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Barbra Streisand - The Television Specials

4.7 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Box set featuring Barbra Streisand in five era-defining television specials that introduced her to the world. 'My Name Is Barbra' (1965) was Streisand's first solo television outing, featuring fantastic sets as a backdrop to her dynamic vocals. The programme won five Emmy Awards. A sequence at Bergdorf Goodman mixes satire with music and high fashion fantasy; her medley of songs includes 'Second-Hand Rose', 'Brother Can You Spare A Dime?' and 'The Best Things In Life Are Free'. 'Color Me Barbra' (1966) was aired just after Streisand had completed a successful Broadway run in 'Funny Girl' and had seven gold records to her credit. She sings surrounded by animals in a circus dream sequence and wanders the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 'The Belle Of 14th Street' (1967), Streisand is joined by actor Jason Robards in this tribute to turn of the century vaudeville. Amongst the highlights is a duet with herself via the miracle of technology, and Streisand and Robards performing excerpts from the Tempest. In 'Barbra Streisand: A Happening In Central Park', an estimated 135,000 people jammed Central Park's Sheep Meadow for this free solo concert in 1968. Six televison cameras and a film camera mounted on a helicopter recorded this concert and the audience from every conceivable angle. Finally 'Barbra Streisand and Other Musical Instruments' (1973) was her first television appearance after a five year gap. It features over 150 musicians from around the world performing on almost every conceivable instrument.


A feast for Barbra Streisand fans, The Television Specials collects five one-hour programs she recorded between 1965 and 1973 when she was known simply as a recording artist and Broadway star rather than a film director, reclusive performer, and political activist. The first is My Name Is Barbra (April 14, 1965), shot shortly after she played in Funny Girl. Shot in black and white, it's a little different from the other variety shows of the day (e.g., The Judy Garland Show) in that there's no parade of guest stars or dancing girls. That's a good thing, as those are the numbers that get dated very quickly . Instead, we have all Barbra, even if she's more comfortable singing than doing comedy monologues. The show winds its way through an Alice in Wonderland sequence which ends in a plain but magnificent rendition of "People," then has Streisand in a store's fur department. Last is a simple concert setting that includes a Funny Girl medley with "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "The Music that Makes Me Dance." The closing concert segment would become a staple, and the peak, of all her shows.

Color Me Barbra followed on March 30, 1966 and is, naturally, filmed in color. The first sequence was shot at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with Streisand wandering among the masterworks and antiquities, even singing "Where or When" dressed as Nefertiti. Next she's among a circus of animals, singing "Try to remember" to the elephant or poking fun at herself by telling the anteater "We have so much in common." Again, the final act is her just singing at a mike, with "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" and "It Had to Be You." Making its home-video debut, The Belle of 14th Street (October 11, 1967) is something of an oddity. It's styled like a vaudeville show, with period costumes (including the audience) and old-time numbers. Jason Robards (singing and dancing!), John Bubbles, and others guest-star. Streisand plays a modest stripper for "Alice Blue Gown," plays an operatic diva for "Liebestraum," then does double duty as a boy (pre-Yentl) in the audience invited to sing a duet of "Mother Macree" with the on-stage Streisand. The last segment is Streisand singing (accompanied on stage by David Shire before he wrote shows on Broadway with Richard Maltby) such songs as "My Melancholy Baby," "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," and a medley that includes "My Buddy" and "How About Me?"

The highlight of the collection, A Happening in Central Park (September 15, 1968) is refreshingly free of gimmicks and concepts. It's just Streisand with an orchestra in front of a live New York audience. "The Nearness of You," "Cry Me a River," "I Can See It," "Second Hand Rose" (the audience enjoys singing along)," "People," and "Happy Days Are Here Again." Barbra Streisand... and Other Musical Instruments (November 2, 1973) returns to the concept-show format. Streisand takes her place among the symphony orchestra members sporting her own instrument: her voice. One medley groups a number of favorite songs but in "international" settings, such as "People" accompanied by sitar and "Don't Rain on My Parade" by bagpipe band, and Streisand changes costumes to match. Ray Charles is on hand for four songs in the second set, then Streisand returns to the orchestra to sing such songs as "On a Clear Day" and "The Sweetest Sounds."

Picture quality is good, and sound is presented in original mono, 2.0 stereo, and 5.1 surround. The only bonus features are three introductions Streisand filmed for the 1987 home-video releases, but the set is beautifully packaged with a detailed booklet of liner notes, photos, and song lists. The five 50+-minute programs are ungenerously spread over five discs, however. --David Horiuchi

Special Features

  • Programs: My Name Is Barbra (1965), Color Me Barbra (1966), The Belle of 14th Street (1967), A Happening in Central Park (1967), Barbra Streisand... and Other Musical Instruments (1973)
  • Includes Barbra Streisand's original 1987 video introductions for My Name Is Barbra, Color Me Barbra, and A Happening in Central Park

Product Details

  • Actors: Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Martin Erlichman, Jason Robards, Lee Allen
  • Directors: Dwight Hemion, Joe Layton, Robert Scheerer, Roland Vance, Walter C. Miller
  • Writers: Ken Welch, Larry Gelbart, Mitzie Welch
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Color, Dolby, Original recording remastered, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Rhino Records
  • DVD Release Date: November 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 278 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B9PW7G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,730 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Barbra Streisand - The Television Specials" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I received a preview copy of the discs this weekend for my Streisand fan site barbra-archives [dot] com. Streisand fans, I believe, will be completely happy with this 5-DVD set of Barbra's first television specials.

The packaging of the set is first-rate. After taking the top off the box, you will find a 5-panel DigiPak that unfolds and holds the 5 DVDs. The packaging is gorgeous down to the details: when you remove a DVD from the DigiPak, a Streisand "timeline" is revealed behind it. For instance, if you remove the "Central Park" disc, behind it is a black circle listing some events that happened in Barbra's career in 1968.

There are rare photos sprinkled throught the box set: on the DigiPak itself, and also in the handsome, detailed booklet that comes with the set. The booklet, in hues of burgundy and black, is art deco in design. Streisand herself is credited with "Art Direction" on the set. The liner notes by Jay Landers and Richard Jay-Alexander are thorough and revealing. Fans will pick up some new details from their notes -- for instance, that's Streisand's old friend Cis Corman in a cameo during BELLE OF 14th STREET!

As for the specials themselves, obvious care has been taken premiering them on DVD for the first time. Every disc has a creative menu design. My favorite is the MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS menu, with a music stand serving as the song selection menu. Viewers can choose from three audio options on all the specials: The original mono mix; a 2-channel stereo mix; or a 5.1 mix. The video quality is the best, for sure. Note that some of these specials are close to 40 years old. The restorers have spent time cleaning up the specials.
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For those who didn't get a chance to see her early performances, ones in which she showed her tradmark combination of bravado and style, along with a glorious voice, this is a very special treat.

I'm old enough to remember seeing the televised Central Park performance and knew immediately that she was something special, with a certain delivery that was hers alone. There were other specials since then and, of course, she went on to act in movies and on Broadway.

But these first specials stand apart from the rest,showcasing a young Streisand who appears, at times, to be nearly as amazed as her fans at her performances, which truly seem to pour directly from her soul, unedited, unrevised.

She is friendly, accessable and just awkward enough to be totally irresistable. None of the famous "diva" reputation seems to be showing here. She appears to be enjoying every moment in front of her fans and she hasn't become used to celebrity yet. The novelty of it all shows on that beautiful face, a face which is truly testimony to how so many imperfect parts can add up to one glorious whole.

The specials themsevles would be reason enough to buy this set but there are some added features which make it even more attractive, including rare photos, detailed liner notes and little known trivia. From My Name is Barbra to a Concert in Central Park to the rarely seen Belle of 14th Street, this is a must for Barbra's many fans!
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This collection, especially My Name Is Barbra and Color Me Barbra, is just extraordinary to see (and hear) again. I've loved Babs since I first saw her in the film Funny Girl. But one thing that struck me: Barbra was so extraordinarily edgy in these specials, so willing to take chances in the pursuit of the new. So, at what point in her career did she start playing it safe? And why isn't she recording more stuff that she's never recorded before? She's done just about every version she can do of People and Don't Rain on My Parade and The Way We Were. Of course we'll never get tired of her doing those songs. But there's so much more she can do in terms of putting her stamp on the American Songbook. She still has the voice. And God knows, if Rod Stewart can strike gold four times over, vocally slaughtering American standards, Barbra can bring them to their knees showing 'em all how it's really done!
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It's quite exciting to have all of Barbra's early TV work out on DVD. The shows will be great. I'm wondering, though, if anyone ever thought about release THE ENTIRE Happening in Central Park. The show ran 2-1/2 hours for those lucky enough to be in Central Park that night. Yet the album had what, 40 minutes of material and the hour long TV special included probably about 50 minutes. Where's the rest of the footage and the rest of the songs?

How about a double CD of a great early concert by the younger Streisand? And how about the full-on DVD of the entire show. You know they shot it all. You know the footage is in the vaults. Come on Barbra, come on Marty...release it already. Give your fans a real treat!
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Historic is a word thrown around so lightly these days like so many others BUT having seen some of these specials on VHS, and knowing there's even more to see in this set, this really is an historic, exciting release by a legend (another overused word but, once again, apropos here). There's so much charm and magic in "Color Me Barbra" and "My Name Is Barbra"...elements it's hard to create these days (and God knows how folks try!) but is so abundant and flows so naturally out of these specials. I forget which special it's on but there is great footage of a musical medley shot in Bergdorf Goodmans...

Now, for the record, I do own some Barbra Streisand CD's, and consider myself a fan, but I do not consider myself a fanatic. But I did want to take some time to let you know you won't be disappointed in the quality of the material in these shows! I've enjoyed watching Color Me Barbra and My Name Is Barbra time and again and whether you've seen them before or not, they are remarkable. I can't wait to re-visit "...and Other Musical Instruments" and see for the first time the other footage on this set.
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