By Kirven Blount
Updated April 09, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

If Richard Pryor was a comedy Superman, television was his kryptonite. The enduring image from The Richard Pryor Show is Pryor in a body stocking, emasculated — a moment that was itself castrated from the series by the censors. The struggle to conform Pryor’s uncompromising genius to shticky ’70s TV standards drains the enterprise of a lot of its humor, but it’s still fascinating to watch. The Richard Pryor Special? (with an artfully woven sketch featuring Maya Angelou) is revelatory, but the subsequent episodes are hit-or-miss. Lame backlot scenarios compete with imaginative attempts to make use of Pryor’s incisive social commentary, and the resultant tension is barely contained (especially when the cast members — including Paul Mooney, Tim Reid, and Robin Williams — roast their headliner). EXTRAS What was missing: Pryor unleashes an exploratory Mudbone stand-up, roasts his roasters with dark relish, and responds punishingly to audience questions.