"Mad TV" always was the "also ran" to "Saturday Night Live", even as the latter started to fizzle in recent years. Still, "Mad" ran 14 seasons and, despite mixed reviews, the series really did gain some steam around the middle of the show's run, with a weak first season or two and a weak last few seasons.
The third season of the series saw a switch-out of cast members, with some of the original cast (such as Orlando Jones and Artie Lange) heading out and replaced by Will Sasso (who remains underrated) and Alex Borstein (Alex Borstein, Chris Hogan, Pat Kilbane, Lisa Kushell, Will Sasso, and Aries Spears joined this season, while David Herman and Orlando Jones joined Lange in exiting.) While Lange is a funny comedian and had a good run on the "Howard Stern Show", the comedian was never used terribly well on "Mad", largely being the focus of obnoxious slapstick bits ("Babe Watch", with Lange dressed up as the pig from the movies.)
Sasso, on the other hand, remains one of the best things about the show's run. The third season sees the birth of his Kenny Rogers character, although early on he does an amusing, straightforward take on Rogers. It's only later that Sasso's devastatingly funny, sloppy drunk take on Rogers ("Kenny Rogers' Jackass") appears (as does Sasso's hysterical Steven Segal take - "Crouching Cops, Hidden Badges" where Sasso plays a Segal that keeps trying to wish himself to fly stands as one of the top skits the show ever did.)
One of the show's most well-known running characters does make an introduction here with Borstein's Ms. Swan. Swan is an older Asian woman whose catchphrase was "He Look-a like a man." The character initially got a few laughs, but it got tired. Still, there are a couple of highlights where the character was thrown into a clever situation or two, such as a bit this season where Ms Swan is interrogated by Mulder and Scully of "X-Files" fame ("What did the alien look like?" "He look-a like a man.")
Still, while I was never as entertained by Ms Swan as most seemed to be, Borstein certainly delivered elsewhere on the show, like during her parodies of Rosie O'Donnell, best seen here during Rosie's edited "Lowered Expectations" skit. "Expectations" - a continuing skit throughout much of the series, as an often-funny parody of awful dating videos.
"Mad TV" isn't at its very best at this point, but the series does offer some real highlights in this season and this is where the key cast of the show really gets started. As the cast gets more comfortable starting in the next season, the series really starts to get going.
This set includes all 25 episodes.
Video/Audio: Shout Factory! Offers the series in 1.33:1 full-frame. Image quality is reasonably good, considering the production and age. The picture looks somewhat on the softer side throughout the series, although again, it's similar to how the show originally looked on basic TV. The 2.0 audio is just what one would expect from basic, sitcom audio on a show that's well over a decade old at this point. In other words, not a whole lot.
Extras: Zip. Would have been nice to get at least a featurette or deleted scenes or other material.
Final Thoughts: While it isn't the series running at full steam, all the elements are in place and there's definitely a lot to like during this earlier season of "Mad". The DVD, on the other hand, is bare basics, with satisfactory audio/video and no extras. Recommended for fans.