Category Archives: sitcom

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.

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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.

Names and figures

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.

Names and figures

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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Frasier (s.01, 1993-94)

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

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

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

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demeanor of the characters, as well as certain fundamentals of the environment (like the radio talk show) are somewhat outdated.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

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Mom (s.04, 2016-17)

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

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

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

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Will & Grace (s.08, 2005-06)

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

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

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

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

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.07, 2004-05)

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

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

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

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

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.06, 2003-04)

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

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

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.05, 2002-03)

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

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

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.04, 2001-02)

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

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

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

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.03, 2000-01)

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

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.02, 1999-2000)

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

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

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

So, in short, – so far so good.

Names and figures

Will & Grace (s.01, 1998-99)

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

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

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

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

Names and figures

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

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

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

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

Also, it felt like an eternity.

Names and figures

Peep Show (s.09, 2015)

Ninth season of Peep Show, which is the last one, revolves around Mark’s trying to snare April (a student girl who previously appeared in season 2 or something), and Jez going openly gay.

The balance of the 3 substances (the funny, the nasty, and the awkward) kind of fluctuates throughout the season, with awkward and nasty dominating roughly the first third, and funny prevailing over the remaining episodes. The whole course of events was designed for the forethought finale, which is usually great, but here it wasn’t embedded into the meat of the drama neatly enough, – some loose ends were evident, all I’m saing. The show is pretty great, though, only imperfect, but that’s not a sin.

All in all, this season, both its implementation and the story, does seem like a great conclusion to the series.

So, Peep Show is a distinctive project, not like any other; it has its own recognizable accent; it can be funny, it can be dark, and it also can be very, very awkward.

So long, dear sir. It was a nice ride, but I don’t think I’m gonna miss you.

Names and figures

Peep Show (s.08, 2012)

Story of 8th season of Peep Show revolves around Mark trying to get things going with Dobby while simultaneously looking for a new job, and Jeremy reinventing himself as a life-coach.

The quality of the narrative remains pretty much the same – it’s still the plateau; on the one hand this is good, because there’s no degradation, but on the other – there’s not a lot of development either. As to the content essense, mass fraction of funny has reduced, and fractions of nasty and awkward have grown, which ratio makes the season sort of bitter. Some stories are truly awful, like the one where Jeremy ruines at least one person’s life with his coaching, or the one where Mark simply runs off. It was demonstrated on many occasions (not that it’s big news, but still) that Mark, while being intelligent is not smart at all.

All that makes me glad that the end is approaching, even though, once again, the writing is quite good.

Names and figures

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