Category Archives: sitcom

The Exes (s.04, 2014-15)

The last season of The Exes, that was finished prematurely, features a bunch of different stories, none of them very large. After Haskell blurbs out the words of love, he goes on a date with Nicki, and everything goes pretty fine, but the she sleeps with a random dude, and such is the way a story gets killed. Later Haskell and Nicki behave normally around each other, as if nothing ever happened. Later still Haskell comes up with a startup called Pee Harmony, and Nicky becomes the sole investor; the startup gets sold for a lot of money, – Nicki goes travelling, and Haskell enjoys wealth for a brief period before he looses everything. Holly finds out that she forgot about a pre-booked venue she wanted to get married in, and, instead of taking her advance back, she decides to get married in 6 month. She desperately goes through all the men she knows, and a bunch of them she meets for one time only. Near the end of the designated period she starts dating a congressman, and he even goes forward with her wedding plan, but then she gets taken aback with his overwhelming schedule, and calls everything off. Instead of looking for another guy, she decides to marry herself – an idea everybody around her consider weird, but eventually buy into it nonetheless. She gets through with it, and after that settles for friendship. Eden decides she wants more from life and goes to a law school. Stuarts discovers that he is in fact a terrible cook, but, in pursue of his dream, sells his dental practice and buys a restaurant, in which Holly becomes his partner. However, he gives up the idea of being also a chef, and settle for just management. Phil continues to be a successful sports agent, and as such gets invited to play a part of an agent in a movie opposite a big star – naturally enough, they start dating, but later Phil decides that such a life is not for him. Nicki (who is much less present in this season) comes back from her travels and brings a French girlfriend, which, however, does not last very long. The season’s ending is dedicated to Haskell, who finds out that his ex-wife is re-marrying, realizes that he still has feelings for her, and wins her over in the finale.

Perhaps, the weakest season of the show. The stories gradually become less and less plausible; the humor becomes more and more questionable; and the writing in general acquires absolutely unnecessary qualities of sentimentality and pretentiousness.

The utterly odd idea about marrying to a self gets an entirely separate place in the list of this season’s irregularities. Even though it was sort of used with effect, the writers still failed to completely smooth out its weirdness – on top of which it is also rather ostentatious. Frankly, though, it’s only one of the many inconsistencies this season is filled with.

The execution is normal – there is nothing particularly outstanding about it, but nothing unprofessional either.

It won’t be a terrible idea to watch it, for it does have some entertaining potential, and not one of its components is all that bad; but I get why it was shut down, or, at least, one of the reasons for that decision. All in all, if you were to skip it, while watching all the others, it’s won’t be a big loss.

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The Exes (s.03, 2013-14)

In the 3rd season of The Exes, which is as long as the two previous seasons together, Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Paul because of the mistrust that appeared between them on account of Holly’s too close friendship with the guys. She goes through a number of boyfriends over the course of the season, including a very young man, who was looking to find a substitute for his mother, her old professor (in every sense of the word), and a french guy, who treated her as a hooker. She also was promoted to a senior partner in her firm. Phil was fired from his job when he made a similar request, and went on to open his own company. Him and Eden started dating each other – secretly at first, and later in the open, – but that didn’t last very long, and soon they went their separate ways, both playing the field. Stuart’s sister Nicki divorced her husband, who turned out to be gay, and became a significant part of her brother’s life: at first she just crushed at his place for a short while, later she briefly worked as his assistant, but then found her own job as a bartender, and settled nearby. Haskell became very fond of her. Also, Stuart dated a devious woman named Sabrina, and later met her twin sister, an angel in the flesh, but blew it. Eden inherited a dog that was larger than herself. Holly went into on-line dating (after the push from the guys). Haskell reconnected with his ex-wife, who got into an accident and lost her memory. Stuart got a bad Yelp review and wasted a lot of time chasing the person who left it. Everybody attends Paul’s wedding. Phil got included in the Top 10 Most Eligible Bachelor list. Stuart said goodbye to his old house. Phil slept with a nun. Holly got sick. Phil went to the funeral of his old coach. Finally, Haskell and Phil did not get vasectomy.

This season gave a feeling that the show’s writers are able to produce only this much humor, and it will be more or less evenly distributed across the season no matter how many episodes it has. Which means, that a 10-episodes season would be generally funnier than a 20-episodes one. I mean, is generally funnier.

At that the overall quality of the show remained at give or take the same level. There are still a lot of moments that would make you laugh, albeit those that would make you only smile are more numerous, and a number of those that won’t produce any sort of effect at all have also increased. But at least the characters are still good and loveable, and the same goes to the guest stars.

The stories that last for longer than one episode kind of keep the show together, and it’s nice there were a decent amount of them, but I still wish each of them would last longer. I feel like Paul was removed from the show not because it naturally followed from the evolution of the story, but for some external reason.

The presence of Nicki, the Stuart’s sister, (played by Leah Remini) was significantly increased in the latter half of the season to compensate for Kristen Johnston’s absence – it was about that time that she was diagnosed with some horrid disease and had to receive treatment for it; at that it seems like she took her commitment to the show pretty seriously – you would barely notice that she’s gone, and in a number of episodes her illness was written into the show (although not always very subtly).

My general impression is that though the quality is still very decent, it is slowly declining – maybe dissolved in a large amount of screen time, maybe for other reasons. By the end of the season the cheerful disposition of the narrative was kind of giving me a headache, which ones again makes me think that doubling the number of episodes was probably not the best idea.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.02, 2012)

The 2nd season of The Exes is built around two big things. First is Eden’s pregnancy (Kelly Stables’s actual pregnancy was written into the show) – it becomes the central story is several episodes, and significantly touches upon most of the others. Second is the return of Paul, Holly’s romantic interest, in the latter half of the season, and his turning into her boyfriend. Apart from this, the guys visit a shrink and determine that Holly is the core of most of their inter-group problems; everybody find out that Stuart has a huge dick; Holly goes on a practice date with Haskell, and gets a footgasm; Stuart tries to be friends with Chris’s buddies; Chris loses Stuarts dog Shopen; Holly wears a special bra; Chris dates a girl from the same building; Holly starts looking for a baby donor; the guys hire a house maid, about which Haskell gets especially happy; the guys score some weed and cook a special pastry; Holly’s sister Jill comes to visit; Stuarts gets hit at by a famous tennis sportsman; everybody go to Chris’s boat party, where Eden finally has her baby.

So, the second season of the show is pretty much just as ingenious and funny as the first one. Plus, a specially made into – although, frankly, it’s too straightforward to my taste.

The stories and the cross-cutting narrative lines indicate that the writers’ team has quite a lot of creative strength to produce engaging, attractive writing. The show is not only entertaining, it also has some pretty interesting, clever devices used, so it would be useful not just for those looking to unwind and relax, but also for wannabe writers specializing in comedy.

The execution is good quality – professionalism of the american television is combined here with decent crew, where each member know what he or she is doing. The acting, of course, is quite great as well; the second season features quite a lot of interesting guest stars.

All in all, so far so good. The Exes might not be the most genius comedy, but it is rather good.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.01, 2011-12)

The Exes is a sitcom about Holly, a successful divorce attorney, and three of her ex-clients – Stuart, Phil and Haskell – to whom she rented rooms in her second apartment situated just across the hall from her own flat. Each of the four is on his/her own stage of adaptation to lonesome life; over time they all become friends, who care about each others’ interests and sensitive spots. The show starts off when Holly introduces Stuart, who just went though a painful divorce, to Phil and Haskell, who have been roommates for quite a while, but haven’t formed any kind of relationship. The presence of Stuart becomes a catalyst that activates the natural process of habituation; the guys, and Holly on top of them all, are forced to learn about each other’s lives and form bonds. During the 1st season Stuart tries hard to get over his ex-wife Lorna; gets rid of his clocks collection; goes to the restaurant that is about to close down; and loses money on gambling thanks to Haskell. Phil (who is an agent and also a playa) tries to sign up a jockey; is forced to go to the dentist; and tries to date Tatiana the model, who only speaks Serbian, through Stuart. Holly accidentally hooks Stuart up with an escort; fails to get a date with a homeless guy named Bob; lands her clothes to Eden, her assistant; plans her wedding with non-existent boyfriend for her mother’s sake; gives Paul, her boss, a heart attack; dates Kevin the basketball player; ad goes to the lawyers’ gala, where he ex-fiance is supposed to be. Haskell dates a virtual girlfriend Rebecca; buys a coffin; runs a driving school; and steals all the swag.

So, to make it short, this is an alright comedy with a good share of decent jokes, almost as many empty jokes (those that are not exactly bad, but don’t work as was intended), and nearly no bad humor. I suppose, this makes it a little above the average.

The stories are good enough – there’s nothing genius about them, but they are well-written, well-devised, and pretty interesting to follow. The organizing principle of the group is relatively original, and at the same time works pretty well (which is not always the case).

As for the execution – Johnston’s manner of acting is not everybody’s piece of pie (I, for example, am okay with it, although some of her grimaces seem a bit unpleasant to me), but other than that it’s all pretty great. All the cast members are good at what they do, and it seems like the group has some chemistry between them. On the technical side of things, it seems to be implemented professionally enough.

All in all, this show is a nice entertainment – not brilliant, but fun (and funny) just the right amount. Names and figures

The Golden Girls (s.02, 1986-87)

In the 2nd season of The Golden Girls Blanche goes through menopause; briefly dates Dorothy’s ex; gets emotional about her father (Big Daddy) getting married; thinks about plastic surgery; and falls in love with a caterer. Sophia reunites with her sister Angela; and takes part in a walkathone.Dorothy gets visited by her son Michael, who briefly dates Bridget (somebody’s daughter); works in a gallery; gets fond of Frank the priest; send a story written by one of her students to a magazine, which results in his deportation; gets upset on account of her daughter separating from her husband (and then getting back together). Rose evokes passion in Jean the lesbian; publishes a personal ad; goes to hospital because of exhaustion; moves out to experience life in full, but quickly comes back; adopts a chicken; and makes a movie about her roommates. Stan loses his business and comes crying to Dorothy; and has problems with his heart. The girls get tickets to see Burt Reynolds, and get detained by the police as possible hookers; organize a campaign to protect an old tree from getting cut down; compose a song about Miami for the competition; go the a vacation and experience a ship wreck; recollect Christmas stories; each date some famous community theater actor; babysit children of the walkathone participants; help the police to catch their new neighbours, the jewelry smugglers; and recollect birthday stories.

The second season of the show is, perhaps, the most renowned one – it got multiple awards, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe for outstanding comedy series, another Emmy for Rue McClanahan (Blanche), and two more Emmys for direction and writing (two different episodes). Because of this season the series gets included in various lists of outstanding shows (the latest one was, if I’m not mistaken, in 2009).

And yet, I still don’t get it. The level of humor is more or less the same: it basically boils down to Dorothy and Sophia constantly cracking up, with an occasional story based on a classical comedy of intrigue. But the thing is: most of the references are no longer valid (although this might be because I wasn’t brough up in the US), most of the jokes are witty but not funny, and the comedy of intrigue is actually not that skillful.

And the show is soft like a blob of overcooked porridge, – what was considered poignant back in the day now seems like a child’s play. Although the stories and story twist might have been regarded as fresh and ingenious when they were first shown, now they are almost 100% predictable, which kills whatever fun was not killed by the other of the flaws.

The characters do not seem very attractive, in every meaning of the word. Most of the time I simply tolerated them.

The execution is severely outdated, – the show feels large and awkward, sort of like Dorothy.

All in all, I don’t see the point of watching it further: obviously, the show is not the kind that would evolve to anything more agreeable, and now there’s just not enough attractors.

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The Golden Girls (s.01, 1985-86)

The Golden Girls is a sitcom about four old ladies living together in a house in Miami: Blanche Devereaux, the owner of the house, her two occupants, Dorothy Zbornak and Rose Nylund, and Dorothy’s mother Sophie Petrillo, who joins the three friends in the pilot episode in the result of her senior retirement facility burning down. All are widows, except for Dorothy, who is divorced on account of her husband Stan cheating (he shows up at some point trying to get back with her). Over the course of the season various stories are explored, most of them about the friendship between the main characters, and their dating attempts, which do not come easy because of their age. The most notable developments of the 1st season include Blanche almost giving a kidney to her sister; the bowling tournament competition; the break-in; Blanche dating a younger guy; Sophia not having a heart attack; Rose driving Blanche’s old car; Rose adjusting her will and telling the truth about her husband; the tap dancing; Dorothy having a surgery on her leg; all the plumbing problems; Blanche almost marrying a rich guy; the flu episode; Rose starting to work as a waitress after losing her previous job; the garage sale episode; helping the blind girl; the fallen tree episode; and the flashback about how all they met for the first time.

The show is highly acclaimed, and is considered by many to be one of the most outstanding comedies of all times. And frankly speaking, I do not get it at all. What I saw was an ordinary old-type comedy with characters who are all so good and nice, and wise, and understanding, it quickly starts to reek of falsity. The humor is quite mediocre – there may have been two or three jokes that can be called funny, while the rest is amusing at best, but for the most part – just… I don’t know, neutral.

On the other hand, there’s nothing bad there also. Basically, the show is a product of its time, when there was not that much competition on TV, – not in comparison with today’s situation anyway. For a viewer spoilt with modern comedies that are usually packed with jokes and gags, and are rather intense, The Golden Girls would seem slow and boring. Although some types and instances of humor were probably introduces by Harris and her writing team for the first time on TV, the likes of them have been used multiples times since, and, in many cases, more successfully, in the result of which most of the stuff that was deemed novel and interesting back in the mid 1980s, is now predictable and what-else-is-new.

The execution seems typical for the comedies made before the last decade of the 20th century: it feels overly large, awkward, slow, and kind of grey-ish (even though it’s not black-and-white). The music is silly (especially the opening theme). The cast is not flashy at all, – let’s put it this way. The acting is fine, I guess, – it’s hard to appreciate it the way it was valued in their original years, because there’s too much to compare it against, and the standards have changed completely several times over.

So, anyway. I think, I’m gonna watch the 2nd season also – judging by the ratings, it ought to be the best of them, so maybe I will understand what’s so special about this show. The first season made be bored and sad.

P.S.: By the way, a later sitcom Hot in Cleveland, that also stars Betty White, appears to be, basically, a remake of The Golden Girls, for they use exactly the same arrangement of characters, only with better humor.

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The Drew Carey Show (s.09, 2004)

Ninth and final season of The Drew Carey Show revolves primarily around the relationship of Drew and Kelley. After the unfortunate attempt at wedding in the finale of the previous season Drew remains heartbroken for a while, but quickly realizes his feelings for Kelly, and the fact that they are mutual. They start dating, and over the course of the season go through the whole nine yards, including such milestones as out-of-wedlock pregnancy, several proposals, and preparations for the wedding. Other significant story drivers of the seasons were Drew’s father’s death, after he fell off the roof and then died in hospital, – it led to Drew’s mother temporarily moving in with him; and Steve abandoning Mimi and his son Gus, which led to Mimi moving in with Drew also – that is, until she started dating again, and eventually moved in with Larry. At some point the Never-Ending-Store.com went under, which forced Drew to look for employment elsewhere. Oswald hurt himself, sued some company that could’ve been held responsible, and used the settlement money to buy into the Warsaw tavern, effectively becoming a bartender and owner. Lewis went through a number of girlfriends, and ended up with Kelly’s mother after she left her husband shortly before Kelly’s wedding. In the finale Kelly gives birth. For some unknown reason the order of episodes is mixed up – the production order is different from that it was viewed in; the correct order can be found in Wikipedia, and it would be wise to re-order the episodes in accordance with that schedule.

The quality of the season is mediocre – the show has never been fascinating, and this final installment bears clear signs of near death: some members of the cast are only partially employed (such as Ryan Stiles), while others disappear pretty much completely without a good reason (such as John Carroll Lynch) – not to mention Kate, who was never even mentioned, as if she got erased from everybody’s memory; the weird mix-up with the episodes order is most likely a negligence, meaning the network stopped caring; and all in all there is a spirit of expiration and despair is floating in the air.

The humor is no better than before, but no worse also. The acting is, give or take, the same level, although the shift in the conflict arrangement (like the change in the Mimi-Drew relationship) spoils the vibe significantly.

Generally speaking, the season is okay, but nothing particularly special, and definitely nothing that makes it worth choosing this show over all the other possibilities.

As for the show on the whole, it’s a normal sitcom – you can watch it, or you can skip it, won’t make a lot of difference. There are surely some fun moments, but the same is true for lots of other comedies, some of which are much more fun, frankly speaking.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.08, 2002-03)

In its 8th season The Drew Carey Show underwent a significant rebranding, so to say. The Winford-Lauder store is no more, and, correspondingly Drew no longer works as a personnel specialist. He scrapes by between jobs for a while, during which time has to sell his car, until she lands at one of the early dotcoms, a company called NeverEndingStore.com, which is a sort of online supermarket, where he starts working as an internal expedite analyst. For a few months he has no idea what the job is about (not even what the name means), but eventually manages to refocus. Kate finds herself a husband while visiting New York, and then moves with him to Guam; she is only casted in the first couple of episodes, and is absent for the rest of the season – so much so, she never gets mentioned anymore, even when it comes to important events. In her stead a young girl named Kelly becomes a part of the gang; Kelly is a little younger than Drew, who used to babysit her back in the day (as well as his brother Steve). After a nasty divorce, she finds herself lost in life, and Drew offers her a place to stay until she could get back on her feet; she takes a job in the Warsaw tavern as a waitress. Kate’s marriage strikes Drew so bad, he decides that he should find himself a wife as well; at that, he decides to solve all the technical issues of the process (such as the venue, the invitations, the band, etc.), and only after that find a bride. That search becomes an obsession of his: he goes through several dozens of girlfriends, most of them shown in passing, and the most notable being Amy, who liked to wear squirrel costume during sex; Robin, one of Larry’s matches; Dom, a girl Drew met on the bus; Elaine, a lesbian daughter of the priest, and, finally, Lily from New Orleans, who moves to Seattle for Drew and even goes as far as the wedding. Simultaneously with the bridal search both Kelly and Drew gradually realize their feelings for each other, but never do anything about them. Oswald blows the nursing test and eventually gets employed at Drew’s company as a delivery guy. Lewis remains pretty much as he was. Steve cheats on Mimi, who throws him out of the house; it takes them a while to reconcile, but they got there in the end. Mimi (who also works at the same company Drew does) switches the heat of her anger from Drew to Traylor, the leading designer of the company, who behaves all posh and arrogant. Also, Drew almost becomes the star of the Superbowl ad, but instead becomes a meme Puking Drew; he gets an old Rolls-Roys as a gift, and almost breaks off with Lewis over it; he makes sort of friends with the bus driver; almost loses Speedy to a cancer patient; and undergoes a colonoscopy. Mr. Wich appears a few times, but stops being a major part of the cast. There were no live episodes, nor April Fools’ ones; all the episodes shown were within the main narrative line.

This is a pretty interesting season, maybe of the most notable so far. First of all, it is very commendable how the authors handled the inevitable change – instead of trying to mask it they embraced the concept of change, and overpowered the losses (such as Christa Miller’s departure) with even bigger, flashier alterations. I have to say, this works pretty well, especially considering that the replacement (Cynthia Watros as Kelly) was more than successful, and that the humor was also pretty great. The reflection of the transformed reality, in particular, all the Internet stuff, such the dotcoms and the programming, must have been rather original back in 2002, and surely seems refreshing even now – that is, if comparing the show to its coevals.

The execution is good; there was no lasting effect of the losses on the quality of the show in general. Now I’m actually looking forward to seeing how they went off – I hope it was at least as decent as was this season.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.07, 2001-02)

In the 7th season of The Drew Carey Show Drew gets released from the lunatic asylum and, after a pause, gets back to work. He gets married to Nikki, who showed up divorced, and then – to Kate, and for a short while manages to balance between these two marriages (none of which is legal due to his earlier marriage to mr. Wick), but eventually it blows in his face, and both women live him. Nikki vanishes until the end of the season, and Kate gets over the whole thing in just a few episodes, so they become friends once again. The Winford-Lauder store changes hands twice over the course of the season: its first new owner dies of a heart attack on Halloween, before he could carry into effect his plans to promote Drew; after this things start going poorly; the management hires Christine, an efficiency expert (she dates Drew for a while); and then a 20% salary cut for all employees gets implemented, which forces Drew to look for a new job. He works briefly as a security guard, and then finds a great management job, but axes his own position, and comes back to the store again, where he gets appointed co-manager together with mr. Wick. At this point the store gets bought by a British company; its owner appoints his 19-years old daughter Milan a store president, and tasks Drew with training her. Later Drew dates Milan’s mother Lindsey, who gets the taste of poor life. Then the company goes broke, with Winford-Lauder store remaining the only asset they got left, and quickly it turns into ‘everything for 69 cents’ place. In the mid-season Steve leaves Mimi because of the harm she did to Drew, and it gets her a while to win him back. Mimi also apologizes to Drew and stops harassing him so badly. Kate builds a career at the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame, where she meets famous people and gradually gets promoted, which results in spending less time with her friends; she also discovers a recording with Elvis singing Jewish songs, but ruins it. Oswald and Lewis decide to build a house in the park, and spend a better part of the season doing it; they also build a terrible battle bot, temporarily work in an airport security, and bake cookies. Oswald falls in love with a nurse named Coleen, and starts training to become a nurse himself. Lewis continues working as a janitor at DrugCo, turns out to have IQ of 162, tries out an empathy drug, eats a human liver, and finds himself a date for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Also, Drew takes a ventriloquism class, drag races with Mimi to make life less boring; rents out a room to a gay couple; records a video resume; dates a lady cop; shoots Lewis; buys a telescope; fails to get to a birthday party in Europe; almost loses his house to a pack of wild dogs; gets hit by Steve; and gets his house invaded by a bold eagle. The gang beats the mothers in court after the list of porn website users gets leaked. In the finale Nikki comes back plotting revenge. The season includes 3rd installment of the live show, and a double episode with school-time flashback sketches. Buzz beer stops being a part of the story.

In general, this season is much better than the previous one, and, perhaps, one of the funniest on the show. It has improved in terms of the story: now there seems to be consequences to people’s actions, of which the most vivid example is the separation of Steve and Mimi. Overall development of the story is somewhat uneven and wild, but without any ungrounded lacunae or unjustified twists. The humor seems to be much, much better also. And – none of the stories here are terribly stupid, which was many times a case for previous season; except, maybe, the one with the wild dogs, but thanks to better jokes it doesn’t seem so awful either.

Unfortunately, even in this reformed state the show is still no match to its competitors of the time, which is probably why it still got no rewards and no nominations. I can only imagine how frustrated Carey was about this. Still, it’s a pretty great season – comparatively, that is, – at any rate, it’s entertaining and rather uplifting, which is the most you can demand from any comedy, I suppose.

The execution is more or less on the same level as before, maybe a little better. There were plenty of guest stars and new minor characters, most of whom were pretty good and interesting.

All in all, I’m kind of glad that I’m continuing watching the show – it may be disappointing at every now and then, but for the most part is worth the time spent.

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9JKL (s.01, 2017-18)

9JKL is a sitcom about a TV actor named Josh, who was compelled to move from LA to NYC after his show ‘Blind Cop’ got cancelled and he lost nearly everything in the divorce. He moved into the flat adjacent to those of his parents (Judy and Harold), and his brother, a surgeon, and his wife. In New York Josh tries to rebuild his career, start a new personal life, while simultaneously dealing with his overbearing mother and other relatives, all of whom constantly intrude in his business. The title of the show comes from the numbers of the apartments the primary heroes live in. Other notable characters on the show include Nick the doorman and his mate teenager Ian.

This show is a perfect example of how witty does not necessarily translate into funny. In fact, while being packed with witticisms and jokes of all kinds, the series turns out incredibly unfunny – which for a comedy kind of blows. It is also not interesting at all – following the adventures of the main hero, as well as those of his loved ones is really tedious, for there is nothing original or fresh about any of the stories. And the characters themselves are pretty trivial as well, most of all Josh and his mother Judy.

The execution is typical for a sitcom, at that the show clearly aims to revive the 1990s success of the genre but fails miserably. The only couple of actors that are more or less worth mentioning are the girl who plays brother’s wife (mostly because she’s pretty; it’s Liza Lapira) and the guy who plays Nick the doorman (Matt Murray). Everybody else, including Elliott Gould, who doesn’t seem to have changed one bit since Friends came to an end, are not in any way interesting.

This show made me really sad – seems like any bad comedy seems to produce this kind of effect on me. So I’m warning you from watching this crap, unless that’s what you want to be feeling, of course.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.06, 2000-01)

The 6th season of The Drew Carey Show preserved only one through-out storyline – that of Mimi Bobeck and Steve Carey going forward with all the family things. Over the course of the season Mimi carries a child, buys a house (next to the Warsaw tavern), gives birth, and also wins Kate’s share of Buzz Beer thus becoming Drew’s business partner. The Drew + Kate storyline, although continues with Drew proposing, quickly dissipates after they figure out that there is a stone wall in their relationship, which is the children issue – Drew wanted them, and Kate didn’t. So they break up, and after a period of moderate chaos, go back to being friends. On the professional side Drew gets fired from the store in the beginning of the season and spends some time working in a school cafeteria after Mimi bombs his dream job with a bad reference. He manages to make his way back later by marrying Mr. Wick, who needs this for visa purposes – they remain married through-out the season, and go through a couple of immigration checks successfully. Later still Drew gets promoted to director of personnel, and at the end of the season gets tasked with preparing and opening a new women-only story after which he is supposed to become its manager. Mimi gets Drew’s old job, but is not satisfied with it, so she pulls a few pranks in the result of which Drew ends up in the psychiatric asylum, and she gets to manage the store. Kate finds a dream-job in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame; after their breakup with Drew she starts dating soon enough, with her first boyfriend having a bad blood incident with Drew. Drew’s uncle dies and leaves Steve some inheritance; he leaves some to Drew as well, but he blows it. Drew entertains an idea of becoming a scout master, but that fails because of his fake marriage. The gang attends a festival of beer and brings a bear there. Oswald and Lewis go to war with Santa, and milk snakes for income. Drew briefly works as a land salesman, which results in Lewis losing $8 grand. Drew gets into an accident and spends 2 weeks in a coma (at about the same time Mimi gives birth). Drew gets to name the baby; becomes legally dead, spends insurance money, and becomes bad boy Kyle. Drew hits mr. Wick. Steve temporarily gets Mimi’s job. Lewis turns out to be a bad guy. Drew and the gang get to deliver a bunch of easter promotion parcels in one day. Drew competes for being possible legal guardian of the baby with Mimi’s rich cousin. He also dates an activist, but is forced to break up with her. The season contains 2nd installment of Live show, and 4th installment of the April’s Fool’s What’s Wrong episode.

So far the season is the worst of them all. The show seems to be losing focus – the story breaks up into almost isolated pieces with the only thing stitching them together being the network of characters and the aforementioned Mimi storyline, which is not nearly enough. Even worse than that, the quality of some of the stories drops below the level of admissibility and good taste, which shifts the overall quality statistics significantly towards the negative values. The episode with the bear alone is absolutely shameful, and there is also the pair of episodes about the coma, and a great many separate scenes scattered across the season that are no better than that. Finally, the lack of adequate response from Drew on what Mimi does starts to seems really weird – she continuously raises the stakes, now hurting him for real with her pranks, yet he does nothing to repay her except for the ordinary skirmishes that are starting to get really old.

The second Live episode is slightly better than the first; apparently, some of the impromptu themes were rehearsed beforehand. The what’s-wrong episode is pretty much the same as the others, i.e. nothing really interesting.

The execution is more or less the same as before – nothing significant changed there, except, perhaps, that it becomes more and more clear that the show will probably never evolve to be really good, to grade up to its competitors of the time, such as Friends and Seinfeld, and Roseanne. Still, there are 3 more seasons to go, so not all the hope is lost yet.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.05, 1999-2000)

The 5th season of The Drew Carey Show is built around 2 major developments. The first is that Drew’s relationship with Sharon ends very soon, and then Kate realizes that she has feelings for Drew, same as he does for her. After a bit of dancing around, they commence their relationship taking it slow – the sex did not happen for a number of reason until the very end of the season. Certain hiccups notwithstanding, things go rather smooth in that storyline. The second development is that natural evolution of the relationship between Steve and Mimi leads them to getting married, after which they start trying for a baby, which concludes successfully also by the end of the season. Apart from that: Mimi gets herself a fan – mini-Mimi; Buzz Beer gets a website, which only results in busting of Lewis and Oswald for selling to minors – the gang temporarily gets sentenced to staying apart; the gang goes to their high-school reunion; Drew tries to fake a physical; gets arrested for attempted murder of Mimi; holds the voting in his house because of the pothole; becomes a star of his own promotion show alongside Isabel; Mimi reveals to be married once before – to a rock-star; Drew hosts rehearsal dinner for Steve’s wedding, after which uncle Alfred dies; Mimi gets dragged from her honeymoon; Drew tries out a trench coat; Lewis tries to date mini-Mimi; the store gets the new owners; Drew gets an assistant; the gang wins a new car in a contest after Lewis totals Oswald’s old one; Lewis starts dating Leslie; Mimi gets fired; Drew strains his penis; and hires his ex (Wendy) for an assistant; Kate almost becomes a court-recorder; Drew gets tasked with hiring a new regional manager; and gets promoted to manage the store – but only until Mimi sabotages his so that he gets denoted back to his old position; Mr. Wick briefly gets fired, but comes back rather soon; Drew almost sells the Buzz Beer; Kate gets job at catering; the gang gets temporarily allergic to alcohol; Oswald and Lewis share a son – Robert; Kate competes with Speedy for control over Drew; Drew organizes a softball team; and Kate learns that there is a club of her ex-boyfriends. The season features 3rd installation of the ‘What’s Wrong With This Episode’ format, as well as the 1st instance of ‘Drew Live’. The final episode is a farcical representation of the show’s team’s frustration at not being nominated for Emmy.

The overall level of the show remains more or less the same, i.e. medium funny. I felt that the transition to Kate being romantically interested in Drew was artificial, forced, which feeling comes from this development not being nurtured long enough. The rest, however, is quite alright – pretty much the same thing that’s been going on from the beginning, only with new turns and, sometimes, faces. The errors episode seems just as silly as before. The live episode seems a little less so, but not entirely free of silliness also – I think, it wasn’t a good idea at all to introduce on-the-spot improvisations, for it only showed that most of the cast members are not very good at it.

I can understand why Drew and his co-stars were so disappointed with not being Emmy-acknowledged, but I understand why they weren’t, too. The show, although fun and funny, was never brilliant – not once since it started there was an episode that can be deemed outstanding; season 5 continued this unfortunate tradition.

So, yes, the show keeps its ground – and on the one hand not getting worse is good, but this also means that they are not getting better, either. And considering how many episodes have already been made, I fear this might never change.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.04, 1998-99)

In the 4th season of The Drew Carey Show there was a number of notable stories. Drew restores his old band and starts doing a permanent gig in a hotel, during which time he dyes his hair blond, and has a groupy-girlfriend named Darcy, who was not aware of his day job. Soon enough Drew decided to quit the band and  focus on the career; Darcy ran away as soon as she found out. Later on he went to night school, where he met an older woman named Celia; they dated and even moved in together, but it didn’t work out because she reminded him of his mother way too much. Then the senior officers of Winford-Lauder decided to expand and buy out Drew’s neighbourhood, but promised him things they weren’t able to go through, and so Drew hit the bricks and refused to move out, and soon the investors pulled the plug on the project; as a consequence, they rented out some of the houses to the store employees, including Larry and Wick. Drew met a girl named Tracy, and so did Oswald and Lewis – all three of them dated her for a while, before going to open competition, which Lewis won. Even before Tracy Sharon the handywoman re-appeared in Drew’s life, but was dating somebody else; then she broke up with that man, and used Drew as a rebound, which soon developed into full-fledged relationship. Kate quit her job at the store and for the better part of the season was on her own, giving massages and whatnot; later she dated The Disciplinarian, a wrestler who promoted Buzz Beer, which led to a spike in the demand for the beer; later still she became Mrs. Lauder’s personal assistant, and grew to hate her job so much she quit it at the first opportunity. Oswald went into product testing and installed breast implants; he wanted to use the money earned to help out his mother, but she didn’t need it, and so he paid out his debts to friends, which they used to buy Drew a new car. Lewis got promoted at his job. Mimi and Steve fell in love with each other and started dating. Wick was caught using drugs and went into a rehab. Also in the season: Drew uncovered a conspiracy against him; got himself a home PC; tries cyber dating (on-line dating) and happens to do it with Mimi; crashes Nicky’s wedding and dances a kozatskiy dance; gets sent to China by Mimi as a prank; organizes a pajama party with models, but they didn’t show up; gives Speedy up for operation on his eyes; fires Steve; discovers an affair in his family; goes on a retail convention in Chicago; starts a con game with Mimi (bowling); and helps Oswald’s mother to open up a salon. Oswald becomes an angel of death; Kate gets hired to house sit with children, and gets a taste of real family. In the season’s finale the Dutch masters of Winford-Lauder decided to blow the building up and build a parking lot in its place, but Drew told it to everybody, and that plan failed. The season also contains a special episode with dancing flashbacks, and another ‘what’s wrong’ thing.

This is a pretty good season – I think, the 3rd one was slightly better, but only a little bit. This is an important season, too, for here starts a storyline that seems to be consistent till the end of the show – I’m talking, of course, about Mimi and Steve.

The development of the season is more or less logical and consistent, both internally and with the earlier stories. The Buzz Beer thing is slowly fading away – it was used in just one episode. Drew’s relationships were quite diverse, and rather interesting. The return of Sharon seems to me like a good thing. The overall quality of the narrative and of the humor are approximately at the level of season 3.

I didn’t like the flashback dancing episode – I generally dislike dancing in this show – but the fact that it was all concentrated in just one piece makes it easier. The episode with the errors seems just as silly as the first of its kind; I hope they will abandon this practice after this.

All in all, the show now definitely seems worthwhile – it’s funny enough, and steady in its quality and style; and the writers proved they could find interesting stories to tell

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.03, 1997-98)

In the 3rd season of The Drew Carey Show new neighbours move in into the house next to Drew’s – Janet and Greg Clemence. Their realtor named Nicki agrees to go out with Drew and becomes his girlfriend, which relationship lasts for the better part of the season, culminating in an engagement. The wedding, however, does not happen, because Nikki realizes that Drew has an influence on her that she does not care for, and on the day she meets Drew’s parents, she calls everything off. The second significant storyline of the season is the relationship between Kate and Oswald; it goes hidden from Drew for some time, and evolves naturally for the whole season straight, with the couple’s wedding being the theme of the season’s finale. This relationship makes Drew realize that he has feelings for Kate. The third major theme of the season is about Mimi first taking advantage of mr. Wick’s fear of the storm, and alter suing the store for sexual harassment, which was initially Wick’s idea, but then turned into Mimi’s personal mission. Other than that: Drew tries to lose weight with Vitabeer and ends up with himself on a billboard; forms singles union; lets Larry move into his house and regrets it the minute DEA arrests him; buys back his house from the government; throws a bankruptcy party; goes on a diet, but ends up sleep-eating; wins a batmobile; shaves a boss’s dog and raises money to replace it by going full monty; finds out that his elder brother Steve is a cross-dresser; enters the battle of the bands; volunteers in a nursing home; goes to the Bahamas with Kate; is forced to invite new investor into the Buzz beer – his new neighbour – after the tank blows up; attends a birthday party for Mrs. Lauder; mourns the demise of his fridge Betsy; models planes; accidentally takes experimental sex drugs on St. Patrick’s day; gets to rule the store; meets Sharon the handyman; hires dating consultant; allows for his cousin Christine to date his boss; gets promoted to staff the new stores of the company; and sells out his yard for a neighbour’s horse. Lewis starts dating a guinea-pig girl named Pinky. An episode with intentional errors intended as an audience contest experiment is featured for the first time.

It would seem like the show is getting better – and on many levels at that. First, there are recurrent stories that kind of hold the season together as an organic whole; there are three of them, each takes up different volume and expanse, but combined together they do produce some kind of seamlessness. Second, the writers of the show are definitely loosening up, and start experimenting with stories and with formats – the errors contest episode, albeit not the most successful idea, would be the most obvious example here, but there are quite a number of others, most much more subtle. And third – as subjective as it may seem, the humor is also getting better; plus, there is a new title sequence (the best of the three so far), and much less dancing (thank god).

Personally, I loved the Duffy Duck sequence the most – besides the overall upsurge of story quality, of course. The execution is at least the same level as it used to be, and – in certain places – perhaps better.

All in all, the extended length notwithstanding (for usually that would’ve meant the drop in quality), the show progressed quite a bit, with a clear promise to keep on progressing.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.02, 1996-97)

In the 2nd season of The Drew Carey Show Jay moves to another state pursuing a business opportunity, and leaves Kate behind. Drew composes a harsh evaluation report on Lisa, which offends her, and so Drew suggests living together to make up for it. After a week they break up. A few months later Lisa gets engaged and then elopes with her fiance. Drew goes through several dates, including Bonny, the zoning inspector, who almost shuts down the Buzz Beer; and Diane, a waitress in Las Vegas, whom Drew inadvertently got married to, and stayed like that to help her out.  Drew lays claim to a store manager position, but instead Nigel Wick, an Englishman, becomes his boss; helps his school days bully Simon, which ends up in firing the guy; keeps one of Lisa’s dogs named Speedy, who is disabled and has to walk with wheels; dresses up as Mimi for Halloween; plays the Devil for Kate’s soul; mourns the death of his music teacher, who was also his first woman; makes a marriage pact with Kate; thinks he didn’t get invited to a party; agrees for his parents to move to his house, while himself staying at Oswald and Lewis’s at first, and then at Kate’s; films some training videos for the company, but doesn’t get a promotion; gets a new car, but then loses it due a bounced check; gets scammed by a woman named Kira; fights for the sky-walk and even goes on a hunger-strike; gathers money for the operation for Speedy and pretends to be gay; almost lets Earl to take over his life; competes for a place at the board of directors, but loses; celebrates 3000 days at his cubicle, which gets renamed to Drewbicle; undertakes a trip to New York, where he meets Donald Trump. Oswald wins a boxing title, and gets courted by a man; and works as an elf together with Lewis. Mimi gets temporarily re-assigned to the basement, but then returns; becomes the snow queen on Thanksgiving parade; sells cosmetics in the network marketing scheme; and briefly runs day-care center while Faith is in the hospital. Kate dyes her hair blond; tries out female friends; gets a ferret; and dates Drew’s boss. Lewis gets a rich girlfriend and works hard to keep up with her demands; together with Oswald moves to an apartment above the Warsaw tavern; and gets hit by a car. Buzz Beer goes out of business, on account of which the friends arrange a party, but it turns out to be too successful, and so they decide to keep brewing after all. Then they have to compete with a different but similar brand (Cup beerchino); get an ice-cream truck to deliver the stuff; and come up with a number of promotion campaigns, including giving out dates with Kate.

This season is a little worse than the 1st one. It has more noise in it (i.e. jokes that are no longer readable and/or funny), there is a lot of dancing (I don’t know what were they thinking, but it looks stupid), and it generally feels much longer than a comedy should feel. The finale seems completely random: while the trip to NYC in and of itself is nice attempt, the execution is messy, unbalanced and not funny, plus there is a dance-off in the end that seems totally misplaced, as if the writers has been distressingly thinking for a long time what to do there, and that was the best they were able to come up with.

There, of course, was still a lot of funny stuff there, but it seems like less than before, which brings up a tendency I don’t like. But then again, judging by the rate it is being downloaded the show is quite popular to this day, which tells me it might get better than this.

The execution is alright – more or less. Would do for a ’90s sitcom, I guess.

So far there hasn’t been anything brilliant, – nothing that strikes deep in the heart and leaves a mark on the memory as well as on the soul. A plenty of medium-good stuff is nice, sure, but it still doesn’t sum up to anything greater than medium – which the further the more seems to be leaning towards mediocre. All in all, it’s okay, but I’m starting to doubt if it will ever live up to the expectations.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.01, 1995-96)

The Drew Carey Show is a major US sitcom comedy that ran for 9 whole seasons between 1995 and 2004. It tells about Drew Carey, assistant director of personnel in a store Louder’s, and his friends since school – Kate, Oswald and Lewis – as well as several other characters, including Jay, another school friend, Lisa, a romantic interest of Drew, Jules, Drew’s neighbour, and Mimi, Drew’s sworn enemy. In season one Drew finds a job for Kate in the cosmetics department rejecting Mimi Bobek, who also applied for it. Kate starts working at the store, and Mimi gets hired as Mr. Bell’s personal assistant so that she won’t sue the company. Soon after Drew hires Lisa to work on the displays around the store; and although they are attracted to each other from get go, they have to suppress their feelings because the company rules dictate that people from management cannot date employees; when that doesn’t work out, they date each other secretly, constantly sneaking around, which causes a good deal of frustration to both of them. Over the course of the season Mimi and Drew compete at bugging each other, pulling pranks and trying to hurt the other party in various ways. At some point Jay shows up in Drew’s life, about which Kate feels very negatively, but then takes that one step that separates hatred from love. In the finale of the season it becomes known that a Dutch company is buying the store, and a lot of people are going to be fired, so Drew goes into business with his friends, and starts making beer, including the coffee-flavoured kind, but later it turns out that everybody below management are going to stay, and Drew also manages to save his job. Otherwise: Drew fires mr. Bell’s lover; attaches a funny cartoon to the memo, and gets sued for that by one of the employees; coaches girls’ basketball team; almost dates Janet, Lewis’s sister; goes to the Rolling Stones concert; almost becomes a personal assistant for Mrs. Louder, the owner of the store; celebrates his birthday; gets introduces to a racist club by his dad; fires Earl, the crazy guy; trains Mr. Bell’s nephew to be his replacement; survives the storm and goes to the church; gets Mimi for an assistant; asks out his hairdresser Suex; has to decide between Lisa and Kate for the new opening (personal shopper department); makes a commercial for the story with animals, which works, until it backfires. Kate comes up with an idea of day spa, and mr. Bell puts one of his lovers in charge of that; becomes one of the leaders of the employees strike; sells a giant bottle of perfume for less than it costs; invites everybody to dine with her mother on her birthday; and almost breaks up with Jay. Mimi charms Drew’s father; and joins forces with Drew against mr. Bell’s nephew. Oswald goes through a number of low-qualification jobs, including working at cosmetics department of the store during the strike, post-office, and drugs testing. Lewis, who works as a janitor, almost becomes Oswald’s legal guardian.

So, this here is a not so bad comedy. Actually, it’s pretty good most of the time. I have some reservation, of course, but they are mostly related to the format itself rather than to the quality of the implementation. There are also some re-setting tendencies that irritate me a little bit – that is, most of the stories are one episode long, and so the next would start as if nothing even happened at all. Ultimately, though, it’s a minor issue.

Important here is that the humor is quite good, the characters are funny and relatable – although there could have been more Lewis and Oswald-specific stories, whereas these two characters are mostly playing supporting roles. I really loved the chemistry between Drew and Mimi – that spicy, confrontational relationship is exactly what’s needed to fetch out all the benign qualities of the show, which otherwise would’ve made it all too goody-goody. All the major characters are quite interesting and nice to follow.

The execution is pretty much what can be expected from the 1990s comedy, with occasional curious and relatively unusual (for the times at least) devices.

All in all I enjoyed the show quite a bit, and I have a feeling that in the following season it would become better – there are definitely some preconditions for such evolution.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.04, 2017-18)

In the 4th season of Black-ish the twins take part in the school play about Columbus; invent a special handshake in order to stay everybody’s favourites, but all in vain; bends the rules with homework; do a puzzle with Junior; participate in the science fair; Andre reinvents Juneteenth; looses a ball game to Junior for the first time; does charity; gets diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; fights with his sister over inheritance; and freaks out about Devonte not walking at the age of 1. Rainbow suffers from postpartum depression, and so hard at that she even kicks Ruby out of the house; invites Dre’s cousin Omar, who was recently freed from prison, to stay with them; goes back to work, but then decides she’d rather stay at home; bans internet from the house, and discovers mommy-net; goes to yoga; learns to say ‘yes’; and grieves the death of her father. Ruby gets scammed, and scams others herself; and gets competitive about twins’ attention with Mason’s grandmother. Diane falls in love with Zoey’s first college boyfriend; gets her first period; and thinks that Jack is not as funny as her. Jack gets emotional about his height; gets haunted by Devonte; gets straight As and forces Dre to get him a dog. Zoey goes to college and appears in the family house rarely. The family plays monopoly; receives Bow’s family for Easter, including white cousins; and celebrates Devonte’s first birthday. Junior gets expelled and starts going to a public school; fails his first driving test, but eventually gets better; works as an assistant to Santa-Monica, who becomes Santa-Maria after finding Jesus; looses his virginity; breaks up with Megan; falls for his new teacher, Barbara; gets accepted to both Harvard and Stanford; and graduates from school with honor. Pops celebrates his 65th birthday. Dre and Bow run into a serious trouble with their marriage and even separate for a while thinking about divorce.

The overall quality of the show remains on the same high level. Some of the episodes are quite brilliant, such as #1, with the stage musical, and on the average they are at least good. Zoey is almost never there, although for a good reason – still, I wouldn’t have minded a couple of episodes with her student life, like in the previous season.

The final part of the season is flavoured with a strong intake of drama, which is not really funny, but on the contrary – bitter and frightening. The execution is extremely fine here: the separation story is fused into the family history seamlessly, and seems to be an organic part of the narrative line, including the snapping-out-of-it in the result of Bow’s father’s death.

The humor is pretty great; the writers continue to please the audience with various interesting topics, some related to the black history of the US, while others – of more general background.

All in all, the show is amazingly consistent; I feel like its development is very much natural, and that its crew takes into account the accomplishments of their peers while staying original at the same time. Hopefully, they will continue to be this wonderful in the future as well.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.03, 2016-17)

In the 3rd season of Black-ish the family visits a Disney World with VIP pass; throws a gender-reveal party; then throws a baby shower. Andre leaves Microsoft account on Charlie; gets scared of a little girl in a lift; goes to the Home Owners Association meeting; runs from the cops; goes to therapy; decides to name the new baby Devonte; reunites with his old crew after the death of one of them; performs his jury duty; develops a campaign for golden standard of shipping; decides not to take a paternity leave; hires Richard Yongster; puts some UVO on it; learns that his mother is no saint; and creates an ultimate slide-show. Bow gets needy because of the pregnancy; deals with mixed race issue; gets internship for Zoe and ends up doing everything herself; helps Gigi with her newborn; proves that she can cook snaks too; permits everybody to swear as they please; fights for black dolls everywhere; competes for partnership at work and looses to the Holiday Hanna; receives her sister Santamonica and gets to know her better; and has baby prematurely because of her age. Bow’s brother Johan joins the family and lives with them through-out the season; he’s a self-proclaimed poet known as ‘They call me Johan’; and earns by life-coaching people, including the kids. Zoe realizes that she might not believe in god; arranges new room for the twins; goes for internship in a fashion magazine and nails it; gets busted by cops on a party; breaks up with her father; decides which college she wants to go to and chooses CalU of Liberal Arts; befriends a girl named Miriam and falls in love. Junior runs for student body president and wins; competes with his father and outpranks him; gets a white girlfriend Megan; goes to work for a pizza company Possum pizza; delivers ‘I have a dream’ speech; receives courtesies from Shelly, Zoe’s friend; trains to be a counselor; and gets high on a party by accident. Ruby declares the Purge night on Halloween; reconciles with her old-time friend, Earl’s sister Avy; takes Junior as her Spades partner; and cooks a single dinner for the whole family. The twins get career tested. Diane sees porn for the first time; and has to wear a pootato costume. Pops spends a lot of time with his daughter; and has to give up his condo money. Dre’s work crew gets reinforced with Leslie Stevens’s son Connor; Lucie also comes back due to a lawsuit outcome; everybody go through a post-election depression. Charlie turns out to be an adjunct professor at a university.

So, this season turned out to be pretty great. It has all the great qualities of the previous ones, and at the same time nothing that stands out negatively, such as 2nd season’s finale with a contrived 1970s parody. The overall development of all the characters seems to be natural, as well as the main theme of the season – Bow’s pregnancy, which was turned around in the finale to give the audience a little scare (not a new move, but quite effective nonetheless).

What I really like about modern comedies, of which Black-ish is one of the finest examples, is that children are actually growing and developing as personalities: this particular peculiarity was underlined by including tiny bits from season 1 that contrasted with the 3rd season rather distinctively.

All in all, the show keeps up with the level established in the very beginning – the quality of the story as well as that of the humor remains very high.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.10, 2018)

In 2018 Roseanne was resurrected after 20 years of sleep. Some of the later developments were rolled back (such as Dan’s death of heart attack), but the essence remained the same: Roseanne’s family is still a big, loud, poor and, in a way, insane one. Darlene and her two kids (Mark and Harris) has to move back with her parents after having failed in life. She is long separated from her husband David, who only occasionally shows up for kids’ sake. Later on Darlene has to settle for a job that aunt Crystal retired from, which is a waitress in a casino. Becky also works as a waitress; she has barely survived Mark’s death a few years ago, and now continues to struggle with nearly no hope of success of any sort. Even though she knows her age does not really allows it, she still steps into an endeavour of becoming a surrogate for money, which later fails for obvious reasons. Roseanne and Dan have lost all the gaining they ever had through-out their lives and now are poor again. In his respectable age Dan still does drywalling, which becomes harder and harder to do with illegal immigrant offering very low prices for their work. Roseanne works as a Uber driver. DJ served in the army; his wife Gina still does, and so he raises their daughter Mary by himself – of course, with the help from the big family. He wants to go back to the army, but they wouldn’t take him, and so he and Dan later decide to give the bike shop business another try. Jackie still lives alone; after Beverly gets kicked off from the elderly house, she invites her to live together. She also gets a dog. Darlene’s son Mark is a weird but strong kid, who likes to wear skirts and dresses. Harris is teen-age girl who goes through a typical phase of rejecting the authority of the adults.

The show was initially prolonged for a few more seasons, but later Roseanne Barr posted some really stupid twits (which she blamed on Ambien), and the executives cancelled it. And that’s too bad, because the result, even though depressing as fuck, turned out much more fun than I expected. Admittedly, I was pessimistic about the project from the start – for one thing, too much time has passed, and a lot has changed on television, – but they actually managed to gather almost everybody from the original cast (with appearances from many important characters), and the scripts for the show were pretty good, so in the end it all worked out just fine. Or would’ve worked out, should Roseanne be a tiny bit smarter.

Of course, this is a comedy and it’s not really depressing – only in the after-analysis, when you realize what the Connors had and managed to fuck up. But while watching the show, these thoughts do not turn up, for it is mainly concentrated on day-to-day activities, which have a lot of funny in them. Further more, Roseanne, being a Trump supporter, messes with the stereotype for that political stratum offering a picture more complex than an average individual would want to imagine. The show embraces the new times with heart open to possibilities and understanding, albeit tensed because of the characters’ poverty and insecurity arising from it.

All in all, this was really interesting – definitely an achievement of sorts; – the cancellation was a frustrating moment for me. Roseanne once again confirmed that it is worthy of a place on a pedestal, and should remain in people’s memory.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.02, 2015-16)

In the 2nd season of Black-ish Jack uses the n-word in his school performance and gets temporarily expelled; goes to play basketball in a bigger league; and learns all the truths. Junior becomes eco-hero; prepares for the cyber attack; switches to a new barber; does not get catfished via a dating site by a girl named Kirsten; and hangs out with much richer friends. Andre starts to think about protection of the family and buys a gun;  comes up with a new holiday – Daddy’s Day; is afraid of flying; leaves the children with Charlie; gets a bad haircut; receives his best friend Sha in the house; has to deal with the new boss lady Dafny; cannot learn how to swim; marries off his sister Rhonda; and imagines his family in the 1970s, in the Good-ish Times. Charlie leaves for another job and comes back, when his new firm merges with the old one. Zoey takes self-defence (karate) lessons from Pops; takes offence at her dad for not making her the face of his new campaign; goes on a college tour with her folks and visits Brown University; crowdfunds new things for herself; and gets a car. Pops gets an angioplasty; and takes over Christmas and turns it into one-present-each type of holiday. Rainbow gets a little jealous of GeeGee, Dre’s closest female friend; learns the difference between psychology and psychiatry; does not want to take Dre’s last name; prepares the school auction; investigates the case of the broken glass; and gets pregnant. Ruby almost ruins the family photo; gets a lover named Davis; gets sick and contaminates everybody else. The twins explore the Home Alone anti-burglary techniques; get baptized in the pool by Ruby; switch gender-specific activities; break apart and get back together. Diane sings; makes a documentary about Jack and sports; runs for class president and looses. Andre and Rainbow learn to say ‘yes’ more often; deal with money troubles; and try to decide who should be their children’s legal guardian in case anything happens to them. The family attends different churches; attends a neighbour’s pool party; opens a dialog about police brutality and idealism; and watches the Lion King – again. The children have a rivalry with their cousins; learn the pleasure of insider trading; and get a nanny named Vivian.

For the most part the season is almost as good as the first one. A lot of major issues are touched upon, including police violence in relation to race, money, guns, and gay marriages, not to mention many exclusively black schticks, such as the barber thing. Relations within the family develop in orderly manner, same as the relationships between (and within) the factions. Episodes became less motley and more one-two subjects-based.

The execution is on the level with season one, there’s very little change in how things are done on the show.  At the same time, due to several setbacks I consider this season to be less interesting that the show was before – it should be noted, at that, that although the quality did get a little lower, it still remains way above average. In particular, I didn’t like the finale, with the ’70s sitcom parody, – it just seemed a bit laborious to me.

All in all, though, the show is a great entertainment, and I have high hopes for its future seasons.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.01, 2014-15)

Black-ish is a family sitcom about Andre Johnson, his wife Rainbow, and their four children – Andre Jr., Zoey, and twins Diane and Jack. Andre is working in advertising, and has been recently promoted to SVP of a major company; Rainbow is an accomplished medical doctor; their successful careers is what brought them to the higher stratum of the middle class, and made them black-ish instead of simply black. They all live as one happy family with Andre’s father, whom everybody calls Pops, and occasionally visited by Andre’s mother Ruby, and Bow’s parents Alicia and Paul. In the office Andre becomes sort of close with a new co-worker Charlie Telphy. Over the course of the 1st season Andre gets promoted to SVP of the urban division; talks to the children about sex; ruins Harriet Tubman experience; brings the family to the Beef Plantation, the taste of his childhood; learns to keep his wife and his mother separate but equal; competes to be Santa; strains his ankle; turns 40; comes clean about vasectomy; tries to get back to his roots (hunnit); comes up with 10,000 commandments; and talks to his sister Rhonda about her homosexuality. Andre Jr. joins the field hockey team; gets a bro-mitzvah; plays both Romeo and Juliet; gets bullied by Cody and figures out how to withstand it; films reality-tv show about his mother and her friends (‘old people eating cheese’); looks for loopholes in the rules; and almost joins the young republicans club because of a girl. Rainbow promotes her profession for a career day and to Diane; uncovers Ruby’s secret about Christmas dinner; gets disappointed when her husband fails to show caveman qualities; reads ‘Hoodfellas’; competes with Ruby about what to give Dre for a birthday present; gets late; and parties with her college friends. Jack plays hide-and-seek but no one’s amused; watches The Shining; and arranges a living costume together with Zoey. Diane learns to be nice; doesn’t want night-light to go; arranges a living costume together with Junior; fights for her nickname of Gurkel; and composes family tree together with Jack from Pops’s story about 1923. Zoey starts vlog ‘Makeup by Zo-Zo’; gets her brother a date with Kyra, a super chick; gets her first boyfriend – a french guy named Andre, and then second – black guy named Derrick; learns that she was born before her parents actually got married; falls for a boy named Daylen; and starts wearing glasses. The family dresses up as Jackson Five on Halloween and re-establishes the pranking tradition; perform the elves song on Christmas; go the black ski weekend on Martin Luther King jr. day; and goes through the vows renewal ceremony / new wedding.

The genre of a family sitcom (and it seems to have had developed into its own genre) is not new, and yet people still find ways to come up with fresh and funny stuff. Black-ish is one of the most recent example of this phenomenon – it is now in its 4th season; and while I don’t know yet about the later ones, the 1st is pretty amazing. It is funny, ingenious, full of vitality and joy.

The secret is simple, of course, – it’s all about the characters. In this case we have 6 primary ones, plus a several more recurring, and each of them is a bright and unforgettable personality, even those presented as dull. The stories, which is an equally important component of any comedy show, derive from the characters, and are conditioned first and foremost by their originality and internal consistency. The Johnson family is a bunch of rather crazy people, each crazy in his or her own way, with different brands of functional insanity blending together into a wild and cheerful cocktail. It is incredibly uplifting and funny.

Through the various stories the view of the modern state of race relations is presented, with somewhat reduced level of realism (for this is comedy, after all), as it is perceived by three different generations of black people in the US. Even though the subject matter is far from the reality of my everyday life, it is still interesting to follow, because, lack of racial diversity notwithstanding, I can still relate to most of the stuff Johnsons and their companions are going through – people around the globe are not that different all in all.

The general climate of the show is light, joyful, merry. The humor is of very high quality. So far there hasn’t been anything fake or forced, or even unnecessarily half-way, which is kind of refreshing. The execution is quite flawless. The acting is totally amazing – all the primary parts are played at 100% and more; the cast selection is absolutely perfect (especially the twins); and multiple secondary roles and guest stars are just as awesome as the show in principle.

It’s a great comedy, and I highly recommend it.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.06, 2014-15)

In the 6th and final season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets a role alongside Brad Pitt, but has to kiss a tennis ball instead; then she gets offered an HBO series, almost blows, but eventually gets the part anyway, and even makes Zed, the show creator, to move it to Cleveland; promotes Paleo vodka; fights with her disco legacy that she shares with Ernie Hudson; starts dating a young editor; helps her father to get a job on her show; writes a children’s book with Melany; starts taking Adderall; poses before a drone; gets a bodyguard; lives through her show’s screen testing; gets a visit from her agent Barry; gets cut out of the show; enters a play at a local theater; has issue with her driver’s license photo; becomes an artistic director; gives her son a singing part in the play; finds out about her secret sister; decides to move back to LA and marry Johnny. Joy chooses Simon over the other two contenders just to find out that he’s already married; stars in a reality TV with Victoria but gets substituted with a different Joy; starts using dating app Cinder; decides to leave the detective firm, but then re-thinks the decision; turns into platinum blond and meets Owen’s girlfriend the albino; gets a visit from her sister, who was a nun; breaks a leg; falls in love with Bob and fights the Canadian Joy for him; gets Bob tested with Love Actually; sees Owen getting married; lives through the rehearsal dinner; decides to adopt a baby; together with Melany messes with security cameras; decides to get married in Paris; removes her 6th toe; gets married in Vegas and adopts the baby. Melany sleeps with Bob; almost has something with Franky; starts dating her neighbour Jack, an expat from New Zealand; wins the holiday lights contest; gets visited by her daughter who has doubts about studying at Harvard; looses her co-host; gets a task of diverting a journalist and ends up dating him; drugs her boyfriend with estrogen; dines with herself; has hard time because her show gets cancelled; and finds her love in the airplane. Elka enjoys her power; sleeps with the mayor; holds a Christmas party; coaches councilman for a day; hosts a party for the english Cleveland officials; plays scrabble; inadvertently kills the mayor; becomes the mayor; looses a bet to the mayor of Cincinnati; gets grilled; poses nude; meets the Pope; and marries Bob’s father. The girls go to a chemistry restaurant; get DNA tested; have fun with Bob’s voodoo doll; and buy a restaurant together.

The season started in the same way the previous one ended – with lots of great stories and funny jokes. However, that only lasted until Christmas or so. Then it gradually became more and more dull, sentimental and far-fetched. Most of the plot solution of the second half of the season are, to put it mildly, questionable. Victoria getting cut out of the show; the restaurant (which, by the way, resembles the episode of Frasier that wasn’t very good as well); Melany loosing her job; Joy’s mother falling for Bob; Joy and Elka’s lesbian ancestry, etc. – all these story turns are pretty wild, which badly hurts the consistency of the story; at the same time, they are not funny enough to justify it.

Although the execution is superb, as always, poor decision on the writing side of the table make this season, perhaps, the worst of them all. Of course, it’s only in comparison with the other ones, especially the 5th, which, by far, was the best. Plus, the season started off really good, and only devolved into something incomprehensible much later. There was a semi-traditional behind-the-scenes episode, but it more like a historic review of the show in general, and was more sentimental than funny or uplifting.

It is really sad that the show’s finale turned out so rushed and awkward. All in all it’s a great comedy, with lots of truly bright pages, which is why I still would recommend it to anyone wishing to lift his or her spirits. Just don’t get your hopes up about these closing episodes of the series.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.05, 2014)

In the 5th season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets tested on polygraph after her new husband’s escape; she communicates with Emmett via footwear notes; survives Emmett’s fake death, and plans his funeral; doesn’t leave to live in wilderness with him; brings everybody to the premiere of her movie but ends up delivering her daughter’s baby in the car; pursues nomination for the Academy Award; tries to date an average guy; makes up with an old friend; tries to run for city council against a black disabled sports hero; gets nominated and finds out that she has to wear Lady Pants to the Oscar ceremony; selects a next film to star in and meets his director, JJ; receives her non-gay son Tony; dates JJ; meets JJ’s children; wins Oscar; and goes on a date with male model. Melany turns out to be not pregnant, but with a brain tumor; she shops for the best doctor; spoons the wrong way; accidentally invites her dentist to the premiere; finds out that radiation therapy got rid of her tumor, but still tries to get some perks out of having had it; goes to work as a bartender and ends up having her own radio show; runs a radio marathon; gets pursued by Joy’s new boss, Mitch; goes on a date with cannibal billionaire; receives a high-school friend; works as a honey trap for Joy and proves to be terrible at it; briefly gets back with the pompous english professor; has to co-host with Frankie; gets visited by her mother; and goes out with a rocket scientist, who brings his sex surrogate. Elka boasts about sleeping with Sinatra; takes a younger lover named Luke; dates Roy again before dumping him for good; learns that Macrib is back; catfishes Victoria about a guy from Wyoming; overtakes Victoria’s run for the city council; is revealed to have staged a play about the girls; debates with her competitor and wins through doing shots; graduates college; wins the election; meets her first love; and sees Max again. Joy introduces Simon to his son and his grandson (who got surprisingly grown up); looses Simon to a better cause and Sudan; goes to a nude beach; goes undercover with Bob as her lover and ends up liking him for real, which ends with Bob selling the agency and moving to Canada; meets her new boss, Mitch, and immediately falls for him; makes Mitch fall in love with her; goes to the couple’s therapy; graduates college; competes with Melany for the right to go to the ceremony with Victoria; gets torn between Mitch and Simon when the latter suddenly comes back; gets triple proposed. The girls get robbed by the same guy; get a dog and call him George Clooney; take a trip to New York; learn about the dark past of their house; and enter Elka’s house for the first time.

This is, perhaps, the brightest season so far. Martin et al. ceded ground a little bit in the previous one by staying too attached to previously discovered successful forms and ideas (such as the behind the scenes episode) – but now they re-invented the show preserving, however, its core components intact, and also remaining just as funny and ingenious as before. This season is packed with events, big and small; every major character has a consistent story line that evolves logically and adds a lot to the common broth of the show; finally, the humor is very good at worst, and usually quite brilliant. The brightest episode of the season is the animated one (#18) – it is absolutely ming-boggling, and I would highly recommend watching it even if you don’t care about the show in general.

The execution is just as wonderful as before. All the girls are totally amazing – such a powerful ability to laugh at themselves is a rare thing; I absolutely adore this about them (as well as, you know, lots of other stuff).

One of the most important things – the series is stunningly uplifting. This comedy might be one of the best ways to quickly improve your mood that I know of – surely, it would only work short-term, but that’s the case even with all of the great ones.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.04, 2012-13)

In the 4th  season of Hot in Cleveland Joy raises her grandson Wilbur with a little help from her friends; goes back to college and ends up majoring in criminology; falls for a firefighter who turns out to be a brony; quarrels with her mother because of the baptism; becomes an extra of Victoria’s set; makes a 18 years old doctor fall in love with her; comes to intern for a private detective; briefly reunites with Sean the brony; tries to land a pediatrician of Hindu descent; meets a hot shrink; and meets the father of her child for the 1st time in 30 years. Victoria stars in the Woody Allen’s movie opposite Emmett Lawson; gains weight by eating magic diet candy; gets visited by another daughter named Oscar, a journalist; starts dating Emmet; comes back to her hometown to visit mother and sister; gets proposed to; plans a prison wedding; endorses a new japanese product – the electrocuting belt; gets a bachelorette party in the hospital instead of Vegas; thinks about her former marriages and meets Julien, the best of the ex-husbands; ruins her hair; and gets married. Melany finds a new job and falls in love with one of her bosses, Alec, who returns her feelings; wears a gargoyle costume; fakeporns her boyfriend; invites the mailman in; thinks about having another baby; doesn’t sleep with Danny Doyle, the fixer; tries to date her gynecologist; looses Harry a might-have-been fiance; fights with Joy over a coma guy; and finds out she’s pregnant. Elka engages in some shady business together with Mimi Sue; restores the image of Jesus; smuggles pills from Canada; gets an A for the “Manhands” movie; auditions for Importance of Being Earnest; and reunites with her bowling team (from the Mary Tyler Moore show). The girls visit a local spa retreat (yogi Ananda); meet Sally from Cincinnati; and celebrate yet another mutual birthday, this time with web hands. Traditional behind the scenes episode is called Look Who’s Hot Now and features Shirley Jones as a guest.

Consistency is everything, and Hot in Cleveland is nothing if not consistently uplifting. It’s always funny, although the share of ridiculous can vary from 0 to approximately 15%, which is within the bounds of norm, i.e. not enough to irritate. Storylines are developed in a logical fashion, both the old and the new ones. Of the latter I would like to specifically place emphasis on the Joy is a private detective line, for it is rather original and offers a lot of opportunities for quality humor. Victoria’s newest marriage deal is also quite engaging.

Besides humor the show contains a proper share of drama, which outlines the overall cheerful disposition.

As before, the composite episode (#19 in this case) is one of the season’s best. The execution is on the level of the previous season, i.e. rather superb.

All in all, in terms of quality nothing has changed much, while the story keeps on evolving. And this is really great.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.03, 2011-12)

In the 3rd season of Hot in Cleveland Elka chooses her ‘deceased’ husband among all the boyfriends; starts going out with Roy the waiter; goes sky-diving; tries to win over Roy’s mother; turns out to be medical miracle; turns 90; doesn’t like Facebook’s new design; co-writes a radio play; goes out with Santa; models track suits; and reunites with her twin sister. Victoria comes out as gay and blows a chance to be a co-host on a talk-show; dates a hand-model; dates a janitor; donates blood and goes to heaven; looses her part in her own movie to Lucci; starts dating Drago, but then goes back to Johnny;  puts on a fat suite; freaks about a tail; designs some shoes; helps Artie Firestone reinvent himself; buys out a worthless storage unit to compensate for commercial-caused damage; discovers a letter from Lincoln; and revives her soap opera. Melany connects with her sister Caroline; dates a state senator; together with Victoria breaks up he son’s engagement to V.’s daughter; gets a tapeworm; kisses the wrong David Gates; dates Joy’s ex-fiance Kyle; dates a fake sex-addict; goes out with a high-pitched guy; can’t get rid of a beauty mark; and finds an amazing hair-stylist. Joy tries to steal a dress from a dead woman; dates an ageless black guy; helps save an endangered species of rhinos; tries to quit bad habits; dates a blind guy; sleeps with fake Rick Spriengfield; goes out with a priest; helps a dying guy with his bucket list; gets proposed to; communicates with a tracker via radio; and wears a water bra. The girls go on a lesbian cruise; make-over their neighbours; recount to Elka how they met; track down their lost loves on Valentine’s day; get bitten by a venomous spider; try to join the local country club; froze their faces and help Courtney; and have a huge fight. Episode 21 continues tradition established in season 2 by showing some backstage footage and bloopers.

This season seems to be the very prime of the show. Admittedly, some stories in the beginning still emit a vibe of contrivedeness – but much less so than before, and it gradually goes away so that the 2nd half of the season is almost completely devoid of it. At the same time the quality of stories and of the humor grows constantly. The show quickly becomes a wonderful comedy, some reasons for which are explained in the ‘Some Like It Hot’ episode (#21) – the one with the bloopers and behind-the-scenes stuff (by the way, whoever came up with the idea to make such episode is a genius).

Most episodes are pretty good, there are a lot of great among them, and some are quite brilliant. Besides the aforementioned 21st, it’s definitely the one where “The Edge of Tomorrow” gets revived; the one with the spider; both episodes with Artie Firestone; the one with frozen faces; perhaps, the one with the bucket list as well.

There is an astonishing number of amazing guest stars on the show this season – more than before, and the quality of their work is amazing. The main cast continues to be extremely loveable and funny (my personal favourites are Jane Leeves and Valerie Bertinelli.)

The technical execution of the show is exactly as it should be – professional and ingenious. All in all, this is the best season of the show so far. Very funny and fun, and uplifting.

Names and figures

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