Directed by Ted May et al
Studio: Paramount/Comedy Central
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 176 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
MSRP: $ 26.98
Release Date: July 22, 2008
Review Date: July 14, 2008
Comedy Central’s noble experiment of a satirical adult representation of the kiddie TV shows of the 1950s doesn’t quite come off in TV Funhouse. There are some good ideas, and every episode has gags that work. But the repetitive nature of the humor and the relatively poor wraparound segments with the human host of the show inevitably drag down the program’s basic comic thrust (pun intended for a show that’s so single mindedly focused on sexual activity). The premise of the show is often funnier than its execution. And Comedy Central certainly executed it after eight episodes, all reproduced in this set.
Doug Dale hosts TV Funhouse and shares the spotlight with a host of real life animals and animal puppets called his “Anipals.” Among the Anipals are the cocky rooster Jason, the tail chasing dog Xabu, helpful fish friend Rocky (who attempts to live out of his aquarium and must be periodically doused with water in order to continue talking), Fogey (a kissing cousin to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), a haughty rare lizard , and many other cats, turtles, mosquitoes, rabbits, and lobsters. The Anipals rarely stay on host Doug’s set but head off early in each episode for their own adventures, most of which involve their eternal search for sexual gratification. They’re generally on their own but occasionally get help from such guest stars as Robert Goulet, John Ritter, Joe Frazier, George Wendt and in two memorable episodes, Triumph himself. However, those celebrities are the exception on TV Funhouse. Make no mistake: the Anipals are the stars of this show.
Each episode has a theme as Doug dresses for different celebrations in each episode: an astronaut one day, a caveman in another. But his real purpose is to introduce special cartoons manufactured just for this series. They are among the funniest items offered during the eight episode run of the series, and the only truly regrettable loss once the show wasn't picked up for another season. Among the really clever parodies are “Wonderman,” the Superman take-off in which the superhero does his darnedest to see that his secret identity is never lacking for female companionship, “Steadman,” superhero adventures of Oprah Winfrey’s ever lovin’ fiancé, “Marvelous Mitchell,” a Dennis the Menace clone whose hatred and bigotry put him only a step or two away from the KKK, and “Kidder, Downey, & Heche: Private Trespassing Investigators,” a brutal satire on three real-life actors who at that time were having their own very serious substance and control issues. There’s also a very funny running series of educational shorts aiding kids in mastering mnemonic devices to help them memorize facts much more easily.
Created by Robert Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos, TV Funhouse is not a complete dud. The host segments needed to be far sharper to work more effectively (see Pee-Wee’s Playhouse for astute lessons on this kind of over-the-top satire), but the often cheesy, sloppy puppet work fits the look and feel of the show just fine. If only the creatures could have had something on their minds except their sexual gratification, we might still be enjoying TV Funhouse on Comedy Central presently.
Here is the rundown of the eight episodes:
1 - Western Day
2 - Hawaiian Day
3 - Christmas Day
4 - Mexicans Day
5 - Caveman Day
6 - Safari Day
7 - Astronaut Day
8 - Chinese New Year’s Day
The program’s full frame 1.33:1 image is produced faithfully in these DVD transfers. Though sharpness doesn’t compare to other live action Comedy Central programs, color saturation is excellent, and the images are without bothersome encoding artifacts. Each episode has been divided into varying chapters depending on how many skits are present in each episode, from 8 to 11 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is overly loud, but it does use all of the front channels for music and sound effects and is a good representation of a typical stereo soundtrack of the era.
Every episode contains an audio commentary featuring creator-producers Robert Smigel and Dino Stamatopoulos, host Doug Dale, and (in a few episodes) writer Andy Breckman. It’s a laugh-filled remembrance of making each episode. One important fact stated by Smigel is that the show was canceled not because of low ratings but because of huge budget overruns.
Disc one contains 7 ¾ minutes of outtakes as the producers struggle to get certain gags to work with the puppets.
The Anipals’ video commentary has some ad-libbing by several of the puppets in the video room as they watch an episode. This lasts 6 ¾ minutes.
“Behind the Scenes: Killing Bob Hope/Horse Cock” has the series director attempting to get sight gags to work on two particularly tricky episodes. This segment runs 4 ¾ minutes.
On disc two, two segments with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog are included. His appearance at the Rob Reiner roast (8 ¼ minutes) is hysterically funny. A little less so is sparring with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show (5 ¼ minutes).
A deleted scene featuring Bob Oderkirk in the second half of a sketch that falls pretty flat runs 2 ½ minutes.
Comedy Central quickies include excerpts from The Colbert Report (1 ½ minutes), The Sarah Silverman Program (2 ½ minutes), and South Park (2 ½ minutes).
There are DVD previews for the Comedy Central shows Lil’ Bush and Drawn Together, among others.
Not a great comedy series but one with some very funny things in it, TV Funhouse is good for a few chuckles and might make a fun weekend rental.