Seeing as cult TV shows are one of the main collectibles on DVD, Ben Stiller thought it only logical that his 1992 sketch series would be a no-brainer of a release. So he waited...and waited...and waited. ''About a year ago, I made a joke on a talk show that when they release the 'Saved by the Bell' boxed set, I know we have a chance,'' he tells EW. ''Then a producer for 'Saved by the Bell' sent me his boxed set, saying 'Thanks for mentioning it!'''
Finally, ''The Ben Stiller Show'' is out on DVD too (4 hrs., 59 mins., 2 discs, Warner), including all 12 episodes that aired on Fox and the 13th ''lost episode'' seen only on Comedy Central. With a company of then newcomers Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, and Bob Odenkirk (who contribute, along with writers, to eight commentary tracks), the show was a pastiche of pointed pop-culture satire, such as the sketch remaking ''A Few Good Men with Boy Scouts.'' (Some of-the-moment skits, like parodies of ''The Heights'' and ''Studs,'' have now lost some punch; such is the curse of topicality.)
The comedy often veered to esoteric, adult premises rarely seen in Stiller's family-friendly time slot of Sundays at 7:30; reimagining Woody Allen's 1992 ''Husbands and Wives'' starring Frankenstein and the Mummy isn't exactly The Wonderful World of Disney. ''We were unaware of what it took to make a show that actually would do well with a wide audience,'' Stiller says. ''We were just doing what we thought was funny -- which is probably the reason the show was canceled so quickly.''
Though short-lived, Stiller proved to be the Big Bang of the decade's smartest humor: Garofalo helped popularize the alternative comedy scene; Odenkirk and Stiller writer David Cross went on to create ''Mr. Show,'' which later begat Tenacious D's HBO spots; and executive producer Judd Apatow subsequently developed ''Freaks and Geeks.'' But Stiller's talent was always belatedly appreciated: In a coup that irony-loving TV producers still cherish, the show won a writing Emmy nine months after being canceled. ''That was a nice acknowledgment that the show wasn't a total failure,'' says Stiller. Yeah, where's your Emmy, Screech?