The Critic: The Complete Series
How does Hollywood sleep at night? It has hundreds of decent television shows out there and most of them are cancelled before they’ve even had the chance to bloom into winners. Kevin Smith's Clerks: The Animated Series was brilliant and rightly deserved better treatment from ABC. The Tick was just far too creative for Fox and as for Family Guy - that truly superb show was canned and then got resurrected when Fox took note of the DVD sales. 25 new episodes of the show are now in production.
At least be thankful for DVD, it allows these shows to appear and be shown to the public instead of just rotting away for ever in a video archive. Also in the case of Family Guy, it could resurrect a series. None the less, more cancelled shows are coming to DVD and one of the most recent examples is The Critic. This show started on ABC, then went to Fox for its second series, then to Comedy Central for re-runs and then to Shockwave where the episodes continued on the Internet. After that, there was no more. Shame really.
The Critic is all about the life of television film critic Jay Sherman (Jon Lovitz). Despite the glamour of a film review show where nearly every movie is panned, it's not a pretty life for Jay. He's the adopted son of millionaire elitists, is still recovering from a divorce with his wife from hell, and he hasn't found anyone special in his life to love him for who he is. The two seasons of The Critic are the life adventures of the film critic as he deals with romance, family and reviewing the latest stinker from Hollywood.
Sadly The Critic is another television show that deserved so much more. This is a great comedy series from the producers of The Simpsons that shares the odd bits of surreal humour often found in both Matt Groening’s creation and Family Guy, diverting attention from the plot for that brief second to watch something completely different.
One of the best elements of the show is the characters. There's a real variety in them and they are really hilarious. Jay's parents are somewhat crazy elitists with his unloving mother and loony father. Jay's boss, Duke Philips is a spitting image of Ted Turner. Be warned however that this tycoon is a little more wacko than businessman.
But most people will admit that the best things about The Critic are the film parodies. These come during every episode and are painfully funny. You'll really want to see such hits as Keanu Reeves in Speed Reading, Marlon Brando in the musical showstopper Apocalypse Wow!, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Rabbi P.I and the next 'politically correct' James Bond film. There are just too many film parodies to mention but they are all brilliant.
It's such a tragedy that most shows end before they begin and The Critic is one of those shows. If the studios gave it more time - who knows, it might have been a Simpsons beater like Family Guy is considered. It was a funny, quality show but as with most original series it fell victim to the television companies and the stamp of cancellation. On DVD however, the show lives on and it rightly deserves to be watched by anyone who loves The Simpsons.
All 23 episodes of the critic are spread out over three discs and are placed in the order they were broadcast in both seasons.
Pilot - The opening episode sees Jay fall for a beautiful new actress who is just using the hapless critic to get a good review for her movie.
Miserable - Jay becomes the victim of an bossed fan when he meets a young projectionist who is keen to keep him prisoner for a long time - a very long time.
Marty's First Date - Marty, Jay's son, takes his father's advice far too seriously as he chases a girl he really likes all the way to Cuba.
Dial "M" for Mother - During Duke Philips' work on trying to improve ratings by making Jay nice to the public, he gets Jay and his mother to appear on a talk show together. Unfortunately Jay hasn't got a nice thing to say to his mother on air.
A Little Deb will do ya - While Jay's timeslot is being terrorised by Humphrey the Hippo (A Rival Show), his stepsister Margo is forced into the debutante ball.
Eye on the Prize - After the ratings failure of Jay's 1000th Coming Attractions episode (despite guest star Adam West), Jay is in trouble and decides it's time for a dramatic change.
Every Doris has her day - Jay befriends his make up lady, Dorris, who potentially turns out to be Jay's biological mother.
Marathon Mensch - When Jay is shown to be a big coward during a fire, he is desperate to earn respect. So he decides to run in the New York marathon.
L.A Jay - Jay decides to head out to Hollywood to pursue a movie career in screenwriting after positive reviews for his screenplay. However he ends up doing a screenplay for a film sequel that is not needed at all.
Dr. Jay - Duke Philips is diagnosed with a terminal illness and allows Jay to find a cure for it.
A Day at the races and a night at the Opera - Jay takes Marty to see his psychiatrist after he has an inferiority complex.
Uneasy rider - Jay leaves the movie reviewing job for a role as a good old fashion truck driver and he fits in well.
A Pig-Boy and his dog - After his mother writes a book called 'The Fat Little Pig, Jay becomes the centre of torment as he is compared to the character.
Sherman, Woman and Child - Jay falls head over heels for a single mother, Alice, who helps him boost his ratings.
Sherman of Arabia - At Marty's birthday party, Jay retells the tale where he gets caught up in the Gulf War that took him on an adventure with the army - and the late Dudley Moore.
A Song for Margo - Margo becomes smitten with the next door neighbour - a hip grunge rock star.
From Chunk to Hunk - Alice sends Jay and Marty to a weight loss camp in order for them to drop a few pounds. It does wonders for Marty but seems to have changed him in more than appearance.
Lady Hawk - Australian actor Jeremy Hawke's sister comes to visit and she has her eyes set on Jay.
Frankie and Ellie get lost - After going on a anniversary holiday, Jay's step-parents end up on a deserted island thanks to the piloting of a penguin.
Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice - When the popular movie reviewing duo Siskel and Ebert break up, Alice convinces Jay to become the new partner. Trouble is, Siskel and Ebert both want Jay.
All the Duke's men - The tycoon Duke Philips decides to run for President of the United States.
Dukerella - Alice's money hungry sister comes looking for a husband and ends up falling for Duke Philips.
I Can't Believe it's a clip show - The final episode (sadly the worst of them all) is a clip show where Jay is celebrating his tenth anniversary on Coming Attractions. Then out of nowhere terrorists hijack the show demanding clips to be shown while they wait for a ransom. Utterly pointless and sadly a bad end to the series.
Video and Sound
All the episodes for The Critic are presented in a full screen format of 1.33:1 and are accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The presentation is satisfactory. The audio side is as you’d expect, crystal clear with no audible problems. The video presentation though does look at times grainy, this obviously wasn't remastered for its DVD release so it looks like a sub par effort but for an animation that was broadcast in 1994, it could have been much worse.
Even though it ran for two seasons, there's enough stuff here to warrant some extras for The Critic.
The majority of episodes are given commentary tracks, at least four per disc. Jon Lovitz is sadly not here but his contribution to the show is not forgotten. Instead we have the producers and regular cast like Mauriche LaMarche talking. They are a nice set of commentaries but unfortunately, you can't help but think that Jon Lovitz should have had input for his show.
A really nice touch is the inclusion of the ten Shockwave shorts that appeared on the internet several years after the show had ended. From the original cast, Jon Lovitz is the only actor to return with all but one of the previous characters from the series forgotten, though it does highlight what possibly did happen to Jay between the final (ugh) episode and this series. While each of these episodes only run at three minutes each, it's nice to see that The Critic wasn't truly forgotten after 1995.
Top Ten List
This is a short feature that highlights the best of the film parodies and turns out to be a nice extra because the majority of the laughter does come from them, and is the best way to relive them without scanning through each episode.
No, not the standard trailers found on DVDs. This is another extra featuring more highlights of those great film parodies. This time spending close attention to the film trailers, and more film parodies such as The Red Balloon: Revenge of the Red Balloon featuring an Alan Rickman style terrorist chasing, you guessed it, a red balloon.
Creating The Critic
A short 12 minute segment about the creation of The Critic features producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss talking about the job of creating a new series following the success of The Simpsons and how Jon Lovitz came into taking the lead. One or two of the cast members are also present including Mauriche LaMarche, but sadly once more, Lovitz is missing from the picture.
Another animated gem makes its appearance on DVD after suffering the same fate as Futurama and Family Guy (before it's resurrection in light of DVD sales). The Critic is very entertaining and while it’s not a Simpsons beater like the other animated sitcoms mentioned it will always generate laughter by those who see it. I'm pleased that it has been given a superb DVD release, despite the lack of Jon Lovitz in commentaries and features, and hope that other box sets on cancelled animation shows can follow suit. If you like The Simpsons in any way, give The Critic a try. Highly recommended.