The Weird Al Show: The Complete Series
I have been a fan of 'Weird Al' Yankovic for many years now. His song parodies are absolutely incredible. With such a talent for off beat humor you might think that this man would be successful with an endeavor but there is just something about one format that set Weird Al up for failure, a Saturday morning children’s show. It was not so much the humor failed it was all the regulations and restrictions placed on the series by CBS, the FCC and Dick Clark productions. Now Shout Factory has given us a DVD set of the complete series and we can see what the children where watching back in 1997.
The premise, at least what there is of one, is Weird Al lives in a cave twenty miles below the surface of the earth. One day he saved the life of a television executive and as a reward he was given his own series. Weird Al lives in the cave with his faithful companion, Harvey the Wonder Hamster and is frequently visited by his friends The Hooded Avenger (Brian Haley), a costumed super hero, Val Brentwood - Gal Spy (Paula Jai Parker) and the cute and perky Cousin Corky (Danielle Weeks). Each week in accordance with federal guidelines for children’s programming the show would address some problem and teach a lesson in between the jokes and skits.
In the first episode "Bad Influence" Weird Al meets a new friend, Spike (Kevin Weisman of Alias fame). Spike offers Weird Al membership in his very exclusive club but first Weird Al must prove that he is cool. Spike makes Weird Al tear off one leg of his paints to look cool, dip both arms in hot chocolate and shave off his right eyebrow. Weird Al begins to suspect Spike may not be the best friend to have. First he sees a report by Downtown Julie Brown on television that wearing one paint leg is ‘so last year’. Next Spike makes Weird Al act rudely to his friend Bobby the Inquisitive Boy (Gary LeRoi Gray), hurting the boy’s feelings. When The Hooded Avenger comes over he sets Weird Al right and the lesson is learned.
In the episode "Promises, Promises" Weird Al and his friends are watching TV and Val, Corky and the Avenger see John Tesch. They all are wowed over him and Weird Al, looking for acceptance says he knows Tesch and can get him to visit them. This of course is a lie and Weird Al wonders how he can fulfill his promise. The guy boarded up in the wall (voiced by Eddie Deezen) gives Al a list of what it costs for a celebrity appearance. Al has to raise $82,000 to get Tesch over. He consults Madame Judy the Psychic (Judy Tenuta) and she shows him a vision of noted television pitchmen Ron Popeil and Tony Little. They advise Al to air his own infomercial to raise a lot of money fast. Al raises the $82,000 with dubious products like the four tined food stabber (a folk) but people are soon inundating him with letters demanding refunds.
It sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? Actually it is badly done but as mentioned before it is not Weird Al’s fault. The best thing about this DVD set is there are commentary tracks with Weird Al with producer Tom Frank, director Peyton Reed. They are also joined by some of the many regulars and guest stars that helped along the way. Reed would go on to direct the Jennifer Aniston comedy ‘The Break Up’. Actually many of the crew would eventually be involved in some really good work. The problem was obviously not the talent either in front of or behind the camera. In the commentary tracks Weird Al details how the censors fought each and every skit. In one of the weekly parodies of the fifties public safety films Al wanted to do something about the dangers of school water fountains, that children can drown by drinking too long,. The Network stepped in and axed the skit since they didn’t want children afraid to take a drink. In another bit the debate was over which was permissible, references to ‘boogies’ or ear wax. Boogies where in but ear wax was forbidden, It turns out that it was deemed safer for children to dig one out of their bodies rather than the other. Listening to Weird Al rant about these ridiculous arguments is very funny and makes the disc more than worth it. Al also mentions that the reason there are no out takes or bloopers is the Dick Clark production company tossed almost everything after the series was cancelled. Some of the props where stored and eventually Al got some of the back but most of the film is gone. Fortunately the tape masters where saved so the look of the series is rather decent.
Some of the ancillary regulars represented an amazing selection of talented people. A reoccurring pair pf puppets, Papa Boolie and Baby Boolie where voiced by the comic genius Stan Freberg and his son Donovan. Guest stars included television’s Lenny and Squiggy, Michael McKean and David Lander. Clarence Clemons, the sax player for Bruce Springsteen’s E. Street band also appears. There was usually a live band playing each week. One week it was The Hanson’s who were popular with the younger set at the time. There was also an appearance by the Bare Naked Ladies but the censors stepped in again and they could not show or say their name. They were billed as BNL. This series may have the only children show appearance of people like Dweezil Zappa and Drew Carey. Weird Al was able to get people that adults would love to watch but all things considering probably never did. Other regular features was a channel surfing bit where Al gets to make fun of some popular television shows and a cartoon called ‘Fat Man’ which makes a super hero out of the fat character he used in his parody of Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ video.
Even with a series like this Shout Factory gives us their best. As mentioned the full screen video holds up very well. It is clear and the color balance shows off the wild and crazy color schemes used. The mono audio is okay but then again there is nothing here to challenge your speakers. Aside from the 13 commentary tracks, which basically are the reason to have this set, there are a few notable extras. One is the karaoke version of the theme song others include some story boards and art work for the animated portions of the series. This is worth it if only to hear Weird Al take on the studios and the arbitrary rule they impose.