Fox // 1994 // 531 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 10th, 2006
"Your mamma's so fat, her blood type is Ragu."
The final season of In Living Color goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper of disinterest and apathy.
In case you were wondering, it kind of sounds like a Whoopee cushion.
Season Five had no involvement from any of the Wayans brothers, who had abandoned the show they created after repeatedly tussling with Fox executives over creative control and censorship. Rising star Jim Carrey was spending more and more time away from the set in order to bolster his rapidly blossoming movie career and heck, even Jennifer Lopez, formerly a Fly Girl dancer, had left the show. I am not filled with a great amount of confidence.
The remaining cast included long-running members like Jim Carrey, Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Anne-Marie Johnson, T'keyah Crystal Keymah, as well as some newer faces like Jay Leggett, Reggie McFadden, Carol Rosenthal, Alexandra Wentworth, and Marc Wilmore.
In Living Color: Season Five contains all 26 episodes from the final season, albeit in edited form.
Time capsules can be frightening things. At the time, putting all those funny relics of the present into a box and sealing it up for future generations seems like a whimsical and sensible idea, but when you come back a decade later to re-examine the people we used to be? It can be a traumatic experience.
Intellectually, I know that In Living Color used to be a funny show; perhaps like my grandfather remembers his walks to school being 30 miles in length, through snowdrifts and lava pits. I have fond memories of a James Carrey cracking me up with his flailing body and lanky posture, and of a clown named Homie. Yet, when diving into In Living Color: Season Five, it is like discovering a trove of unsent love letters to a girl whose name you can no longer remember, but ten years ago were fully prepared to leap off a tall structure to impress. It is a bewildering combination of clinical fascination and gross embarrassment, but above all else, it is absolutely nothing like you remember. Also, it sucks out loud.
When you combine the knowledge that the Wayans brothers all but abandoned their brainchild due to constant interference and censorship with the disclaimer emblazoned proudly on the back of the packaging stating that "some content has been edited for this DVD," it is not hard to understand why Season Five is inherently problematic. I assume they removed all the funny bits. Oh sure, every once in a while, the show cracks a sage joke or makes a decent pun. Some things stay embarrassingly timeless, like "The Dirty Dozens" game show making endless "your mamma's so..." jokes. Carrey's Fire Marshall Bill Burns character, simply a dry run for The Mask, holds up surprisingly well, along with the endless "guy behind the camera" clowning jokes, which never seem to get old. Also, I have a never-ending fondness for Rush Limbaugh and Al Sharpton's series of hostile joint infomercials, as well as the fantastic infomercial salesman Loomis Simmons. The problem is not with these funny moments of hilarity, but rather, what to do with the other six hours of material.
The vast majority of the skits are either so horrifyingly dated as to have been drained of all comedic hilarity by the passing of time or are so pasteurized from controversy as to be dull and pedantic by modern standards. Once hailed as groundbreaking, In Living Color staggers around like a drunken man in Season Five, missing the creative direction and motivation to push the envelope that made the show a household name. Episode after episode repeats the same tired old skits again and again, sutured up by endless walk-on cameo appearances by Chris Rock in a desperate attempt to stay relevant.
It can be no coincidence that the strongest, funniest members of the cast are the ones who managed to weather the storm and remain with the show since the beginning: Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymah. Though it could hardly be constituted as a saving grace, the sucking absence of all things Wayans gave overshadowed talent like David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson more room to flex comedic muscle, becoming the true stars of the fifth season. Still, it's kind of scary to see how respected actors like Jim Carrey and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx cut their comedic teeth back in the day. I mean, if you could have gone back 15 years ago and told the general public that Fire Marshall Bill Burns would be making tens of millions of dollars a film and that Wanda, the ugliest woman in the world, would be wining golden statuettes, you'd have been arrested. Flogged publicly, too.
Alas, even the occasionally funny cast cannot rescue this lemon of a television franchise. A few funny skits buried in an entire season of material are a sad ending to an enduring, notoriously funny television show. I've lost more than enough of my life reviewing this crap. Let's wrap this up already.
The audio and video presentations are fairly standard for a television property of this age, nothing particularly outstanding. Colors are washed and detail is soft, but the transfer is certainly viewable and the stereo audio mix does the job well enough.
One plus to the presentation include excellent accurate subtitles, something that all television shows to DVD need to get into the habit of providing. But even the folks at Fox clearly don't have much respect for the fifth season, as evident in the total absence of any extra materials, which is a big blow compared to previous seasons.
Can you feel the love? I sure can.
Sure, the show is horrifyingly dated and lame, but with its vintage comes some excellently retro music acts. Season Five featured end credit performances by Guru from Jazzmatazz, Leaders Of The New School (with a young Busta Rhymes), Lords Of The Underground, Easy-E, Souls of Mischief, and Me'Shell Ndegeocello to name a few. The performances are heavily truncated, but are awfully neat for the few seconds we are treated to them.
You know what I miss? I miss when a perfectly acceptable way to end a television episode was with a good five minutes of the cast simply dancing in front of the audience, like some sort of horrible frat party gone racially awry.
I strongly believe more television shows should do this today.
Like a fish gasping for air on the butcher's block, season five of In Living Color personifies the metaphorical asphyxiation of a television show put out of its misery. Left to flounder away its remaining days in futility with most of the creative innovators behind the show having long since moved onto other projects, the show simply runs out of laughs, becoming nothing more than a gross parody of itself during better days.
There is absolutely no reason to purchase In Living Color: Fifth Season.
Review content copyright © 2006 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 531 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review of Season One
* DVD Verdict Review of Season Two
* DVD Verdict Review of Season Four