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Summary: Completely Carlin is Completely Entertaining
Review: First of all, I'm a Carlin fan. I attended two of his live shows when I was a college student, and I still listen to his older albums (such as "FM/AM") and twelve HBO comedy specials, most of which I've heard at least ten times. The most important thing is, Carlin's comedy has broad appeal: you don't have to be a fan of Carlin to enjoy this!
"Completely Carlin" is the third boxed set of Carlin material I've bought (the others are "The George Carlin Collection" and an audio CD boxed set). This collection is better than "Collection", because you get Carlin's latest material. Carlin really came into his own around 1990, and these performances offer the no-holds-barred approach that made him a latter-day Lenny Bruce.
Notably absent on this set is "Complaints & Grievances", Carlin's 2001 HBO special. However, you get Carlin's most recent HBO shows, including "Back in Town" and "You Are All Diseased", which are some of his funniest performances. Classic routines include the death penalty, there is no God, airport security, and more.
The best part of this set, besides offering four Carlin/HBO comedy shows that were previously available only on VHS (and not together in a boxed set), is the brand-new autobiographical interview titled "George on George". Carlin discusses his early years, growing up with his brother in New York, his efforts to join the counterculture, the Seven Words and the Supreme Court case, his marijuana/cocaine use and (most fun of all) his dealings with the IRS.
Watching this entire set, you'll learn what it is that Carlin has, that so many other comedians lack. You'll learn Carlin's approach to standup comedy, and why his routines are so painfully funny. He talks about his method in comparison to the "usual" method employed by other standup comics. He talks about his influences (The Three Stooges, Lenny Bruce). You'll see how he channels these elder comedians and how his career has flourished at the apex of comedy for forty years.
Summary: MPI didn't give this set the "complete" respect it deserves.
Review: I have been a George Carlin fan since I was an early teen, even though I probably should not have been watching his shows at that age. I have just about all of his concerts throughout the 1980s and 1990s memorized. But up until this point I was restricted to VHS for watching his shows. I even recently converted a number of my George Carlin VHS tapes to two DVD-Rs just for permanence and convenience.
It was therefore with great joy when I purchased "Completely Carlin" from MPI Home Video. Obviously, his four concerts are what you would expect them to be, so there is no real need to explain what those DVDs are.
"George's Best Stuff" is a great DVD that runs about 1.5 hours, loaded with some of his skits from concerts that do not have their own DVD in this set. Having only been exposed to Carlin's concerts from the early 1980s onwards, it was really refreshing to see some of his skits from his 1970s concerts. The editors also did a good job of keeping the various jokes from the different concerts in theme with each other, making the various clips flow very smoothly.
"George on George" is a great, introspective DVD regarding his life in New York to his desire to be comedian to his partnership in the comedian team of Burns and Carlin to how his two decades of concerts on HBO changed his life as a comedian. For those who might be wondering, he also explains why he has such an avid hatred for golf and golfers.
Now to the DVDs themselves.
Video: 5 out of 5
The video is quite crisp, as would be expected. Each concert is relatively new, so the video is just about as good as can be expected. DVD shows once again how superior it is in video quality when compared to its VHS counterparts. The video is very crisp and very clean.
Audio: 2 out of 5
All of the DVDs tout Dolby Digital 2.0; however, do not be impressed by this statistic at all. In fact, when it comes to audio, this is where MPI severely dropped the ball. The audio quality of these DVDs, most notably the three newest concerts, is far below my expectations and is in fact not what is stated at the beginning of each show.
For the past several months, I have been listening to most of Carlin's acts through the albums that I downloaded (legally!) from eMusic, which contains his entire audio library. All of these MP3 albums are in crisp, clear, glorious stereo sound that sound like you're right there at the concert. Many of the VHS tapes that I have of George's various concerts, including some of those in this collection, are in Dolby Surround sound.
Unfortunately, all of these DVDs (except for Playin' With Your Head) are in Dolby Digital 2.0 MONAURAL audio! What's worse is that all of the concerts clearly state in the very beginning that they are being presented in DOLBY SURROUND! What even makes this even more bizarre is that "Playin' With Your Head" is the oldest of all of the concert DVDs in this set! So the oldest of the concerts is in stereo, but the three newest concerts are in mono! Can someone explain this?
Why MPI mixed the newer, "presented in Dolby Surround" DVDs to actually be Dolby Digital mono is beyond me. It does say to me, however, that these DVDs were not given the respect that they deserve. In fact, I have the one concert ("What Am I Doing In New Jersey") on VHS video, and I confirmed that the soundtrack to that VHS tape is definitely in stereo.
Before I get accused of being anal-retentive (which I am, by the way, but at least I admit it), I'm looking at this from a highly-experienced DVD authoring perspective as well as the perspective of a Carlin fanatic. To create DVDs that blatantly state in the beginning of each that they are "Presented in Dolby Surround" but are instead presented in monaural audio is mind-boggling. After all, it's not like any of these concerts are especially old and that the original stereo soundtracks are no longer available. For a VHS tape to have superior audio quality than its DVD counterpart is disgraceful as far as I'm concerned.
In my eyes, if you're going to make what appears to be a worthwhile collection of anything, you should make it be the best that it can be. It is clear to me that MPI Home Video did not bother to do this. As a long-time Carlin fan, I'm thrilled to have his concerts on a superior and more permanent format; however, I am incredibly disappointed that MPI clearly did not give this DVD set the time and quality mastering that it deserves.
If you're a Carlin fan, this still is a worthwhile purchase; however, I for one will never be able to really look at this set as any kind of a "collector's set" because of the high "what this set should have been" factor.
On the plus side, all of the DVDs are single-layer so I could always remaster them to keep the same video quality but add the Dolby Surround soundtracks from the videos or the albums. Since each disc is single-layer, each could easily have their own DVD-R. You know, I just might have to do that, but it's a shame that I should feel the need to do so. MPI Home Video should have done this already.
Review: I've been a fan of Carlin's ever since I saw Jammin' in New York. Since then I have seen almost all of his specials that were recorded. Up until now, I couldn't find some of my favorites(Back In Town, You Are All Diseased) on DVD. Now I get almost every DVD I was missing in a great collection. This is a great value and has some of Carlins funniest material.
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