I really loved the first season of Manstrokewoman and it was hard waiting the two years before the second, and final, season arrived on DVD. Unfortunately the first season was released by the now defunct BCI Eclipse, and is now out of print. MPI Home Video acquired the rights to the series and has released both seasons in one set. The upshot is that if you want season two, you have to buy season one even if you already have it. The good news is that the MSRP is very reasonable, only $5 more than the price for just season one, so that should make it easy to justify the partial double dip. It is certainly worth it as season two is just as outrageously funny as season one.
Manstrokewoman is a comedy troupe that consists of six members: Amanda Abbington, Ben Crompton, Daisy Haggard, Meredith MacNeill, Nicholas Burns and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced). Their show consists of many rapid-fire skits (some lasting only a minute) involving a set of reoccurring characters that are mixed with one-shot sketches, and they are generally hilarious. A bit does occasionally misfire, but it is no big deal as another one pops up in mere seconds.
The two seasons feature totally different characters, which is good. By the end of each season each personality had been played out thoroughly and while the skits didn't become dull, dragging the characters through more set ups would have lessened the show. Yes, each season is only six episodes long, but I'd much rather have six funny episodes than 26 mediocre ones.
One of my favorite bits from season one involved a guy who runs into a girl who dumped him years ago. She doesn't want to talk to the looser, but he sees her and invites himself to sit down and they start to chat and catch up. She's married now, to an accountant, and he's...the King of Spain. Through some odd family tree thing, he's become the king of a major European country, and by all accounts he's a great ruler. The look on her face as she downs her drink after he leaves is priceless.
Then there's the woman who, wearing some outrageous bit of clothing, asks her husband how she looks. Having been in a similar (though not so pronounced) situation it's easy to sympathize with the poor man as he gently and ever-so-tactfully tries to tell her that her earrings are as large as chandeliers.
I also loved the bit with the man (Nick Frost) who doesn't understand that his girlfriend is trying to break up with him. "It's over!" "Ahh, you're such a kidder." She gets more and more frazzled as time goes on until she's at her wit's end and he's blissfully ignorant.
Season two had just as many hilarious bits. The highlight for me was a sketch near the end of the season where a realtor is showing a couple though a house that's for sale:
Man: Is it just me or is it a bit cold in here?
Real Estate Agent: The cold, yes. The house is actually permeated by unspeakable evil. It feels nothing but hatred towards anyone who wishes to make it their home.
Man: Umm, what's down there?
Agent: That's the cellar. The thing lives down there. It's basically a shapeless mass of malevolent energy.... It guards a gateway to another dimension. You are going to love this little room round here
Wife: This is great!
Season two also has a wonderful reoccurring sketch involving a business man who has totally misunderstood his assignment. Instead of giving a presentation on the feasibility of migrating the companies operations to
Some of these skits are a bit raunchy or politically incorrect. A good example of that is the emergency room skit in the final episode in season one. When a female accident patient's heart stops, the doctor declares that he's going to try an experimental new procedure: "I'm going to cum on her tits." They remove her shirt (leaving the bra on) and the doctor climbs in an ejaculates (off camera) on the woman. Another rather funny but possibly objectionably part is the reoccurring sketch of a man with his son Josh. In one of these skits viewers see the man and a small cross in front of a tiny grave. He's explaining to Josh how nothing lives forever and that Whiskers was an old cat. His wife walks up behind him and asks "Where's Josh?" The camera pulls back to show the man kneeling besides a dead cat. End of skit.
That is one of the show's strongest points; the skits are very short. They get to the funny bit and then move on. They don't try to milk a joke for more than it's worth, nor do they spend a lot of time on the set up for the gag. It's all short and sweet.
All twelve episodes that made up the two seasons of the show are presented on a pair of single sided DVDs which comes in a standard width double keepcase.
The stereo soundtrack is free of audio defects and generally clear. It is a bit hard to understand the dialog at times because of the accents and other times the voices are mixed a little low. Luckily for those times there are subtitles in English.
The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image is very solid. The picture is very pleasing overall. The colors are fine and the level of detail is great. On the digital side, things were also fine. There was a little aliasing but blocking and other common defects were absent. A nice looking disc.
There's fair amount of extras included on this set. All 12 episodes have a commentary track, though these weren't really all that engaging. The various actors reminisce about the filming, but they really don't know what to say and there are some really long gaps in the tracks. They talk about seeing a couple having sex by the side of the road while driving to a location for example, and try to recall what type of car they were in and who was on top. Okay...
Disc one also comes with How to Make Manstrokewoman is a 16 minute behind the scenes featurette that was amusing but not as interesting as it could have been. There wasn't any narration or much structure, just a camera watching the cast and crew filming scenes for the show. The Music of Manstrokewoman has a text biography of the band that does the theme music as well as a track off of their upcoming album. There are also biographies of the actors.
The second season includes four featurettes. 24 Hours of Manstrokewoman is a jerky, hand held look at a day's worth of filming. This shows the cast and crew cutting up between takes and runs about 13 minutes in length. It would have been much better if they actually used a tripod.
There are also three short films that the cast made: Ben Crompton's Film about Ash is a four minute, well, it is, ummm. Basically Ben Crompton making funny faces into the camera and filming a little bit of series producer Ash Atalia. What's more surprising is it's actually pretty funny in parts. Nick Frost's Love Letter to Emma Thomas, is an irreverent look at the show's script editor. Finally A Day in the life of Nick Burns shows the religious, meditative and generally high brow lives that the cast lead. These were all amusing, though they wouldn't stand up to repeated viewings.
There's also a gag reel and an area where each actor selects their favorite sketch from the season.
This is one of the most consistently funny sketch shows I've seen. Outrageously hilarious and thoroughly entertaining, this short series is great. A top notch show that fans of British comedy should be sure to check out. Highly Recommended.