Starring Michael McDonald, Debra Wilson, Aries Spears, Bobby Lee, Mo Collins
I have already reviewed MADtv: Season 3, and so the obvious choice to review Season 4 would be none other than yours truly. Season’s 3 review was less than satisfactory, but at the time, I was still happy to relive part of my childhood. It was also my very first review! Now, what feels like a bazillion reviews and a season later, how will I feel about Season 4… OH, and Michael McDonald joined the cast for this season. You know what that means… STUART!
MADtv was a late night, sketch comedy show airing during the 1990s, which is incredibly evident in the very first sketch of this season. Of course, it was a sketch all about the President Clinton and Monica Lewinski scandal… in fact nearly every episode features a “Monica Lewinski” joke. And so, just like SNL there is no through story line. What you hang your hat upon is the quality of the sketches. As I said before, the introduction of Michael McDonald is a great thing. Honestly, MADtv was lacking up until then. Pretty much all you had was Ms. Swan as far as truly laugh out loud sketches.
Now, you might be asking, “Cat, why do you obsess over Stuart so much?” Well friends, he is one of the best recurring characters in ALL of late night TV sketch comedy… INCLUDING SNL and In Living Color. Stuart, played by McDonald, is a large man child with rosy cheeks, a blonde bowl hair cut, and an eerie blank stare. His voice is somewhere between South Park’s Michael Jackson voice and the most annoying young child you can muster up in your imagination! But McDonald’s strange man child would be nothing without Mo Collin’s crazy, shrill, overbearing mother. I will totally admit that watching this season made me realize that the voice I made up for my mother is actually based on Stuart’s Mother. Collins is a comedic genius. I look forward to seeing Collins in sketches, just as much as I look forward to seeing McDonald.
I was delighted to find that one of my favorite “Stuart” sketches, “Stuart Plays T-Ball,” is featured on this season. The sketch starts with Stuart eating a Taquito, to which his mother scolds, “What has Mama told you about Taquitos?” And after a lot of whiny, “I don’t wanna… lemme do it… I don’t wanna… Don’t make me say it,” he says “Taquitos go in one end and explode out the other.” Eventually we see the new T-Ball coach and Stuart together (Mother has gone to get Stuarts “Goo Goo Protector,” yes his athletic cup, from the water fountain… where Stuart has left it… ew). The T-Ball coach tells Stuart to hit the ball as hard as he can and tells Stuart to think of what makes him angry. We finally see Stuart’s “dark side” come out as he lowers his voice to a Satanic growl and replies to his T-Ball coach, “The World makes me angry.” Then Stuart bludgeons his coach with the baseball bat. Comedy Gold.
You will also still see the insulting Vancome Lady and “Lowered Expectations,” which features Shaquille O’Neal playing Denise Rodman (yes, Dennis Rodman’s sister) looking for love in all the wrong places. Ms. Swan is also still on this season. Watch out for when she starts her own sex phone line- HILARIOUS!
There are a good amount of celebrity guests as well, among them Vivica A. Fox, Usher, KISS, Robert Englund, Shaquille O’Neal, Brian McKnight, Keri Russell, Jerry Springer, and Donny Osmond. Call me terrible, but I pretty much skimmed through the non-celebrity episodes (and thank goodness, too). Probably the best guests were KISS and Robert Englund, aka Freddy Krueger, who guest starred on the Halloween special. The Halloween special is by far the best episode of the whole series. It has the most laughs and no absolutely dull sketches. And there’s an on-going sketch where pop stars keep getting brutally murdered by Michael Jackson. The sketch is funny not only for their impersonations, but also because it’s strange to look back and remember that Michael (sadly) was not beloved in the 90’s, but rather a source of ridicule.
I am so glad that Collins and McDonald finally joined the cast, but it must be future seasons that made me love this show…
The video really shows the time that this series was made… the 90’s. Granted, with every decade everything starts to look better and better, but the film quality is not what SNL has right now. It looks just the same as it would have back in the day, and so I can’t knock it too much. No blips, no scratches, it’s just pure 90’s sketch comedy.
Sound is pretty good. I’ve never noticed this before, but MADtv must have had the absolute lowest budget ever. During the sketch where Kenny Rogers sings duets with famous music artists, not only do they have to change the song slightly to avoid paying for rights, but they also had to change the names slightly of some artists, like Fiona Appel… as opposed to Fiona Apple. The sound is fine… nothing spectacular… nothing to write home about either. It’s better quality than the video.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging is the exact same as the other box set that I was given. There is a clear DVD packaging with the logo and pics on the front and back. It all looks kinda hokey, but so is the show. Open and you find the four discs along with a very sparse episode guide. And again, there are no bonus features. I hate to sound like a spoiled brat, but I would at least like some stills of the cast, maybe some commentary from the creators, writers, actors, or a backstage tour (I KNOW there HAS to be one somewhere in existence!). Just another layer of disappointment on this box set.
Overall (Not an Average)
I love a good stroll down memory lane as much as the next 80’s baby, but this nearly bored me to tears. I’m not sure if I was wearing some sort of nostalgic rose colored glasses or if it’s because I’ve been super lucky in picking some REALLY good DVDs, but I found myself fast forwarding through most of the season, unlike the last time I watched. It’s sad really, but that is also the price you pay with sketch comedy. I don’t know if I could go through an entire season of SNL back to back. Which is why I wish that MADtv would release a “Best Of” DVD for it’s best cast members. Then I wouldn’t have to fast forward to all of the “Stuart” and “Ms. Swan” sketches. And so, there’s a couple of good things in here, but I wouldn’t recommend watching these all back to back… unless you need something in the background to which to fall asleep.