Posts Tagged “Comedy”
So. Are you watching the best sitcom on network television? If not, you should be.
Some series explode out of the gate only to fade down the stretch. Cougar Town it’s starting to look like one of those, though the latest episode was not quite as cringe inducing.
Other series start steady and stay steady with the usual ups-and-downs. Here I’m thinking about The Office.
Then you have those new shows that are simply DOA, flat-lining almost before the opening credits roll. Hank, for instance.
Finally, you have the slow starters who just continue to gain momentum. Before long, they’re setting the pace and you find yourself surprised by how often you laugh out loud. Cheers defined this phenomenon.
Like Cheers of old, Community is the new standard bearer for great television comedy.
I’m not going to waste a lot of time here with in-depth analysis about what makes this show work (perfect writing, wonder cast), it just does. It’s not like this is some kind of brilliantly original concept, because it isn’t. Community is so basic, even boring, in its premise.
But so was Cheers.
Fawlty Towers. Game over. Have a nice day.
If you don’t get those last few lines, I’m sorry. If you do, thanks for watching.
Community airs Thursdays on NBC at 8/7c
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How can I put this? Oh, I know … I fucking love this show!
Funny thing about the internet (and having a blog no one ever reads) … I can drop the F-bomb whenever I feel like it. And, guess what? I really feel like it. Cougar Town is a great goddam show. That’s it. All she wrote. Don’t miss it. Ever.
Back in the glory days of Friends, I always like Courtney Cox more than the rest of the female cast. Jennifer Aniston was, and still is, way too full of herself. And–Julie Bowen aside–I’m not that into blonds. So I thought Courtney was just smoking hot.
I still do. The lady is forty, fantastic, and just funny as hell. Cougar Town is possibly the perfect vehicle for her. It’s about being single and forty and, while still gorgeous, being at that point in your life where everything is starting to getting a little looser, a little saggier, and maybe a little scarier. It’s just real enough to make the outrageous satire totally work. And Courtney, in the lead role of Jules Cobb simply nails the part.
There is nothing I don’t love about this show. The cast is as good as it could possibly be, including a number of familiar faces (if not familiar names). Here “younger co-worker” best friend is played by Busy Phillips. She’s blonde and busty and she gets some of the best lines. Like: “Can we stop sprinting now? I feel like my boobs are trying to kill me!” Christa Miller plays the as old or older neighbor best friend. If you don’t know why she looks so familiar, Christa was a regular on Scrubs and the Drew Carey Show. Appropriately, it is the female cast that really carries the show with all the males as comic foils or fodder.
But a bright spot among the male cast is Dan Byrd as Travis, Jules teenage son. As good as Courtney is as Jules, this guy is maybe even better. How good does a cast have to be to make us forget that Courtney is, well, Courtney? Dan Byrd helps that happen, letting us believe that this beautiful lady really is his mom and really does make his life difficult. He manages it without coming off as spoiled or cruel; he does it with wit, humor, and the occasional, fully justified, angry outburst.
As good as the cast may be, it’s the writing that makes Cougar Town work. This show could be so cliche. In fact, it starts that way. After a wonderful scene of Courtney checking herself out in front of a bathroom mirror, the pilot episode moves to a ball game. That conversion worried me. But not for long. Sure, you know Courtney is going to say something inappropriate and be overheard by exactly the wrong person; that’s hardly a surprise. It’s what she actually says that made me laugh. Throughout the show, there is one incident after another of this sort of thing. Courtney’s reaction each time is just so matter-of-fact. And pretty damn funny.
The real reason that the show works can be summed up in a single word: fearless. Courtney’s performance is completely fearless. She is not above making fun of herself while, at the same time, acknowledging (with a wink and a little flash) that she is still damn hot. In the opening scene, she is pinching folds of her skin and getting disgusted at the result. A few scenes later, she flashes a kid riding by on a bicycle just to prove a point. Luckily, we also get the point. The writers are not afraid of “going there” either. They get there with humor and just the right amount of sexy to make it all believable.
Which is why I believe ABC may have a real hit here. So here’s hoping we get to stay in Cougar Town for a long, long time.
Cougar Town airs Wednesdays on ABC at 9:30/8:30c
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Let’s talk about something that simply should not be nearly as good as it is. As the title of the post might imply, we’re talking about Glee.
Jane Lynch is simply brilliant, under-rated but brilliant. She will one day be recognized as one of the better comedic actresses of her time. Her work on film is notorious and her guest shots on Two and a Half Men are always hysterical, some of the funniest moments on the show. On Glee, she plays the coach of the cheerleader squad, the Cheerios. She is ruthless, deceitful, and astonishingly inappropriate. Jane Lynch at her outrageous best.
And the show isn’t really about her at all. At the center of Glee is a group of young people, a cast that mostly manages to pull off the always problematic illusion that they’re teenagers in high school … despite being in their 20s. More importantly than sustaining that illusion, they have the awesome responsibility of bringing real talent to the show, more than any ability to act. Much like High School Musical, the cast actually must perform the material. They sing and they dance … and they do it quite well.
They form the Glee club, a group of awkward teens and misfits, including a guitar playing kid in a wheelchair. They, and their beleaguered coach, are what Glee is really about. If they don’t work, the show won’t work.
They do. It does.
When Glee actually premiered last spring, the club’s performance of Don’t Stop Believing by Journey became a YouTube hit. I believe it was the most downloaded song on I-Tunes for a while. It was completely cheesy but more than a little fun. Which pretty much sums up the show.
At its heart, Glee is a cliche. But it doesn’t shy away from that. It embraces the cheese and makes a pretty tasty sandwich. There is no laugh track and, if the press on the show can be believed, the members of the cast actually do all their own singing. I admire that kind of honesty. I admire still more when it is wrapped in witty writing and plenty of biting humor.
The musical numbers may feel a bit Disney-esque, but there is nothing HSM about the humor. There is very little goofiness; the humor is much darker than that. There is a very wicked edge to all the funny and you may just miss it if you’re not paying attention.
Still, Glee would be mostly unwatchable if not for one thing. The damn show has heart. Amidst the dark humor, nasty one-liners, and often cruel hijinks of high school, there remains something nostalgic and hopeful. There is a real chance here that the losers may get to win, and why not? Let all of us losers of the world enjoy the idea that someone besides the pretty people can actually win.
We should enjoy it. We need it. And guess what? More often than not, we actually do win.
Glee airs Wednesdays on Fox at 8/9c
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Shannon Elizabeth has a brand new gig; she is the host of the new Showtime comedy showcase Live Nude Comedy. Despite what the name might imply, there have been no sightings of actual nude comedians to date. Fortunately, a clear delineation exists between the comedy and the nudity. Unfortunately, Shannon ventures to walk on the comedy side rather than the alternative.
I have a confession to make (a very significant declaration given that I have never been to confession in my life*). I have a thing for Shannon Elizabeth. Not the Dancing with the Stars Shannon, but rather the American Pie Shannon. The DwtS Shannon was a little scary really. The American Pie version was smoking hot at every single level. This version of Shannon Elizabeth is a bit closer to the one I pine for: a little goofy, a lot of sexy, and clearly not taking herself too seriously.
But the appeal of the show has very little to do with Ms. Elizabeth. It’s all about the funny … and the nudity. Based upon the first episode, it seems the funny is where we find all the edginess. In fact, the nudity is really pretty tame. Showtime is seldom hesitant to go for the full frontal, but it isn’t happening here. Instead, you get shiny, well placed pasties. If you have a problem with that, I’m sure Cinemax has an offering more your speed. But the not quite fully nude aspect of the burlesque works quite well given the format. Sure, it’s sexy and the routines can be pretty suggestive, but they still manage to convey a sense of fun and playfulness.
The comedians may be hilarious or just mildly disturbed. Depends on your taste and level of sensitivity to certain topics. I suggest you take the advice of one of the first episode’s comedians and remember, these are only “hypothetical hos”. I imagine this will be the most unpredictable aspect of the series since one can only guess how any given comedian will do on any given night.
You can catch upcoming episodes throughout the week for the next five weeks, beginning each Thursday evening and running through Sunday on Showtime.
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Here’s a question … how many bodily functions can we squeeze into one episode of Worst Week? Answer … all of them.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. Only two … but that’s plenty. I’m not squeemish, and a good bodily function joke can be pretty damn funny. Even so, this came off as a little desperate and unnecessary. Drunk chick puking in the cab? Sure, I guess, even if we all saw that one coming. But the second one involving the duck? Could have done without it.
Now that I have got that off my chest, I’m going to give this episode passing marks overall. Kyle Bornheimer as Sam Briggs is a very likeable lug, exactly as he is supposed to be, stumbling from disaster to disaster with surprising charm and almost no trace of self-pity. That’s good … the self-pity angle was played out by Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents. Erinn Hayes as Mel, Sam’s fiance, is well cast too, pretty but not too much so. Of course, Kurtwood Smith as Mel’s dad is simply perfect for the part. Nobody does the intimidating grouchy dad thing better.
Worst Week begs the question: “How many terrible events and ‘worst case’ consequences can be piled on one guy?” But then, that is exactly the concept at work. You have to buy into that premise to buy into the comedy. How often can Sam make the wrong decision and/or jump to the wrong conclusions before we lose patience with the premise? Ask me again after a couple more episodes.
For now, I say Worst Week is just funny and different enough I’ll actually tune in for those two or three more episodes.
Worst Week airs Monday at 9:30/8:30c on CBS.
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