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"Silver Spoons" The Complete First Season DVD Review

Buy Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season on DVD from Amazon.com Silver Spoons: Season One (1982-83)
Show & DVD Details

Director: Jack Shea (Pilot directed by Bob Lally)

Regular Writers: Steve Fritzker, Robert Illes, James Stein, David W. Duclon, Michael G. Moye, Danny Kallis / Creators: Howard Leeds, Ben Starr, Martin Cohan

Regular Cast: Ricky Schroder (Ricky Stratton), Erin Gray (Kate Summers), Leonard Lightfoot (Leonard Rollins), Joel Higgins (Edward Stratton III)

Recurring Characters: Jason Bateman (Derek Taylor), John Houseman (Grandfather Stratton), Corky Pigeon (Freddy), Bobby Fite (J.T. Martin), John Reilly (Bob Danish), John P. Navin, Jr. (Hobart "Ox" Doyle), Franklyn Seales (Dexter Stuffins), Jessie Lee Smith (Lisa)

Notable Guest Stars: Robert Picardo (Louis Morgan), Amanda Peterson (Sally Frumbel), Louis Guss (Hilarious Hal), Mr. T (Himself), Aileen Fitzpatrick (Miss Campbell), Christine Belford (Evelyn), Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson), John Anderson (Captain Stark), Peter Jason (McConnell), Robert Tessier (Jack Emish), Sharon Stone (Debbie), Frank De Vol (Bernie), Joey Lawrence (Joey Thompson), Rick Lenz (Jack Thompson), Martha Nix (Cindy Fairchild), Patrick Cronin (Willard Doyle), Jack Kruschen (Judge Harold S. Nutterman), Jim B. Baker (Multiple), Sal Viscuso (Bailiff), Allison Smith (Barbra Webster), Pamela Murphy (Pam)

Running Time: 536 Minutes (22 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-G equivalent)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Closed Captioned / Season 1 Airdates: September 25, 1982 - April 30, 1983
DVD Release Date: June 19, 2007
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $29.95
Two slim clear keepcases with cardboard box

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Embassy Television was formed in 1982 when famed TV producer Norman Lear merged his existing TAT Communications Company with his newly-acquired Avco Embassy Pictures. In the fall of that same year, the situation comedy "Silver Spoons" was introduced, joining the ranks of other Embassy productions, which included "The Jeffersons" (the previous season's most-watched sitcom), "All in the Family" spin-off "Archie Bunker's Place", and enduring comedies "Diff'rent Strokes" and "One Day at a Time."
NBC, one of three commercial U.S. networks at the time, debuted "Silver Spoons" in the 8:30 PM Eastern/Pacific time slot on Saturday nights. Sandwiched between the past-its-prime "Diff'rent Strokes" and Nell Carter's sophomore sitcom "Gimme a Break!", "Silver" could not have been anticipated to be a huge hit. After all, it was running on a relatively slow television night, whose only reliable draw was ABC's "The Love Boat", then in its sixth season.

NBC's expectations were presumably met, but not surpassed. "Silver Spoons" would exist as a weekend staple on the network over the next four seasons and enjoy a fifth season produced for syndication. Overall, 115 episodes of the show were produced, a tally that's far more impressive today than it was two decades ago. "Silver" had a mildly successful run, never topping the Nielsen ratings charts or winning any honors more significant than kid-tailored Young Artist Awards. Its reruns have been off the air for a decade. And the show just seems forgotten next to its contemporaries, failing to earn mention among either perennially-syndicated, award-decorated hits like "Cheers" and "The Cosby Show" or nostalgia-driven, goofy, pop culture-referenced fare like "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider."

Getting lost in the shuffle is a fairly understandable fate for "Silver Spoons", but Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has declared this summer, 25 years since the series first took to the air, to be the perfect time for audiences to discover or rediscover this family sitcom. Thus, next week they are releasing The Complete First Season, holding all 22 episodes which aired during the 1982-83 TV season.

The title screen for "Silver Spoons" shows off the exterior of this '80s sitcom's primary location: Edward Stratton's home, a castle in Long Island. At the center of "Silver Spoons" is newly united father-son pair of goofy millionaire Edward Stratton (Joel Higgins) and smart-aleck 12-year-old Ricky Stratton (Ricky Schroder).

Most sitcoms feel the need to supply a gimmicky premise as the starting point. "Silver Spoons" provides three gimmicks. First, its home universe is one of privilege, as its lead characters are certainly among that tiny percentage said to own a majority of worldwide wealth. Secondly, the father-son that comprise the core are only discovering each other now, with the son aged 12. Thirdly, that father-son relationship is twisted around by the fact that the father is essentially a big kid, while the son is surprisingly mature and keen-witted. With these three unique set-ups in place, "Silver Spoons" proceeds just like any other sitcom created in 1982 might, with broad jokes, memorably wacky storylines, and a set of fundamental moral values.

As on any show, the pilot introduces us to the regular characters who matter most, at least initially. Edward Stratton III (Joel Higgins) is approaching his 40s (as evidenced by graying temples), yet his inherited fortunes have catered to a carefree child-like lifestyle, where he has hired hands to worry about any adult responsibilities. His newly-discovered son, twelve-year-old Ricky (Ricky Schroder, in an idol-making performance) is the product of a 6-day marriage. The New York-accented, military school-educated Ricky has tracked down his father, reporting enough poor judgment calls from a thus-unseen mother to justify him moving in with his irresponsible Dad. They will, of course, live together in Edward's expansive living quarters. His Long Island castle is a child's dream house, filled with arcade games, a remote-controlled front door, and the fully-working rideable indoor miniature railroad that remains the show's most iconic image. Edward's "career" (if it can be called that) involves working with toy companies, somewhat explaining the kid-friendly ambience.

Two of Edward's employees round out the thin opening-credited cast. His pretty secretary Kate Summers (Erin Gray) gets to play a motherly role, while her love interest status lets the writers tackle Edward's courting of her and a hot new relationship rather than a plain old established marriage. Edward's lawyer Leonard Rollins (Leonard Lightfoot) seems to be a pretty transparent bone-toss to diversity. The token black guy, Leonard gets to deliver quasi-jokes and rationally provide exposition. But the character has more function than personality and his lack of importance is underscored as he fades from the foreground halfway into the season, disappearing altogether after Episode 15 and being seemingly replaced by another African-American, a business manager played by Franklyn Seales, who would become a regular in subsequent years.

A child star with a few film credits already under his belt (The Champ, The Last Flight of Noah's Ark), top-billed Ricky Schroder would emerge as the clear main attraction of the series, skillfully and charismatically playing the smart-mouthed pre-teen who regularly exhibits wisdom and maturity in resolving family dilemmas. Schroder has, of course, grown up and enjoyed extended runs on "NYPD Blue", "Scrubs", Lifetime's "Strong Medicine", and most recently, "24." His leading Season 1 co-stars are not likely to be familiar to modern audiences for any recent work.

Another relationship at the series' foreground changes in Season 1, as Edward and his secretary Kate Summers (Erin Gray) become lovers. Jason Bateman appears in more than half of Season 1's episodes as the loathsome Derek Taylor, Ricky's curiously most frequently-seen companion.

A number of first season guest stars, however, are quite recognizable. Single-episode guests include Mr. T, Gary Coleman ("Diff'rent Strokes"), Sharon Stone in her early 20s, a 6-year-old Joey Lawrence ("Blossom"), Can't Buy Me Love's Amanda Peterson, Robert Picardo ("Star Trek: Voyager", "The Wonder Years"), and Allison Smith ("Kate & Allie", Broadway's Annie). Oscar winner John Houseman (The Paper Chase) turns up in three episodes as Edward's stodgy, hard-to-please father.
Most frequent of all guest stars is pre-pubescent Jason Bateman, who (long before "Arrested Development" and just a few years prior to Teen Wolf Too) plays Derek Taylor, a nasty classmate who torments Ricky and phonily sucks up to adults, yet is apparently more than welcome to hang around Ricky as often as needed. A few other young actors play more believable peers, each with some standard-issue comedic angle, be it cheerleader, bully, or geek.

"Silver Spoons" is about as simple and conventional as sitcoms get. Single-thread plots are self-contained, unfolding with fun turns and witty exchanges before being predictably resolved. Several of the episodes find the show's small core cast restricted to one living room area of the Stratton's home. Like many a past family sitcom, this one is not afraid to throw a moral in the end and get a little sappy. Tears do flow in a number of early episodes and the hug count is high enough for Danny Tanner to approve. The active audience doesn't hesitate to dole out colossal laughs and even rounds of applause several times each episode. Sometimes, one wonders if the warm-up act was amazingly effective, the live studio audience was doped, or the reactions have been amplified. A few gags are even reused probably more than they were intended to be. At all times, it's very clear that the children characters are nothing like real kids; adults have put sarcastic words and funny mannerisms into their mouths, probably to the occasional confusion of the young cast members and young viewers.

I suppose all of the previous paragraph's observations could be classified as negatives. In fact, apply the same descriptions to one of today's few sitcoms and you'd think it was grounds for an early cancellation or a tepid critical review of an unhip, old-fashioned comedy. And yet, I would be lying if I didn't admit I got a huge kick out of watching this first season of "Silver Spoons" and that its design (untrendy by present-day standards though it may be) unquestionably contributed to the fun. Such broad, unrealistic, character/situation-driven comedy can't be labeled "high art" and its appeal boils down strictly to one's viewing tastes and the breadth of the television they've enjoyed. For me, the remarkable 1980s nature of the proceedings sealed it; I can't help but heartily enjoy this series. Whether or not they've seen the show before, anyone fond of the '80s should also be unable to resist "Silver Spoons" and this welcome DVD release. Any set that serves up Pac-Man, Rubik's Cube, Mr. T, and Gary Coleman on its first disc alone can't be all bad.

As far as age-appropriateness is concerned, the words "damn" and "hell" are thrown in from time to time, but content rarely gets worse than the mildest of mild innuendo. Were it on the air today, "Silver Spoons" just might be the most wholesome program in primetime.

The 22 episodes of the premiere "Silver Spoons" season are divided among three discs. I've marked seven standout episodes with a star ().

Edward and Ricky play a game of foosball in one of their first encounters. Oscar winner John Houseman plays Ricky's starchy grandfather Edward Stratton II. Mr. T really seems to know the answer, while Ricky is embarrassed about having him as a bodyguard.

Disc 1

1. Pilot (28:16) (Originally aired September 25, 1982)
Edward has two bombshells dropped on him: he's broke and he has a 12-year-old son he's only now learning about. Edward is reluctant to let Ricky move in.

2. Boys Will Be Boys (24:10) (Originally aired October 2, 1982)
Ricky is upset that his father won't punish him, after his classmate Derek (Jason Bateman) explains that punishments show love.

3. Grandfather Stratton (24:11) (Originally aired October 9, 1982)
Ricky meets his stuffy grandfather (guest John Houseman), who has little interest in his grandson and even less regard for Edward.

4. Me and Mr. T (24:10) (Originally aired October 16, 1982)
After Ricky gets beat up on the first day of school, Edward hires Mr. T to be his bodyguard.

Ricky tries to woo Sally Frumbel (Amanda Peterson, "Can't Buy Me Love") in "Takin' a Chance on Love." Clever framing reflects the situation, as Ricky is literally between Edward and ex-wife Evelyn (Christine Belford) in "Evelyn Returns." Wha'choo talkin' bout, Ricker? Arnold Jackson (Gary Coleman) is intrigued by Ricky's hacking skills in "The Great Computer Caper."

5. Takin' a Chance on Love (24:11) (Originally aired October 23, 1982)
Ricky tries to be smooth in pursuing the pretty new girl in school (pre-Can't Buy Me Love Amanda Peterson).

6. Evelyn Returns (24:11) (Originally aired October 30, 1982)
Ricky's mother Evelyn (Christine Belford) visits her son and ex-husband with every intention of Ricky flying to London to live with her again.

7. The Great Computer Caper (24:10) (Originally aired November 6, 1982)
After a student reporter (Gary Coleman in character as Arnold Jackson of "Diff'rent Strokes") writes about Ricky's successful crack into secret government computer files, they both take off with the FBI searching for them.

8. I'm Just Wild About Harry (24:11) (Originally aired November 13, 1982)
During a late-night graveyard visit, Ricky and Derek encounter an orangutan. Ricky brings the playful ape to his home, where they become friends.

John Houseman returns for more scowling as Grandfather Stratton, this time tuxedoed, in "Honor Thy Father." A young Sharon Stone guest-stars as Debbie, the ditzy meter maid who put that lipstick on Edward's content cheek. Kate's date with the Thicke-like Bob Danish (John Reilly) in "Falling in Love Again" sees Edward and Ricky tagging along.

Disc 2

9. Honor Thy Father (24:11) (Originally aired November 20, 1982)
Edward is hesitant to give a speech at his father's lifetime achievement ceremony. Meanwhile, Ricky begins to play bassoon.

10. Father Nature (24:11) (Originally aired November 27, 1982)
To help Ricky earn his "Badger Paws", Edward cancels his ski trip plans for a weekend of father-son camping that tests them both.

11. A Little Magic (24:11) (Originally aired December 4, 1982)
At Derek's prompting, Ricky thinks Kate has feelings for him. In fact, her sights are set on a different Stratton. Sharon Stone guest-stars as a ditzy meter maid whose flirtations with Edward encourage Kate to make her move.

12. Falling in Love Again (24:11) (Originally aired December 11, 1982)
Following a successful first date, Edward and Kate agree not to move too fast. Faced with dates to others, however, they're less certain of this decision.

Ricky and Kate are happy to give "The Best Christmas Ever" to cave boy Joey Thompson (Joey Lawrence). Ricky dresses in drag to satisfy Derek after having his life saved. The Ricker works his irresistible charm on Barbra Webster (Allison Smith), "The Toy Wonder."

13. The Best Christmas Ever (24:11) (Originally aired December 18, 1982)
The Yuletide spirit is in full force as Ricky enjoys his first Christmas with his father. As it wouldn't be an '80s Christmas episode without some generous giving, Ricky and Edward help out a family of three whom tough luck has forced to live... in a cave. Buoying the poor family's sympathy appeal is their eager young son Joey (played by Joey Lawrence).

14. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (24:07) (Originally aired January 8, 1983)
After Derek saves him from a rocky cave death, Ricky reluctantly agrees to cross-dress, be Derek's date, and help him win a bet.

15. Twelve Angry Kids (24:11) (Originally aired January 15, 1983)
Ricky's pantsing of a fellow student brings a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against him. With the plaintiff claiming whiplash and playing for sympathy, Leonard and the Strattons get an all-kid jury to sit for this very silly trial.

16. The Toy Wonder (24:10) (Originally aired January 22, 1983)
Barbra Webster (guest Allison Smith), an influential girl in the toy industry, uses Edward's interest in hiring her to romance an uninterested Ricky.

Ricky and Edward try to raise awareness of  the popcorn they're selling at the mall. With help from friends J.T. (Bobby Fite) and Lisa (Jessie Lee Smith), Ricky tries to run a successful ice cream shop in "Junior Businessman." If modern science allowed Alan Thicke and Charles Grodin to mate, their offspring would likely grow into Bob Danish (John Reilly), the overly self-confident pilot who crashes with the Strattons near the end of Season 1.

Disc 3

17. Popcorn (24:11) (Originally aired February 5, 1983)
To fund the school orchestra's trip to Washington D.C., Ricky puts Edward down for $1,000 worth of popcorn. When Edward objects, Ricky and he head to the mall to sell the thousand bags.

18. Junior Businessman (24:12) (Originally aired February 12, 1983)
For a business school project, Edward temporarily gives ownership of his closed ice cream shop Uncle Smiley's
(which looks an awful lot like Hilarious Hal's from Episode 5) to Ricky and his classmates, with messy results.

19. Three's a Crowd (24:10) (Originally aired February 19, 1983)
Ricky worries that Kate's presence on a skiing trip might pull Edward's attentions away from him.

20. The Empire Strikes Out (24:10) (Originally aired February 26, 1983)
As a thunderstorm plays games with the Strattons' electricity, Grandfather offers Kate a vice president position in California while encouraging Edward to pursue a more financially beneficial marriage.

21. Won't You Go Home, Bob Danish? (24:11) (Originally aired March 5, 1983)
In an attempt to win back Kate, her ex Bob Danish (John Reilly, returning) crashes his plane on the Strattons' property and then must crash at the Strattons' house.

22. The X Team (24:11) (Originally aired April 30, 1983)
During a sleepover, Ricky and his friends sneak their way to watching Nude Nurses from Outer Space and get busted.

Though one of just four characters seen in the opening credits, Leonard Lightfoot's character Leonard Rollins (Edward's lawyer) doesn't figure too prominently. In "Twelve Angry Kids", his unceremonious final appearance, Leonard defends Ricky on trial. The Strattons' fondly-remembered miniature train gets a festive overhaul for the first "Silver Spoons" Christmas episode.


For a 25-year-old sitcom of evidently modest origins, "Silver Spoons" doesn't look too bad on DVD. Presented in its intended "fullscreen" dimensions, the series always has the appearance of an early '80s sitcom. But at least it looks like one that has been treated to a sufficient DVD, rather than merely a weak-signaled television rerun. The video clearly isn't as polished as that of more recent sitcoms and at no point would anyone ever deem these visuals theater-ready. But viewers can easily notice and appreciate the benefits of DVD's high resolution. All shortcomings seem inherent to the way these episodes were made; this release can't be faulted for things like lighting and camera technology, yet those yield issues like funny glares and lingering light trails, uneven/unnatural/slightly bleeding colors, and a mild general fuzziness.

Regarding audio, all the package states is Dolby Digital, which is fairly obvious. Whether the two-channel presentation is Mono or Stereo is tougher to determine, but I'd guess it's broad mono in nature. The soundtrack offers about what you'd expect: a forceful laugh track and intelligible dialogue, but none of that infrequent dramatic music that some sitcoms employ. It nearly goes without saying that it's rendered in a fine but plain fashion. Perhaps the most remarkable aural element is Mr. T's gentle bling jingling in Episode 4. Sadly, no subtitles of any kind are supplied, but the set is thankfully closed captioned in English.

Sony loves this smiling, sweatered Schroder picture so much that it adorns Disc 1's Main Menu, in addition to featuring prominently on the DVD's front cover. Christmas, cross-dressing, and courtroom drama... it's all found on the second page of Disc 2's Episode Selection menu. The Complete First Season DVD treats "Silver Spoons" to three different composite covers.


Though the set might have been able to tout the pilot as an extended presentation based on its nearly half-hour runtime, nothing else in the way of bonus features is provided. That's disappointing for a TV show which discussing inevitably seems to prompt "Whatever happened to...?" questions.
Maybe a cast/crew retrospective is somewhere down the line, but I think fans would been happy even see old commercials or promotional material that might have been easily obtained. Nevertheless, just about everyone would prefer a bonus-less DVD to no DVD whatsoever, so the void of supplements can't be too swiftly lamented for a series many will feel lucky to get at all.

A trio of previews included on Disc 3 promote Catch and Release, The Pursuit of Happyness, and, most appropriately, "'80s Hits" (featuring Ghostbusters, The Big Chill, The Karate Kid, St. Elmo's Fire, Stripes, and Stand By Me).

Each of the three discs and their silent main menu screens pick one of the three Caucasian leads to feature with a single promotional photo. I'd guess that in addition to a lack of imagination, a shortage of readily-available high-res photos dictated the rather basic presentation. As is common for TV series, chapter stops accompany commercial break locations but no scene selection menus are offered.

Packaged like other Sony sitcoms, "Silver Spoons" arrives in two slim clear keepcases, with episode titles and synopses on the back cover. An enclosed booklet showcases the studio's impressive catalog of TV series currently available on DVD.

Together, we're going to find our way! If Kate and Edward don't seem too surprised to find a mustachioed Ricky is their waiter, that's because they're dining in their living room.


As a critic, I can easily find faults with "Silver Spoons", from its limited design and formulaic plots to its spotty acting and lack of anything resembling a grip on reality. This may not be the type of thing that revolutionized the camera or even made many waves on television. It probably won't be studied and celebrated decades from now. Few would deem it of any value to society.

As a viewer, however, I must confess that I am won over by the show's abundant charms. These are partially attributable to the sitcom's 1980s sensibilities but don't rely solely on nostalgia, a fact I can vouch for in seeing these episodes for the first time. Reasonably funny and always entertaining, even at a quarter-century in age, "Silver Spoons" doesn't feel too dated to delight young and unacquainted viewers. Its familiar comedy comforts like an extra blanket on a cold night or a couple of Advil for a slight headache.

Sony's Season 1 DVD can't be called anything but "barebones", but picture and sound are fine in spite of the evidently limited production. And the price is quite fair, at about a dollar per 24-minute episode. I even think there's replay value here, judging from how many of the fun episodes made an initial impression. Based on the current trend of studios being cautious to issue follow-up sets, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if this is the only time we see "Silver Spoons" on DVD. If that disappoints you, then don't hesitate to pick up and treasure this set.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed June 14, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 1982/2007 Embassy Television and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.