Fox // 2004 // 506 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Gutierrez (Retired) // July 28th, 2004
"Want a big-ass donut?" -- Bernie Mac
Like so many comedians that have come before, stand-up comedian Bernie Mac (Ocean's Eleven) finally received his own sitcom loosely based on his comedy routine. Bernie Mac is a fiercely funny man with an equally funny show in The Bernie Mac Show -- Season One.
Bernie Mac plays Bernie "Mac" McCullough, a married comedian who suddenly finds himself raising his sister's three children: Vanessa, Jordan, and Bryana. Bernie tries his best not to fail too badly and simultaneously tries to keep his lifestyle in tact.
Composed of 22 half-hour episodes, the DVD set is spread out over four separate single-sided discs:
Bernie's world is turned upside down, when his nephew and two nieces are left in his charge. Hilarity ensues. (Grade: 90)
* "Now You Got It!"
As most of us know, children carry about as much disease as a Central Park pigeon. Germ-phobe Bernie tries to steer clear of disease at his niece's birthday party. (Grade: 90)
* "The Main Event"
When Bernie's nephew, Jordan, gets hassled by bullies, he decides it's time to show the lad how to defend himself. Things don't quite go as planned. We've seen this one before, only not Bernie's version. (Grade: 85)
* "Bernie Mac, Ladies Man"
As I was growing up, I found that most of the ladies are suckers for men with children. Bernie discovers how children are just as good as Spanish Fly when he becomes the object of many a soccer mom's affection. Bernie's popularity with the ladies becomes badly misinterpreted. (Grade: 90)
* "Saving Bernie Mac"
Bernie thinks the kids could use some religion. Bernie's poker game gets paid a heavenly visit. (Grade: 80)
* "Here to Stay"
Bernie finally meets the kids halfway, when it dawns upon him the kids are just as pleased with their current situation as he is. Bernie's personality shift is due to the worst form of blackmail imaginable -- the withholding of sex. (Grade: 95)
* "A Christmas Story"
The kids try hiding a dog from Bernie who in turn tries to hide it from the kids. It's better than it sounds. (Grade: 95)
* "Starting School"
The first day of class is always a day wrought with anxiety and joyous anticipation -- but that's probably just the parents. Bernie scrambles to get the kids ready for their first day of school only to literally lose his shirt in the process. (Grade: 90)
* "Hot, Hot, Hot"
Does Buster Pointdexter get royalties for this? The hottest day of the year (for Los Angeles) makes everyone painfully cranky. The tables are turned on Bernie, as he struggles to be let back into his own home. (Grade: 85)
* "Wanda's Week Off"
Bernie's wife, Wanda, has a week off at home. The old biological clock kicks in, when she realizes how much she enjoys the company of children. She starts to strongly hint to Bernie that maybe they should be parents as well. Best episode of the season. (Grade: 95)
* "The King and I"
Vanessa experiences the downside to being the eldest child. This Vanessa-centric episode focuses on her trying to fit in at school and trying to discover what her role is in Bernie's household. (Grade: 85)
* "Hall of Fame"
Jordan wants to secure his place in the Mac Hall of Fame. To do so, he joins his school's football team and, naturally, has no game. Bernie teaches him a better playing method and ends up creating a monster. (Grade: 90)
* "Handle Your Business"
When Bernie gets a gig on a morning radio show, he decides to let it all hang out. His family bares the brunt of Bernie's "honest" approach. Vanessa reaches her limit, laying waste to Bernie's short lived radio career. I'm with Bernie on this one. (Grade: 95)
* "Back in the Day"
Bernie shows telltale signs of aging and doesn't take it well. As with everything Bernie, his family feels the burden when Bernie tries to fake his body out into thinking it's young and spry. Anyone over twenty-five should be able to appreciate this one. (Grade: 90)
A burglary sends Bernie over the edge, when he becomes obsessed with protecting his family and home. (Grade: 90)
* "Mac 101"
Bernie's a little disappointed in his sister's kids, causing them to take steps to better themselves in his eyes. Watch for some very good Jordan moments in this one. (Grade: 95)
* "If I were N-Riched Man"
Social Services freaks when Bryana mirrors Uncle Bernie's use of colorful, ethnically based language. The episode struck me as a bit too preachy. (Grade: 70)
* "Stop Having Sex"
Bernie interrupts Vanessa's moment with a boy and quickly stops Jordan's play date when he starts questioning Jordan and his friend's relationship. The kids get their revenge by interrupting Bernie's sex life. If I was Bernie, I'd have three less kids to worry about. (Grade: 90)
* "Secrets and Lies"
Bernie teaches Jordan the value of faking asthma in order to get what he wants. Jordan takes this too far when he begins lying about everything. Yet again, we are treated to another strong Jordan episode. (Grade: 95)
* "Kelly's Heroes"
Bernie's friend Kelly temporarily moves in and quickly becomes the new cool guy in the house. Bernie can't stand not being the center of attention and gets a little jealously hostile. (Grade: 85)
* "Sweet Home Chicago -- Part One"
Bernie's uncle passes away and the family returns to Chicago for the funeral. We are introduced to Cousin D (Don Cheadle, Ocean's Eleven), the "get rich quick" cousin. All families have a Cousin D, don't they? Don Cheadle shines in the penultimate episode of the season. (Grade: 90)
* "Sweet Home Chicago -- Part Two"
Bernie shows his family the sites and copes with a startling revelation. Vanessa is promised a reunion with her mother. This season ends on a strong note. (Grade: 90)
Special Features include "Bernie Mac: TV's 'Family Man'." This featurette details Bernie's rise through stand-up to his television show. Also available is a commentary for the pilot episode with Bernie Mac and the show's writer and director.
When I watch this show, I'm alarmed at how closely Bernie's parenting methods resemble the way I interact with children. I don't dumb it down or clean it up either -- and it gets both of us in trouble. The show's greatest strength is how it remains funny and intelligent. Yes, it's a sitcom, but it's far better than most of the stuff that passes for network television these days. A lesson in parenting or growth of some sort lies at the heart of every episode and is reached in darkly humorous fashion. Things can truly go wrong in this show and do. While still playing in sitcom conventions, this show still manages to retain its identity. Normally, I don't think much of when characters address the viewer, but it actually works in this series, as do the random effects used for laughs.
Bernie Mac as Bernie Mac is excellent. I defy anyone not to find his television persona engagingly cool and funny. He's a natural at this sort of thing and it comes across in every scene. I liked watching his character slowly grow over the course of the season. Actually, the entire cast is talented and strong. Child actors don't strike me as all that talented, but these kids can hold their own. I'm especially impressed by Jordan's (Jeremy Suarez, Jerry Maguire) natural comic ability.
The show uses music to great affect, enhancing the scenes by carrying some of the comedic and dramatic action. I've noticed most television shows today employ a video montage on a regular basis. At times, The Bernie Mac Show -- Season One borders on becoming a music video, but manages to avoid crossing that line. The song selection is particularly good. I've yet to hear a bad song on this show.
Pay careful attention to the look of the show. It's not shot as a standard sitcom. Instead, it uses some inventive techniques that cause the viewer to immediately understand the show's something just a little different.
The picture and sound were adequate for a series made so recently. Considering how dark some of the backgrounds can be, I was pleased to find that there was little blurring or fuzziness.
The bonus features were lacking. Having one commentary on a single episode hardly strikes me as a bonus. While interesting, I thought more ground could have been covered.
Despite the overall strength of the cast, I was disappointed by the lack of the talented Kellita Smith (The Jamie Foxx Show) as Wanda McCullough. She's severely underused.
I always got the feeling the show never quite went as far as it could. I suppose the confines of network television can do that to a series.
A good rental and recommended to those tired of insipid and uninspired family sitcoms, The Bernie Mac Show -- Season One is a step above normal television fare. Watch it. It's good, and more importantly, it's funny. I normally loathe sitcoms but this one has won my favor.
The Bernie Mac Show -- Season One is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 506 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary on pilot episode
* "Bernie Mac: TV's Family Man" TV-ography
* Official Site