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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Mr. Show: The Complete Collection'

Dennis King Published: January 21, 2014
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This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Mr. Show: The Complete Collection”

Regarded as one of the most innovative, cutting-edge sketch comedy shows of its time, “Mr. Show with Bob and David” has gathered a loyal and knowing cult following in the years since it aired on HBO from 1995-98. Now fans longing for a full immersion in the absurdist imaginings of creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross can pony up for “Mr. Show: The Complete Collection” (due out on DVD Tuesday).

Often characterized as a modern, American “Flying Circus,” the show largely focused on offbeat, absurdist humor rather than topical comedy, and so even 15-plus years after its final episode aired it still seems fresh, daring and timeless. The strange, Monty Python vibe largely appealed to a small, discriminating audience, but although it never garnered huge ratings the show was nominated for four primetime Emmys and a Golden Satellite Award.

Odenkirk, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer, and Cross, a stand-up comic and actor, led a solid ensemble that featured John Ennis, Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, with occasional appearances by Jay Johnston and alternative comics such as Sarah Silverman, Jack Black, Mary Lynn Rajskub and others.

Each episode featured a series of sketches linked by a common theme or by recurring characters and punch lines. The unconventional format, plus the show’s out-of-the-mainstream placement on HBO allowed it, as critics noted, “to go places other shows wouldn’t dare,” resulted in a series “so smart and funny that it seems to exist on a higher evolutionary plane than its sketch-comedy peers.”

“The Complete Series” comes with loads of extras, including detailed commentary from cast members on the making of each episode.

“Mr. Show: The Complete Series” is not rated and runs more than 900 minutes on six discs. It’s being released by HBO Home Video.

- Dennis King