ABC’s unrighteous, long-running, and addictively ugly hybrid of Mondo movies and TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes (bettering the latter because at least the victims of these pranks usually didn’t try to play off their embarrassment with studious, actorly fruitiness), the pre-historical reality game show America’s Funniest Home Videos has to answer for a number of things. There’s the confirmation that yokels will submit intractable evidence of their own cloddish, clumsy, retarded nature for a payout equivalent of a gas station scratch off. A video I remember clearly from the first time I saw it back in the early ’90s is the patently staged video of a beer-gutted, fishing-hat wearing, bow-legged old crotch scaling a stepladder at dusk to remove the American flag from the corner of his trailer home (only to have his pants fall down to his ankles) already effectively depraves the Iwo Jima icon. But the way his little woman’s “oh-ho-ho-ho, mahr-see” excitement behind the camera registers as the “kah-ching” of a $10,000 bid toward nouveau riche status is the second most humorous and genuine aspect of the clip, next to the way the dipshit husband’s sagging tightie-whities blend into his sagging thighsie-whisies without so much as a seam.
Not every video is so supply, quintessentially American-ly profane as that one, but it’s worth noting that, after the humdrum videos of people losing their footing and/or balance and toppling over (typically at weddings), the two most common videos that popped up on the program were those capturing babies and toddlers doing and saying the darndest things (one of which would invariably win the grand prize two out of three times) and, conversely (in a manner of speaking), clips upon clips of virile active men being felled after getting hit in the nyuts! Yes, this can be written off by the fact that most Americans will only ever take the video camera out of the front closet on special familial occasions, but the indirect message that the juxtaposition presented was “procreate or risk the crack of a switch across your nyuts!”
This quintessentially heteronormative sentiment was helpfully programmed on Sunday evenings (i.e. “family night” in TV parlance), and I know that my family partook in this funhouse mirror of that morning’s Protestant worship service, swapping out communion wafers for popcorn dinners. At the same time, even awkwardly faggy little kids like myself could still process the parade of humiliation as a bemused, covert farce against the nuclear family unit…like the gay Yasujirô Ozu’s Good Morning chopped up into proto-Dogma snack packs. (Hey, whatever got me to the legitimately funny clips of unflappable kitty cats nonchalantly walking off of ledges or getting dive-bombed by sparrows…or spared me the all-time nadir that was America’s Funniest People which replaced pratfalls for parlor tricks.) Lastly, one unrelated event AFHV is indirectly responsible for and thus must answer for is the completely unnecessary pop-cultural reevaluation of Bob Saget’s career as a dirty stand up comedian who, complete rumor has it, told someone who was admiring his newborn daughter that he could finger her for a dollar.
I’m not particularly sure what sort of rights issues are at play here, but this "Volume 1" DVD release of AFV begins with what could legitimately be called the show’s post-history. Post-Saget, post-ratings powerhouse, and post-zeitgeist, the advent of the Tom Bergeron era signaled the Disney-fication of the show, in which old clips began to get recycled and the "real-staged" ratio began to tilt precariously toward the latter as the video camera became nearly as ubiquitous and vital to the average American home as the internet. In any case, there’s still a lot of material here, much of it from the show’s Pyrite Age. So sound and audio basically ebb and flow contingent on the age of the submitted tapes, and the host’s linking segments look and sound like digital cable.
None to speak of, really, unless they’re trying to pass off the two-part 300th episode (which was probably part of the season in question) as a bonus feature. Next time around, they should show some ambition and collate the creators of each and every home video for a mass commentary track. "How did you feel when that golf ball hit you in the nyuts?" "I was surprised at first. Normally I don’t usually get hit in the nyuts while golfing, much less the one time my wife was filming my stroke." "Bullshit, Kurt! You set that shit up!"
That baby just spit up...right in his dad’s nyuts!