Judge Matt Dicker has always been more of a Wednesday guy.
Live from the Los Angeles Basin, it's Fridays!
It was beginning to seem like we would never get a DVD of the cult favorite Fridays, but after many years of waiting, fans can rejoice with the Shout! Factory release of 16 of the best and most significant episodes of the show.
Facts of the Case
Less than five years after Saturday Night Live hit the air and became a massive hit, ABC introduced its own late night show, filmed in Los Angeles and airing on Friday nights. Copying the Saturday Night Live format and initially sticking close to its predecessor's comedic leanings, the show soon developed a subversive streak, producing some truly off the wall and cutting edge comedy. Though the show has been largely forgotten, it spawned the careers of several stars, including Michael Richards (Seinfeld) and Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and today is best remembered an incident involving Andy Kaufman and cue cards.
From the beginning, the creative forces behind Fridays knew they had their hands full in escaping the shadow of their predecessor, Saturday Night Live. The show's very first sketch makes fun of this fact, with the show's actors dressed up as famous characters from Saturday Night Live. But while Fridays aped the format of the show and initially stuck to a similar sense of humor, it didn't take long for Fridays to move away from Saturday Night Live and develop its own style of humor, one much more free-flowing, open to experimentation, and at times downright strange.
Fridays relied less on the topical, political humor that has often defined Saturday Night Live, and though there are recurring characters and ongoing gags, the show took a much more conceptual approach to comedy. As the show went on, the sketches grew longer and longer, and by the time of Episode 50, the final episode included on this collection, one of the first skits was ten minutes in length, an eternity in sketch comedy. Though these longer sketches gave greater freedom to the writers and performers, they would seemingly go on for an eternity if the audience wasn't reacting, and in several of the episodes included in this set—presumably the bets of the series's run—minutes go by with little more than a nervous chuckle or two from the audience.
While the cast was well suited to the show's unique sense of comedy, it's hard not to compare the show's debut cast to the first cast of Saturday Night Live, a comparison none too flattering for Fridays. Though Michael Richards and Larry David would both go on to far greater success later in their careers, the cast is for the most part forgettable. By the end of the show's run, a few managed to stand out a bit (namely Richards and Maryedith Burrell), but if the early cast of Saturday Night Live was not ready for prime time, most of these guys weren't quite ready for public access.
Fridays had a 58 episode run, and though a complete package would have been welcomed for posterity's sake, Shout! Factory has done a nice job in selecting 16 episodes to represent the growth of the show over three seasons. In any "Best Of" release, fans will quibble with some of the selections, and I certainly have a few of my own, namely the inexplicable exclusion of the final episode, featuring Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney performing "Ebony and Ivory."
Thankfully, Shout! Factory included the episodes involved in the Andy Kaufman saga that the show is remembered for. Kaufman was the special guest for perhaps the oddest and certainly the best episode included in the collection. In the final sketch of the show, Kaufman stopped mid-scene, refusing to "play stoned" as the scene required. After a long, awkward pause, Michael Richards grabbed the cue cards and tossed them in front of Kaufman, leading to a fight involving the cast and crew that continued into the episode's goodbyes. It is absolutely brilliant television, and in a world where the line is often blurred between fiction and reality in the media, it's easy to ignore how revolutionary and brilliant this was. This bizarre scene gained Fridays a great deal of media attention, with no one quite sure whether it was staged or real. Kaufman's appearance in the next episode (also included in this set) only further stoked the debate, and ever since people have remained unsure of what exactly happened.
This debate is finally settled in the one of the included Bonus Features, a featurette titled "'The Andy Kaufman Incident' What Really Happened?" This featurette is joined by extended reunions of many of the show's castmembers and writers and production photos, a video photo gallery, an interview with castmember Maryedith Burell, and a local news segment featuring a behind the scenes look at Fridays. The two reunion pieces are a treasure trove of Fridays stories, though they will test the interest of all but the most dedicated fans at 58 minutes apiece.
The DVD maintains the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby 2.0 Stereo, more than adequate for the show's limited audio and video demands.
Though often dismissed as a mere ripoff, Fridays didn't just steal the format established by Saturday Night Live, it subverted it. Though the show was limited by an uneven cast and mediocre writing, it was daring in its comedic sensibilities and far ahead of its time. Shout! Factory has put together an excellent collection that is well worth diving into.
Not guilty by reason of comedic insanity.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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