3rd Rock’s Season 6 A Funny Finale For Former Standout NBC Sitcom

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Today’s sitcoms are anything family friendly.  They have become increasingly over laden with sexual innuendo, foul language, and completely dumbed down humor.  These are the main complaints that are received by many audiences about many of the sitcoms currently airing on television’s “Big 4”, and even on some cable based comedies.  Thank goodness for companies Mill Creek Entertainment for offering audiences an alternative to the mostly blue humor that pollutes today’s comedies.  One of the most recent of those alternatives from Mill Creek Entertainment is the release of NBC’s hit sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six.

The sixth and final season of the once powerhouse NBC comedy is just as funny as the show’s previous five seasons thanks once again to the show’s writers.  The Solomon family continues trying to learn the ways of humans in its ongoing mission, all while creating its own share of laughs along the way.  Dick learns in the show’s final season that he’s *gasp* Canadian.  The Solomon family also temporarily takes on new lives in an alternate universe.  And Tommy experiences the human experience that is college.  These are just a few of the funny moments that fill out the final season of 3rd Rock from the Sun.  That’s not all that makes this season such a joy.  A who’s who of guest stars appears throughout Season six, too, adding to the laughs.  A whole slew of fellow NBC stars come in this season including former Saturday Night Live cast members Darrell Hammond, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer.  Richard Belzer (Law & Order: SVU) and Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and singer Elvis Costello also show up this season.  Even as small as their parts are, the guest stars add their own comic element to the show, making it even more entertaining.

The writing in 3rd Rock’s final season is just as entertaining as it was in the series’ premiere season.  Some might have considered it a bit of a cheap thing to do a Saturday Night Live crossover and a slight pump for Law & Order: SVU.  But it all works quite well in the two-part episode, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  The writers, probably knowing it was the show’s last season, take a playful stab at then fellow NBC hit, Saturday Night Live and even the NBC brass as Harry becomes the head of the network.  The writers didn’t just take a stab at NBC.  They even poked fun at HBO’s then hit show, Sex and the City, with Sally (Kristen Johnston) taking the place of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie.  It gets even funnier, with each member of the cast having their own hilarious moments.  This standout episode was just one that served as a tribute to the wit of the show’s writers.  Fans will also love the semi-political comedy of “Red, White & Dick.”  This episode sees Dick discovering that he is Canadian in his quest to become more American.  What it is about this kind of joke that makes it so funny is anyone’s guess.  Canada seems to be the butt of so many jokes in American entertainment.  But it is hilarious nonetheless, and it serves as a solid cornerstone for Dick’s attempts to become more American and in the same vein, more human.  It will have any viewer laughing till they cry.

The writing behind each episode of 3rd Rock’s final season offers nonstop laughs in every episode.  It’s a prime example of what used to make NBC a powerhouse network during the 1990s.  The cameo guest spots don’t hurt, either.  Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) appears as Mary’s (Jane Curtin) sister Renita Albright this season.  She sets out to steal Dick from Mary purely out of sibling rivalry.  That adults could be such strong rivals goes back to the show’s solid writing.  Audiences will love watching Mary and Renita going back and forth, sniping at one another like two little children.  Mullally is just one of the many guest stars that made an appearance this season.  Richard Belzer, Tracy Morgan, and Ana Gasteyer—all NBC stars—made appearances, as did singer Elvis Costello.  Costello made an appearance in the series finale.  The others all appeared in the two-parter, “Dick’ll Take Manhattan.”  Watching a then young Joseph Gordon-Levitt go toe to toe with the then rising SNL stars is a laugh riot.  Who ever would have thought that Tommy would date Ana Gasteyer.  And his moments with Tracy Morgan are just as funny.

The writing and the guest spots together make this final season a fitting way to close out what is by this critic’s view, one of the greatest sitcoms of the 20th century.  The DVD release of this season has one more aspect that while not being perfect, is still good in its own right.  Mill Creek has packaged all three discs of this set in their own envelope.  Mill Creek Entertainment is the only company that packages DVDs in this fashion.  It isn’t a perfect packaging method, considering that the envelopes are not padded.  That would make them perfect.  But having them in envelopes allows audiences to take as many discs as they want when travelling instead of having to take an entire DVD case.  This is actually quite smart in its own right.  If the higher ups at Mill Creek would maintain its form of packaging and simply make the envelopes padded, it would make this packaging fashion quite impressive and the overall presentation of its multi-disc sets that much more impressive.  3rd Rock from the Sun Season Six is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered online via the Mill Creek Direct website at https://www.millcreekdirect.com/3rd-rock-from-the-sun-season-6.html. After ordering the three-disc set, audiences can find out about more releases from Mill Creek Entertainment on its official website, http://www.millcreekentertainment.com or its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MillCreekEnt.

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Tiny Toons’ Final Set A Lackluster End To A Classic Cartoon Series

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Tiny Toon Adventures Vol. 4: Looney Links! Is allegedly the final installment of director Steven Spielberg’s hit Fox Kids cartoon franchise.  If this is indeed the final installment of the series, then it certainly is not the best way to end things.  While most of this set is presented in its entirety, there is one glaring problem with the set.  That issue comes in the episode, “Weekday Afternoon Live.” The episode in question actually splices the final minutes of the “Toon TV” in place of the final segment that aired in “Weekday Afternoon Live” in its original broadcast.  This is not like Warner Home Video to let such an error occur in its home releases.  This critic’s copy of Volume Four is not the only one that has done this either.  According to others who have purchased the set, they too have had the same thing happen to them.  That one major blunder aside, the remainder of the set will still bring enjoyment to long-time fans of this modern classic cartoon.

This new (and allegedly final) installment of Tiny Toon Adventures offers more than its share of laughs, poking fun at pop culture once again and even some former presidents.  This time around, Buster, Babs, and company take another stab at Batman (and director Tim Burton).  They also go after one of the biggest censorship groups of the time, the Parents Music Resource Council (PMRC).  Only instead of dealing with music, Buster and Babs have to face off certain parties that want to censor cartoons.  Long-time fans will recognize the episode “Toon TV.”  That’s because it’s quite similar to a previous episode from Season One titled, “Tiny Toons Music Television.”  It’s basically more music video spoofs.  This time, the Tiny Toons gang goes even further back in time, covering hits from The Coasters, The Contours, and Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase.  They even cover Tchaikovsky’s famed ‘Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies’ in this episode.  Of course, this is just a sample of what audiences can expect from this final collection of episodes.  Buster and Babs pay tribute once more to the golden days of animation by trying to save a group of “two-Tone” toons from an evil executive.  There is much more to enjoy from this final portion of the show’s final season.  But as noted already, the episodes contained in this final series of episodes aren’t entirely that original, thus making it less enjoyable than the series’ first two seasons.

For the seemingly decreased sense of originality in these final episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures and the problematic error created in ‘Weekday Afternoon Live’, there is at least one equally noticeable positive to this set.  That positive is an episode the directly addresses the problem of bullying.  To be more specific, it presents the situation in which Shirley The Loon is bullied by her classmates at her ballet class.  Upon telling Babs about the harassment from her swan classmates, Babs vows to get even with them, which she indeed does.  Of course getting even isn’t what people who have been bullied should do.  This is by no means the message.  But it does in its own way, go after bullies.  At the same time, it re-tells the story of The Ugly Duckling.  So in essence, it’s actually a doubly enjoyable episode for this.

The one major sequencing problem evident with Tiny Toon Adventures Volume 4: Looney Links! is something that will continue to plague this set unless the people at Warner Home Video make the effort to alleviate this issue.  Luckily, it does have its positives as noted already.  Looking at this set from the perspective of its packaging, the people charged with assembling this set at least got that right.  As with so many multi-disc sets being released now, WHV has released this final installment in a standard single disc case with an insert.  The insert included allows for the set’s first disc to be placed in its own spot, thus protecting the disc from scratching and, in turn, preserving the disc (along with the second disc) to be preserved much longer.  So it is for that reason, and for the laughs offered throughout this collection, that it is worthy of at least some praise.  But the massive error of having the wrong episode spliced into the end of another and the rehashed previous episodes will make any long-time fan of Tiny Toon Adventures take notice that this set is not perfect.  It is far from it by chance because of these issues.  Despite that, it is still a good addition to the collection of any Tiny Toons Adventures fan.  With any luck, Warner Brothers and Warner Home Video will take notice of all the complaints from fans, and re-issue this set as it should be presented.

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New Carol Burnett Set One Of 2012′s Best Box Sets

Courtesy: Timelife/Star Vista

Television today is at a critical point.  Regardless of one’s server, a single trip through the channels shows the dominance of very specific styles of shows.  It shows increasingly that the last bastion of family friendly programming is indeed PBS and its digital sister stations.  Politics aside, that speaks volumes.  So what’s a person to do in the search for something family friendly other than just PBS?  The answer:  The Carol Burnett Show.  Thanks to Timelife and Star Vista, this classic family friendly variety show is available once more for the entire family.

The Carol Burnett show and its namesake were groundbreakers in every sense of the word.  Burnett herself was the first female to host a variety show.  And the show itself can and should be credited as an influence for Saturday Night Live, which didn’t even air until years after The Carol Burnett Show was well into its prime.  And in comparison to shows such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour—both of which ran around the same time as The Carol Burnett Show–, it was a groundbreaker in that it went in a somewhat different direction than those shows.  Ironically, as audiences will see, Burnett actually had the Smothers Brothers on her show during its run.  And that episode is one of many highlights of the complete twenty-two disc retrospective box set released by Timelife and Star Vista.

The Smothers Brothers’ appearance is only one of so many highlights from The Carol Burnett Show.  What really makes The Carol Burnett Show stand out is its skits.  It’s obvious the influence that these skits had on Lorne Michaels and all involved with Saturday Night Live.  And the way that Burnett’s show mixed its musical performances and skits is a near identical mirror to the format that SNL has used ever since its inception years after The Carol Burnett Show hit the airwaves.  There was more influence there than from say, The Smothers Brothers or even Sonny and Cher.  Audiences will see that throughout The Carol Burnett Show:  The Ultimate Collection.  Staying on the topic of the whole box set, audiences will be pleased to go through each separate box included in this new complete set.  The first noticeable factor of each set is that within each box, the discs each get their own spot on an inserted “leaf.”  Placing the discs in this fashion not only is ergonomically smart, but it also protects the discs from scratching, thus increasing their longevity.  This is a very smart packaging manner.  This is just the beginning of the packaging’s positives.  Another positive to the packaging is the inclusion of a booklet in each box.  The booklet in question includes outlines of each episode along with some added history specific to each history.  This adds even more enjoyment to the overall viewing experience.  On top of the boxes is an even larger commemorative collector’s booklet that includes even more history behind the show, and even quotes from the cast.  One of the most interesting pieces of extra history is centered on Burnett’s co-stars, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.  It is noted in the extra booklet that Korman couldn’t look at Conway without breaking out in total laughter once Conway did certain things.  Audiences will see that for themselves throughout certain episodes of the show, too.

The laughs provided by Korman, Conway, and the rest of the cast are again just another tiny piece of the overall puzzle that makes The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection a must have for any classic television fan.  Bringing things full guest spots from the likes of The Smothers Brothers, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Telley Savalas, and so many more make for so many more laughs.  They’re included in their own skits, as well as episodes of the show’s most beloved and longest running skit, “The Family.”  Speaking of “The Family”, how many variety shows have managed to take its skits and turn them into such a success as that.  Sure, Saturday Night Live has taken its skits and tried to make them into movies.  But save perhaps for Wayne’s World, none of its other skits have ever really had any true success.  Mama’s Family by comparison was a huge hit throughout its run on television.

The guest stars and the overall set packaging of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection are impressive to say the least.  The quality of the footage is just as impressive.  Timelife and Star Vista make note on each disc that the footage may contain some discrepancies.  But the reality, it’s amazing how well the footage has stood the test of time.  And that it looks as good as it does so many years after the show’s end will create that same sense of nostalgia that an old jazz vinyl will create.  It will take anyone who remembers the show back to another time; a better time.  And it will show newer audiences everything that was at one time right with television.  It’s something which so many of today’s television execs should revisit as it shows that television can be funny and family friendly, even in the twenty-first century.

So much more could be said of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection.  Doing so would take up far more space than is possible.  Audiences will see for themselves everything that this set has in store when they pick it up for themselves.  Fans of this legendary show can purchase it online now via Timelife’s online store, http://timelife.com/products/the-carol-burnett-show-the-ultimate-collection

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Portlandia Season Two Another Laugh Riot

Courtesy: Independent Film Channel/Video Services Corporation

It’s time for another trip up the road to the one and only Portlandia.  The second season of this twisted, bizarre and completely outlandish sketch comedy show is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.  One part Saturday Night Live and one part The Kids in The Hall, this little show that could is obviously a niche show.  It’s not for everybody.  But for those who are open minded enough, this oddity of a show is a good escape from everything else currently cluttering the airwaves.

Portlandia’s second season offers more than its share of laughs.  Those who are not entirely enthused over this season are likely missing its whole point.  As with Season One, this second season continues to completely poke fun at the standard holier-than-thou too hip for the hip 90’s crowd who are stuck in that age to this day, as well as other groups.  For instance, audiences are introduced to Spyke and Iris as they plan their wedding in the episode, “Cool Wedding.”  Both Spyke and Iris fit that stereotype.  And seeing them trying to go against the grain in planning the wedding will leave anyone laughing.  It’s complete absurdity.  But there’s also a certain amount of truth to their characters as there are people still like them out there today.

Courtesy: Independent Film Channel/Video Services Corporation

Another great example from Season Two of its success comes in the form of “One More Episode.”  This episode pokes fun not just at the world of science fiction and its sometimes overly devoted fan base.  Audiences get to see what happens when Carrie and Fred start watching the recent Battlestar galactic series on DVD.  They keep saying they’ll only watch one more episode.  They become so wrapped up in the series that they lose sight of everything else.  They even become so obsessed that they go off in search of a man they think helped write for the show (but obviously didn’t).  Again, there actually is a certain amount of truth to this as there really are people like that.  The addition of guest stars Edward James Olmos and James Callis as themselves make this one even funnier.

Fans will also laugh out loud as a young man with the Surfrider Foundation tries to get a woman to sign his petition to ban plastic bags.  When she declines, his parents and even his grandparents get involved.  There’s even a great politically incorrect bit during the season’s first episode, “Mixology” that will no doubt stir up some debate among audiences.  It all comes together with the season’s other bits to make for plenty of laughs and a great escape from the current river of mindless reality television that currently pollutes the airwaves today.  Portlandia is now available on DVD and blu-ray. 

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