This group's ability to pull this show off is nothing short of extraordinary.
Like a lot of today's modern comedy, I wish I understood the random, ironic humor more.
I had no idea what to expect when I popped Stella: Season 1 into my DVD player. Sometimes this sort of situation can go either way, but in this case I was pleasantly surprised. Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain comprise this comedy troupe that lives in their own fantasy world, yet somehow gets everyone else to live in it as well.
In this two disc, 10 episode set we see our team get evicted from from their apartment, perform open heart surgery and hang out with Edward Norton, all in the first episode! The following episodes see them enter the corporate world, open rival coffee shops, fight bullies, go on a camping trip and just about anything else you can think of. While I wasn't always sure that I got the joke or that I even understood why something was funny, the humor here isn't all self contained. The other members of the cast who aren't in on what these three guys are doing really do not suffer them easily. In fact, it is only the three comic's attitudes and "can do" nature that gets them through each episode and keeps them alive.
All told, I feel like a whole new comic world was opened up to me when I screened Stella: Season 1.
Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain provide commentaries for all 10 of the episodes here. I decided to get random with my selection so I listened to the track on the 6th episode titled "Camping." The boys talk about choreographing their scenes, getting "My Cunt" passed the censors on television, and shooting random scenes in the woods as they are losing light. Overall, these guys are somewhat too much in each other's heads to play this straight, but I do give them points for trying.
Deleted Scenes and Bloopers
These sections both play as one long chunk and they seem to follow in the order of the episodes (well at least the Deleted Scenes do). Although I found some of the deleted scenes over the top (it makes sense why they were cut), a lot of the excised takes were in fact pretty good. Something tells me they could have created many more episodes just cutting together what they didn't use. The Blooper Reel featured the usual takes of messed up lines, but for some reason they weren't as funny here as they are on other DVDs.
Comedy Central Presents: Stella
Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain present their Stella act to a live audience. The crowd may have eaten this up but it was just over my head. I didn't really see what was so funny about what they were doing, yet everyone kept hooting and hollering as if this show was the best thing they had ever seen. Maybe if I was better versed on the show I would have liked this, but I don't think I could have known any more about Stella than I did. This act just doesn't translate onto the stage.
History of Stella
The three guys sit on couches doing their best to play it straight. They discuss how they got started doing sketch comedy (they all met at NYU), after that they did The State and then that evolved into Stella. The name was derived from the child of the woman who first booked this comedy act in a swank, upscale restaurant. This isn't the most amazing interview you will ever see, but I did appreciate these guys stepping back a bit and trying not to ham things up too much.
Full Screen - They have employed a lot of green and browns for the look of this show. I loved the freewheeling nature that has been employed here, and the way that we see these guy's have their lives just happen to them. On DVD these shows seem like they were minimally compressed, and I'll bet if I compared them to how the shows looked on Comedy Central they most likely wouldn't look that different. Also, for this most part this show is classically shot and edited without things being too chaotic save for the characters actions.
Dolby Digital. Everything about the audio was in service of putting across the jokes that these guys were saying. The thing is, this show relies on physical comedy just as much as it relies on the words coming out of the character's mouth. What used to be conveyed with a quick one liner, has been replaced by a look or a quick jerk of the body. In that regard, the audio serves as little more than a recorder to take in what this group is doing.
Everything is very slim with this release. The front cover features two different shots of our main characters. One is of them on a three seat bike in suits (which makes them look British), and below them is a shot of them silhouetted in red and black. The back keeps up the red and black style with some critics quotes, a description of what this show is about, a Bonus Materials listing, a cast list and technical specs. There are also some pictures from the show thrown in for good measure. Both discs are housed in two slim cases which look similar to the box that houses them. There are more pictures from the show on this artwork, and inside are small, one line descriptions of each episode. Economical packaging for a minimalist show.
I am TV traditionalist. I like sitcoms and one hour shows where the camera isn't always moving. This isn't to say that I don't like a lot of shows, I just think that network TV has brokered too heavily on the MTV, ADD generation to realize that they have alienated some of their audience. That is one thing about Stella: Season 1 that I really appreciated. The camera moved a lot but it wasn't obtrusive. Also, aside from the many fantastical moments that this show offers, and believe me it does offer a lot, there was just the right degree of good-natured humor to keep things in perspective. We aren't seeing people that are rude and then get rewarded for it. I honestly think these guys don't know any better and that gives them a certain charm.
This show may not be for everyone but I think it's creators and Comedy Central know Stella's audience.
Stella was released .