Archive for the ‘Comedies’ Category
In honor of the series finale of its much longer-running American cousin, I thought I’d share a look back at the original The Office.
Seeing as this one came first I’ll resist the urge to point out which British character = which American one.
A cold open, selected for the sole purpose of showing us the main character’s lack of ethics, shows an executive at his desk. With some alliterative, fast-paced business jabber, he offers to give the man across from him a job as a forklift driver without having passed a forklift-driving test. He seems quite pleased with his deception as he smooth talks someone on the other end of the phone. We never get a look at the unlicensed forklift driver, but that’s not who we’re here to meet. It’s all about the boss, David Brent (show co-creator Ricky Gervais).
After that first scene, we launch into the mockumentary style the show helped popularize, with characters exuding dramatic irony in interview segments breaking up the regular workday activity — and by regular, I mean squabbling, practical joke-pulling nonsense. (Zero days since our last nonsense).
A few key relationships are set up: Tim (a much younger-looking Martin Freeman) and Gareth (Mackenzie Crook. Hey, did you know he was the dude with the glass eye in Pirates of the Caribbean? I didn’t.) They hate each other. Lighthearted Tim torments the way-too-serious Gareth. Then there’s Tim and Dawn (Lucy Davis). It’s suggested that he likes her, but could just be that he really hates her boyfriend. I said I wouldn’t compare but this Jim and Pam aren’t as syrupy. Then there’s boss-from-corporate Jennifer (Stirling Gallacher), who’s so far at the end of her rope with David you figure they’re bound to sleep together.
The crisis du jour is that corporate is planning to combine two branches of the paper company and “eliminate redundancies.” The gravity of the situation provides fertile ground for illustrating David’s complete lack of a clue, let alone ethics. As the audience, we’re left with the possibility of characters we’ve already met exiting, or new ones starting.
The show introduces a tone that is so banal, and dialogue so tossed off, it’s dead easy to miss things. Throw in the British accents and slang, and Americans are at a further disadvantage. The monochromatic surroundings and bland, unattractive characters make it easy to lose interest entirely until David says something so off the wall as to demand attention. One can see how even an Americanized version would be an acquired taste, and for many, not acquirable with only the pilot.
As a bonus, here’s a video on how to suspend a stapler in jelly (or as we Yanks would call it by its brand name, Jell-o).
I’ve always thought of this show as just okay, an amusing distraction if I happened to flip on a rerun. And, you know. Clark Gregg.
So I just saw the pilot for the first time. Structurally, it’s solid. It uses a twist on the familiar First Day of School pilot trope. The jokes are fairly predictable, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gregg, as ex-husband Richard, carry it. Louis-Dreyfus has that dry, earnest sensibility that makes her seem oblivious that everyone’s laughing at her. By contrast, Gregg wears that omnipresent smirk that makes you think he’s in on every joke–including the ones of which he’s the butt. He exudes coolness even in a multi-camera sitcom environment. Read the rest of this entry »
Point number one about the Boy Meets World pilot: Topanga isn’t in it. So if you’re watching for Danielle Fishel, skip ahead to episode 4.
I am a little too old for this show, meaning I didn’t grow up with it. It incites great love and devotion to 90s children, and I can’t quite relate, except to suppose maybe it’s their Growing Pains. If the pilot is any indication it’s pretty cheesy, but in a lovable way that makes you want to see these characters through their first world problems. Read the rest of this entry »
It may seem that the cast of Diff’rent Strokes is competing with the cast of The Golden Girls to see which beloved sitcom can have the last actor standing. (Of the four central characters from each, three are no longer with us; Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls‘ Blanche and Gary Coleman, Diff’rent Strokes‘ Arnold, left 80s television fans mourning in the very same week in 2010.) They’re tied, as of this past week, when Conrad Bain, who played Philip Drummond, passed away at age 89.
Bain was known to the world well before Diff’rent Strokes, having co-starred on the long-running series Maude (along with Golden Girl Bea Arthur, which gives me an idea for a new game, Six Degrees of Golden), among numerous other screen and stage credits. But he is probably well-remembered to many who were children during the time he was playing the most generous millionaire dad on the small screen. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night, TBS premiered Cougar Town to much ballyhoo. This wasn’t a pilot; Cougar Town lived on network TV for three seasons, much of that time perched atop the bubble. (You can check out my impressions of the pilot here.)
I didn’t stick with the show for very long. I know there’s wine. I know there’s a cul-de-sac. And I’ve heard that Jules and Grayson got together — hardly a surprise, based on the pilot alone. Even from the beginning the title didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, and from what I’ve heard, made less so over the years. I honestly didn’t think the show would last long. (After all, how many Tom Petty songs are there?) Read the rest of this entry »
You wouldn’t think Christmas would be a particularly propitious time to set your pilot. Pilots usually air in the fall, or just after the holidays. And Christmas is the season for marathons of shows and movies you already know and love. But when you think about it, the holidays are rife with drama and emotion — often of the familial warfare variety. So there’s some material there.
There are a handful of pilots — that I’m aware of — that are set during the holiday season. Here’s a list. Are there others? Please leave comments if you know! Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been curious to dig up this pilot for a long time, so I decided that Alyssa Milano‘s 40th birthday would be an auspicious day for it. She’s 40. Yeah. You know what that means, if you grew up watching the show: You’re old.
The show’s simple premise show is dispatched before the opening credits; a single dad (Tony Danza) is moving from the big city to the suburbs so that his young daughter can experience the protection of a white picket fence. It’s a concept resurrected recently with Suburgatory, but Samantha Micelli is much younger, and the impetus for the move is a black eye rather than condoms. Read the rest of this entry »
The fall television season in 1982 brought us a slew of what went on to become hit sit-coms. This fall marks the 30th anniversary of Cheers, Silver Spoons, Newhart, and Family Ties… as well as Square Pegs, less successful but still cherished in the hearts of 80s girls. Did viewers know that Shelley Long, Ted Danson, Ricky Shroeder, Michael J. Fox, and Sarah Jessica Parker would become icons of an era? Probably not. But in the wake of The New Normal, The Mindy Project, and The Neighbors in recent weeks, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. (What’s the obsession with definite articles?) Read the rest of this entry »
Posted September 11, 2012on:
“This is the best show I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” is what Abed said when he saw his first thirty seconds of Inspector Spacetime. If he was impressed with that, he should see Travis Richey’s Untitled Web Series About a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time. For starters, the production values are much better. And if you think that the low production values are what gives Inspector Spacetime its charm, don’t worry — you won’t be starved for camp. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been trying to think of a good reason to write a post on this topic for a long time. The Mindy Project is as good a reason as any.
The Mindy Project has everything going for it, with Mindy Kaling having amused us for years as both an actress and writer on The Office. She plays a doctor; we haven’t had a good doctor comedy since Scrubs. As much as I hate the term “adorkable,” she is that, a point not unnoticed by executives who scheduled her show back-to-back with New Girl. She’s got B.J. Novak on board as a producer and a director (Charles McDougall) with The Office and Parks and Recreation cred.
The pilot was released a month early, along with those of some other Fox shows, on Hulu. Some people like it. I do not. Here’s why. It commits a number of sins that are sure to damn a pilot straight to hell. Read the rest of this entry »