Spun off of the Funny Or Die website created by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay a few years ago, HBO's Funny Or Die Presents now sees its second seasons released on DVD. The half hour show is basically a sketch comedy series that purports to be vintage broadcasts from the Funny Or Die Network. Hosted by the 'channel's' Head Of West Coast Sales And Marketing, Ed Haligan (Steve Tom), each episode contains anywhere from three to eight sketches a piece in addition to Haligan's intros and outros and a network schedule. It's a simple idea but it allows the cast and crew to pretty much toss in anything they want which ensures that the series is, if not always hilariously funny, always weird enough to be worth checking out.
The ten episodes that make up this second season of the show are presented as follows, five per disc:
Episode One: Do You Want To See A Dead Body? / Terrible Decisions: The Drop Off / Reenactments Of Actual Conversations From The Ladies Rooms Of Hollywood / United States Police Department / Juggalo News / Adam West Hits On You...Hard / Brick Novax's Diary / Terrible Decisions: The Perfect Outfit
Episode Two: Tijuana Jackson: Life Coach / United States Police Department / Reenactments Of Actual Conversations From The Ladies Rooms Of Hollywood / Funny Or Die Movie Of The week: "Paco Dances" / Welcome To My Study
Episode Three: Do You Want To See A Dead Body? / Brick Novax's Diary / Adam West Hits On You...Hard / John And Will's Animal Choices / The Amazing Adventures Of David & Jennie
Episode Four: It's Gert / Reenactments Of Actual Conversations From The Ladies Rooms Of Hollywood / Death Hunt Pt.1 / Juggalo News / Men Of Unquiet Desperation
Episode Five: Tijuana Jackson: Life Coach / Death Hunt Pt. 2 / Brick Novax's Diary / Welcome To My Study
Episode Six: Lady Refs Pt.1 / Do You Want To See A Dead Body? / The Burn Unit / Sticky Minds
Episode Seven: Tijuana Jackson: Life Coach / Juggalo News / Lady Refs Pt. 2 / Adam West Hits On You...Hard / Terrorist on Flight 77
Episode Eight: Do You Want To See A Dead Body? / Lady Refs Pt. 3 / Reenactments Of Actual Conversations From The Ladies Rooms Of Hollywood / Body Boys: Legend Of The Pipers / Juggalo News / Boobie
Episode Nine: Brick Novax's Diary / Lady Refs Pt. 4 / Jeff Baker: Junior College Professor / Crazy Town / Welcome To My Study
Episode Ten: United States Police Department / The Terrys / Baby Boss
There's a lot of great material here but the series isn't particularly consistent. For every sketch that works really well, there's another that, if interesting and sometimes creative, isn't always successful in making you laugh. The positive? Well, the openers and closers with Steve Tom in character as Halligan are always more hit than miss. He delivers his lines with a completely straight face as he informs us of new trends in technology like how young people these days are watching things on their computer screens, often times with a cocktail in hand and a bevy of beautiful female employees on each arm. His send up of the hold school sales and marketing executive, the kind that would do the power lunch and meet with clients for drinks, is pretty much perfect.
Also funny are the Juggalo News segments, though those without either a knowledge of or disdain for the rabid followers of the Insane Clown Posse may get less out of this than others. Done as a send up of the traditional twenty-four hour cable news network but with hosts and hostesses clad in black and white clown makeup speaking in ICP speak, these bits are just stupid enough to work. The recurring Do You Want To See A Dead Body? bits involve Rob Heubel accosting various celebrities - Deepak Chopra, Ben Stiller to name a few - in order to convince them to accompany him on his trip to literally see a dead body. Huebel leading Stiller into a sewer in Los Angeles where a corpse lies face down in the water is morbid, sure, but it's hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Possibly the most absurd of all the sketches in the set is John And Will's Animal Choices in which John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell, under the guidance of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, decide which animals they'd like to be before living out that dream through the wonders of computer animation. The United States Police Department sketches with June Diane Raphael and Seth Morris are also pretty funny, working rather well as clever send ups of cop shows - the highlight here is when they crack a 'child pornography' ring made up of a kid drawing naughty stick figure style drawings and leaving them around the school.
Then there are some bits that don't work so well. The Reenactments Of Actual Conversations From The Ladies Rooms Of Hollywood sketches, which involve a woman in a bathroom stall listening in on other women around her, are hit or miss and if sometimes chuckle-worthy rarely hilarious. The Tijuana Jackson: Life Coach sketches about a man with a bad past 'trying' to reform is funny the first time and not so funny the next go around. Not horrible, sometimes interesting but not always something to make you bust a gut. The Brick Novax's Diary sketches, done with action figures, would feel more at home on Robot Chicken than anywhere else and they're nice to look at and show some creative set design, but not necessarily something you'll want to watch over and over again.
So yeah, it's all a bit uneven really, at least in terms of laughs per minute. The series does have a nice style to it and it does the low-fi seventies TV thing surprisingly well despite taking advantages of the obvious advances made in technology in the last few decades. Some interesting talent pops up here - aside from Reilly, Ferrell, Heidecker and Wareheim we see the aforementioned Ben Stiller and Depeak Chopra but also Kristin Wiig, Ben Schwartz (in all of the Terrible Decisions bits), and Adam West playing himself in sketches where he uses bad pick up lines. Porn star Lexi Belle shows up (and shows off - yowza!) in the Paco Dances movie parody in which she bands a famous parrot and his manager in the weirdest three-way you've probably ever seen, while Bill Hader, Fred Willard, Elijah Wood and, yes, Jimmy Walker, also pop up.
Funny Or Die Presents: Season Two looks pretty good presented here on DVD in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen, the same aspect ratio in which it is broadcast. There are no problems with print damage of any kind (well outside of the skits that use a retro sort of worn and torn look - that doesn't really count) as all of this appears to be shot digitally while colors are nicely reproduced throughout. Black levels are generally good and detail is probably as strong as could be expected from a standard definition presentation. All in all, the video quality is pretty good here.
Audio options are offered up in English and French language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options with removable subtitles provided in English, French and Spanish. The 5.1 track sounds about as good as you'd expect from a (sometimes intentionally low-fi) comedy series. There's surround activity here and there during the more active moments but the vast majority of what we hear comes from the front of the mix. The score sounds good, and it's occasionally spread throughout the set up to nice effect, while dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow.
Outside of menus and chapter selection there are no supplements included on either one of the two DVDs that are included in this set.
Funny Or Die Presents: Season Two isn't the most consistent show that you're ever going to see but that's half the fun of something like this. If it's fair to say that not ever sketch is a winner, at least the series remains unpredictable and occasionally pretty surprising. HBO's DVD set looks and sounds very nice and if it doesn't contain any actual supplements, it still comes recommended for fans of irreverent sketch comedy.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.