Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Kids in The Hall – The Complete Series Megaset DVD Review

For five groundbreaking seasons, Canadian-bred comics The Kids in the Hall stretched sketch comedy to its ultimate limits with hilariously off-the-wall results. With a cast of comic creations only the brilliant– or truly twisted — could imagine, The Kids in the Hall – The Complete Series Megaset presents the Kids’ nearly 800 sketches from every single episode of each season in this stunning 22-disc set plus two bonus discs featuring the new IFC 8-part mini-series Death Comes to Town.


Show (3 out of 5 stars)

All five performers started performing comedy in Canada in separate groups with Bruce McCulloch and Mark McKinney performing in a group named “The Audience.”  At the same time, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald were performing as The Kids in the Hall until 1984,when the two teams met in Toronto and decided to join forces.  They began performing regularly as The Kids in the Hall with a rotating band of cast-members until Scott Thompson joined the group in January 1985.  They later broke up when McKinney and McCulloch were invited to write for Saturday Night Live but it wasn’t long before Lorne Michael’s decided that the group as a whole worked better, so he reassembled the group and began planning to produce a new television show for them.

The Kids in the Hall premiered on CBC Television and later on HBO in the United States where it took a lot of people by surprise.  Most people thought of the show as being similar to Saturday Night Live since it was a sketch show and it was produced by Lorne Michaels.   In actuality, the show was closer in spirit and humor to Monty Python’s Flying Circus with its absurd humor and also because the men in the group frequently dressed as women for skits.  Unlike Monty Python though, the Kids in the Hall troupe didn’t dress up like women just for laughs (although that did happen), but instead because they played it straight.  As Scott Thompson explained, “The way we played women … we weren’t winking at the audience … We were never, like, going, ‘Oh, look at me! I’m a guy in a dress!’ Never. We would always try to be real, and that, I think, freaked people out…”

Their most popular sketches included a man who liked to imagine crushing heads with his fingers, a sexed up chicken lady, a gay socialite named Buddy Cole, two secretaries named Cathie and Kathy, a wannabe scary tv show host named Simon and his minion Hecubus that tried to do evil things, a pair of lazy police officers that don’t really do a whole lot, and a lot more.  On the air for five seasons with over 800 sketches filmed, there’s a lot to choose from.

In my opinion, the show was hit or miss.  The skits were either extremely stupid or it was inspired brilliance.  Being on HBO, the group was able to curse and do some more controversial skits than they would have been allowed on network TV.  In fact, after getting moved to CBS for their fourth and fifth season, those constraints are widely believed to be the reason the show didn’t go longer. When they went off the air in 1994, the group went their separate ways until they re-teamed in 1996 to film their first movie as a group – Brain Candy.  That was followed by live tours in 2000 and 2008, and most recently, a new mini television series.  The new series called Death Comes To Town and shown on IFC, was an eight part series that focuses on a murder in a a small town and an innocent suspect is arrested for it.  As the trial goes on, the entire town is affected and its dark secrets are unraveled and exposed. With all the characters being played by the group, it gives them all an opportunity to show their range.

Video (3 out of 5 stars)

These season sets are identical to the previous DVD release and the picture quality for this series is fairly average for DVD.  The 1.33:1 image isn’t very detailed and colors are present but presented in an average fashion.  There’s a lot of grain in the picture which isn’t really that surprising but this is kind of a letdown especially when you compare it to Death Comes To Town which has a lot more detail and vibrancy.  This is average DVD quality so if you are wanting or expecting more than that, I would suggest waiting until a possible Blu-ray set comes out but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars)

The Kids in The Hall series has a Dolby stereo track and it does a decent job.  Dialogue is clear and balanced well with the music and the effects.  Although I would have liked a DTS-HS Master Audio experience, this track is perfectly acceptable for a sketch comedy show like this one.

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars)

These are the same extras that were on the previous box set.
  • An Oral History-Season One : 45 Minutes of Interviews with the Kids and Lorne Michaels - The cast and Michaels look back and talk about the season.
  • An Oral History-Season 2: 15 minutes with the Kids, Paul Bellini, and Lorne Michaels - The cast, crew, and Michaels look back and talk about the season.
  • Audio Commentary – It’s interesting to hear from the Kids even though sometimes it’s just some of them and other times it’s all of them.
  • 10 Best-of Compilations Featuring Fan-Favorite Sketches – A collection of the most popular sketches that are combined into the one extra.  Commentary from the cast is available for some of them.
  • Over 90 Minutes of Original Performances from the Rivoli Theater – This is a nice bonus of live performances for those people who haven’t seen their act live.
  • Archival Footage Never-Before-Seen-on-TV – A collection of bits that were cut from the show.  There’s really nothing here that was really needed anyway.
  • Full sketch listing, Poster gallery, cast bios, and slideshows – For the hardcore fans, here the last of the extras that will allow you to go more in depth with the cast.

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

After watching the television series and then the Death series, I believe that they are more character actors than comedians and this latest show offers more proof of that.  While much of their TV series wasn’t that great, there were still a number of very funny sketches and when it worked, it worked great!  Each of them is very funny and I’d like to see more from them.

Order your set today by clicking on the picture below!



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