Category Archives: sitcom

The George Carlin Show (s.02, 1994-95)

In the 2nd season of The George Carlin’s Show George McGrady gets an ice-fishing hut; gets found by an adult son; hijacks a package from Chong; deceits a blind passenger; fancies waitress Sidney; is forced to make a life and death decision; gets in the middle between Harry and his wife; cleans his apartment and gets everybody sick; gets both of his ex-wives back into his life; buys a magazine for a kid; gets evicted; smiles; meets an old friend who is a priest; get a truth drug tested on him; and finds out truth about his dad. Sidney and Beck start dating early in the season and go through some ups and downs. George’s girlfriend appears out of the blue in episode 12, and that’s it.

Overall quality of the show remained on more or less the same level. However, unlike with season 1, some of the stuff here is actually funny. Admittedly, only a handful of scenes are worth any attention at all, and even all of them combined do not make watching this show a deserving undertaking, but still it counts for something.

The show in general is a sad example of an unwanted and therefore unsuccessful project; even though some of its components were good enough, others weren’t, and the resulting combination is below average. George Carlin is definitely much more interesting in his stand-ups.

Names and figures

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Roseanne (s.03, 1990-91)

In the 3rd season of Roseanne Becky takes a driving lesson, goes on a date with guy named Robert, starts dating a bad boy named Mark and keeps dating him against the will of her parents, ‘shows’ the finger, consistently acts out, briefly moves in with Jackie, ‘steals’ Darlene’s crush, wants a car, has a falling out with dad, gets a new haircut (without explanations), and almost sells one of her old school papers to Darlene. Roseanne does not get pregnant, talks to her daughters about sex, gets a new job in a mall restaurant, dresses up as a man on Halloween, throws Dan a surprise birthday party, gets jealous, participates in a career day, gets a new manager named Leon at work, almost goes to Vegas, becomes Crystal’s lamaz backup, gets evaluated at her job, and enjoys Mothers day. Dan lends some money to a friend, temporarily takes over at home, throws yet another poker party, worries about PMS, flanks Wednesday, fails to teach his daughters a lesson, freaks out about his father getting re-married, teaches DJ how to fight, gets a flu, gets upset about his bike, has a near-death experience, plays guitar on a barbecue, almost starts a new business with Ziggy. Darlene makes out for the first time (with Brian), loves her great-grandmother, lies to cover for her sister, understands her mother better, dresses up for Valentine’s day, gets two boys fighting over her, and almost goes to a spring dance with Barry. DJ has a box full of heads, mirrors his sister, gets bullied and then finds a brilliant way out, and gets a new friend Jerry. Jackie breaks up with Gary and quits the force, starts doing community theater, accidentally gets to play the primary part in Cyrano de Bergerac, and wants to become a massage therapist. Crystal discloses that she’s been seen Dan’s father, and that they are getting married. The family gets a microwave and a new bed, gets visited by Roseanne’s grandmother, meets the new neighbours, and puts everything’s at stake.

They also get a VCR for the 3rd time, if I’m not mistaken – almost as if they just forget about it every time. There are some worse downsides in this season, though, specifically – the decision not to pursue the ‘writing’ storyline and renunciation of the ‘beauty salon’ environment – both these things, which were pretty great findings of the 2nd season, are dismissed completely, as if they never even existed. Also, there are no episodes in this season that could compare to the brilliant ‘bathroom dream’ episode of the previous one.

However, there is plenty of funny episodes here as well, the best of them is probably the one about PMS surprise party. The new Roseanne’s job has given the show some interesting moments, too, and is likely to give even more. DJ gets increasingly more involved in the narrative, and not just as object at that, but as an equal-impact participant. Well, maybe not that equal yet, but it’s getting there. And, of course, the finale, which ended in a cliffhanger is rather promising, and I hope the writers won’t just sweep it under the carpet.

All in all the season is a little less fun that before, but is really entertaining and funny nonetheless.

Names and figures

The George Carlin Show (s.01, 1994)

The George Carlin Show is a sitcom about a New York cab driver George McGrady. The story takes off when he gets a dog, which he takes instead of large win, and meets a woman, who would later become his girlfriend. The 1st season revolves around his everyday activities: he mostly spends his time either driving a taxi, or sitting in the bar with his friends, including Harry the bookmaker, Jack the bartender, Sidney the waitress, Beck the plastic surgeon, and Frank the drinker.

When taking a look at the first sentence of the depiction above, one might ask a question: why is the series called after Carlin, if the hero’s last name is McGrady? The answer is simple, although it lies outside of the framework of the show: there was no idea behind it other than ‘hey, here’s a great comedian, let’s make a show with him!’ And maybe this is exactly the reason why it sucks so hard.

Even though Carlin is undoubtedly a good stend-upper, and there are some quality elements in the show (Alex Rocco’s acting is probably the most interesting of them), the overall result leaves much to be desired, to put it mildly. For starters, the humor is mediocre. Carlin’s rants may be good for a small scene, but in a narrative they just produce an impression of poorly placed. None of the characters, except maybe for Harry, is colorful enough to make a difference, and all together they just interfuse into a grey-ish common place. The stories are uninteresting, some of them are plain stupid.

The show all in all seems like a complete failure: there’s nothing original, or curious, and very little funny – at least not enough to make it worthwhile.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.02, 1989-90)

In Roseanne‘s 2nd season Roseanne bounces from one lousy job to another (telemarketing, a temp secretary with an architect, fast-food joint, bar) until she lands in a beauty salon, where she finds a decent bunch of people, which compensates somewhat for the degrading character of the job; takes a bath; throws a Thanksgiving party; goes to see her parents with Dan; tends to her father when he gets to the hospital; goes on a diet and starts exercising; gets hit by a car and then compensated for it; falls out with her sister and then falls back in; goes to IRS; has a birthday; and decides to go back to writing, a former passion of hers. Jackie applies to the police training and becomes a police woman; gets drunk in front of Becky; stays in charge while R. is out; starts dating a guy named Gary and almost marries him. Dan quarrels with R. on account of rising tension; holds a poker night with his friends; almost fixes a carburetor; has his friend Ziggy over; repairs his bike; does his taxes; tries to amend his relationship with Becky; and organizes a home office for his wife. Becky breaks the wind in public; starts dating Jimmy, but later falls out with him; passes on the hair routine; acts out; and gets drunk for the first time. Darlene advances in sports; writes a poem; and falls for a boy named Martin.

So the show gradually gets more established in regards to its format and primary tendencies – there is less of the silliness characteristic for the 1st season, the drama is deeper, while the comedy is just as light and warm. Overall quality has improved, if only a little bit. But there are some truly brilliant episodes, in particular the one about the bath and the trial (it’s the highlight of the season), but also the one about the thanksgiving, and the one about the Halloween. A number of episodes with the beauty salon also deserve a special mention as they introduce an interesting and consistent storyline with its own set of amusing characters and long-playing jokes. The characters are contemplated on a deeper level, which adds complexity to almost all of them. (DJ is still too young to impart a self-sustained driving force to the narrative)

The quality of execution remained pretty much on the same level. The humor is often very good, sometimes – excellent. Which says something, considering how much has changed in the society since then. All in all, Roseanne seems like a really great show, and is definitely worth watching further.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.01, 1988-89)

Roseanne is a sitcom classic. It’s about a working-class family, where the mother, i.e. Roseanne herself, works full-time on a plastics factory, while her husband Dan seeks part-time jobs as a contractor. They have 3 children – Becky, Darlene and boy named DJ (aka David Jacob, although full name is never used). Other notable characters on the show include Roseanne’s sister Jackie, who also works on the factory and visits the family house more often than Dan would like, and Chrystal, one of the Roseanne’s co-workers, as well as several others. Season 1 also features George Clooney as Booker, factory supervisor who briefly dates Jackie. This season’s stories include the one about the music contest (lost), the one about a guy buried in the bridge; the one where Darlene gets her 1st period; the one where Becky barters her first real boyfriend Chip for ‘bad boy’ (unsuccessfully); the one where Darlene has appendicitis; the one with tornado; the one about the death of a salesman; the one with Dan’s father visiting, as well as another – with Roseanne’s parents; and in the finale the workers of the factory call in quits.

I was rather sceptical about this show: it’s pretty mellow in the beginning, while I prefer edgy; it’s about family values, which I find trivial; Roseanne is a smart-mouth type, and I was too appalled by 2 Broke Girls, which I watched recently, and was suspicious on account of that; finally, it’s a typical example of the genre, and do not care for ‘typical’ very much. But pretty soon it turned out that mellow actually feels fine, when it’s well-written and sincerely played; that family values are not pushed as much as they are assumed, and there’s nothing wrong with that; that Roseanne is a wonderful character, much more complex and interesting than anything Whitney Cummings could’ve come up with; and though the show is quite typical, there’s nothing bad about it either, as long as the people involved are doing a good job, which in this case they do.

Admittedly, the actors enjoy themselves a bit too much while acting, especially in the first episodes, but even that is tolerable. And the events concerning the children, and the adults, and the relationships in the family, are genuine and therefore pleasant to watch. If nothing else, this show is worth watching for the sweet and kind family atmosphere that it creates, especially for those of us who never knew anything even remotely similar. Plus, it’s pretty curious to watch John Goodman in this part, not to mention Clooney, who is so young and so sweet, it’s just insane.

All in all, it was a warm and amiable experience, and I would surely like to get more of it.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.06, 2000-01)

In the 6th (and final) season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Mary gets jealous of her sister (yes, she has one), has a crash on Don, goes to an archeological expedition, gets robbed, gets visited by her mother, and gets courted by a secret admirer. Tommy is absent most of the time, but he still goes on the road, loses Alyssa for good, chooses college, leaves for college, and gets replaced as an information officer. Sally opens a youth center with Harry, rebuilds Don (twice), falls for Tommy’s replacement, almost kills a psychic, mistakes Amishes for aliens, and becomes a TV weather girl. Harry becomes the first among the equals, works as a gofer, and dates “twins”. Dick almost marries Mary’s sister, ruins archeological expedition, learns about magic, buys into a timeshare, befriends Mary’s mother, looses ‘best alien’ competition, self-actualizes, turns rival into a monkey, and finally comes clean with Mary. The family visits a parallel dimension (where they live in New York), learns about national anthem, and wraps up the mission.

This is one of the most pathetic final seasons ever. It’s chaotic, full of contradictions, and worst of all – not funny. Admittedly, there are still some relatively good jokes, but very few – so few, in fact, they won’t constitute a one good episode if put together. The amount of completely random, sometimes downright ludicrous ideas and solutions is mind-boggling. The double episode with alternative universe is ingenious, but still not funny, not to mention complete lack of consistency with everything that happened on the show before. The finale is no more than okay, and probably not even that. All in all, it’s a fucking mess.

The reason for which is quite simple – there is no supervision. It’s like a carriage with horses: as long as there is a driver, it goes in accordance with a certain route, but when something happens to him, the horses are still going, but they can’t see the big picture and are bound to bustle about without understanding the past and unable to plan for the future.

By and large about the show: it makes sense to watch the first 3 seasons of it, – even though the 1st one is not there yet, it’s still pretty good, especially when compared to the later ones; starting with the season 4 it all gets worse and worse, slowing down a little bit during the 5th, but then collapsing entirely in the 6th. For a beginning so fine, the ending so miserable is mournful, but what can you do.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.05, 1999-2000)

In 5th season of 3rd Rock from the Sun Vicky’s baby turns out to be human, and she moves away, but then comes back to reunite with Big Giant Head and become the queen of the universe. Don gets a byke, gets into a bad accident and heals awfully quick; he also leads an operation on apprehending a videopirat, which later gets highjacked by the state force. Tommy spends a lot of time dreaming about sex, and even looses his virginity, but not with his girlfriend Alissa, who eventually breaks up with him; he takes part in a library poetry contest along with Sally and Hary; raises questions about sex education; becomes a beggar; compiles a new mission statement; gets a job in a fastfood joing; and becomes valedetorian. Sally learns about laundromats; freaks out on Valentine’s day; tackles her shoes problem; becomes an exemplary housewife; starts taking birth control pills; discovers that she’s no longer the strongest; befriends Tommy’s girlfriend; and plans a bank robbery. Harry gets insured; beggs for money with Tommy; starts dating a cop; spends some time in the hole; and almost starts a relationship because of Don’s radio receiver. Dick crashes his car and spends a lot of money on repair; becomes jelaous of Harrison Ford; fires Nina; preaches in choir; learns about charity; and then – about double dating; has a crush on Nina; enters the stock market; goes on a spring break; gets better at bluffing; organizes a strike; participates in a dance contest; falls into a hole in the woods; confuses aliens with gays; learns about sick leave; and discovers that he has a father. Mary wears a cape; films documentary about the family; fails at double dating; kisses ass of the new chancellor; and has a birthday. The family as a whole, besides participating in Mary’s documentary project, also goes to a mystery dinner retreat.

Consequent decline in quality, which I feared after watching season 4, did not happen, but stabilized on a more or less decent level; there were no shitty episodes, but there were very few of good ones, too. In fact, the only episodes worth mentioning separately are: the one about mistery dinner, the one about documentary, and the one about the hole, – interestingly enough, 2 of those were written by the same person, Valerie Watson. The rest of the season is mostly okay – sometimes funny, sometimes not so much, but good enough in general.

Decrease in Vicky’s presence was definitely a positive factor; the development of her storyline, which is also a Big Giant Head’s line, is a little cheesy, but all in all is quite alright. Introduction of new characters, in particular – Janice (played by Chyna), policewoman and Harry’s new girlfriend, was in match with the show in general – not a breakthrough, but far from being a disaster as well.

So, after the stormy season 4, the show managed to normalize its course to achieve the level of the 1st season, – it was more or less the same mixture of good and bad. Honestly, not the greatest of achievements, but, I suppose, avoiding complete catastrophy is probably the best that could have been done here.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.04, 1998-99)

In 4th season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Harry gets rescued from the freak show; Mary becomes a dean, but manages to retain the position only for so long; Sally looses her virginity, enjoys their relationship with Don for some time, but later breaks up with him after he proposes; Dick becomes psychologically dependent on fuzzy buddies; Sally dates a man whom she thinks belongs to mafia; Dick experiences a crush for a literature professor, but starts detesting her soon enough; Tommy finds a new girlfriend named Alissa; Sally almost poses nude for a magazine photo session; Dick and Sally briefly exchange bodies; the Solomons learn to do their taxes, and later reunite with their bigger family; Sally finds her own place; Harry plans to have a baby with Vicky; Dick becomes superstitious and does not get a grant; Tommy learns about hockey; Mary starts using a beeper; Dick learns how to use a computer; Tommy becomes a news anchor for a school newspaper; Dick almost gets dissected by an alien hunter; Sally and Don get back together – ish; Dick becomes competitive with another physics professor who wrote a book; the family experiences near-death situation(s); Tommy goes to a prom; and the mission gets visited by the Big Giant Head himself.

Sadly, the general level of the show has never been this low. Although there are still some pretty nice episodes, especially those featuring Kathy Bates and William Shatner, even them are not as exciting as the 2nd and even 3rd seasons used to be. On the other hand, there’s plenty of stories that range from silly to stupid, the most pathetic of them being: the one about mafia, the one about news, the one about body exchange, the one with all the superstitions, and the one with near-death situations. Key words for this season are strained and unfunny.

Most of the primary storylines of the season are fine, but once again – nothing really interesting. Resolution of the previous season’s cliffhanger is okay (shoulder shrug). Dick’s little crush is good enough; same goes for the Sally-Don development, although the writing could’ve been better. There was way too much of Vicky; her trashy presence has been adding a nice tinge before, but this kind of dosage serves no good. Tommy almost had no developments of his own; plus, connecting his girlfriend’s storyline to Dick’s professional competitiveness seems ingenious on the outside, but really only adds to the overall tenseness.

(Another thing: season 3 started with the story twist about the Big Giant Head’s niece being added to the team; she later left the family to wonder the Earth on her own. When the BGH actually visited himself in this season finale, there was not a single mention of that niece, which is a clear sign of control problems, as well as lack of harmony)

Most importantly, the humor leaves much to be desired. Most of the stuff happening during the season is just not funny, and against this background Dick’s eccentricity irritates more than it amuses. Maybe this dip in quality is related somehow to the fact that the Turners are not among the show writers anymore; I’m not sure if they even overseeing the project in season 4; the same thing happened to Dream On when Kaufamn and Crane abandoned the show in favour of Friends, – it turned to shit rather quickly.

The 4th season left me anxious and worried about what the final 2 seasons hold; I hope the situation will improve, but so far it seems like the show started to die.

Names and figures

Four Kings (s.01*, 2006)

Four Kings is an attempt at a sitcom by the creators of Will & Grace, – Kohan and Mutchnick. It’s about 4 childhood friends, now in their late 20s, who started to live together in a large apartment after it was inherited by one of them from his grandmother. There is no continuous storyline, but rather a set of separate stories barely connected through the relationships within the group.

The show didn’t survive its 1st season – more than that, only a half of the episodes were even aired, – all for a good reason, which is simple: it’s no good. The 4 primary characters are too much alike and not interesting enough to make it work; at least 2 of them can be described as man-children; also, there’s no diversity, meaning no possibility of any kind of lasting tension between the heroes. The stories are nothing special: some of them are sitcom-y conditional, others are merely okay, but none are good enough to arouse excitement. Worst of all – it’s not funny. Some of the jokes are surely amusing, but very, very few, and never above that level, which is a death sentence for a comedy show.

In other words, it’s a complete failure on all accounts. Not nearly worth the time.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.03, 1997-98)

3rd Rock from the Sun‘s 3rd season starts with the status quo being re-established: the team comes back to Earth with one extra member, a Big Giant Head’s niece, who is to play the role of Dick’s wife. This immediately wracks his relationship with Mary, who was just about to marry him; a major part of the season is dedicated to the attempts at repairing it. Apart from that: Dick meets Mary’s parents, undergoes his first physical, gets fat, becomes a juror, becomes friends with Don, tries to reform a person out of jail, rides a wheelchair, prevents the capture of Earth by Venetians, learns about casual sex, discovers that physics is of no interest to anybody, almost founds a new forest civilization, and forgets to report on the mission. Sally almost settles together with Nina, goes to yoga class, dates a tortured artist, works for Mary as an assistant, visits gynecologist for the first time, almost gets a new car, and repeatedly gets on and off with Don. Tommy joins the band, gets dumped by August (who still sticks around), almost falls in love with Mary, fights Dick, finds somebody else’s wallet, retires from the mission for a while, and gets a haircut. Harry spends a lot of time with Tommy, learns how to live without TV, tends to the pet who tracked him across universe named Pickles, becomes a talk show host, and then – a bartender, makes Nina and at least one other woman fall in love with him, and has a thing with Vicky who re-appears several times. The finale is traditionally about an acute crisis, which ends in a cliffhanger.

The structure of the season is more or less the same: first there goes a double episode that is about resolution of the previous season’s finale, in the middle there’s another double episode with exciting and unusual story (within the framework of the show that is), and the finale is also a double episode that stands out; the intervals are filled with various stories, none of which can be called weak. Some are, of course, better than the others, but general level is quite decent.

The cross-cutting storylines with Dick and Mary on the one hand, and Sally and Don on the other (Wayne Knight, by the way, acquired nearly the same amount of presence as Jane Curtin who plays Mary), are internally consistent and interesting to follow – in fact, they impart quite tangible structure on otherwise rather hang-loose flesh of the show’s narrative.

The humor is mostly good enough, and sometimes really great. The season is also notable for appearance of John Cleese, one of the Monty Python founding fathers.

All in all, the show seems to be growing in terms of quality, consistency, and ingenuity, while remaining just as roughishly funny as it was from the beginning.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.02, 1996-97)

In the 2nd season of 3rd Rock from the Sun: Dick and Mary are in a continuous relationship that develops consistently from beginning to end and results in a marriage proposal; Dick becomes progressively more self-obsessed, on account of which he even leaves his job at university and works in a fast-food joint for some time; he also accidentally kills Mary’s fish, and gets her a dog instead. Sally breaks off her relationship with mr. Randall, dates a gay guy, who had mistaken her for a drag-queen, almost gets married to a Frenchman, and maintains on-and-off relationship with Don the police officer, which becomes more stable towards the season’s finale. Tommy temporarily transfers to a school for gifted children, but comes back soon enough, falls in love with the glee-club teacher, and almost dates a bad girl, but all in all continues his relationship with August. Harry runs for council, works as a security officer, plays Mrs. Dubchek while she’s out, and almost gives the family out to the authorities when he looses his memory during a tornado. The family tackles human holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, sense of humor, and dreams, which brings the mission into system crisis in the finale.

As the concept evolves, it also matures, finds its own ground, becomes more reliable in terms of quality. Dick’s disposition, which irritated me at first because of its never-ending in-your-face dog-like cheerfulness, with time became more in tune with the rest of the show. The humor remains on a very good level. The dynamics of the Dick and Mary relationship is still interesting, and the same goes to the process of discovering various sides of human nature and social peculiarities.

Special effects became a little better, the transitions – more diverse, although still a little tacky. Wayne Knight’s role was significantly extended, which was a very good decision – the whole thing between his character and Sally is pretty great. The season featured such guest stars as Dennis Rodman, George Takei and Mark Hammil. Christine Baranski appeared in one episode, and produced quite an impression.

The finale of the season is quite brilliant; it brings the show on a whole new level. It’s a wonderfully written story, ingenious, totally fascinating, execution, which looks very differently from the rest of the series so far. This double episode is a reason in itself to watch the show, even though the season in general is not exactly perfect.

On the other hand, I have to say that the solution to the last season’s final entanglement (with Dick being replaced) was really weak – almost as if the writers regretted the twist altogether and just wanted to get rid of it.

But even that doesn’t really spoil the show, which demonstrates an impressive growth through-out the season.

Names and figures

3rd Rock from the Sun (s.01, 1996)

3rd Rock from the Sun is a sitcom about a group of aliens who were sent to Earth to investigate and research the human race. They disguise themselves as a family of 4, with Dick Solomon, the High Commander, playing the role of the father; Sally Solomon, the security officer, pretending to be his sister; Tommy, the information officer, taking the form of his teenage son; and Harry, the 4th member of the crew, tagging along as Dick’s brother. Over the course of the season they try to figure out what drives humans by intentionally experiencing various things (having a friend, being a woman, being in a relationship, lying, etc.) Dick starts working as a university professor of physics and quite soon falls in love with dr. Mary Albright, an anthropology professor, with whom he happened to share an office. Tommy goes to school and after a while starts dating a girl named August. Each one of them has their share of adventures; all eventually take a strong liking of the Earth and the earthlings, so when at the end of their first year the mission is deemed a failure and a replacement is sent, it comes as a sort of shock.

I gotta say, this stuff is pretty funny, which is the most important thing for a sitcom. The show derives its humor mostly from situations, as it is supposed to. The scripts are pretty well-written, which helps a lot. All 4 primary cast members are really great: John Lithgow is pretty wild, although he can be a little too much sometimes; Kristen Johnston is funny and hot at the same time, and that’s not a combination you see very often; Joseph Gordon-Levitt apparently was talented from the birth; French Stewart is truly something else; however, the thing I loved the most about this show is the dynamics between Dick and dr. Albright (played by Jane Curtin).

On the other hand, it’s a 1990s sitcom, with expected peculiarities, a lot of which do not sell very well in nowadays. The offscreen laughter is tiresome, as well as the overall tempo – by the end of the season I was more often irritated than I was amused, even though the quality level remained the same. As most of the comedies back then, the show was rather cheap, but what’s worse is that it looked cheap, especially when it came to the transitions between the scenes – those are just pathetic.

First season of the show is notable among other things for appearances of John Mahoney (Marty Crane from Frasier) and Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld).

All things considered, this is a pretty fine comedy, and I would definitely want the find out how the things would develop further on.

Names and figures

2 Broke Girls (s.01, 2011-12)

2 Broke Girls is a sitcom about two girls, one of whom (Max) has been struggling for all her life, and the other (Caroline) has been entitled and rich but now is just as broke because her father was arrested for embezzling and his money were taken away. Now they both are waitressing in the same shitty diner in Brooklyn, trying to achieve a dream of turning Max’s talent for baking cupcakes into a successful business. In order to accumulate enough funds for that they engage into various activities. Other characters on the show include Han, owner and manager of the diner, Earl, the black cashier, Oleg, the sleazy cook, and Sophie, the neighbour and a friend who has a cleaning company.

Now, don’t be confused: even though this is formally a situational comedy, you will not find any funny situations here. Most of them are infinitely stupid, that’s true, but contrary to the writers’ belief, it doesn’t make them amusing. To be fair, the writers probably know that – somewhere deep in their giftless souls, – because the humor of the show does not rely on situations, but rather on puns, witty remarks and jokes, that are being produced by the characters constantly. And I mean that literally: those fucking jokes are pouring in like they have a horn of abundance somewhere in their closet, it’s a never-ceasing stream of terrible humor that may drive you mad if you binge-watch the season like I did. I was pretty depressed at the time, and could’ve used a good laugh, but instead of playing down my sorrows this shitstorm intensified the dark mood I was in, because stupidity is unbearable to me, especially on this scale.

Between The Big Bang Theory, which has gotten pretty bad in the last several season, Mom, that was never that good but at least had a zing in the beginning, and this show I’m convinced now more than ever that sitcom is pretty much dead. There are still some rather good shows out there that can be attributed to the genre (like Modern Family), but they are obviously living out their last days, and all the new great comedies have digressed very far from the limitations of genre.

By far, this is the worst TV comedy I’ve ever seen. I recommend to stay away from it.

Names and figures

Vicious (s.02 + A Year, 2015-16)

Second and last season of Vicious keeps on describing the same situation as before: 2 elderly queens living together for half a century, their relationship with each other, with their friends, neighbours and family. Ash remains a part of the circle; he came with a girlfriend in the first episode, proposed to her a little later; and it was the rejection that he faced that forced Freddy and Stuart to re-evaluate the type of relationship they have. Most of the subsequent narration is dedicated to their wedding with excursions into Violet’s story (who became a victim of a scam), and Ash’s.

It should also be noted that there is a double episode special called A Year. It follows the story 1 more year after the events of the show’s finale, and is divided into 4 chapters, each depicting one of the seasons. It’s not very different from the show itself and basically winds up the plot.

In comparison with season 1 the show became even louder and cocky due to new visual design: somehow it correlates with the show’s inner essence, but, weirdly enough, does not make it any more pleasant to watch. Same goes for the deviations from the genre: in season 2 there is a lot of exterior scenes, and a whole lot of new, circumstantial characters, which definitely makes the narrative much more vivid, but not harmonious; if anything, it adds a note of nervousness to the whole thing. The way the writers handled new characters shows that they didn’t have a lot of ideas about them except that there should be more people – most of the heroes are easy to forget simply because none of the stays for long, even when it’s appropriate (like with Ash’s girlfriend).

The humor is exactly as it was – crude, slapstick, tendentious. There were less dog-themed jokes (thank god), but otherwise it’s pretty much the same thing. What’s different, though, is how sentimental the story became. Over the course of the season, and then during the special, it gradually became almost a melodrama – and almost here is only because it didn’t have enough time to hatch properly. All in all it’s a tear-jerker alright.

So what can be said about Vicious? It’s a weird and undesired bastard of comedy that strives to be 2 completely opposite things simultaneously, and dies out after finally realizing how impossible of a task it is. It may be worth watching for McKellen’s fans, but should probably be avoided even by them.

Names and figures

Vicious (s.01 + Christmas Special, 2013)

Vicious is a sitcom about a couple of elderly gays and a bunch of their friends and acquaintances. Freddy and Stuart has been living with each other for almost half a century, yet Stuart’s mother still doesn’t know the truth about them. Things start moving more sharper when a new neighbour moves into the apartment above – a young man named Ash, for whom the Freddy & Stuart company becomes a substitute for a family.

This is a downright sitcom – a really devoted attempt at restoring genre’s original conventionalities and limitations. I can guess Janetti is a fan of it, and through this show he expresses his dearest desire to bring it back. It doesn’t seem like he believes it’s even possible, though, because the whole thing reeks of desperation. It’s like the show tries to be cosy and shocking at the same time, which is naturally weird and produces corresponding effect. The humor bears a note of hysteria, pretty much all of it.

The presence of Ian McKellen, as well as of Iwan Rheon (whom I know from Misfits and, of course, Game of Thrones) is worth mentioning, although in view of the genre policy on the show, neither of them did anything particularly remarkable.

All in all, the show might give you a laugh or two, but considering the negative counter-weights that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to watch it.

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Frasier (s.11, 2003-04)

Frasier‘s 11th season is the final one. It was conceived as such, and, correspondingly, bears a character of a prolonged closing address. Daphne and Niles get pregnant; most of the stuff happening to them is related to pregnancy in this way or another, primary development vector being towards happy family life. Martin gets his development in the second half of the season mostly, and it is about him having found the right person. Roz eventually gets rewarded in the professional terrain, but remains without a constant life-partner, successfully advocating this way of life, not exactly widespread in the pre-Internet era. Frasier resumes his private practice, in part because the radio show started to outlive its capability; after breaking up with Julia he goes through several more minor relationships, and ends up turning to a matchmaking service, with results quite unexpected and encouraging even though obscure. A range of well-loved characters goes marching through the season, including Lilith and Frederick (but not Bulldog); Maris makes a very special appearance in the role of the murderer. Events accelerate towards the finale: on top of the wedding that has been pushed to an earlier date, and the baby who is ready to come out any minute, Frasier experiences an existential crisis comparable in scale to the one that led him to Seattle 11 years ago.

The show is just as wonderful as it used to be: the cast doesn’t go anywhere until the very end; the humor is great, although not without extremes here and there; the level of sitcom conformity is relatively low (a little higher than in season 10, but still); the overall development is logical and consistent enough; and, as usual, there is a lot of amazing characters played by excellent, funny actors. At the same time, there is a definite imprint of sadness overlaying the whole season, which is about things coming to an end –  inevitable, but sorrowful nonetheless. Kelsey Grammer seems old now somehow, – much more so than just a year before. The writers managed to make this final season all about tying up loose ends thus directing the narrative towards the exit; they did it skillfully enough for the viewer to relate to the events in the story, and through that endorse it.

I didn’t quite like that the amount of situations (solutions) with strained premise / circumstance rose over the course of the season. It wasn’t really bad, not enough to constitute a problem, but the tendency was troubling. But the show’s finale put an end to it, excuse the pun.

All in all, notwithstanding certain sags, the season was truly good, – may not be among the best ones, but it’s still a pretty important part of the story.

Frasier proved to be the most consistent show I’ve seen so far (among the comedies so much the more), and consistently good at that. The quality always remained on a rather high level, and never has it ever dropped in any significant way. Not once in 11 years. Quite astounding, if you ask me. I wish they’d do a reunion show, like Will & Grace. Either way, it’s a truly remarkable show, a whale of TV comedy, alongside Seinfeld and Friends, not to mention the later ones.

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Frasier (s.10, 2002-03)

In Frasier’s 10th season: Niles and Daphne get married and start living together; after a certain period of confusion Daphne’s mother settles down with them and becomes a permanent partner in their life situations; Niles undergoes a heart surgery; Daphne changes her hair; Frasier goes through several inconspicuous relationships until he falls in love with a person he hated for almost a year; he delivers a speech on his son’s Bar Mitzvah in Klingon language; he sets Lilith’s mind straight when she experiences a personality crisis on account of Frederick becoming a grown-up; and he lets Bebe become his agent again yielding to the power of doctor Phil’s gravitas; Roz successfully continues bringing up of her little daughter, who is old enough now to have an act; later she is offered a bigger job at another station and decides to accept it. Martin doesn’t have a lot of developments; Bulldog appears in several episodes, always short time.

In terms of the story, the development is harmonious and logical enough; story is interesting, sometimes fascinating and always funny; there are no fuck-ups, nothing raises any questions; even such significant additions as, say, Daphne’s mother, or Frasier’s lattermost flame, seem to be really successful – or, at least, workable (because some of them are too new to make conclusions yet). Suffice it to say: every component of this season’s composition is in concordance with every other component; their conjunction is balanced and bright.

In terms of general quality, the show remains consistently good. Episodes contributing to the main storylines are all great, and among those that are in-between there are no lame stories, but a lot of really good ones.

All in all, the show has a rather strict and strong evolution course, which on the one hand makes it somewhat predictable, but on the other – it imparts a structure making the narrative more powerful, and also framing and intensifying humor as well. Tenth season, which is the one before last, lies entirely within this paradigm, meaning it is well-tailored and really entertaining.

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Frasier (s.09, 2001-02)

In Frasier‘s 9th season Frasier breaks up with Clair, and ends up alone, then goes through several more fleeting, short-term relationships; has a feud with a neighbour; expands his show to another city; and visits Boston. Rose starts dating a garbage man, which becomes one of her most meaningful hookups, but then something happens, and at the moment of weakness she has a thing with her boss, which is huge, but not big enough to ruin their friendship. Niles and Daphne’s relationship goes through natural stages of development, all the way up to the proposal (which was beautiful), and making peace with Daphne’s family. Martin becomes a security guard, and almost falls in love several times, last one – with the neighbor’s mother.

It is astonishing how they managed to keep the overall quality of the show so consistent from one season to the next. It always seems new, – not once has the show repeat itself so far, – and at the same time, it feels so familiar, so comfortable from beginning to end. Apart from the events already mentioned, of which episodes about Daphne’s parents were the most entertaining, there was an appearance by Bill Gates, which happened to be the same episode (#8) when Bulldog returned for a brief period of time; the one about Frederick becoming a national Spelling Bee champion (#18), the one about american flag, the one about the Boston trip (#21), and the one with Daphne’s father (#24).

All in all, a great season: there are lots of fresh stories, and all of them are pretty great quality, including the humor (which still seems funny to me after years of comedy impressions’ stratification on my mind), and the drama (which develops in the orderly, logical fashion and has wonderfully powerful peaks). Watching Frasier is always a pleasure. Names and figures

Frasier (s.08, 2000-01)

In the 8th season of Frasier the lie of the land disturbed by the Niles and Daphne’s mutual affection finally unsealed slowly restores to the usual state – over the course of the season, that is. Consequences of the sudden shift (necessity to uphold Niles’s fake marriage, law suits from Donny) fade away rather quickly; and N & D’s relationship slowly evolves to come to a turning point at a later stage, when psychological issues connected with it are recognized. Frasier goes through several unsuccessful relationships himself, reconnects with Lana (the homecoming queen) and becomes a sort of friends with her, which brings him into a relatively more significant relationship with woman named Clair. He also receives a lifetime achievement SeeBee award, goes into midlife crisis, and expands his show with a wine tasting section for a brief period of time. Roz struggles to find a proper man for herself, gets a god, and almost writes a children’s book. Daphne gets fat; Niles throws a basket ball and hits the target. Martin dates 2 women simultaneously, but fails both relationships; he later attends the parole hearing for the guy who caused his injury. The season ends with everybody going to Belize for a vacation.

This season is pretty great, even though the dramatic intensity is nowhere near what was fueling the previous one. Still, it’s a lot of fun to watch the development of all the principal storylines, most of all – that of Niles and Daphne’s relationship. I was a little worried it would be killed off somehow, but the writers chose to embrace it instead. The thing with the psychological issues accumulating during their first year and then bursting blended rather perfectly with Jane Leeves’s pregnancy, which was turned to the story’s advantage as the overeating problem. Frasier’s midlife crisis provoked by the SeeBee award is also a quite important landmark in the development of his character. Martin’s being at the parole hearing was a really nice touch as well, especially with him not being forgiving and not telling his close ones about it – this adds some cold reality to the whole thing.

At that, the quality of humor remains at pretty much the same level as it was before. Also, there were a lot of cases of sitcom entanglement, but none of them were concocted but quite plausible instead. The french break-up thing was really good (#15), as well as the John Glenn bit (#16; although that one can fuel some idle-headed conspiracy theories), the N&D’s transition to physical relationship was executed really nice (#19), as well as their relationship flashbacks, which were embedded rather skillfully, finally, the whole Claire intrigue was quite entertaining.

All in all, the show keeps being great, and for the 8th season in a row it’s kind of big deal.

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Frasier (s.07, 1999-2000)

Frasier‘s 7th season is probably the most significant one so far. Over the course of the season: Frasier dates several different women (a child’s book author who resembles his mother; a new neighbour; a high-school crash), but none of the relationship sticks; he progresses as a radio host, almost gets his own TV show with Bebe, almost finds roots in the Romanov royal family, and gets problems with his back; Roz continues to raise her daughter as a single mom; Martin gets new glasses. However, the real development sits in the confluence of Daphne’s and Niles’s storylines, because the thing we’ve been anticipating for so long finally happens: while preparing for her wedding with Donny Daphne finds out you know what. Niles, who engages in a relationship with his ex-wife’s plastic surgeon somewhere in the middle of the season, doesn’t learn about the change in the state of affairs for quite a while, which allows Daphne’s confusion (and feelings) to evolve, then several more complications occur along the way, and in the season’s finale something happens that is wonderful and terrible at the same time.

All in all this season is a rather ordinary one, meaning it’s pretty good but (apart from N&D intrigue) not really special. Martin and Roz get to the center of attention less frequently than before, and Frasier is the same old Frasier, with expected quirks and whims. Humor is pretty much the same we got accustomed to, but the level of dramatic elaboration grew up substantially.

The development with Daphne and Niles is the real gem of the season – and of the show in general. I believe, it can be compared to Rachel learning about Ross’s feelings at the end of season 1 of Friends, with one distinction – in this case the anticipation was being build for 6 long years, which imparted a specific tincture to the situation. The evolution of this storyline is well thought-out, there is enough time for it to grow, and key events are located in all the right places. Needless to say, acting is up to the knocker as well, same as every other element out of which this whole thing is constructed. Without any doubt – this is a remarkable job executed with amazing skill and passion.

No matter how it all will pan out in the following seasons, this one elevated the show to a new level.

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Frasier (s.06, 1998-99)

In season 6 of Frasier following stuff happens: Frasier deals with the loss of his job for a while, fails to find a new way for himself, and gladly returns when the status quo is restored; he goes through several short-lasting relationships of various significance level, including Martin’s friend’s daughter who saw him mostly as a counselor, a lady named Cassandra from work, and a jewish girl named Fae – every one of this relationships was eventually blown; Niles continues his painful journey through the divorce, which at some point comes to an expected finale; he struggles with his desire of Daphne, who is still unaware of his feelings; Daphne hooks up with Niles’s divorce attorney and gets engaged to him; Roz is being a single mother; she also finds out about Niles’s crush; Martin endures his break-up with Sherry, and later tries to date on several occasions, including a relatively lasting relationship with a woman named Bonnie, but it ends in the season’s finale, along with Niles’s surprising intrigue with a waitress and Frasier’s relationship with Fae.

All in all, the season is more or less what you would expect from Frasier after watching 5 seasons of it. Roz goes a little bit to the background – her single-mother situation could’ve been developed in much more detail than that. Frasier’s storyline feels like the default one – it’s good, but not the one you love. The most interesting here is the development of Niles-Daphne line, especially such rather radical events as Daphne’s engagement, which seems to be quite serious, and finalization of Niles’s divorce, which is a significant step ahead as well.

Other interesting things include: Woody Harrelson appearance as his character from Cheers; the way Frasier contrives to undermine every romantic relationship he has, at that – in a new fashion every time; origin of Maris’s money (and the way the absent character is used over the course of this season in general); the character of the lawyer (played by Saul Rubinek); Daphne’s web chatting in episode #19; dr. Nora  (episode #20, played by Christine Baranski); and the way Niles handled the sudden story turn with Daphne’s engagement.

All in all, very enjoyable comedy, funny and ingenious, not unlike before, but with story moving a little bit further than usual.

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Frasier (s.05, 1997-98)

In the 5th season of Frasier everything keeps being pretty much as it was from the start. With regard to specific events, here’s the general picture: Frasier celebrates his 1000th show on the radio station, takes Bebe back as his agent, and hosts annual SeaBee awards; he doesn’t engage into any long-term relationship, but goes through several flings, including one with a supermodel, another one with a high-end lawyer, and yet another one with a modern artist; Martin eventually breaks up with Sherry; Niles almost reconciles with Maris, but she starts an affair, so they end up divorcing each other; he then tries to start things with Daphne (which is also the only significant event in her life this season), but, as usual, something comes up; Roz gets pregnant and has a baby as a single mother.

In terms of the quality, as well as of the essence of the environment, nothing changes much, except that there is much less of Frasier’s show and, correspondingly, of the callers. The accent is shifted towards characters’ personal lives and stuff that happens outside of the radio station. Which adds some irony to the fact that the season ends with all the station staff pretty much dissolved. Event though the humor in general is rather high quality, there was 1 episode (#21, about the noses) that stands out with its unnatural deliberateness.

The most curious episodes were: the one with all the outdoors (#5; also includes the title song performance), the one with different perspectives (#9), the one with Niles and Lilith accidental affair (#15), the one with Niles’ and Daphne’s ‘date’ (#20), the one with Bulldog’s heroism (#18), and the one with the dissolution (#24).

Thanks to the finale, that was quite unexpected, I’m quite curious as to what happens next. All in all, the show remains just as enjoyable as before.
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Frasier (s.04, 1996-97)

Fourth season of Frasier is little different from any of the previous seasons, and appears to be their direct continuation, both in terms of the story and in terms of the environment (universe of discourse). Every principal character on the show goes through certain stages of the love life quest: Frasier dates randomly and inconsistently; Daphne says goodbye to the most serious relationship she had in a long time and suffers corresponding consequences; Martin engages in a very significant relationship of his own, which nobody is really happy about, except for him, of course; Niles adapts to living without Marice, and even goes to dates, but ends up back where he was; and Roz dangles around like she usually does. The constant dancing between Niles and Daphne goes on as it was, and gives the audience several moments where the long-awaited shift seemed oh so possible, but nothing happened still, – just like before.

So, yeah, the world of Frasier is really steady, and changes very slowly. That makes the fact that the writers still manage to come up with new ideas, and, more importantly, execute them in an interesting and funny way, all the more impressive. Even though most of the episodes are not too far above middle level for the 1990s american sitcoms, some are written in a particularly sublime fashion, and raise the general level of the season quite substantially.

Among other things, I try to follow any signs of the times changing: the 1990s were an interesting epoch, with lots of extremely new things, so it’s especially curious how all that novelty pierces through the concepts constructed on the basis of the previous era results. It is not surprising, that there’s very little of that stuff in Frasier, but it’s not a complete absence. Curiously enough, there were no mentions of the Internet whatsoever, but there were at least 2 different mentions of Microsoft (and that’s pretty much it).

More importantly, of course, is that the show is pretty funny, even to me, even after all these years. I especially liked the Thanksgiving episode (#7), the one with the dog psychiatrist (#12), the one where Megan Mullally appears (#13), the one with the radio play (#18), the one with Daphne’s american accent (#19), and couple of others. All in all, I enjoy the show quite a lot, and it’s consistency adds the comfort of a familiar continuum.

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Frasier (s.03, 1995-96)

In Frasier‘s season 3, Frasier falls in love (but it doesn’t end happily), finally forgives a woman who fled their wedding, almost has a thing with Rose, and reminisce about his first week after coming back to Seattle; Niles gets separated from his wife Marice; Daphne acquires a boyfriend and learns how to dance; and Martin writes a song, but doesn’t succeed with it.

The quality in general is preserved on pretty much the same level: the show is funny and interesting, but not without occasional lapses in judgement. I liked most of the season, except for a few episodes, which wasn’t an influence setting the tone. The dancing episode was quite brilliant, as well as Frasier’s affair and Niles’s divorce storylines.

The latter is especially interesting, because it deals with a very curious device that was often used in sitcoms at the time when they dominated TV comedy scene, but not anymore (mostly because there is no dominating subgenre at the moment) – the absent character. In this particular case, it’s Marice, Niles’s wife, who is constantly spoken about, but who never ever was personalized. In this season he storyline takes a rather drastic turn – the divorce, after all, is a huge deal, especially when it may remove her from the characters’ list for good; but, of course, there is a good possibility that this is only flirtation, and she would remain in main characters’ lives in one capacity or another. I suppose, the technique may have originated from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; it can also be said, that whenever there is a persistent evildoer in a procedural drama (a maniac, a superkiller, a criminal lord), whose identity remains mysterious for the major part of it, it is a mutated variant of the same device. I wonder if it can be actually applied to a more traditional drama.

I like that a lot of the show is written by smart people: for instance, it’s from Frasier’s lines I realized that there is a difference between ‘love’ and ‘like’ (especially when it comes to family relationships), which never occurred to me before. Also, being a psychiatrist, he gives people decent, workable recommendations, even though he relies too much on the book wisdom and neglects the everyday kind of it.

P.S.: Curiously enough, this might be the project when Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan (creators of Modern Family) became friends, as they both worked as writers on Frasier for at least this season.

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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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