Judge Adam Arseneau got vaccinated against compassion as a kid, along with self-esteem and pride. He also got a booster shot for the ability to not stare at a dwarf. Those little guys will beat the hell out an eight-year-old.
"You come into this world defenseless. That's why God gave us baseball bats. Well, he gave us trees. But we knew what he meant."—Christopher Titus
The final season of Fox's dysfunctional comedy, Titus: Season Three, has been released to DVD, and with it ends one of the best ensemble sitcoms in recent memory. It is a sublime, disturbingly wonderful thing to see a show up the controversy and stay true to its comedic roots and dark subject matter to the point of its own destruction. It may have been cancelled, but thankfully, Titus goes out the same way it came in…with incredible, side-splitting amounts of laughter.
Facts of the Case
What, you've never seen Titus before? Well, then go start with our review of Titus: Seasons One and Two.
• Christopher Titus (Christopher Titus, Norman Rockwell Is
• Erin Fitzpatrick (Cynthia Watros, The Drew Carey Show,
• Dave Titus (Zack Ward, a.k.a. the red-haired bully from A Christmas Story)
• Tommy Shafter (David Shatraw, Girlfriends, The West
• Ken "Papa" Titus (Stacy Keach, Mickey Spillane's
Mike Hammer, The Ninth
All 21 episodes from the third and final season of Titus are included, preserved in their original broadcast order:
• "Racing in the Streets"
• "Amy's Birthday"
• "Tommy's Not Gay"
• "Shannon's Song"
• "Grad School"
• "The Trial"
• "Grandma Titus"
• "Tommy's Crush"
• "Into Thin Air"
• "Too Damn Good"
• "Bachelor Party"
• "Hot Streak"
• "The Session"
• "Same Courtesy"
• "After Mrs. Shafter"
• "The Visit"
• "Insanity Genetic, Part 1"
• "Insanity Genetic, Part 2"
• "The Protector"
So ends one of the better television shows in recent memory, cancelled by a network who never quite realized exactly how funny a show they had on their hands. This was never more apparent than in Titus: Season Three when the subject matter took even darker and confusing turns. Not that the previous seasons of infidelity, alcoholism, emotional abuse, and dysfunctional behavior were free from their share of controversy, mind you; only that the final season upped the ante by including schizophrenia, suicide, gay bashing, terrorist hijackings, child abuse, and senility as comedic backdrops, somehow making them both believable and hilarious at the same time. A few of these episodes were so controversial, in fact, that Fox didn't want to broadcast them, including an ill-timed two-part episode where Titus gets arrested by the FBI under suspicion of hijacking an airplane (due to air shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City) and an episode involving Titus beating up a high school student with a baseball bat. Hilarity!
No, seriously…hilarity. To anyone who has not seen the show, the idea of a comedy poking fun of such serious issues seems deplorable and worthy of a Fox sitcom (but not in a flattering way). But Titus is the kind of television where it only takes a few episodes to get a strong attachment to the characters and the twisted dysfunctional sense of humor, at which point you become an instant fan. Unfortunately, the network never quite "got it" the same way audiences did. Despite consistently solid ratings and increasing viewers, the series was cancelled unceremoniously.
Season Three had its share of problems, the most noticeable of which is the ass-backward sequence in which they aired on television, which probably had to do with Fox going fetal at the idea of releasing two episodes in particular to broadcast—"Insanity Genetic" and "The Protector." The dark subject matter of the latter episode in particular—Titus showing up at a high school with a baseball bat looking to beat up a kid—reportedly gave Fox executives multiple heart attacks in rapid succession and was yanked from the schedule, sending the continuity of the series into chaos. The episode was so controversial in their eyes that Fox vehemently refused to release it, finally allowing it to air as the very last episode of Titus broadcast, long after the show had been cancelled. As a result, the order of the episodes is out of whack from the production order, mucking up some jokes, making oblique references to episodes viewers would not have seen yet, and partially ruining the climax of the series. Most damaging of all, having "The Protector" episode air as the last episode absolutely demolishes the back story behind Amy, Erin's niece. Now, as to why the DVD chose to go with the television airing order and not the production order, I have no idea.
But even with a mangled episode order, Titus: Season Three is still hilarious beyond all reproach. The dark turn of events only heightens the show's natural tendency to make funny that which is inherently unfunny, like heart attacks, molestation, gay bashing, and terrorism…ha! And you have to admire the balls of a show to keep throwing out episode after episode, blatantly ignoring the increasingly alarmed notes being penned by network executives urging them to stop. Still, there is some unevenness to be found here. What makes the third season a bit sub-average compared to the second, for example, is the hit-or-miss nature of some of these episodes. The funny ones are screamingly riotous, but the weaker episodes of the show up in the third season, like "After Mrs. Shafter" and "Grad School."
From a technical standpoint, the presentation is virtually identical to latter episodes in Titus: Seasons One and Two, with solid black levels, a well-balanced color tone, and no noticeable defects. The audio, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo presentation does the job well enough, with decent bass response and dialogue clarity. Still no surround sound presentation, but oh, well. The material gets by without it.
An improvement on the extras offered from the previous volume, Titus: Season Three contains forty minutes of decent interviews with cast members Zack Ward, Cynthia Watros, and Stacy Keach, as well as audio commentary by Christopher Titus and co-creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny on four episodes—"Tommy's Not Gay," "Grandma Titus," and both "Insanity Genetic" episodes. A little better than the last season's offering, for sure, especially the 30 minutes of blooper reels. You really get to see how amazingly funny the cast and crew are in front of a live audience, which you may not even realize the show is filmed in front of.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The addition of Erin's abused niece, Amy (Rachel Roth, Veronica Mars, Opposite Sex) living in the Titus household is, at best, a mixed bag. Like the rest of the cast, she is based on a real-life niece whom Titus and his wife adopted into their lives, and her abuse is based solely in reality; in that sense, she has every right to be on the show. The problem is she doesn't fit in as well as the rest of the cast.
When she is funny, she is absolutely hilarious and the perfect un-punchable nemesis to Titus's short temper, but I am not convinced that she adds enough to the dynamic of the show to warrant her constant presence. She makes fun of Titus for being stupid, and makes fun of Tommy for being gay…ooh, a teenage Papa Titus. For a show that disliked being a "sitcom," adding a teenager into the mix out of nowhere seems an oddly Cosby-esque maneuver.
But truth is stranger than fiction, after all. What can you do? Perhaps, as mentioned earlier, if her back story had been revealed as planned in the proper episode order, I would have more of an attachment to the character. Unfortunately, this episode is the last of the season, which has to be the worst possible place to reveal such information. Oh, well.
You have to give a show props for sticking to its guns to the very end and refusing to compromise its hilarious vision of dysfunctionality, even if it means the ultimate penalty of cancellation. A few awkward episodes prevent Season Three from reaching the brilliance of Season Two, but Titus: Season Three is still ten times the comedy of any show currently on television…more than earning its rightful place on your DVD shelf.
An absolute must-buy. Not guilty.
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• Audio Commentary with Creator/Star Christopher Titus and Creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny
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