More TV Crankiness

jim-pam-wedding-pictures-01Does anyone remember how the original U.K. Office came to lead TV comedy in new directions through the force of its genius and novelty? And then the U.S. Office surprised everyone by actually being good through the strength of its performances and the idiosyncrasies of its secondary characters?*

What happened? Jim Loves Pam swelled into this tsunami that flooded out any other subplots and diluted all the stuff that made the show innovative. Tonight was the culmination: the hour-long wedding episode that was a total inevitability from like the first time Jim looked longingly at Pam as she left the office with Roy.

The inevitability of wedding episodes is fine, I guess. Rites of passage and all that. But what a shame that The Office, in trying for something new and outrageous to do at a TV wedding, opted to grab some tedious viral video off YouTube.

Maybe you’ve seen it? Twenty-some million apparently have. Instead of the boring old Pachelbel a wacky group of wacky young white folks decided to play a pop dance song and like boogie down the aisle in shades! I don’t get it, right? I have no idea why anyone would want to watch this video.

But why does anyone watch anything on YouTube? This doesn’t matter. What matters to me is that a show like The Office, which I used to, okay, “believe in” in big ways that are probably silly, not only just took this whole idea and dropped it right into the script, but made sure to clue the audience in not once but twice! to the fact this is from YouTube. That this ridiculousness has been sanctioned on the Online, and so it’s not stupid and unfunny, but rather culturally relevant!

It’s like it’s more important for The Office to be in on the joke than it is to actually make the jokes.


* Dear The Office: keep Meredith and Creed on heavy rotation and I’ll still bring the love every week.

ABC: Your Source for Mimbo TV

N & I have been ill-ish and have wanted these past few evenings to do nothing but lie on the sofa with chicken soup and the DVR, and so last night despite a backlog that built up while we were in N.C., and despite NBC’s Thursday night of premieres (shame on you, NBC, for holding out on new 30 Rocks until mid-October! It’s your best show! You already skimp on the number of minutes each episode gets (average of 20 compared to the standard 22), and so help me if there are fewer total episodes this season than your long-ago-shark-jumped The Office we’re going to have to have words) we investigated the new shows on ABC’s Wednesday night lineup.

Men, apparently, are best left dumb and oversexed.
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J. Timberlake on SNL

J.T. on SNL this past weekend was very good. As all the bloggers are probably briefly saying before linking to vidclips, he killed, in practically every sketch he was in (and he was in just about every one), even upstaging Wiig’s Target lady in her own eponymous sketch. Most folks will probably link to the latest Samberg-Timberlake collab vid “Motherlover”, but for me the highlight of the show was “Immigrant Tale”, where J.T. played Irish immigrant Cornelius Timberlake, prophesying on the benefits to be reaped by his famous and talented great-great-grandson.
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Parks and Recreation and Single-Cam Sitcoms

That laff-track, studio-audience sitcoms still exist in a post-30 Rock / –Office / –Scrubs / –Malcolm in the Middle era is as confounding to me as the length of hockey season. What’s the allure, exactly? Sitcoms have always been my favorite genre of TV—and I say this as a fan of Six Feet Under, Twin Peaks, and the Sopranos—but one of the difficult things about admitting that you love sitcoms is how unbearably formulaic and plodding they can be.
For, oh, fifty years, every sitcom was built of scenes the dialogue to which fell into a nice rhythm. Line-line-line-laff. Line-line-laff. Line-line-line-line-big laff. It got depressing. Even at their funniest, your laughter was always supplanted by recorded laughter, and always met with the hammy patience of the actor waiting to proceed. And now there are sitcoms that don’t do this. There’s no waiting for laughter sounds to diminish, and so rhythm—i.e. timing, that which any comic will tell you is key to a good joke—is so much more loose and interesting. A belabored analogy: whereas Everybody Loves Raymond is a waltz, 30 Rock is jazz.

It doesn’t take an Alessandra Stanley to know that sitcoms are America’s least favorite genre of television. We’d much rather watch reality television—American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, specifically—or one hour dramas, preferably in a multi-program franchise, definitely about crime and the solving thereof. In the top 20 Nielsen-rated shows for the 2008-2009 season, there’s only one sitcom listed, and it’s currently tied for the number 11 spot with a show named Criminal Minds that I’ve never heard of. That sitcom is Two and a Half Men.

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