Strangers With Candy, Comedy Central’s first live-action original series, ran for three short seasons between 1999 and 2000. Modeled after archetypical Afterschool Specials (you know, the ones about drug abuse and teen pregnancy and all that dramatic music and notably bad acting), the show—the brainchild of Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert (The Daily Show) and Paul Dinello—revolves around Geraldine “Jerri” Antonia Blank (Sedaris), a 46-year-old high school drop-out who returns to Flat Point High to finish her education and subsequently learns all the wrong lessons. Despite having lived on the street for 32 years, the former alcoholic/addict/prostitute is wide-eyed and innocent to a fault and is, as Colbert put it, “easily hurt for someone so cruel and ugly.” She moves back in with her father (Robert Gari) and his new wife (played without a touch of warmth by the brilliant Deborah Rush), “befriends” two Flat Point teachers, Chuck Noblet (Colbert) and Geoffrey Jellyneck (Dinello), who are secretly gay, and attempts to buck authority. The show makes a grand mockery of standard sitcom conventions, bombarding us with character names like Tammi Littlenut and Iris Puffybush along the way. But part of the show’s charm is its own childish naivety: Nothing is sacred and almost everything is funny. The individual episodes from the show’s second season were largely hit or miss: “The Blank Stare,” a two-parter in which Jerry joins a cult, is a work of absurdist genius, while “Yes You Can’t” is a rather uninspired mockery of standardized tests that help high school students choose a career (one shining moment is when Jellyneck turns to Jerri and says delicately, “I’m not pushing you away, I’m pulling myself toward my dreams”). Sadly, the network cancelled the show in 2000 before it could reach its full potential. Sedaris has gone on to make a series of lackluster appearances on Sex and the City and in films like Elf, and sells oddly-decorated cupcakes at Bonsignour on Jane Street in the West Village.
Dramatic musical cues are crystal clear, as is the show's dialogue, but the image on this two-disc set of Strangers with Candy is pretty lousy at times. Colors are bright but there is a significant shimmering effect throughout, especially when there's lots of quick movement on the screen.
The first season DVD set of Strangers with Candy was pretty slim in the features department-there were only commentary tracks for two of the season's episodes. This second set goes one better: Four commentary tracks with creators and stars Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris. Also included here is a 44-minute interview with the trio and executive producer Kent Alterman. The panel interview segment is filled with interesting tidbits (the show was inspired by My So-Called Life and A Trip Back, a documentary about a 50-year-old high school drop-out; Sedaris admits that Jerri is the only character she knows how to play; and Colbert plays Jerri better than she does), but a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show or deleted/uncensored bits would have made this box set priceless.
Why Comedy Central didn't just release one box set of all three seasons of Strangers with Candy is beyond me, but the overall presentation on this second season DVD set is a little nicer than it was on the first season's set.