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I find Tyler Perry to be absolutely fascinating. The man has come out of nowhere to turn into the biggest theatrical voice of the last decade. Taking the concept of the African-American Revival stage show and turning it into a multi-million dollar cottage industry was nothing short of genius. House of Payne marks Perry's first attempt at developing a weekly sitcom for the American Television audience.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume One
Taking a cue from his established work within the Medea stories, Perry creates a satellite existence for the Paynes. The Paynes are an interesting bunch though from the pilot episode on. The main thrust of the show is that C.J. Payne has had to take his kids and move in with his aunt and uncle. C.J.'s wife is addicted to crack and torched the family's last home, thus putting C.J. on the fast track to a new life. Ella and Curtis Payne want the best for their nephew and they want to see his kids turn out right. So, we get a multi-generational tale of people just trying to make it through the world.

The first volume of House of Payne centres around C.J. and his kids getting adjusted to their new lives. Allen starts to date the local school principal, while the kids have to deal with getting bullied. This leads to the preordained guest spot from Tyler Perry as his superstar character Madea. I feel as though it was a bad move to pull out Madea so early as the neophyte cast was blown out of the water every time they had to go against Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume One
For those of you that are big fans of the series, I do have to tack on this forewarning. The initial ten episodes of the series aren't on the disc. Those were deemed to be a non-canonical test run and dropped for some odd reason. Maybe Tyler Perry wants to come back and reissue those episodes as a Lost Episodes Collection in a few years. What you do get is the first twenty episodes in order of what TBS deemed season one. I'm not sure if this will make a great deal of difference to the hardcore fans, but I just wanted that to be known.

Video


The transfers on this three-disc set are typical of cable television sitcoms. The 1.33:1 transfer might be a little jarring for those that were getting used to seeing the widescreen format in most American shows, but the show was shot for cable broadcast and easy syndication, so I'd bet good money that we're not going to see an HD version of this show any time soon.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume One

Audio


The audio is pretty standard for a TV on DVD release. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track feels overdone at times, as most of the channels are filled with the deafening cacophony of canned laughter. I don't know why Lionsate felt it was right to give a sitcom such a dynamic sound mix, but it was overkill. Most people will want to keep the show set to the Dolby 2.0 Surround and enjoy the DVD in a natural audio setting.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume One

Extras


The only extra in this release revolves around the world that Tyler Perry has built. It's a fluff piece about how important it is to create characters that are in sync to the average person. What kills me is the amount of detail that Perry has placed in the first five or six episodes to make connections to prior works. The only extra is just twelve minutes long, yet he makes connections to no less than five of his other plays. I thought that Kevin Smith was ridiculous about building a universe of fringe genre characters, but Silent Bob doesn't have a damn thing on Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume One

Overall


House of Payne isn't a show that asks a lot of its viewers. It's just a sitcom that tries to warmly address the discomfort of the modern world. People are addicted to drugs, your kids might be gay and a giant African-American woman might show up to kick your ass one day.   TBS and company originally billed the show as the Huxtables meet the Bunkers. In that sense, they failed. There's no greater political commentary and there's no sense of the family learning anything. It's a collection of events that the family trudges through with no clear direction.  


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