Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bill Cosby ...Far From Finished Blu-ray Disc Review

I was an intern at The Cosby Show during the summer of 1990. The show had already moved from shooting at the NBC studios in Midwood, Brooklyn and now was being taped at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. Besides being home to The Cosby Show, during that summer, Paul Mazursky was directing Woody Allen and Bette Midler in Scenes From The Mall on the stage next door so to speak. Lifetime Television was headquartered there and a sort of pre-cursor to Ally McBeal entitled The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd was being shot on a stage on a different floor at the studio, which was also home to Sports Radio WFAN. 

This was a time when film and television production was booming in New York City with filmmaker's like Spike Lee, Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese all actively producing major feature films in the five boroughs. Robert DeNiro had opened the TriBeCa Film Center in lower Manhattan, which served as production office space as well as the occasional production set using a rented space to shoot within and the headquarters for Miramax Films too. I can also note that George Lucas rented a brownstone off Park Avenue as a New York Headquarters for Lucasfilm Commercial Productions and back then Comedy Central was still a collaboration between VIACOM and Warner Brothers and many TV shows like Short Attention Span Theater co-hosted by a young John Stewart, Sports Monster and Night After Night With Allan Havey were taped at what was HBO Downtown Productions on 23rd Street in Chelsea near the School of Visual Arts. I know all of this because after my internship at The Cosby Show, I interned at Lucasfilm, TriBeCa Film Center and Comedy Central while still an undergraduate studying film at Brooklyn College. 

So the opportunity to review the Blu-ray Disc of the first televised live standup recording with Bill Cosby since his Bill Cosby Himself filming in 1983 feels like a long distance coming full circle for me personally. I will always be grateful to Mr. Cosby for the opportunity to learn, earn college credit and get a modest stipend while witnessing the production of what was still the number one comedy sitcom on American television and is deservedly a part of television history. I can go on and on about what I recall about the show and what it was was like to see the set in person and a lot more, but the thing I want to mention before going on with this review of Comedy Central's Bill Cosby ...Far From Finished is that Mr. Cosby made sure that all of the interns who worked a semester or more on the show not only learned as fly on the wall observers at script readings, rehearsals and taking turns in the control room watching a professional network sitcom recorded live before a studio audience and later visit Editel, where the show was edited. None of these things would have been possible were it not for Mr. Cosby's commitment to the education of young people and his personal attention to making sure interns learned and not just sat in a green room and perform gopher tasks.

So while I am getting ahead of myself here I have to state that I was particularly moved by the featurette among the extra value materials on the Blu-ray and DVD editions where students at CSUN working under the guidance of a documentarian who followed the production of Ghost Dad more than twenty years earlier, were recording behind the scenes material for the home video release and meeting Mr. Cosby personally for the first time. All I can state is I felt exactly where each student was coming from as they each commented on camera about their experience as well as state based on the footage they shot, which included Mr. Cosby's arrival at the theater in a nice, but modest minivan, that Mr. Cosby has not changed because he always had a driver with a minivan when I interned on The Cosby Show back then too. He treated us with respect and encouragement and taught us by example to respect ourselves as aspiring professionals hoping to find our own niche in the industry. Thank you Mr. Cosby.

Mr. Cosby has not lost a touch of his wit and observation on the human condition in particularly as it relates to getting married, being a husband and of course, having children. In a way this is not very different from his concert film in 1983 except that now we have it from the perspective of a man who has been working in comedy nonstop for fifty one years and is now in his mid seventies. There are moments of pure brilliance and never does he utter a single word that remotely sounds like a four letter word. I want to state that this is a comedy concert that can be enjoyed by all members of the family, but the truth is there are points where I felt I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had a better personal frame of reference since I am still a single man today, but even if I were married with children I think the older one is who watches this video, the more they will get out of it. I have to lend this to my parents now that I have seen it. The other effect that comes across from watching Bill Cosby ...Far From Finished is that it is hard not to watch Mr. Cosby and not be reminded of all of the comedic impressions done of him since Eddie Murphy did his own impression in the hilarious concert film Raw back in the late1980s. Still it is hard not to be in awe of Mr. Cosby, especially when he is interviewed by Comedian, Filmmaker and the Director of this concert program for Comedy Central, Robert Townsend. The 48 minute interview with Mr. Cosby recorded after the taping of the show is one of the most candid interviews I have ever seen the man give as he discuses how he came into comedy from learning to be a storyteller. His advice to young comedians is "Don't be afraid of the smiles." He talks about his first appearance on The Tonight Show after only working in comedy for seven months, dealing with the jealousy of others and his strong regards and respect for the comedians who were his contemporaries and roll models like Jerry Lewis, George Carlin, Dick Gregory, Jonathan Winters and Lenny Bruce. For me I found this interview to be more engaging because it was my experience working as an intern on The Cosby Show that made me want to become a storyteller myself and where I consciously became aware that what I wanted to do was write and I have been doing so ever since. Once again, "Thank you Mr. Cosby."

Other extra value features besides the featurette on the students (5:02) and the interview he gives to Robert Townsend (48:45) is footage from the music recording session that is used when Mr. Cosby enters and exits on in the show (2;24) and fan reactions before and after the show (2:51).

The concert itself along with all of the extra value features on Blu-ray Disc are presented in full 16 by 9 widescreen 1080p HD with a choice of English Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Digital Stereo for the concert itself as well as English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired accessible throughout not only the concert, but all of the bonus materials too. The concert is also available on standard definition DVD with English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Stereo Sound listening options. 

Bill Cosby ...Far From Finished will debut on both Blu-ray Disc and DVD, but sold separately, on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 courtesy of Comedy Central and Paramount Home Entertainment.

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.