Wilmer Valderrama criss-crosses the country in search of America's best trash-talkers.
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 Himself - Host (18 episodes, 2006-2007)
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Wilmer Valderrama criss-crosses the country in search of America's best trash-talkers.

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3 April 2006 (USA)  »

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$6,000,000 (estimated)
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1.78 : 1
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Spoofed in Robot Chicken: Star Wars (2007) See more »

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Valderrama brings "the dozens" to television in this utterly disposable and shamefully addicting guilty pleasure
3 June 2006 | by (www.liquidcelluloid.blog.com) – See all my reviews

Network: MTV; Genre: Reality, Game, Comedy; Content Rating: TV-14 (for language); Perspective: Classic (star range: 1 - 4);

Seasons Reviewed: Season 1+

OK, you're Wilmer Valderrama, you're friends with Ashton Kutcher, you can get any hot young female Hollywood star you want and you've spent the last 8 years buried in the character of a nameless foreign exchange student on one of the most popular network sitcoms recently - what do you do next? Valderrama's answer is so simple, so bang-your-head-against-the-wall simple, you have to wonder why it wasn't done 10 years ago to keep this little player from cashing in on it. "Yo Momma" successfully honors the MTV mandate (for only reality shows and only reality shows with a bare bones production cost) and spits back a lean efficient series that requires nothing more than MTV's shoe-string budget.

On the surface, it might seem like Valderrama is trying to bring back "Yo momma…" jokes that have long become passé. What he is actually doing is bringing "the dozens" to television. Traditionally, an African-American oral tradition, "the dozens" can best be described to an audience as very much like the rap battles of "8 Mile" where caustic rap lyrics are replaced with crass and bawdy jokes. Two opponents stand in the street in front of a crowd and razz each other in the most brutal, funny and original ways they can imagine. Valderrama and co-host Big Boy officiate and the winner gets street cred and one-thousand dollars "cash money".

We are here to see the final showdown in the parking lot set between the two cracking titans, but "Momma" gives this contest a little necessary baggage to fill the running time before the main event. First there are two group free-for-alls at two locations across town. When the winners of those groups are chosen, Valderrama goes with them to their opponent's house to get comic ammunition for the final battle.

You know what? I like it, I do. I shouldn't because it goes against everything a scripted TV fan fights for. "Momma" is shallow and utterly disposable, but also in that watchable only-on-TV-if-nothing-else-is-on guilty pleasure sort of way. And unlike every other reality show "Momma" - ironically - isn't about humiliating its participants or has any inflated sense of its own importance. It is actually good natured, reasonably funny (even when it isn't) and based on encouraging actual skill.

"Momma" isn't about two punks throwing insults at each other; at it's very best it is about amateur comedy, technique, rhythm and originality. Or at least the MTV version of it. The show does get dragged into a sort of comic deconstruction in an infamous episode where a strange young man named Jordan, unblinkingly in the character of a prep school snob, takes on the rest of the punks with the corniest jokes imaginable. If only more contestants took such comic risks.

I do wish that we could get a little more sophisticated with it, or see more of the judges' huddle at the end of the show, where they dissect each set to determine the winner. If you want a far more in-depth study of comedy and vulgarity go for Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's movie "The Aristocrats". If you've seen one episode, you've seen them all, but "Yo Momma" is still a shamefully addicting, time-passing guilty pleasure.

* * / 4


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