Ever heard of The Dana Carvey Show? Chances could be slim. The Dana Carvey Show ran on ABC in 1996 with a whopping seven episodes to its name, and one of the strongest teams of comedians in the game at the time. How did such a promising show turn out to be known as "one of the most spectacular fails of all time" and alienate its fan base in a second?
"Too Funny To Fail: The Life and Death of The Dana Carvey Show" answers all of these questions. The Hulu documentary features writers like Louis CK, Robert Smigel and of course, Dana Carvey.
Carvey left Saturday Night Live which was unheard of at the time. Carvey announced in Rolling Stone that he was searching for his next move. Carvey was handed movie rolls, the Late Night desk and ended up taking a risk with The Dana Carvey Show. Carvey wanted to bring back sketch comedy and disrupt the primetime network rules. ABC took the idea immediately, imagining a Carol Burnett type variety show when Carvey had bigger ideas.
Carvey, Smigel and Louis CK recruited unknown writers like Charlie Kaufman and Jon Glaser. The cast featured unknowns, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell from Second City. They were given the time slot after Home Improvement, one of the biggest sitcoms at the time.
All of the featured people in the documentary highlighted that many amateur mistakes were made that led to the ultimate quick cancellation. The lead writers talk about the leading sketch which killed the potential audience on the spot. The first sketch was Carvey playing Bill Clinton with prosthetic breasts feeding kittens and puppies. Lead writers in the documentary explain they wanted to show that "you were either with us or against us" which turned out to be the wrong choice. Sponsors pulled from the show and made public announcements, hate mail was sent to the ABC offices, and critics ripped the show apart. It wasn't until years later that people started to look back on the show and say it was judged too quickly.
One of the funniest parts of the documentary is when the head writer talks about the first time he watched a Home Improvement episode is when their fourth episode was about to air. No one on the team saw an episode before and many assumed it was a show like TDCS since Tim Allen was a "man's man". Smigel recounts the horror when he realizes Home Improvement was a show a family could watch together and when their show came on "they ran for the remotes".
They end up showing the writers and cast a commercial of an emotional Home Improvement episode that "The Diet Mug Root Bear Dana Carvey Show" would follow. Everyone bursts into hysterics due to the hilarious contrast between the two shows.
It's not until now where audiences deemed the show as ahead of its time. The vibe of the show was silly with sketches like "Germans Who Say Nice Things" and "Waiters Who Are Nauseated By Food". The show was misjudged so quickly by the first sketch and isn't as bad as most thought.
The show gave us Colbert and Carell. The two recount in the documentary that the show gave them spots of The Daily Show which gave them a stepping stone to their success today. Colbert is currently the host of The Late Show and Carell had huge success with the American version of The Office and lately, more serious roles. Colbert had Carvey on his show recently and often thanks Carvey for his career.
The Dana Carvey Show in its entirety and "Too Funny To Fail" is available on Hulu. Sketches can also be found on YouTube. "Too Funny To Fail" gives justice to the show and can even be watched if you haven't binged TDCS. The Dana Carvey Show is proof that even after a failure, you can still look back on it with no regrets.