DVD Review: Get A Life: The Complete Series

STUDIO: Shout! Factory | DIRECTORS: David Mirkin, Tony Dow, Dwayne Hickman, Tony Down and others | CAST: Chris Elliott, Bob Elliott, Elinor Donahue, Brian Doyle-Murray, Robin Riker, Sam Robards
RELEASE DATE: 9/18/12 | PRICE: DVD $59.97
“Paleyfest 2000” panel; featurettes with crew, executives, celebrity fans; writer featurette; episodes without laugh tracks; audio commentaries for each episode
SPECS: NR | 14 hours | Comedy | 1.33:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital Stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


Chris Elliott is a hard comedian to categorize. The characters he created for the NBC Letterman show were odd, abrasive and very, very funny. His humor is an odd combination of intentionally idiotic physical comedy and razor-sharp lampoons (of “drop-in” bits on talk shows, ridiculous TV and music phenomena, and sitcom clichés). Enter his cult television series from the early 1990s, Get a Life.

The show lasted for only two seasons on the then-still-fledgling Fox network, but it has garnered a major cult following since it was axed by Fox in 1992. Four VHS tapes and two DVDs (consisting of the same eight episodes as the tapes) were previously released by Rhino, but this six-disc box represents the long-awaited release of the entire series.

Get A Life scene

Chris Elliott stars in Get A Life.

The good news is that the series is as good as most of us remember it being. There are scant few bad episodes in this series, which found Elliott playing a stubbornly dim-witted 30-year-old paperboy who lives at home with his parents (played by sitcom staple Elinor Donahue and Chris’s real-life dad, Bob Elliott, of the legendary radio comedy team Bob & Ray).

The few episodes that do resound with a crash can be excused because the bulk of the shows (35 of ’em!) are still fresh, lively, and very weird. GAL prefigured the nasty, surreal humor found today in numerous cable series, mostly notably those on Adult Swim — where Elliott can currently be seen on Eagleheart.

Online cultists debate which GAL episode is “the best,” but three stand head and shoulders above the rest: “Zoo Animals on Wheels” finds Chris starring in a wonderfully idiotic mash-up of Cats and Starlight Express; “SPEWEY and Me” is without question the most savage spoof of E.T. to ever appear in the mainstream; and “The Big City” is a wholly unique episode derived from the film Nothing Sacred, in which Elliott and his cast mates walk among an eye-popping array of back-projected, color street-level footage of Times Square in the Fifties.

Thus, fans of Elliott and the show can rejoice in this box’s appearance, replete with the original music that was used in the broadcast versions of the episodes, including REM, James Brown, The Bee Gees, Lulu, Sly and the Family Stone, Depeche Mode, and Cream. More troublesome, though, are the many supplements and audio commentaries included here (about a half a day’s worth!), all of which are centered around the show’s co-creator/director/scripter David Mirkin, and none of which contain contributions from either Chris or Bob Elliott, or the show’s other creator, Adam Resnick (Cabin Boy).

Mirkin apparently decided that he should be the one to hold forth on the GAL box set. And hold forth he does — and hold forth, and hold forth…. All told, Mirkin appears as the main speaker in the nearly three hours of original on-screen featurettes included in the set and is front and center on the audio commentaries for all 35 episodes. One in fact reaches the third disc before Mirkin is joined by other commentators; in this case, GAL scripters Steve Pepoon and Jace Richdale.

Mirkin is a very talented individual, as is witnessed by his long-term work on The Simpsons and his wonderful scripting and direction on GAL episodes, including “The Big City.” However, Elliott’s skewed sensibility was clearly the driving force behind GAL, and his is the presence most fans of the series would’ve wanted on the supplements.

As it stands, the featurettes are most interesting when the other scripters, or GAL fans James L. Brooks (Broadcast News) and Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids), speak about the show. A panel held at the Paley Center in NYC back in 2000 is illuminating, but again the lion’s share of the clips from the event included here find Mirkin speaking, overshadowing the cast members who attended and the two GAL scripters who went on to prominence, Bob Odenkirk and filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich).

We will probably never know what prevented Elliott, his father and Resnick from contributing to this collection. This reviewer saw Elliott and Resnick announce during a Q&A at NYC’s Anthology Film Archives back in July 2005 that they were indeed in the midst of recording audio commentaries for a GAL box set at that time.

In any case, the fact that the series is finally legally available trumps all considerations of the Mirkin ego-fest found in the supplements. Get a Life was one of the strangest and funniest sitcoms to ever air on a non-cable network, and it has long deserved to be available to the DVD-buying public.

Buy or Rent Get A Life: The Complete Series
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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”