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Inside Amy Schumer: Season Four

Comedy Central // Unrated // May 9, 2017
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 16, 2017 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
The likely end of another Comedy Central sketch success

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Sketch comedy
Likes: Amy Schumer, dark comedy
Dislikes: Gender politics
Hates: The twisted interpersonal relationships between women, short-run series

The Story So Far...
Before Amy Schumer became a household name thanks to her film Trainwreck, an assortment of advertising campaigns and her friendship with Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer was a raunchy stand-up comic and the star of Inside Amy Schumer, a brilliant sketch comedy series on Comedy Central that took aim at a variety of social issues, particularly those that women face. But as with many of the network's big sketch hits, when bigger opportunities came calling, the series ended quickly, after just four seasons. The first three were released on DVD, and DVDTalk has reviews of each release.

The Show
After three seasons of her sketch series, Schumer's stardom was definitely on the rise. If you didn't know it from the many stories about her in the press, you definitely knew it from watching her fourth season, on which she became as big a topic as the societal issues she addressed in her fantastically biting sketches. Whether it's a bit about her difficulties dealing with fans expectations of her, or her zepplin-set talk show, in which she desperately seeks to convince that she's down to Earth and just like you, Schumer is letting art imitate life. Admittedly, most of them could be done without referencing Schumer's real life (and a sketch about Twitter's new "I'm going to rape and kill you" feature does just that), but she's always walked a fine line on the show between character and person.

Fortunately, she still takes aim at the word beyond herself (even if most of them affect her personally as a woman.) Tackling the ridiculous opposition to common-sense gun control in the form of a home-shopping parody is a perfect example of the show's smart targeting, as is a sketch about Schumer's gynecological exam being conducted by unqualified congressmen who seek control over her sexuality. The series' best work remains its wonderful jokes about women and the daily garbage they face, as represented in a sketch about goggles that help a woman see what kind of woman they need to pretend to be to be heard (aided by the fabulously funny Claudia O'Doherty) or a bit about a guy's confusing desire for Amy to be both a madonna and a whore. And for any he-men afraid the show is feminist propaganda, segments like one with Abby Elliott, Jessica Williams and Natasha Lyonne, which makes fun of how women overuse mental illness terms, are a regular thing.

It's not all political or topical though, as the show can get just as silly as it can be smart. In one sketch, Schumer struggles to act with a horse, while another recasts the period medical drama The Knick with children (but keeps all the blood.) Frequently, Inside Amy Schumer out-SNL's NBC's sketch show, with great fake commercials, like an ad for a saxophone tampon case, which starts out strange and just gets even weirder. That's probably the show's biggest strength: the comedy is often heightened to ridiculous levels, but without resorting to Family Guy-style stretched-out moments. This series piles on the absurdity, so that even when you start with a ridiculous premise, like a funeral parlour that doesn't accept cowards, you know there are still three gears left for the show to shift to.

Previous seasons have not lacked for recognizable guest stars, but season four takes it to an almost ridiculous level. The usual comedy-world regulars like Rachel Dratch, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Michael Ian Black and Patton Oswalt are welcome presences, but this season casts a ridiculously wide net in hauling in a pile of stars for cameos and more, including Michael Strahan (in an amusing reversal on fantasy sports), Lena Dunham, chef Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez (a delightful straight sidekick to an insane Schumer) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (trapped in the nightmare of a Schumer musical pitch.) The level of guest star in this show would have been hard to top if the show returned, as this season featured all these, plus Harvey Keitel, Jake Gyllenhaal (in a fun parody of MTV's Catfish), a ridiculous Ralph Fiennes, not to mention Sam Rockwell, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Laura Linney, Jennifer Hudson and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

As great as the cast is, the regular people on the show are usually the most interesting part, as the "Amy Goes Deep" interview segments remain among the show's best moments, as they feature Schumer--at her most natural and engaging--chatting with fascinating people, including a nun, a sociopath, an expert on psychopaths, a bikini waxer, a gun-safety advocate, a woman with Down's syndrome, and last, and unfortunately least, her friend Jess. With such a varied collection of people each discussion is unique, and Schumer manages to be funny on her own, while letting the focus be on her interviewee. They are so good that, when episode eight ends with a pair of musical performances by Schumer (aided by Questlove) and Bridget Everett, it's a bummer that the episode doesn't "go deep".

The only part of Season Four that doesn't work is the finale, an unfortunate clip show. In a world with streaming, DVRs and readily-available home video, the only time a show should do a clip show is if the concept is subverted as part of it. Here, with Andy Cohen serving as the host of a Real Housewives-style reunion show, the new material is slim and, for anyone who finds watching those reality series tiring at best, frustrating. It's a weak way to end a series that's been so original and creative, and the fact that it puts the cap on a shorter than usual season makes it even more disappointing.

Packaged in a standard-width, dual-hubbed keepcase, this two-DVD set splits the nine episodes of Season Four up, five and four per disc. The discs have static, anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select shows, adjust the language and check out the extras. There are no audio options but English SDH subtitles are included.

The Quality
Colors are vivid, with good saturation, and the level of fine detail is high for a standard-definition presentation, while black levels are sufficiently deep. The series plays with looks a great deal, to enhance its parodies, and the quality of the visuals here helps get that across to the viewer to nail the joke.

As it was with the previous releases, the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, which do the trick for the show's dialogue-focused comedy, but leaves you wanting more when it comes to the film's musical moments and more cinematic bits. Aside from that issue, the sound is strong and well-defined.

The Extras
All you get here are four "Inside Amy Schumer's Writing Room" segments, which run 10:19 in total (playable separately or all together.) There's humorous sequences feature the show's writers (who are all also performers) in various scenarios, including a bit about the show's male writers, and one with O'Doherty trying to put together a web series. Because of the performers involved, these are far better than they might have been otherwise.

Oddly, the box indicates that there are outtakes, but they aren't available from any of the menus, so they seem to have been forgotten. Annoyingly, the final episode also mentions there was an additional "Amy Goes Deep" segment available online, but that wasn't included here either, for some reason.

The Bottom Line
As it was with Dave Chappelle, Nick Kroll and Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key before her, the early end of Amy Schumer's series was lamentable, but at the same time, the fourth season's high points weren't as high as in previous seasons and the finale was a dud, so better to leave the air before tarnishing the show's legacy. The presentation remains solid, though the extras took another dip, not even delivering as advertised. There are enough moments of greatness and a tremendous guest cast that makes it worth completing your collection though.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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