Judge Aaron Bossig says "Yo' momma's so stank, I told her to get DVD and she said 'I went down to the clinic, and they said I already had it.'"
Our reviews of In Living Color: The Complete First Season (published August 4th, 2004), In Living Color: The Complete Second Season (published October 27th, 2004), and In Living Color: Season Five (published May 10th, 2006) are also available.
"Can't we all just get along?"—Rodney King
DVD Verdict has previously tried the first and second seasons of In Living Color. The honorable Judge Eric Profancik and Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees presided over those cases. After much deliberation, it was found that the first two seasons were, in fact, still very funny. However, there remains a key question: how well does the show hold up, over a decade after it had been cancelled?
Court is now resumed.
Facts of the Case
A butt-ugly child star and her delusional stage mom. A wild-eyebrowed juice maniac. A handicapped superhero. A cop who's been reduced to nothing but a head and some teeny-tiny arms. A blues singer whose 20-second songs offend everyone within earshot.
This is In Living Color, and these are some of the people that make up its world.
Let's not mince words; the humor of In Living Color is very dated. This was brought up the very first time the Wayans family was walked through this courtroom, and it's still true. The inspirations for In Living Color's skits were pulled from the news and tabloids, so some of the jokes will require remembering headlines from 1993. The less topical skits will be funny in any decade—Jim Carrey goofing off being as a newspaper reporter is just timeless silliness—but if you want the full enjoyment of this set, I hope you remember who Joey Buttafucco was.
Season Four offers a little more than its predecessors did, however. With three years under its belt, In Living Color had developed plenty of popular recurring characters. With proven material at the ready, the writers could make skits without needing to go to the newspaper headlines quite as much. Perhaps in 1993, this meant the show was losing its "edge," but in 2005, the audience is far more likely to laugh at Handi-Man than at Marge Schott. Topical humor may be more daring, but the broader sketches are what we remember.
There are plenty of both styles of humor, however. In fact, one of the keys to In Living Color's wit was probably its diversity. There are some sketches that, to me, just never seem to work. I never could get a chuckle out of The Head Detective, for example. However, I would roll with laughter at "Hey Mon," a skit which my colleague Judge Eric Profancik was unimpressed with. The more diverse the writing became, the better any given show could be. Even if you found a sketch to be boring, odds are very good that the next one will make up for it. Consider the material that made In Living Color a success:
• "Wanda the Ugly Woman:" Jamie Foxx (Ray) dresses in drag and puts on way too much makeup, creating Wanda. Wanda is, without a doubt, the most hideous woman imaginable, yet she envisions herself as the object of every man's desire. Wanda's sketches usually involve her meeting available men, who scramble for the door as soon as they see her face.
• "Fire Marshall Bill:" A sketch that's nothing but slapstick humor and mayhem. Although Fire Marshall Bill does indeed wear a uniform and lecture about safety, I seriously doubt he has prevented any disasters. Rather, he seems to cause them by modeling the careless behaviors he warns others about. From playing with matches to drinking explosives, Fire Marshall Bill teaches all his lessons the hard way, no matter how much he gets cut, burned, or dismembered. While cute, Fire Marshall Bill is definitely one of the more repetitive sketches that In Living Color created. Its true value is in showcasing Jim Carrey's (Bruce Almighty) facial aerobics, which were used to give Fire Marshall Bill his insane and slightly undead look.
• "Oswald Bates:" While Fire Marshall Bill's humor was created from acts of senseless violence; Oswald Bates gets laughs through his dialogue. Damon Wayans (Major Payne) plays a criminal mind gifted with a very eloquent and enunciable speaking voice. Oswald's gift of articulateness is hampered only by the fact that he's psychotic and a complete pervert. As such, his speeches are absolutely nonsensical and littered with double entendres. He can turn a reading of "Dick and Jane" into an adventure through human anatomy.
These characters show just a hint of the diversity the show was capable of. With just three characters, the writers pull laughs from linguistic tricks to broad slapstick, and if that isn't enough, you've got Jamie Foxx in a nightie. Now, that's comedy that'll rock yo' world!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This might be an unfair criticism, but I'm not a big fan of rap/hip-hop music, so the last few minutes of every episode are a waste for me. The Fly Girls, while talented, aren't the reason I like this show. The dancing and music take up as much time as some of the sketches. Perhaps you'd say "But Aaron, In Living Color was clearly aimed at an audience who would enjoy hip-hop, and thus your criticism is a minority viewpoint." And I would say "Shut up! I watch In Living Color for laughs, not music."
Also, the DVD indicates that "some content has been edited" for this release. While it's not clear what the edits were, I noticed some odd wipes in the show that might have been signs of a few seconds being trimmed for a syndication print. Getting a syndication print on DVD is very aggravating: it means the show was cut down from its original length to make room for more commercials, yet now that it's on DVD (which you paid for and has no commercials) the cut content remains missing. I'm really hoping that it wasn't edited to take out any of its classic "offensive" content. It's sad that we still have stuff like this happening to DVD releases, and sadder still that getting a syndication print is not the worst editing that can happen when an old TV show hits DVD.
If you're simply looking for excellent sketch comedy, you might be better off starting with some MadTV sets or even some contemporary SNL. In Living Color: Season Four does hold quite a few laughs, but it's best enjoyed by folks who remember when O.J. Simpson was a role model. It's a worthwhile set, with adequate video and audio quality.
Guilty only of growing old.
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