17 June 2009

Bryan Loves Television Part H: A Jokework Orange

Because 2001: A Space Travesty was already taken.

Right then. On with it. Akin to the seven previous parts to this lecture on my undying love of television, the following is generally poor for your health and contains no useful information of any kind. There is somewhat of a lack of cable comedies it would seem these days, but the collection is relatively very good, if not somewhat selective concerning citizens who only have basic cable.

Let's get spicy, baby. One-Sentence (mostly) descriptions of the following shows, which precludes me towards expressing the very most basic and childish intrepretations of these staples of popular humour culture.


The face of modern comedy?

Flight of the Conchords - I love their stand-up but it tends not to translate that well into television.

Curb your Enthusiasm - It's Seinfeld! But starring George living in LA! It's exactly as good as that sounds.


The face of modern shitty comedy?
Not if Carlos Mencia has anything to
say about it!

My Boys - Supposedly this is about a bunch of guys who drink beer and hang out together? Somehow that comes off as sooo gay. Makes you think.

Tyler Perry's House of Pain - I loathe Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns - I would really listen and pay attention to absolutely anyone who could accurately and articulately describe this show as different in any way from Tyler Perry's House of Pain. Why the hell does he need to put his name in front of everything anyway?

10 Items or Less - This show pretends to be a really funny and clever program. It's so fucking stupid.

Comedy Central

Behold the mythical creature with the head of a horse, body of a swede and the heart of a Jew!

Important Things with Demitri Martin - Again, great stand-up with a terrible translation to a different medium, in this case based on Marin's complete inability to act in any way.

Krod Mandoon and his Flaming Dick of Fire - I haven't been able to sit through a whole half-hour of this fuckfest, mostly due to the shoddy production values, the atrocious camera work, trite direction and writing and the cringe-worthy sellout acting, but if you can get past this, it might be worth something.

The Sarah Silverman Program - The equivalent of queefing into someones face, there tends to be a select few who find it funny.


Tracey Ullman's State of the Union - If this has HALF the psychiatrist jokes The Tracey Ullman Show had, I'm in!

United States of Tara - The only thing I know about this show is that it's written by that stripper who wrote JUNO.

Dexter - Forgot to include this with the dramas, this seems like a fantastically good show that I somehow always miss catching for no good reason at all.

Here's my last run-around then -- The five current live-action comedies that I never miss:

I don't ever remember this happening,
but it rules.

1) My Name is Earl: Putting my finger on what exactly it is about this show that tickles me was kind of tough. The show is not necessarily country, certainly not urban, definitely and thoroughly white-trash but not in a way that is especially irritating. I get irritated when I see white-trash at FastTrack, that's a big deal for me! This partnered with some truly genuine and endearingly rational characters that seems pretty sorely lacking in other contemporary mainstream comedies make the program stand out. It is also generally consistent with its own plot, well-written and unique in what could have turned into a very predictable and cliched premise. Ultimately it turns into a very positive show that avoids corniness by maintaining a slight edge with the character's criminal histories and recurring lapses into said histories. Some may call it pretty lowbrow, which is probably true, but I dig it.

2) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Yeah, what was I saying about lowbrow? For a while this was F/X's only funny comedy, now it is F/X's...only comedy, I'm not sure if there's a funnier show on television right now. There's never been a show that purely revels in its own shitbath like Always Sunny, they consistently and thoroughly push an outrageous darker humour based on the deplorable behavior of the core characters, which is almost like an updated, rawer version of Seinfeld. More than that, though, I find the major source of this show's potential located in the warped cultural and societal interpretations within the shared minds of the main characters which tends to echo our own collective consciousness and cultural memories of "cool items" like the Duster, or the "correct" way to handle a situation, like for instance if you find a dumpster baby, or someone has sex with your mom. The warped congealment of societal and cultural rules is what attracts me most to this show. Little things to help the day go by.

Kevin's one of the sweetest characters
but doesn't this just scream
"Hey, I've got a pile of candy in my van!"

3) The Office: In a word, the most critically acclaimed, and highest rated current Comedy program on this list, although not coming close to something like Cheers or All in the Family, The Office, to me, remains one of the most brilliant shows on TV, if not the single greatest. It is completely funded on character, very little is arbitrary or forced plot lines. In the best shows like this, the characters are able to develop and write themselves, toying with things we have learned to take for granted like Jim and Michael's relationships with new employers this season has been, in my opinion, revolutionary, not unlike the "Pandemic" South Park episode. One sign of true TV greatness emerges when a show is able to shift its paradigms outside of the box like this while remaining proactive and true to its origins.

And I totally didn't just use those words to try to sound smart. Right. I would also like to give the supposedly untouchable UK version some credit, I've watched that shithole; I'm usually pretty good at distinguishing a thick English accent, I couldn't understand a single word of the thing. Naturally, as an American, I completely gave up and stuck with my comfort zone ever since.

Blue sex.

4) RENO 911!: This is going to read as guilty pleasure at best, which is probably definitely true. Comedy Central's single foray into a truly great sitcom, RENO tends to play as a COPS parody which belies a deeper writing and acting skill that a sister show like Krod Mandoon completely avoids. It tends to blend a ridiculous sense of dark humour with a self-aware front of caring about its character and story interactions, with a constant refusal to jump the shark, literally spoofing it one occasion. It never sacrifices story for a joke, which is going to sound weird coming in this rant, is a very good skill to have in comedy. Again, like "My Name is Earl" it also has a sweaty, white-trash charm that makes fun of the culture only slightly more than it homages the cop show genre. In general, these aspects along with the clever and intermittently sardonic writing make it a pretty righteous experience to watch.

Oh you don't want to see my late night sexy
chat tape either.

5) 30 Rock: Named as possibly the most grammatically correct show on television, 30 Rock is above and beyond much of our other contemporary shows in terms of writing caliber, humour, and librarian hotness. To date this season I have not laughed harder at ANYTHING than that "Bijou" sequence (those who know it will know it, for the rest, close this idiotic facebook note, go to Hulu and watch the "Apollo, Apollo" episode immediately). At times I really can't stand some of Tracy Morgan's stiff acting, but more often than not this is worked into his character which comes off pretty well. In general Jane Krakowski's shitstorm is painful as well, but she also tends to plays up her idiocy for maximum humour potential. When he wants to be, Morgan is the funniest cat in the show, and when everyone is swinging for the fences, the show becomes as good as any hype you can give it. After all, this and the Departed double-teamed and virtually eliminated my entire hatred of Alec Baldwin, and that, my friends, is not easy to do.

I imagine this arduous adventure through time and facebook is almost coming to an end, folks. I want to predict about one more go around here, my induction of EVERYTHING ELSE on television. Stay tuned, mates.

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