Tuesday, July 18, 2006


It's Bruce Campbell day in spades on DVD, with the release of boxed sets devoted to the complete runs of his two TV series The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr. and Jack Of All Trades. The former, a western/science fiction/action/comedy extravaganza, ran on Fox in the mid-nineties, and features the erstwhile Evil Dead star in his physical prime, gamely attempting to play the straight man. The latter, a swashbuckling spoof, was produced for syndication a few years later, by which time Bruce had officially entered his doughy guy phase, and was putting ironic quotation marks around his every utterance.

Both shows have their strengths and weaknesses, but feature plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. I have a real fondness for Jack, produced by Evil Dead masterminds Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, but if you were only going to pick one, the best bet would be Brisco, largely for its wonderful cast (Christian Clemenson, Kelly Rutherford and especially Julius J. Carry). Never quite the great show it could have been, but still a lot of fun.

It takes a lot to trump Bruce Campbell in my world, but the really big deal today is the release of The Pee Wee Herman Show on DVD. This is the original incarnation of Paul Reubens' brilliant creation, an adult-oriented cabaret performance videotaped for HBO in the early eighties.

Let me be clear: I think Pee Wee Herman is one of the most inspired creations in comedy history. I loved Pee Wee's Playhouse (which featured many of the same performers as The Pee Wee Herman Show, as well as the talents of designer Gary Panter), and think Pee Wee's Big Adventure is one of the best films ever made. (Yes, I'm serious.) But for primo Pee Wee, The Pee Wee Herman show is all you need. I taped it off of HBO and wore out my Beta tape from watching it so many times, and I laughed every single time.

From Kap'n Karl's awkward romance with Miss Yvonne to Jambi the Genie's new hands ("Cool! Caucasian!") to Mr. and Mrs Jelly Donut's salute to Sly Stone to the evil hypnotist Dr. Mondo...this stuff is pure genius. Go buy it now! You wouldn't want to be like Mr. Bungle, would you?