By now a television institution, ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos
has been on the air since 1989 and seen a number of hosts come and go. Comedian-actor Bob Saget, perhaps, is still a favorite of many of the show's longtime fans--he was the series' host during its first seven years. The post-Saget America's Funniest Home Videos
was re-launched a couple of times, with different performers introducing funny video clips sent in by the public. This four-disc set, volume 1, is the first season of the Tom Bergeron years, a comic who took over host duties in 2001.
Other than a new face from time to time, Videos is essentially the same show it's always been. Clips are procured and loosely organized around various themes: pets, sports, kid antics, accidents, disasters, displays of machismo that backfire. Once in a while one has to wonder what the producers are thinking: Images of toddlers being terrified by some idiot in a scary costume, or a guy hit in the teeth with a golf ball, or an animal frantically trying to remove a discarded paper cup or bag covering its head are only funny to sadists. For the most part, however, the goofy stuff that gets caught on home video (and ends up on millions of American television sets) is wholesome proof that slapstick isn't just for professional clowns. Among the best moments in the 12 complete episodes in this collection is the extraordinary sight of a very small child standing in a stream and casually scooping an enormous carp from the water; a civic awards ceremony in which the recipient accidentally knocks a dignitary into a lake; and a crowded swimming pool party in which the pool (one of those assembly-required, metal frame jobs) falls apart. There's also the weird sight of baseball-size hail assaulting some poor lad out in a rowboat; a dog that pulls the pajama bottoms off a little boy while the latter's dad swings the kid by his arms; and a pair of do-it-yourself home-repair types knocking down a wall by throwing a bowling ball through it repeatedly. Disc 4 contains a two-part celebration of America's Funniest Home Videos' 300th episode, spotlighting some of the series' greatest hits. Among them is a dog who picks up a fireworks launcher while it's still spewing sparks; and the kid who whacks his brother with a freshly caught fish only to have the affronted sibling push him into a bucket containing the day's catch. Both boys end up crying, natch. --Tom Keogh