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IMPORTANT THINGS WITH DEMETRI MARTIN
Season One

Review by Gordon Justesen

Star/Creator: Demetri Martin
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Paramount/Comedy Central
Features: See Review
Length: 154 Minutes
Release Date: September 8, 2009

“Bears like honey. So what do we do? We serve honey out of a bear. We take honey from the animal that likes it, through a hole in its freaking head.”

Shows ***

Demetri Martin is a comedic talent on the rise. In fact, he’s already developed something of a cult following with his frequent appearances on The Daily Show, in addition to earning his first feature starring role in Ang Lee’s latest film, Taking Woodstock. Martin definitely deserves to go onto bigger and better things because he is quite a funny individual.

If anything should indicate Martin’s rise on the popularity meter, it’s the fact that Comedy Central has given him his very own sketch comedy series. Important Things with Demetri Martin is quite the quirky take on the sketch comedy formula that one would expect from this rather eccentric comedian. Altogether, Season One is kind of hit and miss, but there wasn’t a single episode that didn’t give me at least one gut busting laugh.

Think of the series as a children’s educational program with adult humor thrown in the mix. Martin takes on a specific topic, or “important thing”, on each episode and delivers a mixture of sketches and stand up routines relating to the topic. So what you have is a format not too far off from, say, Sesame Street or The Electric Company (yes, even music numbers are included), but in place of Muppets and child-friendly fare we get far more racy material.

What ground does Martin cover throughout the season? The wide variety of topics includes time, power, brains, chairs, safety, coolness and games. Some topics fare much better than others (as I mentioned earlier, the show is kind of hit and miss), but Martin’s unique approach to finding humor out of each issue is rather intriguing.

Martin also has the advantage of being teamed up with some talented comedy writers for this series. He managed to assemble a team of writers from such shows as SNL, Wonder Showzen and The Colbert Report. Given those credentials, it’s quite easy to spot the moments where the show is on fire.

As far as surprise guest appearances go, there are only two throughout the entire season. Amanda Peet pops up in the first episode, while David Cross is featured in a later one. Something tells me this was done on purpose, as I suspect that Martin was toying with viewers expectations regarding unexpected pop ups. If so, I shall give him bonus points.

And as for Martin himself, he has this unusual quality about him. There are times when I get put off during some of his stand up routines, where in which he pauses after a punch line with the most awkward facial expressions (you’ll have to watch the show to see to what I mean). But then moments later, he’ll win me right back with a random and completely off the wall bit, the best of which is his musical number titled “Me vs. You”.

Overall, I appreciated much of what I got out of Important Things with Demetri Martin. As hit and miss as it was, there are enough episodes here to provide a good number of hugely hysterical moments to where I can say it’s an altogether funny experience. And hey, you can’t fault a series where you actually get some learning value, which could’ve been Martin’s overall intention.

Video ***

The show is presented in its original Full Screen presentation. For the most part, it’s about as clean and crisp as any contemporary TV presentation out there, even if it’s a series with limited set pieces. Both the filmed sketches and the studio setting where Martin does his hosting duties appear in acceptable, fine form.

Audio **1/2

The Dolby 2.0 mix delivers just about what one would expect from a dialogue-oriented comedy series. Since it’s somewhat low on audio effects, spoken words and occasional bits of music are what get the most treatment. Overall, the sound mix gets the job done.

Features **

This Paramount release does come with two nifty bonuses; an insert that is actually a mini-poster and a sticker featuring the show’s logo. As for extras on the disc itself, there are commentaries on selected episodes with Demetri Martin and writers Michael Komen and Dan Mintz. Also included are Deleted Scenes (one of which includes optional commentary), outtakes and bloopers, and a look at Martin outlining a graph and line chart, which are elements that figure into the routine of the series.

Summary:

While the show is mostly targeted at hardcore fans of Demetri Martin, Important Things is a rather interesting take on the variety sketch show formula. I appreciated the PBS-like educational program format serving as the backdrop for Martin’s outlandish comedy bits. I look forward to learning more from him in the future.

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