"It stinks!"—Jay Sherman's review of almost every movie
It's tough being Jay Prescott Sherman (Jon Lovitz, Saturday Night Live), a local film critic with his own TV show. Jay is overweight and balding, not the kind of traits the fairer sex looks for in a mate (and Jay's love life, he would say, "rates a zero" on the 'Shermometer'). Jay plods through life dealing with his beefy, pushy boss (Charles Napier, The Silence of the Lambs), his filthy rich parents who live a deliciously eccentric existence, his pudgy but good-natured son Marty, and host of other nut cases who all make Jay's life one disaster after another. But Jay finds his solace in reviewing movies that aren't often just bad, but horrid: tepid sequels ("Black Men Can't Bowl") and other catastrophes that Hollywood loves to churn out on the unsuspecting public. The Critic proves that one man can make a difference…even if that difference barely registers with his audience.
Included on this disc are the following episodes:
When Matt Groening's little yellow family, The Simpsons, debuted in 1989, they became one of the first bona fide cartoons to transcend kiddy tastes and capture adult interest. Thus, Homer & company opened up the fold gate for numerous new adult-themed cartoons, including but not limited to: The Family Guy, Dilbert, and Groening's follow-up Futurama. Of course, none have topped The Simpsons reign of supreme comedy, though The Critic certainly did give it a hearty try.
Picked up for two seasons—first by ABC and later by Fox (1994-95)—The Critic took Jon Lovitz's amusing vocal talents and planted them into the animated body of a short, balding, overweight movie critic (a combo of Siskel AND Ebert?) who was about as lucky to like a movie as he was to fall in love. The show was produced by James L. Brooks, Al Jean, and Mike Reiss, all former creators/producers of The Simpsons. While it's probably for the best that The Critic stands at only two seasons worth of episodes, the fact remains that it is one of the better cartoon sitcoms to have hit after The Simpsons craze.
Jay Sherman is a lovable character, prone to funny outbursts and smarmy movie reviews by a very talented Lovitz. He's backed by top notch voice talent, including Charles Napier as his gruff, Ted Turner-esque boss, Gerrit Graham and Judith Ivey as Jay's slightly eccentric parents (who also have a striking resemblance to Katharine Hepburn and Richard Burton), and Maurice La Marche as Jay's only true friend, an Australian superstar mix of Mel Gibson and Paul Hogan. If you're a fan of movies, you'll find many of these bits hysterically biting. Jay reviews a boatload of cruddy movies, including such hits as "Dennis the Menace II Society," "Planet of the Dogs," and "Children of a Lesser Godzilla." The film parodies are enough to justify the purchase of this set, and that's saying a lot.
Of course, the comedy bits miss as often as they hit. Watching The Critic one gets the feeling that had sharper, more acidic humor been injected more often, the show could have really become a bona fide hit. But, that's slight nitpicking. There are enough moments of sheer Hollywood hilarity (as when Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel argue over a sequel to "Rain Man," titled "Snow Man") to please any budding film critic. And I know what I'm talking about. After all, I AM a film critic. No tomatoes, please!
Each episode of The Critic is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the show's original broadcast aspect ratio. Generally speaking these are all very nice looking transfers. The colors and black levels are in excellent condition—the palette of blues, reds, and yellows all look great. There are a few minor imperfections along the way (a small amount of grain and some bleeding in the image), though otherwise these episodes look very nice. The soundtracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. Very well mixed, while nothing special, they certainly do the job, especially during some of the wackier musical numbers. While this isn't Lord of the Rings, fans of the series will surely be happy with what Columbia has put together. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on any of the discs.
Fans of the show will most certainly enjoy Columbia's inclusion of a few fine extra features. The best are the commentary tracks on specific episodes, including Al Jean and Mike Reiss, executive Producer James L. Brooks, voice actors Charles Napier and Maurice LaMarche, among others. These commentary tracks provide a wealth of information about the show, the characters, and the scripts—even if there's often dead space where the cast and crew just sits and watches each episode. Moving on to disc two, there is a feature that allows the viewer to watch the episode "A Pig Boy and His Dog" with storyboard comparisons. Disc three features a batch of goodies, including trailers for various film parodies from the show, Jay's top ten list (including "Arthur 3: Revenge of the Liver" and Disney's latest feature "The Cockroach King" with Howard Stern), and the retrospective "Creating the Critic" which includes interviews with Al Jean and Mike Reiss discussing how the characters were created, how star Jon Lovitz became involved in the project, and other tidbits about the show. Finally there are "webisodes" which are 2-3 minute flash episodes made for the internet (produced in 2000), as well as trailers for other Columbia television shows on DVD.
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