Judge David Johnson didn't enjoy high school much the first time around, but he's thinking about pulling a Billy Madison to attend Flatpoint High.
Our reviews of Strangers With Candy: The Complete Third Season (published October 13th, 2004), Strangers With Candy (published November 20th, 2006), Strangers With Candy: Season One (published July 17th, 2003), and Strangers With Candy: The Complete Series (published June 27th, 2006) are also available.
"I was boozer, a user, and a loser. I stole the TV!"—Jerri Blank
The anti-afterschool special, Comedy Central's three-season strong Strangers With Candy played havoc with the high school genre. Using it as a springboard, writers/creators/stars Paul Dinello, Amy Sedaris, and Steven Colbert launched into new realms of political incorrectness and boundary-pushing mayhem.
The result? A raucous send-up of feel-good morality plays; it was a vulgarity-infested satire, where no one was off limits. The show, despite its brief run (actually, kinda sorta long for a non-South Park original series), corralled a loyal cult following.
Well, back away from the Kool-Aid! Comedy Central has unleashed the second season of Strangers With Candy on DVD.
Facts of the Case
If Saved by the Bell was an idealized high school heaven, Strangers With Candy exists at the polar opposite, as a perverse high school hell. Hugging? Tearful breakups? Lessons learned? Pa-sha!!! Don't bet on it. The students and teachers at Flatpoint High give two flaming frappes about one thing: themselves. The creators themselves noted that their first priority was to fashion characters that are utterly self-involved. The loons that populate the hallways of Flatpoint take selfishness to stratospheric levels, and the payoff is macabre, but often hilarious.
First, there's Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris), a 46 year-old high school dropout who lived a life of prostitution, drugs, and alcohol (all played completely for laughs; on her career aptitude test, Jerri finds she is best suited to be a "junkie whore.") She has returned to school to face the trials of the normal washed-up-hooker-cum-angst-ridden-teen.
Chuck Noblet (Daily Show correspondent Steven Colbert) and Geoffrey Jellineck (Paul Dinello) are two teachers, selfish, bored, and ambiguously dating. They are often pulled into Jerri's experiences, unwillingly most of the time, and unhelpful all of the time. The school is ruled over by Principal Onyx Blackman (Greg Hollimon), a pseudo-tyrannical leader who looks to Flatpoint to fuel his ego.
Each episode deals with a specific challenge for Jerri, who struggles with it and then clues the audience into the moral she has learned for that week. Sounds nice and wholesome, but trust me, Zack and Slater would go insane after a semester with Jerri.
The show's second season brings ten episodes and a new set of ten problems for Jerri to grapple with. Ten lessons to learn, or unlearn as the case may be.
This is easily one of my favorite shows of all time. It's so compulsively watchable, and rare are the episodes that find me stone-faced. The power trio of Dinello/Sedaris/Colbert brings home the bacon with incessant farce.
These three not only pushed the envelope in this series, they attached a Roman candle to the back of the envelope and blew that sucker to kingdom come. Racial slurs, sexual innuendo, and degradation of all—it's wickedly abundant.
Some of my favorite episodes are present in this Season Two offering. The first season was certainly okay, but the characters didn't really come into their own pathetic selves until now; and, for the most part, the writing is superior.
Here's a list and synopses of the ten episodes in the set:
"Yes You Can't!"
"Behind Blank Eyes"
"The Virgin Jerri"
"The Goodbye Guy"
"Hit and Run"
"The Blank Page"
"Love, Honor, and Pretend"
"The Blank Stare, Parts 1 and 2"
"A Price too High For Riches"
The audio/visual transfer is what you'd expect from a series, full-screen and stereo—functional. The video actually looks pretty sharp.
Special features include an interview from The Museum of Television and Radio, featuring Sedaris, Colbert, Dinello, Hollimon, and producer Kent Alterman. The dialogue proved to be informative and light-hearted, as the group relayed anecdotes about the creative process, their history together, and convincing Comedy Central to let them air all the edgy material they concocted.
What was a surprising letdown, however, were the commentary tracks. Four episodes feature commentary from Dinello, Colbert, and Sedaris, and I was expecting some pretty uproarious stuff. However, for the most part, what I got were three people watching shows they made and laughing at their own jokes.
Hey, that's fine, but I was expecting a little more subtlety in their observations, and some more back info on the show itself.
Eh, on the other hand, this is a show where a 46-year old washed up junkie whore describes her genitals as "a damp cellar" to a blind kid. I doubt that subtlety is what they were after.
Long yearned for by fans, Strangers With Candy can finally be owned. Probably the best season of the three, Season Two provides some of the more classic moments. If you're a fan of the series, you pre-ordered this set before it was released. For comedy unlike anything you've ever seen that will do your inner junior-high child proud, check it out.
School is in session. It's bizarre and unsettling and hilarious and the court loves it. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
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