For four seasons, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, along with a group of writers and comedians, served up comedy skits, parodies, and more, in the underrated but hilarious HBO late-night sketch comedy series Mr. Show.
Mr. Show is a smart comedy show, at least from what I can gather from the fourth season. The first thing to point out is every skit is somehow related to the next one by way of introducing a certain product, idea, or interstitial video. It’s as if each skit is part of one big narra…ive structure. I guess it’s the editing that makes the transition seamless, and if it is then it works great. There’s not much else I can say here except to say anyone who likes to laugh should check out Mr. Show. Before the funny Chappelle’s Show and other sketch comedy series of late, there was Mr. Show, where the writing was inventive and original, and the performances were dead on, and then some! This show is not to be missed.
These ten episodes are presented 1.33:1 full-frame, the same way they originally appeared upon their debut on HBO in 1998. Mr. Show bounces back and forth between film and video, and the quality of the shot-on-video segments is variable. This seems to depend more on the particular camera being used at any given time than anything specific to the video transfer for these DVDs. It’s not exactly the type of material you’d want to whip out to have a pricey home theater strut its stuff, but these episodes look incrementally better than the rebroadcasts on HBO’s digital channels, which is about as good as can be expected. The colours are bright and skin tones are well represented.
The audio’s pretty straightforward as well, again presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. It’s not any sort of aggressive aural assault, but the dialogue comes through cleanly and clearly, and the roars of laughter and applause from the studio audience offer some nice stereo separation. The audio may not be strikingly different than a cable broadcast, but I’m not left with any gripes or complaints.
Every episode in this set is accompanied by audio commentary. The lineup shifts from track to track, but Bob and David are joined at varying times by Bill Odenkirk, Dino Stamatopoulos, Brian Posehn, Jerry Minor, Jay Johnston, Jill Talley, Eric Hoffman, Paul F. Tompkins, Scott Aukerman, B.J. Porter, Brett Paesel, and Evan Schletter. Fans who have sat through the previous twenty audio commentaries should have a pretty good idea what to expect this time around. The runtime’s divvied up between some discussion about the writing process and what went into creating the show, improvised bits of comedy, and completely random tangents. Some of the topics include the benefits of the cheap look of the show’s sets, lifting dialogue from the Pam and Tommy Lee sex tape, Bob gabbing about life-threatening sores in his mouth, former crescent-headed McDonald’s pitchman Mac Tonight, and a debate about whether or not women can be funny. Along with comments about their least favorite bits, the process of penning sketch comedy, and vague murmurs of what season five may have been like, there’s talk of misquoting The Omen, chatty cigars, and an aborted musical number set in Gene Wilder’s rectum. Although Run Ronnie Run! wasn’t graced with a commentary of its own, Bob, David, and company do talk about the movie briefly on this set, including a stillborn ending involving the Loch Ness Monster and some geriatric Red Shoes Diaries-flavored naughtiness. These commentaries are almost as much fun as watching the episodes themselves and are definitely worth setting aside a few hours to give a listen.
The other extras are all packed onto disc two, beginning with “Crack-Me-Ups”, more than fifteen minutes of outtakes from the show’s first three seasons, consisting of profanity montages, a talking pocket pussy, alternate improvised lines, and an unseen Ronny arrest (with TV’s Jenny McCarthy!). There’s also “The Naked Improv”, a four and a half minute appearance on Comic Relief in 1998 where Bob and David play Naked Phrase Guess with the audience at Radio City Music Hall. “A Grand Reunion” (3:46) features candid footage of the cast reuniting to record this season’s batch of audio commentaries and the brutal brawls that break out as a result.
Finally, the “Mr. Show Jukebox” serves up 24 tracks from the series’ four season run, including the country-fried patriotism of “Big Dumb Ape” and “Blew Moon”, the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ spoof “Don’t Beatle Me Up”, the soulful R&B stylings of Three Times One Minus One, two versions of “Garden of Hate”, homoerotic pop-metal, bluegrass, Euro-synth-pop, Christian new-wave… There are a couple of other songs I would’ve liked to see tacked on here, particularly the spot-on Beach Boys knockoffs from this season or the previous year’s Titannica, but it’s still a pretty neat feature. These songs can be played individually or consecutively.
Each episode is contained as a single chapter stop. It would’ve been nice to be able to skip directly to a particular bit, or even to be able to play all five episodes on each disc with a single click, but it’s not that big of a headache. Each disc sports a set of static 16×9 menus, and the interior of the packaging rattles off details about each of this season’s ten episodes.
The only thing disappointing about this collection of episodes from HBO’s Mr. Show is the knowledge that another set isn’t lurking in the wings. The material is, not surprisingly, phenomenal, and even though I’ve just finished watching the last of these episodes yesterday, I’m already fighting to urge to pop them back in my DVD player. It’s a show with an incredible amount of replay value, bolstered further by a set of tremendously entertaining audio commentaries. Since Mr. Show isn’t mired in continuity, uninitiated viewers shouldn’t have any trouble leaping into the series with this collection even though it is four seasons in. Highly Recommended.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries on each episode
- Crack-Me-Ups outtakes
- The Naked Improv
- A Grand Reunion
- Mr. Show Jukebox