If Aladdin's Genie (I reviewed Aladdin online recently) granted me wishes at the beginning of this year, I easily might've blurted out "I want a Norway track jacket and a copy of The State on DVD!" After years of searching, I stumbled across a zip-up with the Scandinavian country's name emblazoned on it online this spring, and on July 14, MTV finally released The State as a five-DVD set. So if the Genie shows now, I no longer have an excuse not to ask for a million bucks ... or world peace.
When I first discovered The State, circa 1994, as a freshman in high school, it was the funniest thing I had ever seen--and that's saying something since Ace Ventura had just come out on VHS. The group of late-20s-ish former NYU sketch comedians were often naked, regularly acted in drag and constantly set up crude and random scenarios. Naturally, they were perfect role models for future Vidiots everywhere.
The assemblage of cast members--including Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain and Ken Marino --now have household faces, perhaps even household names. In the years since The State left MTV, the show's talent has been featured in Comedy Central programs Viva Variety, Stella, Reno 911! and the new Michael & Michael Have Issues. In addition, Black has been prominently featured on VH1's I Love the '70s/'80s/'90s/New Millenium and NBC's Ed. He's also written and directed multiple films. Marino has guest-starred in a laundry list of TV dramas like Dawson's Creek and Veronica Mars. And Wain directed films Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten (both featuring many of The State's cast) and Role Models.
Examining the newly-released DVD set, I realize most of what I watched--and recorded on VHS tapes--back in high school was from the third season, leaving me to rediscover three other seasons, loads of commentary and outtakes. Sadly, as big a fan as I still consider myself to be, season four was poorly written and I now see why the show left television. However, seasons one through three--chiefly three--are still completely hilarious. Multiple repeat characters deliver extremely re-quotable lines, even to this day (Showalter's Doug: "I'm outta heeere!"; Marino's Louie: "I wanna dip my balllls in it!"; Lennon and Black's Barry and Levon: "$240 worth of puddin', awwww, yeah!").
When the show originally aired, producers had access to vast catalogs of then-contemporary grunge rock. Iconic sketches featured songs by Alice in Chains, Ween and The Breeders, but due to astronomical licensing fees, the DVD was rescored. New watchers may not notice, but true fans will feel staked in the heart.
Despite its few shortcomings, The State remains among my favorite series of all time and is now the showpiece of my DVD collection. If you promise to take care of it, I probably wouldn't even mind loaning the set out. So if you should run into Aladdin's blue friend, don't let The State even enter your mind; wish big and we'll split the million bucks ... or take co-credit for world peace.