Paramount Home Video
Cast: Dave Chappelle, Donnell Rawlings, Charlie Murphy
Extras: Audio Commentary, Unaired Sketches, Deleted Scenes and Bloopers, Featurette
With two extremely successful seasons on Comedy Central and record-breaking DVD sales behind him, Dave Chappelle signed an astronomical 50 million dollar contract with the cable channel, locking himself in for more seasons. Starting work on season three, with only a few episodes worth of sketches in the can, Chappelle suddenly got cold feet and disappeared to South Africa. Amid wild rumors and rampant speculation that the popular comedian had suffered a nervous breakdown (among other things), production of the show quickly ceased. Now, with this debacle cleared up and Chappelle coming clean about his sudden and permanent sabbatical, Comedy Central has gathered the leftover scraps from the aborted season and put them together in "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes."
Containing three episodes co-hosted by cast members Donnell Rawlings and Charlie Murphy, this collection has a tangible air of melancholy and sadness. Sketches are trotted out with all the joy of a funeral procession. Also, the specter of Chappelle's lucrative deal haunts many of the skits, as though Dave felt he needed to atone for his massive payday. As with all sketch shows, segments are of the hit or miss variety. Unfortunately in this case, a majority of Chappelle's comedy misses. By completely bypassing the dreaded sophomore slump (season two is where the comedian found his legs, spearheading his show into a cultural phenomenon), season three-ish regresses into monotony and uninspired jokes. It's as if the guilt of the daunting paycheck stifled Chappelle's creativity. While the previous two seasons expertly mixed biting social commentary with puerile tastelessness, season three-ish strains on all levels. More than anything, this collection reminds us of how great Chappelle was at his peak and how sad this whole situation has become. Aside from the sketches, Chappelle's presence and participation is nowhere to be seen (most prominently in the opening credits and the hosting duties) and his absence leaves a glaring hole.
Even though most of the jokes fall flat, there are a few sketches that elicit big laughs. The skit involving Tupac Shakur's seemingly endless string of posthumously released singles and albums strikes some funny notes, as does a momentary glimpse into Gary Coleman's brief tenure as a store security guard. Dave even lampoons an enthusiastic speech from politician Howard Dean and, had the season been completed, probably would have added another catchphrase to the pop culture lexicon. These high points aren't enough to flesh out three episodes though, so what we're left with is massive amounts of filler. For example, episode two devotes a huge chunk of its running time to a town hall-type conversation with the studio audience. Donnell Rawlings and Charlie Murphy moderate a discussion revolving around the controversial "Pixie" sketch that supposedly was the catalyst for Chappelle's dissatisfaction with the show. While the intention to hear the opinions of the multi-racial audience is noble, it seems strikingly out of place. It would have made more sense to shift this discussion over to the Bonus Features section, instead of making it a part of the episode. As it stands though, there just isn't enough strong material to warrant three separate episodes worth of material. So, instead of having one brilliant show, we're stuck with three mediocre shows.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" in their original 1.33:1 Full Frame aspect ratio. This transfer is nicely done, with the images sharp and clear. There are no instances of edge enhancement or specks dirtying the picture. Better than broadcast quality, the print is exceptional.
As for sound, we have a Dolby 2.0 mix. Mostly the vocals are contained within the center channels, with minimal directional effects apparent. Since most of the show deals with dialogue, this doesn't come across as a significant problem. As it is, the vocals are crisp and clear, exhibiting no signs of hiss or distortion. Also, there are no subtitle options.
All three episodes feature Audio Commentary by Producer/Co-Creator Neil Brennan and actors/comedians Donnell Rawlings and Charlie Murphy. Even though there are a couple of long, silent pauses, these commentaries are fairly informative and funny. All participants have a rapport with each other and seem at ease. Apparently, guest hosts for these episodes were bandied about, but ultimately it was decided to go with those who were associated with the show. Also, much is discussed about the near-mythic "Pixie" sketch, with the three men musing about the fine line between comedy and social responsibility.
For Bonus Features, we first have five Unaired Sketches, running for a total of fifteen minutes. Most of these are moderately amusing, but contain nothing on par with Chappelle's best material.
Next is a collection of Deleted Scenes that run a little over seven minutes long. For the most part, these brief segments are deadly dull.
Also included is a twenty four minute set of Bloopers that are more uncomfortable than funny. I nearly dozed off watching this.
Then there is a twenty minute behind-the-scenes documentary entitled "The Fabulous Making of Chappelle's Show Season 3ish." This follows the editing of the remaining sketches, with Producer/Co-Creator Neil Brennan, Donnell Rawlings and Charlie Murphy exchanging thoughts and quips about the material, as well as the two-night taping of the "Lost Episodes" in front of a live audience. We also get to see a little bit of bitterness by staff members who are now out of jobs, even though they make jokes out of their situation. If you are a big fan of Rawlings and Murphy, this featurette is stuffed with their mildly funny riffing and banter.
Next are two Musical Performances. One by John Legend who performs "Ordinary People" and the other by Dead Prez who performs "Hip Hop."
Rounding out the Bonus Features are Comedy Central Quickies (short comedic moments from some of their shows) and DVD Previews.
Overall, "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" is a mediocre affair that serves to remind us of what could have been. Stretching out the sparse material to fit three episodes is certainly questionable, since there is only enough worthy material for maybe one solid show. Also, Chappelle's lack of involvement and public denouncing of Comedy Central's handling of the remaining episodes casts a looming shadow over every sketch. Ultimately, "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes" is an unsatisfying conclusion to an oftentimes brilliant sketch comedy show. Casual Dave Chappelle fans should steer clear of this collection, but diehards might find something of value in this jumbled mess.