"MADtv: The Complete First Season" (Warner, 1995-96, not rated, $39.98, three double-sided discs). Fans of "MADtv" swear the show is much better than "Saturday Night Live" an alternative that's shorter by a half hour and packed with fine-tuned skits that can be better tweaked since the show doesn't air live. Fans of "Saturday Night Live" would argue, of course, but this collection of the first season's episodes demonstrates that the show is frequently very funny, in its own subversive way.
Highlights here include the clay-animated "Raging Rudolph" and, in a way similar to "SCTV," a range of skits that blend hit movies and TV shows into one, such as "Blade" and "Sling Blade," "Clueless" and "Silence of the Lambs," etc. It can get raunchy, but when it's on, it's on.
Also included here are favorite sketches from later seasons (the show has been on 10 years now!), as well as bloopers and a reunion episode with cast members who had departed.
"Wattstax" (Warner, 1973; R for language; $24.98). A longer version of this 1973 concert film was released last year, and this DVD includes even more footage among the bonus features. This is a documentary of the "Black Woodstock" that came together in Los Angeles in August 1972.
Performers include Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Carla Thomas and many others, and Richard Pryor is on hand for some blistering stand-up comedy.
"Mean Girls" (Paramount, 2004, PG-13, $29.95). Lindsay Lohan is good, and there are some funny moments in this sort of anti-teen comedy, about the new girl in school subversively infiltrating the "in" group, who embody the title. This was written by "Saturday Night Live's" Tina Fey, who has a supporting role, and she gives herself all the best lines. As a film, it's not as fully developed or consistently funny as we might hope.
"The Country Girl" (Paramount, 1954, not rated, b/w, $14.99). The Clifford Odets play gets top-of-the-line treatment with this excellent film version, which won an Oscar for best screenplay. Bing Crosby is great as an alcoholic singer looking for a comeback, with aid from pal William Holden but it was Grace Kelly, as Crosby's long-suffering wife, who took home the gold, winning a well-deserved best-actress Oscar.
"The Rose Tattoo" (Paramount, 1955, not rated, b/w, $14.99). Italian actress Anna Magnani won the best-actress Oscar for this showcase film, an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play set in the South. She's a widow in an Italian-American community, in denial about her no-good husband and suffering from depression. Then, about an hour into the film, she finds herself being romanced by a bombastic and overbearing but well-intentioned truck driver (Burt Lancaster, very good as he plays against type). A bit dated, but generally enjoyable. (You may want to use the English subtitles for some of Magnani's dialogue.)
"Warren Miller's Journey" (Shout! 2003, not rated, $19.98). Veteran ski-filmmaker Miller is on-camera and in-studio as this one opens, wisecracking in his familiar way before the film goes off in many directions, showing skiers and snowboarders around the world performing incredible (incredibly stupid?) stunts. One of the locations is The Canyons resort near Park City; others include Chile, France, Alaska and Morocco.
"Warren Miller's Bloopers, Blunders and Bailouts" (Shout! 1990/1997, not rated, $14.99). These two under-an-hour collections "Best of Winter Bloopers, Vol. 3" (1990) and "Skiing Bloopers II" (1997) are the kind of thing you might expect to see on "Funniest Home Videos," if that show were always snowbound. Occasionally, there are bikini-clad skiers or dummies on skis for diversion.