Judge Adam Arseneau is in Big Trouble.
Inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning humor of Dave Barry.
Well, I'm down with the whole "Inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Dave Barry" thing, but I sincerely wonder what happened to that whole "humor" thing in Dave's World: The First Season.
Facts of the Case
In this series based on the Pulitzer-prize winning humor writing of Dave Barry, Dave Barry (Harry Anderson, Night Court) gathers material for his Miami newspaper column from the comfort of his bathrobe and slippers. Usually, he needs look no further than his family: his two young children run wild, and Dave ruminates on the hypocrisy of the larger child being responsible for the smaller ones. His ever-patient and perpetually perky wife Beth (DeLane Matthews, General Hospital) tries her best to keep her husband in line. Between the frequent poker games with editor Kenny (radio personality Shadoe Stevens) and best friend and recent divorcee Sheldon (Meshach Taylor, Designing Women), Dave is never lacking for new material.
Dave's World: The First Season contains all 23 episodes of the CBS comedy spread over three discs:
• "Pilot": Wanting to become more involved in his older son Tommy's life, Dave volunteers to coach his soccer team.
• "The Insecurity System": When Sheldon's van is stolen from right in front of the Barry house, Beth decides to install a home security system. Hilarity ensues.
• "Martian Death Flu": On the eve of Willie's school play, Dave and Beth come down with the flu.
• "The Anniversary Schmaltz": On their 14th wedding anniversary, Dave and Beth attempt to celebrate the romantic occasion alone.
• "The Great Mandala of Life": When Dave contemplates the additional purchase of life insurance, Kenny tries to talk him into buying it from the agent he's been dating.
• "I Sort Of Saw What You Did": Kenny is involved in an accident, and he persuades Dave to lie to his insurance adjuster.
• "It's a Small Van After All": A weekend trip turns ugly after the Barrys and the Baylors get on each other's nerves.
• "Heat Wave": In the midst of a heat wave, Beth blows out the air conditioner while helping Dave hook up his fax machine. Dave Barry (the real one) guest stars.
• "Writer's Block": Dave loses Tommy's trust after he devotes a column to his son's secret crush.
• "Educating Rita": A matchmaking attempt backfires when Kenny is set up with Beth's best friend.
• "Death and Mom Take A Holiday": Beth's mother (Florence Henderson) pays a visit, bearing an unnatural Christmas gift.
• "Exorcising With Dave Barry": When Dave attempts to fix a broken door, an eccentric hardware store owner (Pat Morita) convinces him the Barry home is haunted.
• "I Saw Mommy Kicking Santa Claus (Part 1)": Chaos reigns within the Barry household as Beth thinks about returning to work, Dave takes a driving test, and both parents desperately search for a toy for Willie.
• "I Saw Mommy Kicking Santa Claus (Part 1)": As the holiday madness subsides, the Barrys learn the true meaning of Christmas.
• "Just Kidding": Dave is deluged with angry mail after he writes an unflattering column about a used car salesman (Fred Willard).
• "The Road Taken": Dave voices his disapproval when Sheldon suddenly decides to sell his house and sail the Caribbean.
• "Shel In Love": Sheldon heads out on his first date since his divorce, and Tommy receives a Valentine's Day card from a girl he likes.
• "Four Characters In Search Of A Ring": The boys take Sheldon to a singles bar, but trouble ensues when Kenny borrows Dave's wedding ring.
• "Lost Weekend": Dave and Beth attempts to embark on a romantic weekend getaway, minus the kids.
• "Pat Story": When Beth returns to her teaching job, Dave learns a lesson about keeping house.
• "Six Years Old and All Washed Up": When he hears Willie may have to repeat kindergarten, Dave decides to intervene.
• "The Funeral": When Dave gets ill, Beth must choose between attending a play or a relative's funeral.
• "Saved By Estelle": Sheldon is forced to spend the weekend with his ex-wife and her boyfriend.
Dave's World is like a time capsule back to the early nineties, harkening viewers back to a nostalgic time when sitcoms were absolutely wretchedly painful to watch. Despite being inspired by popular humorist Dave Barry (who is quite funny), the show that bares his namesake is embarrassingly banal, featuring none of the acerbic wit and sardonic charm that earned Mr. Barry his Pulitzer. In its place, we get wooden jokes, excessive laugh tracks, one-dimensional characters, and tired clichés.
With all the foolishly hiked shorts, pastels, and bowl haircuts, scientists from the future would date Dave's World at no less than the year 1985. In actuality, the show is from 1993. Upon further research, they would discover the show is set in Miami. That, as they say, would explain that. Perhaps it was a gentler time then, back when shows of this quality managed to eke out four consecutive seasons on prime-time television. After all, Friends had yet to debut. Records before this time will be, at best, spotty in the future.
Dave is the perpetual child stuck in a grownup's body, a man with two young boys whom he has no idea how to properly parent because he wants to avoid responsibility as much as possible. His long-suffering wife wants him to be responsible and fatherly, and Dave responds with grumpy sarcasm and misery. His swinging bachelor friend is vapid and good-looking and goes through women like running water. His recently divorced token black friend laments and struggles to maintain a good relationship with his daughter. Painfully stiff and rigidly formulaic, there is nothing overly nasty to be found in Dave's World, nothing onerous or disgusting or beyond reproach. If anything, it is a total absence of controversy that seals the fate of this show. Dave and his World are desperately in need of some spice.
I have little patience for this style of formulaic sitcom, especially by modern standards. It's like an all-white version of The Cosby Show, and Harry Anderson ain't no Coz. It's all just a little too squishy and cozy and family-centric for my tastes. And the laugh track—my god, the laugh track. It's actually balanced louder than the character dialogue, as if producers were desperately trying to compensate for the eerie silence in living rooms all across America tuned into CBS.
There's nothing outwardly dislikable about Dave's World, but this is sterilized petri dish comedy—dated, pedantic, and dull beyond all reproach. If that's your thing, then hey, go for it. If you're not bothered by the fact that CBS has been making the exact same straight-laced sitcom over and over again for the last three decades, who are we to criticize?
Paramount essentially vomited this show onto DVD, and the lack of care put in shows. The transfer is rugged, which is the last adjective you want to describe a DVD transfer. Grainy, muddled, and washed out, the picture is a mess—it looks like it got transferred straight from VHS. Compression artifacts are rampant. Audio is a simple stereo presentation, with tinny dialogue and a ridiculously emphasized laugh track.
As for extras, well, there are none. I'm not surprised, and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want any.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
On the off chance Mr. Barry reads our Web site, rest assured, sir, I liked Big Trouble. I'm one of the few.
A dated relic from the early nineties, Dave's World: The First Season is for diehard fans only. Chances are this is all you're going to get from the show on DVD; I can't imagine Dave Barry fans lining up en masse to get their hands on copies.
For a clichéd laugh track-saturated disappointment of a sitcom, Dave Barry is sentenced to community service or to return immediately to his columnist position at the Miami Herald—whichever comes first.
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