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by Garon Cockrell
DVD Review: MADtv: The Complete Fourth Season
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By Garon Cockrell
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Nov. 14, 2013 12:01 a.m.

By the fourth season of MADtv, many of its characters were
firmly established, and already beloved by the fans. With some of these
characters, the cast tried new angles. For example, Ms. Swan (the character
that opens the fourth season, causing the audience to go nuts) works as a phone
sex operator, gets hypnotized, goes on the Dating Game (which is totally
hilarious) and even sings along with the MADtv
theme song at the beginning of an episode.
The cast for this season
was Alex Borstein, Andrew Bowen, Mo Collins, Pat Kilbane, Phil LaMarr, Michael
McDonald, Will Sasso, Aries Spears, Nicole Sullivan and Debra Wilson. This
season didn’t see nearly as many guest stars as the previous season. But
certain episodes feature such folks as Kevin Sorbo, Kerri Russell, Robert
Englund and KISS. KISS appear in a couple of sketches in the Halloween episode,
but do not perform (and for that I’m thankful). Bret “The Hitman” Hart also
appears in a few episodes, with a running stunt gag along the lines of
something Fridays did much
earlier with Andy Kaufman. (Fridays
worked in part because it was a live program. MADtv was not.)
The entire cast is
talented, and each cast member has plenty of chances to shine this season, but Will
Sasso is one of my personal favorites. The sketch with him as Randy Newman
recording music for the new Star Wars
film is completely hilarious. Also, the hotel reception desk skit is great,
with Will Sasso refusing to leave frame. He could have kept that going for the
entire episode, and it would never have lost its charm. I also love the parody
of Whose Line Is It Anyway, with Will
Sasso as Drew Carey saying, “Isn’t improv
hilarious? Anything could happen, and one day something might.”
There are plenty of other
great sketches. One of my favorites is the virtual reality center for seniors.
An old lady exclaims, “I wet myself on
the moon.” Debra Wilson, as the woman pitching the services, says they have
miles of scenic hiking trails, and we see a shot of an elderly man repeatedly
walking into a wall. And the skit in the fourth episode with the mother and
daughter talking about female issues is absolutely wonderful. There is also a
great sketch about Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan playing John and Patsy Ramsey. And I
love the bit about the Saturn car company, where it’s portrayed as a freaky
cult like Scientology. There is another
great skit about the Jeffersons moving into the house of Thomas Jefferson.
One of the show’s great
strengths is its series of fake commercials. The fake ad for children’s
clothing in the season’s second episode is excellent (clothing related to
school shootings), as is the ad for the bowl in the third episode. There are
also ads for Clinton collector plates and KISS life-size action figures.
I love the ad for Yule
Blazers, plutonium-based Christmas lights. “Spishak
geologists harvest high-quality plutonium from the scenic New Jersey coastline.
It just gets better and better, with the bit about the kitten completely
cracking me up. And then there’s a dance and a song. This is certainly one of
the funniest fake commercials they ever did. It is perhaps surpassed, however,
by the Heroin PM ad in the twentieth episode.
One weakness the show has
is that it reuses material from previous seasons. For part of the season, these
repeated skits are called “MADtv Classics,”
and then in the fourteenth episode a repeat is introduced as being “From the archives of MADtv,” but then later
in the season they drop any such warning and just let the repeated skits play. Some of
the episodes, but not all, have Spy Vs. Spy cartoons, and most of those are
repeated from earlier episodes. And of course certain sketches go nowhere, but
that’s to be expected from any sketch comedy show. Some of the skits featuring
favorite characters become a little stale (such as the Ms. Swan Christmas
shopping skit, and some of the Stuart skits). But the final episode of this
season proves that fart jokes can still be funny if done right.
And remember this
important acting tip from Keanu Reeves: “When
you’re acting, you want to make your mind a complete blank.”
MADtv: The Complete Fourth Season contains all twenty-five episodes
on four discs, and was released on November 12, 2013 through Shout! Factory.

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