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CHAPPELLE'S SHOW: THE SERIES COLLECTION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dave Chappelle, Charlie Murphy, Donnell Rawlings
Creators: Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 626 Minutes
Release Date: November 20, 2007

Season One ***1/2

“How could this have happened…a black white supremacist.”

I think that Comedy Central should be given a Lifetime Achievement Award for pushing the boundaries of what can be aired on basic cable television. The first show that perfectly illustrates this notion is South Park, the show that pretty much put the network on the map. Then early last year, actor and comedian Dave Chappelle premiered his new sketch comedy series, appropriately titled Chappelle's Show, perhaps the rawest and most daring show of its type to ever come across the television circuit.

I remember catching the last sketch of the pilot episode. Right afterward, as I dried the tears on my face which came as a result of laughing so hard, I knew right then and there that Dave has been given complete control of the show, and that Comedy Central respects him enough to let him have control. As for the sketch I am referring to, it's one that will shock you not just by how extreme it is, but by how much genius it is.

The quote above is what precedes the segment, which is a send up of the news program Frontline. The subject is that of a man who is attempting to revive the white supremacist movement to extreme heights. The man's name is Clayton Bigsby, and when the reporter tracks him down, he discovers that the man is not only blind, but black as well, making him a Black White Supremacist. Chappelle's is a pure genius at spoofing all kinds of racial issues, and this sketch has to be seen to be believed.

Needless to say, Chappelle's Show is not for the easily offended. Even those who are used to the antics on the more standard sketch shows like Saturday Night Live or Mad TV may get knocked out by the excessive lengths that Dave goes to get a laugh. The only difference between this show and ones like the current SNL is that none of the segments on Chappelle's Show fall flat. The only falling that will be taking place is perhaps when you find yourself falling to the floor, laughing in hysterics.

The groundbreaking first season of the series includes many outstandingly funny and memorable sketches. They include a training video for employment at a copy place, which basically encourages you not to do your job; an outrageous spin on The Real World called The Mad Real World, in which the six roommates consist of 5 black people and 1 unsuspecting white guy sharing a complex in a New Jersey ghetto.

Additional sketches include a preview for a movie about Dave Chappelle's life story, spoofing both 8 Mile and Antwone Fisher, a commercial for the Special Edition DVD of Roots with some newly discovered outtakes, and segments called Real Movies, which shows real versions of such movies as Ghost, Pretty Woman and The Matrix.

Of all the sketches, I'd have to say the one I found the most gut-wrenchingly funniest was a mockumentary look into The Player Haters' Ball, an annual celebration of haters from all around the globe who hate on everyone who has more than they do. Chappelle's character, the notorious Silky Johnson, is the biggest hater around. I would like to mention a quote from this segment, but the fact is I can't because of the extreme content. I guarantee, though, you will be laughing every minute of this segment.

Raw, groundbreaking, and undeniably funny in every sense of the word, Chappelle's Show is a nonstop laughfest that is sure to garner big time reactions from those who watch it. Be prepared to have some tissue handy, not because you'll be crying tears of sadness, but because you will most likely be laughing so incredibly hard, you won't have much of a choice.

Season Two ****

“I’m Rick James, bitch!”

No one could’ve sensed the phenomenon that the series would become thanks to an incredibly, heart-pounding hilarious Second Season. The first season was outrageous enough, but that was just a sign of things to come. Chappelle unleashed a fury of hilarity in every episode of the second season. And it was such a fantastic season that, even if Dave returned with a third season, it could never be hoped to be topped.

To give you a taste of how extreme the laughs get in Season Two, we shall start with a skit where Dave once again puts a unique spin on the use of the N-word, with a black and white sitcom about a white family with the last name, Ni**ar…that’s right, spelled with an AR at the end. Let it be said that the ridiculousness of racism has never been funnier since Mel Brooks used it to similar effect in Blazing Saddles.

Another genius sketch comes in the form of a “Racial Draft”, where racially conflicted celebrities are drafted to their chosen race. As a result of this, Tiger Woods is drafted by the blacks, Lenny Kravitz is given to the Jewish community, and the Wu-Tang Clan, believe it or not, are drafted by Asians. And in a funny twist, the white delegation gets to keep Eminem, as long as Condaleeza Rice goes as a bonus. In return, the blacks get back O.J. Simpson. Priceless!

Of course, it would be Chappelle’s dead-on recreation of the notorious Rick James that solidified not only the brilliance of the show’s second season, but the series itself. In a skit modeled off of the E! True Hollywood Story series, cast member Charlie Murphy (older brother of Eddie) reflects on a number of incidents where he got into it with the late great Superfreak. And it’s even funnier when you take into account the whole Eddie Murphy/Rick James collaboration “Party All the Time”. Charlie was part of Eddie’s security/entourage, so the whole scenario makes sense.

Add to this the fact that the real Rick James is featured in interview segments with Dave brilliantly channeling Rick in the reenacted footage, complete with dreds and all. The way Charlie sets up the stories of him and Rick, in his coked-out glory, getting into the most outlandish confrontations is riveting in itself, such as when he has to point out in the interview why Rick always referred him as Darkness. According to Rick, Charlie was the blackest black person on the planet, in pre-Wesley Snipes times of course.

To go into the Rick James sketch, which takes up an entire episode, is to do no justice at all to the hilarious effect the actual execution. What you will see unfold is one of the funniest bits of comedy to ever grace American television. When I first saw the sketch on TV, all I could think of was it hitting DVD so I could watch it over and over again, and in an uncensored fashion too!

And though the Rick James sketch would be enough to make Season Two the brilliant piece of comedy it is, the fact is there are many more sketches in the season that will blow you away tremendously. Dave also incorporates a dead-on impression of P. Diddy in a spoof of his Making the Band series. Other classic bits include a live broadcast of the World Series of Dice and a genius episode where Dave quits the show, only to be replaced by clean-cut comic Wayne Brady, and you’ll never look at Mr. Brady the same way again when you see him torture Dave psychologically in a Training Day-like scenario.

Chappelle’s Show was a genius piece of television comedy, and Season Two illustrates why from beginning to end.

The Lost Episodes ***

By now, we all are familiar with Dave Chappelle’s stunning decision to quit his hugely successful show nearly midway into the third season. The amount of money given to him ($55 million to be exact) and the expectations to surpass the unsurpassable first two seasons put the comedian resulted in an epiphany, and he left the show and ventured to Africa to clear his head. As funny as the show was and as disappointed as everyone was, least of all the folks at Comedy Central, it was Dave’s show and he clearly didn’t want to be just another sellout.

And we weren’t left completely empty handed. Three episodes worth of sketches had been shot, and a year after Dave dropped the bomb on everyone; these lost episodes have finally seen the light of day. Taking over the brief hosting duties were co-stars Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings.

Of course, since there are only three episodes here, there’s no comparing this to the sheer brilliance of the Seasons One and Two. But the sketches included did show the promise of a season that would’ve been right of the same level of the previous seasons.

Many of the sketches actually come out of the fact that Dave became the richest funnyman in the country. One sketch has Dave in a Jamaican barbershop when news breaks on the TV of his huge pay increase. And the funniest sketch of the lost episodes has Dave using all that money to get revenge on all the agents and nightclub owners who didn’t believe in him before he got famous.

Video ***

Since Chappelle's Show comes courtesy of TV, the picture brought to us from Paramount, consists of the standard full screen format. Usually, we at DMC don't find ourselves fond of the format, but in the case of this release, I don't see any need to complain, as the picture comes across quite clean and clear, and doesn't appear to keep much out of the frame. Even though certain television shows do get the occasional anamorphic widescreen makeover, this presentation appears to be just as good without the treatment.

Audio **1/2

The 2.0 track offering, which is a standard offering for nearly all the television releases, does what it can. Although several cases of music playback do offer something of jolt on the part of the channel playback, the action is reduced to the front, for the most part. Not a weak performance at all, just very much what you should expect from this sound format for a television show. 

Features ****

This Series Collection Box Set contains the three original, individual DVD releases, and the features on each release combined earns an easy high rating.

The Season One 2-Disc package includes selected episode commentary by Dave Chappelle and co-creator Neil Brennan, about 30 minutes of deleted footage and bloopers with optional commentary. Also featured is extra footage of the segment "Ask a Black Dude" with comedian Paul Mooney, and a look at sketches from the shows Reno 911 and Crank Yankers.

Season Two is a 3-Disc release and features the best extras of the three individual releases. Included is New Stand Up Material From Dave, The Rick James Extended Interview, over an hour of Bloopers and Deleted Scenes, 2 Unaired Charlie Murphy Stories and Audio Commentary by Dave Chappelle and series co-creator Neal Brennan.

The Lost Episodes disc features Unaired Sketches, Deleted Scenes & Bloopers, The Fabulous Making of Chappelle's Show featurette and Commentary with Charlie Murphy, Donnell Rawlings and series co-creator Neal Brennan.

Summary:

Chappelle’s Show: The Series Collection is a true must have box set release if you’re a fan of the show or haven’t had a chance to see every episode. The show might be gone, but the phenomenal level of hilarity lives on in this DVD Collection.

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