Ben Stiller's short-lived Fox show is making its way to DVD thanks to Warner Home Video. This funny show only lasted 12 episodes, leaving one episode unaired. Best described as a series of short films and cameo appearances by Hollywood stars, this is a funny show. I enjoyed Stiller's mockery of some Fox network staples at the time; Melrose Heights 90210-2402, Cops, America's Most Suspicious, and Skank, the mean puppet. There were quite a few big-name guests that appeared on the show: Roseanne & Tom Arnold, Gary Shandling, Bobcat Goldthwait, Ernie Hudson, James Doohan, Run DMC, Jeanne Triplehorn, Colin Quinn, Casey Kasem, Adam West, Sarah Jessica, Rob Morrow, Dana Gould, Gary Coleman, Danny Bonaduce, Alex Karris, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Cassidy, Hervé Villechaize and Dennis Miller. Not bad for only being on for half a season!
I've been told that Stiller was very involved in the DVD set, and it shows. He called the other cast members and asked them to come record commentary, and you can tell that they all had a blast working on the show, even though they knew it wasn't going to make it. Hey Ben, for future reference, it's bad to joke about your show shooting on a stage nicknamed "The Morgue" in the pilot episode. Just keep that in mind for next time.
I'm going to guess that much of this was shot with 16mm, and possibly some 8mm cameras. There is a TON of grain during the intros, so much that it's extremely distracting. The short films are better, but they leave a bit to be desired. Here's a release where I can't complain about chapters at all. There are chapters for everything, and there are so many that they actually hit the maximum of 99 chapters when you select "Play All," so they had to divide the video titles into 2. Way to go WB!
This is a pretty basic stereo track, but that's to be expected. Everything is faithfully reproduced, from the funky theme song to the dialog and sound effects of the short films. Most of the audio comes from the center channel, and there are few directional effects used. Like many WB releases, this one comes with English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Unaired Sketches (13:21)
There are 5 unaired sketches in this section and they can be played with, or without, commentary by Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, Brent Forrester, Janeane Garofolo and Rob Cohen. The sketches are: Let There Be Wrestling (1:05), Teen Mascot Competition (5:19), Hard Edition (2:38), Fredrick's 1-Minute Workout (2:03) and Conspiracy Theory: Adult Diaper Cartel (2:16). These sketches look pretty rough, but they're neat to see.
Outtakes from the following: Agent Pheret (2:10), Bride of Frankenstein (3:34), 411-Janeane (2:00), Manson (2:21), Tony Bobbins (2:24), 411-Andy (1:49), Hillbillies (3:10), No, No, No Guy (2:33) and Die Hard (0:43).
A Brief History of The Ben Stiller Show (4 screens + 9:12)
Like it says, these 4 screens provide a brief history of the show. There's a clip from the MTV version of the show, as well as 2 alternate versions of the pilot. The Ben Stiller Show on MTV (5:00), alternate version of the pilot: Version 1 (2:30) and Version 2 (1:42).
E! Behind-The-Scenes Special (11:23)
Just a standard "E! Behind-The-Scenes" bit.
This is the gold in the set; commentary on 7 episodes by Stiller and cast/crew members. Each track is entertaining and full of information on the show, personal lives, funny memories and more. These commentary tracks would rank up there with some of the best TV commentaries I've heard.
Obviously the lack of viewers is what killed this show, but after watching these episodes I can't understand why more people didn't tune in. While not every bit is funny, the majority of them are. The "No, No, No Guy" totally cracked me up, and I enjoyed Stiller's impersonations of Bono and Springsteen. The cast went on to bigger and better things, although that's not hard to do when the show you're on tanks. Ben Stiller has gone on to star in countless successful movies, even serving as director on some of them. Andy Dick was one of the stars of NewsRadio and Get Smart (the '95 version). Bob Odenkirk was one of the stars in Mr. Show and was joined by David Cross, one of the writers on The Ben Stiller Show. And then there's former cop, John F. O'Donohue, who went on to play...well...a cop, in NYPD Blue.
I love how Warner Bros is promoting this. It's billed as, "The Ben Stiller Show - you will wish it had survived an entire season," and they're right, I wish it lasted longer. If you're looking for some comedy, pick this one up. Chances are you haven't seen the show before.