The Best of Fridays

The Best of Fridays
7
As observed in the opening sketch of the pilot episode of Fridays, ABC's response to the unprecedented success of NBC's Saturday Night Live, the show was very much a carbon copy of its Ivy League predecessor. Though they poked jabs at the original hit sketch comedy show, saying they wouldn't become lazy and self-satisfied after the first season, everything about this L.A. version replicated the formula, from guest hosts to musical acts to a mid-show newsbreak. What was distinctive about this slightly more politically conscious and progressive variation was the brand of humour being offered. In the opening episode, Darrow Igus (the sole African-American member of the group) is featured in a sketch where minorities give back to the community by serving rich white people. While sensationalist, featuring a beaming Igus cleaning the car of a spoiled white teenager, it also suggested an irreverence and lack of fear to come, which subsequent sketches about a police gynaecologist and professional door-to-door hookers with a very candid and articulate disposition followed through on. Beyond the obvious shock of the topics, the focus on female comedy from an oft-feminist perspective was quite progressive, for the time — this show premiered in 1980 — regularly waxing satirical about the role of women in modern culture, such as sexist jeans ads featuring Brooke Shields. They were also politically and philosophically conscious, turning a sketch about a little girl (Melanie Chartoff) learning that the Tooth Fairy isn't real into a commentary about the sexualisation of a grown woman dressing as a child. Noting that the sketch itself is pretentious, they acknowledge the complacency of the television audience, suggesting that avoiding reality is the cerebral plague of the masses. This sort of self-conscious social disdain mixed with musical performances from controversial (at the time) artists like the Clash and appearances from Andy Kaufman gave the series a bit of a naughty reputation with critics, which is discussed in the extensive "Cast and Writers Reunion" supplement included with this DVD set. It becomes evident by the episodes in the third season, where rote gags about a man acting like a dog or William Shatner pretending to be Captain Kirk trapped in 1980 dominated, that the steam quickly ran out of this aggressively flippant group of comedians (including Michael Richards and Larry David). But during the early days, there was a sense of counter-cultural necessity stemming from the void created by SNL and its singularly male, upper-crust comedy. When interviewed in present day, series regular Maryedith Burrell points out that while felt uncomfortable with how much of a structural rip-off the show was, to this day she's impressed with certain characters and sketches, such as "Diner of the Dead" and the Rocky Horror Picture Show send up with Ronald Reagan in drag (they lost several affiliates after that one aired). Despite its rapid decline in quality, The Best of Fridays does highlight great moments in the series, holding up better than most sketch comedy throughout time and having a DVD menu that allows the viewer to easily skip any sketch that doesn't quite work. (Shout! Factory)