The Loretta Young Show - Best of the Complete Series: 100th Birthday Edition

Back in 1953, it was nearly unprecedented for a film star like Loretta Young to make the transition to the lowly regarded medium of television. This massive, 17-disc assembly of some of the best episodes from the eight seasons of The Loretta Young Show's run on NBC underlines not only what a compelling and versatile actress she was, but what a strong voice she had in entertainment. The half-hour episodes vary widely in content, locale and sometimes even style, allowing Young to play any number of different roles, from a schoolteacher to a Japanese woman. The stories are bookended by an introduction and final thought from Young, often choosing to close with a bible quote. It's interesting how Young's fiercely Catholic beliefs were reflected, though not necessarily directly, in the morality plays she presented to viewers. In fact, early episodes of the show were titled Letters To Loretta, an abandoned idea involving audience submissions that still helped shape the program's focus on questions of scruples. Though the material may be dated, as some of the tales are set centuries ago, there's a distinct timelessness to the social issues, politics and ideals being discussed. It may seem a tad too quaint how so many episodes find a way to end on an upbeat note, frequently involving a romantic interest for Young, but it's also refreshing to see the positive impact a show like this can have in opening a dialogue about any number of subjects. The malleable concept still resonates in such a way that it would be feasible for a hot-button series of this variety to work today, if only the right actress were at the helm. It's worth noting that this extensive collection, which is being released for what would have been Young's 100th birthday, doesn't feature any of the guest hosts that assisted when Young was hospitalized due to exhaustion early in the show's run. The supplemental material does a commendable job conveying the work ethic and convictions with which Young lived. In particular, an interview with her three children illustrates the influence of her values and how bringing your kids to the set will inevitably lead to at least one of them catching the bug. More interesting than the inclusion of Young's home movies is an audio interview she did shortly before her death in 2000. It's apparent in the type of reverence and nostalgia in which she looks back at the time that she felt the show featured some of the most important work of her life. (Shout! Factory)