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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black
Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black
A&E Video // Unrated // October 26, 2010
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted November 3, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Show

As someone who instinctively flinches when the Christmas decorations start appearing in stores before the Halloween candy has scarcely been cleared from the shelves, I knew I'd (probably) really enjoy Lewis Black's Surviving the Holidays before I'd even cracked the DVD case open. It helps if you're already a fan of Black's brand of always-simmering, barely contained, comical rage, as it pulses beneath every scene of this television special, which first aired in Nov. 2009 on the History Channel.

Starting with Thanksgiving, Black points out, there are 36 days of grueling social expectations until New Year's Eve arrives and puts everyone out of their collective misery for another year. With his own acerbic observations and help from a few experts (authors, religious figures and medical personnel) and a small army of well-known and lesser-known comics (everyone from Bob Saget, Richard Belzer and David Alan Grier to Joy Behar, Loni Love and Judy Gold pitches in), Black attempts to make sense of all the madness which has sprung up around the American celebrations of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year's Eve. (Honestly, this special is worth the price of admission alone purely for the sequence where Black dresses up as a department store Santa Claus and interacts with children to hysterical effect.)

Mixing comedy with genuine insight, Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black tackles a variety of topics associated with the festive season, including anxiety -- Black converses with a clinical psychologist -- and dealing with one's extended family; the history of the four major holidays that end each year and explanations of traditions like the big Thanksgiving meal or dreidels at Chaunkah. Interspersed amid the educational tidbits is plenty of wry commentary from an array of comedians, many of whom land some genuinely hilarious observations about the holidays.

The 92-minute Surviving the Holidays, directed by Adam Dubin, could've been a dull, rote recounting of American history mixed with lessons about the four major holidays that close out every year, except that the loose, convivial contributions from a host of comedians help elevate it above your standard History Channel fare. Would that more programs with such aims take such an entertaining approach to material that most viewers would probably otherwise tune out.

The DVD

The Video:

Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black arrives on DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks darn near perfect, which makes sense for a recently filmed television show. There are a few instances of smearing, owing to the snippets of digital video interspersed throughout the special. But the flaws are few and fleeting; most of Holidays looks immaculate, with rich colors and crisp, inky black levels.

The Audio:

The English, Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is relegated to conveying every snarky aside and informative tidbit with clarity and detail. The lively score plays beneath nearly every scene, but never overwhelms the dialogue. There are no optional subtitles.

The Extras:

The only bonus is two minutes and 15 seconds of extra footage from the program.

Final Thoughts:

As someone who instinctively flinches when the Christmas decorations start appearing in stores before the Halloween candy has scarcely been cleared from the shelves, I knew I'd (probably) really enjoy Lewis Black's Surviving the Holidays before I'd even cracked the DVD case open. It helps if you're already a fan of Black's brand of always-simmering, barely contained, comical rage, as it pulses beneath every scene of this television special, which first aired in Nov. 2009 on the History Channel. The 92-minute Surviving the Holidays, directed by Adam Dubin, could've been a dull, rote recounting of American history mixed with lessons about the four major holidays that close out every year, except that the loose, convivial contributions from a host of comedians help elevate it above your standard History Channel fare. Would that more programs with such aims take such an entertaining approach to material that most viewers would probably otherwise tune out. Recommended.

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