If Richard Pryor was a comedy Superman, television was his kryptonite. The enduring image from The Richard Pryor Show is Pryor in a body stocking, emasculated – a moment that was itself castrated from the series by the censors. The struggle to conform Pryor’s uncompromising genius to shticky ’70s TV standards drains the enterprise of a lot of its humor, but it’s still fascinating to watch. The Richard Pryor Special? (with an artfully woven sketch featuring Maya Angelou) is revelatory, but the subsequent episodes are hit-or-miss. Lame backlot scenarios compete with imaginative attempts to make use of Pryor’s incisive social commentary, and the resultant tension is barely contained (especially when the cast members – including Paul Mooney, Tim Reid, and Robin Williams – roast their headliner). EXTRAS What was missing: Pryor unleashes an exploratory Mudbone stand-up, roasts his roasters with dark relish, and responds punishingly to audience questions.
Posted April 9 2004 — 12:00 AM EDT
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