My Influences #3 - Sitcoms (a continuing list)

Sitcoms! (no really!)

As I sit here starting to write this blog, at 10:08pm on New Year's Eve 2016, I'm thinking of what to watch.  I'm not really a "Let's watch the ball drop!" kinda guy (is there a joke there...moving on...).  And since thinking back on 2016 is kinda depressing, I think I need to watch something to make me laugh.  Not ponder, not consider, not reflect...LAUGH!  So I'm writing a short list of the Top 5 Sitcoms (or, let's say, 30 minutes or less TV shows - how many dramas are 30 minutes or less?) that I go to for laughs.  I'm sure there is more, but here are the Top 5.  I may add more later, but I do kinda want to get this done quick...cause it's New Year's Eve.  Not sure that's really a good reason, not like I'm going anywhere...sorry got lost there...


*Note - this Top Five doesn't include the Holy Grail of TV comedy...the first ten (or so) seasons of The Simpsons.  That deserves it's own list.  Or any animated TV shows.  One day...

*Note #2 - I won't be putting on any British TV shows, as, again, that deserves it's own list one day...

*Note #3 - no new shows, currently in production, will be listed, such as FX's "Atlanta" or Netflix's "Master of None" for instance (which if you haven't watched yet, you should!) - just shows that have been around for awhile.

1- Newsradio
This is one of the most underrated shows ever, in my opinion.  If someone tells me they like Newsradio, I think that makes us instant BFF's.  For life.  Watch it just for Phil Hartman.  Watch it for Dave Foley and Maura Tierney's comedic sexual chemistry.  Hell watch it to see a young Joe Rogan before he found the UFC.  It's wall-to-wall jokes, set in an office environment.  If you've ever worked in an office, you'll get these jokes, they are timeless.  Stephen Root, Vicky Lewis, Andy Dick and the rest of the cast and guest stars, not to mention the writers!, are all on top of their game.  Too many cliches in this description!  Just go watch it!

2- Arrested Development
History will remember this one weirdly.  Won Emmys, had terrible ratings, critically acclaimed, always on the verge of cancellation, loved by fans, kept around begrudgingly by FOX executives...but is it funny?  This was almost a live action version of The Simpsons with so many jokes per second it had to have broken some kind of record. 

Jason Bateman lead this motley crew of hilarious actors through many hilarious adventures.  Some may think of this show as the reason Michael Cera was thrust upon us, but the show gave us so much more.  The most unlikable cast of characters ever on a TV sitcom (Seinfeld...pffffttt!).  Just like Newsradio, it's a network sitcom but instead of being about the workplace, it's about family.  The Netflix version I'm torn on, some parts being hilarious and some just head scratching.  Part of the greatness of AD was the chemistry between the cast members, and the Netflix version was filmed with each cast member separately in separate adventures, with the original cast members only getting a few scenes together here and there.  There is talk of another series and if they do it, hopefully it be focused on the original cast and not how many wacky cameos by wacky guest stars they can fit in.

Favourite Character of the group?  Hard to pick but Will Arnett's Gob Bluth might get the pick, just for the name alone, really.  His self-centered yet low self-esteemed Gob is a joy to watch...especially that chicken dance!

3- Community
Another great network sitcom that was loved by many except for it's network executives.  This show started out as a show about seven strangers enrolling in a local Community College for various reasons and forming a study group for their Spanish class.  It was about strangers becoming friends and then eventually family.  Then in later seasons things started to get whacky.  They were the same seven characters but starting with their zombie movie parody episode, their later paintball episodes and episodes done completely in stop-motion, the show started taking on a more sci-fi bent.  Later episodes talked about "dark timelines" and Troy and Abed's "dreamatorium" (Community's version of Star Trek The Next Generation's Holodeck), Community's creator Dan Harmon started speaking to a very niche audience, with the result usually being hilarious.  If you knew what the heck they were talking about.  But really the core of the show, like so many other great shows, was it's cast and their chemistry.  Troy and Abed (Danny Glover and Danny Pudi) will go down as two of the great buddy duos of all time.  Alison Brie's Annie Edison was the perfect blend of naive sweet and super hot at the same time, with some amazing comedic timing as well.  Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown and Chevy Chase rounded out the seven, plus having Jim Rash as the Dean, Spanish teacher Ken Jeong and John Oliver as Professor Duncan gave them a deep bench to pull from.  Plus this show gave us the Russo Brothers, who are now, after Joss Whedon, the gate keepers of the Marvel Universe.

4- Parks and Recreation
Another work place comedy, but with a twist - a sitcom about politics!  Before Veep, "Parks and Rec" came along as a show about local politics of a small town.  But like Newsradio, it was also a show about people who work together and eventually become not just friends but family.  The all-star cast started with Amy Poehler and gave a spotlight to unknowns such as Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza who are now big names in the industry.  After a shaky first season and a two-for-one switch-out from removing Paul Schneider's Mark Brendanawicz and bringing in Adam Scott's Ben Wyatt and Rob Lowe's Chris Traegar in season two, the show's writing and the cast's chemistry really came together.  Great guest appearances by Paul Rudd, Louis CK, Megan Mullally, Patricia Clarkson, Andy Samberg and the best arguably being by Ben Schwartz as "Jean-Ralphio". 

NBC comedies post-Friends/Seinfeld/Frasier seemed to have it tough - even winning Emmys an loyal fan bases didn't seem to necessarily guarantee a spot on the fall schedule.  But through the glory of re-runs and syndication, I've managed to catch up with this great show and it's wonderful characters.  And I cried when Little Sebastian…well you'll see...I giggled along with Ron Swanson when he revealed his love for scavenger hunts...was baffled by Tom's get-rich-quick schemese...and marvelled whenever Chris Pratt's Andy Dwyer came on screen...

5- The Flight of the Conchords
It's kind of surprising that I've picked a lot of network shows, especially with the abundance of great cable TV the last ten years.  But for the most part, if you think about it, there haven't been a lot of comedies that have emerged, let alone great ones.  FX has always had It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and this past year Atlanta.  HBO has been known for dramas like The Sopranos and The Wire, but now has Veep and Silicon Valley.  In the past, when HBO has tried comedies, it always seemed lacklustre.  But then along came Flight of the Conchords.  This short-lived show on HBO was a delight to watch while it was around. 

The Flight of the Conchords, the "4th Best Folk Band in New Zealand" (which is probably where I got the idea for The Supers being the 3rd Best Super-Team in the world) came to the US to make it big, but finding difficulties along the way.  Bret and Jermaine, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, created this show, part sitcom part musical, living in a small apartment in New York City and having a hard time paying the rent.  The ultimate show about two fish out of water, not having a clue how to be successful but still trying really hard.  Each show featured two, sometimes three or more songs and Season One consisted of 12 episodes.  That first season is an all-time classic and unfortunately by the time Season Two came along, they had used up all their songs so Season Two wasn't as successful but still good.  And that's how the show ended.  Both members have gone on to bigger things, Bret winning an Oscar for writing the "Muppet Movie" song, and Jermaine going on to many other projects, the biggest one being "The Things We Do in the Shadows" a hilarious mock-u-mentary about vampires. 

There is talk of a Flight of the Conchords movie, and they have teamed up for several tours, including in the summer of 2016 where I got to see them perform at the Greek Theatre in LA, which was a major life hilight for me.

Bret and Jermaine, The Flight of the Conchords live at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in July 2016

Bret and Jermaine, The Flight of the Conchords live at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in July 2016

 

 

That's it (FOR NOW!).  I reserve the right to add more...cause it's my blog!  :)