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Lateline - The Complete Series

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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(Aug 17, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

LATELINE - THE COMPLETE SERIES, a spoof of the evening news program "Nightline," stars Al Franken as Al Freundlich, a correspondent for the late night news program called "Lateline." Best known for his stint as Stuart Smalley on "Saturday Night Live," Al Franken not only stars in LATELINE, he also is the creator, writer and executive producer. While the show is fictional, it features real-life special guests playing themselves in this show-within-a-show.

Clever, funny, and occasionally groundbreaking, Lateline was a victim of its own intelligence. Had it been conceived as a bolder, more abrasive HBO series it might have caught on, but as a formulaic network sitcom (initially airing Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. on NBC) it offered a slightly schizoid combination of conventional comedy and cutting-edge socio-political satire. A few years before becoming a bestselling author, pundit, and Air America radio host, Saturday Night Live veteran Al Franken (with series cocreator John Markus) served up this sharp, topical send-up of TV news magazines like Nightline, about the on- and off-camera antics at Lateline, a Washington, D.C.-based news program anchored by Pearce McKenzie (Robert Foxworth), a wealthy egomaniac with a penchant for dating dim-witted supermodels. Franken plays a thinly-veiled version of himself as beleaguered correspondent Al Freundlich, while producer Gale Ingersoll (the wonderful Megyn Price) and sourpuss boss Vic Karp (Miguel Ferrer) struggle to deliver "kick-ass" shows with the help of their overworked colleagues (Catherine Lloyd Burns, Ajay Naidu, and Sanaa Lathan).

The gimmick of Lateline--later used in the HBO drama series K Street--is the inclusion of real-life movers and shakers from politics, news media, and Hollywood--a long list of cameo appearances lending an unpredictable edge of satirical spontaneity. Most of these power players add to the fun when the writing occasionally slumps into familiar sitcom territory, and the show's fullest potential is triumphantly displayed in "The Seventh Plague," an classic episode in which Freundlich, in a stubborn quest for "verisimilitude," single-handedly ruins an epic-scale disaster film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Martin Sheen as (you guessed it), the U.S. President. Office politics and hot-button issues fuel the humor (the Christian right, social security reform, etc.), but despite the noble efforts of its writers, directors, and superb ensemble cast, Lateline suffered in the ratings, was briefly rebroadcast on Showtime after cancellation (including NBC's unaired episodes, also included here), and then died prematurely. As a prescient farewell, future presidential candidate John F. Kerry appears at the end of the final episode, suggesting that Lateline was slightly ahead of its time. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • All 19 episodes from 1998-99 season including 4 never-before-aired episodes

Product Details

  • Actors: Al Franken, Megyn Price, Miguel Ferrer, Ajay Naidu, Sanaa Lathan
  • Directors: Andy Ackerman, Barton Dean, Jay Sandrich, Jeff Melman, Leonard R. Garner Jr.
  • Writers: Al Franken, Andy Munsey
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: August 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 417 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000291Q3E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,325 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lateline - The Complete Series" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
NBC's critically-acclaimed-but-low-rated "Lateline", which deftly and hilariously spoofed all facets of late-night television news programs, was one of those unfortunate quality shows that simply was a casualty of sub-par scheduling shuffles and network support. Too bad too, because the show had the necessary dynamics (great cast, sharp & hilarious writing) to run as long as say, CBS's "Murphy Brown". This DVD is definitely a welcome treat for me, as there are plenty of episodes I missed out on and never got the opportunity to watch in first-run.

The incredible cast includes Al Franken ("Saturday Night Live") as lovable goofball Al Freundlich, the chief correspondent; Robert Foxworth ("Falcon Crest") as the hilariously vain and pompous Pearce McKenzie, anchorperson; Catherine Lloyd Burns ("Partners") as Mona, Pearce's doting assistant; Miguel Ferrer ("Robocop") as Vic Karp, the gung ho executive producer; Megyn Price ("Grounded For Life") as Gale, the sensible segment producer; Sanaa Lathan ("Love & Basketball") as Briana, the booker; and Ajay Naidu as scene-stealing Raji, the production assistant.

With all 19 episodes from the series (including 4 never-before-aired episodes), maximize fun with this politically-charged sitcom released in time for the 2004 Presidential elections.
Guest stars include Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader, Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Rob Reiner, Vanessa Williams, Conan O'Brien, and many more! This 3-disc collection has a running time of about 7 hours. Full-screen video, Dolby Digital Stereo, and closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

Highly recommended!
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Living in the UK, this was what most people would call a "blind buy" for me. I decided to purchase as I am a big fan of Al's "Stuart Saves His Family" - one of the better SNL spin-off movies. "Stuart Saves His Family" is a smart comedy that gets better with each viewing. I was hoping for more of the same from Al's TV series, "Lateline".

On the whole that's what I got. "Lateline" is a smart comedy with a strong cast, clever storylines and spoofs and satire on news reporting.

The cast is led by Al Frankin as Al Freundlich, the browbeaten, clumsy chief correspondent for the show who somehow manages to report on the big stories. Al is joined by Falcon Crest star Robert Foxworth as the arrogant Pearce McKenzie, Miguel Ferrer as Vic Karp the show's producer and Megan Price as Gale, Al's producer. My favorite character is Catherine Lloyd Burns as Mona, Pearce's smitten mousey assistant.

There's some gems in here - the best episode probably being the one where vain Lateline anchorman Pearce McKenzie becomes a little too keen on appearing on the Conan show (this episode features hilarious guest spots from Conan O'Brian), but there's also lots of other moments and episodes that are almost as good including; Al meeting a besotted fan, Al and Vic going to prison for refusing to name a source and Ajay being held hostage in a sexual relationship with Pearce's latest beauty queen pick up.

However, like most comedies it takes a while for the characters, actors and writers to settle into their roles. The first few episodes are where everybody was finding their feet and this quite clearly shows, as these are of a much lower quality, and ironically considering it's Al's show, there's too much emphasis on his character, Al Freundlich.
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I've never been much of a fan of TV "situation comedies." This is not to say that I haven't enjoyed my fair share of such mindless time-wasting offerings, but in the end they all quickly sank into the abyss of mental obscurity. Even the supposed 'bests-of-the-best' like "Cosby" and "Seinfeld" left barely a blip of an imprint on my memory -- they were watched; they were fun & entertaining; they were over; they were forgotten. Not one of all of the 'sitcoms' I was aware of was imaginative or innovative enough to prevent it from becoming almost completely unmemorable to me -- and certainly not anything that would cause me to even "consider" purchasing any of them to become part of my own personal viewing library.

So it comes as more-than a bit of a surprise that I would indeed single out ONE sitcom series to find a spot for among my personal DVD collection. What makes this even more significant is the fact that the purchase was of a sitcom series I HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF until very, very recently!

Former "Saturday Night Live" comedy writer and current "Air America Radio" talk show host Al Franken was apparently something of a visionary when he helped create a very short-lived sitcom called "LateLine," which satirized late-night "news magazine" programs (e.g. "Nightline").
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