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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > TV > God, The Devil & Bob - The Complete Series

God, The Devil and Bob: The Complete Series

 

Video: B-     Audio: C     Extras: B-     Episodes: B-

 

 

Let’s face it, folks.  The primetime-animated sitcom is a dying breed.  Recently, Paramount and DreamWorks tried to revive the genre by utilizing new CGI-animated technology with the shows Game Over (Paramount) and Father of the Pride (DreamWorks).  Unfortunately, both shows floundered and were cancelled before all their episodes even got to air.  The problem wasn’t that the animation was poor; the problem stemmed from the problem that plague most shows—poor writing.  Given that both UPN and NBC did a lot to promote their respective show, viewers soon discovered that the shows were badly written and thus ratings plummeted.  However, poor writing isn’t always why primetime animation fails.  Failure to properly promote the show and giving it a poor timeslot where it faces stiff competition are the main reasons well-written primetime animated sitcoms fail. 

 

Take ABC for example.  Two well-written and extremely hilarious shows were The Critic and Clerks.  Clerks failed because it aired over the summer when TV viewing is generally at a low.  The Critic failed because of poor promotion.  Even with Home Improvement as its lead-in, it couldn’t survive.  Luckily, FOX decided to pick it up and give it a good home, but even then it failed since it never got a proper start.  Ah, FOX: the last bastion of hilarious, well-written primetime animation.  Ever since King of the Hill joined The Simpsons in 1997, FOX has been the number one mainstay for animated shows that have a decent life.  Granted, Futurama and Family Guy did not last long in the grand scheme of things, but Futurama lasted five seasons (pretty good considering how long most shows last) and Family Guy is coming back thanks to high DVD sales and reruns on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.  And with American Dad being the newest show to join the FOX lineup, FOX continues to be the number one supporter for primetime animation.

 

So, in March 2000, 20th Century Fox and Carsey-Werner Productions joined up to premiere a new primetime animated sitcom entitled God, The Devil and Bob.  While it would air on NBC rather than Fox, the show followed the Fox tradition of dedicated animation, quality writing, and talented voice-actors.  Unfortunately, NBC followed ABC and did next to nothing to properly promote the show.  Only four episodes ended up airing and before people even knew it was on the air, the show was off the air.

 

God, The Devil and Bob is a show that concerns the trials and tribulations of Bob Alman has he’s suddenly thrust into a wager between God and The Devil.  You see, one day, God decides he is fed up with the way the world is run and starts seriously thinking about ending it all and starting over again from scratch.  The Devil is more than happy with this prospect as to him it means he would win and defeat God.  But God isn’t ready to give up, yet.  He thinks if he can find one individual that proves the world is worth saving, he will spare humanity’s doom.  God even lets The Devil pick the one man who will be the participant in their little wager.  Unfortunately for God, The Devil chooses Bob Alman, a less-than-appealing choice.  Bob isn’t the greatest human, but nevertheless, God has faith in him and guides him to do what he must to save the world.  The series chronicles Bob’s plight as he tries to save humanity from its self-created evils, while at the same time trying to balance his hectic family life.  The show boasts a huge talent list with several well-known actors lending their voice to the show.  The producers mentioned they wanted to use actors rather than traditional voice-over actors that most animated shows use.  The voice acting is superb.  James Garner voices God, Alan Cumming voices The Devil, French Stuart voices Bob Alman, and Laurie Metcalf voices Bob’s wife, Donna Alman.  Some traditional animation voice-actors are part of the show, as Nancy Cartwright and Kath Soucie provide the voices of Bob and Donna’s children.  All do wonderful jobs, embodying their characters wholly.  Alas, even though the show is well written and acted, the comedy aspect of this show is quite hard to find.  In fact, the laughs are very few and too far between.  The show ends up being preachier and sometimes philosophical as it explores various human vices and toes the line between morality and immorality.  All in all, the show’s humor really isn’t there, and may have been one of the reasons why it could never find an audience.

 

The show itself has a rather unique animation style.  It blends a style of traditional cel animation as well as a process or digitally scanning in photographs to short cut the background and scenery animation process.  As a result, complex patterns in wallpaper or carpets or even an extra shine on a floor make it easier for the animators as they don’t have to draw these repeating patterns.  The show also does something that is rarely, if not ever, seen in an animated show: it incorporates depth of field!  More often than not, background scenery and characters are blurred out to establish that they are much further away than objects and characters in the foreground.  There are even times when that is flipped around, where background objects and characters are in focus, but the foreground is out of focus.  While it adds an element uncommon to animation, it makes the feel of the show somewhat unnatural and it didn’t really work for me.

 

The entire series of 13 episodes is spread over two single-sided discs and comes in an Amaray case with a flap inside to hold the first of the two discs.  The set does not come with an insert or booklet.  I must say that menus for this set are quite nice.  Each disc has animated menus showcasing various scenes from the episodes on the respective discs.  Each episode itself has a sub-menu featuring a one image taken from the episode itself.  Each episode is broken down into chapters for easy access, or there is a “Play All” option.  What is also particularly nice is that the episodes are presented by airdate.  Granted, only four episodes of the 13 ever aired, but those four are given in airdate order.  The remaining nine episodes are presented by production code.  Good job, Fox.  Outstanding job on these menus.

 

The video for the series is presented in its original TV broadcast ratio of 1.33:1.  Boy howdy does the image look nice.  It looks like the video was pulled from a really great source, as there are absolutely no hints of blemishes, dirt, or scratches.  All the colors are solid and rich and show no sign of degradation.  The only problem with the video comes with the interlacing errors that are unfortunately spread throughout the set.  It gives black lines a jagged and squiggly look, which shouldn’t happen since it’s apparent that the black lines are meant to be stationary.  This is most noticeable with character movement.

 

The audio for the series is presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Surround.  There is also the option to have English or Spanish captions and subtitles.  I’d usually criticize a show for not being given a 5.1 treatment, but it’s hard for me to fault the show when the 2.0 surround is barley even utilized at all!  Almost all dialogue, sound effects, and music come through the center channel.  The front speakers are barely used at all, and the only instances where they are used are when music plays.  At least all sound is crisp and clear with no static or noise.

 

It’s nice to see that even though the show didn’t last very long that Fox committed to put some extras on the set.  Included on six of the 13 episodes are audio commentaries from various producers from the show.  The commentaries start out strong for the first few episodes.  The producers provide a bevy of background information concerning the creation and development of the show as well as the particular episode they’re commenting on.  They discuss character creation and how the show was hard to do, as it began without the help of any animators.  They also discuss controversy surrounding the show and how religious factions didn’t like the representation of God.  They even mention how some NBC affiliates wouldn’t air the show without having even seen the episodes.  They also mention some deleted scenes that didn’t make it into the episodes, but where are they on this set?  It would have been nice for them to be included as well.  But while the commentaries start strong on early episodes, they become blander and boring with later episodes as there are too many silent moments as it’s apparent that the producers get caught up in watching the episodes.

 

Also included is a making-of featurette entitled “God, The Devil and Bob!  Making God, The Devil and Bob!”  Creator/executive producer Matt Carlson and executive producer Harvey Myman discuss the creation of the show and the troubles they faced during production.  Interspersed with the interviews are clips from the show.  While the info they give is good, most of it is just stuff that is repeated from the audio commentaries and really does nothing to enhance what has already been said.

 

The final extra is a four-minute short called “God, The Devil and Bob Revealed.”  This segment contains three “mock” interviews with the characters of God, The Devil, and Bob.  The segment really isn’t that interesting and doesn’t add anything to the set.

 

While the concept and idea behind the show are interesting, it just never seems that the show was properly executed.  Too often does it miss out on real humor that could have been there.  It’s a shame too, since there’s so much voice talent involved in the show.  But then again, it should be a lesson to all shows out there.  No matter whom you have attached to your show, if you don’t execute it properly, not even the best actors can save poor work.  It’s not to say that the writing was horrible on this show; there just weren’t any big laughs.

 

 

-   Antonio Lopez


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