In Living Color: Season One review by Mike Long

When the FOX network first began broadcasting in the late 80s, I was a big fan of their programming for several reasons, such as the fact that watching FOX instead of the "Big 3" felt somewhat subversive and as I was in college at the time, I would do anything to avoid studying. But, more importantly, the shows on FOX at that time where like nothing that I'd seen before. Not only did FOX's In Living Color bring the prime-time variety show to a new generation, but it's in your face humor introduced the world to a new kind of comedy.

In Living Color was a sketch-comedy show in the tradition of Saturday Night Live, with the difference being that the show featured a predominantly Black cast and was overseen by Keenen Ivory Wayans. During the first season, the cast was made-up of Keenen Ivory Wayans, James Carrey (who is now known to most of us as Jim Carrey), Kelly Coffield, Kim Coles, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, T'Keyah "Crystal" Keymah, Damon Wayans, and Kim Wayans. This versatile group would appear in a variety of sketches each week which tackled many humorous ideas and topics, but from a very "urban" point-of-view. Celebrities such as Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, Ted Turner, Oprah, and Don King are mercilessly spoofed, and the impressions are dead-on. The show also became very famous for creating many original characters, such as Homey the Clown, in which Damon Wayans plays a party-clown with a very bad attitude, "Homeboy Shopping Network", a sketch in which Damon Wayans and Keenen Ivory Wayans play street-thugs who attempt to hock their wares on TV, and the very-popular "Men On..." series, where Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier play two gay men who review films, books, and art. Along with the portrayals of Blacks that had never been seen on national TV, the show also offered skits such as "Men On..." which took a shot at homosexuals as well. In between sketches, In Living Color featured hip-hop music and dancing from "The Fly Girls". This was at a time when hip-hop wasn't readily available in most households.

The word "groundbreaking" is thrown around too much, usually by those who are too close-minded to see that the thing they're praising has been done many times before. However, In Living Color was truly a groundbreaking show in many respects. As noted above, the show brought many elements of society to the masses in a new way. You must remember, this was before The Chris Rock Show and Chappelle's Show, so many Americans had never experienced this sort of entertainment before. Sure, there had been shows like The Flip Wilson Show and Sanford & Son in the past, but In Living Color was one of the first shows to wear its multi-culturalism as a badge of honor. The show embraced all culture and made fun of them all, simultaneously. While much of the show may seem tame by today's standards, it was all pretty shocking just 14 years ago. To that end, some of the sketches haven't aged very well, especially those which target certain celebrities, such as Milli Vanilli, MC Hammer, and Michael Winslow. But, if you lived through those times, you can find some humor here. One of the best parts of going back and looking at In Living Color is to witness of the growth of actors such as Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans, who prove that their success was no accident. This first season of In Living Color does exhibit some rough spots, and some of the shows most popular characters wouldn't emerge until Season 2, but that doesn't change the fact that In Living Color was a very important show in the evolution of TV and pretty damn funny as well.

In Living Color comes to DVD courtesy of 20ty Century Fox Home Entertainment. The first season is comprised of 13 episodes, which are spread over 3 discs. The shows are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The show was shot on video, and thus shows no grain or defects from the source material. Overall, the images look pretty good, but there is some distinct video noise at times. The image is stable for the most part, but horizontal lines create problems, as do sudden movements by the camera or actors. The DVD feature a Dolby Digital Stereo audio track, which provides clear dialogue and music reproduction with no indications of major problems. The music during the dance numbers sounds especially good, and the studio audience never dominates the dialogue. The episodes are broken up into chapter stops which do a fairly good job of starting with each new sketch.

This set contains only a few extra features. Actor Tommy Davidson provides audio commentary on Episode 7 (Disc 2) and Episode 13 (Disc 3). His talk is rather banal, as he gives us only minor information about the making of the show. He mainly talks about the impact that the show had on society or simply compliments the sketches, something which most anyone could have done. The next extra is a 33-minute featurette entitled "Looking Back In Living Color". This features interviews with Davidson, David Alan Grier, and show director Paul Miller. They explain how the show came together, and the fact that it took 6 months for the pilot to be picked up. They also talk about the creative process behind the show. This was a pretty good segment until Rosie Perez showed up to discuss the choreography, and all that I could hear was "Beelly! Beelly!" Keenen Ivory Wayans is mentioned throughout this featurette, but he doesn't show up with any comments. The last extra is a 5-minute segment called "Back in Step with The Fly Girls", which examines the importance that the dancers had on the show...with more Rosie Perez!

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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