Ken Tucker
April 02, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Jack Paar Collection

Current Status
In Season

We gave it an A-

A loving three-disc summation of the recently deceased talk-show host. It starts with Jack Paar: Smart Television, the tidy, excellent clip compilation that aired on PBS. More valuable, though, are interviews with politicians like Robert Kennedy and Barry Goldwater, as well as opening monologues with nice throwaway lines (”We have a wonderful show coming up for you. I don’t know the exact date, but…”). Also: three complete shows, glimpses of what the talk-show format once was, with guests engaged in lively byplay, priceless stuff you’d never see now. For instance, Bette Davis teaches Paar and Jonathan Winters her distinctive style of smoking (cigs are passed around and lit) and lays into gossip columnist Walter Winchell for spreading a rumor that she had cancer. ”It’s a sinful thing to do,” she says, as Paar nods vigorously. An era lost, here gloriously recaptured.

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