Judge Bill Gibron would love to see a grudge match between Amanda Bynes and Rachel Dratch. Hopefully the latter would be dispatched in some horribly cruel way.
My name's Amanda and I have feet at the end of my legs!
In the beginning, there was 1995's All That. Nickelodeon, the kiddie cable channel, was desperate for a youth-oriented Saturday Night Live-style skit show for its weekend evening variety programming block. So they tapped the creative team of Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin (who got their start making documentaries) to mold a series that would fit the network's needs. Robbins brought in buddy Dan Schneider (both were teen stars on the '80s ABC hit Head of the Class) and together they crafted a fun, frantic 30 minutes of music, mugging, and memorable characters. Now in its ninth season, All That spanned several hit spin-offs, including Keenan and Kel, The Nick Cannon Show, and the family film Good Burger. But perhaps their greatest achievement is the championing of a ten-year-old fresh-faced female comedienne named Amanda Bynes. So successful was her time on All That that Amanda soon got her own show, the appropriately named The Amanda Show.
Carefully managed for instant likeability and automatic accessibility, and filled with more goofy glad tidings than tired, stupid showboating, The Amanda Show is a strange experience, indeed. Held together completely by the performances of its tween and older cast, and often stumbling directly into something sublimely stupid and witty, this kid-vid cavalcade is a hilarious, cornball surprise. Using a set pattern in every show and filling in all the available blanks with the kind of blackouts and quick comic sketches that this vaudeville style of show is known for, The Amanda Show is adolescent amusement with ADD. Never stopping to settle in—or slowly sink, for that matter—Bynes and her capable clan of co-stars directly tap into a territory of unfettered fun and barely let up for 30-minus-commercials-minutes. What's more amazing than their energy level (which is right up there near nuclear Pixie Sticks amplitudes) is the incredible acting and aping skills present. For relative newcomers to the nuances of comedy, these talented teens are absolutely amazing.
Presented by Paramount on two individual DVDs, The Amanda Show is given the "greatest hits" treatment. These are not complete season sets, but highlights from the show's second series.
Volume One, subtitled "Amanda, Please," contains the following four episodes, presented here with a skit list breakdown:
• "Episode 214"
• "Episode 217"
• "Episode 222"
• "Episode 226"
Volume Two, subtitled "The Girl's Room," contains the following four episodes, presented here with skit list breakdown:
• "Episode 216"
• "Episode 219"
• "Episode 224"
• "Episode 228"
All praise aside, The Amanda Show is not some savior of sketch comedy. It works as what it is, but will never be confused for something that can stand with the Pythons and SCTVs as classic TV humor. Yes, there are moments that surpass the current crappy crop of talentless twits tainting the Not Ready for Prime Time legacy, and even a few elements that appear purposefully scripted into each episode to give older kids a knowing wink of post-modern irony. But this is fake teeth funny, about as subtle as the smack upside the head the Hillbilly girl gives her Hillbilly brother during the Hillbilly Moments. Believing that there are levels of decorum to be maintained in their mayhem, The Amanda Show never pushes the envelope into grossness or gratuity. Certainly, gags are built on gagging premises, but the jabs are always gentle, not junky.
Some of the best material is also the simplest: the family-run Blockblister store that doesn't rent current titles, but instead offers horrible home movie versions of Hollywood hits; the devious Dooper clan, who can't seem to take on any food service style without turning it cryptic and weird; the wonderfully violent slapstick of the "Hillbilly Moment," where every "knock-knock" joke results in a bash in the head; or the goofy goombah antics of weasely wiseguy Tony Pajamas. The Amanda Show also stretches its tenets to incorporating some decidedly surreal character sketching, from the obsessed fan frenzy of Penelope Taynt to the unintelligible bleating of the astoundingly bucktoothed Crazy Courtney (whose unhinged howl of "MAAAR-HAAAR" is a kind of catchphrase gone horribly wrong). Toss in a little direct parody (the always-fussy Judge Trudy, the Survivor knock-off "Stranded"), and you have a fairly clever bit of juvenile joke-dom.
Occasionally, the series can bite off a little more than anyone their age would be able to successfully chew. The Dawson's Creeklampoon, "Moody's Pointe," is a nice idea as a promotional clip, or a one-off exercise in teen drama drudgery, but anyone without a substantive knowledge of the genre's inner workings may find the serial soap send-up more flop than fun. The throwback pratfalling of the Klutzes is also a little out of reach for the 13-something performers. Required to take on tasks that classic silent comedians took years to perfect, the physical shtick is never smooth, but looks obviously staged and creakingly choreographed. Allowing co-star Drake Bell to have his own surfer dude dumbness, entitled "Totally Kyle," proves just how clichéd such a clueless character is, and the popular girl antics of Amber and her stuck up gal pals can only really resonate for someone still going through those awkward years of peer pressure and clique callousness.
Still, this is bright, breezy entertainment made even more enjoyable by the potent power of the series's effervescent star. Bynes is brilliant at showing the inherent fun she is having while performing, beaming said spirit out across the airwaves and directly into peoples' pleasure centers. A veritable beanpole of a babe, she can single-handedly sell or save a sketch, turning even the most obvious material—the lyrical lunacy of the Warbel singers—into something sensational. There is a terrific, total professionalism in her persona, a forthright openness that never comes across as phony or faked. She steps directly into each character with bravery and buffoonery, never afraid to look foolish or outlandish. Certainly there is far too much reliance on the dorky and the dim for many of the capers, but The Amanda Show represents, perhaps, the perfect amalgamation of mentality with material. Kids relate to and dig such nerdy nonsense as geek and freak humor, and Amanda and cast deliver dumbness by the buttload. While it's a shame not to have full season sets of the show, these highlights discs will give fans a chance to revisit some of their favorite episodes, while newcomers to the Amanda arena will see almost every facet of her fantastically perky persona.
Paramount presents The Amanda Show DVDs with some halfway decent technical and content specs, giving us the basics in digital display for our entertainment dollar. The 1.33:1 full screen transfer on each disc is fresh from videotape terrific. Amanda's sets have a tendency to favor flash and glittery pizzazz, yet thankfully we don't witness any flaring or bleeding. Colors are controlled nicely and detail-enriching contrasts are very consistent. The Dolby Digital Stereo presentation is loud, but also levelheaded. Amanda's audiences can sure scream up a storm, but a beneficial balance is maintained between reaction and dialogue. Even the occasional musical moments sound great.
As for the added content, we are treated to outtakes and behind the scenes segments on each disc. The bloopers are just blown lines, missed cues and prop/costume malfunctions. About the only interesting thing to witness here is the way in which each child star turns on and off their performance personality between takes. As for the making-of material, there are some interesting insights to be gleaned. Amanda is very particular about her wardrobe and whereabouts, wanting to make sure she looks right, and is doing her mirthful foolishness in the right places. There are some minor moments with the rest of the cast, and a quick glimpse of a small crew/camera meltdown, but the overall impression one gains from these features is that Bynes and her fellow funsters get along fabulously, a sentiment that definitely sinks into and comes out through The Amanda Show. By the way, Paramount also tosses in a few trailers of upcoming Nick-flavored releases.
Currently Bynes has grown up and is starring in a hit WB series entitled What I Like About You. Again created by Schneider, with a little help from Friends scribe Wil Calhoun, this big city sitcom about a scrappy little sister (Bynes) moving in with her successful, career-minded big sibling (90210's Jennie Garth) proves that there is indeed life for Amanda after her stint as Nick's silly sweetheart. Anyone interested in seeing where this whirlwind of witty weirdness honed her craft, The Amanda Show is a great place to start. Penelope Taynt, our star's #1 fan and chief stalker may shout, "Amanda, please!" but there is really no reason to beg. Thanks to DVD, there will always be plenty of pleasant reminders of this incredibly gifted bozo and her stint as a sketch show savant.
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