One Of The Best Sitcoms You Didn't Watch!
Servo | Atlanta, GA USA | 06/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"NBC's critically-acclaimed-but-low-rated "Lateline", which deftly and hilariously spoofed all facets of late-night television news programs, was one of those unfortunate quality shows that simply was a casualty of sub-par scheduling shuffles and network support. Too bad too, because the show had the necessary dynamics (great cast, sharp & hilarious writing) to run as long as say, CBS's "Murphy Brown". This DVD is definitely a welcome treat for me, as there are plenty of episodes I missed out on and never got the opportunity to watch in first-run.
The incredible cast includes Al Franken ("Saturday Night Live") as lovable goofball Al Freundlich, the chief correspondent; Robert Foxworth ("Falcon Crest") as the hilariously vain and pompous Pearce McKenzie, anchorperson; Catherine Lloyd Burns ("Partners") as Mona, Pearce's doting assistant; Miguel Ferrer ("Robocop") as Vic Karp, the gung ho executive producer; Megyn Price ("Grounded For Life") as Gale, the sensible segment producer; Sanaa Lathan ("Love & Basketball") as Briana, the booker; and Ajay Naidu as scene-stealing Raji, the production assistant.
With all 19 episodes from the series (including 4 never-before-aired episodes), maximize fun with this politically-charged sitcom released in time for the 2004 Presidential elections.
Guest stars include Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader, Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Rob Reiner, Vanessa Williams, Conan O'Brien, and many more! This 3-disc collection has a running time of about 7 hours. Full-screen video, Dolby Digital Stereo, and closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
An overlooked comedy gem
Mr. Reader | United Kingdom | 08/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Living in the UK, this was what most people would call a "blind buy" for me. I decided to purchase as I am a big fan of Al's "Stuart Saves His Family" - one of the better SNL spin-off movies. "Stuart Saves His Family" is a smart comedy that gets better with each viewing. I was hoping for more of the same from Al's TV series, "Lateline".
On the whole that's what I got. "Lateline" is a smart comedy with a strong cast, clever storylines and spoofs and satire on news reporting.
The cast is led by Al Frankin as Al Freundlich, the browbeaten, clumsy chief correspondent for the show who somehow manages to report on the big stories. Al is joined by Falcon Crest star Robert Foxworth as the arrogant Pearce McKenzie, Miguel Ferrer as Vic Karp the show's producer and Megan Price as Gale, Al's producer. My favorite character is Catherine Lloyd Burns as Mona, Pearce's smitten mousey assistant.
There's some gems in here - the best episode probably being the one where vain Lateline anchorman Pearce McKenzie becomes a little too keen on appearing on the Conan show (this episode features hilarious guest spots from Conan O'Brian), but there's also lots of other moments and episodes that are almost as good including; Al meeting a besotted fan, Al and Vic going to prison for refusing to name a source and Ajay being held hostage in a sexual relationship with Pearce's latest beauty queen pick up.
However, like most comedies it takes a while for the characters, actors and writers to settle into their roles. The first few episodes are where everybody was finding their feet and this quite clearly shows, as these are of a much lower quality, and ironically considering it's Al's show, there's too much emphasis on his character, Al Freundlich. It's only in the later episodes, where more emphasis is placed on the ensemble that the show really takes off and is free to become what it should have been conceived as; featuring and focussing on a large ensemble, where every character is just as important as the other. I urge all purchasers not to judge the program based on the first few episodes.
From the second disc onwards I was hooked, and when I'd finally seen all 19 episodes (including 4 which have never been transmitted on television) I was sorry it was over. I can't really understand why this would have been pulled from the schedules; I understand it received lots of positive comments from critics. Perhaps ultimately it was just too intelligent to support a large audience?
Too Bold & Intelligent For Its Own Good?
Ace-of-Stars | Honolulu, Hawaii | 11/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
I've never been much of a fan of TV "situation comedies." This is not to say that I haven't enjoyed my fair share of such mindless time-wasting offerings, but in the end they all quickly sank into the abyss of mental obscurity. Even the supposed 'bests-of-the-best' like "Cosby" and "Seinfeld" left barely a blip of an imprint on my memory -- they were watched; they were fun & entertaining; they were over; they were forgotten. Not one of all of the 'sitcoms' I was aware of was imaginative or innovative enough to prevent it from becoming almost completely unmemorable to me -- and certainly not anything that would cause me to even "consider" purchasing any of them to become part of my own personal viewing library.
So it comes as more-than a bit of a surprise that I would indeed single out ONE sitcom series to find a spot for among my personal DVD collection. What makes this even more significant is the fact that the purchase was of a sitcom series I HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF until very, very recently!
Former "Saturday Night Live" comedy writer and current "Air America Radio" talk show host Al Franken was apparently something of a visionary when he helped create a very short-lived sitcom called "LateLine," which satirized late-night "news magazine" programs (e.g. "Nightline"). After having been pleasantly impressed with another little-known Franken project -- a feature film called "STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY" (based on his "SNL" skit character "Stuart Smalley," whom I had also not heard of until fairly recently, and probably would have remained ignorant of had it not been for Bill O'Reilly repeatedly derogatorily referring to Franken by that name) -- I made the decision to look into other projects Franken had been involved in, and came across this series, which, from its description & reviews, looked promising. But, again, I was being haunted by "the ghosts of sitcoms past," and I wondered if it would again prove to be just another case of not very memorable simple 'beer-&-pizza' couch potato fare. I swallowed real hard and decided to give it a chance.
While I'll admit that this series was far from being the most humorous sitcom I've ever seen (though it does have its moments), it was to my surprise unquestionably one of the (if not "THE") most original and innovative "situation comedies" I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
And "MAYBE" that is why it didn't go over well in its original televised run -- perhaps it was "TOO" original & innovative to develop the kind of audience draw that it deserved. When we hear the words "situation comedy" or its contracted form, "sitcom," we automatically make the assumption that we are under obligation to disengage our brains ("Thinking Caps Not Required") -- we instinctively think, "mindless entertainment."
But "mindless entertainment" this ain't! Lighthearted? Yes. Fun? Certainly. Irreverent? Absolutely. Simple-minded? Definitely NOT! Along with being humorous, witty and occasionally slapstick, it is also political, analytical, provocative, socially conscious -- In a word: "Intellectual." And while we may occasionally appreciate a little "intelligent" comedy every now and again, we generally don't want "intellectual" comedy -- for most of us, that's sort of like mixing paisleys with polka dots, or like serving kim chee with high French cuisine.
"LateLine" seems to have been the victim of its own genius. Some might say that it was a little too ahead of its time, and I suppose that may be true to a certain extent, though there were other much earlier innovative television programs which also took a daring step by trying to fuse comedy/satire with politics and "current events" (NBC's "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS"-- a.k.a. "TW3" --comes to mind). But "LateLine" was unique in that it gave various political and other prominent "public" figures an opportunity to show a more down-to-earth "human" side of themselves by inviting them on the show to portray themselves as mocking caricatures of themselves -- even setting up "mock debates" between radicals from both the "Left" AND the "Right" (from Newt Gingrich's homosexual sister, Candace, to "Moral Majority" movement founder Jerry Falwell, even an appearance by pre-Democratic presidential nominee John Forbes Kerry -- and, of course, Franken's "friend" G. Gordon Liddy gets to enjoy the limelight on a few occasions as well).
Of course, one cannot help but to think of this series as an "Al Franken" vehicle, even though he actually plays more of a peripheral and relatively subdued role, instead giving his "co-stars" the opportunity to shine and really having each show revolve more around them and their interactions.
One can also see the evolution of this series taking place as well, as the production and the people involved with the series become more settled, refined, etc. It would have been interesting to see how this series would have developed over the long haul if it had been given a longer run. In the end, regrettably, this is all that we have of something that was truly daring and innovative ... perhaps too much so for its own good."
Too Smart for Some, Funny for All
Jason J. Sum | Carlyle, IL | 02/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This show was without a doubt Overlooked.
NBC dropped the ball on this show which is sad 'Cause its so Good and ahead of it's time. Thanks Paramount for the dvd box set!
The Cast is Awesome The writeing is smart and funny
Without a doubt a Rare Gem to good for Network tv........
I Highley Recomened This Box Set to anyone who misses Good Sitcoms