It’s a testimony to the strength of the basic content that the poor video quality doesn’t come close to destroying the smile-inducing curiosity and nostalgia inherent in the material. If you want it to be 1962 again, or if you are a student of advertising, popular culture or the history of television– and you can overlook abysmal picture quality– these disks deliver. There is a longer Speedy Alka Seltzer spot than I have ever seen, some very cool minimal Tom Terrific- or UPA-style animation. Great advertising characters abound (included is that venerable icon of political incorrectness, the Frito Bandito, voiced by the great Mel Blanc). And if you’ve read reprints of MAD magazines first ten years, you will be able to view, possibly for the first time, some of the targets of their most memorable advertising satire (the Bandaid boiling egg test), as well as some of those bizarre cryptic references in Bill Elder and Harvey Kurtzman’s zany, teeming panels (“…the foaming cleanser, BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOMMM…”; “How’re you fixed for blades, man?”). Arthur Godfrey appears here as the style of soft sell pitchman probably known to recent generations only through Paul Harvey. (The goal was to seem to capture the pitchman, taking a break from his show, in a casual conversational mode about a product he actually used.)
Even with the image quality issues, I recommend this set. It’s amusing, innocent fun, occasionally borderline embarrassing, and often rather surreal. In the end, it’s revelatory. –You may find yourself wondering, were we ever really this unself-conscious, this unironic, this innocent? I know how I’d answer those questions. But take a look and decide for yourself.
PS: The single content quibble I have with the collection, by the way (which may be major to you) is that there are surprisingly few cereal commercials here. When I think of childhood, I probably think of those entertaining animated cereal commercials, even ahead of toy commercials.