‘Mister Ed’ on DVD is a treat–of course, of course

What the world needs now, besides love, sweet love, is innocence. And that’s what you’ll get from vintage ’60s TV chestnut Mister Ed, a hit show which aired for five years and 143 episodes, yet till now has had only two compilation DVDs (from MGM)  totalling 41 episodes.

Now the fine folks at Shout! Factory have issued Mister Ed: The Complete First Season in a four-disc set featuring 26 episodes, only four of which appear on the first volume of the aforementioned compilations.

The show, of course, concerned a lovely horse, Ed, owned by an architect, Wilbur (Alan Young). Ed lived in a barn behind Wilbur and wife Carol’s (Connie Hines) sprawling new suburban home, and Wilbur even set up his office there, amid the hay.

Amusing mayhem ensues when Wilbur learns Ed is a talking horse with seemingly as much brain power as the average human — maybe even more. But Ed only speaks to Wilbur, a secret they keep.

Ed was voiced by an uncredited Allan “Rocky” Lane, a one-time star of big-screen westerns. As Young and Hines reveal in a commentary for the show’s first episode, Lane almost lost his job at one point in the 1961-66 series, but was retained — and got a studio parking space — because he was the only one good enough to do it.

Indeed, Ed’s dry humor and gentle sneeers are what powers this show beyond its often typical sitcom silliness. Everything perks up whenever Ed opens his mouth — achieved by getting the horse to chew his bit and make mouth movements that actually looked as if he were talking.

BTW, Bamboo Harvester was the real horse’s name, but as far as I’m concerned, the golden Palomino was and always will be Ed. On the other hand, the Posts’ put-upon nosy neighbor was replaced, when original costar Larry Keating died and Leon Ames took over.

It’s still jarring and wearisome for me to watch neighbors and other folks blithely walk into people’s homes in such early sitcoms. Anyone ever heard of a lock, a knock or personal privacy? But that does tend to move the plots along without a lot of door-answering scenes.

The DVDs have beautiful picture quality, and there’s also a recent interview with Young and Hines. Let’s hope Shout! Factory picks up where this season left off by issuing a second season. That’s when CBS picked up the show originally, after Mister Ed had run in syndication for its first season. Getting new life on a network was quite a rarity.

Indeed, this is one special show. Forget the nonsense of its premise and enjoy the fun of its execution — of course, of course.

I’m referring — of course — to Mister Ed’s theme song, which begins “A horse is a horse, of course, of course.” When you don’t hear it with the first episode, don’t fret. After using an instrumental track for six episodes, the show went with a vocal version sung by song  co-writer Jay Livingston in Episode 7. That one stuck till the end while Mister Ed, for five years, made hay.

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