Chris Rock has been one of those comedians that either hits a home run or strikes completely out. I’ve seen quite a bit of his stand-up and found I loved it or hated it. He’s not afraid to play the race card. Hell, Chris plays the whole dang deck at times, and Everybody Hates Chris is no different. The comedy is based, loosely I’m sure, on the young adolescent life of Chris Rock. It’s a black comedy that will bring back memories of those 1970’s shows we all watched as kids. Like Good Times and even Sanford And Son, the show is loaded with stereotypes. All of the white characters are bumbling fools who are often played as racists themselves. Chris’s school teacher, Mrs. Morello (Mazarella), is the most obvious example. She’s constantly trying to talk “hood” with the boys and making politically incorrect observations loaded with outrageous clichés. Of course, it’s all in fun and if you’re willing to overlook the often sensitive language and plots, you’re in for some laughs along the way. I like that the show never really takes itself seriously and challenges the viewer to simply lighten up. Basically, this ain’t no Cosby Show.
Chris Rock narrates each episode from his current place in life. The interjections are often humorous commentary on the pains of growing up, particularly black. At times Chris is just annoying and tries too often to be over the top. Tyler James Williams plays the young Chris. He kind of looks like him enough, and I can see some of Rock’s mannerisms in the boy. Terry Crews is the standout actor, playing Chris Rock’s father, Julius. The big guy always seems to mean well but doesn’t always have his stuff together. He could have been a young Fred Sanford. Tichina Arnold is Mom and the domineering force in the life of our young comedian to be. She’s best known for her excellent turn as Pamela in Martin, another stand-up sit-com vehicle. Chris’s siblings are played by Tequan Richmond and Imani Hakim. Hakim is absolutely hilarious and seems so much older than her age as an actor. She manages the little sister act, while all the while you know there is so much going on there. She’s a constant burst of energy and often exhausting to watch. A very promising young actress. Finally, Vincent Martella plays Greg, the token white dude. He’s Chris’s best bud and is honestly the most stereotypical white kid I’ve seen on television. Together it’s a good ensemble, and the show can be quite clever at its best, simply funny at its worst.
The real treat for this show happens to be the impressive list of guests and somewhat recurring players. It’s a virtual who’s who of black television including Kadeem Hardison from A Different World, Todd Bridges “Whatchya Talkin’ ‘Bout” Willis himself, Ernest Thomas Raj from What’s Happening, Starsky and Hutch’s own Huggy Bear Antonio Fargas, Mr. Dyn-O-Mite himself Jimmy J. Walker, Anna Marie Horsford Thelma from Amen, Shar Jackson from Moesha, and Wayne Brady.
Everybody Hates Chris is appropriately presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 format. While this is a fairly recent series, it was merely a sitcom. Not to degrade the genre, but the studios don’t put a tremendous amount of production value in that kind of a series. Still, colors are solid. Black levels are average. This is pretty much as good as this kind of programming gets. Better overall than the broadcast versions.
Dialog is pretty much all you should care about in this Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and it delivers just fine. The show’s trademark sound effects are there just as you remembered with no problems at all.
There are a handful of cast and crew Audio Commentary tracks on select episodes.
Deleted Scenes: Many of the episodes feature a short scene or two.
Webisodes: Each episode features a 2-3 minute director feature that obviously aired on the net before each episode aired on television.
The rest of the features are found on Disc 4:
Off The Cuff – Cast Interviews: This 20 minute feature is more playful than serious. It contains very short sound bites of the cast talking about each other. It has an almost yearbook signing feel to it.
Chris Rock VO Session Unplugged: Chris is shown doing some of his voice over work to an episode. You watch the scene with a little box of Chris via PIP. There is also some clips of other crew members talking about how the voice over work and the entire ADR process.
Location Location Location: Scouting for places to shoot and redressing spaces is the focus of this 4 minute piece.
More Mrs. Morello-isms: I didn’t see the previous DVD sets, but I get the impression this is an ongoing piece. It’s a short collection of some of the teacher’s outrageous racial comments.
Slaver Slav Music Video: This is just the full cut of the “I Ain’t Nice” video. Slaver Slav is a fictional rapper in the show’s universe.
Gag Reel: Just what you would expect it to be. There’s 6 minutes of cutups and flubs.
This release is loaded with extras when you compare to almost any other situation comedy set out there. It’s a tribute to the fans and a treat for the rest of us. I never caught the show on network broadcast. I rarely watch comedies any more outside of the DVD format. Maybe it’s time, or the fact that most of them all look the same any more. Everybody Hates Chris is different and clever enough to be worth the time. This is a set worth buying, if only to prove to the studios that giving us some nice extras even on sit-coms is going to be rewarded. Every show should come this loaded. If you’re the kind that gets uptight about this kind of politically incorrect language, I have one thing to say to you: “It’s called satire”.