Plot: What’s it about?
As Comedy Central, the network, has continued to grow and prosper, they’ve introduced us to many shows that have become part of our pop culture. Most noteably “South Park”. However, The Upright Citizens’ Brigade was formed in Chicago during the mid-90s by a handful of ImprovOlympic vets: Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, and Horatio Sanz. As we all know, Sanz soon departed for the Second City and, subsequently, Saturday Night Live where he has become the latter day Chris Farley. Let’s hope that his future isn’t that of his predecessor. The rest of the UCB departed for New York. They came up with a show, using the long-form improv technique developed by Second City/Committee alum & ImprovOlympic co-founder Del Close. This was known as “the Harold” as a template, the troupe developed a program in which individual, sketches eventually link up, overlap, and cross-reference one another. The show is linked together under the guise of all the sketches being acts of chaos perpetrated on an unsuspecting public by an underground group known as the Upright Citizens Brigade. Granted, this might have been a little too clever for their own good as the show only lasted a few seasons.
The first season saw the release of ten shows and, as mentioned before, they loosely overlap and reference each other (the individual skits, that is). While we start out at the “Bucket of Truth”, we end up with what the show is probably most famous for, “The Little Donny Foundation”. The closest that I could describe this show is to that of “Mr. Show” and Saturday Night Live. The latter, of course, has a bigger budget and access to a seemingly supply of Hollywood stars and starlets. The likes of “Mad TV”, “In Living Color” and this show have some of the same themes, but as reality shows have become more and more mainstream, it hard to believe that only five years ago; this show might be credited with starting some sort of a trend. To tell the truth, the “Upright Citizens Brigade” may be a little too smart for its own good. With only four members of the cast, we can see that they’re strained for players. It’s a “love it” or “hate it” attitude when it comes to dealing with the show and the show’s content. In any case, many fans have been waiting for this DVD release and it’s here at last.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which is how it originally appeared on television. The shows aren’t really that old (five years) and there is very little that looks wrong with them. The colors seem bright and vivid at times (and dull at others, but it’s the way it was intended and not the fault of the transfer) and avoid most of the faults that plague some television releases. While better than broadcast quality, there really isn’t a whole lot that can be said for how they look on DVD. Those expecting a fairly standard appearance need not worry as the Upright Citizens Brigade looks as good as ever.
Audio: How does it sound?
Most of the episodes are dialogue-driven, with only some occasional effects that can be heard. The surround mix does an ample job of re-creating the stage that was created for the show. Most of the sound is of outstanding quality and though viewers won’t be disappointed, there isn’t a whole lot going on here. Like other sketch comedies, this sounds about how you’d expect it to sound and not much better or worse.
Supplements: What are the extras?
True fans of the “Upright Citizens Brigade” will be ecstatic when they learn that there are five commentary tracks. First up is for the Pilot episode, and then for the “Time Machine” episode which was recorded in front of a live audience at the UCB theater. This is followed by a Q & A session as well. There are separate commentary tracks for select episodes, “The Bucket of Truth”, “Power Marketing”, “Cyborgs” and “The Little Donnie Foundation”. There’s even an alternate audio commentary for “The Little Donny Foundation” by Little Donny and his parents. There is a deleted scene included as well as some trailers and live versions of the “Little Donny” song as well as “The Andre the Giant” song. While this doesn’t look like a whole lot, UCB fans will more than love all of the supplements included here. Recommended.