"In Living Color" was Fox's prime-time sketch comedy series that launched in 1990, lasting for four years. Created by Keenan Ivory Wayans and starring other members of the Wayans clan (Marlon, Kim, Shawn and Damon), the show was also the launching pad for Jim Carrey (listed in the credits as James Carrey in these early episodes), David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson and Jennifer Lopez (who was one of the Fly Girl dancers in later episodes.)
While not as savage as "Mad TV" occasionally is these days, "In Living Color" certainly gained an audience by being edgy and unafraid to make jokes that were crude or edgy. The first episode of the series set the tone and included one of the more famous sketches in the history of the series - "Homeboy Shopping Network", where Keenan Ivory Wayans and brother Damon played hustlers who sold their wares from the back of a truck or on location (in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium), much to the irritation of people who saw their stolen items on TV. Occasionally the two characters found things they wanted to keep ("I'm sorry customers, this was merely a display item.")
Watching the show again after all these years, it's remarkable to see not only how well some of it holds up. Despite the fact that the show's look appears a little dated at this point, the humor still hits pretty consistently and fans can get a look at the early years of some great comedic talents. Carrey is especially amazing in some of the skits in this first season, as "Lassie '90" (Lassie is a pitbull helping his owner through a bad neighborhood), "Exxon Family" (Carrey plays the former captain of an oil tanker that ran aground who encounters a spill at home) , "Ted Turner Presents: Colorized" and "Vera De Milo, Bodybuilder" are hilarious. Although Carrey's popular Fire Marshal Bill didn't arrive until later, Damon Wayans did come up with Homey D. Clown, a clown that insulted any kids unlucky enough to cross his path. Although with a fantastic cast, "Color" employed a series of writers who went on to other things, such as Les Firestein ("Drew Carey Show"), Steve Odekirk ("Ace Ventura"), Colin Quinn ("Saturday Night Live"), Robert Schimmel ("Saturday Night Live") and Larry Wilmore ("The Bernie Mac Show").
13 episodes on three discs: Pilot ("Love Connection", "Great Moments in Black History: First Black Man On The Moon", "Homeboy Shopping Network", "Redd Foxx For Hire", "Equity Express", "Men On Films"); Episode Two ("Do It Yourself Milli Vanilli Kit", "Arsenio and Marion Barry", "Rap Choir", "Sugar Ray Leonard Transition", "Wrath of Farrakhan", "Ridin' Miss Daisy"); Episode Three ("Lean on Me, Beautiful", "Mitzvah Train", "Go On Girl", "United Negro College Fund", "Too-Too Ethnic", "Lassie '90", "Richard Pryor - Scared For No Reason", "Super Absorbent"); Episode Four ("Oprah", "The Exxon Family", "Great Moments in Black History: The First Self-Service Gas Station", "Jim Carrey Transition", "Rhythmless Nation", "Anton", "Men on Art"); Episode Five ("Three Champs and a Baby", "New Ambassador", "Date With Grace", "Hefty World", "Homeboy Shopping Network: Used Car Sale", "Black World").
Disc Two: Episode Six ("Bad Karate Class", "Greshan Formula", "Jheri's Kids", "Making of a Tracy Chapman Song", "Oppression", "Snackin' Shack"); Episode Seven ("Don King: The Early Years", "Cookin With Salt N'Pepa", "Hey Mon", "Ted Turner's Very Colorized Classics: Casablanca", "Rallo", "Men on Books"); Episode Eight ("President Jackson's Farewell Address", "K-Tel Presents", "Endangered Species", "Casa De Hair", "This Ol' Box"); Episode Nine ("Mo Money With Whiz and Ice", "America's Funniest Security Camera Videos", "Andrea Dice Clay", "Hey Mon", "Homey The Clown"); Episode Ten ("Michael Jackson Potato Head", "Disc Jockey, Death Jockey Trailer", "Lil Miss Trouble", "School For The Self Taught", "Uncle Joe's Fairy Tales", "Old Train", "Vera Demilo, Bodybuilder")
Disc Three: Episode Eleven ("The Brothers Brothers", "MC Hammer Video", Cine-Globe", "Calhoun Tubbs", "Ted Turners...The Kid", "Anton on Po' People's Court"); Episode Twelve ("Vortex of Fear", "Ray Charles In Charge", "Lil' Richard's Playhouse", "Della Reese's Pieces", "Secret Council", "I Love Laquita"); Episode Thirteen ("Homey The Clown's One Stop Carnival", "David Alan Grier transition", Benita Butrell, Michael Winslow - a One Man Show", "Samantha Kinison", "The Buttmans")
VIDEO: "In Living Color" is presented by Fox in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Sharpness and detail appeared to be satisfactory throughout the episodes that I viewed - although a little bit of softness was apparent, it wasn't really much of an issue.
With the 13 30-minute episodes spread across 3 DVDs, there really wasn't any instances of compression artifacts. Edge enhancement wasn't an issue, either. Some ever-so-slight wear was present on the elements used (I'm guessing the show was shot on tape), but certainly nothing serious. Colors appeared somewhat flat, but otherwise okay. Overall, for a TV series that's over a decade old, I was pleased with how these episodes looked.
SOUND: The stereo soundtracks presented clean, crisp music and dialogue.
EXTRAS: Actor Tommy Davidson provides commentary for two episodes. The tracks are somewhat spotty at times, but Davidson provides a good idea of what it was like to go through the experience of getting the show off the ground and the success that followed. On the third disc in the set, there is also a 30-minute documentary where several members of the cast and crew are interviewed about their memories of having the show hit. The 30-minute piece is pretty clip-heavy, but we learn a bit more about the production process (the show's advantages of not being live, for example) and how this urban-flavored sketch series became a phenomenon. Finally, a 5-minute featurette about the Fly Girl dancers is included, with choreographer Rosie Perez and others (no J-Lo) interviewed.
The menus contain mild animation, while the packaging is similar to Fox's "Family Guy" sets (discs housed in very thin plastic cases in a slipcover box.)
Final Thoughts: "In Living Color" was a groundbreaking, riotously funny series that launched a lot of careers and offered several sketches that remain classics. Fox's DVD edition offers the series with good audio/video quality and a few enjoyable supplements. Highly recommended.