A revival premiering this week on The CW promises to bring back everything fans loved about TV’s other quintessential sketch show—with a just a few updates to keep things interesting.
Let’s take a trip back to 1995, when pagers were the best way to communicate, chokers and chunky heels were all the rage, and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” topped the music charts. It was a time that signaled the arrival of MADtv, a brash new comedy upstart inspired by the satirical MAD Magazine that was set to take over where In Living Color left off in 1994. David Salzman, the show’s executive producer, says that MADtv’s crude brand of comedy gave a diverse audience something they couldn’t find anywhere else, even on the series’s main rival. “At the time, [MADtv] was a wall to wall parody. There was nothing like it. We have always had a multi-racial cast, and an urban sensibility, so we were quite different than Saturday Night Live from the get-go,” Salzman said.
It’s now been seven years since MADtv ended its initial 14-season run on Fox. But don’t worry: if you missed it the first time around, the Emmy-winning sketch comedy series is coming back, this time to The CW.
Salzman has returned for the reboot, premiering Tuesday, July 26. He’s joining forces with executive producers John Montgomery and Mark Teitelbaum to pull off a 2016 version of the show. Salzman says the timing couldn’t be better, largely because it’s summer—and “Saturday Night Live, the king pin of sketch shows, isn’t in production right now.”
Of course, there’s more to it than that. “Take a look at what’s happening in the world right now; the political conventions, Zika, the Olympics,” he continues. “It’s just craziness all around.”
MADtv always took special pride in skewering television shows and pop icons, from Michael Jackson’seccentricities to Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s volatile relationship. It lampooned racism in broad strokes with characters like Vancome Lady; it parodied hypersexualized shopping experiences likeAbercrombie & Fitch. It generally preferred broad spoofs to pointed sketches about politics, leavingSaturday Night Live to become the vanguard of political satire—but you can expect that to change on the rebooted series. “Where we would usually shy away from politics,” Salzman explains, “who better could you pick to parody than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and all the people surrounding them?”
If you’re a fan from way back, though, don’t worry—he adds that the reboot will also feature the usualMADtv fare, including music videos, commercials, and pop-culture impressions. In other words, nobody’s safe. “There’s a lot of things to offend in today’s pop culture cycles,” Salzman says.
And clearly, there’s an audience for that. The MADtv series reboot comes on the heels of The CW airing a 20th-anniversary special for the show back in January. That broadcast featured 19 returning series alumni—and lured in a solid 1.7 million viewers
The revived series will offer something new while sticking to the show’s tried-and-true formula. Former cast members will be brought in to make cameos each week. “Coming up,” says Salzman, “we have Bobby Lee, Ike Barinholtz, Debra Wilson, Aries Spears, Keegan-Michael Key, Mo Collins, and just a whole lot of great people. We are putting the stars that we made in the world of sketch together with this new team of people, bringing new characters and impressions.”
Who’s on the new team? It includes eight fresh faces with appearances in projects like Last Comic Standingand The Heat under their belts, as well as three comedians discovered via CBS’s Diversity Showcase, which gives up and coming talent an opportunity to perform in front of entertainment executives, agents, managers, casting directors, and show-runners.
Members of the new cast are thrilled to take part in a show they grew up watching. “My 4th grade girlfriend told me, ‘“You’ll never be on MADtv,”’ and I get to stick it to her!” new cast member Adam Ray joked before getting a bit more serious. He’s excited to be on a show “with seven other people that are so talented and so hungry,” as well as with old cast members who are “here to give us a boost and help introduce us to the world.”
Another new member, Chelsea Davison, echoed Ray’s sentiments, explaining that she and her cohort intend to use their unknown status in their favor. “We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves for a new audience. We can take the best of what was before us, and we can build on it and create new stuff.”
MADtv made a habit of pushing the envelope with jokes about race relations, pop-culture impressions, and by poking fun at its competitors. The revived series won’t stray far from the blueprint that kept the first version on the air for 14 years—a diverse cast, broad humor, sketches that are less pointed but more satirical than you’ll find on other sketch shows. It worked before; the show’s creators have every reason to believe it’ll work again. After all, as John Montgomery adds, “there’s something about [how] in a divided world, the involuntary response that we call laughter unites us.” Well, laughter—and a bit of nostalgia never hurt.
Source: Vanity Fair