Friday, April 20, 2012

Same Old Formula

There are several shows that I watch regularly. I watch the NBC Thursday lineup which includes Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Up All Night, and Parks and Recreation. A few of these shows have been switching out for a time while another steps in its place. 30 Rock was on hiatus to start the TV season, then Community, then Parks and Rec, and when they returned they pretty much all delivered. I also watch Modern Family, Psych, and White Collar. There used to be some others in the rotation, and then I'll lose interest. Lately we've also been watching the dramas Awake, along with Alcatraz before it finished up.

There's something about a couple of these shows that I'm just getting bored of lately. One thing in particular. It's the constant make-you-so-uncomfortable-that-you-can-barely-stand-to-sit-still-while-beginning-to-physically-and-mentally-curl-up kind of humor that is really old to me. The Office did this wonderfully for awhile with Michael Scott, and now they do it with Andy, mostly, but they'll rotate it among some of the other characters. It especially bothers me when it happens to Jim because he was the one guy on there who was obviously the cool, most normal person that you could relate to, but now that everyone is free game, it's just kind of old. Where it's really bothering me is that now Modern Family is resorting to it, and it just feels like such a cop-out to me.

(Another thing is the addressing the camera as if its another person, but only part of the time. I'm not actually tired of it yet, but it's been recycled a lot.)

But let me say, for the record, I've never had a big affinity for this kind of humor. There are plenty of these kinds of guys out there, and everyone has run into them at some point in time. They're the ones that think it's the funniest thing in the world to make everyone else so uncomfortable that they can barely stomach it. They'll purposefully ask awkward questions. They think it's funny when other people recoil. I've never really thought much of that kind of humor. I mean, I can appreciate it when it's well done, and it's one of those things where it takes real guts to ask something so dumb/inappropriate that you just kind of stand there slack-jawed, hardly believing what you're witnessing. But it's definitely one of those things that gets butchered or overplayed when used by the wrong person.

I realize that in some ways, I'm totally snotty when it comes to my TV show humor. I want clever, and I think that what I laugh at tends to be smarter and more sophisticated than a lot of what's out there. And while I openly say that I think my humor is more sophisticated, I still laugh at a lot of things that are silly and goofy, but I just want it to be done in a skillful way. Let me give you an example.

First of all, this is totally dumb, but this video that got passed around a little bit last week by some friends of mine on some of the social media things was the funniest thing in the world to me. I was in tears

It obviously kills some of the humor to have to explain a joke, but let me do it anyway: The genius behind this is not just how ridiculously bad the cover is. It's all about the presentation. You have one of the most climactic moments in the movie, a time when the dinosaurs are finally unveiled to the researchers who spent their whole lives in their study of these extinct animals, and the scene is backed up by a musical score that now everyone in the whole world knows as another awesome John Williams piece to another great movie in Jurassic Park, to have it cut in with some idiot's terrible rendition that is barely recognizable, but only because you know both the movie and the music so well. Genius, right? That's what gets me going.

But Modern Family is taking a big hit right now. And The Office keeps on repeating this same mistake. It's the kind of thing where the characters act so idiotically that I wonder aloud, who in the world would ever do that? It works on something like Seinfeld because the characters never stop being absurd, but I just have a hard time buying it when it seems inconsistent with what I thought was developed with the character.

And I guess that's why I love Community. I totally recognize that it's not for everyone. A lot of people won't connect to it, and may even have the same kind of complaints about that show that I have of these other ones, but I think it's the most creative show because it doesn't have any boundaries. The show takes shots at other shows without pulling any punches (Glee, for instance), and do things like a documentary style pillow fight civil war. Not every episode is a hit, but it delivers far more often than it misses.

I think that's what made people appreciate Arrested Development. It's not conventional, and it makes you feel like you're getting something more than the same old song and dance that you see in so many other shows. Is that too much to ask for?


Caitlin said...

Oh man -- it is like a chore for us to sit through The Office anymore. I think we do it out of some sense of obligation. They really should have ended it when Michael Scott left.

Dave said...

Just watched the Jurassic Park clip and laughed out loud... again.