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Monday, March 11, 2013

MADtv: The Complete Second Season DVD Review

MADtv was a comedy sketch show that aired from 1995 to 2009. The show’s cast and writers seemed eager and willing to take chances with its material. The show did have guest stars, just as Saturday Night Live did, but the format was looser, and even though the show was not presented live, there was the feeling that wild stuff could happen.

The cast during the second season was fairly strong - Bryan Callen, David Herman, Orlando Jones, Phil LaMarr, Artie Lange, Mary Scheer, Nicole Sullivan and Debra Wilson (all of whom returned from the first season).

Most of the twenty-two episodes presented in this four-disc set are really good. A few are stand-outs. Only two are clunkers. Each episode (with one exception) has a guest star. Folks like Neve Campbell, Kevin McDonald, French Stewart, Adam Arkin and Ryan Stiles are among this season’s guest stars. The season opener features Christina Applegate, and this was when she was still known mainly for Married With Children (she mentions that series at the top of the show). The “Schizophrenic Jeopardy” skit is bloody hilarious.

The episode with Kim Coles is really good. Any episode that starts with a young girl saying, “Hey, Mom, Dad’s playing with himself again” is going to be good. And later in the episode another child is told, “You do know you’re the reason your daddy drinks,” in a skit at the Betty Ford Center. But the best bit is an animated segment, a take-off on Toy Story called “Sex Toy Story.” This is one of the funniest sketches I’ve seen. Buzz is a vibrator. And I love the Rabbit Fur Furniture ad (okay, I admit, I totally want all that fur furniture).

Neve Campbell’s guest appearance is also completely enjoyable. This was during Party Of Five (and yes, I watched that show), and she does a sketch called “Republican Party Of Five,” in which she dates Bob Dole.

Rodney Dangerfield is a guest in one episode, and he does a bit of stand-up at the beginning, which is great. He riffs on his usual theme of getting no respect, which somehow is always funny. Bobcat Goldthwait’s opening monologue is also great. He talks about setting a fire on The Tonight Show, and how appearing on MADtv is part of his community service.

In the episode with Queen Latifah, there is a sketch about a birth that is insanely funny. I burst out laughing several times – “We strongly suspect it’s a freak.”

The episode with Ryan Stiles is one of my personal favorites. It begins with him and Phil LaMarr doing a supposedly improvised scene of Shakespeare doing laundry. “To bleach or not to bleach?” “What cycle is this I see before me?” Ryan later sings a song about his big toes. This episode also has the line, “This doesn’t mean your mommy doesn’t love you; it just means you’re not real to her.” Wonderful.

I also love the episode with David Faustino. The skit where he goes on a date with a teacher is completely enjoyable.

But of course, you also have to suffer through Ice-T’s episode. Is he the worst actor ever? Probably, and that includes porn actors. Though that episode does have a pizza sketch that is really funny (Ice-T doesn’t appear in that sketch). And there is an episode with Pauly Shore that is just embarrassing. He does make fun of himself, which is good, but there is something just so sad about him that it actually is painful to watch.

This series does a great job with its fake commercials. I particularly like the insurance commercial, with the agent reprimanding a teenager because the parent couldn’t be there. The ad for the “Once-A-Year Maxi Pad” is fantastic. The car wax commercial is brilliant. I love how it goes on and on. “Did we mention baseball bats?” The ad for the retirement center where the old folks are treated like cattle is perfect. But the series of Wal-Mart ads are the best. They get increasingly funny and wild as they go on. (Those are in the episode with Kevin McDonald, and that is all round one of the season’s best episodes.)

In addition to excellent fake advertisements, this show does a wonderful job ripping on so-called “infomercials.” The “Dentist In A Box” one is particularly good.

Another recurring bit that I love is “Lowered Expectations,” a dating service for those who will never get the person of their dreams. This is a sketch I’ve remembered and thought of from time to time over the years. The first one with the meter maid is great – I’ve always maintained that parking enforcement people can only be friends with other parking enforcement people.

Each episode has a Spy Vs. Spy cartoon, which of course was a staple of MAD Magazine. The episode starring Harry Connick, Jr. actually has four Spy Vs. Spy cartoons, but oddly two of them are repeats from earlier episodes.

The only other thing I feel a need to mention is that I completely despise the show’s theme song. It’s truly irritating, and it plays relentlessly when you put the disc in – so be ready with your remote to click on an episode immediately. It also plays into and out of what would be every commercial break.

This four-disc set has no special features. MADtv The Complete Second Season is scheduled to be released on March 26, 2013 through Shout! Factory.

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