Peyton Place: Part One

In 1964, decades before ABC was hocking whitewashed crap like Dancing with the Stars and Grey's Anatomy for the insouciant masses, they were struggling in ratings, desperate for some sort of hit, which sparked pioneering, seedy night time soap opera Peyton Place, based on the novel of the same name by Grace Metalious. Airing twice a week, the series was an immediate hit, delivering over 100 half-hour episodes per season until NBC bought the rights in 1968 and expanded the show to a full hour. This five-disc set, titled Part One, covers the first 31 episodes of the series, as the innocent Allison MacKenzie (Mia Farrow) develops unwelcome affections for the more experienced Rodney Harrington (Ryan O'Neal), despite his having impregnated Betty (Barbara Parkins). Meanwhile, Rodney's father, Leslie (Paul Langton), strikes up an extramarital affair with Julie (Kasey Rogers), Betty's mother, whose husband George (Henry Beckman) routinely beats her. Complicating these stories is a secret that Allison's mother, Constance (Dorothy Malone), holds close about Elliott (Tim O'Connor), a convict believed to have killed his wife, while Dr. Rossi (Ed Nelson) observes the entire ordeal. Car accidents, unexpected marriages, miscarriages and more adultery keep intrigue at a high throughout the season in a manner never before seen on television, which is now the bread and butter of night time soaps. It is perhaps a little antiquated by today's standards, given its black and white aesthetic and theatrical acting, but the template is clear and the story propels forward with many a cliff-hanger. The episodes are all intact but the quality leaves a bit to be desired, as no effort seems to have been made in restoring or cleaning up the source material, which can also be said for the tinny sound. No supplements are included with the box set, leaving the episodes as the defining feature. Fans of the series will not care, as this is its first DVD appearance, with more episodes to come in just a few months. (Shout! Factory)