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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > All-American Girl - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory DVD)

All-American Girl – The Complete Series


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B-



Margaret Cho has now become a hugely political and controversial force in stand-up comedy, but during the cycle of the 1990s when the think was to give comics leads in situation comedies, Disney gave her the groundbreaking series All-American Girl in 1994 and it lasted only a season.  The show was supposed to be based on her stand-up comedy, but this was harder and harder to claim as the show succumbed to the bad regressive impulses of sitcoms since the 1980s kicked in.  The shows are:


1)     Mom, Dad, This Is Kyle*

2)     Submission: Impossible

3)     Who’s The Boss?

4)     Yung At Heart

5)     Redesigning Women

6)     Booktopus

7)     Mommie Nearest

8)     Take My Family, Please*#

9)     Exile On Market Street

10)  Ratting On Ruthie

11)  Educating Margaret

12)  Loveless In San Francisco

13)  Malpractice Makes Perfect

14)  The Apartment*#

15)  Notes From The Underground

16)  Venus de Margaret

17)  A Night At The Oprah (Oprah Winfrey and Jack Black guest star)

18)  Pulp Sitcom* (Quentin Tarantino guest stars)

19)  Young Americans



The last show was meant to be a spin-off to a second series, but that never surfaced.  As for the show that was produced, it began as a series with a heavily all-Asian cast, but slowly added much later added non-Asian characters.  The great actors including Cho, Amy Hill, B.D. Wong, Clyde Kusatsu, Jodi Long, J.B. Quon, Maddie Corman and Judy Gold was a solid one that definitely had some chemistry and meshed well, but what could have been great got lost in many compromises.


Had this show been made before the 1980s, it would have had a realistic focus for the humor to jump off of, even if it were not overtly political.  One Day At A Time and Alice were not as edgy as something like Maude, yet had their smart moments, challenging moments and were believable often.  One could argue this was the case in the early seasons, but better that than being pointless off the bat.  With the 1980s, one of the biggest problems is that you cannot have a female lead sitcom without the person being a star in advance from another medium and anything conceived as feminist must be squashed for the most part.  Reba manages to sidestep this in interesting ways, but is still a very rare exception.  Roseanne took things on more directly for a time, but she was married to begin with and the show ran into strange problems in later seasons itself.


What worked here was Cho’s character being so engulfed by the pop culture and how believable this was versus the more traditional family and even her smarter brother (Wong) who was more realistic about life for the most part.  That and some of what her stand-up was about should have stayed the focus of the show, but this was not to be, to the point it morphed into something totally different by the end of the series, almost as if it were an anthology show.  The humor is a mix of funny and really unfunny, but the incoherence of All-American Girl – The Complete Series is ultimately an archive of how sitcoms in general have been totally ruined by rollback politics.  It never had the chance to grow or breathe, despite breaking some ground and too bad Normal Lear and/or Bud Yorkin had not tired a similar show by the late 1970s.  Hopefully, someone will pick up where this show left off, but even now with all the mass media we have, it is sadly still unlikely.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in the professional analog NTSC format and though these transfers are color consistent, the fine detail has some slight digital degrading for whatever reasons.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is better, but has no surrounds, typical of many such productions of the time.  Extras include four funny commentary on the episodes noted with an * above with Cho (joined by Hill on shows marked with an # as well) and a really good featurette on DVD 1 (19:42) with Cho and Hill interviewing each other and making great points about political correctness as racism among other things.  All in all, this is a better set than expected and a show worth a second look and some revisionist thinking.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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