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HBO presents

Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Second Season (2004)

Borat: My sister make my family very proud. Should I write about her?
Porter Wagoner: Sure!
Borat: Eh, she was voted by Almati chamber of commerce...as the best sexy mouth. She's number two or three prostitute in country of Kazakhstan.
Porter Wagoner: That's wonderful. That's great.
Borat: Yes.
Porter Wagoner: Because that's a talent too.
- Sacha Baron Cohen, Porter Wagoner (himself)

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Scott Preston, James Bobin

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for explicit sexual references, language, adult themes, nudity
Run Time: 02h:38m:51s
Release Date: 2005-09-13
Genre: television

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

 

DVD Review

I'm usually not a fan of the comedic school of pulling one over on someone who isn't in on the gag, but in the case of Da Ali G Show, I can make a general exception. Created by Sacha Baron Cohen for England's The Eleven O'Clock News comedy show, Baron's creation quickly took off and jumped to his own show. It proved a big hit in England and has similarly pleased audiences in America, where it played on HBO. Baron's mode of attack is simple: play a character clueless in some way, turn him loose on unwitting subjects, and the comedy will almost write itself. This is necessarily subject to the other party reacting in a funny enough manner, but the results, at least in the finished shows, speak to the success of the tactic.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Cohen plays three characters on the series: the title character, Ali G, is a would-be gangsta from the "hood" of Staines, a decidedly unghettoish suburb of London. Kitted out in a variety of hip hop track suits and bling, Ali G interviews a series of politicans and intellectuals, always incredibly ignorant about the topics he's discussing. The people he's interviewing go along with his profound ignorance, some trying to explain to him his mistaken beliefs, others just riding it out. Ali G also hosts round table discussions with experts on a series of topics, including politics, sex, and education, and he also goes on "field trips" to different locations, such as a pro-choice rally. The second character is the funniest: Borat, a Kazakhstan TV host, generally spends his time in the south, where he makes outrageous yet guileless comments about sex and race that all too often result in his good 'ol boy hosts agreeing with him, particularly when it comes to anti-Semitism. The third character is the least laugh-out-loud funny: Bruno, a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter, who splits his time between the fashion world and fish-out-of-water material, like barn dancing.

The six episodes of the second season are, like the first, something of a mixed bag, with the Borat material succeeding best, and the Bruno material the least funny and interesting. The Ali G segments are hit and miss; most of the interviews are pretty amusing, but the round tables too often fall flat, as the guests don't really react in amusing ways. This set is worth a look if for no other reason than seeing people like Pat Buchanan, Gore Vidal, and Darryl Gates try to make sense of Ali G's questions. Most amazingly, some of these guests even agreed to record brief raps used after credits as sign-off stingers; seeing Pat Buchanan and Christine Todd Whitman, to name two, affect rap accents and bust some rhymes is hysterical.

Borat's segments provide the most unease, as the seemingly innocent foreigner leads his subjects into casually racist comments that will no doubt leave some viewers surprised. In the first episode, Borat visits a wine tasting club, where he samples a series of wines (by throwing back each glass, much to the chagrin of his hosts). After an African-American waiter leaves the room, Borat asks his hosts if the man was their slave. When the men reply that slavery is long gone, and that it was much better now for African Americans, Borat responds with "But it bad for you, yes?" To which the fellow responds "Well, yes." One of the funniest sequences with Borat sees him accompany a remarkably stiff Republican candidate for Congress around as he talks with voters. And just watching this guy's face as Borat kisses him on both cheeks when they meet is priceless.

Bruno's best material underlines how phony some interview shows are, as well as the people on them; during one sequence with two Hollywood style gurus, we see material that normally would be edited out, in which Bruno tells them what to say during the sequence, and the two gladly contradict their uncoached comments in a second take after Bruno asks them to. The problem with Bruno is that he just isn't interesting, and neither are many of his subjects. Making the character go to situations where he would interact with people who would be made uncomfortable by him is where Bruno works best; a first season segment when he visited a college football game in Alabama was funny and disturbing, in large part because of the violent reactions of the people Bruno spoke with, who clearly wanted to do him bodily harm. There's little of that tension in the sequences in the second season, maybe in part because Cohen didn't want to risk life and limb for his art.

The menus for each episode are set up so that viewers can choose which segments to view if they don't wish to see the full episode, and as the episodes don't have any particular inherent structure, this is a fine way to watch the series.

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

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The footage generally looks okay, but on my player there was a combing effect that I found hard to get rid of, going through multiple settings before finding one that finally fixed it. Other viewers' players may have no problem with this. Otherwise, the show looks okay. The different segments look different; Borat's, for example, feature a washed-out, slightly blurry look meant to emulate cheap, third world equipment. Occasional shots from Ali G's segments feature purposefully heavy grain. The show is presented full-screen as intended, though some shots in the Ali G segments are presented letterboxed for no real reason beyond the whim of those involved.

Image Transfer Grade: B
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mix does what it's supposed to, with vivid representations of the show's music. The dialogue is crisp, which is good given the lack of subtitles and the occasionally hard to decipher accents.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
8 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Video footage of Ali G delivering commencement speech at Harvard
Extras Review: All the extras are unused material, aside from a tape of the Harvard commencement speech given by Ali G last year. The speech (16m:03s) is generally amusing, but despite some occasional off-color comments, it's too tame to really be funny. As for the unseen material, there's a reason why it wasn't used: most of it isn't funny, with the exception of the Borat material. Some of the material had promise, as with Ali G's interview of linguist and leftist writer Noam Chomsky, but Chomsky proves a poor choice, as he doesn't get riled or moved by Ali's schtick. Unfortunately, there's nothing here as remotely funny as Ali G's self-made spy/porn movie from the first season set. The best material again features Borat, including a clip in which Borat visits a private hunting club, where the owner discusses, with little prompting from Borat, how Jews are trouble. He goes on to tell Borat he'd like to have some to hunt on his farm. Scary stuff, but still often hysterically funny, as in the case of Borat giving a speech to a Republican group in Arizona, where he makes a series of off-color sexual and misogynistic comments that many of the group laugh at and some sit wide-eyed at.

Extras Grade: C+
 

Final Comments

Da Ali G Show has some jaw-droppingly funny moments, and a few clunkers as well, but this is generally a very satisfying follow-up to the first season set. The two-DVD set features average video quality and some fairly dull extras, but it will be worth it to the show's fans.

Jeff Wilson 2005-09-13