Filmed at the long gone Biograph Studios in the Bronx, Manhattan, Producer NAT HIKEN created one of the best written Comedy Series for Television, period!
Coming off his successful 1955-1959 "SGT. BILKO (Phil Silvers) SHOW", Hiken takes his writing & acting talents to NYC to mold what most other successful shows of the 60's tried to copy, but never came close...Even the Producers(Connelly & Mosher) of "THE MUNSTERS" were very close in swiping Hikens' style...
CAR 54 ran for 2 Seasons, 1961-63, & was denied a 3rd as Hiken refused to give NBC half the residuals & he got screwed from being able to shop the show to another network. His next plan was a spin-off called, "THE SCHNAUZERS", w/AL LEWIS, CHARLOTTE RAE, & other 54 Cast Members. It didn't happen & he then past away at age 54, & the future of his brand of comedy was finished...
Shanachie DVD has released SEASON 1, "30 Episodes" of "CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?"...Starring FRED GWYNNE, JOE E. ROSS, AL LEWIS, NIPSY RUSSELL, BEATRICE PONS, & many other familiar NY Comedians & Theatrical Talents of the day. Any inspiring or professional writer would do themselves a great service to see this series. With Hiken in charge of writing practically every episode, gives you the best schooling in developmental writing for a sitcom, series, or just studies in characterizations taken to all out insanity...These people are totally nuts! They break the 4th wall just as Oliver Hardy did for Hal Roach, & they pull you into their maniacal mayhem. Especially JOE E. ROSS, the once-strip club host/comic turned TV Star. The stories of his own party animal insanities drove producer Hiken Mad,...& yet, here in this madness, is the genius of Comedy, Television Comedy!
Sitcoms are known as the lowest form in the field, but here the talents & writing is a rariety. Nothing, but nothing today comes close, or has since. Sure there are a few lows here & there, not every moment of each episode can be perfect, but what series today produces "30" episodes in a season!
When each episode was shot & edited, a theatre in Manhattan was rented weekly to show the episode to a real audience, & to record their laughter. The laughing you hear is the actual reaction, added to the soundtrack before airing on television. So that is not "canned laughter", but real New Yorkers being treated to advance showings. Can tell the show was extremely popular with the young kids of the city,...they loved JOE E. ROSS' "Officer Gunther Toody" with a passion, & CAR 54 gives you an insight to the chemistry to follow with FRED GWYNNE & AL LEWIS as HERMAN & GRANDPA in "THE MUNSTERS" 3 years later. I've always wondered why JOE E. ROSS never appeared at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, he would have been great as a recurring family member..."Ooh Ooh!! Eddie! I Told you not to paint my gargoyles in the BellTower. Now I've got Day-Glo Go-Go Goyles!..."
It is also wonderful for any NY'er to see on-location street shots of Pelham Parkway, & many store-front drive-by shoots from the early 60's. The cast must've created many double-takes, especially once the show became popular...
For Lovers of Comedy & what I consider the highest form of this medium, "CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?" is pure genius.
My only qualm is that the episodes are not in the order of original broadcast. "Excuse Me!...Do You Mind!? Do You Mind!!?"..
Here's Kliph Nesteroff's GREAT article about the bizarre but wonderful Joe E. Ross:
http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2011/01/k ... slobs.html
And here's a link to Ross' late career comedy album, "Should Lesbians Be Allow to Play Pro Football?"
http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/2008 ... lowed.html