THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Chris Elliott's early-90's sitcom Get a
Life may be one of the
most abrasive and caustic shows to ever
slither out over the airwaves.
The basic premise (boy lives with parents,
earns money through paper
route, gets into wacky misadventures) is
straight out of Golden Era
cliche-dom, but the fact that the boy here
was a doughy, pasty,
psychotic 30 year old and his basic
demeanor was dripping with sarcasm
and obnoxiousness helped the show earn a
loyal cult following as well
the disdain of many executives.
Unfortunately, Rhino has taken to
the show in four episode
"best of" DVDs rather than in full-season
sets (which would only take
three to complete) and the releases have
been slow as molasses in
coming, but regardless, having the show
back is worth both the wait and
annoyingly short disc
one contained possibly the
all-time classic episode, "Handsome Boy
Modeling School," but volume
is more consistently entertaining. "Zoo
Animals on Wheels" is a
surreally stupid episode where Chris joins
the cast of a locally
produced musical that imagines what the
world would be like if all zoo
animals wore rollerskates and sang drippy
songs. This obvious jab at
Disney is coupled with the almost
disgracefully snide repartee between
Chris and Sharon (the very funny Robin Riker) his best friend's
wife and on-stage costar.
The musical is completely hilarious as are Chris' backstage breakdown and his weird stab at hitting on Sharon. Truly a classic.
"Married" finds Chris wooing a
supermodel, marrying her,
fighting with her, breaking up with her,
and getting divorced, all during
course of one day. In this episode Chris once again pursues a big dream only to have it prove what a loser he is in the end. But it also points out one of the funniest things about the show. For all his failures Chris actually succeeds at nearly everything along the way. (After all, he does get to marry his dream woman.) His ability to gain it all and then throw it away time and time again makes his failures that much more pathetic.
"The Big City" (a
personal favorite) finds Chris
journeying to a modified New York on his
quest to see the world. After
con artist slips him a mickey, Chris
awakens to find his wallet gone.
Quickly dubbed "Walletboy" by an
opportunistic journalist, Chris
a symbol of innocence and victimhood for
the cruel, jaded world. The episode contains bizarre and terrific period throwbacks: Everything in the Big City, from the clothes to the cars to the giant pseudo-deco gates at the entrance come out of a hard-boiled gum-snapping private dick flick. To top it off the episode's liberal use of rear-screen projection is just plain genius.
Finally, "Neptune 2000" reaches heretofore unknown
levels of parental involvement as
Chris and his dad build a submarine that
ordered from a comic book
twenty years earlier. It's a disaster, of
course, leading to some very
funny interactions between Chris and Bob
Elliott. Locked in the sub and running out of air, father and son have a final opportunity to bond while waiting to die.
The notion of releasing the show in short, mixed discs like this (at
incredibly long intervals, I might add) is unattractive. Like all TV
shows, this is one that would be best dealt with a season at a time.
Still, fans of the show should enjoy all four of the snotty, hilarious
episodes here (unlike volume one which featured the unwatchable "Spewey
and Me"). Elliott's antics are so off-putting that he enters an
new realm of reality. There are virtually no sincere moments in any
Get a Life episode (with some of "Neptune 2000" almost striving
for an emotional connection, but not quite), something that smarmy fans of the series relish with sarcastic glee.
The video on this release is not really up to snuff. While it's doubtful that the show was particularly highly budgeted, the flaws in the video here lie with the compression done for the DVD. Even on a lackluster television the gumminess of compression is visible. Supposedly an earlier pressing of this disc was recalled for some outrageous compression artifacting and nothing here is unwatchable but the tinge of poor compression
is visible. The picture is full-frame, as it was originally broadcast.
The Dolby Digital stereo audio is fine if undistinguished. The voices are clear and the show basically sounds like it did when it was first broadcast.
A very funny and ridiculously in-depth interview with the show creator David Mirkin is included. This is one way to find out way more information about the quirky show than you'd ever expect. Mirkin is an appropriately jittery fellow for having come up with such a strange show and seems like a perfect off-screen foil for Elliott's on-screen loser. Especially funny are his recollections of Fox's reaction to the show. They hated the idea, then they hated the scripts, then they hated the show. How did it ever get on the air?
There's also an alternate audio track which provides the show without the laugh track. It moves more slowly but hearing the occasional crew laughter makes it seem even weirder (if that's possible). A nice addition.
Bios and filmographies are also included.
Jawetz at email@example.com
Get a Life may have cult appeal (I don't mean that only cult members can enjoy it, although they certainly can) but there's a whole generation of Jackass fans who can stand to be exposed to a pioneer in the theater of the weird. Chris Elliott and his cohorts created something so exceptionally obnoxious that sometimes it seems amazing that it was ever even produced, let alone aired on a national network. TV may one day see a show as weird as Get a Life again but these episodes will always play as the strange, provocative, absurd little works of art that they are.