This Week in Music, August 6, 2013: The last days of the Civil Wars Page 3

Fridays cast

Archival releases

The Best of Fridays (Shout! Factory; photo courtesy Moffitt-Lee Productions)

Fridays, launched in 1980 as ABC’s answer to NBC’s Saturday Night Live, has a few claims to fame. It gave Michael Richards and Larry David their first sustained national exposure, as both actors and writers. And by the time the series ended in 1982 after a three-season, 58-episode run, it had provided a regular platform for the antics of Andy Kaufman, including the notorious was-it-real-or-was-it-staged “Marijuana” sketch.

For our purposes here, however, the long-awaited appearance of The Best of Fridays on DVD is an event because of its music performances. Featured among the four main discs are Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“American Girl,” “Shadow of a Doubt”), Dire Straits (“Skateaway,” “Romeo and Juliet”), and Graham Parker and the Rumour (“Stupefaction,” “Empty Lives”). Additional acts: Kiss, Devo, the Stray Cats, Pat Benatar, Kim Carnes, Kenny Loggins, and (ex-Eagle) Randy Meisner and the Silverados.

Especially valuable are appearances by the era’s standard-bearers of New Wave and punk. The Cars, via two episodes, are deliciously precise on “Touch and Go,” “Shake It Up,” and “Since You’re Gone.” Then there’s the Clash. It was just the third episode, on April 25, 1980, but Fridays scored a major coup over SNL by snaring the Clash for its first American TV appearance, only four months after the release of London Calling. The band opened with the title track and also played “Train in Vain” and “The Guns of Brixton” before concluding with a truly incendiary “Clampdown.” All four songs are here, in perfectly decent picture and sound.

All songs are not here when it comes to some other bands, however. The Best of Fridays is billed as containing “16 classic episodes,” but we don’t get 16 complete episodes. Which means that, in addition to losing some comedy sketches, we’re missing 22 music performances from those 16 episodes. Three other songs by the Cars are gone (“Shoo Be Doo,” “Gimme Some Slack,” “Think It Over”). Furthermore, three artists — the Busboys, Steve Forbert, and the Sir Douglas Quintet — are absent entirely from their respective episodes, with each of their three-song sets deleted.

Ah well, what’s here is wonderful. And among the sketches, two are actually reinstated (having been deleted from reruns): “Diner of the Living Dead” (a gory thing that sent six ABC affiliates running) and “The Ronny Horror Picture Show” (held in legal limbo by Rocky Horror producers). Disc 5 is devoted to extras, including reunion interviews with cast members and writers, plus — now it can be told! — “The Andy Kaufman Incident: What Really Happened?”

Various Artists: Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways (Smithsonian Folkways)
Archival recordings from Pete Seeger, Tony Trischka, Doc Watson, Elizabeth Cotten, Roscoe Holcomb, and 25 more. The booklet has rare photos and extensive notes.