Mel Brooks’ 1981 comedy History of the World Part I was never actually intended to have a Part II, but here we are four decades later and Hulu decided to make one anyway. Being so late in coming is part of the joke, I suppose. If anything, the time gap may actually benefit the show, in that so much distance will help people forget that the original film wasn’t particularly good in the first place. Unfortunately, true to its source, the TV sequel also falls quite short of greatness.
At 96-years-old and still pretty spry, Brooks himself is involved in this project and has appeared on camera to promote it. He also does all the voiceover narration (replacing the late Orson Welles from Part I) and sort-of cameos at the beginning. Beyond that, however, the series is more the work of comedians Nick Kroll, Ike Barinholtz, and Wanda Sykes – all of whom play multiple roles in the various episodes and are named among the many Executive Producers. While Brooks has been given most of the credit for publicity purposes, I doubt he was much involved in the creative process.
|Title:||History of the World Part II|
|Number of Episodes:||8|
|Release Date:||Mar. 6, 2023|
Much like the original film, Part II is a broad sketch comedy that jumps through the history of human civilization to mock famous figures and parody popular movies (and TV shows, in this case). Unlike the original, the sequel is not told chronologically. It regularly bounces around in time and circles back to continue earlier skits. The American Civil War, the Russian Revolution, and Biblical times are among its main stopping points.
In addition to the aforementioned Kroll, Sykes, and Barinholtz, notable players include Josh Gad as William Shakespeare, Jack Black as Josef Stalin, Danny DeVito as Czar Nicholas, Taika Waititi as Sigmund Freud, Seth Rogen as Noah, and Kumail Nanjiani as the writer of the Kama Sutra. Plenty more recognizable faces show up as well, such as Quinta Brunson, Zazie Beetz, J.B. Smoove, Rob Corddry, Pamela Adlon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and more. I can’t catalog them all here.
True to the Mel Brooks’ style, the humor is scattershot, often hacky, and (especially true to later Brooks) only intermittently funny. Some of the references here feel very tired. A recurring bit has Johnny Knoxville spoofing his own Jackass while playing Rasputin. When possibly the best number is a parody of Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show that premiered over twenty years ago, the material decidedly lacks freshness. Even that one mostly works because Curb itself is so funny and the sketch copies it closely, only changing the setting.
To its credit, History of the World Part II does occasionally have some very funny jokes, more so than the original film (which largely fails to produce many laughs), and is generally amiable enough that it’s hard to outright dislike. Even so, its hit-to-miss ratio isn’t great, and with eight half-hour episodes, it clocks in at about 2.5 times longer than the movie. The good parts simply aren’t enough to sustain a binge at that length, and I got bored well less than halfway through.
History of the World Part II premiered with two episodes on Monday, March 6th, followed by two additional episodes each night through Thursday the 9th, for eight episodes total. I assume this was intended as a limited series and will not have a second season (at least not under the Part II moniker).
Hulu streams the show in 1080p high-definition (no 4K for this one). The skits vary in aspect ratio from full-screen 16:9 to letterboxed 2.39:1, and even some in pillarboxed 4:3. The content is not safe for Constant Image Height display. The picture is bright, sharp, and colorful, but also blandly photographed in sitcom or sketch comedy style. The 5.1 soundtrack has some decent bass and stereo separation, though nothing especially notable.
3 thoughts on “A Festival of Zeroes – History of the World Part II (2023) Limited Series”
‘how long has it been since anyone gave a moment’s thought to Jackass’
well, there was a new movie in 2022 that was very successful at the box office (at least versus budget and in the pandemic era)
Was there? I completely blanked on that. I guess I ought to edit that line.
No worries, you already know a heck of a lot about movies and TV 🙂 I haven’t seen any of the ‘Jackass’ movies or any of the series’ episodes. I’d probably walk past Johnny Knoxville if I were to meet him on the street.