Despite what you may have heard, Judge Adam "Sluggo" Arseneau will not be mean to you. He just wants to be your friend.
Celebrating 30 Years of Sluggo's Greatest Hits!
To go out and purchase a three-disc box set collection featuring nothing but Mr. Bill episodes implies certain things about yourself. First, it suggests that you have a lot of disposable income. Secondly, it confirms that you have a sadistic streak an actual mile wide. Over four hours of Mr. Bill is enough to make anyone crawl into a corner, brain cells reeling and struggling for oxygen, neural pathways misfiring feebly. Welcome to Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater.
Those unfamiliar with Mr. Bill will likely be those who never watched/experienced the early years of Saturday Night Live, or people without a central nervous system. Brainchild of Walter Williams, The Mr. Bill Show was a crude, cult-followed, technologically inferior skit shot on 8 and 16mm film hosted by Mr. Bill, a plasticine man who spoke in a grating falsetto. Mr. Bill had a dog named Spot, and a friend named Mr. Hands, who was quite literally a set of hands.
A plot synopsis: Mr. Bill comes out, announces how happy he is to see everyone, and that you are going to have lots of fun with him today on his show. Mr. Hands shows up, makes an announcement about the day's activities, and proceeds to create Spot, Mr. Bill's dog. Something bad happens to the dog, and Bill goes "Ohhhh nooooo!" Next, Sluggo, Mr. Bill's "friend," shows up, and Mr. Bill says, "Oh no, he's going to be mean to me!"—which is exactly what Sluggo does. Mr. Bill gets disfigured a few times, yelling "Ohhhh noooo…why, why?" The show ends.
Repeat for four hours. Only one plot synopsis is required, because every episode is exactly the same. It was funny because terribly sadistic and horrible things happened to Mr. Bill and his dog every week, each more outrageous than the last. Well, not really outrageous—he was made out of clay, after all. You smoosh his head a few times, and what else can you do to the poor guy? But gosh darn it—the show sure did keep trying.
Lions Gate has assembled the ultimate collection of Mr. Bill on DVD with Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater, much more than any doctor would ever recommend you be exposed to. Celebrating 30 years of clay-pounding antics, this DVD set offers more Mr. Bill content than you would ever have dreamed even existed. The first disc, Mr. Bill: Classics features the vintage Mr. Bill episodes from Saturday Night Live that everyone remembers so well. For old-school fans, this is what you are looking for…a solid 80 minutes of Claymation torture and disfigurement. The other two DVDs are a modern revisiting of the Mr. Bill franchise (if it can be called that) featuring guest appearances by star-studded celebrities whose careers need a boost appearing with a famous Saturday Night Live alumnus. In the latter case, I am referring, of course, to Father Guido Sarducci.
The second disc includes a short film, Mr. Bill Does Vegas, and a collection of twenty-five new Mr. Bill skits under the moniker of Mr. Bill Goes Hollywood, and features such celebrity drop-ins as Wayne Newton, Jenna Elfman, the Smothers Brothers, Bobcat Goldthwait, Smokey Robinson, Jack Lemmon, and more. The third disc features a Christmas special, and a 20th Anniversary special (another collection of short episodes). In all, a solid four hours of Mr. Bill entertainment, not including the hundreds of photos, behind-the-scene glimpses, interviews, gag reels, and other assorted content. You certainly cannot fault Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater for its thoroughness and completeness. On the subject of Mr. Bill, this is the authoritative collection, no question about it.
Despite the exhaustive amount of supplementary material, the vast majority of the content on this DVD is junk. I mean, come on…a Mr. Bill family photo album? Who is going to watch that? Some standouts include an interview with Walter Williams, for he weaves an interesting tale about his start, pitching his homemade film to SNL, a film that cost him $20 to make. However, the best feature by far is the option of watching G-rated versions of Mr. Bill episodes. Just as some horrible calamity is about to befall Mr. Bill, the screen is filled with nice, happy things, like puppy dogs, balloons, children frolicking, etc. This is probably the best joke on this whole DVD set.
The video quality bounces around like a jackhammer. The original SNL Mr. Bill footage, filmed on 8 and 16mm stock, looks as terrible as it always did, preserved forever on DVD, with vintage cracking audio and distorted dialogue. The more modern content certainly performs better, rendered with half-decent visual quality, black levels, and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, but makes such conceptually egregious errors as rendering Mr. Bill in computer animation, a lame idea that makes the already lame material sink even lower into the depths of lameness. The more modern Mr. Bill just sounds sad and worn out, as if secretly he can't believe he's still doing this after 30 years. Even more irritatingly, the menu features an annoying navigation scheme where Mr. Bill, explaining what every item does when you click on it, narrates the functions of the menu. This isn't even useful the first time you crack the disc open, and upon repeated viewing, you will start to think that Mr. Hands had the right idea toward Mr. Bill.
A good 80 minutes of The Mr. Bill Show is enough to put anyone into full-blown anaphylactic shock, but two more discs of modern Mr. Bill is just…well, too much to take. Bundling the classic, lusted-after SNL material with two additional discs full of garbage only ensures that nobody at all buys this DVD box set. And since the standalone SNL episodes are no longer available in print, unfortunately, it's the Disasterpiece Theater or bust.
This could be one of the most irritating DVD sets ever constructed for consumer consumption. To its credit, at least the DVD is aware of its own egregiousness—the packaging proudly claims that Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater contains more Mr. Bill than you could possibly stand. For most people, that threshold is reached after a few two-minute episodes. Four hours of this stuff is like Chinese water torture. Even the vintage SNL skits lose their charm after one or two viewings, and the vast majority of the new content, which makes up the bulk of this DVD set, is just atrociously lame. Sadly, there really isn't much reason to lay your hands upon this set, unless you want a masochistic streak to go with your sadistic one.
It may be cruel to say, but purchasing Mr. Bill's Disasterpiece Theater is somewhat akin to punishing yourself. But for those undaunted by these words of harsh rebuke, feel free to enjoy all that Mr. Bill has to offer, safe in the knowledge that Lions Gate has released the definitive Mr. Bill collection here. Sure, they may have done a great horror by releasing this nightmare upon the world, but as far as comprehensive box sets go, they really forked over the material and assembled an impressive box set (at least, from a technical standpoint). But just remember: when you start hearing Mr. Bill's cries of pain in your sleep, then you know you've had enough.
Heck, everyone used to like Mr. Bill, back when we were all kids, back when we had sophisticated taste. Maybe there's a place in all our lives for a little nostalgia.
Then again, when I was a kid, I also thought Dorf on Golf was the pinnacle of comedic achievement.
Maybe some things are best forgotten.
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• Classic Adventures of Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live
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