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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Critic - The Complete Series



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#1 of 15 Michael Osadciw

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Posted January 27 2004 - 03:04 AM

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The Critic
The Complete Series






Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Show Airings: 1994-1995

Not Rated

Film Length: 520 minutes
Genre: TV - Animated Comedy

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned: Yes

SLP: USD$49.95




Release Date: January 27, 2004


Show Rating Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


“IT STINKS!”


…ok, I take that back, this show is far from stinky. But the glossy box holding the three disc set of the complete series of The Critic certainly has an odor I remember when I collected glossy hockey cards. While it didn’t generate the fan base like the long running animated series The Simpsons, The Critic was developed by the same producers and has much of the same charm as that show being a parody on films that stick in people’s heads. If you love watching film, I think you’ll love watching The Critic.

There is a critic in every one of us. We have our opinions of what films are good and bad and this is how we can relate to Jay Sherman (voice of Jon Lovitz), a New York morning show movie critic who always seems to view the most horrible films, thus giving his most used line “It stinks!”. But as we all know, not everyone feels the same way. Aside from dissing actors and actresses, directors and producers, and not forgetting the networks too, Jay has his own critics. He’s not the most professional or attractive guy around - and people always point that out to him – he’s short and pudgy, and balding on top, accompanied with mannerisms of an animal when there is food around, and you can always find him picking the wax from his ear in the presence of females. Classy! To make matters worse, he’s an adopted son that can’t seem to get true affection from his foster parents, and his boss likes to make his life harder each day. Even his make-up artist puts him down! The only good thing in his life aside from his job is his son he shares with his estranged ex-wife. His son seems to go through a similar scenario as Jay as a child, but father knows best to help his 11-year-old son out.

I’m happy to see The Critic arrive on DVD. This is one show I really wanted to see on DVD and I’m happy that Columbia TriStar has done a great job in bringing the complete series to our homes. There were 23 episodes total spanning two seasons in 1994-1995 and features the voices of Nancy Cartwright ("The Simpsons"), Christine Cavanaugh ("Rugrats") and Judith Ivey ("Designing Women"), plus special guest stars Billy Crystal, Geraldo Rivera, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Gene Siskel, June Lockhart, Margaret Cho, Milton Berle, Phil Hartman, Queen Latifah, Ricki Lake, Steve Allen, Adam West, Bob Costas, and Rod Steiger. The first season was aired on ABC and for the time was criticized for being to blunt and critical (go figure). Season two was aired on Fox, but after the show’s producers toned it down a bit the network wanted more satire from it. In the end, the show ceased after the 23rd episode. The show found its way back in the public eye five years later by means of the Internet with little animated shorts that are quite funny. These shorts are found in the special features menu. Below is a short synopsis of each season’s episode timing at approximately 23 min each.


SEASON ONE

Pilot
Jay is astounded when beautiful actress Valerie Fox takes a romantic interest in him. Despite
warnings from his best friend, Australian actor Jeremy Hawke, that dating actresses is extremely
dangerous, Jay begins an affair with the luscious Valerie.

Miserable
At a screening, Jay falls for a lovely young projectionist, not realizing she's actually an obsessed
fan determined to make him her prisoner.

Marty's First Date
Jay's hints to his son Marty on how to romance a young woman have far-reaching consequences:
the critic has to speed to Havana to rescue the lovesick lad, who has literally taken his father's
advice and followed her home - to Cuba.

Dial "M" for Mother
Jay's attempt to show the world he can be warm by appearing with his mother on a talk show is a
categorical failure he just can't find anything nice to say about her.

A Little Deb Will Do Ya
Jay's stepsister Margo reluctantly agrees to become a debutante and Jay's ratings are threatened
by "Humphrey the Hippo," a children's show.

Eye on the Prize
After the failure of his 100th Episode Special and party, Jay is told that his TV show "Coming
Attractions" is in trouble. It's time to take drastic measures.

Every Doris Has Her Day
Jay befriends and accidentally "dates" an older woman, make-up artist Doris, only to suspect she
might be his biological mother.

Marathon Mensch
When an accidental fire breaks out in the studio during his TV show, Jay's whole audience
watches as he panics and runs screaming from the set. Jay gamely struggles to reestablish his
manhood.

L.A. Jay
In the wake of the positive response to a screenplay he has written, Jay takes a sabbatical from
his show and joins Jeremy in Hollywood, where studio boss Gary Grossman agrees to buy it on
the spot.

Dr. Jay
While at the Cannes Film Festival, Jay comes to the rescue when Duke is diagnosed with a
terminal illness.

A Day at the Races and a Night at the Opera
Jay tries to help Marty overcome an inferiority complex by taking him to see his psychiatrist.

Uneasy Rider
Jay quits his show to become a truck driver after he's asked to promote Savvy Indian Chewing
Tobacco on the show.

A Pig-Boy and His Dog
Inspired by her son's portly figure, Eleanor writes a children's book called The Fat Little Pig and
Jay becomes a laughingstock.


SEASON TWO

Sherman, Woman and Child
Jay meets and falls for Alice, who gives him tips for improving his show to helps boost his poor
ratings.

Sherman of Arabia
Jay recalls his heroines during the Gulf War while chaperoning a slumber party for Marty.

A Song for Margo
Jay's stepsister Margo is wooed by grunge rock star Johnny Wrath. Alice seeks help from Jay in
finding the right school for Penny.

From Chunk to Hunk
Jay and Marty go to camp to lose weight and both discover that they are actually happier being
fat.

Lady Hawke
Alice is jealous when Jay is courted by Jeremy's beautiful sister, and Jay finds himself in the
unusual position of having to choose between two women.

Frankie and Ellie Get Lost
Jay's parents disappear on their 40th anniversary vacation and Jay and Margo suddenly inherit
their vast fortune.

Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice
When a popular movie reviewing team breaks up, Alice encourages Jay to audition to become
the new partner.

All the Duke's Men
Jay is hired as a speechwriter when Duke runs for presidency and soon learns some grim truths
about the world of politics.

Dukerella
Alice's upstaging sister arrives in search of a rich husband and quickly turns her attention to Jay.

I Can't Believe It's a Clip Show
Jay is held hostage at Carnegie Hall while hosting his show's 10th-anniversary celebration.


Video Quality? Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

This is not one of the sharpest animations to arrive on DVD. The source is inherently soft looking lacking defined edges around characters and objects. Season two looks much better than the first offering richer colours and a much brighter picture. The first season looks dim in comparison. The animation frequently shows grain and artifacts throughout with a little bit of DVD compression artifacts noticeable around edges. There is an occasional blurring effect present as if one was seeing “trails”…a similar effect to seeing a lag in fast motion on direct view LCD TVs. Thankfully there is no edge enhancement on the complete series aired for television, but the webisodes don’t escape from it, as there is a little bit of enhancement present. The webisodes animation is the most vibrant looking, but its animation is more limited and jerky looking for easy Internet downloading. In its original 4:3 aspect ratio, this is an average looking animated series, but it shouldn’t spoil the humor.


Audio Quality? Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

There is a Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack on this series, and most of the audio is recorded in the center speaker. When there is music, it spreads to all channels (mono rear) and it’s recorded nicely, but quieter than the rest of the noise going on. The brief musical interludes sound as if they are trying not to be too intrusive on the program and seem recorded with mics far away from the performance. This is a quiet soundtrack with a few sounds used in the main channels to support on screen effects. I think more could have been done to heighten the experience of several scenes, but given this is a short-run adult animation series I’m sure this wasn’t a priority, nor was it to be expected.


Special Features? Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Each disc has its own set of special features, and surprisingly enough there is no mention of any special features on the packaging! I wonder who was in charge of the content on the back cover??!! I will tell you what features are found on these discs. You can expect commentaries spread across the three discs. They appear specifically on episodes 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 15, and 20. There are different people participating in each commentary, and while some of it is interesting, a lot of times they can sit around and just watch the program and giggle at what they see. It wasn’t the most exciting thing to listen too. As a side note about commentaries, what I’m getting increasingly annoyed with these days is when I put a disc to watch a film or a program, we are forced to read the disclaimer about how Columbia TriStar does not take responsibility for what is said in the commentaries. This is something that can be skipped through with the skip button (because it comes up in French too), but I find it annoying when I have to see this when I don’t select the commentary option. While I agree that this notice should be posted, I think we should only have to see this screen IF THE COMMENTARY OPTION IS SELECTED. This way I can get to the film a lot faster in our busy little worlds. I feel better now that I’ve said that.

Disc two special features has branching feature on the last episode that aired on ABC. A film reel pops up during the last two minutes of the epidode and by activating the ‘enter’ button we can access storyboard comparisons with commentary.

The last disc has several more features over the other two discs. The first two features, Trailer Parodies (4m36s) and Top Ten List (6m23s) are clips of the film parodies throughout the series in DD2.0 stereo. Before you enter into each feature the feature sits you inside a movie theatre and fun facts are put up on the screen just as if you were waiting for a film to begin. Of course, a movie theatre wouldn’t be complete without Jay Sherman making loud noice crunching on his popcorn.

Creating the Critic (11m49s) is a brief interview with several of the produces discussing the origin of the show and how characters were developed. We get to see some the the talent behind the animation.

Finally, the last special feature on this disc (and the most funny one too) are the Webisodes. Since the show got the boot off Fox, Columbia seemed to pick up the rights for the ten webisodes. Each are about three and a half minutes each and are very saterical and fun to watch. The animation is pretty much web animation and its bright and colourful and in Dobly Digital 2.0 stereo. Only episode five seemed to have audio problems being quieter and sounding like its coming through a can.


Thoughts…

The Critic will find its way into many homes of parody lovers because there are some pretty good ones on this show. I’m happy to see the complete series released on DVD, and despite the animation looking a little rough, I’m happy with the overall quality of the set. Enjoy!

04.01.27
Michael Osadciw
Warner Bros. Blu-ray Reviewer
Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment Blu-ray Reviewer

THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator
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#2 of 15 Francois Caron

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Posted January 27 2004 - 05:02 AM

I've never had the chance to watch this series when it originally aired (no cable), but I did see portions of it at times to know there was something unique about it. I'm definitely interested in purchasing this set!

Good job Michael! You don't stink! Posted Image

#3 of 15 Kenneth Cummings

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Posted January 27 2004 - 05:11 AM

Good review Michael. I was hoping the Critic was a good dvd, I as plan on picking up this week.

Quote:
As a side note about commentaries, what I’m getting increasingly annoyed with these days is when I put a disc to watch a film or a program, we are forced to read the disclaimer about how Columbia TriStar does not take responsibility for what is said in the commentaries.


You think that bad, you should see the disc for Fantasia. It has a disclaimer like this...before the commentary with Walt Disney!
I need a new signature.

#4 of 15 Matt_H

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Posted January 27 2004 - 05:17 AM

been wanting this since it was cancelled. I'm definetly getting it.

#5 of 15 Brian Thibodeau

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Posted January 27 2004 - 05:19 AM

Finally, a few more old VHS tapes ready for the pile!

#6 of 15 John Besse

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Posted January 27 2004 - 06:52 AM

Damn, only 23 episodes Posted Image I thought there were a lot more than that. However, I did watch the show when it was aired and loved it. Definitely a purchase... This is one expensive week for me in DVD releases!
"Empire had the better ending. Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. That's what life is, a series of down endings. All Jedi had was a bunch of Muppets."

 


#7 of 15 WillG

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Posted January 27 2004 - 07:02 AM

Anybody have any idea why there is no indication at all of any special features on the packaging. It seems pretty odd for a set with a fairly healthy array of extras.

Although, this is CTHE we're talking about
STOP HIM! He's supposed to die!

#8 of 15 Jaime_Weinman

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Posted January 27 2004 - 08:00 AM

"Hava nageela, baby." This show was uneven -- as I recall, there were some episodes that suffered from bad pacing (long pauses after visual jokes; plots that kind of fizzled out in the third act), but the movie parodies were always funny, the characters were funny, and overall it was a terrific show -- sort of like what Family Guy would have been with competent writing.

I once heard a rumor that Maurice LaMarche voiced Jay sometimes when Jon Lovitz couldn't come in to re-record dialogue -- do they address this on the commentaries? I know there was a "Pinky and the Brain" episode where LaMarche did a Lovitz impression and it was, indeed, dead-on.

#9 of 15 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted January 27 2004 - 08:21 AM

I love this series, I quote it often even to this day, and so I can't wait to go pick this set up...

#10 of 15 Matt_H

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Posted January 27 2004 - 02:46 PM

they do adress the lovitz impersonation in the commentary
it's all lovitz except for belching


#11 of 15 Josh Sieg

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Posted January 27 2004 - 02:51 PM

I remember watching this when I was 10, they parodied beauty and the beast. "Beauty And King Dork".
My favorites:

#12 of 15 Matt_H

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Posted January 29 2004 - 11:25 AM

anybody want some dvd screenshots compared to screenshots of episodes taped off comedy central?
Taped Episode:
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New DVD
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#13 of 15 Eugene Esterly

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Posted February 02 2004 - 08:36 AM

I will definetly be purchasing The Critic on DVD this year. This is one of my most request show on DVD. This show is excellent. I saw this show when it was new (on ABC then FOX) & I watched the reruns a lot several years ago on Comedy Central.

#14 of 15 Seth--L

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Posted February 02 2004 - 03:55 PM

I just got the set today. I've listened to about half of the commentaries, and for the most part I think they're great. Very informative (it's rare that you get to hear people talk about why a show failed) and Maurice LaMarche is a riot.

I once heard a rumor that Maurice LaMarche voiced Jay sometimes when Jon Lovitz couldn't come in to re-record dialogue -- do they address this on the commentaries? I know there was a "Pinky and the Brain" episode where LaMarche did a Lovitz impression and it was, indeed, dead-on.


Quite a few times during the commentary he does his impression of Lovitz and it really is perfect.
Well - There it is.
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#15 of 15 Dane Marvin

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Posted February 02 2004 - 04:42 PM

Matt_H, thank you for the screen cap comparison!

Quote:
and Maurice LaMarche is a riot.

Agreed! I love his characters on Futurama!