The SmarK DVD Rant – Parental Guidance Suggested

Californication – The Third Season

“Destroy me, Rick Springfield!”

Man, this show just keeps getting better and better, and has steadily climbed from “show that I reluctantly reviewed” to “show that we are anxiously awaiting the next season”. That’s pretty impressive for what would have seemed to be a one-season wonder. To recap: Hank Moody (David Duchovny, playing basically himself) is a cranky writer who bangs everything that moves while constantly trying to reconcile his feelings for his ex-wife and mopey daughter. The other relationships on the show, specifically that between Hank and budding young writer Mia, are a tad more complex and might require watching earlier seasons to really get what’s going on, but that’s OK, because you should watch them anyway. The third season centers on Hank’s attempts to work as a respectable university professor, while juggling three different affairs. You know when you’re teaching a talented student and you go to a strip club and find her working there? Yeah, that’s Hank Moody’s life. Really though, it wasn’t even the Hank-centric stuff that drove the show this season, it’s the journey of sleazy literary agent Charlie Runkle, disgraced and left with Hank as his only client at the end of the second season. It’s like Jerry Maguire, except with a montage of office orgasms. Charlie’s new agency (under incredibly inappropriate boss Kathleen Turner) and his divorce from cranky wife Marcie sets up the greatest stunt-cast in the history of television: Rick Springfield as Rick Springfield. Playing himself on the comeback trail, Springfield manages to be just as perverted and filthy as anyone else on the show, which is quite a feat. Further, the show makes the comedic choice of having everyone on the show always address him as “Rick Springfield”, in full, whenever they speak to him, a small but brilliant touch that makes the show’s self-parody aspect all the crazier. Plus, and I cannot stress this enough, Susan Sarandon’s daughter gets very naked and basically steals the entire show. That in itself should be enough to put you over the top and make you watch this season. And the head of the university is named Dean Koons! What more do you need, people?

The DVD is also good, with the first two episodes of The Tudors fourth season as bonus features, which I think is a really cool cross-promotional tactic, and I wish more studios would let people sample their wares that way.

Filthy and hilarious, Californication is a show that has matured into something really great. Strongly recommended.

Ugly Americans – Volume One

This is a show where I knew nothing about it, outside of seeing the occasional commercial for it on the Comedy Network (Canada’s low-rent version of Comedy Central), and found it in my ever-growing pile of “stuff the studios send me for reasons I never quite understand”. But as it turned out, it was really good! It’s more of a premise than a fully-formed show, an animated series that can best be summed up as “The Life and Times of Tim meets Men In Black”. If you’re into those kinds of trite studio soundbites. By the way, not many people watched it, but I’d also recommend going out on a limb and trying the first season of The Life and Times of Tim if you’re a fan of the incredibly uncomfortable humor that defines Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s really brilliant stuff. But I digress.

Ugly Americans follows the adventures of Mark Lilly, a wishy-washy social worker in New York who has to deal with office politics and an annoying roommate. Oh, and of course the world is populated by monsters. Mark’s roommate “went zombie” to impress a girl, and now spends the days obsessing about eating Mark’s brain. Mark’s girlfriend is a demon spawn, literally. His boss is literally the devil. I’m sure you get the point, although is just as heavy-handed and obvious about much of the humor and setups. Really though, a show where King Kong is portrayed as an OCD clean freak is not really aiming for subtlety in the storytelling anyway. The show also suffers from the same problem as Simpsons and Family Guy do, where the writers aren’t able to maintain a premise for the full 22 minutes and often wander from the original idea after the first act. The show’s not really plot-driven anyway, so that’s a minor complaint, but it does make it harder to find standout episodes when some of the best bits seem to have so little to do with the main theme of the particular episode. But when it works, it works great, like Mark having to broker an understanding between a werewolf and his victim (“Who’s going to tell my daughter why daddy is missing an arm?”) or having the most awkward “meet the parents” dinner from hell. Literally. In keeping with the theme of this review, this show is also extremely, sometimes needlessly, vulgar and crude, but hopefully like South Park it’ll get past that phase and find a great show underneath. Mildly recommended.

And speaking of South Park…

I was very, very pumped to get this one, because Butters is my favorite character on the show and this is an awesome set. In the tradition of the “Cult of Cartman” DVD collection, this two-disc set assembles all the highlights of the lovably befuddled Leopold “Butters” Stotch. All the greatest hits are here, like “Butters Very Own Episode”, “You Just Got F’d In the A”, “The Simpsons Did It First”, “Butters’ Bottom Bitch”, “AWESOME-O”, and “Marjorine”. Really, the only one missing is the Lord of the Rings episode. But let’s say you’ve already got the season DVDs and you’re wondering why you should drop your hard-earned money on this set. I’ve got two convincing answers for you:

  1. Matt and Trey have helpfully remastered the original episodes into widescreen 16×9 format, resulting in an awesome-looking collection of episodes that make them worth watching again.

  2. The DVD is housed in the most tremendously goofy packaging ever, featuring the manuscript of “The Poop Who Took a Pee”, a “Butters’ Bitch” gold chain, an “Inspector Butters” badge, all housed in a cardboard box that mimics a pencil box from elementary school.

Unfortunately the quality kind of dips off near the end of the set (“The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs” doesn’t really feel like it warrants inclusion, aside from providing a reason for the manuscript in the box), but c’mon! Eric Cartman trapping himself in a cardboard robot costume for two weeks just to make a statement? The boys trafficking in sperm in order to create a perfect society of Sea Monkeys? There are some stone cold classics on this set. Plus everyone will think you’re cool if you wear your “What Would Butters Do?” wristband to the bar. EVERYONE.

Highest recommendation!

The winner this time: It’s all good, but Butters for the win.

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