Can a show air on one of the major network for 14 years (1995-2009), and be virtually unnoticed and almost utterly forgotten by the populace almost immediately? If you are the FOX sketch comedy show MADtv, the answer is affirmative on all counts.
It seems like hating on Saturday Night Live has been a cottage industry since its debut in 1975. However, judging on how much passion and knowledge some of these haters bring to their snark, I’d say they’re like rabid fans that have near-impossible standards than constructive or objective critics. I’d like to think I’m closer to the latter. I realize how difficult a task it is to perform sketch comedy on a weekly basis. Yet just judging on the years MADtv aired original episodes, SNL clearly won the pop culture war; for SNL’s recurring characters have entered our collective cultural lexicon, and their performers have clearly outshone their counterparts in their post-sketch comedy careers. That is quite a shame, because it was never a question of on-air talent. In fact, MADtv’s parodies of TV shows, movies, and music videos were much funnier than SNL’s. (Yes, I’m even including Celebrity Jeopardy!) It’s too bad they kept putting less emphasis on this strength, and spent most of their efforts in a quixotic attempt to create a breakout character.
Initially, MADtv had animated featured bits from their magazine, e.g.: Spy vs Spy. This was in order to justify the show’s title, I suppose. However, the mini cartoons were soon dropped. They had a musical act perform near the end of their show. (Note that the show only went head-to-head with SNL for only half an hour, 11:30 – 12:00.) That didn’t last long either. That had special guest stars appear. But it was only for one sketch only, and not as a host. The end result was that the show became just another run-of-the-mill sketch comedy program.
After the one hour comedy sketch show ended its run, a new incarnation of MAD went on the air. This time, it was on Cartoon Network. This version is all animated, and runs for only 15 minutes. This version is much closer to the source material. The Spy vs Spy segment is featured in every episode, as well as the Don Martin comics. Each episodes opens and ends with a parody, just like the magazine itself. And most importantly, this show is chock full of MAD magazine‘s sense of humor – i.e.: sophomoric, and toilet humor. Wiki calls this a successor to the FOX show, but I see it a lighter version of Robot Chicken.
MAD fixed all the error made by its predecessor: it cut it run time by 75%; it went all animated; and it targets the 7-17 year old demographic. However, I doubt this show will last for 14 seasons, since CN has not had an original series that lasted anywhere near that amount of time. Yet, I can not give a grade on this show. Like many others, I grew up reading MAD magazine. I’m afraid that I’m becoming an old fuddy-duddy curmudgeon when I compare the more recent issues to the ones of the past. My judgement is clouded by nostalgia. I can say that it does hit a bulls-eye when it comes to its target audience. Provided that sed member of that audience hasn’t ever seen any vintage issues (paper or online).