Friday, October 22, 2010
I understand that people say how comedy is subjective, but nevertheless, if I had to pick the single best sitcom in the last ten years, it would be The IT Crowd.
The IT Crowd? Yeah, you probably haven't seen it. It's a British sitcom that has been running on Channel 4 for the past four years.
It's about three IT support team members, Roy, Moss, Jen and their boss Douglas working in the basement of a fictional company Reynholm Industries.
Or should I say, "working" because none of them seem to be interested in their work. Some seem to be even wildly incompetent (especially the head honcho Douglas).
Despite the show's premise, most of the time the show really isn't about their work. I guess it's more a show about the absurdities of life.
For example, a running joke on the show is the question about what the "IT" stands for. We haven't gotten an answer so far.
The show is filmed both in front of a live audience and also on location. The creator and the writer of the show Graham Linehan is also known for the comedy series "Father Ted".
Now, what makes the show perhaps the best live-action comedy on tv? Probably the best way to answer that is by providing you actual material from the show.
This clip from "The Work Outing" (S2E01) doesn't unfortunately include the whole episode, but in any case the story goes here that Jen, Roy and Moss go to a theater to see a "Gay musical, Gay".
Watch what happens here. After failing to use the bathroom for customers, Roy decides to use a restroom for the disabled while Moss uses the restroom reserved for the staff.
The scene where Jen finds Roy in a wheelchair and Moss as a bartender is not only totally absurd but also one of the funniest I'll ever see.
Or how about this other clip from the very same episode? Jen's date seems to be a bit gayish and in the end she can't resist anymore and asks the inevitable question. I bet you didn't see that twist coming.
That is what comedy should be but unfortunately most of the time really isn't.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Graham Linehan both wrote and directed "The Work Outing". In fact, he has written every episode of the series from scratch and has also a co-director credit on each one of those.
It has been said that the quality of the show is because of Linehan's clear vision and because the show isn't group written, like for example Two and a Half Men. (some call that "comedy by committee" writing)
I myself believe that Graham Linehan is a comedy auteur and that the guy is obviously a genius. (I guess David Kelley who wrote basically every episode of Ally Mcbeal qualifies too)
In any case, writers like these make the rest look like complete amateurs. It's like pack your bags and go home.
Now, it shouldn't also come as a surprise that a couple of years ago NBC tried to remake show in the U.S, like it did with The Office. The pilot wasn't picked up. I've seen it and it was pretty awful to be honest.
The original show is such an unique combination of deadpan writing, acting and directing that I believe it's impossible to transfer it for the needs of the U.S audience. I just don't think it can be done.
But I've heard that there's another remake coming up later next year...
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Okay, so I think have seen the new comedy pilots. Those are "Running Wilde", "Raising Hope", Better With You" (picture), "Shit My Dad Says", "Outsourced" and "Mike & Molly".
Unfortunately, when it comes to the quality of these new pilots, all were pretty bad. Not one was even decent.
Makes you wonder how bad the other two dozen pilots were that didn't make the cut.
Okay, I'll give you that Billy Gardell's and Melissa McCarthy's acting was pretty solid in Mike & Molly. Too bad the other parts on the show aren't working.
So why are these new pilot shows so bad?
Well, if you watched any of these shows, did you find a single one of them actually going somewhere?
Probably not and that's mostly because these shows didn't have good premises.
If you don't have a good, interesting setup, your show has nowhere to go.
The problem with these new six shows is that none of them have any potential to say anything even remotely meaningful about the way we live our lives.
None of the characters are interesting. Just because the synopsis of the show describes the characters as "funny, charming, ambitious etc" doesn't mean that you're in for a treat. You need more than that.
Besides, characters itself don't get your show anywhere. What defines your show is how the characters interact with each other.
That is what helps to create conflict, tension, wants, needs, success, failure, humor, drama and meaning in general. The essential stuff.
That's why a show like Frasier was so successful. The characters were relatively well developed, but what made the show was the quality of the relationships - the brothers being competitive snobs and the rest of the cast being the voice of reason.
The same way Everybody Loves Raymond was successful because it perfected the family dynamics. Every character had strengths and weaknesses compared to the others. That's why they were able to milk it for so many years.
And then there was Friends. You know why it was so successful? Because of the relationships. Somehow all the characters managed to find a way to be genuinely friends with each other. That's a lot harder to do than it sounds. No wonder its success is yet to be repeated.
In the end all these shows were successful because they figured out the premise. They figured out the characters. And then they figured out the character relationships.
Those are the building blocks of good sitcoms. Those are all that we need but unfortunately not what we got this season.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I hadn't watched Grey's Anatomy but some people kept saying how it's good. (Oprah among others)
Well, since I noticed last night that a re-run of an episode was on tv, I decided to watch the last fifteen minutes.
As you might know (from the picture), we were in a situation where a woman dies in a surgery, his husband blames the doctors and eventually goes on a killing spree at the hospital.
Anyway, somehow the shooter gets wounded. And isolated. (this was when I started watching the episode)
Then one of the doctors apparently gets an idea to go talk to him. Even though the doctor (as far as I know) could and should have just walked away.
This doctor's behavior is really dumb, unless he 1) wants to die or 2) wants to save the shooter. I think both are somewhat plausible and acceptable scenarios when it comes to drama.
But that's not what happens. Instead we get to hear dialogue where 1) the doctor doesn't want to die but 2) he doesn't seem to care about saving the shooter's life either.
Oh man. This doesn't look good. What is going on in here?
Then the shooter reveals that he's got only one bullet left.
Now this doctor suddenly "wakes up".
We get a really long (and not well written) speech about how he's had a good but painful life and that he's actually willing to die - OR that the shooter could kill himself and that he might this way see his wife in heaven.
First, what is the doctor doing there?
Second, his willingness to die doesn't match his behavior five minutes ago. Third, this other 'choice', "see your wife", comes totally out of nowhere and is pretty ridiculous too.
Finally, it's against hippocratic oath for a doctor to suggest committing suicide. In case someone forgot.
The doctor's rationale for what he's doing is a total mystery to me...
Anyway, the resolution is that the doctor walks away (I don't know why, if he wants to die) as the swat team is about to arrive. Off screen we hear a single shot and assume that the shooter committed suicide.
Honestly, I had no clue what was going on in here. The scene didn't make any sense to me.
Now, would the whole thing have made more sense if I had watched the complete episode? I doubt it but I sure as hell hope so.