If Judge Adam Arseneau worked for The Daily Show, he would be the "Senior Slacking Off and Eating Potato Chips Correspondent."
When news breaks, they fix it.
The perfect companion piece to the bestselling faux-civics textbook, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, Indecision 2004 represents the zenith of the DVD format, the pinnacle of home entertainment at your fingertips: watching episodes of a daily topical humor show months, even years out of date.
But yet, somehow, it still rocks. Modern science is an amazing thing.
Facts of the Case
What can be said about Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that people don't already know? On the daily, Jon Stewart and his band of correspondents take on politics in a satirical faux news format, recapping the previous day's events with topical irony strong enough to sear the skin directly off your funny bone. As head fake anchorman Jon Stewart remarks, any show can bring you information as it happens, but it takes a special show to digest it slowly, roll it around in the mouth and savor it, and feed it back to the public in self-described "turds of wisdom."
But when something like an election rears its head around, The Daily Show springs into full-blown action. Indecision 2004, a three-disc DVD set, compiles coverage from the 2004 Presidential Election, both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, a live hour-long election-night tally, and a blow-by-blow recount of the first Presidential debate, bulging jacket and all. It includes dozens of interviews, snippets, segments, jokes, gags and featurettes.
The Daily Show has become quite the ironic little piece of television property on the dial (if anyone still has a television with a dial on it). After inheriting the show from the less-funny Craig Kilborn, Jon Stewart and company soon transformed the mediocre late-night show into a full-blown political/media parody, discussing, lambasting and outright mocking the previous day's events…plus, err, some standup and interviews. Well, old habits die hard in that regards.
But what is amazing is that the show has actually begun supplanting legitimate news broadcasts as a key source of information for the teenage-to-young-adult demographic, much to the ire of actual journalists and bewilderment of Daily Show producers. This is comedy, straight up; the show makes no bones about it, describes itself as the number one source in fake news and pretends to be nothing but what it is…and yet more and more Americans (and viewers worldwide) are turning to The Daily Show for an alternative voice on the world's events. Despite their best intentions, Jon Stewart and his correspondents are rapidly becoming that which they poke fun at: journalists. The horror.
Okay, not really. There isn't much real "journalism" going on in Indecision 2004, although they spend a good amount of time interviewing politicians, reporters, and the like (usually just to make fun of them). The majority of the disc's content comes in the form of The Daily Show's coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, each delegated to its own DVD, containing four half-hour episodes of the show. A third DVD contains all the extra material related to the 2004 election cobbled together in a massive lump. Discs one and two contain video "introductions"; one by Jon Stewart and one by Stephen Colbert, which run a few minutes long and proceed to mock the DVD format, the viewer for purchasing the discs, and the entire notion of a retrospective box set, usually all at the same time. Thankfully, as even the best jokes can get diabolically old, diabolically fast, the segments can easily be skipped to take you straight to the menu. We even get a handy "play all" feature, which is always swell.
Considering the gigantic swath of material collected for this box set, it is difficult to precisely know when the feature ends and the supplementary material begins. It can reasonably be assumed that the meat of the DVD set is the convention coverage itself, which amounts to four episodes of The Daily Show per convention. And it rocks. Jon Stewart and company take Machiavellian glee in pointing out all that is inherently ridiculous in politics during a time of particular absurdity—a Presidential election—landing body blows on both sides when deserved. Heck, this DVD is worth the purchase if only for the "Zell on Earth" segment depicting the hilariously insane speech/interviews given at the Republican convention by Democrat Zell Miller, in which he somehow ended up challenging Hardball's Chris Matthews to a duel. It has to be seen to be believed. The correspondents even go on-site to the conventions, eschewing the long-standing blue screen tradition of just pretending to be somewhere (although they still do that a lot, too.)
The third disc, labeled "Bonus Material" is in of itself a full offering, with an hour-long episode "Election Night '04: Prelude to a Recount," covering the election evening as it unfolded live, as well as "The First Presidential Debate: The Squabble in Coral Gables," which rounds out the election coverage quite nicely. Add to this endless interview, featurettes, tiny jokes, collected pieces of skits, and Indecision 2004 bulges at the seams. Admittedly, it does not take as long to siphon through the material as you may initially think, but there is still solid hours and hours of material to be found here.
And, boy, is it funny, every single second of it. Topical humor ages badly, but the 2004 election is not so far gone to soften the blows landed by this DVD set. The show's creators (and audience members) clearly slant to a liberal bias, but Stewart is nothing if not an equal opportunist, giving it to the Democrats as much as the Republicans, and spends time interviewing those on both sides of the battlefield. Combine this with Stewart's mastery of the deadpan glance, which is so effective that literally any joke, clip or interview comes out hilariously when presented. Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry and Ed Helms trail not far behind, all willing to make total fools of themselves for the sake of the joke, and The Daily Show may have the finest bunch of political satirists under one roof. And Samantha Bee is okay, I guess. I mean, for a girl…Just kidding.
Video quality is fairly respectable for a television show, with sharp detail, okay black levels and decent colors. I had some issue with oversaturated color tones (especially blues) leaking into adjacent colors, but overall, the transfer to DVD is a pleasing one. A single Dolby Digital 2.0 track covers the audio side, and is completely adequate for the task. Dialogue is clear and concise, though occasionally clips and distorts due to poorly adjusted gain levels, but this is no fault of the DVD, as they are part of the original broadcast.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The major complaint of this DVD is the brevity; not because the disc itself is particularly lax in material, but rather, that you want more and more, insatiably. In a perfect world, we would have massive box sets of every collected episode of The Daily Show, but obviously this will never ever happen, so we must make ourselves content with "thematic" DVD sets which do nothing but whet the appetite and tantalizes the viewer for more. Luckily, it's a daily show, so it's pretty easy to find on the dial.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping the inevitability of redundancy on a small box set like this. After the first hilarious viewing, subsequent viewings lose their spark and wittiness, which make it a tougher DVD to purchase as opposed to renting. The bits, which seem so brilliant and funny the first time through, become…well, less so the fourth and fifth time through. But alas, such is life.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll make fun of politicians until the cows come home. Be you Republican, Democrat, or even Puerto Rican, Indecision 2004 is nothing but pure hilarity, brought to you by some of the funniest comedians working on television today. I would be inherently suspicious of anyone who did not find this DVD funny, and probably report you to the local authorities under suspicion of being a robot, or a space alien. Or possibly both.
Simply put? Only an idiot would not want this.
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Scales of Justice
• "The First Presidential Debate: The Squabble in Coral Gables"
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