Though creator Keenan Ivory Wayans has long since departed and only a handful of the original cast remains, Fox’s “In Living Color” carries on with its old exuberance if not all of its old bite. Like its role model “Saturday Night Live, ” it threatens to become an ongoing institution in hip — and with roughly the same ratio of hits to misses.
The opening credits, with their blur of fast-moving images, flashes of the cast and blistering Heavy D and the Boyz rap soundtrack, gives you the illusion of being on the cutting edge of something or other. Though the cast is thoroughly integrated, the accent and feel remain mostly on the jive side, reinforced by the brief yet glamorous dance segments.
When the sketches really hit their mark they can be screamingly funny, and the show’s modular construction makes it possible to rerun the best ones. As a result, they can have devastating influence; the hilarious skewering of Vanilla Ice a few seasons ago probably helped shove the white rapper’s career into a tailspin.
This season, “In Living Color” was right on top of the Winter Olympics skating scandal with a very funny sketch that had a cast member as Tonya Harding doing an ad for the Club. Otherwise, there hasn’t been much of the promised biting social satire compared with earlier years — and Thursday’s encounter veered toward warmed-over formula.
In a Masterpiece Theatre sketch, David Alan Grier and Jamie Foxx exchanged mildly amusing, mock-pretentious reams of poetry straight outta Compton. Candy Cane’s Last Show was an overheated burlesque on the sexually dysfunctional cast of a kiddie show. ]
There was another humorless dead-dog sketch. And finally, Family Feud of Dozens was just another in an endless line of gameshow parodies, although the battalion of writers managed to come up with a pretty good supply of your-mama jokes.
The cast works very hard, displaying pizazz and energy, yet it needs more consistent material to shine. (That never stopped “SNL” from holding its audience.) “In Living Color” carries similar potential every time out of the box.