If Ellen Degeneres is TV’s ray of positive, bright sunshine, Chelsea Handler is its shot of tequila. Kind of a bad idea, but on a late Friday night you just sort of can’t help but indulge. She’s the type who would dine at a reality-TV-themed restaurant for the irony as much as for the actual enjoyment of a Real Housewives of New Jersey meatball. Continue reading
I can’t say I’m the world’s biggest fan of The Big Bang Theory. It’s a bit surprising considering that I’m Infinity Dish’s resident nerd writer, but there are a few things about it that just bug me. The laugh track is annoying and a lot of the jokes fall flat, even if I do get a joke’s obscure Marvel reference or when Amy and Sheldon talk about Meme theory.
Last night, as my girlfriend was watching an episode, I think I put my finger on the show’s main flaw. You see, they set up this kind of nerd spectrum wherein each of the main male characters is at a different level of geekiness.
Let’s take a walk towards the most concentrated form of nerdiness known to man, Sheldon Cooper, by breaking down what puts these characters on such an uneven playing field.
Leonard dresses well. His glasses are nerdy, but actually quite trendy thanks to hipsters’ ironic fashion sense. He talks about Frodo Baggins and Darth Vader, but he still gets the ladies — and hot ones, at that. He’s nerdy in his interests, but not at all in his social standing and attitudes.
Howard dresses terribly, lives with his mother… and has a smoking hot girlfriend. Howard’s definitely one step higher on the nerd spectrum due to his goofy his appearance and his awkward living situation, but he’s still cool enough to get some action.
Raj would like to date, but he’s so terrified of girls that he can’t even speak to them. As the only non-white guy, he’s kind of in the position of being a slight outcast from the rest of his friends — not because his friends don’t accept him, but because his India-ness is a constant source of self-deprecating humor.
More like a logic-adoring Vulcan than a person, Sheldon eschews human contact, hates emotion, and has zero sex drive whatsoever. He’s more like a parody of a dork than what a dork would actually be like.
As you can tell, the writers established a scale of geekiness that you can easily see just through their interaction. The writers enforce that scale by rewarding the least nerdy nerds with hot women, while the most nerdy nerds are still virginal and clueless.
At that point, it kind of feels like the show is no longer about a group of nerds, and is instead a show about 2 cool, trendy guys and their 2 awkward buddies, kinda like a much more modern The Odd Couple.
The writers completely rely on the geekiness or the characters’ relative lack of social skills for almost all of their jokes. I couldn’t help but notice that Sheldon got more laughs than anybody else, and that his OCD geekiness tended to dominate the screen. I realize, of course, that actor Jim Parsons has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role as Sheldon, so the actor is hard to ignore, but Sheldon getting all of the jokes is more a product of the writing and directing than the acting.
So, Sheldon’s scientific approach to life encouraged me to perform a little experiment. While watching the episode “The Herb Garden Germination,” I counted how many times each character provoked the laugh track, and these were my results:
Miscellaneous Characters: 7
That’s 136 laugh-track-inspiring jokes in all, with Sheldon comprising a staggering 38% of the show’s jokes, more than twice as much as any other character.
The writers are relying much too heavily on their golden goose to carry them through every show. I mean, I like Sheldon. He’s a quirky character who is somehow endearing, yet hard to get to know. But the same goes for Chandler from Friends, and Chandler usually provided about, say, 1/6th of the show’s humor, an appropriate number considering that the show was about 6 friends.
So, The Big Bang Theory writers, do you think you could even out the jokes just a little bit more?
I have to admit, I’ve been a little excited about the upcoming remake of The Munsters for NBC. I’m a big fan of creator Bryan Fuller, who is known for his quirky, yet brilliant TV shows about the secret lives of grim reapers and piemakers who can bring back the dead. He’s joined by producer Bryan Singer, best known for his work on the X-Men movies. If there were anybody in Hollywood who could tell believable, compelling and hilarious stories about a Frankenstein and a vampire with a werewolf for a son, it’s these two guys.
Well now all that’s about to change with the recent announcement that the project will no longer be title The Munsters and will instead be called Mockingbird Lane. The name change is due to the fact that the show was deemed to dark and spooky to be associated with the Munsters brand name. The creators wanted to convey the feeling that the new show is only loosely inspired by the 60’s sitcom so that fans of the original aren’t put off by this darker update.
This title change of course raises the question of whether or not the show can legitimately be called a remake of The Munsters anymore. Sure the Munster clan had a home on Mockingbird Lane in the original series, but that’s a pretty small detail that most people aren’t going to remember.
Something smells fishy and it’s not one of Grandpa’s potions either. All of the projects that Bryan Fuller is known for have been of his own creation, but they’re also the kind of TV shows that are cancelled before their time. I have to wonder if Bryan Fuller didn’t just pitch a monster family show to NBC and that executive meddling turned it into a Munsters remake. Having the name of a pre-existing franchise attached could just be a ploy to attract viewers, kind of like the way that the Air Force uses commercials that look like video games to attract recruits.
If that’s the case, this name change could mean a few different things for the Munsters remake. This could be a sign of good faith from NBC who may feel that the show can stand out on its own without being attached to a franchise name. It could also mean that they see the potential for a new franchise and don’t want it bogged down by audiences’ pre-conceived impressions of The Munsters. Or it could mean the opposite—that the show is too weird and the network wants to save the Munsters brand name for future use.
As a sci-fi fanatic, nothing gets me more psyched than a good robot. People have an endless fascination with the human-like machine. It’s so awesome watching them scoot around on their little treads! Of course, not all T.V. robots are cute and cuddly—some are so human they make us question our own humanity, while others strike terror in the hearts of Time Lords. Here are some of my favorite television robots for your reading pleasure.
Rosey the Robot Maid
Apparently, in the future, we can dispense with that pesky paying-a-fair-wage-for-an-honest-day’s-work thing. No smoke breaks. No lunch. Just a sweet robot named Rosey to take your coat, discipline your children, and give you advice about being a good Spacely Sprockets employee.
Vicki the Small Wonder
V.I.C.I., or Voice Input Child Identicant, is the robot daughter of Ted Lawson, a robotics engineer who’s attempt at building a domestic servant backfired when his creation turned out to be a super-intelligent, self-improving “real” girl. Along with his family, Ted creepily decides to pretend Vicki is their actual human daughter. Never mind that Vicki was the object of many a real young boy’s affections (or because of it) the writers decided the family would keep Vicki in their 12-year-old son’s bedroom cabinet. Somehow this didn’t bother the censors.
Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander Data: Technically an Android
I won’t lie: Data is my favorite mechanical creature on television, hands down. Created by Dr. Noonien Soong on the planet Omichron Theta, Data is a sentient android serving as Chief Operations Officer on the Starship Enterprise. Data is thoroughly loveable as he strives for his own humanity—struggling nobly to understand humor and human emotion, learning to whistle, satisfying a woman, and, in the season 2 episode “Measure of a Man,” proving his autonomy and civil rights under Starfleet law. Emotion chip or no emotion chip, the Data-Geordi bromance never stops.
Gypsy, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot
Joel Hodgson’s wacky robot friends man-up to do battle with the worst movies ever made in the beloved Mystery Science Theater 3000. No peanut gallery is complete without their shadowy little heads. Gypsy is just in here because I felt bad leaving her out. Cambot, well, we hardly knew ye.
Dr. Who’s Cybermen
Technically cyborgs, this race of mechanical men use spinning metal torture chairs to transform human beings (and other humanoid aliens, of which there are inexplicably many in the Dr. Who canon) into more of themselves. It’s kind of like the Borg if the Borg were completely incased in metal and had funny little rectangle mouths.
Battlestar Gallactica (the college years) hit a home run with their totally human-like Cylons (Cybernetic Lifeform Node). Unlike other robotic incarnations on television, the Cylons have emotions, they bleed, they plot… they do all the messed up bologna humans do. You know you’ve come a long way when you don’t even need albino makeup for your robot actors. Also, Battlestar Gallactica seems to understand something fundamental about my people: N.L.L.L. (nerds love Lucy Lawless).
My dad’s birthday is coming up next week, and he’s the best dad a girl could ask for her. In his honor, I’d like to shine a spotlight on some of the most awesome dads in TV history. No one’s as cool as he is, but these guys give him a run for his money.
Is it the economy? Is it the fact that TV has stuck around long enough to be considered an art? Maybe it’s the shiny new period shows and dramas that lure them in, or maybe they just need a career save. Whatever the case, movie stars are making their way to the small screen. What’s going on? Shouldn’t they be creating their own fashion line or helping the planet (or both)? Instead, they’re invading our living rooms show after show. It’s an unspoken fact. Well, now spoken. Here are just a few at the forefront:
Anjelica Huston has been a movie star to me ever since The Witches. This very specialized actress is perhaps best known for her roles in The Addams Family and The Royal Tenenbaums, but has over 70 credits to her name. Just check out her IMDB page. Now, she’s a core cast member on NBC’s new baby, Smash. Smash officially premieres on Monday, February 6, so it’s hard to say what the future of this show will be, but the first episode has been released on NBC’s web site.
Ashton is no stranger to TV; he is arguably most well known for his role as Kelso on That 70’s Show. Even so, nobody could argue that Ashton has lived anything short of the movie star lifestyle. From Dude, Where’s My Car to The Butterfly Effect, we’re used to seeing his face blown up on large billboards (most recently for No Strings Attached and New Year’s Eve). But after the Charlie Sheen Fiasco, Ashton’s back in the sitcom world with 2 and a Half Men. Of course, they still pay him a celebrity’s wage.
Oh, adorkable Zooey. In 500 Days of Summer, she was heartbreaking. In Elf, she was charmingly cynical. In The Happening, she was… there. Zooey started dabbling in TV during her time on Weeds and the SyFy mini-series Tin Man, but now she’s really in the game with New Girl. She’s the face of this show and it looks like it’s sticking around.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Other big names in the movement include Dustin Hoffman of Rain Man fame (and another hefty IMDB page with over 70 acting credits) who stars in the HBO series Luck, the young Kat Dennings of Nick and Norah and Thor as the co-lead on 2 Broke Girls, and Christina Ricci who gave it a shot on the now cancelled Pan Am.
According to Deadline Hollywood, even more big names will join the list. Hybrid theatre-film-TV actor John Lequizamo has signed a pact with ABC to star in his own single-camera comedy. The actor we’re six degrees away from might be playing a serial killer. And looks like we’ll be seeing Anne Heche again. Who knows who might swing over next?
You probably know who Judy Greer is, even if you don’t know her name. This funny gal has made a career for herself playing supporting roles such as Kitty from Arrested Development and “Fatty Magoo” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If you don’t recognize her face, you might recognize her voice as clueless secretary Cheryl on the animated comedy Archer.
Even if you don’t know Judy Greer by now, you will get to know her soon enough. Greer has her own sitcom in the works over at ABC called American Judy, in which she plays a city gal who moves to the suburbs with her new husband and his family. For those of us who have been following this talented comedic actress, it’s about time she got the recognition and starring role she deserves.
Judy Greer isn’t the only supporting TV actress to be recently promoted to a starring role. Mindy Kaling, who plays vapid customer service rep Kelly on The Office, is in talks to star in her own sitcom at Fox. We love both these funny ladies and wish them all the success in the world on their new shows.
We also can’t help but wonder which other supporting sitcom actresses deserve the chance to step into a starring role. These four actresses are poised to hit it big, if and when their chance to star in a sitcom ever comes along.
Kristen Schaal is best known for her portrayal of obsessed fan Mel on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, but the actress has also provided commentary on The Daily Show and the voice of Louise on Bob’s Burgers. Her next gig will be playing a reoccurring NBC page character on 30 Rock. Schaal has a knack for playing oddball characters, which would translate well into a single-camera comedy.
Even after eight seasons on the air, The Office is still pumping out comedy stars. Ellie Kemper joined the cast in 2005 as Erin, the happy-go-lucky but incredible naïve secretary. Since then, she’s gone to play a memorable supporting role in the hit movie Bridesmaids. Kemper plays innocent-yet-stupid with an effortlessness that almost makes you wonder how much she’s faking it.
Audiences know Aubrey Plaza as Ron Swanson’s sarcastic assistant April on Parks and Recreation. This stand-up comedian turned actress has also had memorable roles in movies like Funny People and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. We love her dry, deadpan sense of humor and would love to see this young actress rise to prominence over the next few years.
We all know who Jane Lynch is by now—her Sue Sylvester character on Glee is practically infamous at this point. She’s done it all—she played an actress turned waitress on Party Down, she made memorable cameos in a number of films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she even hosted the Emmy Awards. Lynch can only get bigger from here and it’s time prove that with a starring role.
This week saw the triumphant return of some of my favorite sketch comedians, Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, in their brand-new show on Comedy Central. I’m excited that their show has some great potential, even to non-fans. It also got me wondering: where have some of the other excellent alumni of MADtv ended up?
I didn’t know what to expect when I set my DVR to record the premiere episode of Key & Peele, the new sketch show on Comedy Central. The promos seemed funny enough and the lead actors—Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele– were vaguely familiar looking. A quick check with Wikipedia let me know where I’ve seen the duo before—both were cast members on MADtv at one point. That didn’t exactly instill me with faith.
Fortunately these two comedians have been around the block long enough to know what they’re doing and what followed was the best 30-minute sketch comedy show I’ve seen on Comedy Central since the days of Chapelle’s Show. Key and Peele are both talented comedians that are used to each other’s style and comedic timing. We haven’t had a decent comedic duo on a sketch show since Bob Odenkirk and David Cross starred in Mr. Show.
There was a pretty big elephant in the room the entire time I watched the show—that being Comedy Central’s flash-in-the-pan hit Chapelle’s Show. Much like Mind of Mencia before it, Key & Peele seems like Comedy Central’s latest attempt to fill that Dave Chapelle hole inside all of us.
In between pre-taped sketches, the duo entertains a live audience with stand-up snippets that tie into the upcoming sketches, much like Chapelle’s Show. However, the audience disappears when the sketches themselves air, unlike Chapelle’s Show and Mind of Mencia which tapes the audience’s live reactions to the pre-recorded sketches. I’m not sure which version I like better, as laugh tracks are so passé, yet shows with any sort of live elements almost demand one.
Keegan-Michael Key did also bust out an impression of rapper Lil’ Wayne, which felt a little desperate on Comedy Central’s behalf to remind you of Dave Chapelle’s impression of Lil’ John. I will give kudos to the duo for putting their own fresh spin on a Lil’ Wayne sketch instead of turning it into one long catchphrase.
The only other complaint I would have against the show was how some of the sketches ended. It felt like they had no idea how to end the sketch and a few of them went a little too far. I don’t mind when things suddenly go from zero to wacky, but it only works when it’s a natural progression of the comedy.
In news that will incapacitate my gleeful inner fangirl to the point of only being able to write in adolescent abbreviations, I am PTR (pleased to report) that ADev (Arrested Development) is AARGTH OMG!!! (apparently really going to happen oh, my God!) I feel rejuvenated, like I’ve been climbing all over an indoor geometry playground, which is a pretty specific feeling, I’ll admit, but a good one nevertheless. Continue reading