Picks and Pans Review: Steve Allen's Golden Age of Comedy

updated 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Allen has had his moments of pretension in recent days, but these too-brief 49 minutes are a hilarious reminder of what an innovative force he was in television's early years. Taken from episodes of his weekly variety show from 1956 to 1961, the tape includes foolproof guest shots: Jimmy Durante demonstrating his bizarre (and undeniable) charm singing Inka-Dinka Doo; an aging Abbott and Costello still able to make their "Who's on First?" routine seem fresh; Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks knocking out a 2,000-year-old-man bit; Bob Hope lampooning the even-then Renaissance-pretender Allen: "Go back to your dressing room and write another book. You have about three minutes. You may finish the symphony too." But there's also an early appearance by a couple of Jim Henson's Muppets, including Kermit the Frog as a female, and a slightly frenetic one-man skit by a youthful Johnny Carson. Allen, appearing in contemporary footage only briefly to introduce the segments, also points with justifiable pride to his regular company—which included Don Knotts, Pat Harrington Jr., Louis Nye, Tom Poston and Bill Dana—and cues up a still-funny "Man on the Street" sketch. He forgot to include one of his show's running catch phrases, so anyone who wants to know how Steve's bird is will just have to write and ask him. (Video Treasures, $9.98)

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