In the wake of Michael Moore's Oscar diatribe, several news outlets and websites have focused their attention on the deceptiveness of Bowling for Columbine, a documentary that curiously and suspiciously won an award for its original screenplay from the Writers Guild of America. (Most notable is a "Documentary or Fiction?" dissection by the website www.hardylaw.net.) On April 29th, New Video will release the first and second season of Michael Moore's acclaimed Bravo TV show "The Awful Truth" in a complete DVD box set. Produced between 1999 until shortly before the last presidential election, Moore's brilliant comedy has yet to lose any of its luster. One of the reasons "The Awful Truth" as a whole is far more successful than Bowling for Columbine is that Moore all but gets away with murder in hiding his sometimes questionable journalistic approach beneath the guise of sketch comedy. Moore's attack plan is to kill his subjects with kindness, an approach that gets him through the door (see Moore infiltrate Charlton Heston's compound in Bowling for Columbine) but perpetuates his own self-aggrandizement (see Moore feign compassion for a victim of a school shooting outside Charlton Heston's compound). Moore's anger is sometimes misdirected but that's almost beside the point. Only one of the 12 episodes included in this DVD set noticeably suffers from editorial deceptiveness: Moore visits Taliban headquarters in New York and it sounds as if he recorded separate audio to get a "yes" to one of his questions. That's the worst of it because the good far outweighs the questionable.
From season one to season two, Moore successfully made the transition from a live studio audience to a Times Square location but was less successful in ditching awful truths in favor of Lenny "The Bookie" odds. Like any successful sketch comedy, "The Awful Truth" was a hit-or-miss affair. But even the weakest episode included here is still a hoot and only seems to suffer in comparison to a more urgent or topical exposé featured in a previous episode. Then again, the great thing about Michael Moore is his earnest belief that no issue is too small and there is no such thing as a slow news day. Over 24 episodes, Moore tackles issues big and small: population explosions in towns where prisons have been recently erected; programs that will provide the sick with health care in exchange for work; rampant corporate greed; and anti-abortionist terrorism. If you watch every episode over the course of one week, you may be fascinated by the terrifying connections you'll find between several hot-button issues. Moore is a master comedian ("A Cheaper Way to Conduct a Witch Hunt" may be one of the funniest things to ever appear on television) and can detect hypocrisy with frightening precision.
There's entirely too much in this precious gold mine to talk about here, but it's impossible not to mention Moore's mosh-pit escapade especially now that George W. Bush in office. Shortly before the last primary election, Moore visited all the presidential candidates and tried to convince them to jump inside his makeshift mosh-pit. Moore revealed just how out-of-touch these candidates were with the nation's youth: one couldn't get Rage Against the Machine's name correct and the one candidate that did take the plunge ("right wing lunatic" Alan Keyes) was criticized for his decision by his fellow candidates. "The Awful Truth" frighteningly acknowledges that America is being held captive by corporate fat cats and immoral politicians, individuals that would rather play Solitaire on their computer than give a prisoner a fair trial. The ironies Moore unearths are often devastating (the same day our government refused to pass a law that would have made it harder for people to buy guns at gun shows was the same day they passed a law that allowed the Ten Commandments to be hung in schools across the country) but none come more humorous than the sight of Dubya telling Moore to "get a real job." Thank God that Moore's father didn't have an oil well to hand over to his son or Moore wouldn't be fighting the good battle. Moore rolls out a man with a spotless school record who was rejected from Yale the same year the underachieving Bush Jr. was accepted. And George W. Bush is actually against affirmative action?
IMAGE / SOUND:
Because "The Awful Truth" was shot on video and mostly on the fly, it's Bravo image quality all the way-it'd be silly to expect anything more. Ditto the sound quality. The diatribes are perfectly audible and that's all you need to hear.
Nothing special here. On the complete first season DVD, a Michael Moore biography is available and "Moore Awful Truths" not included in the original episodes. On the complete second season DVD, extra Lenny "The Bookie" odds not featured in the original episodes are made available and the Michael Moore biography makes a return visit. Michael Moore provides "hilarious, behind-the-scenes commentary on four of his favorite episodes." Considering that Moore already provides a running commentary throughout all 24 episodes of "The Awful Truth" as the show's host and frequent narrator, this DVD exclusive is simply redundant. Moore spends much of the time confirming that everything on the screen is really "the awful truth."
Welcome to America, folks! God bless Michael Moore.