Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Richard Pryor Show Vols 1 2 plus Bonus Disc|
Actors: Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Paul Mooney, Allegra Allison, Sandra Bernhard
Director: John Moffitt
Genres: Comedy, Television, African American Cinema
Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 09/18/2007
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Revisiting the Richard Pryor Show
R. C. Williams | Alex, VA | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thought that Richard was ahead of his time when he did this show on TV. It was funny then and it is still funny.
Was surprise to see a few comdedians that are well known today that were on the show; Robin Williams, Tim Reid, Witherspoon, Marsha Whitfield...
One star out of four for the early episodes, TEN for the las
curtis martin | Redmond, WA, USA | 10/24/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There's no mystery as to why The Richard Pryor Show only lasted four episodes. True, Pryor only originally contracted to do ten shows, and then renegotiated down to four once he realized that the NBC censors weren't going to let him do much of the material he wanted to do. But even though he had limited the run of the show himself, there is no doubt that the series wouldn't have lasted much more than four even if it had been intended to run a full season. Plainly put--the first two episodes sucked and by the time the excellent fourth episode hit the air, whatever audience there had been was gone. There were some bright spots in the early episodes, and though they were very bright indeed they were surrounded by pure pointless, rambling, drawn out crap. Then, suddenly, in the fourth episode--magic. But too late.
It could be that so many of Pryor and company's skits were rejected by the censors in the earlier episodes that the remaining bits had to be elongated beyond their potential or that skits were included that otherwise would have been left on the cutting room floor.
The majority of the sketches in those episodes are very old fashioned and seem distinctly un-Pryorlike--a lot of pantomime and dumb visual humor. I guess it could be that Pryor was a big Ernie Kovacs fan; a lot of the comedy resembles that stuff. In any case, the urban characters and situations that so vividly populated Pryor's standup routines were almost entirely absent from his variety show. The more I watch the DVD release of the show, however, the more I begin to think that the Richard Pryor Show was actually started as the man's big "FU" to the network. For instance, the show's theme was "For the Love of Money" indicating Pryor's admission that he was only in it for the dough and he did make many references to being creatively hog-tied and enslaved by the network. And, whether on purpose or not--the low quality of the comedy of the first shows was insulting to everyone.
Though the majority of the show's early skits and bits were determinedly dumb, there were still some bits that were good and a very few that made for extraordinary television. And the series got better as it went along. In fact, by the fourth and final episode the consistency and quality of the show improved so much that it is obvious that Rich and company had made a conscious decision to expend less effort in flipping off the network and more in trying to do something worthwhile within the constraints they had.
Here's a rundown of the good parts of the series:
First episode: poor--two and a half good parts
-The opening shows a close up of Pryor telling the audience that they need not worry that the network censors have tamed his comedy at all. In fact, he points out as the camera pulls back to a longer shot "as you can see, I'm naked." Then, as the camera pulls back to a long shot he says "and as you can see, I've given up nothing!" The long shot reveals a naked Pryor with no genitals, like a black Ken doll.
-The 40th President of the United States skit, about the first black president, is very slow to start, but eventually builds to funny stuff worthy of Pryor.
-- a dramatic piece about a singer names Satin Doll
--the other 6 or so segments of the show are a waste of time
Second Episode: Really bad--only one half-good bit.
--A sketch satirizing the To Kill a Mockingbird trial scene with Pryor as a bigoted white lawyer has some funny bits.
--and that's it. The rest of the episode sucks.
Third Episode: Improved--half brilliant, half sucky
--This episode opens with a brilliant bit in which the Network turns the sound down on a violent Pryor rant about how they're ruining his show as a voiceover tells us he's saying nice, glowing things about working for NBC. Truly hilarious.
--Richard does some of his clean standup bits (one bleep) that are very funny. What's even funnier is that the segment seems totally out of place in the show's format up to that point and was obviously stuck in out of a desire to actually give the audience some entertainment value. This episode actually seems to be a bit of a turning point for the series.
--A incredibly goofy routine featuring Pryor doing a Little Richard routine is interrupted as though another channel is accidentally bleeding through and we are treated to a dramatic monologue about a lonely woman's (imaginary?) lesbian encounter that looks like it's from a cable access show. A brilliant, touching piece of writing and performing that hints at what potential the show could have had if Pryor had been allowed the time and freedom to create what he wanted.
--A couple of skits later Pryor shifts gears entirely and presents a lovely and heartfelt circus performance for a group of children. Seems like a precursor to his "Pryor's Place" children's show he created over a decade later.
--The show ends with a very funny group improv performance by the entire cast. Like the standup routine from earlier on, it seems out of place among the goofy sketch comedy we've become used to from the show--but it is fresh and at least ten times as funny.
Fourth Episode: Pure gold all the way through.
--A sketch reminiscent of Pryor's classic "Wino and Dracula" standup routine with Pryor as a toned down version of his old Wino character and a cast member as a Mr. Hyde monster. Funny enough and Pryor-ish that it should have been longer.
--The Richard Pryor Roast. An 12 minute edit of a totally out of control 45 minute roasting of the boss by the cast and writers of the show (the unedited version is included on the dvd as an extra). The stuff that made it onto the show was still pretty funny. Paul Mooney, a pre-Mork Robin Williams, Marsha Warfield, Tim "Venus Flytrap" Reid and Sandra Bernhard participate.
--A Titanic sketch with Pryor as a porter pulling drowning white folks into a lifeboat is very funny and reminiscent of the word association skit he did with Chevy Chase back on SNL.
--The Gun Shop is a chilling non-comic sketch that most effectively translates the Pryor type storytelling to the sketch form as he wanders through a gun shop and the various weapons talk to him. Reminded me of the routine where his heart talks to him during a heart attack. Except more serious.
--The show ends on a comic note with Pryor as a horny Santa Claus. A big black "Censored" bar blacks out half the sketch.
--the dvd includes a very powerful sketch on TV violence that was rejected by the censors. It features Pryor becoming enraged about a philandering wife and tearing a room to pieces. Funny, touching, out of control and a little bit scary. At one point he yells "MY FIRST GOOD WEEK!" and he must have been talking about his show. This was the only skit that featured the kind of rage Pryor showed in his standup routines. Powerful and compelling.
--The show ends with Pryor thanking the cast and crew of the show, a touching ending for a series that I think started out as a bitter joke and ended up as a labor of love.
It's too bad Pryor didn't continue the series or at least do some more specials because I think based on the improvement from the early episodes to the last one, Pryor and company could have made television history.
ps--Also too bad he wasn't working during the cable TV era. The outtakes on the DVDs are profane and hilarious. Pryor cut totally loose on TV would put guys like Chapelle to shame.