Kids in the Hall, I'm Alan Partridge, Hand over the City, Murder she wrote
KIDS IN THE HALL
1989-94 • New Video • $239.95
Backstory This absurd, often risqué sketch comedy troupe had a TV show on the CBC (that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, from 1989 to 1994.
Canadians are funny. The Kids in the Hall are from Canada. Ispo facto, the Kids in the Hall are funny. But as a Canadian in high school during the show’s peak, the Kids were so much more to me than funny. Their free-flowing meta-humor and instinct for juxtaposing the nonsensical and the mundane seemed to me like a special kind of northern genius, a precious national resource like fresh water or hockey players. Sadly, in trying to watch back-to-back-to-back episodes, I’ve been reminded of how wildly unreasonable the enthusiasms of a high school junior can get.
Extras The Best of wrap-ups for each season are crucial. If you were once a devoted fan, I strongly recommend skipping the all-inclusive sketch-by-sketch viewing strategy and stick to the quality. You’ll be less disappointed that way.
Verdict Though it hasn’t aged well, it must be said that sketches involving gay divas, transvestites and Quebecoise hookers pushed the limits of acceptable social boundaries to a remarkable extent. This, and not the actual comedy, may be the lasting legacy of the Kids in the Hall. Jonny Diamond
I'M ALAN PARTRIDGE
1997 • BBC • $29.99
Backstory Sacked from his gig as a TV presenter on the BBC, Partridge is forced to work the graveyard shift as a radio host on Radio Norwich.
Feature Two discs of comedic gold. The half dozen episodes of this wildly successful cult hit achieves sublime parody thanks to Steve Coogan’s airtight characterization of the supremely self-involved Alan Partridge. The obvious comparison would be to The Office’s David Brent — exceedingly egotistical, fatuous men with delusions of grandeur, losing their battles to keep their dignity in the face of stifling reality. Coogan’s riffs on everything from owl sanctuaries to Paul McCartney’s Wings (“the band the Beatles could have been”) spew forth uninterrupted as he lives in exile as the sole guest at a blindingly mediocre travel lodge. Supporting players include the hotel’s bemused staff and his put-upon PA who offer flawless set-ups. The bizarre fantasy sequences with him as a go-go boy in a techno-themed strip club cannot de adequately describe here.
Extras Deleted scenes which are no less brilliant than the material in the show itself.
Verdict Probably funnier than The Office and thankfully unadaptable.
HANDS OVER THE CITY
1963 • Criterion • $39.95 Greed, corruption, collusion… it must be a real estate movie! Francesco Rosi’s unapologetic anti-capitalist work of agitprop is saved from shrill sermonizing by the force of its artistry. The extended opening, centered around the collapse of an old building on the Neapolitan waterfront, is terrifying and arresting, with a TV news verisimilitude. Though most of the characters aren’t much more than ideological mouthpieces, Rod Steiger’s maniacally corrupt city councilman manages to chew a little scenery, despite the overdub into Italian. Avoid the “30 years later” docudrama special feature, in which Rosi fictionalizes his own journey back to Naples in the early 90s to… film a documentary. Embarrassing egotism.
MURDER SHE WROTE
The Complete Fourth Season
1987-88 • Universal • $49.99
A champion of television mystery, Murder, She Wrote’s fourth season of its 12-year run remains true to the original formula starring widowed writer J. B. Fletcher (played by a suddenly slimmer and more glamorous Angela Lansbury). A hated bully character is suddenly murdered and a colleague, relative, or a “dear friend” of Jessica is wrongly accused based on mostly circumstantial evidence. Jessica happens to stumble upon the body and works with the police until revealing the true culprit at the end. When asked if she was bothered by staying in the same hotel room as a dead woman, Jessica replies, “the only thing that bothers me, is unanswered questions.” Michael Kravit