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Warner Home Video presents
MADtv: The Complete First Season (1995)

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, fresh off the streets of Los Angeles, cleaned up and ready for mass consumption, the cast of MADtv."
- introduction from Episode One

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: October 14, 2004

Stars: Bryan Callen, David Herman, Orlando Jones, Phil LaMarr, Artie Lange, Mary Scheer, Nicole Sullivan, Debra Wilson
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (occasional mature humor)
Run Time: 14h:00m:00s
Release Date: September 21, 2004
UPC: 012569423022
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

By the early 1990s, with Saturday Night Live having long ago fallen into a trite stagnancy that was a far cry from its early groundbreaking days, a number of upstart counter-programming continued to become more commonplace. ABC's Fridays, which ran two short seasons starting in 1980 was the earliest challenger, and died a relatively quick death while SNL plied its role as the proverbial 800-pound late-night gorilla. It could do what it wanted, even if it wasn't funny, something it was more often than not.

The Fox network eventually answered the challenge in 1995 with MADtv, a one-hour sketch comedy show scheduled to start 30 minutes before SNL, in one of those wonderfully wicked programming moves. The new kid on the comedy block always has a struggle, and while MADtv never achieved the pop culture kitsch of SNL, its nine-year run is a quiet testament to the show's tenacity. This three-disc set from Warner has all 19 one-hour episodes from the debut 1995-1996 season, which, minus commercials, means a rather solid 42 minutes of irreverent sketch comedy and parody.

Like the magazine, MADtv stands tallest when doing parodies, and the first season cast of Nicole Sullivan, Bryan Callen, David Herman, Artie Lange, Mary Scheer, Debra Wilson, Orlando Jones, and Phil LaMarr are sort of like that first SNL crew. They had a lot to prove to television audiences just to try and carve out a niche, but the road of shock-value Saturday night comedy had already been paved a couple of decades before, so it had to step up and immediately deliver the funny.

The obligatory commercial and movie parodies abounded (Apollo the 13th, Clueless of the Lambs, Gump Fiction), but the development of a handful recurring characters was not given the same sort of in-your-face treatment other sketch comedy shows relied on, though in later seasons this became much more prevalent. Season One had the cast working to develop the roots of recurring characters, but the reliance was primarily on parodies, which is really where the most memorable comedy comes from.

Shows like this often live and die by the cast, and over its run people have come and gone. Orlando Jones (Evolution), Phil LaMarr (Futurama), and Artie Lange (Dirty Work, The Howard Stern Radio Show) are probably the high profile names from this freshman year, at least in terms of recognition, but don't discount the likes of Nicole Sullivan, who for my money is probably one of the best comedic sketch actors on the series.

I fell off the SNL bandwagon many moons ago, and maybe it's because I'm usually a fan of the underdog that I gravitated toward MADtv. I didn't really go off the deep end if I missed an ep here or there like I did for that other show in the late 1970s, but when I watched I found myself laughing more than I did during just about any recent incarnation of the competition. This first season might have a few dated gags (though the Clinton-themed Seinfeld parody is still a hoot), but there is a much needed freshness and vibrancy to the show that makes it infinitely more watchable than having to sit through yet another sloppy, cue-card-reading 90 minutes from the old guard.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: All episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There is a slight disparity between the quality in the filmed segments and some of the in-studio skits, but overall these eps look fairly strong. Colors are warm and the prints are clean, with no substantial blemishes to contend with.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 surround, and though it's not flashy, it works fine. Character voices are clear, with moderate separation, and overall the presentation falls well above acceptable levels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 152 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
3 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Disc 3 is where the extras are located, and it is a mixed bag of stuff. Side A holds the ballyhooed Unaired Sketches (27m:47s) contains nine skits that for one reason or another were never aired, and like traditional deleted scenes it's understandable why some of these were held back. Nicole Sullivan's Too Personal Girl is probably the best of the lot, where she plays a perky, but very, very nosy bookstore clerk. The self-explanatory Season 2 Promo (04m:39s) and a dreaded Bloopers Reel (09m;15s) are also included, but to me they seemed like nothing more than filler.

Flip Disc 3 over and there is almost a half-hour's worth of MADtv's Best Of, broken out into five categories (Commercial Parodies, Movie Parodies, Television Show Parodies, Music Video Parodies, Best Animation) for a total of ten sketches—though not all are from Season One, oddly enough. The 200th Episode (41m:10s) reunites most of the original cast with the latest batch, and things start with a great parody of Outkast's Hey Ya video with Orlando Jones in multiple roles, à la Andre 3000, and the rest of the ep has a decent amount of laughs, too.

Each episode is cut into eight chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Saturday Night Live was well into its faltering stages of comic inconsistency when the cocky upstart MADtv debuted in 1995. This first season set of the original 19 episodes shows the kind of satirical energy that SNL lost long ago, and operating under a one-hour format seemed to suit the delivery of the material pretty well.

This is funny stuff. Recommended.


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