Chapelle’s Show: Season 1

Chapelle’s Show: Season 1 (2003)
Paramount Home Video
Extras: Commentary Track, Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, Interview

A match for Comedy Central’s other show – "South Park" for controversy and pushing boundaries on cable, "Chapelle’s Show" maiden season makes an appearance in the form of a 2-disc box set. If Richard Pryor were given his own sketch comedy show, it’d probably look a lot like this. And be warned, Chapelle pulls no punches, testing censorship limits, current taboos, and exploring racial, sexual, and economic issues about as far as the FCC currently allows. Add to that the word "Uncensored" on the box set, and you’ll hear – and see what you couldn’t during its TV airings.

The box set consists of 12 episodes, each with 3-4 comedy sketches per show. Episodes range from satirical looks at well known productions like "Roots", "The Real World", "The Matrix", and "Trading Spouses", to original efforts detailing the biography of a white supremacist, a crack addict and his anti-drug message, and a NFL films style piece titled "Great Moments in Hookup History". Dave Chapelle also features an occasional musical guest, such as Mos Def, who raps to a beat in a car with Chapelle driving. Other guests make acting appearances include members of Wu Tang Clan, Rockafella CEO Damon Dash, and Redman. From the intro music to some of the skits, guests, and themes, it has a definite hip-hop feel to it. Again, even though this series is technically "Not Rated", it’s a definite "R" here with the bleeps removed on the DVD’s.

The DVD’s are presented in Full screen (TV ratio) format, with some sketches <$PS,letterboxed> for movie effect, and it is a fantastic print. Shot on high-quality digital video, and transferred to DVD, there are zero artifacts, the colors come across especially vibrant and rich, and the picture quality is very sharp – it just looks great.

Sound is stereo, but again, better than expected. There is a surprising large amount of clarity and bass in the musical numbers and sound effects. The overall video and sound production of the series (I watch it live each week) is exceptional and seems to be even more enhanced for the DVD release.

The bonus material on the DVD set includes <$commentary,audio commentary> on five episodes from Dave Chapelle and co-creator Neal Brennan. Their back and forth is as candid and sometimes profane as the show itself, and you’ll find such tidbits such as the producers having a hard time getting a crowd for episodes early in the season, background on producing the sketches, and their favorite episodes and characters.

Another extra is an additional 29 minutes of bloopers and deleted scenes, also with commentary, which range from the forgotten line/mark to outrageous ad-libbing on set (See "Antwone Fisher (Spaghetti)") freestyle. Rounding out the list of extras is 20 minutes of unaired footage "Ask a Black Dude with Paul Mooney", a former writer of Richard Pryor, in which they probably could have used more of in the show during its season.

I did find it somewhat annoying that within an episode there are no chapters to speak of; you have to fast forward to get from the beginning to other parts of the show. This is common in other TV series released on DVD, but I still think chapter stops within episodes would be a good idea.

Fans of Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and especially Richard Pryor will love this series. While some of the shows contain quite a bit of low-brow humor (see "Blackzilla", "Great NY Boobs"), but it equally balances itself with sketches like "Ask a Black Dude", and "America’s most vicious white supremacist", and I’ll bet you’ll be laughing at some of the cruder stuff too. He’s bright, creative, honest, perceptive, and surprisingly affable.

The show is currently in season two, drawing huge ratings, and there are plenty of reasons why. With every season, there are hit and misses in terms of quality, and I found some episodes towards the end of the season lacking the humor and outrageousness that were in the beginning. But the beauty of spending $20 for 325+ minutes of content is that you’ll find plenty to like. It’s a great value, one of the most original and freshest shows on TV, and I can’t wait for season two. I’d highly recommend unless you shy away from more extreme types of humor/language.