By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Of course, now it’s possible to chart the popularity explosion of the original Saturday Night Live cast yourself with the recent release of the entire first season of the NBC institution (even the famed Louise Lasser episode, which Lorne Michaels hated due to the actress’s unwillingness to appear in sketches). There are no commentaries, but it’s an invaluable compilation for comedy-philes that — if not necessarily eliciting deep laughs anymore — will still have you marveling all over again at John Belushi’s underrated nuances and Dan Aykroyd’s announcer-mania delivery and Gilda Radner’s scary commitment level, while scratching your head at Chevy Chase, whose smirky twitches have lost whatever fuck-you appeal they might have held for the cynical post-Watergate crowd. The original screen tests included are telling: Nearly everyone seems eager to entertain — even in a screen test — except for an impatient, unfunny Chase, who already looks like he thinks he’s slumming. Dreaming of his future as a solo talk-show host, perhaps?
As for ready-made twofers, Paramount Home Video smartly packaged the first seasons of guilty pleasures Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place into something called “The Good, the Bad & the Beautiful Pack.” (It’s cheaper than buying each set separately.) It’s strange how fresh the innocence of these shows still feels, from the former’s occasionally sensitive handling of teen issues (despite the unreality of it all) to the latter’s almost zoological iconography of young, beautiful people in their natural habitat: L.A.! Both shows would eventually morph into other things — in both cases, pure soap opera, which benefited Melrose but cheapened 90210 — but they were from the get-go, undoubtedly, era-defining light entertainment.
You’ve got to love the career arc of multitalented Oscar winner Rita Moreno, who in the early ’70s went from blowing Jack Nicholson at the end of Carnal Knowledgeto helping kids learn how to read on PBS. Moreno was a member of the adult cast in the soulful, silly and finger-snapping PBS series The Electric Company, which is now available in two “Best Of” collections. They are undeniably fun to watch even as an adult with a firm grasp of long and short vowels, if only to listen for the cartoon narration of people like Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers, or to enjoy the ripe pronunciative tones of a young Morgan Freeman as street-swaggering Easy Reader, who perfectly exemplified the urban-positivity ethos of children’s television in that era: What else was graffiti, after all, but an opportunity to read? If you’d rather see kiddie TV as imagined by a hope-killing Satan, however, there’s always seasons one and two of MTV2’s disturbingly hilarious parody Wonder Showzen, maybe the darkest-hearted satire to be birthed from any corporate entertainment behemoth. It’s probably even funnier if you watch it right after a hit of The Electric Company, but, dear God, don’t get these discs mixed up if you have little ones around. If you’re going to have your own TV Land, program responsibly.
THE BEST OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY | Shout Factory | Vol. 1, $49.98; Vol. 2, $39.98
DA ALI G SHOW: DA COMPLEET SEEREEZ | HBO Home Video | $49.98
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL PACK | Paramount Home Video | $116
I’M ALAN PARTRIDGE: SERIES ONE | BBC Video | $26.98
SCTV: BEST OF THE EARLY YEARS| Shout Factory | $39.98
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: SEASON ONE | Universal | $69.98
SGT. BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION | Paramount Home Video | $39.95
SIX FEET UNDER: THE COMPLETE SERIES GIFT SET | HBO Home Video | $279.98
THAT GIRL: SEASON ONE | Shout Factory | $39.98
THAT GIRL: SEASON TWO | Shout Factory | $39.98
WONDER SHOWZEN | Paramount Home Video| $26.98 per season
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city