When I bought The Best of "The Colbert Report" from Best Buy several years back, it came with an exclusive bonus disc of Colbert's "Tek Jansen" cartoons, which star Colbert as a buff superhero. It's a nice bonus: fans will appreciate it, and it seems unlikely to be released elsewhere. Before Jansen, however, there was "Pale Force", a recurring series of gag shorts on "The Late Show With Conan O'Brien". I love Conan O'Brien, but Colbert had the right idea: "Pale Force" probably wouldn't earn a complete spin in the DVD player if it were free, much less if fans have to pony up for it.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan stars in the series as both Pale Man and "Conan O'Brien". The pair fight crime using their extraordinary paleness, primarily that caused by The Lady Bronze (supposedly voiced by Eartha Kitt, but also voiced by Gaffigan). The result is a one-note joke done no favors when presented as a single-sitting. Gaffigan makes himself up to be the heroic, awesome, lady-killer type, while Conan is voiced with squeaky terror, often peeing his pants in the face of danger and constantly being misidentified as a woman. Every once in awhile, one of these jokes lands, but most of them are predictable. Each episode also usually involves faux celebrities, like Michael Rapaport, Nicole Kidman, Philip Seymour Hoffman and NBC president Jeff Zucker, which occasionally leads to some alright material ("Law & Order: Pale Force" isn't hilarious, but it's amusing).
Each episode was directed by Paul Noth, and the animation style is decidedly crude. In fact, there are times when "Pale Force" is kind of hard to look at, with its extremely basic color scheme and awkward caricatures. I suppose the show wouldn't be any funnier if it looked better, so I can't fault anyone for putting the bare minimum of effort in, but that still doesn't make the style appealing. Paul's brother Patrick did the music, which is much more critical to the comedy, and even helps form the best episode, "Pale Christmas".
The show was originally presented on "The Late Show", with Gaffigan introducing each episode. At a certain point, the show migrated to the internet, but the clips are all fairly PG-13 in nature (nothing worse than a set of crudely drawn fake nipples and a scene in which Pale Man's trailer rocks back and forth). I'm not saying that being crude would necessarily make "Pale Force" a better show, but it's a shame that the series doesn't stretch any with the relative freedom that the internet provides.
I realize this isn't much of a review, but there's not much about "Pale Force" that I can legitimately critique. This is a show where one of the episodes features The Golden Girls beating up Conan O'Brien, which probably sounds a lot funnier than it is. I've never listened to much of Jim Gaffigan's stand-up material, but sadly, "Pale Force" isn't much of an endorsement for the guy's comedic range. Ten minutes of the show will likely sate your desire for the particular style of comedy in question, and at over an hour, the viewer's patience will likely be broken. Call me when they release a compilation DVD of the "Walker, Texas Ranger" lever.
Note: The packaging lists the runtime as 84 minutes, but the runtime is actually 74 minutes.
The extremely sparse, nuance-free animation style of "Pale Force" doesn't really lend itself to amazing DVD cover design, so the front-cover image is both funny and stunningly cheap-looking at the same time. I don't know how much better it could be, so I don't mean this as an insult to the people who designed it, but it kind of looks like a homemade custom cover for a DVD of YouTube vids rather than an official DVD release. The disc has similar artwork, and there is no insert in the Infiniti case.
The Video and Audio
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of "Pale Force" mainly reveals the limitations of the source animation. Intended for TV broadcast (and later internet distribution), the show often reveals plenty of jagged edges when blown up to a larger size. Other than that, the show seems to be reproduced faithfully, without any noticeable artifacts and accurate (if remarkably gaudy-looking) colors. Not a great presentation, but I doubt videophiles are on the edge of their seats wondering if "Pale Force" represents a new benchmark in DVD transfers.
Dolby Digital 2.0 is entirely unremarkable. You can hear the ridiculous songs and whiny voices as clearly as anyone should ever want to. No subtitles have been included.
A sticker attached to the front of the packaging boasts "Over 75 minutes of bonus including Jim Gaffigan's appearances with Conan O'Brien on Late Night!" Unfortunately, the footage selected for Jim's Appearances (1:17:02) is from the twelve times the comedian introduces one of the "Pale Force" Clips, complete...uh, with the clips in question. That's right, the massive majority of this 77-minute block of footage is the same material you already watched! Much like the shorts themselves, the joke is always the same: Conan mentions his objection to the way he's being portrayed and Gaffigan tells him it gets better, which it doesn't. In several of these appearances, Conan alludes to Gaffigan having just performed for the Late Night audience; it's aggravating that that material couldn't have been included as well, if not instead of what is.
One incorrectly-mixed deleted scene (0:33) is included, while a reel of three rough animations (1:44) wrap things up.
There is undoubtedly an audience out there for "Pale Force", but I'm not it. Those out there dying for all of these cartoons in a single package can rent this disc, but I advise everyone else to skip it, as not even the hour of bonus content is any more interesting than these animated shorts.
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