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Abbott & Costello Show on DVD!

Lou Costello’s daughter Chris
on “The Abbott and Costello Show”

Abbott & Costello Show / 1950s TV Shows

Louis Francis "Lou" Costello (right)
(March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959)

The team's first big motion picture,
Buck Privates, was released in 1941. 

The Abbott and Costello Show ran for
two seasons - 1952 to 1954 

Costello was surprised by Ralph Edwards
on NBC's This Is Your Life in 1956. 

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Lou Costello’s daughter
discusses dad’s sitcom

by John Stahl

Abbott & Costello on DVDThe incredible DVD set of the 1952-1954 sitcom “The Abbott and Costello Show” (A&C) is another example of the DVD industry getting around to releasing lesser-known very good shows. The opportunity to watch well-restored versions of this program and great extras that included many home movies of Lou Costello and his family was a special treat.

The chance to interview Lou’s daughter Chris was an exceptional bonus. Chris is best known as the author of “Lou’s on First,” which is a loving but realistic biography of her father. One great aspect of this book is that Chris interviewed numerous friends and co-stars of her father for it.

I remember watching after-school reruns of A&C, and the comprehensive booklet that the DVD set includes shares that Jerry Seinfeld watching the same reruns roughly 250 miles from me inspired him to create his own classic sitcom.

Abbott and Costello television program in the 1950sThe numerous similarities between A&C and “Seinfeld” include Seinfeld borrowing the technique of performing plot-related material on stage at the beginning and the end of each episode, basing the rotund sad sack George Louis Costanza on the Lou Costello character, incorporating clever word play into episodes, and having the action center around a group of eccentric urbanites.

A&C also incorporated later clichéd sitcom plots, some of which received loving tributes on “Seinfeld.” These included having to spend the night in a haunted house to inherit money, a handful of get-rich-quick schemes, a vacuum cleaner demonstration going horribly awry, and an accidental tax refund.

I asked Chris if she knew why her father and Abbott chose the premise of two unemployed actors sharing a small apartment in a boarding house over a more traditional premise, such as being neighbors or partners in a retail store. She stated that she did not know the reason for that decision but commented that “their characters in general are as two buddies, one of whom is a little dumber than the other.” This is an excellent description both of the show and the actors’ personas.

In discussing both the show and Abbott’s and Costello’s careers on the family, rather than more risqué blue, burlesque circuit, Chris mentioned that Seinfeld’s praise for A&C included the fact that it helped preserve “Who’s on First” and the other classic Abbott and Costello routines that were incorporated into the program.

One of my favorite bits from the series involved Abbott bringing Costello to a finance company to get him “a loan.” A frustrated Costello could not understand why he had to go out for that reason because he and Abbott were “alone” at their apartment.

Chris was also unsure why her father was not among the scores of stars who appeared on “I Love Lucy.” She did say that Costello and Ball were friends, that she used to play with Lucie and Desi Arnaz, Jr., and that Ball helped Chris’ mother plan her 10th birthday party.

I almost fell on the floor laughing when Chris added that her mother dragged her out of the room when Chris asked Ball if her famous vibrant red hair was her natural color.

Chris additionally provided the spot-on observation that the DVD set of A&C “will be known as one of the most complete compilations of a series.” In addition to the features that are mentioned at the beginning of this article, Chris reminded me that the set includes a re-mastered version of the documentary “10,000 Kids and a Cop” about the enormous youth center that Costello established as a memorial to his son who drowned at the age of one.

Chris further made me aware of a terrific “Friends of Abbott and Costello” cruise that is sailing out of Boston in October 2011. Her description of the chance to visit with her and her family and to attend Abbott and Costello centered events sounds very fun


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