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FOWLER’S FLIX 11.16.17: THE BATTLE OF THE BINGE

Shout! Factory
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in "The Good Place."
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With the start of the holiday season commencing this preamble weekend to Thanksgiving, I know many of us have plans to try and be pro-active and use these next couple of days to try and get things done ahead of time so we’re not running around like turkeys with our heads cut off at the last moment, but, c’mon, who are we kidding?

We both know that we’ll oversleep Saturday and end up ordering pizza and binge-watching an entire season or two of some show we’ve never had any intention of ever watching but, hey, sometimes it just happens, right? Might as well be prepared with these latest DVD-on-TV releases to look forward to…

One of last season’s most original and definitely most hilarious comedies in quite a while, The Good Place: Season One (Shout! Factory) started off questionably, with an almost troublesome irreligious bent as Kristen Bell’s Eleanor, an utterly irredeemable jerk who, after shuffling her mortal coil, winds up in Heaven—“The Good Place”—as some sort of divine clerical mistake.

Over the course of thirteen episodes, as Bell and her crew of other possible mistakes explore the surreal world of the afterlife and the world-ending impact their arrival might have on eternity, a last-minute twist turns this show from humorously involving to downright riotously clever, a twist that takes The Good Place to a whole different level, a better place than just about anything else currently on television.

Sometime back in the mid-90s, my brother was a fan of a sitcom called Ned and Stacey starring Thomas Haden Church and Debra Messing as an odd couple who’ve entered into a situationally comedic marriage of convenience. I didn’t understand his fandom of it then, and now, as I rewatch it via Ned and Stacey: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory), I guess I still really don’t. I guess you had to be there.

Sure, the show has its funny moments as the cynically gruff Ned continually butts heads with the neurotic Stacey, but it’s mostly of the dated-90s variety that might play great in reruns on USA at 8:30 in the morning, but watching back-to-back episodes, the cheap patterns of easy laughs start to emerge and turns me off in general; Still, with 11 never-aired episodes included in this package, I just might as well pass it on to my bro for Christmas so, at the very least, he can relieve his laughter.

A sitcom that premiered around that same time that, for the most part, I did like was the racier fare of Just Shoot Me! (Shout! Factory). Set within the world of a fictional women’s fashion magazine, the focus of the thing is the publisher/father-editor/daughter dynamics between George Segal and Laura San Giacomo, but what really made this sitcom work, especially on repeats, was the always welcomed snide sarcasm of SNL’s David Spade and numerous guest stars including Mr. Show’s David Cross, Brian Posehn and Bob Odenkirk.

On a sad note, it appears that the final DVD installment of Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to an end with Volume XXXIX (Shout! Factory). That’s quite a long run and, to be fair, they got most of their original episodes on DVD, give or take a few due to copyright issues. In this 39th 4-disc set, we’re treated to a round mocking of the movies The Amazing Transparent Man, Diabolik, and Girls Town, as well as a bonus disc of intros, outros and other interstitials that the fans have been clamoring for.

One of the longest-running sitcoms of the 80s actually had its birth in the 70s, spinning off of the very popular Carol Burnett variety show, for better or worse. Starring Vicki Lawrence in the titular role as the caustic smart-mouth matriarch of a small town family, Mama’s Family: The Complete Collection (Time-Life) is definitely a nostalgic fan-favorite, but even as someone who watched it religiously back in the 80s, re-watching it now, I can’t really say way. Of course, I say that and I’m already halfway through season three with no intention of stopping. I’m a bad person.

Vicki Lawrence as "Mama" in Mama's Family. (Time-Life) 

Much like the aforementioned Mr. Show and Carol Burnett shows, few sketch comedy programs were as wholly influential as Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete First Season (Time-Life) was. While very dated in both jokes and overall sense of humor, the blueprint for topical, almost edgy comedy is there, from Biblical humor with Flip Wilson to cameos from the likes of George Wallace, this first season is a definite trip down the history of comedy. Your mother should know.

Finally, in what is perhaps one of the best and one of the dumbest sitcoms of all-time, Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor play urbane Manhattanites who decide to chuck it all and move to the city in Green Acres: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory). One of the first comedic fish-out-of-water explorations on TV, these exasperated city-folks learn to deal with their new community’s seemingly dim-witted country ways, from a pig named Arnold Ziffel to iconic ties ins with the Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.

Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert in Green Acres(Shout! Factory)

This box-set is the ultimate stop for the classic Nick at Night fanatic that has never really gotten it together over too much new TV, which, I agree, is, for the most part, the pits. At least many of these shows tried to make you laugh and that’s something, bro. It’s a mostly forgotten goal today that, if I can relive for at least a good 48 hours, is a holiday miracle in itself.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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