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This three-DVD set -- containing more than six hours of material -- isn't, despite what the title might lead you to expect, a "best of" compilation that assembles clips from numerous episodes of Flip Wilson's popular early-'70s television variety series. Instead, it presents six entire episodes (minus commercials) of the program from 1972-74. You could argue that the very best of Wilson might have been represented better by a more conscious attempt to cherry-pick scenes and routines from a lot of episodes, rather than presenting half a dozen programs start to finish. It could also be contended, though, that the start-to-finish approach is easier to watch, also giving viewers a greater sense of how the program actually appeared when it was originally aired. You do get a lot of Wilson here, including his rather brief monologues and his participation in a bunch of sketches with guest stars. You also get a lot of guest stars, sharing screen time with Wilson and doing solo spots, including comedians George Carlin, Albert Brooks, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, and Tim Conway; comedy groups Bob & Ray and the Committee; star athletes Bill Russell and Joe Namath; and singers Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, and Helen Reddy. Viewed several decades after their original broadcast, the episodes are, well, fairly funny, but not uproarious; in fact, they're rather tamer and more sitcom-oriented than you might remember if you saw them the first time around, when Wilson's boisterous African-American-flavored humor was more novel and cutting edge. But Wilson's own comedy only really catches fire when he does a couple of his most popular routines: his drag impersonation of narcissistic hipstress Geraldine Jones, and his less celebrated turn as the mercenary-minded Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happenin' Now. Those clips are still really, really funny, in part because it's in these characters that Wilson truly gets loose and risky. While it's quite interesting to see vintage footage of Carlin, Brooks, Pryor, and Rivers, those bits are less amusing and more dated, though Bob & Ray contribute an underrated classic in their satirical talk show sketch featuring a representative of the Slow Talkers of America. Extra special features include an interview with show producer Bob Henry, brief episode introductions from Conway and Diller, and two animated specials (narrated by Wilson) based on Flip's childhood experiences that are quite hip and above-average for early-'70s network cartoon programs.
Interview with producer Bob Henry
Episode introductions from Tim Conway and Phyllis Diller