Titus on DVD
December 26, 2005

KC and I just finished watching the DVD box set (seasons one and two) of one of the best sitcoms of all time, Titus.

Those of you who know of the show will note that this was a somewhat twisted choice for the holiday season. Those of you who don’t, you have a fascinating and funny! discovery ahead of you. The show ran for all-too-brief a time on Fox, and it was rumored to have been cancelled for pushing the envelope too much.

Titus Seasons 1 and 2
Titus Seasons 1 and 2
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Christopher Titus’ stand-up act was called Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding for good reason. His father was a irrepressible drunk who was married six times. His mother was a paranoid manic-depressive schizophrenic who was in and out of mental institutions during his childhood. All of this is translated directly to the screen with a raw, insightful presentation that is laugh-out-loud funny, more so because half the time the audience can’t believe what’s being made fun of.

Aside from his father, played by the outstanding Stacy Keach, the regular cast includes stoner half-brother Dave and childhood best friend Tommy, constantly called gay by Dad Titus, whose catch phrase is “don’t be a wussy”. He’s the kind of parent who teaches the kid not to stick a penny in the electric socket by letting him stick the penny in the socket. The only woman Dad halfway respects is Erin, Titus’ fiancee and a survivor in her own way — her family consists of a felonious brother, a drug-using sister and niece, a drunk mother, and a battling Irish father. The cast is fabulous, working together brilliantly.

Interspersed with more traditional staging are Titus’ monologues, set in a “neutral space”, a black-and-white room with a large chair cobbled together out of two-by-fours and a single light bulb. He contextualizes and comments on events, providing history and background to the sometimes insane (literally) events going on on-screen. And the show loved fire, with people setting things ablaze as a regular occurrence, either as lesson or symbolism or accident.

Titus Season 3
Titus Season 3
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Here are some of the plots that confused and dismayed the network executives: Dad hasn’t come out of his room to get a beer in four days, so the sons become convinced that he’s dead, but they’re too afraid of him to go check. Mom comes back to make Thanksgiving dinner, which she’s drugged. Titus and Erin break up and almost immediately go out and sleep with other people. Dad fakes a heart attack when he has a car accident instead of admitting he was having sex while driving. When Dad stops drinking, he becomes even meaner than usual, so the family stages an intervention to get him to start again.

In the Christmas episode, Titus goes to an ex-girlfriend’s funeral. He’s very emotional, so Erin assumes he still has feelings for her… which he does, only they’re hate and fear. He’s at the ceremony to make sure she’s really dead. This kind of black humor works in so many ways: for those who can relate, it’s catharsis. For those with more normal lives, it’s an eye-opening look at what other people have survived. As Titus points out early on, the majority of families these days are considered disfunctional… although not to this degree. This show takes the typical “special episode” setup and pushes far beyond the lesson, creating humor out of truth.

The second and final set, season three is due out next month. Both sets are strongly recommended.

7 Responses  
Lyle writes:  

I really enjoyed the series when it was airing… so much that I’m surprised to realize it lasted only three seasons (y’know how sometimes a good comedy gets that comfy feeling like its been around for ages and is always welcome in your living room?). The episode where they think the father died is memorable to me for Erin’s monologue (where it turns out she misinterpreted Christopher’s vague message to terrible results). My only complaint about the show was that I didn’t feel that Cynthia Watros got used effectively in the show, though that’s a complaint I frequently make about funny women (pretty much every time I see Bonnie Hunt in a movie I feel her talents were under-utilized).

Johanna writes:  

I think her second-season pregnancy limited what they wanted to and could do with her, given how much they played on her beauty *and* brains previously.

But yeah, loved this when it was on, loved it again, much like Greg the Bunny. At least Fox gives these weirdo shows a chance, even if they kill them early.

Dan Coyle writes:  

I agree, this was a fun show.

The third season had some even more enjoyably darker stuff, such as Titus taking on his niece (cousin?), and discovering she was molested when she was younger. The way they deal with it isn’t exactly legal, but it’s fun.

And that’s another thing I enjoyed about the show- it allowed its characters to be human without making them caricatures or unlikable. It helped that the great Stacy Keach anchored the show.

Whatever happened to Chris Titus, anyway? Did he go back to the stage?

Johanna writes:  

There’s a new interview with him on the DVD set, and according to his website, he’s writing a pilot called “Special Unit” for Comedy Central.

“Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding” aired on Showtime last year, but it’s not available on DVD. Comedy Central has also picked that up to air next year (woo!).

And I can’t believe that he was here in Richmond in October and I had no idea!

Lyle writes:  

But yeah, loved this when it was on, loved it again, much like Greg the Bunny. At least Fox gives these weirdo shows a chance, even if they kill them early.

I agree, as frustrating as it gets to see shows like these to go away sooner than I’d like, no one else is putting these shows on the air with the regularity that Fox does (and Fox usually ends up picking one show each season to try to nurture into a hit, though they’ve never suceeded with comedies).

New Christopher Titus DVD: Love Is Evol » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] happy news! Christopher Titus, my favorite comedian, has a new special out on DVD for Valentine’s […]

Christopher Titus: Love Is Evol » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[…] work, to hear about how terrible his ex and his divorce (after 15 years of marriage) were, since his sitcom and his other specials talk about how that “good woman” helped him learn how there […]


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