COMEDY OR TRAGEDY?
I’ve been watching a lot of television the last week and a half, sampling the new season’s offerings. I’ve seen a slew of sacrificial sitcoms, some potentially intriguing dramas, and a bunch of rapidly decaying reality shows. Every year the fall television season brings with it the hope of the new. Hope that a new story will capture our imagination, that new situations will make us laugh despite the annoying laugh track instructing us to do so, and that new characters will make us identify with them, care for them, and live vicariously through them. A very small percentage of shows are successful in accomplishing these lofty goals, leaving us with a scrap heap piled high with disappointment. Yet, being the gluttons that we are, we keep coming back for more. Stubborn. Curious. Hopeful.
As far as comedy is concerned, there hasn’t been a whole lot of it. That’s not to say that there aren’t many attempts at comedy. It seems like someone was shaking the death rattle for sitcoms a bit prematurely. They’re everywhere. So far I’ve watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, Everybody Loves Raymond, The In-Laws, 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughter, Life With Bonnie, Hidden Hills, Friends, Will & Grace, Scrubs, part of Good Morning Miami, and part of Less Than Perfect. And there were a bunch that I missed! There is no comedy on TV that consistently cracks me up. I’ve had sporadic laugh-out-loud moments while watching Curb, Raymond, Friends, Will & Grace, and Scrubs. I enjoy those shows, but I don’t love any of them. I’ve given my best effort in trying to love Curb Your Enthusiasm, really, I have. But too often I find that Larry is simply too much of an asshole… and I like him! Sometimes he's such an asshole it’s unrealistic, and with it’s improv methodology and stolen-from-life storylines, Curb is heavily reliant on realism. I do love how ballsy and daring the show can be, but when you have an editor, it’s improvisation with a net. I believe the show would be even funnier if it was scripted. As far as the new sitcoms go, I think Life With Bonnie is kind of funny and Hidden Hills gets some points for style, but The In-Laws, 8 Simple Rules…, Good Morning Miami, and Less Than Perfect all feel like stale soundstage-bound sitcoms that aren’t nearly as funny as the cranked up laugh track would lead us to believe. Frasier I could give two shits about.
There haven’t been many funny films lately either. What happened? Where did the funny go? The third installment in the Austin Powers series was funny, but I’m hard-pressed to name more movies this year that made me laugh. Thank God for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” That movie is pretty funny and very charming and it’s a runaway hit. It’s easily the most profitable film of the year. People can’t get enough of it. They’re going back to see it three and four times. People are starving for a good laugh. These days, it seems like good comedies are as rare as honest corporate accountants.
I’ll continue with reality TV and dramas tomorrow.