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HBO presents
Da Ali G Show: The Complete First Seazon (2003)

"Keep it real!"
- Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 15, 2004

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen
Other Stars: Buzz Aldrin, Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Boutros Boutros-Gali, James Baker, Richard Thornburgh, Brent Scrowcroft
Director: various

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief nudity)
Run Time: 03h:00m:00s
Release Date: August 17, 2004
UPC: 026359232725
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Brit Sacha Baron Cohen is one of those so-called chameleon comics, the kind who disappear completely into a character of their creation, or, in Cohen's case, three different characters. Whether he's "wanksta" Ali G, the Latka-like Borat, or Teutonic fashion guru Bruno, Cohen plays his specialized brand of comedy straight as he routinely asks absurd questions of unsuspecting people, often receiving responses that are more surprising than the questions themselves. His Emmy-nominated HBO series gets a two-disc treatment, offering up all six half-hour episodes of the first season, plus a small helping of leftover goofiness.

While each episode generally finds Cohen trying to divide his time between the three characters, it is really his Ali G who is the hands-down funniest, and he wisely dominates the series. Ali G is a dense white rapper type with a lexicon of "fo-shizzle" phrases whose worldly cluelessness is only overshadowed by his ability to asked most bizarre questions.

What makes Cohen's Ali G even more surreal are the caliber of people he interviews, ranging from astronaut Buzz Aldrin to former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Gali, all of whom are hammered with a litany of ridiculous questions. But the fact that nearly all of the participants take the time to seriously answer the questions, no matter how inane, is what puts the comedic icing on the proverbial cake; of the high profile subjects, only Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich look particularly peeved and irritated. It is really something to see Thornburgh convinced to rent Barely Legal 3, Boutros-Gali answering why Disneyland isn't part of the UN, and Aldrin defending accusations that the moon doesn't really exist.

The other two Cohen characters, Borat and Bruno, get comparatively less screen time, almost more like filler between the Ali G bits. Borat is the equivalent of Andy Kaufman-as-Latka interviewing different people from a number of different businesses, all punctuated with the same degree of dumb questions delivered with a broken-English approach that seems like a shallow rip-off of the Ali G character. Bruno—Cohen's mohawked fashionista reporter—on the other hand, spends his time traversing the already vacuous world of high fashion, so right out of the box he seems less out of place and even less strange. Bruno is far more tolerable than Borat, but unfortunately appears more infrequently.

Cohen's Ali G is really his comedic diamond, the sort of innocently open chap who speaks his mind, no matter how far out in left field it might be. During a segment on religion, Ali G conducts a bombastic interview with a Catholic priest that is wicked and biting ("Isn't God just like an over-hyped David Blaine?"), though I'm guessing the flummoxed priest may have had other opinions. Two of the things that really resonate during any random segment is not just Cohen's talent for remaining stone-faced while asking his unique questions, but it is his quick responses to the occasionally stunned protestations of his guests. The pacing of the episodes is a little uneven, but on DVD it is possible to pick and choose your poison.

Funny stuff.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All six episodes are offered up in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Not especially crisp or bright, the presentation is certainly acceptable without being remarkable in any way other than just being ordinary. No major print flaws were evident.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Nothing unduly notable about the ordinary 2.0 surround track, which presents clean dialogue, even when segments are shot on location, as with the fashion show bits. No hiss, no distortion, no problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Sacha Baron Cohen, Dan Mazur
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: HBO hasn't gone overboard with extras, but there are a couple of worthwhile bits here.

Under the banner of Unseen Sh*t, Disc 1 includes a commentary track from Sacha Baron Cohen and series producer/writer Dan Mazer for the first episode entitled Law. There's quite a bit of dead air, and there's an overall feel of "we don't want to be here", which is a shame. Small factoids, such as that's not really Cohen's bare ass during the opening credits, are lost in between dry rambles. Also on the first disc is Borat's Guide to Animals (05m:20s) and Borat's Guide To Patriotism (05m:01s), and though I generally don't find too much worthwhile with this character, the patriotism chunk is damn funny.

The Unseen Shit on Disc 2 houses Ali G's Spyz (08m:46s), the short film he tries to unsuccessfully market during the Art episode. This intentionally low-rent spy film is so stupid it borders on moronic brilliance, and you have to appreciate the comically gratuitous sex scenes. A text-based Ali G Glossary and Phrases index is also provided you can practice your own jigginess in the privacy of your own home.

Each episode is cut into six chapters.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Best seen in small doses, the one joke antics of Sacha Baron Cohen are often quite funny, but the gag wears thin quickly if you watch too much of this back to back.

This two-disc set easily breaks down each episode so you can seek out a segment to watch in bite-sized chunks, where his style of straight-faced comedy works best.


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