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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Chris Rock Show - The Complete First and Second Seasons
The Chris Rock Show - The Complete First and Second Seasons
HBO // Unrated // September 19, 2006
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Lacey Worrell | posted October 8, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Show:
If you are a fan of Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle and you don't know about Chris Rock's short-lived but critically acclaimed HBO series, then you are really missing out. Rock's show paved the way with its mix of irreverent sketches, skewering of current events, and cutting edge musical acts. Now the first two seasons are available on DVD, and they are a must-own.

Each episode loosely follows a structure that includes a record-scratching intro by DJ extraordinaire Grandmaster Flash, a bit of stand-up by Rock, mock interviews, sketches, and a musical performance. Some of the musicians, such as Usher, are still very much in business, but others, such as the woefully misplaced and eccentric band Cake, were just out of place on a show such as Rock's.

The interviews are nothing short of amazing, and don't be surprised if you end up laughing out loud at the banter between Rock and his guests. Rock and George Carlin exchange hilarious conversation over the beginnings of stand-up comedy, especially Carlin's truly shocking humor as he was attempting to make his mark amongst the one-liner, Jackie Masons of the world. An interview with Johnnie Cochran features Rock at his absolute best as he marvels at Cochran's ability to get even the most guilty of celebrity defendants off the hook. His mixture of cut-to-the-chase and comedic questions make for a riveting interview. Rock marvels over supermodel Tyson Beckford's way with the ladies in a combination of awe and downright envy. The interviews are what really made this show.

As the punchline of many of Rock's jokes, Bobby Brown makes a good-natured appearance as a musical guest, although the song he performs is instantly forgettable. Be sure to look for the gigantic pink "B" emblazoned on the crotch of his vinyl pants and his embarrassing attempt to take over DJ-ing responsibilities for Grandmaster Flash at the end of the episode. Other musical guests over these two seasons included such headliners as Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Erykah Badu, and Salt-N-Pepa, evoking memories of The Arsenio Hall Show, which often featured cutting edge music performed by both established artists and up-and-comers. Watching it in present day, it makes one long for the days before talk shows played it safe and bowed to the will of holier-than-thou celebrities and publicists.

Fans of Wanda Sykes will enjoy seeing her in many of the absolutely hysterical sketches; she is also credited as a writer for many of the episodes, and her sardonic humor is readily apparent. One of the best sketches features Rock trying to get people in the mostly white enclave of Howard Beach to sign a petition to create a Tupac Shakur Boulevard through town; people's reactions are genuinely funny, especially during one moment when Rock follows a woman down the street singing "California Love" completely off-key. Another follows the path of a $5 bill through New York. Be sure to catch the Thanksgiving-themed episode that features a real live turkey and some of the best moments of the entire collection.

As good as this collection is, it is quite uneven. A scripted interview with legendary actor John Amos (Good Times) falls completely flat, thanks to unfunny writing and a lack of the spontaneity that marks most of the other interviews. A very obvious flaw is Rock's incessant, very obvious cue card reading. He is constantly glancing off to the right or left, often pausing and losing his train of thought momentarily as a result. Viewers – especially younger ones - might find themselves scratching their heads at now-outdated political and pop culture references, and it is quite poignant that the background of the set features the Twin Towers. Don't let these little things deter you, however. This show is still comedic gold.

The DVD

Video:
This collection is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The picture is quite good, but in this case it is a drawback, because the studio sets look cheap, as though they are about to fall over at any minute. The outdoor scenes, which feature Rock interacting with the general public on the streets of New York, are sharp and clear. The overall presentation good, but not much of an improvement over what one would expect viewing first-run episodes on television.

Sound:
Presented in Dolby Surround, the sound quality is very good, especially during the musical performances. If you are not a fan of the predominantly hip-hop acts, however, this won't mean much to you.

Extras:
Fans will be thrilled to know that Rock provides commentary on some of the episodes, revealing such tidbits as the fact that the retrospective on the first episode is not part of the DVD collection; they began the series with a retrospective – an unusual move! I loved how he begins his first commentary in his usual self-deprecating way by saying, "HBO – the only network that would give me a show" and noting that he has had his teeth fixed since the show began.

He also explains the idea behind the infamous Tupac Shakur Blvd. sketch and the fact that many of the powers that be were reluctant to go through with it, even though it became a signature moment of the show. Overall, considering that commentary is now becoming an expectation on DVD releases and most of us have heard enough to determine the good from the bad, Rock's commentary is terrific. It provides great background for the show, giving fans exactly what they are looking for.

Final Thoughts:
This is the perfect show to pop in the old DVD player late at night when all the primetime shows are finished. If you need a good laugh before bed, The Chris Rock Show, Seasons 1 & 2 will really deliver for you. If you are left wanting more, check out the 2002 documentary Comedian, which focuses on Jerry Seinfeld but features a small appearance by Rock; it is a gripping account of the incredible amount of grueling work and self-doubt that goes into preparing a new stand-up routine.

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