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Mad About You Collection [DVD] [Import]
In the early to mid-1990s, Mad About You was about as good as sitcoms got. As newlywed couple Paul and Jamie Buchman, stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt crackled with rapid-fire wit, and a chemistry that created some genuinely moving moments. The Mad About You Collection is a set of 21 highlight episodes from all seven seasons; Reiser and Hunt selected the episodes and introduce each with a 4- to 6-minute Q&A. From the first season are the pilot and the story of how they first met. From the second season are Paul's encounter with Christie Brinkley in a virtual-reality investment opportunity and the recap of the marriage proposal. From the third season are the zany family Thanksgiving dinner in which Murray the dog eats the turkey, Paul's attempt to create an "honest" 15-minute film about a day in their lives (this was before the reality-TV craze), and Carl Reiner's guest appearance as a TV legend. From the fourth season are Yoko Ono playing herself and the three-part finale in which some hints of infidelity lead to serious marriage problems. Mel Brooks appears as Uncle Marty ("Firm embrace!") in the fifth season, and Bruce Willis makes a goofy guest appearance in the two-part season finale, "The Birth."
It's well-known that TV series that try to keep themselves relevant by making momentous changes usually go quickly downhill (a phenomenon known as "jumping the shark"). In Mad About You's case, it was the birth of baby Mabel, or perhaps it was that the lead characters' neuroses simply began to wear thin. Either way, the later seasons became more erratic, and it might not be a great loss to see only a few episodes from them. The selections from the sixth season focus on Jamie and Paul writing letters to Mabel, and Paul directing his parents in The Pirates of Penzance while Jamie battles postpartum depression. In the seventh-season episodes, Paul and Jamie ask their therapist about resuming sexual activity, they try to teach Mabel to go to sleep by herself, and Paul runs over his mother-in-law. Then in the series finale, Janeane Garofalo plays a grown-up Mabel telling how her parents discovered they weren't really married, and what happened over the following years.
In addition to the episode intros, the set's bonus features are enjoyable and informative commentary tracks by the two stars on the first and final episodes, a blooper reel, and featurettes on the guest stars and the theme music (you can see Reiser playing the piano). The involvement by the stars might appease the frustrated fans who bought the first two complete seasons on DVD then waited in vain for the third. DVD fans have become accustomed to having complete seasons, because no matter how well highlight episodes are selected, some favorites are bound to be missing (how about the what-if-they-hadn't-met episode, or the Rashomon-like taxi ride?). On the other hand, the previous sets had no bonus features, and a fan boycott that results in poor sales might mean no more Mad About You DVDs at all. That would be a shame, for even with its shortcomings, The Mad About You Collection reminds us that the series had a special ability to make us laugh and cry. --David Horiuchi