Judge Ryan Keefer knows how to do it, he also knows how to do it, and while you might know how to do it, he's already do-ing it.
"Do work son!"
MTV seems to do quite a few things wrong when it comes to original broadcast content from time to time, and you only need to look as far as The Hills to experience that particular pain. However, a show that chronicles the life and events of a skateboarder/business entrepreneur with his security guard/roommate is among the best kept secrets on cable. So in time for its third season on air, do the first two seasons of Rob & Big kick booty on DVD?
Facts of the Case
A little background as to the story behind Rob & Big. The "Rob" part of the equation is Rob Dyrdek, professional skateboarder and integral designer of many shoes of the DC brand, a well-respected line of clothing and kicks for skateboarders. In the sport of street skateboarding, not many establishments look favorably on having their benches and concrete used for skateboarding, and often employ security guards or call the police to chase the skaters away. So Rob brought in his own security guard, Christopher "Big Black" Boykin (he's the "Big" component), all 6 and a half feet and 400-plus pounds of him, to skate with minimal harassment. The pair has been together since and a friendship has grown between them, so much so that the two went on a trip through Europe and into North Africa as part of the 2005 Gumball Rally. Ruben Fleischer was part of the race crew and spent time with a camera focused on the two, and convinced Jeff Tremaine (Jackass) to lobby MTV to give them some time to show off the friendship, and it has since blossomed into a show with a cult following.
For 16 half-hour long episodes of Rob & Big, the decision was made to split them over four discs, with the first five episodes of each season housed on one disc each, and the remaining episodes and supplemental material on the other two, which is repeated for both seasons. As far as the episodes themselves, they're really nothing more than putting the pair in some sort of situation (mostly at Dyrdek's doing) and seeing what they'll do with it. The episodes are:
• "Moving In"
• "Go Skate Day"
• "Let's Get Physical"
• "Happy Birthday"
• "Making the House a Home"
• "Blind Date"
• "Do Work"
• "Meaty & Mini"
• "Time Travel"
• "New Assistant"
• "Black Lavender"
• "Bobby Light"
• "New Cars"
When I first heard about Rob & Big and saw the commercials for in on MTV, I was dismissive, to say the least. I thought that in Dyrdek, here was another skateboarder mongoloid who was walking around on a channel I barely watched anymore. The soundtrack of the show is very rap-intensive and, considering that Dyrdek is from the mean streets of upper-middle class Ohio, well, let's just say I was a little less than impressed.
I'm here to say that I'm a full-blown kool-aid drinker and advocate of the show. The show is flat out full of fun and laughs, divided up into 21 minute chunks. And the show is fun because Rob, Big, Drama, Bam Bam, et. al are all fun, looking to do something fun, without really harming anyone or getting in the way of more "serious entertainment." I said earlier on in the review, the episodes are really just transparent ways to get Dyrdek and Boykin out of the house, or do something new and original in their house, and hopefully someone will get it on tape. So yeah, in the sense that this is like other reality shows that are "fun," it's in that vein, but in the way that the two have fun, mostly being around each other, helps elevate it from tired old reality gimmick into something that pumps you full of optimism. Both Dyrdek and Boykin are barely 35 and yet are fortunate enough to have lots of means to live as kids or at least do juvenile things. Who else would want to put an ATM in their house, or have a miniature horse and a skateboard-riding bulldog as pets? They do it to have fun and make their lives enjoyable, and we're lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that.
Ironically enough, Rob & Big might be the most "real" thing in reality television today. For instance in "Travel," we meet Dyrdek's parents and family, who are straight out of middle America. The neighbors are starstruck when he appears, asking him if he's met Tom Hanks and Avril Lavigne. His mother is reduced to tears when he leaves, not because he's said or done something, but because he's leaving. She asks Boykin to make sure he doesn't do "anything crazy" when he's out in Hollywood, and upon further exploration of the supplemental material, periodically asks Dyrdek if he has enough money in case his current career doesn't work, never mind that Rob has set his father with enough shoes and T-shirts for the foreseeable future. In the Boykin family, while Christopher's mother has unfortunately passed away, his Aunt Lou has cooked enough food for a small country in his return home, and Uncle Jerry truly is an original among originals. The characters in their family are the characters in our own, and the fact that there are television cameras on them shouldn't make any difference, because Uncle Jerry, Aunt Lou, and Momma and Poppa Dyrdek are from the same mold as the focus of this show.
Technically, as the show is just that, a show, you're only getting full frame love and two channel stereo sound, and both of which look and sound clear without any real problems to speak of. I should also say you have your choice of censored or uncensored audio, so depending on whether or not you prefer audible beeps, you've got the best of both worlds. The supplements are quite plentiful, which is nice to see considering I personally was wondering when this would come on DVD. Commentaries with Dyrdek, Boykin, Tremaine and Fleischer cover each episode, however the commentaries seem a little weak, as Rob and Big are asked about things that occurred off camera occasionally while everyone enjoys watching the episodes again, but they laugh a lot, so that at least makes it entertaining. There is some information to be had, though, when Dyrdek admits "throwing" the skate contest for the truck, and Boykin points out any stealth flatulence that occurred on camera. A couple of descriptions on Boykin put it best, saying on two separate occasions he's a "blanket with muscles" and a "Prefontaine of eating." And thanks Jeff, for saying that "if you're listening to this now, you are hardcore." I take the compliment like a badge of honor.
Past the commentaries, you've got an hour and 15 minutes of deleted scenes, most of which are pretty boring. There is a coda to the time travel episode here, along with an interesting whodunit of sorts, and the boys work at Uncle Jerry's job when they're down in Mississippi, and that's kind of funny. Oh, and a Rob vs. Big hot dog eating contest which ends how you think it would, yet is pretty funny nonetheless. "Rob and Big: The Real Deal" is a half-hour long interview piece that goes into the origins of the guys a little more and talks about the more memorable moments of the show, including the "manpon" which yes, is what it sounds like. There's some more interview footage labeled as such, much of it is recycled from "The Real Deal" and can be skipped, but there are three-minute highlight reels of Meaty, Mini Horse and Uncle Jerry that are worth watching. Dyrdek does some tutorials of various skateboarding tricks for moderate skaters that are beneficial and lasts about 10 minutes. The video for "Dirty Girl" follows, along with an appearance from the MTV Cribs show that was filmed, and a "Best of" clip show featuring the highlights of Season Two completes things.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Like I said earlier, when it comes to substance, you're not really going to find anything that's earth-shattering. But also like I said earlier, since you know it, and they seem to know it, the thing that separates them from crap into something special is how they get along, and their friendship is genuine, and something nice to see in an area where reality TV comes off as more and more "staged."
If guilty pleasure viewing also means harmless viewing, this is the purest sense of the word. Though let me get on my soapbox for a moment. I hope, really hope, that MTV doesn't have the addle-mindedness to shuffle this away into oblivion as the duo get older or possibly (gasp!) more mature and responsible. If anything, I think they're being neglected a bit by being on MTV2. But as I write this now, there doesn't seem to be any time of short-term resolution in the writers' strike, which will lead to more and more reality shows, so I encourage everyone to stop, smell the roses and give Rob & Big a sampling, and you'll find yourself hooked.
Not guilty. Streets. My moves are fresh. Now go do work.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentaries on all episodes with Rob Dyrdek, Big Black, Jeff Tremaine and Ruben Fleischer
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