Few shows have stuck around in the public conscious like The State. Ok, so that isn’t entirely true. Chances are you haven’t even heard of the short lived MTV sketch comedy show of the mid ‘90s…but you’ve no doubt seen the fruits of its labor since then. Reno 911!, Stella, Michael and Michael Have Issues and even feature films like the Night at the Museum series and Role Models have featured collaborations of various members of The State. So while you may not know of The State as the collaborative group, you no doubt have seen them sprinkled about in various other films and movies. And now, for the first time ever, The State arrives on DVD in a complete series, five-disc set. Sure, some of the music’s been removed for legal and financial reasons, but the jokes remain and anyone who remembers the brilliance of Doug, Louie, or Levon & Barry will surely enjoy the thorough outing on DVD that is The State – The Complete Series.
The State was simply one of the sharpest, funniest, and most under-rated shows of the 1990’s. Originally created as MTV’s first foray into the sketch comedy genre, The State was a comedic gem that rocked Generation X with slapstick, smarts and witty sarcasm. The dynamic cast features 11 multi-talented actors that have continued to collaborate on such projects as RENO 911!, STELLA, VIVA VARIETY and WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. MTV’s timeless sketch comedy show, The State, is finally here.
Over the years I’d seen various clips of The State online, mostly random links from people who were themselves just discovering the show, but I’d never made an effort to see the entire series. In fact, I’d just naturally assumed that a show loaded with so much talent that has gone on to flourish on Comedy Central would already be available on the format, but…surprise! The great thing about this release too is it’s not just the episodes, but a slew of bonus features as well…but we’ll get to that later.
There are five discs here and each one boasts a season of the show (with the final disc just being bonus features). Immediately from the first episodes I was surprised by how “edgy” the show still seemed; there were things on there that you still wouldn’t seen on SNL (even though we’re now in the “Jizz in My Pants” era). It’s not that it was terribly offensive or dirty, per say, but just the cutting humor and the overall…well, ok, it was slightly offensive, but what humor isn’t? It’s remarkable how brilliant of a production this series really is, with such a cast of unknowns (at the time) inhabiting it.
I watched the four seasons over the span of a couple days and there was a definite upswing in quality between seasons. Season two started the sharp incline and three and four continued it, delivering absolutely hilarious sketches from start to finish. There were plenty duds in-between, but even the mediocre sketches I still enjoyed watching. The series did rely a bit too much on the humor of people screaming things loudly, but for every repetitious scream skit we had something like Doug or that hilarious Louie/Jesus sketch that is the kind of thing that I can hold out as an example of what makes the series so brilliant—intelligent humor mixed with people about dipping their balls in something (and anything). Then there’s the season one bit with the hormones and…really, this series is just a truly entertaining spectacle from start to finish.
The lack of diversity does hurt the show a bit (Kerri Kenney was the only female and as a result we often see the other men taking up the female roles when necessary…which did lead to an unexpected and hilarious joke with Michael Ian Black in a later sketch), but in the end it’s really just a hilarious and timeless sketch show. Some of the music changes were a bit evident and obvious (and this is coming from someone who’s never seen the show before) and as a result a few of the sketches were a little less funnier than they originally were, but the lack of music is a small price to pay to have the series on DVD.
Overall if you’ve enjoyed the antics of shows like Stella or Reno 911! then there is plenty to love about The State. It certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for The Ten (David Wain’s film of…randomness, which, now that I think about it, may as well have been a feature film version of The State), which I’ll likely be popping in for a repeat viewing in a bit. Highly Recommended.
The State arrives in an understated black slipcase which houses three black thin-paks inside. In addition there’s an advertisement for Michael & Michael Have Issues as well as a letter from eleven members of The State that discuss the process that went into making this show finally available on DVD. They also note that original series composer Craig Wedren was brought into replace the licensed music that wasn’t able to be included, which is a nice gesture as it keeps the tone of the show that much closer to the original effort.
Video for the series is a mixed bag; the on-stage material looks good for its age, but the stuff recorded outdoors is fraught with VCR scan lines and noise as well as a general visual murkiness to it. Not entirely surprising and not really disappointing either, as visual clarity isn’t what matters when it comes to watching this show (as fans who have watched it on YouTube via some absolutely horrid quality can attest). The audio, however, is important and it always sounded clean and clear to me. The DD2.0 track doesn’t attempt to do much other than produce a solid stereo mix, but that was enough for me.
Pilot Episode (16:57)
Unaired Sketches – Pilot (8:48), Season 1 (18:14), Season 2 (24:07), Season 3 (40:05). 43 unaired sketches in all
Special Appearances – Jon Stewart Show (5:28), MTVs Shut Up and Laugh (4:28), “Spring Break Safety Tips” (6:42), “MTV Christmas Party Video” (3:50)
I can’t really tell if the interviews on each disc are newly recorded; the video does look aged, but it doesn’t look as old as the rest of the video for the series. The fact that hardly any of the cast members look all that different from their present day selves is also an issue, but I’m leaning towards these being rather old interviews. The “Outtakes” are really just extended bits of sketches that didn’t make it to air. The fifth disc is where the majority of the goodies are, as there is over 90 minutes of unaired sketches that all have commentary from the cast and crew of the show.
That’s another key thing to mention—every episode of each season has full commentary on it. It’s never the same mixture of participants and some of it seems kind of out of order at times (especially the Unaired Sketches), which keeps it fresh and easy going. A lot of the time it’s just the cast members watching and reminiscing about the show, but for those of the cast that actually worked on the show as well (David Wain being a big member of that group), there’s also plenty of insight into what went into the writing, directing, and editing of individual skits.
Overall The State arrives on DVD with a bang. I’m really glad it wasn’t a simple drag and drop of episodes, as the commentaries really add a whole other level of enjoyment to it. Not to mention the scads of deleted material and special appearances that is included as well. Fans of the series will find this as a Highly Recommended set.
The State – The Complete Series is now available on DVD.