America’s Funniest Home Videos capture America’s real life Homer Simpson moments, but it's best taken in small doses.
America's Funniest Home VideosDistributor: Shout! Factory
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1989
US Release Date: 2006-09-12
Is America’s Funniest Home Videos the greatest TV guilty pleasure? It is at least in a three-way tie at the bottom of the barrel, along with Cops and The Jerry Springer Show. This simple concept of a program began innocently as a special in 1989, before graduating into a full-blown series in '90. Bob Saget was the series’ first host, and was best known for giving video participants humorous voices as clips played out. Tom Bergeron has been the show’s presenter since 2001, and while he’s not the voice master Saget was, he has contributed a regular segment called "Tom’s Home Movies" where his super-sized head is superimposed onto videos. This is a program all about unwittingly looking stupid for the camera although it wasn’t until around 2000 that the reality TV phenomenon fully broke out and explored the lengths Americans would go to in order to make a buck. But to its credit, this show’s concept is about capturing accidents on video, instead of intentionally being an idiot for the almighty dollar. It deserves minor kudos for being a kinder, gentler reality show.
Bob Saget, who shares Bergeron’s confused-by-it-all facial expression, was the early face of the show, but Tom Bergeron, who describes many clips in a whimsically droll way, has been master of ceremonies since 2001. This DVD six pack alternates between both hosts. Saget was sufficient at presenting clips, but Beregeron is far better at capturing the irony of this situational comedy. He is able to laugh at himself, the participants, and the program’s overall concept. It’s almost as if he’s apologizing to the viewers for what they’re about to see. (Deep inside, however, he’s probably laughing all the way to the bank).
The Battle of the Best may be a misnomer. How can the silly side of human nature even have a 'best' side? But this edition deserves credit for trying something new by adding celebrity judges into the equation. Martin Mull's dry wit and Kathy Griffin's humorous (but also honest) approaches give these videos-for-cash an even funnier perspective. One video finds a woman panicking while on a carnival ride, and Bergeron comments that this reminds him of Meg Ryan’s orgasmic moment in When Harry Met Sally. Her moans bother Griffin even more, she adds, "because I won’t ever have one of those moments".
Rapper Coolio, however, is not nearly as funny as is his unique hairdo, which looks like wires sticking haphazardly out of his skull, and skier Picabo Street, a 1998 Olympic gold medalist, is way out of her league sans snow and skies, although she tries. After one segment where a woman is caught cheating on her diet by sneaking into the refrigerator at night, Street responds: "My grandmother always taught me not to laugh at other people, and I’ve had the hardest time doing that." Her statement is likely true for all of us, but it’s not funny. "Sometimes you need two cameras", says Mull about the very same clip. "I’d like to know what she was going for. My guess is that it was a gallon of rocky road ice cream." Now that’s funny.
This two-hour special selects favorite clips from 12 programming years, then narrows them down to a mere few shorts. After each eight or so, one of the four celebrities is asked to select a finalist. The other judges can then lobby the selector, and these moments where celebrities debate stupid human tricks, like pundits do with politicians on Sunday morning programs, are some of the show’s brightest moments. Still, the fact that they’re arguing over the best of that selection's stupid human tricks should be kept in mind. But at least they’re not discussing politics, a la Meet The Press. The grand prize winning clip, for those of you keeping score at home, is of a woman flat on her back, in bed, and looking up at the camera . . . while surrounded by a quartet of giggling babies. It’s silly, playful, and will make you giggle, too. At least in this video, no one gets hurt.