A continuing, charming delight. Shout! Factory, fast becoming the savior of vintage TV lovers out there for their "rescuing" of library titles the majors don't want to deal with personally, has released The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season, a smartly-designed 6-disc collection that gathers all 36 episodes (can you imagine an episode order like that today?) from the 1964-1965 season. A popular, iconic "boomer" series that stayed strong in syndication and gained even more new followers when it scored big cable ratings back in the late 80s on Nick at Nite, this second season of The Patty Duke Show sticks with well-constructed scripts, a level of accomplished performance that wasn't the norm for many sitcoms at this time, and a relatively quiet, sophisticated approach to its comedic situations. Not much in the way of bonuses here, but the content more than compensates.
I wrote an extensive review of the first season of The Patty Duke Show that looked at the show's background, so I won't backtrack on a lot of that information (you can click here for that First Season article prior to reading this review). For those who haven't seen the series, the set-up is quite fun. In the upper-middle class borough of Brooklyn Heights, New York, there's double trouble every day at the Lane household. Typical boy-crazy American teenager Patty Lane (Patty Duke) can't sit still for a minute: she's either on the phone talking to her pals, or rustling up something to eat, or slobbing around in her messy bedroom, or hanging out with her boyfriend, goofball Richard Harrison (Eddie Applegate), or orchestrating some kind of project that eventually becomes spectacularly unwound. Keeping a watchful eye over her enthusiastic antics are her strict but humorous mother, Natalie (Jean Byron), and her understanding, loving father Martin (William Schallert), who's a big-wheel editor for The New York Daily Chronicle. Younger brother/pest Ross (Paul O'Keefe) is a formidable foe to Patty's sanity around the house, particularly when he has a ready dry wisecrack available at the drop of a hat - at Patty's expense, of course. However, one additional element is added to this utterly conventional TV-nuclear family which turns it on its ear: the arrival of Patty's identical cousin, Cathy (Patty Duke again, of course). Identical because their fathers are identical twins, Cathy comes from Scotland to live with her uncle and his family so she can learn about America as her foreign correspondent father travels the globe. Naturally, sometimes-scheming, slightly-crazy Patty sees the advantages of having an identical cousin (fooling dates, for one), but demur, intellectual, stable Cathy often steers Patty back on the right track, acting almost like Patty's conscience whenever one of her schemes backfires.
At the end of my review for the First Season of The Patty Duke Show, I wondered if the show would evolve somehow from its beginnings. After all, back during this heyday of network programming, the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy was in full force, particularly with sitcoms. The "reliably repeatable experience" for viewers was certainly a goal with the suits and money men who ran the Big Three (creating inevitable clashes with producers, writers, and performers who chafed against the weekly grind of formulaic television). A classic example I always point to is Hogan's Heroes, a series where episodes from various seasons are almost indistinguishable in their sameness. And I don't have anything against that way of making television; if a show is good, let it ride. Lucy and Jackie and Red didn't fundamentally change their formulas, and they made classic television for decades. If The Patty Duke Show stayed exactly the same this second go-around, that just would have meant 36 more charming, funny sitcom episodes to enjoy.
As it is, there are no major shake-ups to the series' framework this season (I thought there might be when they introduced a third role for Duke to play - the scheming little Southern-friend mantrap, Cousin Betsy - but she only shows up once here), but a few changing thematic trends are noticeable. As with the first season, two main story frameworks dominate: Patty's dating life, and Patty's "projects" for school and self-improvement. In this season, Patty maintains a fairly fluid relationship with Richard. They're "steadies," but they do occasionally date others...as long as they don't break one of their own dates. Clearly, the writers and producers understood that Patty had to remain "free" to momentarily pursue other boys (for variety's sake), while also making sure she stayed connected with Richard to provide that viewer continuity from week to week. Interestingly, the once severely addle-pated Richard is allowed to "mature" somewhat in these episodes, getting to the point where he not only starts to understand strategy in dealing with the mercuric Patty, but also becomes self-confident enough to "ditch" her when she badly mistreats him. In the opening episode, The Green-Eyed Monster, Richard becomes positively charming - with the help of Martin's advice - in his wooing-back Patty when she strays to a handsome new suitor (Richard's gradual transformation into a still-goofy but more adept boyfriend is highlighted by Martin's grudging acceptance of him this season - Martin even goes as far as saying he likes Richard: a quantum leap from the previous season). Patty frequently mistreats Richard with her sometimes innocuous, sometimes hurtful fickleness (in Don't Monkey With Mendel, she even goes so far as to declare Richard genetically inferior to most other males). But Richard isn't above acting out against Patty, too (another sign that his once-seemingly feeble teen boy brain is developing). In Patty and the Cut-Rate Casanova, Richard starts to believe the hype doled out by Patty and Cathy about his own prowess at dating, and succeeds in alienating the cousins and another pretty girl he managed to hook. But true to the show's sweet nature and genuine feel for teen emotions, Richard and Patty are believably reunited (over an appropriately innocent 1965 game of Scrabble®), agreeing to "start over" in their relationship, both a little wiser to each other's needs.
And since teen dating dominates the Lane household, it's not surprising that shy, retiring Cathy would get in on the game, as well. In my First Season review of The Patty Duke Show, I felt that the outgoing, boy-crazed American teen Patty clearly dominated the show, but for this go-around, Cathy is given quite a bit more to do, and Duke is utterly masterful in creating two entirely different characters with just the subtlest changes in voice and gesture. Pitting the cousins against each other more often this season (with a boy usually as the crux of the problem) provides more dramatic and comedic possibilities than just having Cathy bail out Patty as was often done in Season One. And from this frequent conflict, Cathy becomes a much stronger presence on the show, including thoughtful, funny episodes such as How to Succeed in Romance, where she takes disastrous boyfriend-snagging advice from Patty, and Block That Statue, where her kind encouragement unleashes the sculptor in reluctant football player Daniel J. Travanti. She even gets to date Richard in Patty and the Cut-Rate Casanova, giving Patty a needed glimpse into how special Richard really is...for a dolt.
In addition to Patty's dating, her school and extracurricular pursuits - and their inevitable impact on her family dynamics - anchor most of the other scripts here. In Practice Makes Perfect, one of the funnier outings this season due to some truly inspired low-key panic by William Schallert, Patty decides to become a "culture vulture" and take up a classical instrument: the tuba. Of course, the well-meaning Patty throws herself into the new venture with abandon...and promptly overdoes it, as her family goes slowly insane from the constant basso profundo blarings of the tuba (Schallert is particularly funny here, casting paranoid glances to the side and jumping with neurasthenic agony when Patty blares the tuba, fatalistically intoning, "There's nothing anyone can do," to make her stop). Patty's incorporation of herself as a jam-making tycoon (with Cathy's efforts in the kitchen) seems too close to the First Season story where she makes the designer dresses (The Tycoons), but her stint as a wildly unsuccessful advice columnist in Simon Says, her efforts to be an overachieving Student of the Year in Can Do Patty, her raffling-off of Richard in The Raffle, and building a midget racer for Ross in Patty, The Master Builder, all showcase the series' facility at crafting stories that achieve a nice comedic "build" as Patty becomes hopelessly ensnared in her own overly-ambitious projects (Duke is excellent at getting across first Patty's enthusiasm, then the growing realization that she's getting pulled under, then sheer panic, to finally relief when the problem is resolved. She's a remarkably sure-footed, accomplished actress here).
Interestingly, two episodes towards the very end of the season - Cathy, The Rebel and Patty, The Folk Singer - seem to indicate that even in the largely apolitical network sitcom world of 1965, the winds of change were soon going to blow through. In Cathy, The Rebel, a letter to the editor of The Chronicle pits "Martin the Dinosaur" against the teens he castigates in a piece, but it's not Patty as one might expect as the letter-writing instigator, but quiet Cathy who believes Martin was wrong in his moral stance (although she didn't know at first that Martin was the author of the piece). And in Patty, The Folk Singer, Patty and Richard become beats-in-name-only as they bus tables and sweep up at The Pink Percolator coffeehouse - all for the chance for Patty to sing some folk songs - a situation her parents don't approve of...until they hear her lovely song. Patty, The Folk Singer is played strictly for laughs, but Cathy, The Rebel aims to send a message, which is does with gentle humor. However, a few other episodes take on a preachy tone that simply doesn't work here, such as Patty, The Organizer, where Patty becomes a Junior SEIU union thug, or Patty, The People's Voice, where a JFK-ish candidate who espouses, among other inanities, unbalanced budgets, increased spending, and higher taxes as a moral obligation (Jee-sus - does all that sound familiar today, peons and serfs?), fires up Patty's inner socialist (the villain in the piece is the old guy who wants to lower everyone's taxes). Luckily, these are few and far between, with the majority of episodes remaining firmly grounded in recognizable dramatic conflicts and surprisingly resonant emotions (Best Date in Town is a particularly gentle episode, with Schallert and Duke quite tender with each other in a story about a daughter and father realizing how much they love each other).
And finally, a roster of notable guest stars crop up this season, indicative of the show's First Season ratings' success - as well as welcome appearances by a host of New York actors in supporting roles, such as James Coco, Jean Stapleton, Phil Leeds, Alan Manson, David Doyle (perfectly cast as Richard's father), and Bruce Kirby. Patty thinks she's getting married off to Frank Sinatra, Jr. (nicely competent, playing it straight); she performs a disastrous skit with Sal Mineo (who looks a long way from Exodus); she chases after Bobby Vinton (stiff and uncomfortable) who she thinks is out to steal Poppo's job; she discovers "Nigel and Patrick" (Chad and Jeremy manage to cram in three hits: A Summer Song, Yesterday's Gone, and The Truth Often Hurts the Heart); Robert Goulet makes Patty's heart flutter when he subs in her science class (Goulet's always good); and Sammy Davis, Jr. becomes obsessed with playing Patty's Junior Prom (with a funny cameo by Peter Lawford). All that star power, however, didn't contain the ratings' slide that befell The Patty Duke Show's sophomore season. Having hit an impressive 18th for the year during its opening season, it fell a worrying 10 slots to 28th for this 1964-1965. Perhaps ABC shouldn't have kept Duke's lead-in the dying-fast The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, switching instead to Duke's lead-out, the new Shindig, to grab the teens right at 8:00pm. Maybe it was just a case of the novelty of the identical cousins wearing off. It's difficult to say. But the following year would be the last season for The Patty Duke Show, and the ratings wouldn't improve.
Here are the 36 (!) episodes of the four-disc set, The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season, as described on its enclosed pamphlet. PLEASE NOTE: all the episodes appear to be intact, with run times over 25 minutes, and no obvious, post-network edits.
The Green-Eyed Monster (9/16/1964)
Jealousy erupts within Richard when Geoffrey Davis III returns to town and begins courting Patty.
Practice Makes Perfect (9/23/1964)
Much to the dismay of the Lane family, Patty shows off her lack of musical talent when she decides to take up tuba lessons.
Simon Says (9/30/1964)
Anger fills the halls of the high school after Patty's new advice column for the school paper goes from helping couples to breaking them up!
Patty, The Organizer (10/7/1964)
To win more household privileges, Patty spearheads a new union: UAFUM, the United Association For Unprotected Minors.
Patty, The Pioneer (10/14/1964)
To defend the honor of "spoiled teens" everywhere, Patty volunteers to live the life of a prisoner for one week, but the lessons learned from her experience come a little harder than she expects.
The Boy Next Door (10/21/1964)
When a cute boy moves in next door to the Lanes, a bitter war is waged between the two identical swooning cousins!
Patty, The People's Voice (10/28/1964)
The democratic process becomes tough for Patty and Cathy when they come to realize that the candidate running for office against Martin's boss is actually the better choice.
The Greatest Psychologist in The World (11/4/1964)
Patty uses her keen skills in psychology to convince her parents to let her attend the Harvard prom with Sue Ellen's cousin, Rip.
Patty and the Peace Corps (11/11/1964)
Excited about the prospect of helping a third-world country, Patty lies about her age and joins the Peace Corps. There's just one problem: her parents don't know!
How to Succeed in Romance (11/18/1964)
When Cathy falls for the shy new boy at school, she asks her much more outgoing cousin for advice. Meanwhile, the shy boy, Christopher, is getting advice from Richard about Cathy. With all this "helpful" advice, can the two teens ever get together?
Block That Statue (11/25/1964)
Cathy enamors the high school football hero, but she just isn't interested. What can she do?
This Little Patty Went to Market (12/2/1964)
On discovering all the money to be made in the stock market, the entrepreneur in Patty decides it's time to form her own marketing company: Patty Lane, Inc..
Best Date in Town (12/9/1964)
When her father's called out of town on an important newspaper assignment, Patty is left disappointed - and dateless - for the eagerly anticipated father-daughter dance.
Can Do Patty (12/18/1963)
In an effort to win the honor of Student of the Year, Patty volunteers to take on more responsibility at school. But, true to form, everyone around her ends up picking up Patty's slack.
Hi, Society (12/23/1964)
Patty finds herself in the middle of another love triangle when she competes with Sue Ellen for the attention of the newest member of the student body.
Patty, The Witness (12/31/1964)
Patty's on the run from the Mob after she witnesses a traffic accident and is convinced one of the drivers is a criminal.
Every Girl Should Be Married (1/6/1965)
To put an end to what she perceives as a potential arranged marriage attempt by her parents, Patty makes herself as undesirable as possible during dinner with a young man.
The Perfect Hostess (1/13/1965)
Patty and Cathy's cousin Betsy takes a break from her boarding school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to visit the Lanes.
Patty Meets a Celebrity (1/20/1965)
Patty gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to act alongside one of Brooklyn Heights High's greatest alums, Sal Mineo. But can she pull it off without getting stage fright?
The Raffle (1/27/1965)
Patty regrets her decision to raffle off a date with Richard for charity.
Patty and the Newspaper Game (2/3/1965)
Martin believes he's being replaced as managing editor of the paper. Meanwhile, Patty finds herself falling head over heels for the guy everyone thinks is taking the job.
Little Brother is Watching You (2/10/1965)
The Lane family has decided not to throw Ross a surprise party for his birthday. Maybe someone should tell Ross.
Patty Pits Wits, Two Brits Hits (2/17/1965)
Cathy uses the power of her new radio show as an opportunity to promote a British duet she's recently discovered.
It Takes a Heap of Livin' (2/24/1965)
When it's discovered that the Lanes' home was once an important site in the Revolutionary War, the historical society wants to take it over as a national landmark.
Will the Real Sammy Davis Please Hang Up? (3/3/1965)
Last year's prom coup comes back to haunt Patty as she's once again elected chairman and tasked with finding another big star to make an appearance.
Don't Monkey With Mendel (310/1965)
When Patty falls for her new science teacher and takes a sudden interest in genetics, she comes to the startling conclusion that Richard simply won't do as the future father of her children.
Patty, The Practical Joker (3/17/1965)
When Ross's pet frog finds its way into Patty's bed, it sets off a chain of practical jokes within the household that only Patty and Ross can take credit for.
Patty, The Master Builder (3/24/1965)
Patty decides to lend a hand in building Ross's soapbox derby racer after she discovers a paper she believes he's written about her.
Patty and the Cut-Rate Casanova (3/31/1965)
When Patty ditches Richard for a boy much more in tune with the popular trends, Richard decides to date Cathy.
The Daughter Bit (4/7/1965)
Martin may be in over his head when he expresses a desire to spend more time with Patty.
Cathy, The Rebel (4/14/1965)
After reading an angering editorial in her Uncle Martin's newspaper, Cathy writes a scathing letter to the editor, only to find out it was her uncle who wrote the article!
Patty, The Folk Singer (4/21/1965)
Against her father's better judgment, Patty embarks on a folksinging career at the local coffeehouse.
What's Cooking, Cousin? (4/28/1965)
When Richard reacts enthusiastically to the French cuisine prepared by another girl, Patty tries to amp up her own cooking skills.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (5/5/1965)
The Lane Family takes it upon themselves to get Ross prepared for Little League tryouts.
My Cousin, The Heroine (5/12/1965)
Cathy becomes a local hero after saving a baby from drowning.
Patty, The Chatterbox (5/19/1965)
An extra week's allowance may be the toughest money Patty ever earned after she accepts her father's bet to stay quiet for three straight days.
The full-frame, 1.33:1 black and white video transfers for The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season look better than the first season's offerings - and those were quite good. Blacks appear stronger, the gray scale is well-balanced, and the image is relatively sharp. Screen anomalies are present, but minimal, while compression isn't a big concern, either (some minor edge enhancement the bigger you go up in monitors). All in all, these episodes looked far better than I every saw the show before, so again, nice job, Shout! Factory.
The English mono audio tracks for The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season are another matter. Levels are all over the place, with the sound frequently coming in muddy. Not on a par with the video. Close-captions are available.
Identical Cousins (Creating Patty & Cathy Lane), running 6:29, is an additional snippet from the interview included on the First Season release of The Patty Duke Show, where the surviving cast members discuss the split-screen process used to create the cousins effect. As well, there are some recent Social Security PSAs, starring Duke as Cathy and Patty, included here. I think some additional bonuses were in order here.
A slight tweaking to the two main themes here - Patty dating and Patty screwing up something - keeps The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season quite fresh and entertaining, with the cast of pros smoothly finding their rhythm together. Duke is, as always, marvelous, while Schallert, Byron, O'Keefe, and Applegate match her scene for scene. Solidly constructed, gentle in its humor and surprisingly resonant dramatically, The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season is another winner from those network days that many of today's "critics" (most of whom haven't even seen what they're criticizing) condescendingly dismiss as "fluff." Of course it's not "fluff" - it's expertly crafted "fluff." I highly recommend The Patty Duke Show: The Complete Second Season.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.