate. I was surprised to not really see artifacting, given that there is nearly 4 hours of material crammed onto a single disc. However, there are a lot of instances of mosquito noise and edge halos, which is a bit distracting. Again though, this documentary is really straightforward, and visuals aren't important. It's really about the content shown. 


There is not much to say about the English Stereo track. Given that this documentary is basically all talking heads and archive footage, how the interviewees speak - and Harlan Saperstein's narration - is all that matters. With that noted, everyone who speaks sounds quite clear, and the archive footage shown of the old television shows is quite audiable. There are some music cues that sound fine, but don't make much of an impression. For a documentary of this type, this is the best you can expect.

English closed captions are available through your television.


The lone supplement are some Extended Interviews, which are pretty interesting and last exactly 15 minutes. Featured are Betty White and her first sitcom, Phyllis Diller's role in Ed Sullivan's final show, Dick Cavett's fateful meeting with Johnny Carson, a memorable experience for Florence Henderson, Merv Griffin meeting Jack Paar, and anecdotes from Jonathan Winters and Tim Conway. Great stuff all around. 


"Pioneers Of Television" is a fabulous documentary that all media affecionados and baby boomers are bound to enjoy - it's really one big, entertaining history lesson. The interviews with all sorts of known TV personalities - as far as their work and inspirations - are quite fascinating, and the four parts (Late Night, Sitcoms, Game Shows, Variety) are given pretty equal attention. The extra interviews are nice to have, and the documentary's presentation is adaquete. For those who love the defining eras of TV, this is a must see.