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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Best of 2015

In many ways, 2015 was pre-ordained to be a massive year. After a down year at the box office in 2014, pundits predicted 2015 would be huge, given the releases of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the final “Hunger Games” movie, and “Jurassic World.” And (for those that have been released), those movies delivered well at the box office (including “World” setting an opening weekend record, and then, you know, “Star Wars” demolishing it.). But there were a number of pleasant surprises that pundits didn’t see coming, and that’s what made 2015 quite an impressive year for entertainment. These are my favorite pieces of entertainment from 2015, presented in no particular order, but, for sake of readability, I’ve broken my list down by categories. Let me know what I missed, or what you enjoyed, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading this blog – and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2016. Continue reading

Fall TV Preview

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With the Emmy’s tonight (I’ll be live-tweeting; follow along @jacobsjj), and the fall TV season kicking off tomorrow, I figured I may as well do my annual preview for what I’ll be watching in the 2015-2016 (network) TV season. Continue reading

Live Long and Prosper

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I was never a big “Star Trek” fan, either of the original version or its various spin-off iterations. It’s certainly in the cultural zeitgeist: the term “Trekkies,” various Shatner impressions, KHAAAAAAAN, and of course, the recent film reboots with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. (I especially enjoyed JJ Abrams’s subtle use of lens flares in every single scene).

But despite my muted (at best) fandom of “Star Trek,” I was still saddened to hear of Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He has recently made cameo appearances on “The Big Bang Theory” and in the Abrams-helmed reboots. But to me, his most indelible appearance will always be from “The Simpsons.”

A quick tangent: When I was a sophomore in college, I took a course in the Philosophy of Language. We talked about the philosophical understanding of language – how sentences phrased differently can convey the same meaning; how language evolved as a survival mechanism (“Water,” “food,” “shelter” were likely early words) and then became useful as a tool to describe the intangible (“Love,” “hunger,” “Outrage that ‘The Lego Movie’ wasn’t nominated for an Oscar”). Mostly, we talked about the truth. What does it mean to say a sentence is true? Is a sentence only valuable if it is true? (If you’re interested in this topic, try this for starters, and then leave me a message in the comments and I can point you to some other interesting books). When my professor asked for our end of semester papers, I did what I always did before writing my college essays – looked at my notes, went over the important passages of the assigned texts, and outlined what I thought would be a strong paper. And I think it probably would have gotten me a decent grade. But I could not get Spock’s voice out of my head. I asked my professor if I could attach a CD with my paper, that would contain a short video (in 2002, pre-You Tube, this seemed like my best bet). He obliged, and read my paper. He asked that I come see him in his office, and told me that the video I included was the first time he had ever laughed while grading a paper.

In case the link above gets taken down, I want to preserve Mr. Nimoy’s words in full:

“Hello. I’m Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It’s all lies. But they’re entertaining lies. And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? The answer is: No.”

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy, for helping me get an A on that paper, and for your contributions to popular culture. You truly lived long and prospered.

Best TV, 2014 Edition

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Well, it’s that time of year. I’m hesitant to do a traditional Top 10 list, if only because there may not be ten shows that I loved, or there may be more, and, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog and I’ll make the rules. So without being beholden to numbers, let’s dive in to the television that I enjoyed the most in 2014. Note: some of these will be individual episodes or moments from a show, and some will be the show’s entire season. I’m sure you’ll figure it out as I go along. Continue reading

Fall TV 2014

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I know we’re still a little ways away from the beginning of the fall TV season, but I figured it’s as good a time as any to write about what I’ll be watching this upcoming season. While some of last year’s picks ultimately ended up being disappointing (I’m looking at you, “Mom” and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,”) here’s my best effort at predicting what I’ll be watching live, what I’ll be DVR-ing, and, most importantly, what will be entertaining me for the 2014-2015 TV season. One other note: this is just for broadcast (i.e. traditional network) shows. That’s why, say, “True Detective” season two or stand-bys like “The Soup” or “Last Week with John Oliver” or “The Daily Show” won’t make the list.

Sunday

What I’ll Watch Live: Once Upon a Time, NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: The Simpsons, Mulaney, Family Guy, Brooklyn 99

I am an admitted “Once Upon a Time” fan. Last season, the show had two half-season story arcs: a journey to Neverland to battle the evil Peter Pan, and the Storybrooke crew fighting The Wicked Witch. While the show is never going to mean as much to me (or be as well-written or well-executed) as LOST, it’s still a show I enjoy week-in, week-out, that rewards longtime viewers. As for FOX’s Sunday comedy block, Brooklyn 99 was my favorite new comedy last year; it’s a show that really clicked early on, and gained momentum as the season went on. Besides Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta, the rest of the cast shines, but especially Andre Braugher and Chelsea Peretti.

As for “Mulaney,” having seen him do stand-up and with the knowledge that he created Stefon, he’s earned a season pass on the DVR, even if that first trailer looked rough. Besides, anybody who can write this Girl Scout Cookies monologue has my undying admiration:

https://screen.yahoo.com/weekend-john-mulaney-girl-scout-000000179.html

And “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”? They’ve been on the air, what, a combined seventy-five years? (Approx.) And still deliver laughs. Sundays are going to be great for comedy.

Monday

What I’ll Watch Live: Gotham, Monday Night Football

What I’ll DVR: Big Bang Theory [until it moves to Thursdays at the end of October]

Wow, Mondays do not look promising. I know many people will watch “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Blacklist,” “The Voice,” and “Sleepy Hollow,” but…yikes. Not for me. Instead, I’m really looking forward to “Gotham.” Let’s be honest: when you are looking to make a TV show, and toss in Ben McKenzie, Gotham City, and multiple origin stories? Yeah, I’m there.

“Big Bang Theory” is the TV equivalent of comfort food, but I always enjoy it, and to have a few saved on the DVR makes for perfect Saturday-afternoon TV viewing.

Tuesday

What I’ll Watch Live: Selfie, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What I’ll DVR: Marry Me, New Girl, Mindy Project

I really loved Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s last few episodes, especially they way they tied into the events happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (after Captain America 2). Bill Paxton as The Clairvoyant, Agent Ward as a HYDRA spy, the uncertainty surrounding Nick Fury and Fitz and Simmons…all much more enjoyable plot threads than the first few episodes, which were spent dodging the question of whether or not Coulson was a Life Model Decoy. Anyway, a show that, now that it’s entering its second season, I know what it will provide week-in and week-out. As for “Selfie,” I watched the pilot and, while I didn’t live it, the show’s creator Emily Kapnek was the showrunner on “Suburgatory,” a show I loved. Plus, John Cho. “Marry Me” has Casey Wilson, who I loved on “Happy Endings,” and Ken Marino, who I thought was contractually bound to always work with David Wain. The show is from the showrunner of “Happy Endings” (who is engaged to Wilson in real life). Should be funny.

I loved “New Girl” in its first two seasons, but last year was rough, to say the least. With “Mindy Project”, I have high hopes for it, but the show has to stop shuffling cast members and guest stars and figure out what show it wants to be. Both will still be in heavy rotation on my DVR, but I’d like to see both be more consistently funny.

Wednesday

Literally nothing.

No, seriously. Take a look at this schedule:Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 10.01.51 PM

The best show might be “Black-ish.” You could talk me into “Red Band Society,” possibly. And that “Mysteries of Laura” show? Oof. Here’s the trailer. Never have I not wanted to watch something more. It looks like a bad SNL sketch:

By the way, here’s where I remind you that NBC cancelled “Awake,” one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen, and greenlights things like “Mysteries of Laura.”

Thursday

What I’ll Watch Live: NFL Football

What I’ll DVR: Grey’s Anatomy, A to Z, How to Get Away with Murder

Grey’s is also just comfort food at this point – I don’t really like many of the characters, it’s sometimes too soapy for words, and there’s rarely a plot twist I haven’t seen coming hundreds of miles away. That said, it too makes for fine viewing on a cold Saturday when I don’t feel like leaving my couch. “How to Get Away with Murder” looks like one of the more promising new shows, with star Viola Davis as a law professor with a potential dark side.

As for “A to Z,” I watched the pilot and found it incredibly charming (I’ve embedded it below). It’s got a lot in common with “(500) Days of Summer,” especially given the close-ended nature of the central relationship. But I’m going to give it a shot. However, if the showrunners kill off Cristin Milioti like “How I Met Your Mother” did, I will be very upset.

http://www.nbc.com/a-to-z/video/a-to-z-pilot/2804273

Also, let me just bemoan the fact that “Parks and Rec” won’t be airing until winter 2015. I’m going to miss that show.

Friday

What I’ll Watch Live: Masterchef Junior

Kidding. Made the same joke last year. Will hopefully have social plans. Nothing worth DVRing on this night anyway.

Saturday

What I’ll DVR: Saturday Night Live

Even after a down season, this show still provides laughs in its best sketches. And I have high hopes for last year’s breakout stars Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett.

https://screen.yahoo.com/beer-pong-090000354.html

Other Notables:

Whenever “Community” premieres on Yahoo; “The Cosmopolitans” on Amazon, assuming it gets picked up (because any show with Adam Brody deserves my full attention).

https://screen.yahoo.com/community-sizzle-reel-203225340.html

Any shows you think I missed? Shows that I just shouldn’t be watching? Be sure to leave a comment.

The Simpsons is Making me Lose my Perspicacity (but it’s always in the last place I look)

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(For those who don’t understand the title of this post, go here).

FXX just announced the “Simpsons World” app, which will allow subscribers to watch every Simpsons episode ever; search by quote, character, and plot; and basically spend all day, every day watching both classic, golden-era Simpsons through the most recent episodes. (Full details here.)

Tonight on twitter, I asked

Which, of course, leads me to this post. My “favorite” Simpsons clips are too innumerable to count, but let’s just say these are the first ones I thought about watching. I cannot wait for this app and site to launch – what could possib-lie go wrong?

1. Anything with Raphael (my favorite all-time character)

2. McGarnagle

3. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

4. Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country, localized entirely within your kitchen? (From my favorite episode ever)

5. Literally every joke from the casino episode

(Or, “I’m Idaho,” or Brittania, or Bart stealing Robert freaking Goulet!)

6. “Use a pen, Sideshow Bob”

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7. Homer saying “I am merely a vessel through which genius flows” (my yearbook quote)

8. Every Itchy & Scratchy

9. “I was saying Boo-urns”

10. The Hank Scorpio/Globex episode!

(Don’t forget, the Hammock district’s on third)

11. “Lively up yourself, Dancin’ Homer”

12. “Where’s my burrito?”

13. “OK, Mr. Burns, what’s your first name?” “I…don’t know”

14. Frogurt

15. All of the original songs!

16. This whole scene:

Mr. Taylor: Hi, Lisa, I’m Alison’s father, Professor Taylor. I’ve heard great things about you.
Lisa: Oh, really? I…
Mr. Taylor: Oh, don’t be modest. I’m glad we have someone who can join us in our anagram game.
Alison: We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a description of that person.
Mr. Taylor: Like, er…Oh, I don’t know, uh…Alec Guinness.
Alison: Genuine class.
Mr. Taylor: Ho ho, very good. Alright, Lisa, um…Jeremy Irons.
Lisa: Uh, Jeremy’s…iron.
Mr. Taylor: Mm hmm, well, that’s…very good…for a first try. You know what? I have a ball. Perhaps you’d like to bounce it?

Well, those are sixteen things I’ll be looking forward to (and there are too many more to list). What is everyone else looking forward to? More Grampa? Moe? Krusty? Sideshow Mel? Kent Brockman and his welcoming of the ant overlords? Ralph Wiggum? Police Chief Wiggum? Snake? Apu? And, last but never least, Comic Book Guy? Let me know in the comments.