20 Funniest Shows….Ever

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A few weeks ago, my friend Kim and I went to see a live performance of Tituss Burgess (“Titus” from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). While waiting in line, Kim mentioned that one of her friends had asked why she and I would go to something like that, considering that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t one of the 20 funniest shows ever. I don’t disagree with the unnamed critic, at least as far as rankings go (though, as long as it’s a show that I enjoy, why wouldn’t I pay to see Tituss (and Jane Krakowski) live?). But of course, it got me thinking about what shows actually are the 20 funniest ever.

A few caveats: 1) I purposefully did not count talk shows, so you won’t see shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on here. 2) Shows get dinged for going on past their natural expiration date. For instance, I have “How I Met Your Mother” off of the top 20 – had it ended after, say, season 4, it easily would have sailed into my top 20. 3) This is a list about funny shows. I know there are good shows, especially on cable, that are categorized as comedies (“Transparent,” “Shameless,” etc.). These are not funny shows. They are purposefully not included. No show has ever been more liberally described as a comedy than “Girls.” Yet there’s not one laugh in any of the episodes I watched. 4) My (long) list of Honorable Mentions is beneath the Top 20, presented in alphabetical order.  5) This endeavor is wholly personal. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Without further ado, my top 20:

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The Winter of My Content

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Just over two months ago, I lamented the fact that 2014 was shaping up to be a poor year for movie quality. In fact, 2014 was churning out much stronger drama on television than at the movies. But, as Rustin Cohle noted, without time, nothing grows, nothing changes.

And time changed the entertainment landscape. Gone were “True Detective,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Leftovers,” and “Mad Men.” In their place? “Saved by the Bell: The Unauthorized Story” and a plethora of fall TV offerings that looked mediocre at best. And the best drama? Back to where we expected it: the big screen. Continue reading

Another day, another sequel (UK Office Edition)

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Reports have surfaced that there will now be a standalone film sequel to the UK version of The Office. The movie will show Ricky Gervais’s character fifteen years after he’s left Slough, and will be a sort of “where are they now?”

While I’m sure Mr. Gervais can wring some humour out of more David Brent, the question is do we want to see it? For my money, this ending was pitch-perfect:

Seth Meyers had Ricky Gervais on his show recently, and even complimented him on ending “The Office” perfectly. So why go back to the well, other than a cash grab? Is there really more story to tell?

Parenthetically, I found the American version to be lacking in quality as soon as Jim and Pam got together. Three seasons of build-up led to a fantastic moment:

But the last few seasons had diminishing returns, in part because the tension between Jim and Pam was gone…until they shoe-horned in unnecessary drama for the last season.

So, now what? Will we see Tim and Dawn having issues? Will Gareth be a featured player? Or will this sequel be 90 minutes of David Brent? None of these sound particularly intriguing to me (Ed. Note: Yes, I know he has revived the David Brent character before. Short, Youtube-only videos don’t seem to be the same thing as a full-blown movie, or even another TV special, at least in my opinion). This may warrant a longer post down the road, but I wish I could call a moratorium on sequels, at least for a little while. While some sequels can outdo the original (Empire Strikes Back, Godfather Part II, X-2 – gosh, who ever puts those three movies together in a sentence?), they are exceptions proving the rule.

Of course, the irony of all of this is that David Brent never, ever, ever knew when to leave well enough alone. I loved the UK version’s awkward and cringe-worthy humor. I just don’t want to be cringing in a movie theater, wishing they had followed the advice of some other famous Brits and simply let it be.

March (TV) Madness

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In honor of March Madness, I thought I’d take a look to determine, bracket-style, what really is the best TV theme song ever. Rather than a full 64-song bracket, I started with a top 32. A few caveats: Obviously, I’m biased more on recent shows, although the art of the great TV theme song is vanishing. Also, I tend to favor songs with words (plural), so no Batman, Parks and Recreation (even with Star Wars references), or The Office (US version). Lastly, these had to be opening theme songs, so the chung-chung from Law & Order doesn’t count. (And I was torn whether to include the Jeopardy! music as well).

To me, the ideal theme song conveys enough of what the show is about to catch up casual viewers (i.e. blatantly spelling out the plot, like in The Brady Bunch or Green Acres). But it also has to be a good song; that’s crucial. Catchy, but also good enough that you won’t mind hearing it, say, 400 times. Continue reading

The Future of the Sitcom

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Adorkable

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Recently (since 30 Rock ended its run, and with The Office set to close its doors in May), people have begun to speculate on what the sitcom landscape will look like in the near future. Vulture has gone so far as to throw the gauntlet down and declare New Girl the best sitcom on TV. (Although they’ve also recently undergone the task of looking back to the sitcom past). And so I couldn’t help but wonder, where are we headed with sitcoms? Continue reading

What’s Wrong on “The Office”

To paraphrase my boy Billy Shakes, I came here not to bury “The Office,” but to question it. Over the last three episodes, we’ve been introduced to Brian the boom mic guy, who clearly has developed some strong feelings for Pam.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Greg Daniels said the following about the addition of Brian and the reveal of the documentary crew:  Continue reading