Inside Pulse DVD Review – Titus: Seasons 1 & 2

(Credit: DVDSoon)


Brian Hargrove
Jack Kenny
Christopher Titus


Christopher Titus………. Christopher Titus
Cynthia Watros……….Erin Fitzpatrick
Zack Ward……….Dave Titus
David Shatraw……….Tommy Shafter
Stacy Keach………Ken Titus

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment and 20th Century Fox present Titus: Seasons 1 & 2. Original airdate: 2000. Based upon the stage show “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding” by Christopher Titus. Total running time: 760 minutes. Not rated.

The show:

Life was never easy for Christopher Titus. He came from a troublesome background that many of us would find downright disturbing. So when the Los Angeles Times published a report that said 63% of American families are considered dysfunctional, he knew his was in the majority. Knowing this, Christopher, along with Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny, took his life story and adapted it to the small screen. The result is a show that was deemed too risqué for the FOX network. And after three seasons on the air, it was cancelled. Well, the executives at FOX must have known something the viewing public did not. Yeah, this is the same network that cancelled such shows as Keen Eddie, Firefly, Dark Angel, and Family Guy. Thank goodness one of those shows was resuscitated and made it back to the airways.

But I digress. Prior to his foray into television, Christopher Titus, had a stage show entitled “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding.” It was this comedy routine that served as a basis for a TV show that lasted a total of 54 episodes. Titus set out to share his pain with the world. What better way than with a season-long, 30-minute comedy? When people leave the doldrums of 9 to 5 life, they can come home, turn on Titus, and realize “Hey, life isn’t so bad after all.” Christopher constantly ridicules himself; his mother’s mental illness; and his father’s persistent drinking, numerous wives, and tough-love parenting skills. Not to mention his relationship with girlfriend Erin and stepbrother Dave.

Christopher Titus is a man who is free from his Dad’s wrath. That’s because he lives on his own and has a beautiful girlfriend named Erin. As he works to open up his own car-detailing garage, girlfriend Erin works in an office space where she unexpectedly receives sexy lingerie from a co-worker. (Note: this plotline is reserved for Episode 2, “Sex with Pudding.”) Brother Dave, on the other hand still lives with Papa Titus. God help him. Then there’s Tommy, Titus’s sex deprived friend, who is constantly harassed about his sexual preference. All because he had one sex dream about Christopher, or so he says.

A sitcom about a dysfunctional family doesn’t seem like a program that screams “Must See TV,” but somehow it holds up very well. The laugh track is insufferable, but during the commentary track for the first episode, “Dad’s Dead”, Christopher Titus admits that each show – save for the inspired black-and-white “confessional” scenes with Titus, and the flashbacks – was shot like a stage play. So as you are watching the episodes look at how most scenes stay in one location, like the living room, Titus’s High Performance car garage, etc…

That said, some of the situations could be brutal to watch sometimes. Heart attacks, schizophrenia, dysfunction (of course), and murder are but a few of the subjects used for laughs on the show. And Titus does not pull any punches when it comes to bringing up the past.

Whereas his comedy act was a one-man show, Christopher Titus has surrounded himself with lesser known, but talented faces. Well, except for Stacy Keach. He has the most recognizable face of any of the cast members. As the callous patriarch Ken Titus, Keach is so in control. The little nuances he makes with his face, especially his eye stare, are perfect. It’s no wonder Morgan Freeman speaks so highly of him (as he did on the Million Dollar Baby DVD). The backbiting between father and son is one of the best reasons to watch each episode.

Co-starring as Titus’s brother Dave is Zack Ward, an actor who appeared in the quintessential Christmas classic A Christmas Story. He played the bully Scut Farkus. Dave is a dufus; you won’t believe some of the things this pot smoker blurts out at inopportune times. Cynthia Watros, fresh from The Drew Carey Show, is Titus’s girlfriend Erin. She’s the sassy, wide-eyed blonde babe who can put up with most of the Titus family shenanigans.

For this release, the first and second seasons – nine episodes and 24 episodes, respectively – of Titus are spread across six single-sided discs housed in a slipcase with three slimline cases. Similar packaging as the Newsradio and Family Guy sets.

Without providing a synopsis for each episode, I will highlight some of the best. Beware of spoilers!

Disc One:

Dad’s Dead
Dave and Titus panic when they realize their father must be dead, because he hasn’t left his bedroom in four days. Not even to get a beer. Gathering their loved ones around – namely, Erin and Tommy – Dave and Titus reflect on their dad’s life and his parental beliefs.

– Audio commentary by Titus, Hargrove and Kenny

The Breakup
Crazy relationships. Titus and Erin breakup, have one night stands, and then try to explain themselves. Titus enlists brother Dave and Tommy to help him with his theory on who Erin had sex with.

– Audio commentary by Titus, Hargrove and Kenny

Disc Two:

In an episode that made FOX executives scratch their heads, Titus is concerned that his dad is no longer drinking. So he and the rest of the gang stage an intervention to get him to start drinking again.

Disc Three:

Locking Up Mom
Titus visits mother Juanita in the “Wacko Factory” and learns that she wrote him letters about her illness when she was first institutionalized. Now he is torn between the loyalty he has for his father and the change of heart he has for mommy dearest.

Disc Four:

The Last Noelle
Nothing says Happy Holidays like attending the funeral of an ex-lover. Titus’s ex-girlfriend Noelle – how appropriate, since it is Christmas – has killed herself by driving her car into a Baskin-Robbins. While at the funeral, Erin shows up and an argument ensues between the two.

– Audio commentary by Titus, Hargrove and Kenny

Disc Five:

Life Forward
David Hyde Pierce guest stars in this episode as Jerry, a self-help guru who tries to “change” Titus and help him be a better man. All hell breaks loose when Papa Titus shows up and administers his own dose of self-help.

Private Dave
When Dave receives what he believes to be a “Dear John” breakup letter from his girlfriend, he goes to the bus station to commit suicide. But when he gets there he sees a U.S. Army recruitment office and enlists. But Dave has seconds thoughts about his decision when he finds out it wasn’t a breakup letter after all.

Score: 7.5/10


VIDEO: How does it look?

Besides the first episode, which has persistent grain problems, the other episodes look very good. While taping, they started shooting in high-definition so there isn’t any depth of field issues. The creators elaborate more on this in the commentary track for “The Last Noelle.” Strangely, the episodes appear in their full frame television format even though they began filming in widescreen. I’m guessing the creators had final say on the intended television format.

Score: 7.5/10

AUDIO: How does it sound?

The dark humor of Titus is available with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The format isn’t bad considering the show is filled to the brim with dialogue, weird flashbacks, and black-and-white confessional scenes.

Score: 7/10

SPECIAL FEATURES: Three commentaries, an interview with Christopher Titus, and rehearsal footage.

In my review of the show I included the episodes where the commentaries can be heard. Listening to the creators’ comments you learn all sorts of useless TV trivia. Fire is a running them for the show. Supposedly, there were three different Juanita’s on the show: Christine Estabrook, Francis Fisher and Connie Stevens. FOX didn’t air the Pilot episode initially. The first episode aired was “Sex with Pudding.” The creators also talk about the cast auditions. When Stacy Keach walked into auditions, Titus leaned over to his collaborators and told them, “This guy scares the crap out of me.” He’s perfect.

On Disc 6 you can find Head Laughs, a 29-minute program where Christopher Titus talks about his family, the stage act and the television show. Titus describes his life as a domestic disturbance. He grew up in Newark, California and admits that everything that happened in the show, happened in life. Dad got married six times and had numerous girlfriends. Mom is bipolar with an IQ of 185, and she could speak four languages and perform as a concert pianist.

Titus still remains the highest rated comedy debut on the FOX network since The Simpsons. And it was beating two other FOX comedies when the show was cancelled in season 3.

These two extras make up the bulk of the supplemental material. But you can see rehearsal footage taken from the “Titus Integritous” episode. There’s also a TV promo from the show’s series premiere and for Doogie Howser, M.D. and Profit on DVD.

For a company that specializes in horror and cult films, I found these extras to be lacking. Perhaps with the DVD sales, Anchor Bay will include more features on Titus: Season 3.

Score: 5/10

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