Mother of mercy, I don't speak Japanese!
Ah, for the days when Saturday Night Live could still make people laugh.
Remember those days? Ratings were high, writers were fresh and innovative, and the cast was almost, but not quite, as funny as the golden original cast days. Things were great, for a while. For my money, the best cast the show ever saw was the 1990-1995 season run, hands down. 1996 rolled around, and suddenly everything felt…passé.
Yes, I like Chris Farley. Always have. Lots of people hate him. To me, those people who dislike Tommy Boy suck outright, and that is all there is to it. After he passed away, SNL quickly aired an "In Memory Of…" episode, introduced by longtime compatriot Tim Meadows, highlighting some of the funniest moments of Farley's five-year run on the show. It was a classic piece of buffoonery, and to this day, I still sport a damaged, broken VHS (remember those?) copy of this entire broadcast, hastily recorded at the last possible second.
It has been watched many, many times. So, understandably, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Saturday Night Live: The Best Of Chris Farley. Gleeful, I threw the disc in, and settled down.
As I watched this DVD, immediately I realized something was dreadfully wrong. This DVD is an approximation of the "In Memory Of…" episode, featuring the majority of the same skits in the same order—except that certain sequences were completely missing. Gone was the touching opening monologue by Meadows, for one, as well as the heart wrenching Phil Hartman-sung number closing the episode. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.
For some reason, certain segments (apparently, the hilarious ones) have been left out completely, replaced with others (apparently, terrible sucky ones). The sidesplitting "Little Women"-esque sequence where they fall through the ice and start cursing and make a pact with the devil? Gone. Also, the "Herlihy Boy" skit is missing, as well as the fake commercial for "Schmitt's Gay Beer," and numerous other smaller segments. In general, the substituted skits are sub-par, such as the horribly dreadful "Focus on Beauty II" segment, which makes me want to chew glass.
Why such a ghastly thing has been done, I may never fully understand. Even if Lorne Michaels himself came to my house, and sat down with the proposal, outlining the major changes and why they were fiscally viable vis-à-vis the changing demographic, I would still tell him to shove it.
The problem with these "Best Of…" DVD sets is that nobody hires me as a consultant. Trying to understand why they would cut the "Herlihy Boy" sequence, but keep the Sandler-driven "Lunch Lady Land" musical act, gives me a stabbing pain in my brain that tells me to go light fires.
Of course, this DVD is far from a disaster. The majority of the material is still intact, and the modified set is not without its gems. The "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" bits are present, and are always fun (especially how hard David Spade tries not to pee his pants as Farley does his routine), as well as the "Hidden Camera Commercials" skit (a personal favorite). And, of course, it does have the Japanese game show skit, which could be one of the best SNL one-time skits ever conceived.
This DVD is a Lions Gate re-release of a previous Trimark Home Video version, and while the supplemental content does differs slightly, it comes not even close to warranting an upgrade. These new extras include the inclusion of two television appearances from Conan and Leno, which are quite good, and an overly sentimental family album sequence supporting the Chris Farley Foundation (an anti-drug association) is the only reference to the actor's passing on the disc. The rest of the features include an unfunny dress sketch and a lukewarm montage of outtakes.
Nothing to get excited about, which is a shame; with the main feature running a measly 61 minutes, the DVD certainly has the room for the extra material (as well as those missing segments!).
The DVD quality is good, I must say—the skits look quite well presented, with good levels of contrast and detail, and the sound is full and pumped and strongly represented. Nothing to write home about, but it's certainly a good, reasonable offering, and the show certainly never looked or sounded this good on TV.
Perhaps my love of the original material has biased my opinion somewhat. I can still say that this is a funny DVD, though noticeably less funny, given the dropped content.
I always felt Farley was a misunderstood comic. He is the stereotypical fat buffoon, and sure, he does a lot of falling through tables, crashing through windows, doing cartwheels, and the like. And I admit, there is a comedic appeal to see a giant fat guy tumbling through wooden props and fall on his face. But there is more to it than that.
The true beauty of Chris Farley, for those who doubt his comedic skill, is the reactions of the seasoned veterans that surround him during the show. These reactions from cast members reveal Farley's true brilliance; the comics who have to work with him day in and day out, and rehearse the same jokes for weeks and weeks, have the hardest time keeping their composure. They barely hold it together. The most satisfying sequences on this DVD are the sequences where Farley flies around, doing his shtick, and the rest of the cast have to visibly turn away from the character to stop from laughing hysterically.
I wish this DVD did a better job of showcasing Farley in his glory. In a five-year career on the show, Farley was much funnier than this. The segment selection is questionable at best, and while this DVD is amusing, it is merely a scratch on a gigantic, cartwheeling surface.
But boy, the man sure did a mean Tom Arnold impression.
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