Make ‘Em Laugh (2008/Rhino DVD Set/Documentary Mini-Series)
Sound: C+ Extras: B- Episodes: B
has been attempted several times, it is hard to do a documentary series on
comedy. There is always something
missing, the ideas of what the producers consider comedy fall flat and it can
easily fall into formula. The latest
attempt at this has some of those trappings, but the new TV documentary
mini-series Make ‘Em Laugh (2008,
shown on PBS, released here on DVD by Rhino) makes up for it with some great
clips, some clips of footage that has been in the vault for too long and even
host Billy Crystal is kept to a thankful
six hour-long installments as follows:
Would Ya Hit A Guy With Glasses? – Nerds, Jerks & Oddballs
Honey, I’m Home – Breadwinners & Homemakers
Slip On A Banana Peel – The Knockabouts
When I’m Bad, I’m Better – The Groundbreakers
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break – The Wiseguys
Sock It To Me? – Satire & Parody
and well-researched, Amy Sedaris narrates and is more effective than expected
through the series. Detail can be very
impressive, some inclusions like The
Goldbergs & the era of network radio is a plus and I was pleased with
how much great material managed to be licensed (the BBC and WNET co-produced)
to make this enough of a must-see series that everyone can appreciate. With the sad shape of comedy on TV and in
movies, its arrival is most timely.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image has various aspect ratios from feature
film 1.33 X 1 to TV 1.33 X 1, plus some widescreen movie 1.85 at moments, but
the most interesting thing are certain TV sitcoms shot on film and even analog
NTSC video that are offered here at 1.78 X 1.
Because of the oval shape of older analog TVs, film shoots were
definitely aware of the issue, plus extra headroom was also considered in case
a clip had to be released in movie theaters at 1.85 X 1. That makes sense for the filmed sitcoms, but
that videotaped shows like All In The
Family look good that way is a surprise.
This may be the beginning for many of people getting adjusted to this
change, but in most cases, it looks good.
claims of PCM sound on the back of the box, this disc set has nothing by Dolby
Digital 2.0 sound that is usually stereo, but so many of the clips going back
to early films are monophonic, that you should expect inconsistencies. The good thing is that the audio is usually
as first generation as the film and video.
Extras include more extensive interviews on all three
discs, which naturally include more jokes and funny stories.
- Nicholas Sheffo