The absurd man-child is a fixture on TV as witnessed on Family Guy, Children’s Hospital and Eastbound and Down. Grown men with the mental abilities of a five year old that have no sense of reality in a self-centered universe weren’t lead characters in ’60s sitcoms. Where did this wave of immaturity come from? Peter Griffin, Dr. Blake Downs and Kenny Powers are the illegitimate children of Chris Peterson (Chris Elliott) from Get A Life.
Get A Life was groundbreaking as an absurd sitcom. Chris lived above his parents’ garage while continuing his career as a newspaper delivery boy. He wasn’t the guy in the station wagon with hundreds of customers. He was a grown man on a bike tossing out a bagful of news for 35 episodes of uncut weirdness. He didn’t have any real goals except to enjoy whatever he stumbled over. Get A Life: The Complete Series is hyped as an “Un-Special Non-Anniversary Edition,” but it is more special than the short bus that drives Chris’ mind.
“Terror on the Hell Loop 2000” might be the greatest comedy pilot ever made. This is a demented Leave It to Beaver episode for adults. Chris talks his best friend Larry (Sam Robard) into taking the day off so they can head to the amusement park for the opening of the Hell Loop 2000 rollercoaster. Larry’s wife Sharon (Robin Riker) doesn’t like the plan. But how is she going to know? Word gets out when the buddies are stuck upside down on the Hell Loop for hours. Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy) plays the reporter that exposes Larry’s day off. Tracey Walter (Repo Man) has a bit part fixing the ride. “Prettiest Week of My Life” has Chris startle his parents by deciding on a career. He’s going to become a male model after attending the Handsome Boy Modeling School run by Brian Doyle-Murray (My Favorite Murray Brother). Dad (Chris’ real father Bob Elliott of Bob and Ray comedy duo fame) and Mom (Father Knows Best‘s Elinor Donahue) have little faith in Chris being the next Fabio. They are proven right when Chris leans the harsh truth of what pretty male models must endure during one shot. “Paperboy 2000” features a major ’70s icon taking Chris’ job. The Landmaster from Damnation Alley fires newspapers around the neighborhood. Chris does his best to defeat the mechanical monster that has smashed his dreams. “Driver’s License” gets Chris an actual date with a waitress. Trouble is that she won’t ride on his handlebars so he must get his driver’s license in a few hours. Things don’t go right when Chris gets hurried. The date does turn out to be exciting when the cops tag along.
“Bored Straight” has Chris rehabilitate a street gang with his methods learned from TV. “Zoo Animals on Wheels” spoofs Cats and Starlight Express. Chris Versus Donald brings us another superstar from Damnation Alley. Jackie Earl Haley guest stars as cousin Donald. He is the Peterson that the extended family adores. He owns a melon stand. Chris hates his cousin and wants to destroy the guy. But can he really mess with the “Greatest Troubled Teen Actor of All Time” at the Peterson family reunion? Haley is amazing in the role. Shame that producers shunned him for over a decade.
“Chris Wins a Celebrity” forces Martin Mull (Fernwood Tonight) to spend a weekend with the Petersons. He despises Chris and does his best to get out of the contract. The funniest moment is when Elinor Donahue plots Martin’s death. She’s America’s TV Princess from being the daughter on Father Knows Best,” the wife on Andy Griffith Show and the girlfriend on The Odd Couple turning into a charming Charles Manson. “The Big City” sends Chris to a metropolis that opens their heart when Chris has his wallet stolen. “Neptune 2000” bonds father and son when they build a submarine in the bathroom tub. Things go wrong when they can’t get out of the tub. Chris has a near death experience in “Psychic 2000.” When he’s revived, Chris can see in the future. He see bad things for his friends. The episode ends with Chris dying as the season cliffhanger. Was this the end for him?
Luckily Fox hadn’t axed the weirdness just yet. But the show was changed up at bit. Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) joined the writing staff to tweak up the insanity. “Chris Moves Out” makes him leave the room over his parents’ garage so he can become a responsible adult. Although it’s not much of a shocking move. Chris hauls his stuff into the garage of Gus, an ex-cop played by Brian Doyle-Murray. This change up allows Gus to be a Mr. Wilson to Chris’ Dennis the Menace. More changes come on “Larry on the Loose” when Chris’ best friend splits the scene. Luckily his cynical wife Sharon sticks around. Chris finally falls in love for “Girlfriend 2000.” He ends up stalking Emma Samms (Dynasty). Things get goofy when Chris is stalked by Amy Yasbeck. “SPEWEY And Me” reworks E.T. except this alien can’t control its bodily fluids. Christ doesn’t care about the mess. Gus wants to sell the critter to Michael Jackson. “1977-2000” sends Chris back in time to stop Gus from ruining his career in the police. Each time Chris changes the past, the future gets freakier. “Clip Show” features Chris dropping from the sky towards the Earth. Only the last year and a half of his life flashes before his eyes. Is this the end of Chris? Unfortunately it was.
The 35 episodes of Get A Life: The Complete Series rival the 39 episodes of The Honeymooners. There’s no need to mourn why the show couldn’t last as long as According to Jim. This show delivers more than enough weirdness to feel like it ran 8 seasons. Fans will be excited to know that the original music is intact. R.E.M.’s “Stand” remains the opening theme song as Chris delivers newspapers to the neighborhood. Get A Life blazed the trail for doughy man-child comedies which rarely achieve the comic genius levels expressed through Chris Elliott over two decades ago.
The video is 1.33:1. The show was shot on film, but edited on video so it’s a bit fuzzy on the transfer. This is fine since Chris Elliott looks better when fuzzy on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. Things don’t sound too annoying. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Commentary tracks are provided by David Mirkin and others. Most of them are a Selected Scene Commentary which lets them talk about the episode without having to chatter for 22 minutes. Best is on “Roots” when Dr. Wendy Walsh analyzes Chris for his mental issues.
Play Without Laugh Track is offered for several episodes. This is unique in that it lets you hear the production crew laugh on the set.
Production Stills/ Script Pages / Shot Lists for “Terror On The Hell Loop 2000 explain how much work goes into an amusement park glitch.
Landmaster Rental Docs! breaks down how much it cost to rent the star of Damnation Alley.
Storyboards & Car Chase Shot Map give the logistics for “Drivers License.”
Production Stills and Submarine Ad gives away the secrets of “Neptune 2000.”
Productions stills are a few shots from “Psychic 2000” and the office layout for the production crew exposed.
Script Cover from “SPEWEY And Me” isn’t that disturbing.
Extended Scene from “Girlfriend 2000” (6:12) is more of the stalker montage played to Animotion’s “Obsession.”
Looking for Noise (28:47) features Judd Apatow and James L. Brooks praising the show. Peter Chernin, the head of Fox at the time, discusses how the series was picked up.
Death of Life (25:49) focuses on why the show was dropped in the middle of the second season. The passion of those who liked Get A Life was matched by those who hated it.
Paleyfest 2000 (31:03) is a panel that includes David Mirkin, Steve Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), the sort of mysterious Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation), Elinor Donahue and Brian Doyle-Murray.
Horrible Secrets of the Writing Room (54:22) lets David Mirkin discuss the show with writers Jace Richdale and Steve Pepoon. They all enjoyed the weirdness they could put on the screen.
Shooting Schedule covers the week they made the final three episodes. This was a rush week.
This Does Nothing – Do Not Select might be tempting to click. Do it.
Get A Life: The Complete Series made being a man-child cool. Chris Elliott predicted a generation of lumpy guys living in their parents house without real jobs. The comedy is still fresh after 20 years. The bonus features reminds us how Get A Life pushed boundaries even with a slacker star. This boxset cements the legacy of Chris Elliot.
Shout! Factory presents Get A Life: The Complete Series. Starring: Chris Elliott, Bob Elliot, Elinor Donahue and Brian Doyle-Murray. Boxset Contents: 35 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: September 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Charlie Kaufman, Father Knows Best, The Odd Couple