Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Things I Watch: Classic Television-Room 222 (1969-1974)

Room 222

Season 1 Episode 1
Richie’s Story

It was back in 2009 when Shout Factory announced the release of Room 222: Season One on DVD.  If you know anything at all about 70’s television and are into classic tv series collecting, then this show was a must have to add to your library. I wasted no time in ordering Season 1 Through Amazon.  But things went south quickly.

Shout Factory, that was manufacturing the set on DVD, issued a warning that the quality was less than stellar but it was the best they could offer as it was the only prints made available by 20th Century Fox who basically didn’t give a shit. 

There were a few good prints, but most of the episodes had faded color, dirt throughout the prints, and poor visual quality.  It was a sad state of affairs and disappointing to say the least.  But if this was the only way to get the series, the episodes were at least watchable. 

Then came the announcement that Season Two would only be available direct from Shout Factory as DOD’s (Discs on Demand meaning burned disc).  More expensive of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time I over paid.  So I ordered it as well.

Often times on these discs, the opening credits would be a mess, but the picture would straighten up afterwards.  Some episodes, but not many, were actually in pretty good shape.  But since quality wise Fox couldn’t or wouldn’t release better prints, Shout announced Season 2 would be The Last of the Mohicans so to speak. 

There’s absolutely no hope for the rest of the series to be released.  Nor does any of the Classic Networks like Antenna TV or MTV seem to want to salvage it out of the Fox vaults which are now owned by Disney.  Unless they did and I missed it.  So the quality isn’t pristine.  Many shows from the 50’s and 60’s are less than stellar.  But Room 222 is a time capsule series that took on many events relative to the time it aired and for these shows to never see the light of day again is shameful.  And take my word for it, 222 was an
Award winning quality show that deserved to be preserved as much as many of the theatrical films we’re told to donate to for film preservation.  It’s frustrating.

Now that I’ve spent way too much time on that bitch session, I guess I should tell you something about the show itself.  Here’s the episode summary courtesy of the IMDB:

In the pilot episode (which opens as essentially a continuation of the scenes in the opening credits), Pete Dixon teaches history in Room 222 at Walt Whitman High School. Principal Seymour Kaufman introduces Pete to Alice Johnson, a perky but painfully insecure student teacher. Pete's most enthusiastic student is Richie Lane, who goes so far as to dress a lot like Pete and even takes roll in his absence. But Guidance Counselor Liz McIntire has discovered some disturbing news about Richie -- the home address he submitted is fake, suggesting that he may not live in the school district, and therefore might be ineligible to keep attending Whitman.

We know for sure Richie won’t get the boot because he’s pretty much a regular student from week to week as the plot call for his appearance.  There are some other regular students or semi-regular students who pop up now and then, some more than others.

The ones who found pretty steady work besides Howard Rice as Richie Lane were Heshimu as Jason Allen and Judy Strangis as shy Helen Loomis.  I think I had a crush on her but in those days I had a crush on a lot of TV female characters.  Besides being in this episode with the billing of “Student in Pete’s Class”, Brad Davis would also reappear later on at which time this mysterious student would actually have a name: Charlie Morano.

Of course you could count on the rest of the cast to be around week to week without fail solving the myriad problems of their students.  Sometimes teachers and guidance counselors and the Principal Kaufman would have their own life crises to be hashed out.  If there was drama like this going on at my own high school, I never noticed.

And we find out in episode one that Teacher Pete Dixon and Guidance Counselor Liz McIntyre have their own secretive affair going on except I’m sure the whole school knows about it so they aren’t fooling anyone.  The pair arrive at school in different vehicles but often depart in Pete’s spiffy convertible together to parts unknown.  Best not to advertise any hanky panky that might have been going on.

Alice Johnson, who is the most bubbly student teacher you’d ever want to meet in the hallways of any high school, is supposed to be comic relief of sorts when she isn’t butting in.  She just wants to be the greatest teacher ever just like Pete whose classroom she has been assigned to so that she could learn the ropes.  Just don’t ever call her cute.  Karen Valentine hates that word.

Kaufman seems to be the nicest principal ever to sit in an office making up the rules for each week’s episode.  When I was in school around the same time, my principal and vice-principal were big 10 foot tall balding hulking brutes that could make you shit your pants with just one word.  We weren’t lucky enough to have a Philip Kaufman puttering around being sullen.  And let’s face it, very few of us had too many teachers like Pete Dixon able to motivate you into doing something besides wounding flies and playing with them on your desktop.

Lloyd Hanes was born to play Pete Dixon but sadly he would pass away in 1986 from Cancer at the age of 52.  The rest of the main cast are still alive.  Even Michael Constantine who some of you probably recognize as the Windex spraying father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel.

But the show was entertaining and very timely.  222 was a capsulated version of all kinds of things happening to the youth of the 70’s and a often realistic and relevant.

I feel lucky to have Seasons One and Two.  Would like to have the other seasons but it’s been twenty years since the DVD’s were released.  So get it while you can because eventually, the whole thing will be just a memory.  You can buy Season One at either Shout Factory or Amazon, or Season Two at Shout Factory.  Until next time.

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