In 10 Words or Less
Back for more, funnier gay sketch comedy
Loves: Sketch comedy
Likes: Erica Ash, Kate McKinnon, When shows improve
Dislikes: The Stritchy sketches
Hates: Grandma Bell
The Story So Far...
"The Big Gay Sketch Show" broke new ground in its first season, giving the GLBT community an "SNL" of its own on the Logo Network. The series made a relatively quick leap to home video, with DVDs of the first season hitting stores in April of 2008. DVDTalk has a review of this set.
After making TV history, "The Big Gay Sketch Show" faced the challenge of doing it again, and better, in Season Two. Of course, for the fans who got the show to a second act, the show couldn't change too much, but it couldn't remain static either. The changes made were obvious and almost entirely positive. First up is the move to eight episodes, an increase of two shows from the previous campaign, a sign of confidence from Logo. The show's success is further confirmed by guest appearances by gay stars and queer icons, including Rosie O'Donnell (one of the show's executive producers), Kate Clinton and the actual Elaine Stritch. O'Donnell is joined by famous lesbian Chastity Bono in an homage to the Muppet Show's cranky old men, Statler and Waldort, as they close each episode complaining about the quality of the show.
The cast underwent some changes as well, as Michael Serrato and Dion Flynn left the show, and were replaced by Paulo Andino and Colman Domingo. It was a strong switch, as Andino adds a few qualities the show was previously light on, namely a Latino presence, a "hottie" body and an ability to play straight convincingly. As a result, the show could add characters like Antonio Banderas to its repertoire, which came in handy twice this season. Domingo subbed in as the show's sole black male presence, but he also brought with him a disturbing drag style that made for funny, yet creepy female characters, like his fantastically over-the-top Oprah Winfrey.
The return of the show means the return of several recurring characters, though their use is refreshingly limited, with a select few making multiple appearances, including Kate McKinnon's transgender British boy Fitzwilliam (who makes an enjoyable visit to Hogwarts) and Nicol Paone's aggressive take on Elaine Stritch. They are joined by several new recurring characters, some of whom star in the best bits in the set. Domingo's ridiculously simple portrayal of Maya Angelou should go down in the comedy history books, as she reads Craigslist posts with comic grace, while Andino's Naldo, a naïve, yet muscular laborer, blends broad, raunchy physical comedy with what I guess would be called D&A.
These new pals are joined by what really seemed like a natural recurring character, Super Liza, a play on David Gest's claim that alcohol gave Liza Minelli superpowers. Combine Julie Goldman's goofy camp performance with the natural appeal to gay audiences, and you have a sketch that would be pumped out weekly on "SNL," yet she gets just one true sketch here. The same goes for the anatomically incorrect "The Hungs," which is probably right along the lines of what you are thinking. Unfortunately, the show couldn't resist all temptation, as the foul-mouthed Grandma Bell (Erica Ash) gets a pair of sketches to curse through inappropriately, and the unnecessary "puke pipe" makes an appearance.
In better news, the show learned how to follow-through on the writing promise it displayed in the first season, finding solid uses for the creative concepts the writers came up with. Yes, it's a bit obscure, but the idea of mixing "Extreme Home Makeover" with Grey Gardens is absolute genius, while "I Like Lucy" actually takes a shot at retrofitting the Lucille Ball series, instead of just making everyone gay. Though some of the ideas fall short, like a few slams on blogger Perez Hilton and a way-too-long parody ad about Sally Field, when you've got brilliantly funny commercials like one skewering of the Valerie Bertinelli/Kirstie Alley Jenny Craig ads, you're hitting for a solid average.
The biggest disappointment this season is oddly the last sketch of the season, a big finale with the show's most popular recurring characters. It's very existence is an argument against the concept of recurring characters, as each actor basically comes out and does their catch phrase before they all dance around. After the advances the show made this season, one would have thought they would have grown past something this gimmicky.
Like the previous season, this set is spread over two DVDs, which are packed in a standard-width, dual-hubbed keepcase. The first disc feature an animated, full-frame main menu with options to play all the episodes or select individual shows. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but this time around there is closed captioning. The second disc holds the special features.
The quality of the full-frame transfers wasn't a problem in Season One, and this set is no different, as the episodes look great, with bright, vivid color, a sharp overall image and no noticeable dirt, damage or compress artifacts. The show definitely looks a touch better than it does on cable.
The audio is once again just what you'd expect for a basic cable comedy soundtrack, which is delivered as Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are crisp and clear, with easily understood dialogue fine and something of a strong music base also.
All the bonus material lives on the second disc, and it runs about 100 minutes in all, broken down into four categories. The first one is "The Big Gay Stuff," which starts with "The Big Straight Sketch Show Half-Hour Special." The idea is that Logo is attempting to broaden its horizons, so it will change the show to be just like an "SNL," which is a struggle for the cast and crew. It's a mild amusing gag, watching the gay participants trying to work "straight," but it peters out in trying to find an ending. It's followed by a pair of Goldman's Celesbian Interviews, this time with castmates Paone and McKinnon. They aren't bad, but they aren't as good as the interviews from the first season, in part because they are comfortable together. The remaining four pieces in this section are trailers for other Logo programming and DVDs.
The Big Gay Bonus Sketches are better this time around, partially because there's 10 of them, three of which are extended versions of what's on the DVD. Of the remaining seven, a Maya Angelou sketch is cute, while Fag Hag Friendship isnt bad, and Bondage in Three's Company feels incomplete and very creepy thanks to Michael Guarino's vision of Mr. Furley. Tech Problems at a Funeral feels like a first season sketch, as the great concept of a woman singing into a wonky microphone just fizzles.
The Big Gay Interviews are similar to what you got in Season One, with nine short chats with the cast and director Amanda Bearse. You get answers to questions like what are the differences between the two seasons, how were they hired and how they found out the show was renewed, but not a whole lot of personal info. It quick and fluffy material for fans of the series. You don't get a lot more in the last three featurettes, which are made up of found footage. "The Big Gay Blooper Reel" is a short collection of screw-ups from the show, while the oddly-titled "Hold My Hair When I Throw Up" sees the cast messing around off the set. The final extra, "Behind the Big Gay Scenes," is just what it says, as a camera wanders around the offices and set of the series, watching what goes on.
The Bottom Line
Change can be a good thing, which is the main lesson one can take from this season of "TBGSS," as the differences between the two seasons are part of this campaign's strengths. Stronger writing, a more comfortable cast and a better overall production make Season Two an entertaining and rather funny eight episodes of gay-friendly comedy. The DVDs are, once again, well put-together, with a healthy dose of extras, and this time, it's not content easily found elsewhere. If you don't have an issue with gay culture, it's worth giving this series a look to see something new and a bit different.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.