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Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 DVD Review

Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Drunk History: Seasons One & Two (2013-14)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Derek Waters (also concept), Jeremy Konner / Director: Jeremy Konner

Executive Producers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Derek Waters, Jeremy Konner, Owen Burke

Main/Recurring Cast: Derek Waters (Himself/Interviewer, Various), Maria Blasucci (Various), Craig Cackowski (Various), Tymberlee Hill (Various), Sarah Burns (Various), Jeremy J. Tutson (Various), Michael Daniel Cassady (Various)

Storytellers: Tommy Blacha, Matt Gourley, Allan McLeod, Eric Edelstein, Paget Brewster, Seth Weitberg, Mark Gagliardi, Preston Flagg, Jen Kirkman, Rich Fulcher, Kyle Kinane, Jenny Slate, James Atkinson, Mark Gagliardi, Erin Rohr, Michael Rohr, Chris Romano, Artemis Pebdani, Derrick Beckles, Natasha Leggero, Lucius Dillon, BJ Porter, Georgia Hardstark, Alie Ward, Amber Ruffin, Morgan Murphy, Eric Falconer, Suzi Barrett, J.D. Ryznar, David Wain, Colton Dunn, Henry Phillips, Duncan Trussell, Dave Ross, Steve Berg, Derek Miller, Drew Droege, Jonah Ray, Phil Hendrie, Kurt Braunohler, Nicholas Rutherford, Patrick Walsh, Erin McGathy, Karey Dornetto, Matt Jones, Molly McAleer, Jenny Johnson

Multi-Episode Guest Stars: Chris Parnell (King Charles II, Jim Bowie, Benedict Arnold), Jack Black (Elvis Presley, Orson Welles), Jason Ritter (Stetson Kennedy, Rufus Griswold, Art Heist Investigator), Winona Ryder (Mary Dyer, Peggy Shippen), Tim Heidecker (Cop, Max Schmeling), Bob Odenkirk (Richard Nixon, The Guy), Lisa Bonet (Mary Ellen Pleasant, Rosa Parks), Terry Crews (Donald "Cinque" DeFreeze, Joe Louis), Casey Wilson (Dolly Parton, Dolley Madison), Matt Walsh (KKK Member, Joseph Pulitzer), Jack McBrayer (Clarence Darrow, Alan Freed), Martin Starr (Art Thief, Abraham Lincoln), Ken Marino (Harry Houdini, Captain James Cook), John Lithgow (William Randolph Hearst, George Washington), Stephen Merchant (Abraham Lincoln, George Washington), Joe Lo Truglio (Al Capone, John Adams), Rich Fulcher (Porter Wagoner, Julis Waring)

Single-Episode Guest Stars: Nathan Fielder (Bob Woodward), Will Forte (Edwin Booth), Jonathan Ames (Junius Booth), Adam Scott (John Wilkes Booth), Jack McBrayer (H.R. Haldeman), Dave Grohl (Memphis Mafia Member), Fred Willard (Mark Felt/Deep Throat), Matt Besser (Edwin Stanton), Ike Barinholtz (August Spies), Charlie Finn (Captain "Black Jack" Bonfield), Eric Filipkowski (Abraham Lincoln), Will Sasso (Frank Nitti), Moshe Kasher (Albert Parsons), Bill Hader (John Pemberton), Simon Helberg (Frank M. Robinson), Rob Riggle (J. Edgar Hoover), Lamorne Morris (Martin Luther King Jr.), Kevin Nealon (The Grand Dragon), Michael Cera (John Endicott), Brett Gelman (Art Thief), June Diane Raphael (Isabella Guard), Connie Britton (Patricia Shaheen), Nick Offerman (Johnny Cool), Steve Little (Mark Twain), Ben Hoffman (Newscaster), Kristen Wiig (Patty Hearst), Jason Schwartzman (Ralph Nader), Owen Wilson (John Kellogg), Luke Wilson (Will Kellogg), Alfred Molina (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Richard Riehle (James Roche), Tony Hale (Meriwether Lewis), Taran Killam (William Clark), Kumail Nanjiani (Lakota Chief), Aubrey Plaza (Sacagawea), Bradley Whitford (William Jennings Bryan), Timm Sharp (Billy the Kid), Rob Huebel (Pat Garrett), Andrew Daly (Theodore Roosevelt), Jake Johnson (William B. Travis), Horatio Sanz (General Santa Ana), Mariah Wilson (Claudette Colvin), Jerry Minor (Edgar Nixon), Jordan Peele (Percy Julian), "Weird Al" Yankovic (Adolf Hitler), Paul Scheer (Colonel Henry Ludington), Juno Temple (Sybil Luddington), Michaela Watkins (Nurse), Taran Killam (Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi), Laura Dern (Nellie Bly), Brett Gelman (Joseph Pulitzer), Retta (Sylvia Robinson), Da'Vone McDonald (Big Bank Hank), Jaleel White (Grandmaster Caz), Ron Funches (Herc), Jon Daly (Kris Kristofferson), Johnny Knoxville (Johnny Cash), Charlie Day (Allan Pinkerton), Adrianne Palicki (Kate Warne), Jeffrey Ross (Francis Scott Key), James Adomian (Alexander Cochrane), Craig Anstett (Robert Ross), Jesse Plemons (Edgar Allan Poe), Busy Philipps (Elizabeth Avery Waring), Brandon T. Jackson (Robert Smalls), Brian Mganga (Young Robert Smalls), Johnny Knoxville (Preston Brooks), Patton Oswalt (Charles Sumner), Tony Hale (Ub Iwerks), Michael Angarano (Walt Disney), Nick Kroll (Ronald Reagan), Lindsay Sloane (Nancy Reagan), Steven Yeun (Daniel Inouye), James Hong (Hyotaro Inouye), Jason Mantzoukas (Eddie Aikau), Eugene Cordero (King Kalani'opu'u), Jerry O'Connell (Thomas Jefferson), Jayma Mays (Abigail Adams), David Cross (Baron von Steuben), Emily Deschanel (Babe Didrikson), Aidan Sussman (Young Jim Abbott), Zach Gilford (Jim Abbott), Terrell Suggs (Himself), Jason Momoa (Jim Thorpe), Alia Shawkat (Frances Cleveland), Bobby Moynihan (Grover Cleveland), Paget Brewster (Emma Folsom), Ian Roberts (James Madison), Courteney Cox (Edith Wilson)

Running Time: 384 Minutes (18 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
DVD Release Date: November 25, 2014 / Episodes Originally Aired July 9, 2013 - September 2, 2014
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Box / Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)

Buy Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD from Amazon.com

Funny or Die, the popular comedy shorts website founded by Will Ferrell and Anchorman director/co-writer Adam McKay's fruitful production company, made the jump from the Internet to television on HBO's sketch show "Funny or Die Presents",
which seems to have ended unceremoniously in 2011 after two short seasons. Two years later, one of the site's more popular series came to Comedy Central in "Drunk History".

As the title suggests, this show consists of history being retold by drunk people. As on the site, the erratic, often dubious recaps of the inebriated are re-enacted by famous actors and comedians in costumes and wigs. There really isn't any more to the show than that. Each episode chooses a locale (where some of it is shot) or a theme and proceeds to let three different intoxicated nobodies relay in their own slurred words historical episodes big, small and unusual relating to that place or topic.

It is these relatively unknown (with a few exceptions) actors, comedians, and personalities playing or actually getting drunk (and apparently improvising the show) who are heard, while familiar funny people like Jack Black, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Cera, Owen and Luke Wilson, Courteney Cox, John Lithgow, and Charlie Day portray presidents, monarchs, inventors, explorers, and so on. Actors not necessarily known for contemporary comedy, like Winona Ryder and Emily Deschanel, and those not frequently employed, like Lisa Bonet, also get involved where appropriate.

In "Drunk History", history is retold by drunk people, like comedian Morgan Murphy. Orson Welles (Jack Black) and the inspiration for Citizen Kane, William Randolph Hearst (John Lithgow), share an awkward elevator ride together in the Hollywood episode of "Drunk History."

If you don't see the humor in the premise, you might not see any point to the series. But even if you object to the overt glorification of drinking to the point of sensory impairment, you still may be amused by the unstuffy, dorm room-style brand of re-enactment and the bizarre non sequiturs born out of the design. There is truth to almost all of what is being told and entertainment in the unsacred delivery by unreliable sources who are often on the verge of vomiting, if they haven't already.

Derek Waters, one of two creators, is more prominently billed and featured than necessary, playing the interviewer and minor re-enactment roles,
and even getting his name in the title, but no one can blame him for wanting to be the face of his invention. The other creator, Jeremy Konner, directs every episode.

Though on a good week, "Drunk History" only brings in a million viewers, that has been enough for Comedy Central to already renew it twice. A third season is scheduled to premiere in 2015, probably in the summer like the two before it. In the meantime, Seasons 1 & 2 recently made their way to DVD in an appropriately packaged three-disc set. Unlike cable's airwaves, DVD leaves the somewhat regular use of profanity completely uncensored. The video, however, remains censored, from printed profanity to pixelated nudity.

Season 1

Disc 1

Mary Dyer (Winona Ryder) stands up against religious intolerance from Puritans (Michael Cera) in "Boston." Kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst (Kristen Wiig) renames and reinvents herself in "San Francisco."

1. Washington, D.C. (21:20) (Originally aired July 9, 2013)
Watergate is uncovered by Woodward and Bernstein. Lincoln's assassination is presented from the perspective of the Booth brothers. Elvis is made a narcotics agent.

2. Chicago (21:20) (Originally aired July 16, 2013)
Al Capone is busted on tax evasion charges and suffers the effects of syphilis. Young lawyer Abraham Lincoln assists on a copyright lawsuit. The Haymarket riot sets reasonable limits for workdays.

3. Atlanta (21:20) (Originally aired July 23, 2013)
John Pemberton invents Coca-Cola. J. Edgar Hoover's FBI battles Martin Luther King, Jr. Stetson Kennedy infiltrates and defeats the Ku Klux Klan.

4. Boston (21:20) (Originally aired July 30, 2013)
Mary Dyer fights the Puritans for religious tolerance. Men impersonating cops rob art from the Isabella Gardener Museum in 1990. The arsonist Johnny Cool is discussed by his own son.

5. San Francisco (21:20) (Originally aired August 6, 2013)
Former slave Mary Ellen Pleasant passes as a white woman. Mark Twain gets his start in Nevada. The 1970s kidnapping and transformation of Patty Hearst from heiress to bank robber is dramatized.

William B. Travis (Jake Johnson), Jim Bowie (Chris Parnell), and Davy Crockett (Derek Waters) defend the Alamo against Santa Ana in "The Wild West."

6. Detroit (21:21) (Originally aired August 13, 2013)
Corn flake creators the Kellogg brothers have a falling out. Ralph Nader invents seatbelts. Houdini's spiritualism-based feud with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is explained.

7. Nashville (21:21) (Originally aired August 20, 2013)
The highs and lows of Dolly Parton's creative partnership with Porter Wagoner are recalled. Schools' right to teach evolution is put on trial. Lewis and Clark discover Native American culture.

8. The Wild West (21:20) (Originally aired August 27, 2013)
Teddy Roosevelt leads a war on Spain. Billy the Kid tries to avoid the law. Davy Crockett and others defend The Alamo against Santa Anna.

Season 2

Disc 2

Percy Julian (Jordan Peele) triumphs over southern racism to make many important scientific discoveries. Frédéric Bartholdi's (Taran Killam) idea of creating the Statue of Liberty as a centennial gift to America is coolly received.

1. Montgomery (21:20) (Originally aired July 1, 2014)
Percy Julian overcomes racism to make scientific discoveries. Claudette Colvin won't give up her seat on the bus before Rosa Parks. Boxer Joe Louis fights Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling for the heavyweight championship twice.

2. New York (21:20) (Originally aired July 8, 2014)
Frédéric Bartholdi builds the Statue of Liberty as France's centennial gift to the United States. Sybil Ludington makes a forgotten cautionary trip twice as long as Paul Revere.
Journalist Nellie Bly goes undercover to write an exposé about insane asylum conditions.

3. American Music (21:20) (Originally aired July 15, 2014)
DJ Alan Freed introduces rock 'n roll in Cleveland. Kris Kristofferson is discovered by Johnny Cash. The origins of Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" are detailed.

4. Baltimore (21:20) (Originally aired July 22, 2014)
Allan Pinkerton stops a plot to kill Lincoln. Francis Scott Key writes the United States' national anthem. Edgar Allan Poe and Rufus Griswold are rivals.

5. Charleston (21:20) (Originally aired July 29, 2014)
Preston Brooks canes Charles Sumner over his written attack on South Carolina. Judge Waties Waring makes changes to end segregation, to some resistance. Robert Smalls leads a slave revolt.

Disc 3

The working relationship of Mickey Mouse creator Ub Iwerks (Tony Hale) and Walt Disney (Michael Anagarano) is dramatized in "Hollywood." Grover Cleveland (Bobby Moynihan) marries a younger woman (Alia Shawkat) in "First Ladies."

6. Hollywood (21:20) (Originally aired August 5, 2014)
Orson Welles makes Citizen Kane, based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks create Mickey Mouse. The Reagans venture from film to politics.

7. Hawaii (21:21) (Originally aired August 12, 2014)
Captain James Cook and his men discover Hawaiian hospitality. The heroic World War II experiences of future senator Daniel Inouye. Eddie Aukau inspires on and off a surfboard.

8. Philadelphia (21:20) (Originally aired August 19, 2014)
Baron von Steuben shapes up the American army during the Revolutionary War. Mud-slinging techniques during the 1800 presidential election sours the friendship of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Benedict Arnold is both a lover and a traitor.

9. Sports Heroes (21:20) (Originally aired August 26, 2014)
Jim Thorpe excels in the Olympic decathlon in Sweden 1912. Babe Didriskon blazes trails in women's golf. Jim Abbott overcomes his handicap to succeed pitching for the USA baseball team in the Pan-American Games.

10. First Ladies (21:20) (Originally aired September 2, 2014)
Grover Cleveland's young wife becomes famous. Edith Wilson runs the country during her husband's last days in office when a stroke paralyzes him. Dolly Madison shows resolve and lives it up during the War of 1812.

Emily Deschanel plays lady golfer Babe Didrikson in the Drunk History "Sports Heroes" episode. George Washington (Derek Waters) and Colonel Henry Luddington (Paul Scheer) are reluctant to let a teenaged girl (Juno Temple) make an important horse ride.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Drunk History" looks as good as you expect a new television show to look on DVD in 2014. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation lacks the detail of high definition, but still manages to satisfy. The re-enactments are genuinely cinematic, shot with impressive production design, costumes, and lighting, enhancing the humor of contrast. Many of them even utilize the wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

Sound is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Stereo 2.0. There isn't a world of difference between the two, but the former makes nice use of the soundfield for dramatic score. English SDH subtitles are kindly included. There are a number of generic songs clearly meant to sound like popular ones, but I don't think they have been changed for DVD as the result of a short-sighted clearances department.

Two-time drunken narrator Jen Kirkman gets to watch her pilot appearance with creator Derek Waters in the first of the DVD's "Sober Reveals." The Waters family celebrates Christmas with crackers in deleted Baltimore episode footage preserved on the DVD.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras are divided among the three discs. On Disc 1, we find two clips relating to the Boston episode. First, there are drunk outtakes (7:12) from Chris Romano's personal family story.
Then, a "Sober Reveal" (13:26) allows Jen Kirkman and Derek Waters to comment on her pilot segment via picture-in-picture video. The two regularly pause the clip to chat, with Kirkman sharing her experience with Winona Ryder.

Far more extras are provided for Season 2, with every episode getting something and generally quite a bit.

Included in this material is deleted and extended bits (including a black and white tour of New York, a Waters family Christmas in Baltimore, oyster digging in Charleston, a discussion of Nancy Reagan on "Diff'rent Strokes", lots of Hawaiian words with Jonah Ray, and more of Terrell Suggs' football training), drunk outtakes, and additional sober reveals full of laughter (with Duncan Trussell, Steve Berg, and Phil Hendrie).

The main menus adapt the series' appropriate opening titles imagery.

Altogether, Season 2's extras add up to well over two hours, as follows: "Montgomery" (9:17), "New York" (11:00), "American Music" (7:04), "Baltimore" (28:11), "Charleston" (7:51),
"Hollywood" (15:15), "Hawaii" (27:36), "Philadelphia" (9:36), "Sports Heroes" (10:02), and "First Ladies" (10:24).

The main menus adapt the show's creative first season opening titles, settling on a book that holds all listings.

The three discs are held in a standard keepcase whose artwork makes it look like a textbook that has seen better days. That case is smartly packaged in a box that looks even more like an old textbook with its raised "leather"-textured face and gold lettering and edges. Sadly, no inserts are included, which makes it tough to find your favorite story (unless you're consulting this review).

The complicated friendship and rivalry of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (Joe Lo Truglio) gets the Drunk History treatment in Season 2's "Philadelphia."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The idea of watching drunk people giving brief history lectures doesn't sound very good, but "Drunk History" manages to entertain regularly with its clumsily-narrated, lavish re-enactments of historical episodes big and small. It seems like a concept that shouldn't work as an open-ended television series or one that would quickly lose its appeal. But eighteen enjoyable episodes prove otherwise.

Comedy Central's DVD is reasonably-priced and satisfactorily-presented, with clever packaging and loads of bonus content adding to the show's plentiful value. Enter with an open mind and you just might be surprised to find a show worth checking out, even if drinking and history don't sound like your cup of tea.

Buy Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed December 3, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013-2014 Gary Sanchez Productions, Konner Productions, 34, Comedy Partners, Comedy Central, and 2014 Paramount Home Entertainment.