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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Dilbert: The Complete Series (1999)

Dilbert: Wally, were you using my cubicle?
Wally: I barely use my own cubicle.- Daniel Stern, Gordon Hunt

Stars: Daniel Stern, Chris Elliott
Other Stars: Kathy Griffin, Gordon Hunt, Jason Alexander, Andy Dick, Eugene Levy, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Tom Green
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief cartoon nudity, occasionally brief mature subject matter)
Run Time: approx. 11h:00m:00s
Release Date: 2004-01-27
Genre: television

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
D- B+BB C+

 

DVD Review

Yes, I am a Dilbert junkie (at least until I saw the animated series), and I have been known to worship at the altar of writer/creator Scott Adams. As someone who has spent a number of years in the corporate world, the sharp-edged wit of Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip and books was always like some kind of reality-check bastion of sanity for me. I could always be assured that the ridiculous and inane corporate doubletalk and head-scratching policies weren't just unique to where I worked, but were apparently a pretty common thing out in the so-called real world. Unless you have experienced similar frustrations the inherent humor might not work for you, which is why my lovely wife Jeanine, for example, cannot understand why I howl with laughter at Dilbert-isms that she just doesn't get, because she hasn't been through that kind of environment.

Lucky her.

The concept of Dilbert is not an "office comedy", but rather a satirical poke-in-the-eye at the mountains of paperwork and daily chaos of cubicle-dwellers everywhere, and my long-standing adoration of Dilbert and Adams was severely put to the test in 1999 when this animated series debuted. Adams really nailed it perfectly with on paper, but the creative wheels came flying off the bus with this series (that thankfully ran just two seasons), which finds his schlubby engineer character (voiced by Daniel Stern) traversing the same veritable minefield of deadlines, restructuring, departmental feuding ,and office life in general.

As with the comic strip, all the familiar characters are here—Dilbert's best friend is a talking dog named Dogbert (voiced by Chris Elliott), who kind of acts as the sarcastic alter-ego to Dilbert's heaped upon Everyman, and at work his equally unhappy officemates Wally (voiced by Gordon Hunt) and Alice (voiced by Kathy Griffin) reach their exasperated limits going up against not just Pointy-Haired Boss (voiced by Larry Miller), but the maniacal head of human resources, the evil Mr. Catbert (voiced by Jason Alexander).

So why does the animated series reek so bad?

Just as Dilbert is extremely funny as something to read, it would logically follow that an animated series could be able to capture the same kind of spot-on humor, but I'm hard-pressed to properly explain what went wrong here. The pedigree of the project certainly seemed outstanding, having been developed and produced by Emmy-winner Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Mad About You), and featuring a stable of well-known talent (Daniel Stern, Chris Elliott, Jason Alexander), a number of comedians (Larry Miller, Kathy Griffin) and more than a few familiar cartoon voices (Tom Kenny, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille), to say nothing of the occasional guest star (Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Eugene Levy).

The inevitable progression to animation was a logical marketing step for Adams and his lucrative empire, but for the same reasons (though in reverse) that The Simpsons comic books don't have the same manic zing manages to hold true here for Dilbert. Maybe it is the flat line reads: case in point with Chris Elliott, who as a rule makes me laugh saying just about anything, here sounds as if he phoned in his speaking parts.

Columbia TriStar has collected up the entire run of the 1999-2000 animated series in this four-disc boxed set (that's all 30 episodes, if you're counting), and sadly it still fails terribly in its attempt to ever be remotely witty and/or clever. The wit of Scott Adams, something that resonates so effectively from the page just seems to never to gel in an animated form, and this is coming from someone who still to this day liberally quotes from Dogbert at a moments notice when things get tough. The situations and characters are all here, the dialogue sounds like something Adams would write, but the whole thing stalls out, despite a particularly amusing Dilbert-evolution title sequence (anchored by another fine Danny Elfman score) that is unfortunately the best part of any of these 22-minute episodes.

It's a difficult call to figure out exactly where things derailed, or whether it was simply a matter of it being the wrong format for the material.

Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: All 30 episodes are presented in their original fullframe aspect ratio, and the transfer is noticeably clean and crisp. This isn't the most dazzling looking series, color-wise, but the palette is rendered nicely across the episodes, and things like the deep reds of Catbert or the blues of Pointy-Haired Boss look excellent. Black levels are strong, and no major print defects or flaws were evident.

For an unfunny animated series, this one looks quite nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A very basic 2.0 Dolby Digital audio transfer is, well, just that: very basic. It is function over form, as character voices are always clear and discernible, and little things like the Danny Elfman's score sound respectably full.

No hiss, crackle or other annoyances on this unremarkable, but more than adequate, transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 150 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights, TV Action Favorites, TV Comedy Favorites
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Four fold case
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Clip Compilations
Extras Review: All of the extras (there really aren't that many, actually) are housed on the first disc of this set, and the primary one is the feature Making Dilbert Work (19m:24s). Scott Adams talks about Dilbert's origins, and we hear from Larry Charles, Chris Elliot, Larry Miller, Kathy Griffin, all making happy talk about great the series is. Despite running nearly 20 minutes, the content is particularly underwhelming, and often becomes one of those generic talkfests where very little salient info is relayed.

There are also four brief Clip Compilations (each running under 5 minutes), all introduced by Scott Adams. Each segment highlights a specific topic (Dogbert Speaks, You're Not the Boss of Me, Marketing or Felonious Activity?, Catbert: Feline or Pure Evil?), and are essentially a mini "best of".

Each episode is cut into 5 chapters, and there are no subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+
 

Final Comments

Dilbert works perfectly as a comic strip, and Scott Adam's books are real laugh-inducing works of brilliance, but this animated series does not have anywhere near the same appeal or impact for me. The line reads, even with strong voice talent and generally really funny people, sound flat and stiff, making the whole experience even more aggravatingly unfunny.

The written material is funny, but sad to say the presentation and execution as an animated series most definitely does not.

Rich Rosell 2004-02-08