Just Not Funny

I’ve watched an awful lot of crap in the last few days. I’ve been trying out new half-hour sitcoms trying to find something fresh.

Here are some of the new shows I have tried.

Running Wilde – It’s got Will Arnett. Will Arnett is very funny. He was very funny in a supporting role in Arrested Development. He was very funny in a supporting role in 30 Rock. Here he plays the lead. Turns out his brand of funny isn’t good for the lead. He’s too kooky. Too nuts. When your part requires you to be the most ridiculous character in any given scene, it’s hard to find the pathos necessary to win the audience over.

Running Wilde, Falling Flat

When you combine that with a back story that makes you a spoiled rich kid, you end up with one of the least sympathetic lead characters in sitcom history. Will Arnett as Steven Wilde is not likeable enough to sustain a situation comedy.

Keri Russell is also in it as the female lead. I don’t think she’s done comedy before. She turns out to have reasonable timing. Keri Russell is not horrible.

Peter Serafinowicz is also in it as Wilde’s equally wealthy and equally dim next-door neighbor. It’s a thankless role based around eye-liner and a hilarious Middle-Eastern accent. It is not cutting-edge comedy.

Running Wilde is brought to you by the team behind Arrested Development. Do not be fooled. This is no Arrested Development. I wanted to like Running Wilde. I did not succeed.

Mike & Molly – This is a sitcom about fat people. Mike is fat. Molly is fat. They hook up at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Mike tries to appear casual when asking Molly out by leaning on the snack table. It collapses under his weight. I did not make that up.

It's funny because they're so fat, geddit?

Mike & Molly is appalling. It’s not that it’s not funny (it isn’t). It’s not that it’s crude (it is). It’s just so horrid and unpleasant that it’s hard to know who it’s aimed at. Do non-fat people enjoy laughing at fat people? If so should we encourage that by developing a primetime situation comedy around the concept? Alternatively, do plump people enjoy seeing their lives reflected as obese buffoons perpetually unlucky in love and life?

Melissa McCarthy plays Molly. I have seen her as a series regular in both Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who?. She was funny and engaging in both shows. In neither instance was her character’s size an issue. I think Ms McCarthy has done herself a huge disservice appearing in Mike & Molly. The show is unsure, rude and awful.

Friends - The Reunion

Better With You – I just had to go back and remind myself what this was. I watched it last night and it may well be the most forgettable 22 minutes in pilot history. It’s about three couples (there’s a new dynamic for a sitcom!).

  • Mia and Casey – They’ve been together for less than two months
  • Maddie and Ben – Maddie is Mia’s big sister. She has been with Ben for nine years
  • Vicky and Joel – Mia and Maddie’s parents. They have been married for 35 years.

Star-wise, this is some low-wattage stuff here. Mia is played by Joanna Garcia. She’s fab. She’s young, she’s spunky, she’s full of vim. She charismas everyone else off the screen. Boyfriend Casey is a full-on surfer dude which is odd as the show appears to be set in Manhattan.

Maddie and Ben are generic New York 30somethings. A little uptight, a little neurotic with a typically unfeasible apartment. It’s all so blah. Even the title of the show is blah. See if you can remember it without glancing up two paragraphs. Nah, me neither.

Shat My Dad Says

$#*! My Dad Says – It’s pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says” which tells you everything you need to know about whether or not this show is going to be amusing. It’s based on the Twitter stream @shitmydadsays, which is a list of quotes compiled by Justin based on things Justin’s dad says. That’s right. It’s a sitcom based on a Twitter stream.

I’ve been following @shitmydadsays for a few months now. It’s pretty funny. Here are some examples of the “shit” that Justin’s dad says:

I wanted to see Detroit win. I’ve been there. It’s like God took a shit on a parking lot. They deserve some good news.

and

Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.

and

Fine, let’s take a vote. Who wants fish for dinner?…Yeah, democracy ain’t so fun when it fucks you, huh?

and

I like the dog. If he can’t eat it, or fuck it, he pisses on it. I can get behind that.

I don’t know if Justin’s dad actually said any of that stuff but it’s bloody funny. Unfortunately this attempt at turning a series of 140-character, expletive-laden haikus of perfect disdain into a sitcom is a dull disaster. Part of the problem is the language. On Twitter, Justin’s dad is a poetic genius. On TV, he’s William Shatner. I love William Shatner, but he’s floundering here. This show should have been on Cable, not CBS. It should have swearing in it. It shouldn’t have any apologizing or touchy feely stuff.

The people responsible for adapting this project for TV have totally failed to grasp what makes it work as a Twitter stream. In the last few days since the show debuted, the stream has been remarkably quiet. Either Justin’s dad was too busy watching the news or, for the first time ever, he’s showing too much tact to comment.

Not funny... and a little bit racist

Outsourced – It’s about an American who is sent to India to manage a call center. He’s a fish out of water. Cultures clash. Only by looking at ourselves through others’ eyes can we really see who we are. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Don’t kid yourself. It’s shocking. I’m pretty sure it’s racist too, although it’s hard to put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s the mocking of Indian accents. It could be the jokes about Hindus thinking cows are sacred. Maybe it’s the amusing way that all Indian food gives you diarrhea. There’s so much to choose from. It’s a smorgasbord of grim.

Here’s a hilarious clip where an American expat explains that Indian food will give you the shits.

Outsourced is unrepentantly pleased with itself. It thinks it’s witty and taboo-busting. It’s actually turgid and misanthropic.

So that’s five new shows in varying shades of shite. But don’t despair. There are some good comedies on TV, just not new ones. Modern Family came back just as funny as last year. The Office may be winding down, but it’s still delivering. 30 Rock has been consistently strong and started the new season well. And the best new show of last year just started its second season. If you didn’t watch the first season of Community, you have plenty to catch up on and plenty to look forward to. Enjoy.

Add this anywhere

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13 Responses to Just Not Funny

  1. JoeSchmoe says:

    95% of everything is crap. The other 5% is gold. No exceptions.

  2. Derek Burns says:

    Mike & Molly is a hoot! I completely do not get your prejudice re this show. It is coarse and it hits the jungular of a humour which the character-likened will appreciate – and there are many! It may not appeal to the food snobs but it will attract and satisfy the open-minded who want to giggle, laugh and belly out with the show, not at the show. Indeed you need a healthy sense of humour to enjoy the show and that’s why shows are made like this – to allow us with that sense to be entertained, guilt free!

  3. I still support the theory that there have to be a dozen or so absolute disasters for any one amazing show to glisten!

    Modern Family could have been a huge flop but isn’t. Chuck could be horrific but right now it seems to be walking a fine line between success and failure. Burn Notice is great – but is it a comedy?

    Is it just ‘the suits’ making compromises that brings us such horrid shows or are we shooting ourselves in the feet by watching cheap shows such as Survivor, Amazing Race and Got Talent?

    • guiltyfeat says:

      Hey David!

      I think there’s something about setting appropriate expectations for viewership as well. Modern Family would have succeeded anywhere. It’s well-written and mainstream. Chuck struggles on Network TV because it’s quirky and aimed at a niche audience of geeks. Burn Notice does well because it’s broadcast on a channel that doesn’t expect the highest ratings. It’s entertaining and it plays to its audience.

    • Jehuda Saar says:

      Both are right. On the one hand the suits making these decisions don’t give a rat’s ass about artistic integrity, quality writing or anything like that and just look at the bottom line. Reality TV viewers help the suits along by providing ratings to cheap vapid fair. Quality TV has been moving to Premium Cable for years now and network TV channels don’t seem to think that time is running out on them, both as a result of crappy programming and the fact that they have had to rethink their business model for years now but haven’t bothered to do so. Truth is the end is near for them, unless some visionary out there is busy coming up with some bright new idea as we speak.

  4. Richard says:

    I can’t believe they waste so much money on these awful new shows and then let quality ones such as Better Off Ted , Dollhouse, Party Down , Head Case fall by the wayside so easily. I mean if they actually spent time developing a programme rather than using the scatter gun approach to picking shows people might actually stick with it.

  5. Jehuda Saar says:

    Very poor new season on American network television overall. I am not just talking about sitcoms. No original ideas, no good writing and anything that shows any hope of originality gets crushed right out of the gate (I am thinking of “Lone Star” on Fox). Either America is getting dumber by the minute or the networks have just given up. Depressing.

    • guiltyfeat says:

      I agree. Mostly everything new has been bad. I’m starting to see Nikita in a whole new light!

    • Paul Roese says:

      am right there with ya. not even sure Dexter is going to be as good as past seasons. and all the Hoo Ha over Boardwalk Empire. Gangsters Again? Jeesh!
      continued support for my proposition that the culture has run out of gas. OH! but this is so different than those other gangster pictures! Seriously! maybe if this took place in outer space but then that would be the same tired old story lines in a new locale. and what’s with this fascination with people who achieve their ends by employing violence? in the end that’s what gangsters are is people who employ violence to attain their goals. can’t wait for the trend that portrays the Waffen SS or Serbian death squads in a sympathetic light. what compelling figures they must be. since i can’t be in a death squad or the thug life the next best thing is to watch programs that show all the glamour and romance.

  6. Paul Roese says:

    guess folks should thank you for wading in the cesspool so their feet and noses aren’t bothered but Seriously! What did you expect? you are in a cesspool dude! if Alan were still with us he’d write;”I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,dragging themselves through the streets at dawn looking for Quality TV , movies, music, art, politics, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
    Wait! wasn’t that e e cummings?
    No. e e cummings said;”To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ” werd!

    • guiltyfeat says:

      I was not expecting an e e cummings quote in response to this post. Thanks for always surprising me!

      • Paul Roese says:

        just returning the favor my friend for your unflinching (well, maybe sometimes flinching) reports from the cultural wasteland. you have a higher threshold for dreck than i compadre. i still have hope to encounter a chance quality TV show, film, ect. but am not often rewarded. my default setting when it comes to most product from the “entertainment” industrial complex is to be jaundiced. like the wag who when Andrew Lloyd Webber asked why people took an almost instant dislike to him said; “It saves time.”

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