DVD blog review: ‘The Patty Duke Show Season Three’

As Lindsay Lohan’s sad saga drones on, I’m continually reminded of better days — those being in 1998, when her dual starring role in Disney’s redo of 1961’s The Parent Trap helped produce one of the finest remakes I’ve ever seen. From the stars (ncluding a young Lindsay not yet ravaged by hard living) to the script to the music to the locations, that movie couldn’t have been any better. And Natasha Richardson, oh how we miss you.

Back in the ’60s, another redo of  The Parent Trap was envisioned — sort of — with creation of The Patty Duke Show. The actress was just 16 and fresh from her Oscar-winning performance in The Miracle Worker, and to this day she remains the youngest star ever to have a TV show named after herself.

In it, Duke played Patty Lane, a bubbly, vivacious but overly scheming and manipulating girl (ceaselessly setting bad examples, with little accountability) whose identical twin cousin (say what?), Kathy Lane, moves into her family’s large and comfy Broooklyn Heights home. (You see, the cousins were born from identical twin dads — and who cares that they had totally different mothers?)

Kathy, who has a slight accent (Scottish?), actually gets little screen time, being a “good” girl. But Patty causes continual havoc, as endured by her patient parents and flippant younger brother.

The Patty Duke Show lasted three seasons, after which it was canceled not due to poor ratings but as a cost-saving move involving an impasse concerning United Artists, the network and a shift to color programming. (PDS was in b&w.) The first two seasons already are on video, and the third season emerges Tuesday, Aug. 24, from Shout! Factory.

I’ve screened its first six episodes, out of 32, and can tell you that for fans of wholesome and well-made family sitcoms of the ’60s, this one is well worth viewing. Stunt casting gets in the way at first, with Frankie Avalon and Troy Donahue guest-starring in the first two shows. But soon we get down to more typical teen business, such as juggling dates and competing parties.

The twin thing works out via split screen shots seamlessly blended and using doubles to play Patty and Kathy as seen from behind. But again, there isn’t that much interaction compared to the Parent Trap movies.

The locations look so sunny — especially in the season opener when the nearby airport is allegedly fogged in — that you might assume PDS show was shot, like most shows of its day, in So Cal. Wrong. Due to the fact that Duke played two roles and needed to work longer hours, production was in the New York area where the show was set and child labor laws were more liberal. When Duke hit 18 during the third season, it moved to LA, but only then.

Even for shows shot on the East Coast, there’s not much true location work. There’s obvious stock footage of Manhattan when Patty goes to town, and her neighborhood is generic. But Duke, much like Sally Field’s starring turn on the one season of Gidget, is irrepressible and often fun, if also too calculating and indifferent to others’ feelings.

Hey, it’s a light sitcom, so perhaps we need to lighten up. Besides, this is the woman who gave us The Lord of the Rings’ Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin). And though her own life has had its own personal travails which I won’t delve into here, Patty Duke did herself proud in this show — and didn’t wind up in the same self-perpetuated tabloid rut as Li Lo. That’s something to be grateful for in itself.

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