It’s been a busy week for Mad As Hell writer David M. Green, which saw not only the return of the excellent Mad As Hell but also the return of his excellent web series VHS Revue.
The concept of VHS Revue is simple: Green digs out some old VHS tapes containing films or shows taped off the TV and reviews them. Except he doesn’t care about the main feature, i.e. the film or TV show that’s been recorded, he cares about the ads in between.
Ads from the past often look pretty weird to contemporary audiences and that is certainly true of the ones Green’s selected, which date from the early-1980s to the mid-2000s. Ads for building societies that no longer exist, ads for car dealers who ended up in court, ads fronted by enthusiastic discount retailers with no acting ability, and ads that are utterly shocking in the era of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. There are also some ads from products that just seem insane now. What was the deal with families in the 80s driving around in cuboid-shaped vans, for example?
But VHS Revue goes beyond making obvious cheap shots about how things were really weird/funny in the past. It digs into what was wrong in the past and why, plus there are lots of surreal and creative side gags about camera angles, TV technology and politics to enjoy. It’s exactly the level of quality and inventiveness you’d expect from a Mad As Hell-adjacent program. There are even cameos from Mad As Hell’s Shaun Micallef and Stephen Hall (and not Mad As Hell’s Rex Hunt and Andy Matthews).
Plenty of people have made cheap programs laughing at clips of old television, but VHS Revue is a cut above. It’s smart and witty, there’s a genuine passion for the material and an assumption that the audience wants more than “LOLZ THE PAST”.
Andy Matthews is also a writer on Mad as Hell but Rex Hunt is not