April 13, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The State

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The State

Today's movie: The State, 1993-95 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because in the years since, there's been a ton of classic comedy projects (both film and television) associated in one way or another with this legendary early-'90s MTV sketch-comedy series (the network's attempt to cash in on the Generation X craze at the time, which the show made vicious fun of throughout its run), so I thought it best to sit and finally watch the original before starting to tackle everything that came after.

The reality: Wow. Well, thank God none of my friends nor I could afford cable back when we were undergraduates; because this is exactly the kind of show we would've become obsessed with, a surprisingly sharp series that takes the non-sequitur nature of Monty Python, mixes in the absurdity of Kids In The Hall, and adds a large dollop of pure manic energy. In fact, truth be told, this is often what actually sells the sketches, not the writing itself but the physical intensity that this large group of hungry twentysomething comedians would apply to their performances -- this is the only show I can think of, for example, that could pull off a dozen sketches featuring a guy whose trademark is to get people at parties to name things, so that he can scream, "I WANNA DIP MY BALLS IN IT!!!" to the cheers of the other partygoers; but make no mistake, I still giggled uncontrollably every time he did it, which is a good way to describe maybe 80 percent of this seriously offbeat show, one of those lucky iconoclastic projects that just happened to be noticed by the exact right people at the exact right moment in history. All 24 episodes are up for instant streaming at Netflix, which is how I watched them as well, one episode a day at the end of my time each day at my local coffeehouse; and now the rest of this year and next will be devoted to finally watching all the spinoff and subsequent projects by this team of enormously gifted writers and actors, including (take a deep breath) Viva Variety, Reno 911!, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer, The Ten, Childrens Hospital, Reaper, Baxter, Diggers, Wanderlust, Michael and Michael Have Issues, and more.

Strangest piece of trivia: After three successful seasons on MTV, the group was lured to CBS on the promise of regular specials that would hopefully lead to a weekly series; but after the executive who championed them was fired after getting caught making racist remarks about late-night audience viewing habits, all his subsequent projects were shunned by other network executives, turning "The State"s first non-promoted special into a ratings disaster.

Worth your time? Oh my, yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:08 AM, April 13, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |