What went wrong? How could a show so loaded with talent that would dominate the comic landscape for more than a decade not even last 8 episodes? Thats what youll ponder when watching The Dana Carvey Show. On the screen youre watching Dana Carvey working with future superstars Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. In the writing room they had Louis C.K. (Pootie Tang), Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), Dino Stamatopoulos (Morel Orel) and Robert Smigel (TV Funhouse). What could have happened to make this show last as long as Chevy Chases talkshow?
Why couldnt Not Ready for Prime Time attitude cross over into the prime time during the spring of 1996? Bodily fluids might be a clue. The show aired between Home Improvement and NYPD Blue which didnt exactly give them an audience ready for irreverent humor. Think anyone who loves Tool Time going to be receptive to seeing President Clinton exposing his working nipples? The sight of puppies licking milk squirting from a mans chest even disturbed people who saw Dennis Franzs rump. Was America wrong in turning off The Dana Carvey Show?
The show brought the better moments of the 1990s Saturday Night Live humor to 9:30 p.m. Although for folks who only thought of Dana from Waynes World, he wasnt just doing Garth. The show went from the smart to the goofy and finally the completely disturbed. “Grandma the Clown” falls into the last category. Its an elderly clown with a walker who creeps out the kiddies with her geriatric abilities. A great stupid sketch has Carell and Colbert as two waiters who get nauseous while describing the menu. You can tell from the small moment that this duo were bound for greatness. Carell proves that manscaping wasnt a 40 Year Old Virgin exclusive. Hes dressed as Fabio and shaving his chest. You cant help, but laugh. Colbert prepares for The Daily Show by doing numerous news reporters and anchors roles.
A large chunk of the humor is torn from the headlines of 1996. You might want to bone up about the presidential election if you dont remember Bob Dole, H. Ross Perot and the JFK auction. Theres a large number of spoofs about The Beatles Anthology series with really goofy outtakes. This allows Dana to keep doing his impersonation of Paul McCartney. One of the topical jokes that has proven to be completely tasteless by future events has Prince Charles announce hes restoring the royaltys right to chop off the heads of ex-spouses. He wants to hack off Princess Dianas noggin. He gives us his reason in a Beatles-esque song.
The big continuing character sketch for the series is Stupid Pranksters. Carvey and Carell are two guys dumber than Wayne and Garth. They keep screwing up how to pull the drive away prank. Its rather foolish and nearly pointless, but Carell sells the hysteria in his reactions. The shows biggest impact is felt with another set of guys: The Ambiguously Gay Duo. Theyd go on to revolutionize Saturday Night Live with the TV Funhouse segments. Theyd be this shows Simpsons. Selma Blair has dont blink extra experience as a contestant on “Singled Out” with the Unabomber as the guy looking for a date.
The Dana Carvey Show had corporate sponsorship with various Pepsi products tacked onto the title of each episode. Dana enjoyed having fun with an opening musical number paying mocking tribute to his sponsors. Rumor has it that the corporate suits were rather shocked. Thus for the sixth episode we get Szechuan Dynastys name on the title. Theyre a nearby Chinese restaurant. Hard to think they paid Pepsi money for all the plugs.
The big plus of this boxset is the unaired episode. Ive never seen The Dana Carvey Show rerun on Comedy Central, Bravo or even Trios Brilliant But Canceled. This might be the first time its been exposed. How could ABC have refused to air an episode that featured Abe Vigoda? What were these executives thinking? How could they have held back the season finale that had the punchline for the Stupid Pranksters? Perhaps they were disturbed by Dana doing Tom Brokaw pre-taping Gerald Fords obituary with various ways the former president might die?
This show was too outrageous for its time slot. Why couldnt ABC have moved it to a more proper hour? After 13 years The Dana Carvey Show finally gets a proper tribute. If you can get past the puppies and Clinton moment, youll be lapping up the funny.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers show off the weakness of a series shot on pre-high definition video. The audio is stereo. The levels are good. Youll hear those puppies as they lap up milk from President Clintons nipples.
Deleted Scenes Reel (12:18) gives us more Leftover Beatles memories, Carl Sagan looking for his remote control, Colbert taking a bath and more technofuture visions.
Interview with Dana Carvey and Robert Smigel (21:18) starts off with the news that Dana had turned down taking over Lettermans Late Night slot with Conan originally selected to produce it. The tale of Colbert and Carells discovery is astounding. The lighting in the interview room makes Dana look like hes got lizard skin.
The Dana Carvey Show is perfect for fans of Colbert and Carell who want to tap into their early days. Their talent is undeniable. The show is still a bit beyond the folks who love Home Improvement. For folks who like their comedy on the irreverent side with a touch of historical nostalgia for 96, The Dana Carvey Show is the vault treasure of 2009.
Shout! Factory DVD presents The Dana Carvey Show. Starring: Dana Carvey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. Boxset Contents: 8 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: May 12, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Bill Clinton, Dana Carvey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell