DVD Review: MADtv (The Complete Third Season)

The big moment that determines if a sketch comedy series is going to last is when their hot stars depart. When Chevy Chase split early on Saturday Night Live, not many people were heartbroken since Bill Murray easily filled his locker. Monty Python’s Flying Circus only lasted one short season when John Cleese stepped away. MADtv faced a major cast turnover at the end of season two when Orlando Jones split and Artie Lange was fired. Who would fill their wigs? Somebody in the casting department earned their money by landing Will Sasso, Alex Borstein and Aries Spears. The new trio would quickly dominate the show with their various characters. The show itself changed in appearance. The guest stars were mostly reduced to being a celebrity in Cabana Chat with Dixie Wetsworth (Mary Scheer). The show wasn’t trying to be Saturday Night Live Jr.. MADtv: The Complete Third Season captures a show that went up a level with the arrival fresh talent.

The season starts off with a good controversial sketch that gives Martin Luther King (Aries Spears) a shot on the Def Comedy Jam. The show predicts the lingerie bowl with their concept of the NB-TNA. This female basketball league wouldn’t be confused with the WNBA. When Salt N Pepa arrives on Cabana Chat, the audience gets to meet new sidekick James Brown (Spears). Corky and the Juice Pigs appear several times with their comical songs. After being around for a decade, the Canadian group bust up after their time on MADtv. I’m blaming the ghost of Artie Lange’s demons on their demise. Willed Sasso wasn’t haunted by being the new hefty comic on the show. He quickly made people forget about the troubled star who would go on to even more substance abuse issues. Sasso would later spoof Chris Farley on a COPS parody, another comic known for substance abuse. Sasso would deliver a spot on Kenny Rogers impersonation.

Alex Borstein quickly gained a following with her infuriating character of Ms. Swan. She knew how to drive people nuts rather fast. Borstein would go on to be heard as the voice of Lois on Family Guy. There were plenty of big stars in the first half of the season including Bret Hart, Howie Long, LaToya Jackson and Happy Day‘s Don Most. Pam Grier does more than a guest shot in the Cabana. She was out promoting Jackie Brown. She comes out for the opening and takes the lead in a sketch about black superheroes who don’t get respect from the white Justice League. She also does the Cabana Chat.

Star Wars gets a little love in the second half of the season. Billie Dee Williams (Spears) promotes his new massage parlor that has a Lando Calrissian theme. How much for a full force release? Mark Hamill pops up on two episodes including one where he has to host a game show with Ms. Swan as the contestant. The legendary Phyllis Diller also double appears this season. She’s best on The Kirk and Spock Variety Show. A shocker is Anna Nicole Smith arriving on Cabana Chat. She’s at her sexy prime and doing her best to sound smart. This was not the woman who ended up on E!’s Anna Nicole Smith Show. This would be the last season for the animated Spy Vs. Spy cartoons. The show would downplay any connection to Mad Magazine in the following season. But it didn’t need to use the magazine for a persona since they had enough talent to exist as its own entity. Although in a strange twist, they would repeat segments from the first two seasons as “Classic MADtv” in a few episodes. This allowed the show to mix the old faces with their replacements. The new additions are a major reason why MADtv would last another 11 seasons on Saturday nights.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show was shot on standard definition video so there’s a bit of fuzz to the image. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. The mix is focused on the dialogue track. The laughter doesn’t cover up the jokes.

No bonus features.

MADtv: The Complete Third Season proved that the sketch comedy show could not merely survive a major cast change, but thrive. The arrival of Will Sasso, Alex Borstein and Aries Spears kept the show from being steamrollered by Saturday Night Live.

Shout! Factory presents MADtv: The Complete Third Season. Starring: Will Sasso, Nicole Sullivan, Debra Wilson, Alex Borstein and Aries Spears. Boxset Contents: 25 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: June 25, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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