DVD Review: D.C. Follies (The Complete Series)

The old saying goes, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” Spoofing politics creates even stranger bedfellow in the case of D.C. Follies. How do you explain Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators behind such freak Saturday morning shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos and Lidsville teaming up with Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the producers behind Cannon films. Just think of how two men used to directing Sigmund and Witchiepoo sitting across the table from the fellows who gave us Chuck Norris films and Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra. Although if you think about it, all four men dealt with oversized characters that couldn’t cry without special effects. They weren’t that far apart. In the mid-80s in England, The Splitting Image was a major hit with puppets designed to be caricatures of famous politicians. Most people in America were exposed to these creations via Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” video. But the show itself never translated to American TV. Thus the Kroftts and Cannon crew joined forces to make their version that was syndicated across the country in the late ’80s. D.C. Follies: The Complete Series presents all 44 episodes with political characters that are still making history including Fred Willard.

D.C. Follies is the quiet yet noisy watering hole in Washington D.C. where the famous and elected hang out to let their guard down. The place is low profile with no pesky cameramen lurking by the restrooms. The bartender is the jovial Fred (Best In Show‘s Fred Willard). He is able to treat the rich and powerful as just his regular customers since there’s no regular people as his regulars. Presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan and George Bush (before he became George H.W. Bush) gather around a table. Along with political figures, there’s puppet versions of big stars like Cher, Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen before he married his girlfriend’s adopted daughter. The puppets are more playful looking versions of the famous figures than the Splitting Image creations. There are plenty of real life humans that cameo in the alternate universe including Ed Asner, Richard Belzer, Steve Allen, Jimmie Walker, John Ratzenberger, Whoppie Goldberg, Leslie Neilsen, Greg Louganis, Harry Anderson and Charlie Callas. This show ought to be legendary just for producing back to back episodes featuring Weird Al Yankovic and Yakov Smirnoff. The human interactions aren’t for the full episode. Bo Derek and Richard Nixon share a bedroom moment. Mike Tyson faces off with his puppet version which probably hints that someday his career will rest on being an Adult Swim cartoon. The pilot episode has Fred Willard reunite with Martin Mull from his Fernwood 2 Night. (I’m still praying that someone releases that complete series on DVD.)

While the show dealt with current events for 1987 to 1989 this isn’t just The Daily Show with puppets. They create personas and adventures for the foam celebrities. Nixon is the guy constantly pulling schemes so that when he gives Fred advice on money, it all goes bad. Later Nixon wants to be in a Barbara Streisand movie, but ends up in a black and white detective flick with Heather Thomas (The Fall Guy). The show does play better if you have a sense of history since you need to know what Gary Hart and Ollie North did. The show is best viewed with Wikipedia access since it’s easy to have forgotten a few of the faces that are no longer famous like Rona Barrett. But then there’s characters who refuse to retire like Don King. Luckily more of the puppets are recognizable since they keep appear on cable news channels. While the series only lasted two seasons, the spirit of D.C. Follies continues everyday on C-Span. D.C. Follies is sweet chunk of pop culture meets politics.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was created on standard definition video, but the resolution is good enough that you can see the fuzz on the foam. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Things sound right since they don’t really put microphones near puppets. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents D.C. Follies: The Complete Series. Starring: Fred Willard and Puppets. Boxset Content: 44 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: November 14, 2017.

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