Shout! Factory // 1996 // 540 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 17th, 2010
Paul: (something something something quirky)
Jamie: (something something something ironic)
Murray: (something something something ruff)
The Buchmans welcome a baby who will surely be just as wry and cutesy and joke-free and annoying as his parents.
That's the big news: baby time! Which picks up from the cliffhanger of Season Four, when Jamie (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets) informs her husband Paul (Paul Reiser) that they've finally conceived. And you're going to have to wait until the very end of the season for the birth.
Along the way, it's the usual Mad About You claptrap: Jamie and Paul struggle over to designate as godparents, Jamie's parents experience marital difficulties, Paul decides to make a documentary about his family that sounds like the most boring pile of garbage ever, and, of course, there are lots and lots and lots of clichéd baby jokes (heh, Jamie feels fat and she makes a snappy reference to her size!)
Yep, this show still sucked. It sucked when it aired and it sucked when I reviewed the fourth season a few months back.
I continue to search for the "comedy" in this situation comedy, but all I end up with is "situations." What passes for jokes is snarky comments delivered in a wry tone. I'm convinced that the only reason the studio audience laughs is because they feel compelled by a) an aggressive applause meter, b) overwhelming feelings of awkwardness or c) an imposing former NFL linebacker patrolling the seats with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
I suppose it's the cutesy melodrama that has made this series such a beloved pop culture mainstay (or is it a relic, now?), but for all the explorations of couplehood, frantic NYC living, maternity, making ends meet, relationship juggling, and infidelity, there is a steep cost: no jokes.
Granted, I'm exaggerating a bit, but sit down and watch an episode one of these days, from beginning to end. Count how many actually jokes pop up, and not just smirky line deliveries. Not many.
The big storyline is the baby and it's dragged out considerably, the final two-part episode devoted entirely to the birth. And they're really pushing it to the end as SPOILER the kid comes and it's an immediate fade to black. Along the way, strap in for a lot of stale pregnant jokes as well as the realization that Paul Buchman is a total idiot who doesn't know the first thing about freshman bio. Also, there's a clip show buried in there.
Shout! Factory's DVD set is straightforward: 24 episodes, four discs, mediocre full frame, 2.0 stereo and a couple of episode introductions from Reiser and Hunt.
Maybe I'm a contrarian a-hole or a joyless cynic; that is certainly plausible. I just, you know, expect comedies to make me laugh once in a while and not half-ass it with intolerable truckloads of irony.
Guilty. I'm not mad about you -- I'm just mad.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 540 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Introductions