Comedy Central // 2003 // 626 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // November 21st, 2007
I'm Rick James, bitch!
Dave Chappelle was inspired to create his 2003 cable show after watching a documentary on Hugh Hefner which included clips from the TV show Playboy After Dark. He liked the idea of having a "laid-back" atmosphere where he could talk to the audience and integrate skits in the mix. It was something he would excel at, and nobody knew just how big it would become. The sketch comedy and standup program was highly rated for Comedy Central for two seasons, and the DVDs set new sales records when they were released. Chappelle's Show was an unstoppable force, and only one man could bring it down -- the comic himself. Battling personal demons the comic ran away to South Africa after barely starting on the third season, and the show was derailed permanently despite a huge advance for Chappelle. The program disappeared, and it won't be coming back. Yet still, all you have to do to get me laughing uncontrollably is say "I'm Rick James, bitch!" Chappelle's Show is the funniest thing to come out of this decade, and the whole series is getting a re-release in a special boxed set.
Chappelle's Show -- The Series Collection is a straightforward repackaging of Chappelle's Show: The Complete First Season Uncensored!, Chappelle's Show: Season Two, and Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes (Uncensored). The only thing added is a cardboard slipcover to house all three sets exactly as they appeared on initial release. You get the first 12 episodes from Season One, the 13 shows that make up Season Two, and the 68 minutes culled from leftovers that became Season Three. This is everything available for the show in one value-priced package.
The sudden departure of the star of this groundbreaking series remains enigmatic, and speculations still run riot over the topic. As close as we can tell from interviews Dave Chappelle grew unhappy with his show, because he came to feel that, rather than poking fun at racial stereotypes, it was reinforcing and glamorizing them. A skit about pixies delivering racial stereotypes was cited as a particularly painful experience and sparked a revelation. He broke down at a standup gig in June 2004 berating a Sacramento crowd for chanting "I'm Rick James, bitch!" The cable show was "ruining his life," and it had eclipsed the standup career which was of the utmost importance to Chappelle. He felt like he was doing smart comedy for a stupid mass audience. There was intense pressure from the network to crank out episodes quickly, meaning endless work days, and they wanted more and more input on what was aired as far as content. He seems happy to return to clubs doing standup, and his shows are becoming famous for being over four hours long. Chappelle seems to be back to doing what he has a passion for, but luckily Chappelle's Show is preserved on DVD for fans.
The DVDs are the same discs we've seen before in the three separate releases. The full-screen transfers are clean enough, and they look exactly like what you saw on Comedy Central when they were first broadcast, but uncensored for language and some nudity. There aren't many flaws, but you will see pixelation on plaids and grain now and then. For the most part everything looks clean and vibrant, and colors are natural. There's no edge enhancement or color smearing. Stereo sound does the job nicely to deliver dialogue and music.
Extras include commentaries by Chappelle and co-creator Neal Brennan on five episodes of Season One and five more for Season Two. The commentaries are fine for what they are, but include a lot of dead silences broken up by small talk. They aren't nearly as funny as the shows themselves. Season One includes 30 minutes of excised footage, including skits and standup bits cut for time as well as bloopers. We get to see unaired footage of "Ask a Black Dude with Paul Mooney." Season Two includes over an hour of deleted scenes and bloopers. Also thrown in are extra standup bits, more of Charlie Murphy and two unaired stories from him, and the unedited interview with the real Rick James. All three episodes that comprise The Lost Episodes get commentary from cast members Donnell Rawlings, Charlie Murphy, and co-creator Neal Brennan. There is also a 20-minute feature on the making of the final episodes.
Whoever hasn't bought these discs yet is probably not a fan. I don't understand why we couldn't have gotten a package with new extras to round out a more comprehensive set, but at least you won't have to repurchase if you have these already in your library. If you're looking for just "the best" season I'd suggest a single purchase of the second-year discs.
If you're looking for the entire collection of Chappelle's Show then this is a great way to get everything all in one shot. There's nothing new, but is that a surprise? Chappelle left in a huff, and it's doubtful he would reconcile with Comedy Central long enough to produce new features. The show was funny as hell, and all too short-lived. Unfortunately the demise of it will be more infamous than the best moments like Rick James, Prince, and all the racially challenging skits that were the mark of sheer genius. Chappelle ruled Comedy Central for two years, and then decided he didn't want any part of it. He was the king of comedy for a while, but somehow the fame and notoriety seemed shallow and unsatisfying. That's too bad for us.
Guilty of being funny, edgy, and politically incorrect. Chappelle's Show still is a gut-buster.
Review content copyright © 2007 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 626 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 10 Commentaries by Dave Chapelle and Co-Creator Neal Brennan on Seasons 1 and 2
* Deleted Scenes
* Unaired Footage of "Ask a Black Dude with Paul Mooney"
* 2 Unaired Charlie Murphy Stories
* Extended Rick James Interview
* Official Site