Da Ali G Show: Season 1
December 8, 2004
Ali G is the creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s a clueless hip hop fan turned journalist. Ali G became quite the sensation in his home country, making a movie and even appearing in a Madonna music video. His own TV show was inevitable. In recent years, America has noticed him and HBO started airing episodes of his show. They have now collected all six episodes of the first season on DVD.
The premise of Da Ali G Show is a satirical critique of various aspects of the United States with each episode dedicated to a specific topic (the law, war, and politics). The show’s format is broken down into three separate segments that showcase three of Cohen’s characters as they travel through America. Ali G opens and closes each episode, Borat is an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is here learning about our culture, and finally Bruno is a hip Austrian fashion expert and model.
In the first episode, Cohen examines the law and has Ali G spend a day at the Philadelphia Police Academy. He tries his hand at being a cop and fails miserably as he tries to act out every loose cannon cop cliché from the movies. Watching him try to arrest and then pat down a suspect is as funny as it is bizarre. Borat tries to enroll in a dating service with little success. He uses his broken English and cultural bias to a funny and slightly disturbing effect. The look of this segment is reminiscent of those low-tech, no-budget shows you find late at night on local public access TV. Bruno crashes the backstage area of a big-time fashion show (Paris Hilton can be seen several times on the runway) as he asks any designer who will give him the time of day if he can model for them.
Cohen brilliantly skewers American culture and politics with his ridiculous characters. He pushes the boundaries of good taste and what the audience will endure as he creates truly uncomfortable situations with his Borat character. For example, there is a segment where he attends an amateur baseball game and sings his national anthem. He drags it out much to everyone’s disbelief. Borat’s character often exposes the racism and ultra-conservatism that exists in the American heartland.
Ali G is arguably Cohen’s funniest character as he exposes the generation gap that exists in America. This is no more apparent than in the amusing interview he does with James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio. Ali G is vulgar and obvious and this offends Lipton’s refined sensibilities. And yet he represents a lot of the hip hop culture that one sees on MTV. It is really a shame that they don’t give Ali G screen time on their station as he would be good for their young audience who might appreciate his satire.
The first DVD features an audio commentary on the first episode by Sacha Baron Cohen and series producer/writer Dan Mazer. They couldn’t believe that Philly cops let Cohen run around and swear during the first segment. Apparently, they didn’t tell the police what they were doing and this got them into a little bit of trouble later on. Mazer describes the look of Borat’s segment as the beginning of a porn film. This is a very funny and entertaining track as the two men recount all sorts of anecdotes.
“Borat Bonus Clips” features two cut segments with Borat. One has him attending the Hampton Horse Show and tormenting a poor female rider with his lengthy analogies. Even more telling is the other segment that savagely skewers conservative patriotism as Borat argues with a woman on who is more patriotic and has him talk to a man who is quite homophobic.
The second DVD features Ali G’s demo reel, “Spyz Movie” that he pitched to a couple Hollywood producers in the hopes of getting movie deal. It is hilariously awful with cheesy effects and non-existent acting.
There is also an “Ali G Glossary” that is divided into two sections: A-Z and Phrases. It’s an amusing mix of Ebonics, hip hop-speak and British slang.
Da Ali G Show is part performance art and part social satire. The DVD has a slim selection of extras but the quality and content of the episodes themselves more than make up for these shortcomings.