In 10 Words or Less
The funniest courtroom since...well...ever
Loves: Stand-up comedy, Patton Oswalt, Andrew Daly
Likes: Lewis Black, Greg Giraldo
What a fantastic concept "The Root of All Evil" is. Let two comics argue which of two opposing concepts is more evil, like weed and beer, and have all-around lunatic and cultural commentator Lewis Black preside over them before handing down his decision. Simple, structured and very funny, it's an excellent descendant of "Politically Incorrect" and "Tough Crowd," providing a focused presentation of topical comedy.
Honestly, Black isn't even needed, though he does well in what's essentially an MC's role, because the show is all about the two "lawyers" arguing their cases. I don't know who cast the show, but the choices were inspired, as not only are they funny, but they even feel appropriate as attorneys. Guys like Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Kindler, dressed in their legal finest, could easily pass for at least a court-appointed defender, while Greg Giraldo actually studied law at Harvard. (For completeness' sake, Kathleen Madigan is also here.) No one can touch Andrew Daly's bombastic performance, though, as his cherubic smile and twisted mind combine to create a lawyer who gets paid a retainer in dead kittens.
The episodes here point out how tenuous the concept of the argument can be, as some of them sort of make sense, like pitting weed against beer, or YouTube versus porn, but the most are somewhat random. Donald Trump versus Viagra? Paris Hilton versus Dick Cheney? But sometimes, even when there's no connection, it can be inspired, like having Korean madman Kim Jong-Il face-off against Tila Tequila, or a battle between two cult leaders, Oprah and the Catholic Church. It looks like the second season will attempt to make the cases make more sense, which should only aid the conceit, though honestly, when you have two great performers, they'll overcome anything, like Daly and Oswalt running the best show on the silliest argument, Las Vegas versus the human body..
What none of them can really overcome is the same problem seen on "Politically Incorrect" and that's the length of the show. Take the commercials out of the show and there's maybe 20 minutes of show, which flies by. At least here, the structure, which features opening statements, case presentations, inquisitions and the always over-the-top Ripple of Evil forecasting, works with the segment lengths, unlike the momentum-killing breaks on "PI." Still, when Oswalt gets going on the evils of the human body, or Daly is riffing on the dangers of beer, you don't want it to end.
The eight episodes collected here (which is the first season, though the DVDs have no numbering) are split evenly over two DVDs, which are packed in a single-width dual-hubbed keepcase. The discs have animated full-frame menus with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the bonus material. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
The full-frame transfers look as solid as they do on Comedy Central, with appropriate color, a nice sharp image and a decent level of detail. There are no issues with dirt or damage and no obvious problems with digital artifacts. Overall, a tight presentation, but still one you'd expect from a basic cable series not broadcast in high-definition.
The audio, which is uncensored, matches the video, as the Dolby Digital 2.0 track does it's job and does it well, though the very pedestrian mix features nothing dynamic, nor does it need to, as the comedians' dialogue is clear and clear. It's a simple delivery for simple material.
A small selection of extras has made its way to this set, starting with the full post-show interviews from all eight episodes (taken from the show's web site.) Since this content is from the web, it probably explains why it's censored, unlike the rest of the DVD. These are the bits shown with the credits, featuring interviews with a comedian I recognize, yet cannot find a name for anywhere. What these bits do is point how how awful the majority of the comics are at improv, mostly because Daly, a veteran of the Upright Citizens Brigade, is so incredibly good at it, and makes the others look terrible my comparison. A play-all option would have been appreciated.
It's followed by a quartet of videos that have also been available on the "Root" web site. "Your Day in Court" is a quick, funny three-minute piece with Lewis talking about what you should do if you have to go to court, while "Meet Judge Black" is a 1:30 look at the show's star. There's more mini-profiles in "Meet the Lawyers," 2:47 of Black talking about his comics. Last up is "Polibits," a very short note by Black about how politicians lie. If all we are getting is previously-released web content, why not include all of it, since there's way more still on the site?
Things wrap with a selection of DVD previews and four Comedy Central Quickies.
The Bottom Line
I'll take any chance to see good stand-up, and especially the chance to enjoy the work of Oswalt and Daly. Add in the angry presence of the great Mr. Lewis and a well-designed concept to keep it all rolling, and you have a half-hour that's fresh and funny. The DVDs look and sound as good as you could expect for this style of show, though the extras are a bit disappointing, since you can easily see this material elsewhere. If you're a fan of any of the comics involved, you'll want to give this show a look, but if you've seen it all, the only real reason to check it out is the uncensored audio (if you care about that.)
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.