Category: Sitcom

An Office - Writers Strike Substitute for “The Office”

Filed Under Comedy Writers, Sitcom

As a show of solidarity with the Writers Guild of America, Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd has remade The Office as if it was a real documentary. Without writers, the house of cards (held up by the suspension of disbelief) doesn’t last very long.

Dig the Dwight-like character’‘s reaction to his own behavior. The great irony: an improviser making a video about how important writers are.

You can see a second episode of “An Office” here.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:45 AM | Send to Friend | Comments (0)

“30 Rock” Urban Legend Simply Untrue

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The Original Cast of 30 Rock including Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Rachel Dratch
Jesse Thorn, America’s Radio Sweetheart, makes a great point today when he talks about Urban Legends of “30 Rock”. In particular, he mentions how the party line of the show was that it struggled at first, that it simply wasn’t funny. He rightfully insists that’s simply not true, that TV critics and others say that to cover their own asses for not getting into the rhythms of the show at first. The American version of “The Office” received similar treatment after its successful first season. Neither had perfect first episodes but all of the elements were there to make something great. You just had to be open enough to recognize it.

It’s really a common problem with comedians and comedians. Because eliciting laughter from someone requires trust. It’s something that Comedy Death Ray’s Scott Aukerman and BJ Porter talk about in my interview with them, saying:

“So much of comedy is feeling comfortable with the point of view coming at you. So I understand it. There’s people who I find hilarious now, but the first couple of times I saw ‘em, I was like “What is this? I don’t get it at all.”

It’s true of stand-up performers and it’s true of sitcoms. We have to know them a little bit and develop a sense of who these people are and what they’re about. The intersections of stuff we all think is funny is far less that the stuff we all find dramatic or sad. To bring people to your particular mindslice takes time, time for bringing the audience to the specific way you’re going to be funny. It’s why almost every situation comedy really needs a few episodes on it’s feet. Not just for ratings but for audience to gain a connection with it.

I have a perfect example from my own life. The first time I saw “Strangers with Candy”, I didn’t get it. I was repulsed by some of the intentional ugliness in the world and the surreal nature of many of the jokes. It felt completely unfamiliar to me and I dismissed it with a “that’s stupid.” A couple of years later, after hearing a new friend bemoan its cancellation, I got my hands on tapes of the first season and wondered what was wrong with my younger self. “Strangers” was a real discovery - something totally different than what I was used to. And I simply wasn’t open minded enough to get it then.

Can you judge instantly? I still do - I watched only about half of “Carpoolers” this week and decided it wasn’t for me. Maybe there will be more to it, but I felt like I had seen quite a few of the jokes coming from a mile away.

(Example: The son doing an interview over the web while not wearing pants. Can you fill in the blank of what happens?)

So my rule is: If it’s not surprising me, either good or bad, it’s not worth watching.

Do you have any sitcom or show or comic that you thought was not funny and then years later, discovered you were wrong? Who or what were they?

Update: Apparently, I’m entirely wrong about the consequences in the scene from Carpoolers. The son gets the job anyway. Shows that maybe I might need to take the lesson from the post. (Or at least watch a whole fucking episode before I decide.)

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:48 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (7)

The Sarah Silverman Program: An Organic Sitcom?

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Though Sarah Silverman is willing to go pretty much anywhere for her comedy, it’s not what I love about her program. What made the first season charming is the authentic eccentricity of it - the way it’s set at her own apartment (recreated on a set after her landlord kicked the production out), her dog is her dog, her sister Laura is her sister. Though it’s not really revealing about the comedian - she’s not one to really let me talk about her or her comedy too seriously - the closeness to her own life make the show feels like its own world, with its own twisted logic. That’s hard to do in six episodes.

That’s a little bit why, though it’s premiering tonight, I’m not as excited this episode as I am the second. The premiere revolves around abortion - Silverman having multiple ones and getting involved in an anti-abortion organization. Though it’s definitely territory not touched in TV, but the second episode involves Silverman being a sex offender. To dogs. All prompted by some curiosity of what her dog Doug could find so interesting about his own ass:

It’s the kind of situation that only an insensitive innocent like the Silverman character can fall into. I immediately feel how it fits into the world created last season. I hope the first episode is equally organic in how she falls in with an anti-abortion group. The Sarah Silverman Program premieres tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30PM.

After the jump, a clip from tonight premiere…

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:31 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (0)

New York Television Festival: Family Values

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Among the pilots in competition in 2007’s New York Television Festival is a potential gem from a couple of Robs from the Daily Show. Rob Riggle stars in the pilot for a sitcom called “Family Values” about a man who serves as the custodian of the family for America but can’t keep together his own clan. Daily Show writer Rob Kutner penned it. Here’s the trailer:

You can see the full show tonight at 7PM or tomorrow at 3:15pm at New World Stages. There’s a lot of other great shows too. Check the full schedule here.

Full disclosure: Kutner’s a good friend of mine. But I don’t know Riggle.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:07 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (1)

Garth Marengi’s Darkplace

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A friend of mine today passed this along in the email today and it’s already become my new favorite obsession. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was ostensibly independently created by Stephen King-esque horror author Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) and his publisher Dean Learner during the 80s but never saw the light of day until television faced a severe creative drought. This fictional set-up leads to a couple of wonderful conceits about the show :

  • Plotting, direction and tone that matches and mocks the tone of many a disposable 80s adventure show. Anyone who wishes they made more of Ben Stiller’s lost pilot “Heat Vision and Jack” will appreciate this instantly
  • Intentional incompetence littering the entire production including some pitch-perfect good bad acting - particularly on the part of Richard Ayoade as the character Dean Learner who is playing the character of Thornton Reed, the hospital administrator. Not only does he have to keep that house of cards together - he does to make it look like they’ll fall at any moment.

The fake amateurism lingers into the direction as well—in the first episode there’s a shot where the main character walks into a graveyard that takes 20 seconds longer than it should. Those twenty seconds absolutely killed me. I can see why this might not be for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to see if you’re one of those who will dig it. First episode below:

Darkplace did have a US run last year on the Sci Fi channel, but - alas - I never heard of it ‘til now. If nothing else, Darkplace redeems the last name Holness in the eyes of any comedy fan. Holness family - consider the scales balanced for the crimes of Carlos Mencia.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:32 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (3)

The Pilot for Flight of the Conchords

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Here’s the first episode of “Flight of the Conchords”—which focuses on “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk-parody duo” of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie and their attempts to break into the New York music and dating scene. The show features a lot of cameos from downtown talents like Eugene Mirman, Arj Barker and Kristen Schaal as a fan who loves the band in ways that make the duo less than comfortable. I was pretty much sold from Clement’s backhanded compliment serenade to Sally (Rachel Blanchard of the brilliant British sitcom “Peep Show” - watch for the homage late in the episode). Songs that are meant to be laughed at are hard to do and even harder to do when you stick them inside the plot of a show. A bad one stops it cold. But this was solid all the way through.

HBO has kind of a soft spot for funny folk rock as they were home for the Tenacious D TV show. As I remember, they never gave that much of a push so it’s nice to see a show which appeals to a similar audience getting promoted. (Jonathan Coulton, HBO will be asking you for a script to “Code Monkey” any day now.)

“Flight of the Conchords” premieres on HBO June 17 at 10:30.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:59 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (3)

Andy Barker, P.I. - My Thoughts.

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Andy Barker, P.I. premieres tonight. But thanks to the major networks’ stumbling, some would say desperate, embrace of the web, six episodes are available to watch on NBC’s website. One of them won’t even see TV as it’s a web exclusive. I’m thrilled by the opportunity to try and hook people before a show airs, but I hope this new kind of strategy doesn’t hurt Andy Barker, which is very funny and, from the two episodes I watched, deserves a long life.

It’s a lot like Conan O’Brien’s lost pilot Lookwell, as referenced in the Times article about the show. In both an unlikely man plays private eye. And the mysteries are actually mysteries, allbeit compress to work in a half-hour format. But this show is without the irony of a TV private eye playing real life dick. Instead, it has more of a heart to it, but not in a way that you feel manipulated afterwards.

Andy Barker is a nice guy, who even if there was no network censors, would probably say “Cheese and Crackers!” as an expletive. I’m almost regret that the show is on NBC and not on a pay cable outlet like HBO so that the contrast between Andy’s world and that of the hardcore gumshoe could be more apparent. (You see this a little in the web-only episode which has Amy Sedaris playing an aging femme fatale with a wooden leg. She channels Jerri Blank a bit when she describes herself as “dewy” for private dicks.)

It’s been hard to find a great venue for Andy Richter. Here’s hoping that it can stick around for a while (and not at the expense of 30 Rock, which has come into its own and deserves a second season).

Has anyone else enjoyed NBC’s generous offering of episodes yet? Whadyathink?

Posted by Todd Jackson at 10:22 PM | Send to Friend | Comments (3)
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