Complete Fourth Season
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Reviewed by Will Harris
t’s a happy coincidence that the fourth season of “Mad About You” should finally be coming to DVD just as Paul Reiser, long absent from the airwaves, is preparing to make his return to network television as the appropriately-named star of “The Paul Reiser Show,” but this set has been in the works since long before Reiser’s series was picked up. Due to only fair-to-middling sales for its first three seasons, “Mad About You” has been stuck in DVD-release limbo for ages, and it likely would’ve stayed there were it not for – you guessed it – Shout! Factory. Seriously, those guys are awesome.
Those who thrilled to the lives and times of Paul and Jamie Buchman (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) were no doubt particularly pissed when the series’ DVDs skidded to a halt after Season Three, as well they should’ve been. Although some might argue that the show jumped the shark, as it were, after the couple became a trio with the birth of baby Mabel, there’s no question that “Mad About You” hit its stride in Season Four by showing with remarkable accuracy the trials and tribulations of a husband and wife who want to have a child but, despite their best efforts, just can’t seem to pull it off. Granted, as someone who walked in those very footsteps, I have a particular affinity to the storyline, but rest assured that there’s far more to the season than just a whole lot of baby talk.
Thanks to Paul’s career as a documentary filmmaker, “Mad About You” had a wonderful opportunity to utilize unique guest stars, but nowhere in the show’s run did they manage a greater coup than when they convinced Yoko Ono to not only appear as herself but, indeed, to poke fun at herself. The episode in question, entitled “Yoko Said,” finds both Paul and Jamie appropriately star struck by being in Yoko’s presence, with Paul’s desperate attempt to avoid mentioning the Beatles instantly defused by having her open the door and walk in to a soundtrack of the Fab Four. Personally, my favorite bit was the closing tag, which showed a bed-in with Paul, Jamie and Yoko. Great stuff.
The friend family camaraderie between was always great on “Mad About You,” and Season Four is no exception. When it comes to outside-marriage confidants, Jamie has her best friend, Fran (Leila Kenzle), while Paul’s got his cousin Ira (John Pankow). Occasionally, Fran’s ex-husband, Mark (Richard Kind), turns up too. Then there’s the sibling rivalry between Jamie and her older sister, Lisa (Anne Ramsay), as well as the often dodgy relationship that Jamie has with Paul’s parents, Sylvia (Cynthia Harris) and Burt (Louis Zurich). Alas, we don’t get a visit from Jamie’s parents this season, which is a shame, since they’re played by Carol Burnett and Carroll O’Connor, but that’s a good excuse to plead for Season Five on DVD sooner than later.
As noted, the real strength to Season Four was the way it dealt with the changes in Paul and Jamie’s relationship as a result of their struggles to have a child, but further tensions arose when Paul found himself without a full-time job just as Jamie’s career was taking off. By the time of the three-part season finale, viewers found themselves privy to one of the most realistic relationship fragmentations ever seen on television, one which had been building all season. You didn’t get story arcs like these very often on sitcoms in the ‘90s, but it proved to be a torch bearer for the future of television comedy.
Season Four ends happily, setting up the pregnancy for Season Five and establishing where “Mad About You” would be heading in the future, but it’s arguable that the show never bettered the efforts of its fourth season.
Special Features: It’s hard to complain too much about limited bonus material for a fourth season set of a show that’s been in release limbo for several years now, so shouldn’t we embrace what Shout! Factory has offered up? After all, Reiser and Hunt step up to the plate – or, rather, sit down with an interviewer – to discuss a couple of the episodes (“Yoko Said” and “The Finale”), and the results are educational. The duo also discusses the origins of the show’s theme song, which, as it turns out, was co-written by Reiser and Don Was with remarkable rapidity. Sounds great, but here’s the thing about this footage: it’s all recycled from a previous “Mad About You” best-of set, so diehard fans will have already seen it all. D’oh!