the shows you should be watching, but probably aren't
I was overjoyed when the Passion asked me to do a guest spot on his page. 3 years in this city now, and he’s one of the most stand up guys I’ve met out here, so you can imagine how stoked I was to get a chance to write in his absence. Since none of you have any idea who I am and just how I landed here, I’ll explain…I keep a blog myself. And while it once started as a class project way back in January of 2004, it today has become a sort of pop-culture copy and paste page, where meaningless youtube clips, miscellaneous album reviews, and annoyance with celebrity culture has found a home and come together. If you’re dying to know just what it’s all about, feel free and visit me at Scott’s Blizzog.
Anyway, I work in TV. Comedy, specifically. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that TV has been in the proverbial crapper now for almost the entire time I’ve lived/worked here. Sure, I’ve been lucky enough to get some great credits to my name, but to what end? TV hasn’t gotten better, if anything, it’s gotten progressively worse. We’ve ushered in a new golden age for TV drama (snore). In addition, reality television has seemingly found a formula to ensure that it will be around for many years to come (noose). So where’s the comedy? Does it even exist anymore? How can we find it?
Well, that’s where I come in. Instead of sifting through 1000 channels of virtually nothing, I’ve compiled my list of my favorite shows on TV today.
Arguably the best comedy on TV in my opinion*, 30Rock has paved the way for what modern comedy could be. Between the wide range of characters and all around hilarity of virtually every episode, it holds up as the best, even after 1 short season. Tracy Morgan has always been a favorite of mine, whether it be in his early years at SNL, or even is his own short lived comedy The Tracy Morgan Show. In addition, they use a number of current and former SNL players on the show. And if you ask anyone from my generation what their roots in comedy are, they most likely say something like, “Simpsons, Seinfeld, SNL.” And that’s all it takes. Sure today’s SNL pretty much sucks across the board, but that doesn’t mean that players like Will Forte, Andy Samberg, and that other guy get looked over. In addition, the show offers a huge guest cast that stems much further than SNL. Aside from having Alec Baldwin (hands tied) in an awesome regular role, they’ve also employed Isabella Rossellini, Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon. Paul Reubens, Wayne Brady, Whoopi Goldberg, and LL Cool J. The list goes on and on. Speaking of Mr. Cool J though, the episode entitled “The Source Awards,” should win the comedy writing emmy this year, as it was possibly the funniest half hour of TV I’ve ever seen, in recent memory.
*being an NBC page once myself, I have a slightly skewed opinion.
The genius of this show comes from it’s ability to reinvent itself, even after 10 years. I’ll be honest here, the first 2 or 3 years South Park was on, I didn’t watch it. I wasn’t a fan. In fact, I hated it. There, I said it. In fact, it was only after I grew tired of the same Simpson’s syndicated reruns that I started watching the show. In retrospect, boy am I glad I did though. Aside from being just about as crass and perverse as they want to be, this show calls attention to important political, social, and economic issues almost on a weekly basis. Take this season’s premiere for example, entitled With Apologies to Jesse Jackson, where the show tackled the “n” word (no, not narcolepsy...), drawing national attention and subtle acclaim for bringing a simple issue of syntax to a national audience. In addition, after the writers grew tired of the same old 4 character plots and tired plotlines, they employed a new tactic: taking something that had already been made, and applying their spin on it. This season alone, they’ve rewritten 24, The Da Vinci Code, the 300, and Night of the Living Dead- all to high levels of hilarity. And if there is anything tv viewers like, especially in this day and age, it’s referential work that reminds the audience that even a weekly show can keep up with current events and trends.
Ahh yes, The Office. From this show, America has it’s new Ross and Rachael (Jim and Pam), their new inept Tim The Tool Man Taylor (Michael Scott), and Bill Cosby reincarnated (Stanley). And the best part- it’s a show that appeals to virtually anyone that works, or has worked, in an office. Wow? Could it be? Real situational comedy that people can relate to? Yes and no. While I do find the show amusing, I feel like it’s already run it’s course. Every episode now is a “Racial Equality Day” or “Women in the Work Place Day.” Whatever happened to just using what you have right there in front of you: interesting people working in an office setting. Situational comedy.
It almost feels like there is just so much more there that they could cover, but they’ve already jumped the shark and are doing all these theme episodes. The archetype of this for me: Towards the tail end of this season, in an episode entitled “Beach Games,” they basically do a reality show on a sit com! I realize the comedic potential here, but leave reality to reality!
More of a dramedy than a pure comedy or drama, Rescue Me has quickly become one of my favorite shows ever. Whether it was watching Dennis Leary’s Carnegie Hall performance when he championed smoking in a non-smoking building, or knowing that he helped to write, produce, direct, and star in every episode of this series, I gotta love it. This is a man who does it all. Not only do I think he is hilarious, but I also love when he talks about 9/11. A twisted thing to say, yes, but there is just something about Dennis Leary to me that makes everything he touches turn to gold. Even gold. That's just how good he is. As far as the show goes though…there are some real dramatic moments, scenes of rape, frustration and violence. More often than not, Leary’s demons haunt in throughout each season, appearing as visions to him, prompting him to ask all the existential questions we all ponder from time to time. And the best part is: the show is back, as of last night! Check your local listings, but even if you’ve missed every episode up to today, I promise you’ll be hooked in an instant.
My Life on the D List
(before I begin this one, look at that awesome picture of Kathy Griffin and Perez Hilton! Yay! Wow! Argh I hate Perez, not only is his site total trash, but people tell me I look like him and it makes me want to drink poison...oh, the band, not the substance)
Anyway...this one is a total guilty pleasure, and I’ve gotta admit- a relatively new one at that. I had always heard of Kathy Griffin as the ‘gay friendly comedian,’ so naturally, I never cared to hear her stuff. Wait, that sounded awful. What I mean is that I assumed all her jokes were about the gay community, or you had to be gay to get them, so I just never put 2 and 2 together. Well boy was I wrong. Her stand up isn’t really all that amazing, but her reality show is a stitch. Between her own veritable madness, and all of the people she interacts with on My Life on the D List, you’ll quickly wonder why it was that you didn’t watch this show, asking questions like, “how could I be so ___?” Or, “Why have I never watched this show? Oh yeah, cause I’m a complete ____.” Trust me- and fellas, even if your girlfriend makes you sit through it, just be glad you aren’t stuck watching House of Payne.
Man vs. Wild
If James Bond (the character, not the actor) had a reality show, this would be the one. Discovery Channel’s own Man vs. Wild, and it’s virtuosic host Bear Grylls, are sure to entertain. This guy does it all- skydives, backpacks, free climbs, eats grubs and elephant shit, and gets chased by lions. But he’s still there. And he’s showing you how you can do it too. Ever wonder what it would be like to be lost in the woods for days on end? Or have you ever thought about what it would be like to be stranded on a desert island? Well, Bear has wondered that too, and he shows you how you can survive in even the worst situations. While I had my druthers at first, not knowing how he could ‘survive’ or ‘forage’ when there was a camera right in front of him; he makes a point to say that his crew isn’t allowed to help him. They’re really just there to document it. And if that’s not enough to hook you, how’s this: he broke his back a few years ago, and is already back to skydiving, climbing, and hiking more rigorously than any of us probably ever have. And we’ve never broken our backs. Well, that is, except for those of you who have broken your backs, in which case- my bad!
So, most masculine men don’t watch cooking channels. So I know what this says when I put this up here. But rest assured, this is a cooking show for GUY guys (and even the ones with feelings, too). Everyday Italian, hosted by the always big boobable Giada de Laurentiis, is a small show from a small network. But what they show us, on an almost day to day basis, has no tiny element about it. I’m referring, of course, to the epic bust line of the show’s host. Far be it for me to say something sexist here just for a moment, but good god. And the funny thing is, I’m not even a boob guy, but what intrigued me about this show initially was that they started with this slightly unkempt woman in a turtle neck. Now she’s styled, banging hot, and wears a lower cut shirt every damn day. It’s unreal. It’s like watching a cosine graph in a power point presentation, the line follows a pattern, and just goes lower and lower everyday. Maybe that’s why they call it Everday Italian, cause we all get a little more Italian (ie: Giada) everyday. Plus, and I’m not really sure this even has any credence, but I think this woman has figured out a sensual way to cut an eggplant. And she says all of the truly Italian words with this accent. By the time the show is over, you almost hate her. But then she’s back the next day, making hot wings in a bikini, and begging you to take a bite. … This is Penthouse Forum, right?
Clark and Michael
Ok, so this isn’t really a TV show. It's original internet programming. But it does have a lot of TV personalities on it. That counts right? Besides, by now we’ve all realized the limitations of television today. And when one notes that there’s been a 20% drop in viewership since this time last year, it’s not all that absurd to pitch shows away from TV. The internet, and such booming sites as youtube, myspace, etc…have created a new virtual home for networks, and their shows. The best in the first real batch of these comes from Clark and Michael, both the names of the actors, and the title of their show. You may recognize Michael from the FOX smash-cult-hit Arrested Development. After that show ended, the cast of Arrested Development was one of the most heavily sought after ensembles ever. And it makes sense: critics loved the shows, it had a tremendous cult following, and almost every actor to leave that series has found sustainable work since then. Well, all but Michael Cera. Or so we thought. Between his film career, and other TV guest spots, he friend Clark Duke have developed what is quickly becoming a web hit. I can’t describe this show as much more than subtle absurdism, but I think that really says it all. These guys revel in the most subtle moments, quickly creating absurdist humor. It’s great. Give it a shot, as all episodes are available at their page.
After it’s all said and done here, I know there’s a plethora of shows I’m not even including here. Many of them are good. Some are better than good. Other shows that are worth an honorable mention include Scrubs, 10 Items or Less, Lost, The Sarah Silverman Program, sports, and of course porn. Ahh sweet, sweet porn. I wonder if porno theatres call their popcorn, pop-porn...hmm..well, there's only one way to find out. I'm off to the movies, but don't worry- my tivo is set. That's all for me, thanks again Weiss!