In 10 Words or Less
Have you ever seen basic cable comedy... on weed?
Loves: "The State" alumni
Likes: Old-school Comedy Central
Hates: Stoner comedy
The subtitle for "Comedy Central's Home Grown" is "A Comedy Central Experiment." I'd say that's a mighty lofty name for a sampler you'd usually give away to promote your channel, but wrap a hip all-natural hemp bow on it, and suddenly you've got an experiment. Whatever.
What this is, whatever the name, is five drug-fueled episodes of some Comedy Central favorites, labeled as "Buds" on the disc. Of the five episodes included, two have already been released on DVD, one is coming soon, and another will likely get released eventually. Only "Weed vs. Beer," an episode of "Lewis Black's Root of All Evil," might not get a release, as few such shows on Comedy Central have made it to home video. So if you are a fan of the series represented here, there's a good chance you have the episodes or will soon. If you're a newcomer though, there's some good stuff to discover.
First up is a second-season episode of "The Sarah Silverman Program," which hasn't hit DVD yet. "Face Wars" is mostly about racism, as Sarah thinks that Jews have it worse than black people, since she was denied a tennis court at a local country club. To prove her point, she decides to spend a day disguised as a black person, which, if you know Silverman, is guaranteed to be offensive and ridiculous. But that's not why it's here. The subplot to the episode sees Sarah's gay pals Brian and Steve on the hunt for some pot, and finding it in medical marijuana. Underestimating the power of the weed, they smoke their brains out, and spend the episode stumbling around. Brian and Steve are fun to watch struggle with the influence, but the main plot is much better, which is probably why it's the main plot.
The late, great "TV Funhouse" is up next, with the wonderful "Christmas Day," in which our host Doug is overtaken by Christmas cheer, which the Anipals, the animal puppets who hang out at the Funhouse, decide is a great drug, so they tap his spine to get a fix. If you've never seen the show, a real possibility for many people, that description should tell you everything you need to know about it. A beautifully animated segment about Tingles, the Christmas Tension and a short film on where to look for Christmas presents hidden around the house add to the Anipals' drug rampage, resulting in an episode that just makes me want the upcoming series collection even more.
Lewis Black's excellent new series, in which two comics argue the evil of two topics in front of "Judge" Lewis, is a great take on stand-up acts, and downplays Black's angry persona, which works to his benefit. In this episode, Paul F. Tompkins argues that Weed is the Devil's tool, while Andrew Daly (Upright Citizens Brigade) speaks out against Beer. These two are perfect portraying "lawyers," with very professional appearances and deliveries that sell the show's trial concept. I haven't watched too many episodes of the show on TV, but watching these two go at it, and getting limited, but fun bits from Black, makes me think I need to tune in more often. Only problem here is themisspelling of Tompkin's special witness Aimee Mann's name.
An old episode of "Reno: 911!", "Burning Man Festival," sends Lt. Dangle (Thomas Lennon), Dept. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) and Dept. Junior (Ben Garant) out on an undercover mission to the alternative celebration in order to bust L.S.D. users and distributors. Simply put, it doesn't go well. This one has a double-dip on the drug theme, as Dept. Johnson (Wendi McLendon-Covey) goes undercover to catch a head shop selling weed. Again, things don't go as planned. Though these storylines are funny, the opening scene, which has Dangle working a prostitution sting, and Dept. Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui) trying to get a crackhead prostitute off the streets, are much more entertaining.
The episodes wrap up with a natural: "Old Habits, New Beginnings," the first episode of "Strangers with Candy." As a recovering addict, Jerri Blank needed a spot on this set, and this episode, which sees Jerri whip up a batch of a drug called glint, in order to become popular. Unfortunately, Poppy, the most popular girl in school, ends up overdosing on the glint, which leads to more trouble for Jerri. It's probably the most drug-focused of any of the episodes, and represents more correctly what a disc like "Home Grown" should be about.
The one-disc release is packaged in a white single-width keepcase (an odd-choice for a non-Disney DVD) and features an animated full-frame menu with nice design and a nifty warping effect to simulate the disc's theme. Options include the three groups of content, with play all options inside each group. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though you do get closed captioning.
The full-frame video on these episodes are just what you'd expect from a Comedy Central release, with appropriate, though not quite vivid color, rather clean images and no noticeable dirt or damage to be found. Age affects the look of the shows, as the newer episodes certainly are a bit more bold, while "TV Funhouse" is a bit less vivid. There's nothing to really complain about though.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is rather standard, but boy is it nice to hear that catchy "TV Funhouse" theme nice and clear. The dialogue is clean making for a solid presentation that replicates the way it sounded on TV.
There are two groups of extras on this DVD, "Stems" and "Seeds." Stems are clips from Comedy Central series, and there are 10 in all, from "Chappelle's Show" ("Dave Meets Showbiz"), "The Sarah Silverman Program" (the animated "Steve and Brian's Adventure," "Cookie Party" and "More Cookie Party"), two Karaoke/Sing Along songs from "Drawn Together," three segments from "Crank Yankers" ("I Want to Go to Hawaii," "Badonkadonk" and "Hold Please") and two short scenes from "Viva Variety" ("Marijuana Uses" and "Baby That Tastes Like Soup.") More clips from vault-worthy (and non-DVD represented) shows like "Viva Variety" would have been appreciated, since the rest are pretty readily available (with Silverman's show represented four times on this disc,) while only one clip here is actually related to the disc's concept. The three picks from "Crank Yankers" are at least some of show's funnier moments.
The other section, Seeds, is much more unusual, and ramps up the WTF? factor, while sticking closer to the Home Grown concept. First up is a YouTube video called "Spider on Drugs," which takes a film of an experiment showing the effect of drugs on spiders, and adds a humorous voiceover. Similar is tone is "From the Archive: Weed," a pro-drugs redub of an old educational film on pot. The spider clip is the better of the two, but neither stands up to a complete episode of stoner favorite Bob Ross' "Joy of Painting." This is a straightforward episode of the instructional series, and it maintains all the positive qualities that made the show so calming and enjoyable to watch, as the uber-relaxed Ross just gets lost in the fun of creating. No matter what state you're in, this is a a good one to watch.
The last item in Seeds is a selection of three cartoons from "The Animation Show," Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's cartoon festival. Do not watch these while high, unless you want a bad, bad trip. "Psychotown," by Dave Carter is short and not bad, but next to Run Wrake's "Rabbit" and Tony Comely's "Abigail," it pales in comparison. Both of these are dark and disturbing, but utterly beautiful as well, standing as gorgeous examples of what animation can be.
The Bottom Line
This is one of the more unusual DVD releases I've ever seen. Sure, there's the drug theme present to pull it all together, but the majority of the material doesn't really fit, creating the DVD equivalent of a mix tape. If there were more of the rare cuts included or more oddities like the animation and Bob Ross show, instead of piling in the usual suspects, this would be a much more desirable release. The quality is pretty solid, though it's somewhat hard to say what's an extra and what's actual content. You'd have to be really hardcore about pot culture to want to own this disc, and even then, it will probably harsh your buzz.
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.