Donna Reed Show Second Season sidles into the ’60s

And thus, the ’60s began — or almost.

I’m talking The Donna Reed Show: The Complete Second Season, new on DVD from Virgil Films. This season is from 1959-60, which means its latter half actually is set in the ’60s.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not still stuck in the ’50s, when women knew their only place was in the home–or maybe being secretaries, if they could type–and styles were oh so conservative, and rock ‘n’ roll was largely limited to appalling generic music on TV shows which sounded like kids just learning to play the saxophone. But still, there’s a certain scent of fresh air around the corner, and it starts with the series’ new opening credits.

It’s the same “hurry the kids and hubby to work” scenario of the First Season — and The Munsters, Leaving It to Beaver, The Jetsons, etc. But it’s been reshot for the second stanza with livelier performances, theme music and opening title fonts. Then the shows start showing a bit more daring, as when Donna and Carl Betz fly to NY for a conference (leaving the kids behind!) and he pops sedative pills into her warm milk to calm her down, and she pops more pills (not knowing she’s adding to the mix), and whaddaya know, drug humor ensues. And it’s not even hippie time yet.

Now, I’m not saying this sweet, wholesome show goes all peace, love and communes on us. It doesn’t change THAT much–though the production values do show a new shine. Yet the world was changing at this time, and at least The Donna Reed Show seemed to be changing a bit with it. After all, this season is right on the cusp of JFK’s New Frontier, the first Americans in space and the Beach Boys and Four Seasons. Yes, things are looking up beyond the pallid teen amusements of forever stuck-in’-the-50s Father Knows Best (a show I love for different reasons–not everything about the ’50s was bad).

So sidle up to your big color TV–still not a reality on Donna Reed, but getting closer–and enjoy the b&w glories of a show slightly showing its tilts from superclean but dull ’50s pablum to adventurous ’60s awareness, even if it will always be a long way from hell-raising or hedonistic.

Heck, as the show grows, you never know, but maybe even daughter Shelley Fabares will become a pop star in the process–along with bratty brother Paul Petersen. I swear, these kids are taking over the world. And this season’s Just a Housewife episode just might plant some seeds for women’s liberation.

So what have we got? Thirty-eight wholesome yet slightly less dated episodes on four discs. Guest stars include Esther Williams, Marion Ross, Jack Albertson and Raymond Bailey. And Donna is still the mom everyone loves. Enjoy!

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