Sadly, this is the worst week of Judge Clark Douglas' life. Someone forgot to put mustard on his sandwich.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse…
"Hey, don't worry about it. I've got this under control."
Facts of the Case
Sam (Kyle Bornheimer, Jericho) and Melanie (Erinn Hayes, Kitchen Confidential) are a happily engaged couple with a baby on the way. Unfortunately, Sam's about to meet Melanie's parents, Dick (Kurtwood Smith, That '70s Show) and Angela (Nancy Lenehan, Married to the Kellys). Sam wants nothing more than to make a good impression, but Murphy's Law is in full effect whenever he's around his future in-laws. Will Sam be able to survive the seemingly never-ending gauntlet of unfortunate events that are about to befall him?
All 16 episodes of the series are spread across two discs.
It's no surprise that Worst Week didn't last more than a season. Not because it wasn't a well-written, entertaining sitcom, but rather because it just felt out of place on the somewhat less-than-ambitious CBS lineup. Based on the British television series The Worst Week of My Life, Worst Week began as a failed pilot at Fox before finally finding a home on CBS in 2008. It stood out like a sore thumb amidst the network's more conventional programming, eschewing the laugh tracks and multi-camera structure of so many other CBS sitcoms. This is the sort of program that would have felt right at home amongst the likes of NBC's The Office, My Name Is Earl, and 30 Rock, but it just wasn't able to find a large audience on the network offering Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
At least we now have the consolation of the entire series being made available on DVD, where Worst Week gets the opportunity to shine. How so? This is a series that actually benefits from being viewed in a couple of big chunks. Though each episode offers a fairly self-contained tale of comic misery, one gets a better sense of just how well-crafted this show is as a long, serialized story. Each episode bleeds smoothly into the next, creating a lengthy tale of mishaps that gets funnier as it progresses. Though this sort of thing is done a bit more brilliantly in Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Worst Week is an impressive sitcom that manages to accomplish quite a lot in just 16 21-minute episodes.
At the same time, one of the things I actually like best about Worst Week is one of the very things that prevents it from becoming as madly entertaining as Curb Your Enthusiasm: its good-hearted sweetness. Sure, the show is supposedly about the miserable experiences of a man about to get married, but it never quite manages to slip into mean-spirited sadism. Does this occasionally prevent it from reaching potential heights of comedy? Sure, but it's also easy to care about these characters. We actually want Sam and Melanie's wedding to go well. The few steps of progress that Sam actually manages to make with his in-laws are kind of touching because they're permitted to be sincere.
My favorite performance comes from Nancy Lenehan as Angela. Her sense of comic timing is just impeccable, and her reactions to the varied situations serve as a consistent source of amusement. Kurtwood Smith's stern deadpan delivery is also quite effective, and Smith also deserves credit for creating one of the more distinct characters on the program (more on that in a moment). Great guest turns are in abundance, from Aziz Ansari's appearance as a nervous funeral home employee to Philip Baker Hall's turn as a judgmental priest to Fred Willard's goofy role as Sam's father.
The transfer is absolutely excellent, offering a vibrant and detailed image that I have absolutely no complaints with. Though the show isn't anything spectacular visually, it looks about as good as it could possibly look in the standard-def format. Audio is also crisp and clean, with the Django Reinhardt-esque score blending smoothly with the sound design and dialogue. The only supplement is a single audio commentary with star Kyle Bornheimer and producer Matt Tarses.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The writing is a bit of a problem when it comes to Sam and Melanie. They just aren't particularly consistent as characters. Their dialogue and personality types seem to vary from episode to episode, depending on what the writers need. Sometimes they're dense, sometimes they're witty, sometimes they're chatty…it's all over the place. The actors do what they can to make these adjustments fit within a believable character, but occasionally it doesn't work. Likewise, some of the gags also seem to strain one's suspension of disbelief. It's disappointing when a well-oiled comedy machine gets too desperate and preposterous for the sake of maintaining a joke.
Worst Week is good stuff. I wish we were getting more, but this is a satisfying little set that will keep you laughing. Check it out.
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