EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS
Review by Mark Wiechman
Stars: Tyler James Williams, Terry Crews, Tichina Arnold,
Imani Hakim, Wincent Martella
Video: Color Widescreen, 16:9
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Studio: CBS DVD
Length: 7 hours, 26 minutes (four discs)
Release date: October 17, 2006
“Don’t come home stupid!”
“My parents taught me that love means never having to say, “KISS MY ASS!””
Many shows come along that are not “must-watch” but could be someday. They are just fun to watch, with believable characters that we care about. I always know a bad movie or TV show when I realize that I don’t care about any of the characters. Unfortunately most networks want instant hits today, and have no interest in long developments. Everybody Hates Chris is not a great show, but it is very good. It is not as funny as The Cosby Show or The Jeffersons but is not as silly either. None of the characters are caricatures. Like those shows it features a mostly black cast but is not self-consciously “black” either. The language and situations are coarser but still mild compared with most television. These are real people, and hearing the grown-up Chris Rock comment on his younger self as he goes through the usual crises of every young man is hilarious and entertaining. Everybody doesn’t really hate Chris, but it seems sometimes like the whole world hates all of us from time to time, so we can all relate.
Even thought the show is set in the early 80’s it has more of a 70’s vibe, with good funky music and it reminds me of Fat Albert, with its goofiness and self-deprecating humor.
When the series begins, we learn that Chris’s family recently moved to a nicer part of Brooklyn, and he has to take a two-hour bus ride to a better school in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Both of his parents work hard, and watch every penny. His father Julius, played brilliantly by Terry Crews, is a new kind of father figure in sit-coms but a very likable and real character. He pinches pennies, works hard for the family, is good to his mother, but also has a goofy side. When he mistakes his attractive neighbor for his wife when he comes out of the shower, he stumbles around feeling guilty even though he really never did anything wrong.
When Chris goes to a party which his mother told him not to
attend, and he dances with an older girl, I challenge anyone not to get
hysterical at the Prince costume his mother made for him (complete with
mustache) or to laugh out loud when the girl sternly warns him not to touch her
behind. And here he is just happy to be at the party at all!!!
Nice to see widescreen on the DVD, since I am pretty sure it was
broadcast in full screen. As with many TV DVDs, the picture is actually better
than the original broadcast. No problems at all.
The 5.1 is used pretty well, with so many good tunes and sound
effects coming through the rear channels. The balance between dialogue, music,
and Chris Rock’s narration is excellent.
The pilot features an excellent commentary with Ali Leroi (co-creator) and Reginald Hudin. It also features Chris himself, who says that his character is Charlie Brown—he’ll never get the girl or catch a break. The commentary is almost more entertaining than the show itself. Chris mentions how so many of the characters are composites of kids he knew, and in fact they are the universal characters. The second episode features the cast itself on the commentary track, which is entertaining in a different way. Tyler Williams as Chris is bound for even bigger and better things, with the lovable way he always seems to be out of place and not measuring up to anyone’s expectations. Most episodes also feature deleted scenes, most of which you can tell why they were deleted, but they are smartly included with the episodes from which they were deleted instead of in a separate category at the end.
Disc Four features audition tapes, The Making of Everybody Hates Chris, a short documentary of Tochina recording what became one of the tags for the show. We get to hear the song in its entirety, since only the hook is used in the show. We meet the incredibly talented bassist/composer/producer Marcus Miller, who is the musical director and writes the original music for the show. He discusses how he worked with the producers to make the theme and how he carefully adds music to the show. This feature alone is worth the DVD set. There are also vignettes about the set, photos taken by the cast, video shorts shot by the cast, and the best feature for any comedy, bloopers.
I’m glad to say that Everybody Hates Chris is coming back for a second season, so make sure to view the first season now that it is on DVD so you know the backstory.