Dateline! 2006. The place...? The sprawling metropolis of Spokane, WA, home to the KHBX news team. There's Aspergers-y cultist director Alan Finger (Zach Galifianakis), doesn't-know-what-the-hell-she's-doing boob-flaunting producer Tillie Sullivan (Andrea Savage), slackjawed pain-in-the-ass production assistant Marty Shonson (A.D. Miles), and...well, as if Kevin Beekin (Matt Walsh) needs an introduction. Women want him; men want to be him. Or not. He's a doughy, balding, over-the-hill egomaniac, but...ssshhh! Beekin didn't get CC:ed on that memo, so don't say anything. So, anyway, despite the fact that they're all pretty uninformly terrible at the whole television news thing, the four of 'em trot all over this glorious country of ours, seeking out the stories the other stations won't. The sticky underbelly of professional bodybuilding! The unchecked depravity of teenagers during Spring Break! A missing pretty, barely legal white girl! A documentary crew's cameras are taping the KHBX team at work too, so you get a privileged peek at the story behind the story.
So, each episode of Dog Bites Man starts off with some sort of overarching premise. Say, the station's bleeding red ink, and they've got to make a choice between Beekin and company or Super Doppler 12...or maybe there's been a kidnapping in Brighton, FL, but borked travel reservations have the team trying to pass that other Brighton in snowy Colorado off as the Sunshine State, asking random people on the street to pass themselves off as the girl's friends and family. The only four actors in the show are the KHBX crew (and, okay, briefly one Korean guy); literally everyone else are unsuspecting targets. See, they pass themselves off as an honest-to-God newsteam from Spokane, and everyone they interview get unwittingly swept up in their dementia. It's one of the most wildly successful blends of scripted and improvised comedy I've ever stumbled across, and ensnaring hapless victims into the fold infuses the series with a hell of a lot of energy and can be really, really, really uncomfortable to watch unspool. It's the good kind of "uncomfortable", though, even if I'm wincing and cringing so much that I can't actually look up at the TV.
The brutal thing about reviewing a show like Dog Bites Man is that I wind up transcribing bits that work brilliantly on-screen but don't translate to plain-text all that well, or I spoil the joke by describing segments in too much detail that still doesn't read the way it should. This'd normally be the part where I'd start embedding videos to give you a taste for the show, only the clips on Comedy Central's website are all broken, the outtakes on ucbcomedy.com aren't nearly as good as what made it into the finished episodes, and YouTube isn't giving me a whole lot to work with here. This fake PSA is about the best it looks like I can do:
I guess that just means you'll have to take my word for it when I say that Dog Bites Man is amazing. I mean, I'm more of a social laffer, and if I'm just sitting by myself in my living room on a sleepy Sunday morning plowing through a DVD boxed set, even something I love the hell out of probably isn't going to get much more than a doofy smile out of me. Dog Bites Man had me howling. We're talkin' embarrassingly loud cackling for right at three and a half hours straight. I wouldn't even want to guess the last TV series that made me laugh this hard, this consistently, and this is from a guy who's already seen all of these episodes before too. Undercover gay and Mr. Mister Korean karaoke and Roll-AIDS and sharkjacking and a couple dozen counts of dog tasering...it's kind of just too incredible for words.
If you want to get a quick taste of Dog Bites Man, these nine episodes are also available via Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes. Pick any one at random and give it a shot. (If you need a nudge, "Assignment Brighton, Florida" gets the nod as my favorite.) Part of me feels like it's a missed opportunity that Dog Bites Man was cut off at the knees with a nine episode run, but it's kind of perfect just the way it is. The series starts off pretty strong and only gets better, building up to a ninth and final ep that feels like a proper, satisfying finalé. There really aren't any clunkers along the way, so it's all killer, no filler as the kids say.
Dog Bites Man has been on my shortlist of TV-shows-I-need-on-DVD for years now, and it's more than a little bit awesome to finally have this two-disc set in my grubby little hands. Plus it's a professionally packaged deal too, not just some shat-out-on-M.O.D. the way series like this usually are anymore, so thanks, Olive Films! Do the same for The Comedians of Comedy series from 2005 if you get a chance, please. So, yeah: Highly Recommended.
Dog Bites Man looks shockingly like it was shot on...I don't know, some creaky old Betacam rig in 2006, and that's probably 'cause it was. These DVDs are probably about as good as the series could ever realistically look. They're a little softer than usual but definitely in league with what I waltzed in expecting to see. There are also some scattered moire effects, mild shimmer, and bleeding colors, but that's not even a little bit distracting. If you watch stuff on an HDTV with a dot-by-dot mode, there's the slightest bit of dead space at the top of the frame, although again...who cares? A show like this isn't going to be dazzlingly sharp and detailed on DVD, and what you get is professionally authored and all that. No real gripes.
Dog Bites Man's 9 episodes are dished out on a pair of dual-layer DVDs, and they're presented at 4x3, the same as when they originally aired on Comedy Central six years back.
Not a whole lot to say about these Dolby Digital stereo (192kbps) soundtracks. Even when piped through an overpriced home theater, it still kinda sounds like that tinny 13" TV with the half-peeled-off Garfield sticker in your guest bedroom. Dialogue's definitely the focus this time around, and although the recording can be pretty uneven, it all comes through well enough. There's a little clipping and edginess but nothing worth getting all up in arms about, and the weird echo in a few shots is easily overlooked as well. Totally alright.
...and that's it. No dubs, not surprisingly. No subtitles or captions either.
Wikipedia sez that a tenth episode of Dog Bites Man was shot. I don't know if it was ever actually completed, but it never aired on Comedy Central, it didn't find its way to iTunes, and...nope! Not on this DVD set either. The outtakes on comedycentral.com and ubccomedy.com are nowhere to be found on here either. You do get some extras, tho', all delivered in-character by the show's cast.
There are fourteen minutes' worth of interviews with the KHBX news team, which I guess were some sort of viral video thingie peppered with clips from the show. There's also a thirty second bit where Finger rambles on about drawing visual inspiration from a bunch of different genres of film, and Kevin tears off for a minute and change about his pitched "Beekin and Eggs" pilot and the fucking Eagles, man. Last up is a four and a half minute bit where the KHBX crew runs through the process of putting together a field segment, generally recapping the series' premise and lobbing out a bunch of bite-size clips. Kinda nice from a completists' perspective although they're aimed more at people who haven't tuned in than anyone who's already torn through Dog Bites Man over and over.
Oh, and Dog Bites Man comes packaged in two slimline DVD cases that fit snugly into a shiny cardboard slipcase. The cover photos are slightly different for all three boxes, and for some reason, that makes me really, really happy. The extras are labeled as "ECIAL FEAHE" on the case which I'm hoping is some super-awesome joke I don't get and not just "SPECIAL FEATURES" getting mangled in InDesign or something.
The Final Word
I was kind of a frothing-at-the-mouth rabid fan of Dog Bites Man during its way-too-brief stint on Comedy Central, and I'm sort of thrilled to finally have the entire run of the show on a shiny, new DVD set. I obviously remember really, really liking it, but I forgot just how howlingly, breathlessly funny Dog Bites Man still is six years later. ...although I don't know how I can howl with laughter and be out of breath at the same time, but whatever. It's a criminally overlooked series that deserves -- nay, demands! -- to be rediscovered on DVD. The only downside is the sticker shock. Even with the usual online discounts, $25-$30 for a set of nine half-hour episodes seems awfully steep. I won't blame you if you opt for a price drop, but...well, as long as you grab this box set at some point, I guess you and I are still okay. Highly Recommended.