The Richard Pryor Show-TV Special (1977)

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Released 29-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Additional Footage-Mudbone Monologue
Featurette-The Complete Richard Pryor Roast
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 49:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Moffitt
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Richard Pryor
Paul Mooney
Bob Ellison
Alan Thicke
Maya Angelou
John Belushi
Sandra Bernhard
Peter Cullen
Mike Evans
Jeri Gray
William Guest
Shirley Hemphill
Arnold Johnson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Richard Pryor hasn't been sighted for some time. Multiple Sclerosis has brought about his retirement from performing, but as his website proudly attests: "I Ain't Dead Yet, M*therf@ck%r!". His energetic, foul-mouthed stand-up comedy style paved the way for more recent comedians like Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, though he was himself inspired by the somewhat gentler Bill Cosby. Pryor must have had a difficult childhood: his mother was a prostitute who abandoned him at the age of ten, and his father was a bartender and boxer from whom he was also estranged. He was raised by his grandmother who was a madam in a brothel. Pryor was kicked out of the army and found himself doing live shows on stage. He's been married seven times to five women, his current marriage (four years) the longest. You sense there's a lot of anger, bewilderment and resentment in his comedy, possibly also due to his membership of a minority group that has suffered oppression for centuries, though he may argue otherwise.

    In 1977 he was given the opportunity to host his own TV special. This went over well enough that he was then offered a ten-part TV series. After numerous battles with the censors and the sponsors, the series ended after four episodes. Three discs now released separately in Region 4 include the TV special and all four episodes, plus some bonus material.

    The TV special is a strange melange of material. The premise is that Pryor is making his way to the studio in NBC where the special is being made. On the way he has ideas about what he wants to include in the special, and meets people who suggest things for it. Some of these are then shown. Presumably this is supposed to be in Pryor's imagination, though that is not clear.

    As you would imagine, Pryor has had to tone down his stage act for television. I have seen Pryor's films of his stand-up work and enjoyed them. On TV, he seems to lose his way. His stage work seems to rely on a build-up in humour during lengthy monologues, which are absent here. Instead we have a few lame sketches which really aren't that funny. There's a lengthy diatribe delivered by Maya Angelou about being married to an alcoholic failure that is simply banal. And you have not lived until you see the song about tolerance of colour, sung by a group of children. The race theme runs through this special, though it is not so much an attack on racists as an appeal for tolerance. While the sentiments are still valid, the problem not having gone away in the intervening 28 years, the presentation is very 1970s and is almost embarrassing. For the defence, the Pryor TV series has been described as "one of the funniest in television history", which suggests that perhaps this humour is a matter of taste.

    There are also brief appearances by John Belushi and Sandra Bernhard, both of which are wasted. Fans of these two comedians will find little of interest here.

    I found the extras to be far superior to the main feature, and you can read about them below.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The aspect ratio is the original 1.29:1.

    The transfer is about average for 1970s television material. It is somewhat better than the British material of that era that I have reviewed for this site. However, this is a transfer from NTSC to PAL and consequently the video quality suffers slightly. The show was recorded on video, not film, so the lesser resolution of NTSC means a slight lack of clarity and sharpness. On the other hand, it is bright and clean-looking, and contrast levels are good. The colour is reflective of the video technology of the era, looking vivid but not looking quite real.

    Generally the transfer is very good. There are some analogue video tracking errors from time to time. There is also some colour bleeding and cross-colouration, though the effect of these is minor.

    No subtitles are provided on this single-layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track, in two-channel Dolby Digital mono.

    The audio is pretty good considering the source material. Dialogue is generally clear. There were a few instances where I strained to understand some of the words, but this seems to be due to either poor original recording or more often unclear diction on the part of the performers.

    There is some music which is very 1970s in style. Well, it's that sort of 1970s television music which crops up whenever black people are present on screen, sort of funky but bland at the same time. I won't suggest that it was composed by a white guy.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

    The main menu is displayed with a brief video of the star, taken from the original introduction to episode one. This promo did not make it to air, but is included as an extra on the disc containing the first two episodes of the series.

Additional Footage-Mudbone Monologue (37:15)

    This is the complete Mudbone monologue which was recorded for the fourth and final episode of the TV series, but not screened. Pryor now knows that this is the last show, so he lets loose the chains and delivers this lengthy and very funny monologue replete with the usual profanity. He looks a lot more relaxed than on the rest of the series, and this is probably the funniest thing on any of these three discs. Unfortunately the video quality is not very good, with some severe tracking errors at the very beginning. Lighting levels are low making the video murky, and timecoding is shown on the screen throughout.

Featurette-The Complete Richard Pryor Roast (43:31)

    Another extended version of part of the last episode, this is one of those celebrity roasts. On this occasion, the roasters are the writers/performers who appear on the show with Pryor. If I was to be uncharitable, I could pick out of the group those writers responsible for the unfunny segments in the TV series, as they are quite unfunny here. Some of them, though, are good, such as Tim Reid. Robin Williams is also funny, though his segment is quite brief. The last 18 minutes or so are taken up with Pryor's response to the roast, which shows nothing more than why he is the star - he is very funny (and very non-PC). Timecoding is again displayed throughout.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This appears to be a direct port of the Region 1 release, judging by the presence of the Image Entertainment logo on the slick and before the menu is displayed. It seems that this disc is only available as part of a three-disc box set, while in Region 4 each of the discs is available separately and there is no box set. The only difference between these releases seems to be DVD-ROM content comprising unfilmed scripts, which Region 4 misses out on. Unless you really want this material, or want the slipcase, or want to see the material in the original NTSC, there is no reason to bypass the Region 4 release.

Summary

    A pity that the material is so variable in quality, but the extras make up for that.

    The video and audio quality are acceptable given the source material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, February 11, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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