Friday, October 16, 2009

Rant #112: MGM Our Gang Collection Recently Released

Warner Bros. Video has just put out a collection of Our Gang shorts from the period after the franchise moved over the auspices of MGM in the late 1930s. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to such a set, and now that it is finally here, I still can’t say enough about it.

The MGM episodes of the Our Gang series are pretty much looked down upon by enthusiasts of this series as being totally inferior to what came before them—and they are. They have also not been as widely viewed as the Hal Roach portion of the series, because they generally were not included in the TV package that baby boomers remember from their youth.

Thus, even though some of these MGM shorts are pretty good, they are not part of our childhood consciousness, so they can’t possibly measure up to even the weakest of the Hal Roach shorts.

Over 50 shorts were made during the few years that the series was part of MGM, and although they generally lack the charm of the earlier Hal Roach shorts, most of these 15-minute features continue to bring us back to a different time and place.

The earlier MGM shorts pretty much continue the storylines of the last of the Hal Roach shorts, and you have the overly familiar Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Butch, Porky and Buckwheat to help the viewer make an almost seamless transition from Hal Roach to MGM.

The problem is that as the kids got older, they were replaced by newer kid actors who simply lacked the charm of their predecessors. This includes Froggy Laughlin, Janet Burston and one Mickey Gubitosi, better known as Robert Blake.

It probably wasn’t the kids’ fault, because the scripts became weaker as the series wore on.

And also, MGM decided to use the popularity of the series to promote various causes, including the war effort. If ever a series was mismatched with a cause, this was one of them. Politics should have never crept into the storylines, but they did, to the detriment of the series as a whole. These “rally ‘round the flag” episodes are excruciatingly hard to watch.

But, if you want to see what happened to the Gang as the series progressed, this set is an absolute must, to say the least.

I wholeheartedly recommend this set, and you can find out more about it at

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