LOS ANGELES: In a TV show hosted by Betty White 50 years ago, the perpetual charmer flirts with James Brolin, teases Della Reese, and trades pleasantries with Carol Burnett.
But White seems most elated in the company of the real stars of Betty Whites Pet Set, ”among them elephants, lions and snakes. And the dogs, a lot of dogs.
All I can say is Charlie Brown is right: Happiness is a warm puppy, says a beaming white in one episode, stroking a pair of little brown dogs as she quotes the Peanuts comic book character.
She and her husband, host of the late game show Allen Ludden, produced the 39-episode series (originally titled The Pet Set) which aired in syndication in 1971 and was released on DVD and platforms on Tuesday. streaming and digital after a painstaking restoration process.
Doing the show was strictly a labor of love for the Emmy-winning Golden Girls and Mary Tyler Moore Show star who, at the age of 99, retained her affection and compassion for animals.
When Allen and I started our own production company so many years ago, the only show I wanted to do was The Pet Set, White told The Associated Press. Allens’ offices were the most exciting in the building, as we were the only guests at the pre-screening of the furry and cuddly show.
What time! It remains one of my favorite shows even 50 years later, White said in a statement.
White, a longtime animal welfare and conservation activist, was delighted to do a show with her husband and friends that focused on her passion for animals, the TV producer and distributor said. Darren Wadyko, whose company spearheaded the reissue.
His famous friends have been invited to bring their pets, and occasionally have the chance to meet wild animals much to the dismay of the guests. Reese (“Touched By An Angel”) looked askance at White when she tried to bring her close to a leopard, and Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle “) did the same when a snake was involved.
Burnett hesitated at first when called in for the complicated task of bottle-feeding a baby elephant, but then the formula and the jokes flow. Those Playtex nurses, you can’t beat them, she said.
White, however, was fearless, especially in encounters filmed at a training complex in Southern California that supplied animals for television and movies. At one point, she was seen snuggling up to a 500-pound lion.
Other guests include Doris Day, Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds, Michael Landon and game show host Peter Marshall, who was interviewed for a documentary on the series which is part of the DVD.
It’s fun to look back on those many years and how pretty we all were, Marshall said with a laugh.
The show’s rebirth began when White’s longtime agent Jeff Witjas asked Wadyko if he could locate the episodes. After what Wadyko called a virtual expedition to Indiana Jones, it turned out that copies were kept at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and at White’s home in the Los Angeles area.
The tapes were restored, digitized and color corrected, with the final version bringing together the best parts of each set to create a blank version, Wadyko said, a process that took more than six months.
The series is available on the streaming platforms Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Fandango Now, and more platforms are expected to be added by distribution partners Darren Wadyko Media, Whites Albets Enterprises and the MPI Media Group. .
Wadyko, who produced Betty White’s smartest animals in America in 2015, said he was eager to see her reaction to the Pet Set rebirth, pandemic security permitting.
He and Witjas plan to “show her the wonderful DVD and spend some time watching it with her.” But that event has not yet happened, he said.
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