With the immense success and popularity of “The
Simpsons,” the early ’90s saw an animation boom. While
many shows quickly faded (i.e. “Capitol Critters” and
“Fish Police”), one had the pedigree to succeed.
“Simpsons” producers/writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss
created “The Critic,” a series that finally enabled
them to satirize as many movies as they desired.

To describe the treatment that “The Critic” received
from both ABC and FOX — the networks that aired the show in
its two-year run — Jay Sherman, the title character, would
utter his catchphrase, “It stinks!”

Jon Lovitz voices the titular character, who captures the
actor’s sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor. Jay
hates nearly every movie he sees, yet somehow manages to hold down
a job as an esteemed television critic. The world of “The
Critic” is populated with characters like Jay’s
insecure son, insane white-bred parents, doting sister, Ted
Turner-esque boss, and best friend, an actor who epitomizes
everything Jay hates about Hollywood.

The DVD set features all 23 episodes that were produced. While
some of the jabs are incredibly dated, the harsh and biting tone
enables the show to continue in its hilarity. No film is safe from
mockery, and even the opening credits feature an individualized
spoof — much like how “The Simpsons” use the
chalkboard — as a running gag. With a Gershwinian theme that
echoes the best of Woody Allen’s films, the show also serves
as a love letter to the city of New York.

The animation is on par with the competition of the early
’90s, but does not equate with more current shows like
“Futurama” that utilize computer technology. The video
quality, however, manages to maintain a crisp image as most
animated series do on DVD. The sound is nothing special, but it is
adequate for the set.

“The Critic” is loaded with special features that
will appease even the most diehard fans. However, Columbia
doesn’t even make mention of any of these anywhere in the
packaging or the insert. In spite of this horrible marketing
oversight, the extras are plentiful. The commentary tracks have the
participation of almost all of the talents involved (notably
Lovitz), many of whom have experience from the exceptional
“Simpsons” commentaries. There is an episode on the
second disc that contains an option to view animatics and
storyboards at certain key moments, which help show how much work
goes into animation. The third disc offers clip compilations with
hilarious introductions, featurettes into the production process
and — the crème de la crème — the 10
shockwave episodes made in 2000. These online
“webisodes” bring the show into the near present, while
maintaining the same humor and voice talent of the original.

Maybe the comedy was too dry, maybe there were too many film
parodies, maybe it was too New York, maybe the network didn’t
give it a fair shot … whatever the case, the show was
cancelled after two years. But “The Critic” still
elicits laughter 10 years after its debut. If this set manages to
sell well, there is always the slim hope that it could follow in
the mold of “Family Guy” and return. And if that were
to happen, not even Jay himself would think “it
stinks.”

 

Show: 4 out of 5 stars.

Picture/Sound: 3 out of 5 stars.

Features: 4 out of 5 stars.

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