Category Archives: comedy

Flaked (s.02, 2017)

Second season of Flaked follows the Chip story after the unfortunate public meeting. He’s an outcast now, despised by everyone; his relationship with London is developing, but all the difficulties they encounter (no place to live, lack of money, etc.) threaten to ruin it to the ground. Dennis opens a wine-store, or, at least, tries to do it; he later engages into a relationship with his new neighbor, who turns out to be George’s daughter. Cooler looses his lease, and is forced to live in his car for some time, which doesn’t effect his cheery optimism all that much, and then he meets a woman. Chip eventually confesses to London his big secret: he still fails to repair what has never worked properly, but at least they get some clarity.

On the one hand, the overall development seems more or less plausible, especially the development of the relationship with London storyline; all the relapcing is shown rather authentically (although I believe things like this should be emphasized a little more clearly); the acting is fine, as well as the new characters. But Chip becomes more and more repulsive with each episode, as he appears not only a chronic liar, but also a person who can easily abuse somebody’s trust for merely a glimps of benefit. This character is donwright unpleasant, and attitude he provokes kind of spreads onto the show in general. Also, there’s an issue with the story digressing almost entirely into the relationship stuff, which makes it, basically, a melodrama, because most of it ends unnormally happy, and the thragic nature of the rest is a bit too tragic.

All in all, it’s not that bad, really, but it’s worse than (most of) the 1st season; and the troubling tendency leans towards soap, which is never good. Still, there’s a hope, albeit a decrescent one, that the next season would be better than this.

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Frasier (s.02, 1994-95)

Second season of Frasier is a rather good one. The story/environment evolves, but very, very slowly; in terms of the story, only a few events were significant enough to effect the personalities of the heroes: there was certain resolution in the relationship of Frasier with his ex-wife; Martin solved the case he’s been struggling with for many years; Daphne received an upgrade and asserted herself in the Frasier’s apartment more or less definitively; Frasier, in his turn asserted himself with the radio station more definitively by renegotiating his contract; also, the Crane brothers tried to run a restaurant and failed miserably.

Of course, there’s more to that; there are stories not as far-reaching, but interesting nonetheless, and there are some not so great ones, as well; more importantly, there’s a lot of humor, and most of it is pretty good. Stories about Daphne’s room (ep. 17), the blackout (ep. 24), the triple translation (ep. 21), the restaurant drama (ep. 8), Frasier being robbed (ep. 14), contract renegotiation (ep. 22), are all really good. The one about the restaurant business (ep. 23) I didn’t like very much – the disaster is just way too symmetrical (life usually includes amounts of chaos here and there), more like geometry than paintings, didn’t seem plausible. But other than that, the season is great – funny, entertaining, low bullshit level.

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Flaked (s.01, 2016)

Flaked is a tragicomedy about a recovering alcoholic named Chip, whose life has rapidly changed after he killed a person while drunk driving some 10 years ago, and who since then relocated to Venice, California, and gradually became a renowned member of the community by trying to help those around him. He cultivates a friendship with a guy named Dennis, who lets him live in his house, and maintains a business of making stools, though not a very successful one. When a new girl starts waitressing in his favourite restaurant, Dennis immediately fells for her, but so does Chip, and though he tries to keep away from her, the chemistry between them soon becomes indisputable. Also, the era of new technology comes to Venice in the form of large Internet companies, as well as real estate developers, which arouses resistance reaction in the community, and, because Chip has certain connections (his famous and wealthy ex-wife is in a relationship with one of the key developers), he manages to overthrow the redevelopment project, – or does he?

Up until a certain point, the show was great, even amazing. The story is simple, yet deep enough to be interesting; the characters – well-elaborated; story turns – curious and quite unexpected. The atmosphere, and well as the whole environment mutation premise, is savoury and rich with ingredients; all in all, it was pure pleasure to watch it.

But then came the finale. The last episode spoiled everything. First of all, it introduced the final story turn, which turned out to be so spectacularly trite, I felt it like a personal betrayal. If not for this ultimate-truth-that-threatens-to-ruin-everything bullshit, even hero’s selling out (which is the second bad thing about this episode) wouldn’t have been all that disenchanting, but 2 of them combined feel kind of like you’ve been eating in a nice restaurant, and every single dish was perfect, so you dig into the last one, not expecting any foul play, and suddenly it’s a piece of tofu, or something equally terrible. And the worst part: there was no need for either of those things, they weren’t exactly driven by the story, but added simply for the purposes of intensification. Sadly, that miscalculation ruined all the previous hard work.

I’m still going to see the 2nd season, though: for one thing, it’s not that large, and also I’m curious as to how would they extricate themselves from that mess.

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Frasier (s.01, 1993-94)

Frasier is one of the most successful sitcoms of the 1990s. It is a spin-off of another successful comedy that dominated american TV in the 80s – Cheers – and follows one of its characters, doctor Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammer), as he moves back to his hometown of Seattle and becomes a radio host. The story revolves around Frasier’s efforts to reconstruct his life, and reconnect with his father, a retired policeman Martin Crane (played by John Mahoney). Other primary characters of the show include Frasier’s brother doctor Niles Crane (played by David Hyde Pierce), his producer Roz Doyle (played by Peri Gilpin), and his father’s physiotherapist Daphne Moon (played by Jane Leeves).

First of all, I should make it clear that I haven’t seen Cheers, but, considering that Frasier was written by completely different bunch of people (although James Burrows, one of Cheers‘ creators is a director here), I don’t see how that might be a problem. For what it’s worth, my perception may be clearer and less prejudiced without prior influences.

So, is this show worth watching? I think it is. I didn’t detect any falsity in any of the situations, or consistent lines of relationships. The actors are all pretty great, which might have helped a lot with that, but primarily it’s because of the writing, which was of good enough quality. I can’t say it’s amazing, or anything like it, but it’s quite good in general, and there are no silly or stupid solutions, like I feared, and also the humor is very good. Not hilarious, but really funny, – great jokes were present in every episode. Another important thing: there is no sag towards melodrama whatsoever, but emotional component is not at all abandoned. I’d say, the series, at least in this 1st season, is very well-balanced.

That being said, one should keep in mind that it’s the middle of the 90s, and TV developed a great deal since then, meaning the setting, the demeanor of the characters, as well as certain fundamentals of the environment (like the radio talk show) are somewhat outdated. If you can make peace with that, I think, you’d enjoy the show quite a lot, same as me.

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Benidorm (s.04, 2010-11)

Benidorm‘s Christmas special is dedicated to, and built around the death of Mal Harvey, which was necessary because the actor playing him (Geoffrey Hutchings) did actually die. The episode explores a brief period of wealth in the lives of the Garvey family. Following season features some of the old characters, but also has a significant influx of new ones. The Garvey’s come without their older daughter, Chantelle; Mrs. Maltby comes accompanies with her daughter instead of son (she also takes the place of Kate Wheedon as a person who constantly whines about how awful this holiday is); the fatter Ramsbottom comes with a friend instead of his long-time partner; the Stewart couple is as filthy and adventurous as usual; there’s also transvestite man Les with his son; young girl Natalie with her friend; and, as usual, Mateo the bartender.

It would seem that the change of the series’ format is followed, with certain timeout) by the change of the essence, which is basically a drift from comedy towards dramedy, although considering a heavy admixture of emotional bullshit of various kinds, I would rather call it melodramedy. It becomes increasingly story-centered (with the Garveys in the core) rather than environment-centered. It also becomes less and less amusing – I don’t even want to use word ‘funny’ here, because there wasn’t a single funny joke in the whole season.

As soon as I watched the special, I realized how perfectly mediocre this whole thing is; while watching the 4th season I was looking searchingly for any reasons to keep on doing that in the future as well, – alas, I didn’t find any. There is no hope it would ever evolve into something better; that is, there is some development, of course, but the direction of it leaves pretty much no chance of growth. Which is why I’m not going to torture myself any further.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (s.03, 2017)

In the 3rd season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy decides to go to college, and actually gets into Columbia; she almost becomes a crossing guard, and acquires the closest thing to a boyfriend; Titus comes back from the cruise, breaks up with Mickey only to realize eventually that it was a mistake, records a hit song about things that are of no interest to him, and almost becomes a Sesame Street cast member; Jacquelin marries Russ Snyder, but looses him to fame and vanity, manages to change the name of the football team to an even more offensive one (but for a different group of people), and eventually finds a  path of her own; and Lilian meets a wealthy guy, whom he fights at first, but then falls in love with.

The spirit and essence of Kimmy is exactly as they were from the very beginning: the show is incredibly inventive and rich with jokes, gags, situations, characters, background humor. It’s funny and exciting, it’s interesting and absurd and provocative and satirical, and it’s implemented on an amazing level of sophistication and mastery. I enjoyed it immensely, but couldn’t help but feel like it’s a bit overwhelming – by the end of the season I became a little tired of the perpetual torrent of everything, and some things even started to irritate me, – which is not the problem of the show’s quality, not at all, but maybe it would’ve been best to reduce the number of episodes to, say, 10. Because I remember feeling the same way after watching the 2nd season as well.

All in all, though, every episode of the show is undoubtedly a masterpiece of comedy, and a wonderful journey. I’m not sure, if such comparison is consistent, but still: against comedies like Benidorm, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt feels like Albert Einstein against a school teacher of physics. Goes highly recommended.

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Benidorm (s.03, 2009)

In its 3rd season Benidorm changed its format – each episode is now ~45 minutes long instead of ~22. As for the story, it is continued in an expected way: free vacation vouchers awarded to the guests after the unfortunate hostage situation are cashed out by almost all of them, so pretty much the whole gang is assembled. Martin, though, comes without Kate, and brings a “friend” instead, one who would cause a major trouble further ahead. Garveys, Ramsbottoms, Stewarts, all doing their usual thing; Mateo remains in his place as the hotel employee; and Geoff Maltby comes to leaving his mother closer than ever after something sparkles between him and Chantelle.

Seems like the change of format wasn’t just a technicality, but rather signified the process of reframing the whole thing, even though the list of characters barely changed – judging from what info is available on wiki, next season would bring a larger renewal of the cast. As for the quality, I felt like the narration became more confident, like Litten stopped simply fooling around and provided himself with a development plan. At that, the humor remained as it was: the show is more amusing than it is funny, which is totally fine, because the author is simply being subtle, and doesn’t really try to force audience into laughter.

Whatever sentimental bullshit was present in the previous season’s finale, is now evenly distributed across all of the 6 episodes, which makes it tolerable. Also, in this season trips outside of the Solana territory became much more common, which is probably one of the reasons it seems more diverse and therefore more interesting.

All in all, the growth is quite obvious, and I hope the tendency to it will remain future seasons’ hallmark as well.

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Mom (s.04, 2016-17)

Mom‘s 4th season is about the same things as previous ones: the Plunkett family and their friends and acquaintances going through another year of their lives. Christy studies to become a lawyer. Bonny manages the new relationship. Jill comes up with a wish to have a baby and ends up being a foster-mother. Others have some insignificant stuff going on as well.

I watched this season only because the mixture of immiscible substances that constitutes the essence of this show seemed curious to me. Nowhere else have I seen attempts to show absolutely non-funny things, like death, rape, or relapsing, in a comical way; it’s an interesting experiment, really. Unfortunately, this season brings me to conclusion that it doesn’t work. This particular experiment doesn’t work, that is, and not just because the task seems unyielding for the writing crew (which it is), but mostly because even those pieces that have no reason not to be funny are written on a level that is mediocre at best.

I was a little bored during this viewing, so I counted every joke that seemed more than amusing to me; turns out, there were 3 such jokes per episode at best, and most of the episodes had less, and some of them had none at all. That is terrible statistics. I’m not sure why people keep watching this, except, maybe, because it deals with stuff a lot of people care about, you know, drug dependency and all that. For me it’s not enough, so I’m giving this up. The show’s just not worth the time.

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Benidorm (s.02 + The Special, 2008-09)

Second season of Benidorm is about the same exactly thing as the 1st one: british people taking their vacation in an all-inclusive Benidorm hotel. Faces are pretty much all the same; the stories are different. This time the Garvey family is brought by a Madge’s boyfriend, who almost dies several times over the course of the holiday. Geoff Maltby ones again comes with his mother. The Wheedon couple tries to book a different hotel, but ends up in the hated resort anyway. Then there’s the gays, sexually adventurous elderly couple, several new characters, and, of course, Mateo.

The fact that all those people happened to stay in the same hotel at the same time – again – is a big stretch, but that would’ve been completely insignificant if not for the lack of novelty in humor. Separate stories may be more or less interesting, but none of them is actually funny – amusing at best. Unlike in season 1, there is a story arc here (with the Madge’s relationship and eventual marriage) – although, it doesn’t make the season interesting, it still creates some comfortable steadiness.

Some of the stories are particularly curious, including the one with the bull-fight, the one with the arm wrestling competition, and, I suppose, the one with the marriage. The special, that continues the cliffhanger of the final episode, resolves the story, but seems to me overly pretentious and not funny enough.

The acting is fine, but I would like to single out Siobhan Finneran, who was pretty great this time.

All in all, this comedy is not exactly terrible, but also far from great. It seems worse than the 1st season (maybe because of the increased running time), and I can only hope it will get better in later ones.

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Modern Family (s.8, 2016-17)

Eight season of Modern Family follows Pritchett-Dunphy family into yet another year of their lives. As usual, nothing big happens. Alex studies at college, taking time for the family once and again, and starts dating. Haley goes into her own business – sort of. Claire continues to run Jay’s company. Phil and Jay buy a land plot together and build a parking lot there. Gloria keeps on being Gloria. Cameron and Mitchell keep on being Cameron and Mitchell. Lily turns out to be smart, fun, and popular. Manny and Luke graduate high-school.

Very little has actually changed – including the general quality level. The show is fun, interesting, funny, and implemented in the most sublime manner. Overall story development is good: there is nothing fake or implausible (but also nothing genius). Separate stories are pretty great – well, some of them, others are just good. The acting is as nice as expected. When it comes to the main cast, or to the writing, there are no surprises, which is good on the one hand, but on the other – not so much. This is preservation, but it feels like a hint at decline.

Over the course of the season multiple guest stars were cast, most interesting being Nathan Fillon, Vanessa Bayer, Kelsey Grammer, Andrew Daly and Jane Krakowski. They added some poignancy to the show, made it fresher and brighter.

Although, Modern Family is still pretty amazing (which is a great achievement for a show running 8 years in a row), and nothing important was lost along the way, I feel like continuing it even further would be a mistake. I hope, I’m wrong about this, though. For now it’s a great entertainment, and a decent contribution to the art of cinema.

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Benidorm (s.01, 2007)

Benidorm is a British comedy about a Spanish resort. It is comprised of storylines that follow various groups of British tourists who came for an all-inclusive vacation: a family of 5 whose grandma loves smoking and sun-bathing more than anything else (washing included), and whose daughter is pregnant in her 16; a couple of gay guys; a family of two going through a hard time; a pub-quiz champion of England with his mother; sexually adventurous elderly couple, etc.

The idea is a good one, a fortunate guess, – a highly volatile environment of an all-inclusive hotel-resort is filled with opportunities, which is a great source of life for a comedy. (I suppose, the fact that the show has recently finished its 9th season, is the proof of this source’s richness.) There is a lot of funny in the show, and I love how the intersections of the stories are done. The acting is good enough – for a British comedy, that is. My overall impression: nice and cute and enjoyable, albeit small-scale. The show has a lot of potential, and so far there is nothing rotten in it.

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Will & Grace (s.08, 2005-06)

Eighth and final season of Will & Grace last approximately as long as Grace’s pregnancy, except the final episode. Will almost falls in love with a psychopath, and eventually ends up with Vince. Karen drops Alec Baldwin’s character after having some fun and reunites with her ex-late husband, only to divorce him in a few weeks, and soon after that she gets broke. Jack leaves his channel and his show, and goes back to acting, and suddenly becomes a decent, sought-after, actor, and then gets rich through a gay marriage (or something like that). Grace gets knocked up by her ex, Leo, and also eventually ends up back with him. Rosario keeps popping here and there, even though there is absolutely no reason for that most of the time.

So, the showrunner for this season did a lot of effort to entertain: they did not one but two live episdoes (e. 1 and e. 11); at least one episode is brilliant (it’s #15, in case you’re wondering); and they casted Britney Spears, as well as Hall & Oats, George Takei, Josh Lucas, Lily Tomlin, Wanda Sykes, – which is sort of cool. But there are less guest stars than before, way less, and somehow, even combined with whatever great jokes are scattered across the seasons (and there are some good ones), it does not top the emptiness of mediocrity that surrounds everything. My overall impression, unfortunately, is not favourable: the season is weak, contaminated with sentimentality and aa (Stanley’s revival alone is worth 100 points.)

That being said, it should also be mentioned that the show is still quite funny, and sometimes – abundantly so.

But still. Things happen to people in the story for pretty much no reason but the writers need to lead it to a certain point. Britney Spears was awfully poseur. During live episodes the cast broke characters way too often to consider it cute.

All in all, even with the grand finale and the 15th episode accounted for, things might have been much better.

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Grace and Frankie (s.03, 2017)

Third season of Grace and Frankie has a lot of notable stories, the largest of which are the one with the title heroes pursuing business opportunity, and the one with the ex-husbands and community theater.

As before, it’s just beautiful. This is one of the most delicate and tender shows on modern TV, and consistently so, from beginning and up to the finale of the 3d season, it is uniformly delicious. I don’t think, there’s any point in going into the specifics of the story, it feels like too solid of a thing to intrude into, but I want to let everybody know that there was no change in quality, or the essense, whatsoever. The development of the story is logical and natural; the acting is impecable; the humor is subtle; the environment is airy.

Like any really good show, this one is quite unique, and furthermore, – perfect in its uniqueness. A truly wonderful thing.

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Will & Grace (s.07, 2004-05)

In 7th season of Will & Grace Jack becomes a TV executive and later TV personality, and makes a genuine attempt at being a good friend; Will makes partner, lives through a relatively lasting relationship, quits his job, then becomes lawyer again; Grace transitions from her marriage into a new, sinfully delicious, affair with an ex-flame; Karen almost looses her company, almost becomes a designer, almost feels something towards her stepdaughter.

Kohan and Mutchnick, creators of the show, have not written anything for this season, they are listed as consultants in the credits. This abandonment did not go without consequences, specifically it affected the quality of humor, as well as the story. Unfortunately, alongside wonderful gags and scenes there were also rather strained ones; the best term here would be degradation – although it only has started and didn’t have a chance to develop in full, the direction where the things are going doesn’t give a lot of causes for optimism.

As for the story, it seems to be loosing its psychological edge. On the one hand, when Will’s relationship with Vince was still active, it wasn’t present in the story enough; with Leo we have a more or less decent explanation of his absence, but with Vince we don’t, and it doesn’t feel right. Then, at some point the friendship between Will and Grace stopped being toxic – for no reason at all, I might add; there was a quarrel early in the season, but nothing after that, which is unnatural, because none of the main characters has changed very much, so why would the essence of their relationship would? All in all, I think the problem is that events are more driven by authors’ arbitrariness than their natural development. This is not to mention an extremely weird finale, and not in a good way weird, more like contrived coincidence weird.

It is still a good show, not least because there was a number of notable guest stars (although, subjectively feels like there were less of them this time): Alec Baldwin, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Lopez, Debbie Reynolds, Janet Jackson, Patti LuPone, Will Arnett, Stephen Tobolowsky, Alan Arkin, and Sharon Stone. But guests alone won’t make much of a difference, especially if they have to act some bullshit, like Baldwin in the last one or two episodes.

In general: I’m displeased. I see clear signs of decay, – exactly the same thing happened to Dream On when Kauffman and Crane abandoned it. That show too lived for like 2 season after that, and it didn’t end well at all. Soon I’ll know if this is the case.

Names and figures

Flowers (s.01, 2016)

Flowers is the last name of the family whose personalities, adventures and transformations compose this show’s narrative. For lack of a better term it is usually defined as comedy, but what kind of comedy is it? It’s like Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson did a movie together. It’s remarkable and funny, but not exactly laughable.

This is basically a portrait of one family and some people adjacent to it. There is a lot of sadness in this story, but it is sometimes interrupted with surprisingly funny scenes, and considering that the characters are all deeply elaborated, perfectly realistic, and original at the same time, and relationships between them are sometimes curious, but always plausible, it all sums up to nearly perfect work of art. The atmosphere of that world makes it seem like it’s a fairy tale, but with real-life people in it. One of the first things I thought about the Flowers was that it’s like Adams family, but without any supernatural stuff.

This is an outstanding work, and it all was created by that guy who plays the role of a weird Japanese artist in it, – just in case you’re wondering. His name is Will Sharpe. You better remember it, ’cause his wikipedia page is going to append a lot of loud and prominent lines over the future years. Provided, of course, that he won’t be killed by a meteor or something.

So, my overall impression of the show is that it is delightful and delicious, and I wish they’d make more of it. But no information on that so far. On the other hand, I won’t be against the idea of watching this first season all over again. Yes, – it’s that good.

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Will & Grace (s.06, 2003-04)

6th season of Will & Grace is notable mostly because it’s the season, when Debra Messing got pregnant, but Grace didn’t, so the writers had to dance around that, which they did quite skilfully (except the ending). Grace’s marriage to Leo goes through a couple of curious things, and by the end of this season comes to a logical conclusion, which is fine because it seemed like a temporary thing from the very beginning. Jack almost gives up acting, and almost becomes a nurse. Karen meets another guy and marries him only to regret it immediately. Will lives with his mother for a short time, and also gets into business with Grace.

Disregarding all the chaos caused by Debra Messing’s personal life, the season is pretty much business as usual. It’s funny, it’s rather inventive, it’s full of prominent guest stars. The only thing I don’t like about it is that Will doesn’t have a steady, continious storyline, like Grace has with Leo, or Karen with Fenster, instead his presense is comprised of isolated stories of different sizes. But other than that, it’s pretty great. James Earl Jones was one of the funnies guest stars on the show; other appearances include Bobby Cannavale, Minnie Driver, Jennifer Lopez, John Cleese, Debbie Reynolds (less than before), Barry Manilow, Bebe Neuwirth, Mira Sorvino, Jack Black, Edie Falco, and Chloë Sevigny.

Impregnable until now fortress of Will & Grace wavered a little bit, but it happened due to objective circumstances, and the writers almost completely indemnified the losses by providing quality damage control. The spirit of the show remains where it was, and I don’t see any reason why the next season should be any worse than this one.

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Will & Grace (s.05, 2002-03)

In 5th season of Will & Grace the named heroes try to proceed with artificial insemination thing, but quickly abandon the idea because Grace meets a guy she later gets married to. Most of the season is dedicated to the curiosities surrounding this new arrangement. Karen’s husband gets out of jail and later dies before he can divorce her. Will and Jack take on a project of introducing a freshly came out guy to the world of gayness.

In terms of the general story development, there have been some quality moves, mostly have to do with Grace’s sudden change of position, and Will freaking out about it. And when the drama is framing the comedy, it usually becomes deeper and more interesting, sometimes even funnier – by contrast. Comedy remains on pretty much the same level, which is quite high: this season can brag with some great stories, including one with Kevin Bacon, gay mafia (represented by Elton John), and death of the absent character (Karen’s husband). And, as it apparently became a tradition, there were a lot of prominent guest, including Minnie Driver, Katie Couric (although, her I don’t really know, but she’s a big deal apparently), Gene Wilder, Rosanna Arquette, aforementioned Elton John, Madonna, Macalulay Culkin, Demi Moore, and even Seth MacFarlane as the voice of the toaster.

All in all, the season is just as successful as every previous one. Which is a little weird, if you think about it, because I don’t know any other comedy that preserved its quality on more or less the same level for 5 seasons straight. I wonder if they kept the pace.

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Newsreaders (s.01&2*, 2013-15)

Newsreaders is a sketch comedy show from the creators of Childrens Hospital. Naturally, it’s about a newsmaking crew, and the format is news reporting, mostly about something completely absurd. If comedy was a scale, I’d put N. somewhere between Childrens Hospital, 30 Rock, and Review.

I managed to find whole 1st season, but only 4 episodes of the 2nd (out of 14), which is why I’m not doing a separate post about it. From what I can tell, the quality level is pretty much the same in both seasons. The thing is, though, it’s uneven, meaning out of 10 episodes of season 1 three were brilliant, and the rest were just okay. I suppose, 2nd season may contain brilliant episodes, too, but those 4 I’ve seen were simply fine.

The best episodes are the one about gay camp (ingenious and quite subtle), the one about Ben Hayflack the ordinary kid, and the one about MedX. But the main thing that concerns me is not that others are worse or closer to ordinary, but the fact that there is no narrative here, it’s a 100% reset comedy, and that’s … well, bad. It makes me think that the creators were not skilled enough, or not confident enough, to apply a consistent narrative to the concept. Which is pretty great, by the way, but insufficient on its own.

Additions, most notable of which is thanks to Ray Wise, are all good, but they don’t make much of a difference either.

All in all, I feel like the show, while quite funny, is not good enough to waste time looking for the remaining episodes. I’ve seen all I need, I get the drill.

But it was entertaining.

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.04, 2001-02)

Will & Grace’s 4th season is a bit lop-sided. The main storyline continues exploration of the disfunctional marriage-friendship relationship between Will and Grace, and by the end of the season comes to a rather natural conclusion of surrogacy, which is at the same time is a whole new endevour and gives way to a lot of comic opportunities.

Nearly whole first half of the season makes it seem like the authors stopped trying to do their best, and were hoping to get by on whatever bag of tricks they managed to accumulate earlier. Look, Karen is an alcoholic! Look, Jack is once again failing at everything he does! It was dull, and more forced than funny, so it seems to be the first drop in quality so far.

Thankfully, somewhere in the middle of the seasons things started looking up. During the second half there was a number of significant and funny guests, including Maggie Wheeler (although, her part was more like a cameo sized), Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Nick Offerman (he was dating Megan Mullally at that time, and some time later they got married), Sandra Bernhard, and, of course, Cher, who was given a somewhat larger part this time. These appearances, along with curious, inventive stories, and steadily improving quality of humor, pretty much made up for the dullness of the 1st half.

Also, I think, it’s nice that the distribution of forces started to shift; the core situation is developing once again. By now it is clear that neither Grace, nor Will can manage a long-standing emotional relationship with anybody, because the gravity of Will-Grace relationship is too strong for it to happen, ever. The way out of the dead end: you can’t escape the situation, and you don’t really want to, so you embrace it, and you try to make the best of it. We’ll see how it goes.

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Will & Grace (s.03, 2000-01)

Third season of Will & Grace exceeds in quality both previous ones – it is implemented in the same familiar style, which makes it very cosy; it has even more of brilliant stories than before, and the general level of writing keeps rising steadily; the cast is totally mindblowing, and includes Cher, Sandra Bernhard, Martina Navratilova, as well as Jeremy Pivenn, Ken Marino, Ellen DeGeneres, and, of course, Woody Harrelson – all bright, amazingly gifted personalities, and so many of them. The season is very funny, very high-energy, very enthusiastic, not agressive at all, nothing unkind in there, – the show is pretty much as comfortable as Friends, it actually feels like Friends‘ distant relative. All in all, a great show, 3d season in a row it only gets better and better.

Names and figures

Review (s.03)

Third and final season of Review is very short – only 3 episodes, about an hour of running time. Forrest and his producer Grant miraculously survived the fall, and now they are back with more reviews. But everything comes to an end rather quickly. In a very funny and very bitter way.

I think the whole series is awesome, and this extremely wierd closing season, while a little harsher than previous ones, fits perfectly with the narrative stream, and gives the story a strong conclusion.

It was a great show, one of the most original formats I’ve ever seen, but it was never meant to last; the fact that the team managed to make this comeback for a decent wrap-up is astonishing, I want to thank them very much for it. I enjoyed every second of this work. I honestly think Review with Forrest MacNeil is one of the best comedy shows there are, and you know, the competition is fierce. I wish mr. Daly and mr. Blitz, and all the others, that they succeed even more in the future, so that I can enjoy more of their work. But either way, this show alone has enough impact potential to influence generations of filmmakers.

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.02, 1999-2000)

Second season of Will & Grace shows definite steady improvement. There was a whole bunch of stories, the biggest of which was about Will’s loosing a job and then finding a new one, but really even that one wasn’t the determinative – it’s more like feudal disunity than a monarchy of any kind.

Basically, the show preserved all its virtues from before, and then added a couple of good characters and wrote a number of great stories. Jack and Karen gradually became much brighter than the title couple. Because the basis for their brightness is their general inclination to extreme manifestations in everything, their purpose in this structure is to provide some sort of a baseline to compare the level of insanity against, to emphasize the mildness of Will’s and Grace’s eccentricity, so that they would seem relatively normal (although vivid, original behaviour is not really normal, alas). This approach obviously works well.

There is a lot of funny, and nothing is in bad taste. Stan, Karen’s husband started to exist not only in references, but as an absent character now, which is interesting. The best episode of the season is #7, where Jack comes out to his mother. The character of Ben (Gregory Hines) is multi-faceted, deep, and interesting, which is a little surprising (because it seemed like he would go away just as quickly as dosens of other guests before and after him), but nice. Neal Patrick Harris appeared in one episode. Although it seemed in the beginning that the writers are overusing certain types of jokes, later they mended their ways – all in all the writing becomes more and more subtle over the course of the season.

So, in short, – so far so good.

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.01, 1998-99)

Will & Grace is a sitcom about the relationship of 2 friends, one of whom is a gay man, and another is a straight woman. This show is one of the gems from the era of comedy revival, i.e. the 1990s; it lasted for 8 season, and was not only loved by the audience, but praised by the critics as well. The story for the first season is about the introduction of the said relationship, examination of it from various sides, – but it is also about establishing the axis of the narrative, as well as engaging of 2 other main characters.

So, most importantly, – the show is quite funny. It is relatively well-written, and implemented on a high professional level. It’s not without certain drawbacks, but most of them are characteristic to the genre and not specifically to the series, so they can be tolerated rather easily. All 4 main heroes are bright and imperfect personalities, which makes it interesting: because of the imperfection they can be related to, and the brightness makes them attractive.

Because the number of primary characters is pretty low, it becomes quite apparent that there can be characters not personified; in this particular case, it’s the connection between Will and Grace, their long-term relationship, and significant thing about it is that while it enriches lives of both participants (in general), it also cuts down certain possibilities for both of them; in other words, it impacts their lives not only positively, but negatively too. The realization of this fact becomes a conclusion to the 1st season; this is how the inherent conflict of the relationship comes to the surface, which process is shown in a manner comprehensive yet light.

All in all, the show produces a good impression: the gay aspect is portayed is a more or less realistic way (but without any elevated drama); Debra Messing’s character is extremely alluring; and Megan Mullally’s character is quite original. Combination of all the spare parts forms a mechanism that simply works. I wounder what the development would be.

Names and figures

M*A*S*H (s.01, 1972-73)

M*A*S*H is a comedy show based on the 1970 Robert Altman movie and featuring all of its crucial characters. As was in the film, there is a meducal unit known under the code name of MASH4077 located somewhere in Korea during the Korean war. And, as was in the film, the center of the narrative is occupied by a couple of wayward doctors who only get away with all their escapades because they are the best damn surgeons to ever walk the earth.

I got what pretty much was to be expected from a comedy made for TV in the 1970s: it’s a shallow reset comedy with commonplace and/or far-fetched stories that is not as bad as it is boring. It didn’t seem funny to me at all – well, except for 1 or 2 scenes, maybe, which is nothing for whole 10 hours of action. By the way, it made me think that often used definition of good comedy as simply funny is not just imperfect – it’s wrong. Because I’m pretty sure it was funny to people, back in the 70s that is, and probably seemed like a quality comedy, too, but from where I’m sitting, here in 2017, it’s too strained and too poorly implemented to be considered interesting.

All that I understood while I was watching The Pilot, and the rest of the episodes only confirmed in my first impression, because all of them were on pretty much the same level. Most of the time I was thinking about how insincere the major part of the story is, and how much better was the movie. These 24 episodes corroded my memories of the movie, though, so I decided not to keep going. It’s extremely unlikely anything would later have changed anyways.

Also, it felt like an eternity.

Names and figures

MASH (Robert Altman, 1970)

MASH is an anti-war comedy about an american hospital unit during the Korean war. It is mostly about the setting (everyday life of medical military personnel), but also follows the path of 2 talanted surgeons who were drafted to the army not exactly of their own accord. The film inspired a comedy show of the same name that lasted for a decade or so.

The story is consistent enough. The comedy is not really absurd – well, it is, but only to a certain extent as it depicts the army routine close to reality, but without exaggerating it too much. The jokes are not emphasized, so they can easily go unnoticed, or be perceived as actual circumstances, which means that this film requires an attentive mind to be fully appreciated. But it’s worth the effort – it’s actually pretty funny, even though from a completely different world.

The acting is very good. The overall implementation is fine, but didn’t care much for the visual stylistics: there were too few close-ups and too many general views. All in all, though, it is an enjoyable movie, quite worth the time.

Names and figures

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