Anchor Bay // 2001 // 462 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // January 30th, 2006
"You come into this world defenseless. That's why God gave us baseball bats. Well, he gave us trees. But we knew what he meant." -- Christopher Titus
The final season of Fox's dysfunctional comedy, Titus: Season Three, has been released to DVD, and with it ends one of the best ensemble sitcoms in recent memory. It is a sublime, disturbingly wonderful thing to see a show up the controversy and stay true to its comedic roots and dark subject matter to the point of its own destruction. It may have been cancelled, but thankfully, Titus goes out the same way it came in...with incredible, side-splitting amounts of laughter.
What, you've never seen Titus before? Well, then go start with our review of Titus: Seasons One and Two.
* Christopher Titus (Christopher Titus, Norman Rockwell Is
Raised by an alcoholic womanizing father and a manic-depressive schizophrenic mother, Titus lives in a perpetual state of dysfunctionality. Trying to get his life back on track, he makes the plunge with his girlfriend Erin into marriage and tries to adopt her troubled niece, Amy...because who better to raise a screwed-up person than two screwed-up people?
* Erin Fitzpatrick (Cynthia Watros, The Drew Carey Show,
Titus's beautiful fiancée/wife, Erin has to come to terms not only with her own dysfunctional family, but Titus's as well. Luckily, Erin stays calm and in control, which counterbalances Titus's erratic nature. She is also the only one who has any power whatsoever over Papa Titus, a fact Titus is constantly grateful for.
* Dave Titus (Zack Ward, a.k.a. the red-haired bully from A Christmas
A red-haired, freckled, burnt-out surfer kid, Dave's mother abandoned him with Papa Titus when he was a young boy. Forced to raise the errant boy as one of his own, Dave grew up with Titus as his partner-in-crime, though Titus spent most of the time bailing Dave out of trouble. Not much changes with Dave.
* Tommy Shafter (David Shatraw, Girlfriends, The West Wing)
Titus's "normal" friend, Tommy is an effeminate hypochondriac worrywart and lives in perpetual chaos, constantly second-guessing his actions and solving problems with food. The more he hangs around with the Titus family, the more Tommy sees his own sanity come into question...as well as his sexuality!
* Ken "Papa" Titus (Stacy Keach, Mickey Spillane's Mike
Hammer, The Ninth Configuration)
As Christopher puts it, "My dad's from that era when you lived to fifty, your heart exploded, and that was that. You know when you cook bacon and you pour the grease into the can? My dad's the can!" A hard-drinking, smoking womanizer extraordinaire, Papa Titus has survived five divorces, an endless parade of cheap women, hundreds of thousands of beers, and millions of cigarettes -- and completely destroyed the emotional well-being of his children. But after Titus's accident, Papa Titus finds himself almost -- dare we say it -- fond of his son? Naah, forget I said that.
All 21 episodes from the third and final season of Titus are included, preserved in their original broadcast order:
* "Racing in the Streets"
Titus is recovering from the "slight" after-effects of being a recovering brain-dead coma victim (e.g. learning how to speak and walk again) and as soon as his body lets him, gets right back into the driver's seat for some illegal street racing. When only one arm on your body works, driving stick is a bit of a challenge, but luckily, Dave and Tommy are there to duct tape his arm to the steering wheel. But when Erin finds out about the race, she will do everything to stop Titus from getting behind the wheel...even if it means forcing Titus to relive every moment of the fiery crash!
* "Amy's Birthday"
Determined to help at least one member of her family, Erin frog-marches Titus and company to her sister's drug-infested slum house with a birthday cake for Amy, Erin's niece...they are going to give her a happy birthday or die trying. Considering the smell emanating from the apartment, they just might. Things get more complicated when Tommy calls child services to report the heinous living conditions. Titus suddenly realizes that Amy will be placed with the most normal and stable members of her family -- by default, in Erin and Titus's house -- and must now fool the social worker into believing all is sunshine and roses.
* "Tommy's Not Gay"
To the great discomfort of his friends, Tommy freaks out and starts questioning his own sexuality in light of his father's coming out of the closet. Titus tries to be supportive of his friend, but in his words, "It's one thing to say you're okay with it, but it's another thing when he's taking off your pants."
* "Shannon's Song"
To celebrate the grand reopening of Titus High Performance, Titus throws a party for family and friends to toast his success. He even invites his sister Shannon, who has been living in Africa. Shannon is Papa Titus's favorite child, and has an uncanny ability to steal to spotlight in any situation...and in order to keep the attention on himself, Titus finds himself competing against his sister for the affections of his father by lying through his teeth.
* "Grad School"
For school credit, Erin begins interning as a social worker and visiting troubled youths, much to the concern of Titus. Erin refuses Titus's help, insisting she can handle herself, but eventually acquiesces and calls her fiancée for help after being locked in a back room by a violent teen.
In a last ditch effort to force Papa Titus into the Christmas spirit, Erin and Titus decorate the houseboat with enough Christmas festiveness to choke a reindeer, then drop a drunk and disoriented Papa Titus in the middle. Trapped on the open seas, they figure he will have no choice but to succumb to the will of the season. But Papa Titus never met a holiday he couldn't ruin...
* "The Trial"
Having killed her boyfriend in cold blood at Titus's and Erin's wedding, the murder trial of his mother has now arrived, and his family march down to the courtroom to testify in her defense. But to Titus's alarm, their testimony seems to be a little heavy on the crazy and murdering, and a little light on the nurturing and kind motherly affection. Luckily, Titus has a plan. I mean, who wouldn't commit some light perjury to save his mother's life?
* "Grandma Titus"
Titus gets a call from his old high school reporting that his grandmother is running around the school naked. Titus finds this hard to believe, as his father's mother has been dead for quite a few years, according to Papa Titus. Imagine his surprise to run face-to-face with his grandmother, still quite alive. Titus feels strongly that his father has some explaining to do.
After Amy gets dumped by her high school crush, she threatens to kill herself out of grief. Titus, in an effort to talk her out of it, begins telling the story of his own unrequited high school crush on Erin...and finds himself regaling a very similar story of his own.
* "Tommy's Crush"
When Titus catches Tommy having an affair with his pregnant, married sister Shannon, hilarity ensues. But Tommy doesn't do anything half-assed and soon proposes his undying love for Shannon, leaving her confused about her future.
* "Into Thin Air"
On a skiing trip, Dave takes off into the woods in a tearful rage after learning that his girlfriend has been cheating on him. Titus follows and the two find themselves stranded off-trail, perched perilously over the face of a cliff! With no supplies or means to contact help, Titus decides that Dave has been coddled all his life and needs to learn to fend for himself.
* "Too Damn Good"
A car designer contracts Titus to design a new generation of hot rods, which will finally mean the success and recognition Titus has been searching for all his life! Unfortunately, an untimely case of designer's block puts the kibosh on this particular plan.
* "Bachelor Party"
Titus and friends are on the way to Las Vegas for his bachelor party, which gets sidetracked at a roadside restaurant when a young woman has a baby on the spot! Meanwhile, Erin sits at home, suspicious of her fiancée's motives and fretting uncontrollably.
* "Hot Streak"
In order to rub his success in his father's face, Titus flies his friends and family to the Bahamas for a vacation in the sun, but all Papa Titus wants to do is play blackjack, drink, and smoke. At Erin's insistence, rather than trying to force Papa Titus to have Christopher's kind of fun, Christopher tries to have Papa Titus's kind of fun, and ends up bonding with his father for the first time...right up until the fifth heart attack.
* "The Session"
After much pressuring, Erin convinces Titus and family to attend a group therapy session in order to secure Erin a grad school credit for her psychology class. Titus is loathe to the idea of therapy, but soon finds his resolve breaking down. Unbeknownst to Titus, however, Erin's entire class is observing the human peep show of their lives from behind a two-way mirror...
* "Same Courtesy"
After the disastrous therapy in the previous episode, Titus hatches a revenge scenario of Machiavellian proportions to teach Erin and his family a lesson. Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well...and chaos ensues.
* "After Mrs. Shafter"
To Tommy's utter horror, Papa Titus begins courting Mrs. Shafter after her husband abandoned her. Tommy tries to kill Papa Titus in a fit of rage, which coincidentally resembles a temper tantrum. The courtship gets brought to an abrupt halt when Mr. Shafter returns to reconcile with his wife...that is, until they begin considering a "shared" schedule with Mrs. Shafter!
* "The Visit"
Titus and Erin are preparing for a visit from the social worker, who will be examining Amy's living conditions. If they pass the inspection, Amy will be legally put into their custody. Everything seems to be going well...until Titus's mother shows up at the back door with a kitchen knife, hands covered in blood! Things go downhill from there.
* "Insanity Genetic, Part 1"
Titus and family return home on an airplane when Titus suddenly starts to crack up after reading an article that insanity may be genetic. Convinced he will soon become as crazy as his mother, he begins acting as crazy as his mother, much to the horror of other passengers on the flight, reluctant to tolerate such wild behavior after September 11th...
* "Insanity Genetic, Part 2"
Arrested by the FBI on suspicions of attempted hijacking, Titus and family must convince the authorities that Titus isn't the leader of some sleeper terrorist cell or they all face life in prison! Their only escape is to prove to the FBI that Titus is just a jackass with mental problems. To Titus's unease, this proves a much easier argument for his family to make to make than he had expected.
* "The Protector"
When Titus learns of a bully picking on his niece Amy at school, he turns up at the high school with a baseball bat, ready to dish out some justice. However, Titus's interference at Amy's school turns up darker secrets than simple bullying...
So ends one of the better television shows in recent memory, cancelled by a network who never quite realized exactly how funny a show they had on their hands. This was never more apparent than in Titus: Season Three when the subject matter took even darker and confusing turns. Not that the previous seasons of infidelity, alcoholism, emotional abuse, and dysfunctional behavior were free from their share of controversy, mind you; only that the final season upped the ante by including schizophrenia, suicide, gay bashing, terrorist hijackings, child abuse, and senility as comedic backdrops, somehow making them both believable and hilarious at the same time. A few of these episodes were so controversial, in fact, that Fox didn't want to broadcast them, including an ill-timed two-part episode where Titus gets arrested by the FBI under suspicion of hijacking an airplane (due to air shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City) and an episode involving Titus beating up a high school student with a baseball bat. Hilarity!
No, seriously...hilarity. To anyone who has not seen the show, the idea of a comedy poking fun of such serious issues seems deplorable and worthy of a Fox sitcom (but not in a flattering way). But Titus is the kind of television where it only takes a few episodes to get a strong attachment to the characters and the twisted dysfunctional sense of humor, at which point you become an instant fan. Unfortunately, the network never quite "got it" the same way audiences did. Despite consistently solid ratings and increasing viewers, the series was cancelled unceremoniously.
Season Three had its share of problems, the most noticeable of which is the ass-backward sequence in which they aired on television, which probably had to do with Fox going fetal at the idea of releasing two episodes in particular to broadcast -- "Insanity Genetic" and "The Protector." The dark subject matter of the latter episode in particular -- Titus showing up at a high school with a baseball bat looking to beat up a kid -- reportedly gave Fox executives multiple heart attacks in rapid succession and was yanked from the schedule, sending the continuity of the series into chaos. The episode was so controversial in their eyes that Fox vehemently refused to release it, finally allowing it to air as the very last episode of Titus broadcast, long after the show had been cancelled. As a result, the order of the episodes is out of whack from the production order, mucking up some jokes, making oblique references to episodes viewers would not have seen yet, and partially ruining the climax of the series. Most damaging of all, having "The Protector" episode air as the last episode absolutely demolishes the back story behind Amy, Erin's niece. Now, as to why the DVD chose to go with the television airing order and not the production order, I have no idea.
But even with a mangled episode order, Titus: Season Three is still hilarious beyond all reproach. The dark turn of events only heightens the show's natural tendency to make funny that which is inherently unfunny, like heart attacks, molestation, gay bashing, and terrorism...ha! And you have to admire the balls of a show to keep throwing out episode after episode, blatantly ignoring the increasingly alarmed notes being penned by network executives urging them to stop. Still, there is some unevenness to be found here. What makes the third season a bit sub-average compared to the second, for example, is the hit-or-miss nature of some of these episodes. The funny ones are screamingly riotous, but the weaker episodes of the show up in the third season, like "After Mrs. Shafter" and "Grad School."
From a technical standpoint, the presentation is virtually identical to latter episodes in Titus: Seasons One and Two, with solid black levels, a well-balanced color tone, and no noticeable defects. The audio, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo presentation does the job well enough, with decent bass response and dialogue clarity. Still no surround sound presentation, but oh, well. The material gets by without it.
An improvement on the extras offered from the previous volume, Titus: Season Three contains forty minutes of decent interviews with cast members Zack Ward, Cynthia Watros, and Stacy Keach, as well as audio commentary by Christopher Titus and co-creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny on four episodes -- "Tommy's Not Gay," "Grandma Titus," and both "Insanity Genetic" episodes. A little better than the last season's offering, for sure, especially the 30 minutes of blooper reels. You really get to see how amazingly funny the cast and crew are in front of a live audience, which you may not even realize the show is filmed in front of.
The addition of Erin's abused niece, Amy (Rachel Roth, Veronica Mars, Opposite Sex) living in the Titus household is, at best, a mixed bag. Like the rest of the cast, she is based on a real-life niece whom Titus and his wife adopted into their lives, and her abuse is based solely in reality; in that sense, she has every right to be on the show. The problem is she doesn't fit in as well as the rest of the cast.
When she is funny, she is absolutely hilarious and the perfect un-punchable nemesis to Titus's short temper, but I am not convinced that she adds enough to the dynamic of the show to warrant her constant presence. She makes fun of Titus for being stupid, and makes fun of Tommy for being gay...ooh, a teenage Papa Titus. For a show that disliked being a "sitcom," adding a teenager into the mix out of nowhere seems an oddly Cosby-esque maneuver.
But truth is stranger than fiction, after all. What can you do? Perhaps, as mentioned earlier, if her back story had been revealed as planned in the proper episode order, I would have more of an attachment to the character. Unfortunately, this episode is the last of the season, which has to be the worst possible place to reveal such information. Oh, well.
You have to give a show props for sticking to its guns to the very end and refusing to compromise its hilarious vision of dysfunctionality, even if it means the ultimate penalty of cancellation. A few awkward episodes prevent Season Three from reaching the brilliance of Season Two, but Titus: Season Three is still ten times the comedy of any show currently on television...more than earning its rightful place on your DVD shelf.
An absolute must-buy. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2006 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 462 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary with Creator/Star Christopher Titus and Creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny
* "Brotherly Love: An Interview with Zack Ward"
* "His Better Half: An Interview with Cynthia Watros"
* "Honor Thy Father: An Interview with Stacy Keach"
* Season Two and Three Bloopers