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Paramount Home Video presents
Upright Citizens Brigade: The Complete Second Season (1999)

"Our only friend is chaos."
- opening narration

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 18, 2007

Stars: Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts
Other Stars: Wu Tang Clan
Director: Peyton Reed, Phil Morrison, Adam Bernstein, Juan Campanella

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult language and situations)
Run Time: 03h:42m:00s
Release Date: September 18, 2007
UPC: 097368777040
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B-B- B

DVD Review

Operating as the thrive-on-anarchy secret underground organization Upright Citizens Brigade, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh were given the chance to evolve their stage act and transform into an edgy half-hour sketch comedy program for Comedy Central in 1998. This second season set from 1999 has all ten half-hour episodes (which has taken forever to get released), and once again has UCB operatives Adair (Besser), Colby (Poehler), Antoine (Roberts) and Trotter (Walsh) spreading loosely themed and dangerous comedic waves of chaos from deep within their secret compound.

For as strange and angular as their approach to sketch comedy was during the show's run, each episode was constructed in a much more complex manner than a traditional SNL-type program. There weren't guest stars typically (though Wu Tang Clan does appear in Bomb Squad), with Besser, Poehler, Roberts and Walsh playing nearly every character (often more than one in the same skit). But there was a recurring theme that ran through each installment, tied back to the overall UCB mission of spreading chaos, interconnected in the comedic bits via their assortment of recurring and oneshot characters.

The UCB motto is "Don't Think", but clearly a lot of thinking went into creating and writing each episode, stringing along concepts and themes while still developing and executing tilted axis sketch comedy. Spaghetti Jesus remains one of the high points of season two, with the team attempting to "bring chaos back to religion" through a plate of carefully constructed pasta at their Spirituality Expo, which also includes an appearance by Trotter's shuffling mud golem and a neat callback reference to the infamous Bucket of Truth from the first season.

And the opus here is the season-ender focused on the highly addictive Pixie Stix drug Super Cool, presented as a take off on tabloid journalism programming, as Matt Besser's tough guy Russell Cannon goes "deep inside the world of cracking the wand". And like the boy with the big penis from Season One's Little Donny, the tale of Super Cool is both patently absurd and hilarious, played with the right amount of parody and spot-on satire of the drug culture and the related societal panic.

The multitude of characters portrayed by Besser, Poehler, Roberts and Walsh is one of the show's strong suits, often more so evident when what initially looks like a simple camera pan will reveal two or three different personas per actor, all in full costume, even if it's just for a throwaway sight gag. All four handle a wide range of accents and voices well, and they convey a natural ability to "become" their character, and unlike SNL where the shrill, over-the-top line reads often hit annoyingly amateurish levels, with UCB things are revealed with a more refined finesse approach to sketch comedy. Ironically, with Poehler having since made the jump to SNL she has continued to display that same inherent ability to transform herself fully on the few times I've sat through the show, and her skills seem sadly wasted now on a pop culture series that has long outlived its usefulness or edge.

Back when this aired on Comedy Central, it was part of a one-hour programming block that had it back-to-back with Strangers With Candy, which as far as I'm concerned still ranks as one of the finest 60 minutes of television comedy ever. Certainly one of the finest that hardly anyone watched. And today, no matter how often I absentmindedly toss out the odd UCB reference (Super Cool, for example) I get blank stares and head scratches, though when someone quotes an old SNL bit most folks "get it".

That never seemed particularly fair to me, because Upright Citizens Brigade was always plying far more complex comedic structures, with a small, talented cast that didn't fumble over cue cards or try to crack each other up.

I always thought they deserved better. And this stuff is still funny.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: As with season one, all episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Some minor grain issues periodically, but overall a pleasant range of colors, marred by some soft edges. Black levels waver a bit across the board, but there's no significant loss in image clarity as a result.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track won't necessarily 'wow' anyone, but it delivers clear voice quality with no measurable hiss or distortion. A lack of any aural dramatics is hardly a cry for concern, as this one is modest, but fully effective.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 70 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Drawn Together: Season Two, The Best Of Chappelle Show: Uncensored, Reno 911!: Season Four
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
10 Feature/Episode commentaries by Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This two-disc is housed in a pair of Thinpak cases inside of a side opened cardboard slipcase. The presentation matches the rerelease of Season One, only this set carries red tones, as opposed to blue. There is a minor labeling issue, with the cover art indicating the Infested With Friars ep appears on disc two, when it actually appears on Disc 1.

Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Matt Besser provide commentaries for each episode, alternating between traditional recollections (now nearly 10 years out), in-character bits (the Titte Brothers make an appearance) and two tracks were recorded live at the UCB theatre, with audience, for episodes Spaghetti Jesus and Super Cool. It's an interesting cross-section of delivery styles, yet none of which provide any measurable content. The live tracks have a nice energy to them, but have a bit too much overzealous audience laughter. Poehler's tip on making realistic fake breasts with a bag full of bird seed, however, is valuable comedic info.

Disc 1 also contain a clip from Comic Cabana (05m:26s), a live UCB performance where the merits of the spit take are reworked as the group begins "adapting comedic techniques for survival into the next millennium". Homemade Intro (01m:34s) is a rough, very minimalistic alternate opening segment, pieced together from an assortment of footage, with voiceover by a noticeably deep-voiced Poehler. Speaking of minimalism there's Hyperminimalism (04m:50s), a wacky early UCB bit about a job interview taking place in the middle of the woods, while Stand Up Circus Act From Apt 2F (03m:25s) is another live performance piece, this featuring characters like the "man who could eat anything", only he can't. Disc one concludes with a handful of Comedy Central trailers.

Disc two carries a block of nine deleted scenes (07m:22s), the majority of which are concerned with the illicit street drug Super Cool. An Audience Q & A (26m:53s), recorded at the UCB Theatre, has the quartet fielding questions from an appreciative crowd, lobbing out some funny off-the-cuff adlibs about their relationships, etc.

Each episode is cut into 7 chapters.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Another set of solidly twisted sketch comedy from UCB, all in a two-disc collection of their second season, from 1999. You really have to like your comedy a little on the dark side to fall in with the rhythms of Poehler, Besser, Roberts and Walsh, and their ability to promote chaos consistently gives this series that little something extra.

Image transfers are nothing spectacular, yet there's a commentary for each episode and an assortment of additional UCB material.

Subversive, funny and highly recommended.

 


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