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Steve Martin: The Television Stuff

July 2nd, 2013

Back in January, I had just begun exploring the wealth of material on Shout! Factory’s new 3-DVD set Steve Martin: The Television Stuff, and yet what I had seen easily prompted me to list the set as my second-favorite DVD of 2012 on my Best-of 2012 list.  I took my sweet time watching all of the rest of the marvelous Steve Martin comedic material collected in this set, only recently getting to the end.  And now, after having watched everything, I am even more convinced that this is one of the very best DVD sets I own.

The fine folks at Shout! Factory (and lest you have any cause to doubt the greatness of this wonderful company, let’s remember that these were the people who finally arranged to release Freaks and Geeks on DVD, with every last second of its expensive-t0-license music intact), working with Mr. Martin himself, have pulled together an astounding collection of his comedic work on TV, with material spanning 1976 to 2005.

Disc one contains three of Steve Martin’s TV specials.  The first, and my favorite of the three, is On Location with Steve Martin, an HBO special recorded in October, 1976.  The special is just an hour-long recording of one of Mr. Martin’s stand-up perfromances, and it’s a fantastic glimpse at Mr. Martin’s incredible comedy act that made him a huge star.  The stand-up material is phenomenal, wild and silly and crazy and clever.  I loved it!  The other two specials are sketch comedy shows.  I thought Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy from 1978 was a little weak, but Steve Martin: Comedy is Not Pretty from 1980 was far stronger.  The opening sketch, titled “El Paso,” is a scream — Mr. Martin acts out Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” entirely with monkeys.  It’s total lunacy.

Disc two contains three more comedy specials.  All Commercials… A Steve Martin Special from 1980 is exactly what it sounds like, an SNL-like sketch special filled entirely with fake commercials.  There are some very funny bits, but also some duds.  Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever from 1981 is much better.  Featuring a number of familiar faces from Saturday Night Live, including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gregory Hines, Larraine Newman, and Bill Murray, this is by far the strongest of Mr. Martin’s sketch-comedy specials.  The whole thing feels like a classic Steve Martin-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live, and that’s a very good thing.  Seeing the “Wild and Crazy” Festrunk Brothers visit an art gallery in an attempt to pick up chicks was my favorite sequence of the special (one elevated from great to spectacular by the hilarious appearance of John Belushi in drag as the Czechoslovakian gal … [continued]

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And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2012 list!  I hope you enjoyed the rest of my lists.  You can follow these links to see my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.  Click here for part one of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012, and here for part two.  And finally, you can click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2012, and here for part two.

And now, my final list: the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012!

10. Great documentaries for not-so-great films: Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises Both of these films disappointed me when I saw them.  The Dark Knight is an extremely well-made film and a great super-hero epic, but it’s a big let-down after the magnificence that was The Dark Knight.  And Prometheus was just a catastrophe.  Nevertheless, the blu-rays of both films contained terrific feature-length documentaries.  Prometheus’ special features are particularly compelling — the 220-minute documentary “Furious Gods: The Making of Prometheus” (directed by Charles de Lauzirika) is extraordinary.  Is it crazy to be so interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of two films that ultimately disappointed me?  Maybe, but I loved these glimpses behind the curtains.

9. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea-Bagging in the UK Every few years, Kevin Smith releases a DVD collection of some of his Q&A  sessions, and I always gobble them up.  None have topped the original An Evening With Kevin Smith DVD from 2002, but Mr. Smith’s skill as a spinner-of-yarns is unparalleled, and I adore listening to his lengthy, raunchy, hilarious answers to the audience’s questions about his life, his film-making, and all sorts of other details of his personal life.  (I even saw Mr. Smith live, in Boston, a few years ago!)  This latest DVD is a recording of some of the “Smodcast” podcasts that Mr. Smith recorded with his “hetero life-mate” Jason Mewes, on tour in England.  These shows are nowhere near as great as some of the previous Q&A DVDs — I like Jason Mewes, but I think Mr. Smith is much funnier solo — but these shows are still a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the frank, friendly interplay between Mr. Smith and Mr. Mewes.

8. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 — This animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal comic book from 1986 is one of the best of Bruce Timm’s recent direct-to-DVD animated films.  With solid (though not spectacular) animation and a phenomenal voice cast, I was very impressed … [continued]