Saturday, October 17, 2009
Saturday Night Live - The Best of Amy Poehler (Universal, $19.98) is now on DVD with a best of special featuring Amy Poehler. This has aired on NBC already this past April. If you're a fan of the work of SNL alumnus and star of NBC's Parks and Recreation, then Universal has a new DVD set coming out you might well be interested in - it's a "best of" compilation from her years at SNL. Classic bits such as the Clinton & Palin opening gag from last year's election segment to the various recurring original characters and one-off bits (such as "Adventures of a Dollar," an underrated bit from the show's recent past). Highlights of her SNL career spanning much of this decade (2001-2008) are featured.
The set includes miscellaneous sketches from Poehler's run on the show, spread fairly well across the run. This presents an interesting scenario when you get into the technical nuts and bolts of the set, as the show switched from 4:3 SD to 16:9 HD roughly halfway into her tenure on the show. This causes a bit of a problem with regards to the video if you're watching this set on some older television sets (more on that in a bit). If you noticed earlier, I was a bit light on details of the sketches. This is for a decent reason...unfortunately, I'm not that big a fan of much of Amy's work on SNL. While I can appreciate that others find her funny, her humor style doesn't mesh well with what I consider funny. It's just an issue of personal tastes, but as a consequence there's not much on this set to hold my interest.
In addition to the two sketches I mentioned earlier, there's also a Live with Regis & Kelly parody, with guest Queen Latifah that was fairly decent. Other sketches included include a Kaitlin sketch, one staging of the recurring "Dakota Fanning Show" bit, two miscellaneous compilations of short bits - one from Weekend Update, one from sketches, plus more. With regards to guests, aside from the myriad of regular cast members you also get the various guest hosts from those episodes, including Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake, Hugh Jackman, Josh Brolin, and Christopher Walken, plus more.
There is one disc in the set - the full feature is a single one hour twenty minute compilation episode. The artwork is a white background, with miscellaneous green splotches and dark scribbles. The disc has the same artwork. With regards to the content on the set, earlier I mentioned the video early in the review because of an important problem this WILL cause for some buyers: For this set, the show is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with the non-widescreen segments being pillarboxed into the native widescreen of the DVD. If you're watching this set on an older square television set with your DVD player in Letterbox, this will mean the unenviable presence of twin boxes - both letterboxed (horizontal bars) and pillarboxed (vertical bars) on some sketches. You poor, poor souls.
The video quality itself falls into two categories. The HD-era video is flawless, with absolutely no deterioration or noise. The SD-era video shows slight color issues. One sketch in the set is made to look deliberately poor - a video designed to parody 1980s workout tapes. The video is deliberately set up to look like a 3rd-generation VHS tape. This is part of the gag, and as such isn't an issue. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, with the extra channels getting used more on the more recent skits. Chapter stops are placed at the end of EVERY sketch, as you can select individual sketches from the main menu and it's important to access those easily.
Every now and then, SNL puts out a compilation DVD of various cast members. Given the slow release in season sets, I suppose it's better than nothing. I suppose here that's my opinion of this set - it's better than nothing. Of the *primary* cast members from SNL from the 2000s, there are quite a few I'd rather see DVD sets of - but again, that's really personal taste at work. What bothers me, those tastes aside, is the price point for this set. $20 for what amounts to a single episode of SNL and no bonus material? Really? That's absolutely ridiculous - I wouldn't pay for a 90 minute compilation set for ANY cast member at that price - luckily they eventually come down.
If you're an Amy Poehler fan, go ahead and pick this set up. Otherwise, there are other ways to spend your $10-$20 than this. A $20 MSRP for 90 minutes of a TV show is just ridiculous. Recommendation to avoid.
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
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