The Dana Carvey Show Gets Funnier With Age

From time to time TVFMF is sent a copy of the latest TV related DVD release. One that arrived this month was The Dana Carvey Show, a short-lived series from the mid-’90s that hit stores earlier this month.
To be honest, the series barely registered when it arrived. My teens were also surprised that Garth from Wayne’s World–basically their only connection to the former Saturday Night Live standout–ever had his own TV show.
It all came back to me when I popped the first disc into the player. This was the series that had the balls to goof on actual sponsors right in the title of the show. The first episode was “The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show.” Later episodes were branded as “The Mug Root Beer Dana Carvey Show” and “The Pepsi Stuff Dana Carvey Show.” A bit where Carvey jokes about Mountain Dew looking like `liquid sunshine`is a jaw dropper. It is ad-tastic.
The series takes fearless aim at the sponsors in opening dance sequences that would be struck down dead today. It was aimed at the notion that TV might be headed back to the “Texaco Star Theater” days of full corporate sponsorship–no longer such a far-fetched notion given all those product placements on American Idol and Survivor.
This is just one of the many ways this series was remarkably ahead of its time. The release that came with the set acknowledges that the series may have hit the airwaves “a moment too soon.” Only eight episodes were made, and only seven aired.
But look at the astounding comedy talent list. Besides Carvey at his peak, there were these two young unknowns named Steve: Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Both were plucked out of Second City auditions for this series, as we learn in the accompanying interview session with Carvey and executive producer Robert Smigel (SNL, Late Night with Conan O’Brien), one of several neat extras in this unexpected TV treat.
Beyond Carell and Colbert, there are also glimpses of Louis C.K. (a writer on the series, along with Smigel, Spike Ferestein and Charlie Kaufman), Bill Chott, Elon Gold and Heather Morgan, who kills with a simple yet daring bit portraying First Lady’s as dogs.
Not all the skits work, but like the gold standard for these kind of sketch shows, SCTV, the best ones will have you laughing out loud. An early version of Smigel’s animated “Ambiguously Gay duo” is part of the deal, as is a running gag goofing on ABC’s broadcast of the mid-`90s Beatles Anthology special. Carvey (wonderfully loopy and evasive as McCartney), Colbert (a cranky Harrison) and Smigel (as a very blank Ringo) are fab.
One of the funniest bits, seen in every episode, is a filmed spot where “Stupid Pranksters” Carvey and Carell drive up to McDonalds’ windows and other points of purchase, hand over their money and then take off, laughing hysterically in their car. Carell sells it like crazy. It only sinks in at the last tragic stop that this might not be such a funny shtick.
There’s also a side-splitting goof on Quentin Tarantino guesting on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, with the two in all their squeaky-voice glory. Watch you don’t blow your speakers. To Carvey and Smigel`s credit, they resisted the temptation to cash in on some of Carvey`s more infamous SNL characters, although the Church Lady does get one cameo.
Some skits go too far. Princess Diana is beheaded at one point; we are not amused given she died less than a year later. A couple of other spots seem a tad misogynist. The eighth episode, which never aired, is both funny and offensive depending on whether or not you think “Germans Why Say Nice Things That Come Out Wrong” is to laff.
The Dana Carvey Show is one of those short-lived gems that coulda, woulda, shoulda and maybe lives on best as an Eight and Out. (Now if only somebody would release Dave Thomas’ similar, short-lived CBS summer series, which to my memory had some pretty hilarious moments as well.) Available now from Shout Factory.

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