Three Comically Bad Commentary Tracks

Commentary Track 560x259Commentary tracks are one of the most common special features for film and television and also probably the most consistently bashed. If you listen to a handful of them chosen at random, you’ll likely hear one where a person on the track will say that they don’t listen to commentaries or only listen to them to fall asleep.

There’s a perception that the tracks will usually just provide dry technical information only of interest to those that want to get a career in the film industry (or indulge their fantasy that they’ll get one.) If not that then it’ll just consist of cast and crew members complimenting each other. There’s no denying those assumptions are often accurate. Celebrated commentary tracks such as the in-character one for This is Spinal Tap or the musical one for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog are considered the exception that proves the rule.

But when these tracks go off the rails, the results can be as good as the program or even better. Here are three of our favorite examples…

1. Breaking Bad: “Bug”

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Participants: Dean Norris, Vince Gilligan, Christopher Cousins, Melissa Bernstein, Moira Walley-Beckett, Thomas Schnauz, Michelle McClaren

Summary: For this highly charged episode of the show half of America buzzed about while the other half whined about the buzz, Gilligan and company try to give a standard informative and fun track. That is except Norris, who aggressively mocks the whole exercise. His arch nemesis on this track is Thomas Schnauz, though Vince Gilligan doesn’t seem too pleased with it either. There’s a lot of laughter throughout, but also lots of hints that some of the jokes are genuinely getting to some of the participants.

Track Highlights: Right out the gate, Norris gets on Schnauz’s nerves by going “look at that!” over and over. When Schnauz sarcastically tells everyone to let Norris speak, he does a little “Me? Memememememe?” thing. He’s leaving no doubt that if he’s gonna be stuck doing this, he’s taking it out on everyone else with a microphone.

2. An American Carol

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Participants: David Zucker, Lewis Friedman, Kevin Farley

Summary: In 2008, An American Carol was one of the greatest failures in the history of pandering. Years after he was relevant, it took an extremely broad and shallow shot at Michael Moore by having a surrogate for him meet dead conservatives and be convinced to support our troops. Even conservative critics admitted it wasn’t very good, and it completely bombed. So its director, producer, and star had no face left to lose when they sat down to do commentary for it even though two of the three present had previously made such comedy classics as Airplane! and… well, Baseketball.

Track Highlights: The tone for the track of Zucker and Friedman hating everything including themselves while Farley is just a ray of sunshine when gets established when Friedman and Zucker tell Farley they didn’t want him to star for awhile, but Farley was just happy to get the role.

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Participants: Hunter S. Thompson, Producer Laila Nabusi and her assistant

Track Tone: Thompson is apparently in angry self-caricature mode for this recording made for the 2003 release of the movie the Criterion Collection. Criterion is a outfit so hoity-toity that their mission statement is that they publish “the defining moments in cinema.” Apparently that includes Thompson acting like a lunatic on the commentary for this already rather loopy adaptation of his work. It does not seem what you’d expect of a classy, sophisticated distributor like Criterion.

Track Highlights: Throughout the track, Thompson will intermittently let loose with a banshee shriek, seemingly at nothing. It’s hard to tell if he’s just bored, mocking his reputation, or the idea of doing commentary. The best times are when he immediately transitions into making a point, meaning he had something to say but preferred shrieking.

Hunter S. Thompson 1988EndSource: MDCArchives