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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
robably the craziest thing to come of the TV-on-DVD “revolution” (which is placed into quotation marks so as not to belittle events that are actually worthy of being referred to as revolutions) is that shows that couldn’t find a life on TV manage to take their dying gasps on the silver platter. It used to be that, when a show was canceled before the end of its first season, it all but vanished from existence. Now these shows find a minor new life on DVD, usually subtitled “The Complete Series,” which makes the package sound like such an experience! But they rarely are, and I suppose we have “Family Guy” and “Futurama” to blame for all of these sets, because they’re the only canceled shows that have ever really benefitted from their posthumous DVD releases. I mean, really, if “Worst Week” hadn’t just been released on DVD, would anybody be driven to write about it today? Would anyone even remember that it was on the air in the first place? There’s a reason shows like this get canceled, and it’s not because people want to buy them on DVD.
The series is based on a British show entitled “The Worst Week of My Life,” which I have not seen, but I imagine is probably superior to this version, if for no other reason than it ran for two seasons in the U.K. and even managed to snag a few coveted Christmas specials to finish it off. Besides, it starred Sarah Alexander, who was in the original U.K. “Coupling” (another series that managed to spawn an aborted U.S. remake), and she’s comedy gold, so it must have been good.
“Worst Week” isn’t good, but it isn’t terrible, either. Well, actually, it is at first. The first block of five episodes is pretty dire. Sam Briggs (Kyle Bornheimer) has knocked up his girlfriend Melanie Clayton (Erinn Hayes). They go to visit Mel’s parents for a week so Sam can meet them for the first time and, as the week progresses, hopefully tell them the good news. Things get off to a bad start when Sam believes he’s responsible for the death of Mel’s father, Dick (Kurtwood Smith). But it turns out Dick is not dead after all, he was merely resting. Slapstick – much of it – ensues. Many cover-ups occur, and numerous lies are told as well. Each episode is another disastrous day in the week leading up to Dick’s birthday party, and while the premise is mildly inspired, the show isn’t. Americans have rarely been able to pull off this kind of farce. It’s just something we’re not very good at. Is it because we take ourselves too seriously, or not seriously enough? The Brits, who are masters of the art form, are well-known for having sticks up their asses, so it must be the latter. It’s not that the writing is especially bad, it’s that the actors all seem too stiff for their roles, and I kept wondering how much more love I’d have for the show if a young John Ritter were playing the lead. As it was, I sat pretty stone-faced throughout the first block.
But I did my duty and trudged on and, lo and behold, the second block of five episodes, which chronicles the week leading up to Sam and Mel’s wedding, was a considerable improvement. The cast seemed to be gelling better, and instead of making Sam the butt of every joke while everyone else stands around shaking their heads, the show started making all the main players complicit in the lunacy. As a result, I started to actually care about them, and their eventual fates. In this second block, you can even start to see what Mel sees in Sam, as she begins to comment on how bad luck follows him everywhere, and from time to time even allows herself to become an accomplice to his stupidity. Olympia Dukakis also shows up as Dick’s mom, and she’s the worst mother-in-law in history, but not in any kind of traditional way. No, she gets a kick out of constantly belittling Mel’s mom Angela (Nancy Lenahan, who’s probably the jewel in this series’ crown), before getting plastered and banging the wedding limo driver in his place of work. Freakin’ hilarious.
But the good will I was extending to “Worst Week” just couldn’t last. The last six episodes of the series abandon the “week in the life of” gimmick altogether and instead treat viewers to single episode lunacy, revolving around stuff like Sam and Mel get their first apartment, Sam and Mel inadvertently find out the sex of their baby, and, not to be outdone by the U.K. version, a Christmas episode. It remains somewhat funny, but in losing the central gimmick – the one thing that made it stand apart from the pack – it becomes little more than a very average sitcom. Who knows why this was done, but there were probably flagging ratings and some suits involved. Did nobody notice what the title of the series was?
In closing, it should be noted that I’m not a big fan of the “Meet the Parents/Fockers” saga. If you are, then you may find “Worst Week: The Complete Series” far more enjoyable than I did.
Special Features: There’s just a commentary track for the first episode with executive producer Matt Tarses and Kyle Bornheimer, which is probably more than is to be expected from a DVD set of a series that everyone’s pretty much forgotten about.