The packaging this time is a little confusing. The Tom Bergeron set released last year grouped shows from the first half of the 2001-02 season, while the appeal and timing of Home for the Holidays is pretty obvious. The Best of Kids & Animals mixes a batch of season finale and "best of" specials, possibly indicating that the label is now less-inclined to release the full-season boxed sets some have anticipated.
Grouped together, the endless clips of clumsy cats, dopey dogs, ill-fated trips to the zoo, terrifying drives through safari parks and the like become a little repetitious, as do all the kiddie clips, but much of it is pretty funny. Highlights include one young girl's flabbergasted reaction upon getting a kitten for Christmas, and a toddler's turn-on-a-dime shift from meek delight to panic-stricken horror upon meeting Eeyore at Disneyland.
In a wise move to break up the general sameness of the material, other shows are interspersed over the three-disc set. Disc One, America's Funniest Home Videos / All Animal Extravaganza, also includes the 2004 $100,000 Season Finale. Disc Two, America's Funniest Home Videos / AFV Looks at Kids & Animals, features the 1996 $10,000 Season Finale, which is seriously marred by Saget's thinly-veiled contempt for his audience (he left the series the following year), though watching his feeble monologues is fascinating like a car wreck. "You're not even smiling!" chastises Saget when one joke is met with an especially stony silence. You bet.
Disc Three, entitled America's Funniest Home Videos / Battle of the Best is an 80-minute special from 2002 apparently patterned after another ABC show, Politically Incorrect. For this episode, Bergeron is joined by a panel consisting of comedians Martin Mull and Kathy Griffin, Olympic skier Picabo Street, and rapper Coolio. The idea, apparently, was for them to watch the clips with the audience, make funny comments, and nominate their favorites for all-time funniest video. Unfortunately, nobody says anything funny, though it's interesting watching the undercurrent of bad blood between Street and Griffin, who take their assignments much too seriously.
Video & Audio
America's Funniest Home Videos - The Best of Kids & Animals is presented in its original full-frame format, and both in terms of picture and modest stereo sound is in keeping with network show standards of the 1996-2002 era. There are no alternate audio or subtitle options, but the program is close-captioned. Likewise, there are no Extra Features, unless you count the non-animal/children-themed shows.
America's Funniest Home Videos - The Best of Kids & Animals is several more hours worth of laughs for those, including this reviewer, who occasionally find such programs funny. Others beware.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.