In Living Color: Season Two review by Mike Long

The first season of In Living Color established the show as a ground-breaking sketch comedy program which contained a multi-racial cast and focused on a brand of humor which was rarely seen on TV. The goal to make a "black Saturday Night Live" (as it's referred to on the special features of this DVD set) had been fulfilled. As Season Two of In Living Color began, the show seemingly embarked on a new goal: establishing well-known characters. And it certainly succeeded. As the newly released In Living Color: Season Two DVD Boxed Set proves, the second season introduced America to many characters which would become household names.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that one of the strongest points of In Living Color was the fact that the cast truly worked together as a team. The primary cast, Keenen Ivory Wayans (also the show's creator and producer), Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson, T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, James Carrey, and Kelly Coffield, were all given opportunities to create unique characters. Of course, there were many outlandish characters introduced in Season One of the show, such as Damon Wayans and Grier's effeminate "Men On..." creations, Homey the Clown (Damon Wayans) or Anton, the overly-gross homeless man portrayed by Wayans. Some of the more obscure characters, such as Damon Wayan's turn as Oswald, the prison inmate who has no idea what the S.A.T. caliber words he's spewing mean, or Benita Butrell (Kim Wayans) the neighborhood watch/gossip specialist, get far more exposure in the second season. Another returning favorite is "The Three Champs", with Grier as Muhammad Ali, Davidson as Sugar Ray Leonard, and Keenen Ivory Wayans as Mike Tyson. These skits never fail to make me laugh.

But, it's in the second season when many of the images which are so clearly associated with the show came into being, and like Saturday Night Live, In Living Color was quick to bring back those individuals who proved to be popular. These faces are as unique as they are diverse. There's Fire Marshall Bill, Jim Carrey's fire-scarred pyromaniac, who never fails to blow himself up. The two representatives of Funky Finger Productions (Grier and Davidson) are always trying to hustle themselves into the entertainment industry. (Who can forget Davidson's "Bam!" as he shoved his business card into the face of an unsuspecting target.) Grier shines as Calhoun Tubbs, an old blues singer whose lyrics are far too honest. ("I wrote a song about it. Wanna' hear it? Here it goes.") Jim Carrey's star really began to shine as he unveiled Vera De Milo, a female body-builder whose abuse of steroids has turned her into a flat-chested freak. Damon Wayans (who is all over this show) brought home two more great creations, as Handi-Man, the world's first physically-challenged superhero, and The Head Detective, a police-officer who's made up of nothing but a head, hands, and a pair of shoes. Keenen Ivory Wayans appeared to be channeling Rick James as Frenchie, an ignorant character who thinks that he's always the life of the party. Yes, Season Two of In Living Color contained some good stand-alone sketches (Spike Lees Joint being one of the classics), but as the season goes on, we see more and more appearances of the show's trademarked characters, and for this season at least, most of them don't get old. While introducing these new franchise oddities, In Living Color never lost its irreverent wit, or its ability to illustrate cultural and social issues. Some of the sketches may feel very dated today, such as The Arsenio Hall of Justice, but the endearing characters of In Living Color Season Two make it a time-capsule of fun for those who watched the show during that period.

The In Living Color: Season Two DVD Boxed Set comes courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The package includes 4 DVDs which offers all twenty-six episodes from the shows 1990-91 season. Completists will like the fact that all of the episodes are included, but most will find this unnecessary, as some of the shows feature sketches repeated from earlier in the season. As for the transfer, all of the episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. In Living Color: Season Two was shot on video, so the image is very clear, but its not always incredibly sharp. There are many moments where there is slight video noise and some burnout from the lights or any bright, white source. Otherwise, the colors look very good, and the image is stable, except for the first few minutes of Men On Television from episode 24, which shows shimmering and the image almost goes to black & white at times. The DVDs Dolby Digital stereo audio track provides clear dialogue and the music always sounds fine. There is no hissing or distortion on this track.

The DVD set contains a few extra features. Head writer Buddy Sheffield and staff writer Kim Bass deliver audio commentaries on 17 sketches, scattered throughout the four-disc set. They talk about the origin of the sketches, which range from around a minute to quite long. They point out who came up for the idea of the sketch and comment on Keenen Ivory Wayan's unique way of letting them know if they'd gone too far. The rest of the special features are found on Disc 4. The 37-minutes Season 2 Overview offers comments from many of the shows writers, as well as Davidson and Grier, as they discuss the overall growth of the show from Season One and explore what each of the main cast members brought to the show. Dr. Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies as USC appears in Appreciating In Living Color: Season Two (12 minutes) as he discusses the social relevance of the show and how it changed the landscape of American TV. Finally, Notorious ILC: Characters (11 minutes) gives an overview of the most popular characters from the show...much like this review.


8 out of 10 Jackasses

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