I honestly wasn’t sure it was even worth my time reviewing these Homestar Runner sets (which I’ve owned for quite some time now) as the show has been more or less done for years now. However with the recent announcement that they are looking to make new content this year, I figure it’s the perfect time to crank out some of my thoughts on the various DVDs from the site.
I’ll lead by saying that I am a huge fan of Homestar Runner. I was introduced to it by a friend who sent me the Strong Bad email “Video Games” and just said she thought it was something I would find funny. She was correct. From that point on I was completely in, checking the web site weekly for the new content and gradually digesting all of the cartoons up until that point that I hadn’t seen. The site was a staple during my college years and although eventually I stopped checking in as often, I still would keep up to date on things and was genuinely bummed out when content ceased. The idea of the site coming back is ridiculously exciting to me and having not seen many of these cartoons in a while, I was excited to start making my way through these discs once more.
I have to assume just about everybody reading this is familiar with Strong Bad emails but just in case – there is a character on the site named Strong Bad. He answers people’s emails. Boom, you are officially now caught up.
With just about any series, the earliest episodes are not usually the strongest. They’re still finding their footing, fleshing out the characters, generally working through the rough patches, etc. This applies here as well. As someone who was used to the format of the later episodes it was a little jarring to go back to the very beginning as these episodes are a very different beast. I was used to the more elaborate emails that show up down the road where there are cut away gags, more characters featured and usually a longer run time of about 4 or 5 minutes. In the early stages though, it was only Strong Bad, the action hardly ever moved away from the front of the computer screen, his voice sounds noticeably different, and instead of a multitude of jokes there is often one single punch line that caps off the whole thing. It’s very odd and while not all together bad, they are nowhere near as enjoyable as where the show ends up, especially when you’re already fully aware that that’s where it is headed. That’s not to say there aren’t some high quality episodes in these early stages. Even in their simplicity episodes like Duck Pond, Little Animal and Credit Card are damn funny and make up for some of the admittedly weaker efforts such as the infamous Tape Leg.
Around halfway through the first disc is when stuff starts to get real good and you start to see the show really take shape. For me I think it’s right around the CGNU episode. The episodes still run shorter than the later average but the humour is starting to develop and the cut away gags are firmly in place, allowing a lot more freedom. From here it’s a pretty great run but it’s disc 2 where you get the really iconic stuff.
Of course a huge part of the appeal of going through this set is seeing where all of the eventual in jokes, running gags and references original came from. Just about all the main ones can be found on this set, with of course the biggie being Trogdor which can be found nearish the beginning of the aforementioned second disc. On top of that, right before Trogdor is Japanese Cartoon which is the original appearance of Stinkoman, who would also go on to become a huge part of the site. It’s pretty insane that two of the most iconic elements of the web site were produced in such rapid succession like that. Before the end of this set you will also see the origins of Strong Badia, Senor Cardgage (star of my favourite cartoon the web site has ever produced but we’ll get to that one when it’s the proper time), and well the list goes on.
The third disc is fantastic from start to finish, containing a lot of my personal favourite emails to date. Kind of Cool of course debuts my favourite side character in Senor Cardgage, Monument’s debut of the Thnikkaman is amongst my favourite gags the show has ever done, and then there are a bunch that are hilarious for a variety of reason such as Local News, Mile, Video Games and Caffeine. Of all the discs out there, this may be the best one and the fact you get so much else with this set is almost a bonus.
You also get a whole lot of bonus features here too. The main one that attracted me was a whole series of commentary tracks which is a great inclusion but I really hate the execution of them. Presumably because each cartoon doesn’t have a track, there is no play all option for the commentaries. You also can’t select them (as far as I can tell anyway) if you choose to watch a block of ten emails, an option that is presented on each of the discs. No unless I am completely missing something the only way to select a commentary track is to choose each episode individually and change the audio track over. If that episode doesn’t have a track, you go back to the menu and try the next one. It’s a very inconvenient way of doing it and it’s a method I eventually got frustrated with so admittedly I haven’t watched every track available on the set, though I imagine I’ve seen the majority.
The tracks are varied in that outside of creators Mike and Matt Chapman, they do bring in other people and do some of the commentaries as various characters from the show. The latter probably sounds more interesting than it often ends up as clearly they are improvising everything and sometimes it simply doesn’t work, though they do often point out this very fact to humorous effect. Overall the tracks are absolutely worth listening to but it’s a shame it takes such a convoluted effort to do so.
Also a quick side note to say that selecting episodes individually also seems to be the only way to select the various Easter eggs that often appear during and especially at the end of an episode.
There’s quite a bit more outside of these tracks. On the first disc you get three previously unreleased emails all of which are quite short but also pretty solid, not sure why they got rejected initially. You also get an eight minute video which edits together all of the email songs that open the episodes in this set. Pointless but I guess cool? There’s also a 90 second video that does the same thing for the different scroll button songs.
Disc 2 has four karaoke videos (Dangeresque, Trogdor, Fhqwhgads and Nite Mamas) which are each worth a single watch to see the accompanying video but I do wish the original track had simply been used instead. You also get 2 standard music videos for Moving Very Slowly by Taranchula and Secret Song by Puppet Homestar (my favourite of the group).
Finally on Disc 3 you get a variety of different stuff. It opens with about 3 minutes of puppet material which I’ll admit is not my favourite content but it’s cool that it’s included here. There’s a very quick look at the making of email 100 which is simply sped up footage of them working and actually a documentary piece or anything which is too bad. There’s an amusing quickie about the voice acting that’s done for the cartoon. Then there’s another quick sped up montage of everyone building a huge Cheatar which I honestly don’t even remember from the show. There’s a seven minute video looking at various sketches the brothers have done, and it all ends with a rough test of the DVD menu complete with Strong Bad commentary over top.
You should buy this set. If you’re a fan, there’s absolutely no reason to get it. If you’re not, it’s cheap and should convert you by the time you get to the end of the last disc. It’s a great package that I have made my way through numerous times. Just…just get it. Come on. Just get it.