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THE FIRST 10 EPISODES …

For Hicksflicks.com, June 6, 2014

If you are way younger than me and have never seen the original "Twilight Zone" (1959-64) or "Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-62) or "Combat!" (1962-63), here's an opportunity for you to catch up with some classic black-and-white TV that holds up marvelously.

MPI Home Video is releasing three cheaply priced DVD sets titled "Classic Television Beginnings," featuring the first 10 episodes of each of these series, to show why 1960s viewers became hooked in the first weeks of watching. (And I'm sure MPI wouldn't mind if you became hooked and decided to purchase an entire series.)

These days, the average network TV program boasts 22 episodes per season, and the average cable season ranges from 10 to 13. So a 10-episode DVD set may seem to represent half or perhaps all of a given season.

But back in those days, many more episodes each year were the norm. "The Twilight Zone" had 36 episodes during its first season, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" had 30 and "Combat" had 32.

                   

             Burgess Meredith, 'Time Enough at Last'

"The Twilight Zone" is Rod Serling's sci-fi/fantasy half-hour anthology, which might set its stories in the future, in the Old West, during the Civil War or the modern era (circa 1960). And there was always an O. Henry-style twist ending.

These are thoughtful stories and often represent something larger than what is on the surface. Nine of these 10 are scripted by Serling himself and among them is the famous "Time Enough at Last" episode with Burgess Meredith as a book lover who finally gets an opportunity to read to his heart's content … or so he thinks.

Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam.

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" is Carl Reiner's sitcom starring Van Dyke as a TV comedy writer with a loving wife (Mary Tyler Moore) and son (Larry Mathews), and his co-writers Buddy and Sally (Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie), whose quips fly fast and furious.

The home and workplace arenas are equally represented and the 10 episodes here — nine scripted by Reiner! — are hilarious and surprisingly relevant today. This is a show that, despite the '60s hairstyles and lack of cellphone technology, never feel dated.

                   

            Vic Morrow, left, with Albert Salmi, 'Combat!'

"Combat!" is an hourlong World War II drama that follows an infantry squad on the front lines in Europe, filmed in outdoor locations and offering a heightened realism that, up to that time, was not prevalent on American television.http://www.amazon.com/Classic-TV-Beginnings-Rick-Jason/dp/B00IY30K0A/ref=pd_sim_sbs_mov_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1R5MFJN6GY1X671TPVNJ

Vic Morrow stars as a sergeant leading his men into battle as well as into more personal engagements with various squad members who come and go, a Nazi deserter, a downed pilot and a new sergeant with a propensity for violence. The show is gritty (though nothing like it would be today, of course) and filled with terrific performances. Jeffrey Hunter, Tom Skerritt, Tab Hunter and Howard Duff guest in these episodes, as well as Ted Knight (who would later play obtuse Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") as a German officer!