The "Upright Citizens Brigade" started in Chicago at the ImprovOlympic in 1990. Although the most recent group includes Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, Adam McKay (writer of "Anchorman" and writer at "SNL" from 1995-2001) and "SNL" star Horatio Sanz were among the original group. The group eventually became so popular that they relocated to their own theatre in NYC in 1997 and also got their own series on Comedy Central.
The Comedy Central series focused on a series of characters: Antoine (Ian Roberts), Colby (Amy Poehler), Trotter (Matt Walsh) and Adair (Matt Besser) who are all part of an organization dedicated to undermining society through chaos. These characters gather around their monitors, watching other characters (also played by the group) in a series of funny and often bizarre sketches.
The sketches are generally surreal, "Kids in the Hall"-style material, such as the first season's "Power Marketing", where the UCB watches and "guides" Fed president Alan Greenspan in a speech, only to see him "turn" on them when they instruct him to change the nation's currency from the dollar to Oak leaves. There's also "Poo Stick", where a stick with poo at the end becomes known as the first line of defense, and second season's "Hurricane", where a weatherman interested in saving lives from an incoming hurricane doesn't exactly take well to his superficial, chirpy co-anchors. The second season finale, "Super Cool" is an amusing spoof on anti-drug documentaries, as the characters look into the history of a drug called "Super Cool", which looks like Pixi Sticks (the drug comes in "wands".)
Overall, the show's humor is clever and funny fairly often (although it's more amusing/chuckle funny than hysterically funny, at least in my opinion.) The series isn't going to be everyone's cup-of-tea, so those new to the series would be best advised to rent first.
Both the first and second seasons are available separately. The third season has not yet been announced for DVD release.
1 Bucket of Truth 8/19/1998 101
2 Story of the Toad 8/26/1998 106
3 Power Marketing 9/2/1998 104
4 Children's Revolution 9/9/1998 102
5 Poo Stick 9/23/1998 105
6 Saigon Suicide Show 9/30/1998 103
7 Lady of the Lake 10/7/1998 107
8 Time Machine 10/14/1998 108
9 Cyborgs 10/21/1998 109
10 Little Donny Foundation 11/4/1998 110
11 Master Dialectitian 6/14/1999 201
12 Bomb Squad 6/21/1999 202
13 Mogomra vs. the Fart Monster 6/28/1999 203
14 Real World 7/5/1999 204
15 Eli's Face Therapy 7/12/1999 205
16 Infested With Friars 7/26/1999 206
17 Spaghetti Jesus 8/2/1999 207
18 Big City 8/9/1999 208
19 Hurricane 8/16/1999 209
20 Supercool 8/23/1999 210
VIDEO: "Upright Citizens Brigade" episodes are presented here in their original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. This is a low-budget production, but the presentation looks about as good as it could here. Sharpness and detail vary throughout the episodes, but while some scenes appeared mildly softer than the rest, the majority of the skits looked at least reasonably crisp. Problems were also few-and-far-between, with only some minor artifacting causing slight concern. Colors seemed natural and accurately presented, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The stereo soundtracks seemed fine, with crisp, clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: The group has made certainly made sure that the sets were worth the wait, with plenty of extra features. Commentaries are included, although a pair of live commentaries on the first season (for "Original Pilot" and "Time Machine") are rather innovative, as they give the tracks a fun atmosphere and, in the case of "Time Machine", an informal Q & A takes place during the track. The first season set also includes a deleted scene, as well original show promos and the original live versions of "Little Donny" and "Andre the Giant". Cast commentaries are also included on "Cyborgs", "Little Donny Foundation", "Bucket of Truth" and "Power Marketing".
For the season 2 set, the live audio commentary continues, as the UCB cast is joined by an audience at the UCB theatre in NYC in order to chat about "Spahgetti Jesus" and "Super Cool". There are also non-audience commentaries for the other episodes of the set. Finally, we also get 9 deleted scenes and a lengthy Q & A session. The Q & A session is nearly 30 minutes and pretty funny, but some of the questions are rather weak.
Final Thoughts: "Upright" certainly delivers the oddball humor, which sometimes work well and occasionally doesn't. The show's humor isn't going to be for all tastes, so I'd recommend a rental first for those new to the show. Fans, however, will be thrilled to get these sets, which offer tons of great extras.