Judge David Johnson can't kick his Supercool habit.
Our reviews of Upright Citizens Brigade: The Complete First Season (published December 11th, 2003) and The Upright Citizens Brigade: Asssscat! (published April 23rd, 2008) are also available.
After nearly a four-year stretch since the first season's release, Comedy Central finally dispatches Upright Citizens Brigade: The Complete Second Season, the sophomore effort by the surreal sketch comedy team that melded blunt social commentary with horny nuns.
Facts of the Case
The Upright Citizens Brigade has been around since the dawn of civilization. Their goal: to undermine it. Led by chaos agents Antoine (Ian Roberts), Adair (Matt Besser), Colby (Amy Poehler, Blade of Glory) and Trotter (Matt Walsh), the UCB engages in status quo-destabilizing shenanigans, the result of which is a season of weird, uneven sketch comedy.
I was a fan of the first season of UCB when it came out, having missed the series when it originally aired on Comedy Central in 1998. Finally, we get the follow-up season after a long, long wait and, well, I still consider myself a fan, but the criticism I lobbed at the series way back when are still applicable today.
Specifically, UCB has a hit-and-miss nature. Of course, when you're dealing with sketch comedy, that's built into the discipline; not all bits are going to work. If you nail a plurality, then I think the sketch artists can be branded successful. That was the case with Season One. There were hits and misses, but the former outweighed the latter, and the bottom line was a positive experience fraught with much laughter.
The same still exists with Season Two, but the ratio is a lot tighter. Many of the sketches struggled and the more surreal setups collapse under the pressure of their weirdness. The throwing star school massacre, for example, was neither funny nor tasteful. And the "Spaghetti Jesus" episode, where the UCB lampoons major organized religions (and by "major organized religions," I of course mean "Christianity") came across as being offensive and edgy just to be edgy and offensive, with very little laughter emanating from the gags. Hey, I'm all about tackling taboos, but at least make them funny.
Since I'm on the negative groove, here are a couple of other things that bugged me about the series. I don't think I like the inner sanctum transition bits, where the four actors don their UCB agent rigs and traipse around a really cheap-looking set. The low-budget quality distracts from the comedy, and occasionally you'll get some cringe-worthy gimmicks like a guest appearance by the Wu Tang Clan, who pop through the wall out of a giant drill. Secondly, the numerous self-referential gags became annoying. That sounds hypocritical if you know how much I adore Arrested Development and its slew of inside jokes, but the difference between the two shows' approaches was more intangible than anything. In UCB they just felt a little too self-aggrandizing.
So yeah, the UCB fails on a few aspects, but the season isn't a loss—not by a long shot. As I said, the funny trumps the unfunny enough to tilt the scales in UCB's favor. As the episodes picked up momentum heading into the second batch, the sketches rose in quality, and Season 2 became home to some of my favorite UCB moments: "the whore and the coffee house manager," "throwing star porn" (yeah, it's a recurring gag, but this one made me laugh, okay?), "the baby head hand," "the homicidal weather control robot," and the "kidnapping faker." They're not quite up to the level of "ass-penny" brilliance, but, really, what can be?
Episodes are transferred in their native full-frame format with little fanfare; picture quality is adequate at its best. The 2.0 stereo audio mix makes sound come out of my front speakers so I can understand what the moving pictures are saying and that's about it. The bonus features are nice, though: each episode features lively commentary by the cast members, and two episodes contain commentary delivered live at the UCB theaters. The rest: footage from early live performances, a 25-minute long Q&A with the cast, and a handful of deleted scenes that would be a lot funnier if the video quality wasn't atrocious.
The second season of Comedy Central's bizarre sketch comedy series isn't as funny as the first, but it's still worth a look if whacked-out humor is your bag, dude.
The accused is not destabilized…yet.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
• Cast Commentary
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