DVDs: Part 3

Gift guide

DVDs: Part 3

Home Movies: Season One

Shout! Factory, $34.99

"I was fortunate to do Dr. Katz, before," says Jon Benjamin, leaning back in his chair, during an interview on disc three of this Cartoon Network series' first-season set. He's referring to Comedy Central's squiggly revelation of the Nineties, the one starring comedian Jonathan Katz as an ineffective therapist and the accommodating father of Benjamin's alternately incompetent and opportunistic Ben. In Home Movies, which, after a quickly canceled UPN run in 1999, aired amid much turbulence as part of Adult Swim from September 2001 to April 2004, Benjamin voiced several characters, most notably the garrulous soccer coach John McGuirk. McGuirk – whom the creators deem a father figure, and the animators, interestingly, a villain – is a mystery, a burly alcoholic as understated as he is overstated, and as iconic an animated creation as, say, the continual bulldog foil of Looney Tunes fame. As for the interview – one of many above-average extras on the three-disc, 13-episode collection (10 commentary tracks, four interviews, three animation galleries, two storyboards, and two short films) – the Pilot Season vet Benjamin's rare moment of earnestness evaporates as quickly as his impression of McGuirk emerges (which is a bit unsetting, actually, since it's less transition, less pitch, than tic). He shifts slightly to his left and points at Brendon Small, straight man and co-creator. "And you were very fortunate to get the job on Home Movies." The other co-creator, Loren Bouchard, who with Katz producer Tom Snyder launched this squiggly quasi-sequel, laughs warmly. Benjamin smirks. Small, apparently, is taken aback. "What do you mean by ... that?" It's a question that his character, 8-year-old underground (literally) filmmaker Brendon Small, would ask of his sublimely rendered playmate-collaborators: the bemused muse and lead actress, Melissa (Melissa Bardin Galsky); the hygienically challenged (cradle cap and incontinence) character actor, Jason (Benjamin); and, occasionally, the Ramone-y composer, Duane (Small), whose Kafka rock opera challenges Brendon's vision in the memorable episode No. 6; or of his struggling single mother (briefly Paula Poundstone, then Janine Ditullo). Comically oversmart kids, comically oversmart shit. So, the question itself is a stalling and savvy one, and it's what improvisation – the motor behind this low-budget joyride – is all about. It keeps it going. And, during the interview, it eventuates two conversational condolences with the realization that Home Movies didn't keep going: Those characters have childhoods that will, and we're fortunate to laugh warmly watching them.

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