America’s Funniest Home Videos, first aired in 1990. It is currently in its 16th season, making it one of TV’s longest-running series. The show’s title is its premise. A collection of video clips, some funny, some just plain odd, is culled from people all across the country. The producers select a few that are eligible to win $10,000, decided by the studio audience, at the end of the program.
The creators of the tapes are always in attendance, which must be mandatory, and there has to be other criteria not explained to the viewer because the producers never pick the funniest clips. The winners become eligible for the season finale’s prize of $100,000 also selected by the studio audience.
This three-DVD set contains episodes featuring the show’s first host, Bob Saget, who put in a seven-year stint, and its current host since 2001, Tom Bergeron. The citizens of America must not have been recording themselves falling down at weddings or getting hit in the package during the years 1997 to 2000 because hosts Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang are unmentioned, relegated to the George Lazenby file of useless trivia.
Disc 1 is AFV Looks At Kids & Animals, a themed episode from 1996 with clips of the aforementioned in the usual videotaped shenanigans involving silly activities, precious moments and embarrassing events. There are the usual, horrendously unfunny Saget voiceovers that detract from the humor of the videos as well groan-inducing comedy bits with him and two children dressed like centaurs. The comedy is so bad that I wonder if it might have been intentional, arising out of Saget’s self-loathing for agreeing to be on the show. The $100,000 1996 Season Finale is included as a bonus.
Disc 2 is All Animal Extravaganza, an episode from 2004 where the animals take the center stage, but kids stay a part of the mix. There are themed segments like “You’ve Got A Bad Dog When…”, “When Birds Attack”, and “Cats Running Into Walls”, a personal favorite. Not surprisingly, most of the animals are pets, but there are plenty of wild animals caught on tape, including sea creatures and insects. The 2004 $100,000 Season Finale is included as a bonus.
Bergeron comments during the videos, but doesn’t do annoying voices like Saget; however, he is just as prone to bad, out-of-date puns, illustrated by his referencing Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” during the segment with Julio the Owl. There is an amusing bit where Bergeron’s face is inserted onto bodies in clips and reacts to the situation. For some reason there are animals from the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park in the studio: a cheetah, an anteater, and an owl. They hoped for the same magic moments a la Carson, but nothing happens.
Disc 3 has the funniest collection of clips, which is no surprise because it is the Battle of the Best, a two-hour special from 2002 that showcased videos from the first 12 years. A panel of celebrities discussed and allegedly selected the finalists, one of who would receive an all-expenses-paid, seven-day trip to Maui worth $25,000.
It was a very odd panel, though. It made sense to have comedians Kathy Griffin and Martin Mull. Although they have contrasting styles, they are very humorous. The other two panelists were rapper Coolio and Olympic skier Picabo Street. Nice people, but two unknowns picked off the street would have been able to make similar contributions.
Fans of the show will love having this set to watch these clips at their leisure although it’s hard to believe that there isn’t a 24-hour channel devoted to funny home videos and bloopers caught on tape. It’s not a non-stop laugh riot but causal fans of people falling into lakes and off of roofs might enjoy it. It would make a good gift for a family.
I end with a personal plea. Not for world peace, but a more attainable goal. To everyone who appears on television, please stop using the Carol Burnett signature ear tug. It belongs to her. It’s not cute when anyone else does it and just shows how uncreative you are. The mother of The LaMontange Family who sent in “Smitten with a Kitten” does it twice and I want to reach through the screen and smack her each time, which might be amusing for the rest of you if I record it.