Category Archives: sitcom

Hot in Cleveland (s.03, 2011-12)

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

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

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

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

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

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Will & Grace (s.09, 2017-18)

The 9th season of Will & Grace is the first from the planned reincarnation triple. In contrast with the original run, the show has been updated to resemble the present times, and also became much more political. In the course of the season: Will falls for a republican power-gay; tries to date a much younger guy; makes senior partner in his firm; comes to work with Grace; hooks up with a bread maker; has a little thing with Larry; attends Vince’s wedding; deeplikes his ex Michael; and inadvertently brings Grace’s father with them. Grace blows a chance to decorate the Oval office; gets a biopsy of her bigger boob; has words with Leo the ex-husband; lads a big client; hooks up with a bread maker; bombs at QVC together with Will; nails three generations of one family; attends a baby shower; fights for the MAGA cake; drags Will to visit her family; and summons Will’s mother. Jack tries to keep up with the modern gays; teaches acting to kids; meets his grandson and saves him from the fixing camp; ‘wins’ $2000 in a lottery; catches an ear-worm and gives it to Karen, too; becomes a Lyft driver; starts a serious relationship for the first time – with Drew the cop; gets dumped; goes to Ibiza and comes back with a boyfriend. Karen meets Beverly Lesli again; suffers a terrible blow when Rosario first has a heart attack and then dies in the hospital; runs into Val; watches the Staff Show; hooks up with Malcolm and is forced into a difficult choice. All four of them celebrate Christmas by going on a historical society tour (the Irish Tale).

Only a half of all the jokes were funny. Some of them seemed really contrived. The stories all in all were mostly just okay. The level of sentimentality in them is higher than comfortable, but, to be fair, does not bring into melodrama domain. The political component is fine by me (although it is rarely truly amusing), but already in a couple of years it would be completely unreadable, so this probably cannot be deemed a strong feature of the show as well. The way the writers made play of the Rosario absence was not particularly great – merely okay.

On the bright side, all the primary characters look really great, and it was really nice to see them doing good.

Generally speaking, the reanimated show far is mediocre rather than anything else. The narrative lacks strength, and the humor is often slapstick and unnecessarily loud. It was fun, I guess, but I wasn’t delighted.

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Hot in Cleveland (s.02, 2011)

In the 2nd season of Hot in Cleveland Elka goes into trial on account of possession of stolen goods; she breaks up with Max, but later messes with Max’s new fiance and gets back together with him; later still they break up again because of Florida; crushes Kimmel show; gets a rescue dog; declared guilty and starts waiting for the sentencing; tries to run and hides amidst the amishes; goes to a date with a rich guy, but then blows him off; reconnects with an old friend; goes to Paris; gets engaged to Fred; and gets pardoned due to political reasons. Victoria gets her assets frozen because her accountant turns out to be a thief; she starts looking for money, and tries several things, including hooking up with a sugar-daddy; she fights Melany Griffith; almost kills Susan Lucci; tries to make a sex tape; joins the local news team; falls for a farmer named Dave; meets a convict; dates one of the Siamese twins; gets visited by her daughter Emmy; gets pranked by a co-worker; gets engaged to Johnny the rock star; and tries out new japanese product for advertising. Joy faces deportation and goes through several sham marriages (with their neighbour Rick, with another guy, with a bum) to avoid it, although none of them work; she realizes that she wants a baby, and so she visits a sperm bank, which leads her to a sexual relationship with Rick; steals files of another patient of her shrink; meets her firstborn Allan; has a date with the guy who does impressions; dates Victoria’s co-worker to break his heart; plans Elka’s wedding; and gets a green card due to political reasons. Melany falls in love with Pete, and comes to meet his family, but then it turns out that Hank is Pete’s older brother, and so everything falls apart; she sells her LA house; goes to a date with a guy who looks like Jesus; starts writing a column based on her book; dates a foot-fetish guy; and does research into no-strings-attached sex for women. The girls try out magic spanks one after another; take a trip to LA, each for her own reason; start and end a music band; try to find GBFFs, but to no avail; meet a priest who is a singer, and go though wedding madness completely drugged. Episode 19 (Too Hot for TV) consists of behind-the-stage interviews and bloopers.

In terms of quality the 2nd season is almost the same as the 1st one, meaning the general level remains more or less even with an occasional blaze and just as occasional contrivance. There are two continuous storylines here – the one with Elka’s trial, and the one with Joy’s green card; both are developed in a rather logical and interesting fashion, both cause some pretty great episodes. The rest of the season, though, is dedicated mostly to the attempts at relationships, which starts to feel a bit superficial.

Like I said, most of the stories are average, some are great (the one with Lucci, the one with the wedding, several others), and some seem contrived – to be fair, not too much. So far the show is more fun than tedious, even though the notes of the latter are, in fact, present. The humor all in all is pretty good, although some of the jokes are no longer readable.

The season is fun in a sense that it brough a number of truly interesting actors into play: Wayne Knight was as good as always, John Mahoney was nice to see; there were also Jimmy Kimmel, Melany Griffith, and, apparently, Peri Gilpin (at least, according to wiki, because I surely missed her somehow).

Generally speaking, it’s all quite good, but I’m hoping it would become better. There is definitely some space for development.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.01, 2010)

Hot in Cleveland is a sitcom comedy about three girlfriends out of Los Angeles who settle in Cleveland, Ohio. Victoria, star of the daytime TV, Joy, celebrity hair removal specialist of british descent, and recently divorced Melany were flying to Paris, when their plane was emergency landed in Cleveland, so that they had to spend a day there. Appalled at first, they soon got inspired with the charm of the province, where they were not just mediocre versions of the beauty standard, but true queens of hotness. Melany decided to rent a house, and the other two followed her lead. The three of them settled together with a housekeeper, an almost 80 years old woman named Elka. The first season follows their adventures in the environment that was entirely new for the three newcomers, and has drastically changed for the 4th member of the group. Mostly it’s depiction of their attempts at arranging their personal lives. Elka gets engaged to an elderly guy named Max, and has him competing with a rival. Joy tries to date a guy who turns out to be not her son, and then another, a possible murderer. Melany goes through several guys, almost has a thing with a singer Holly Nash, almost reunites with her ex, and then starts dating a cop name Pete. Victoria shoots a commercial for Japan, directs a local school’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and acts in it, and later lays claim to the daytime Emmy award. When Elka in order to pump her chances starts a rumor about her having a disfiguring disease, she goes along with it trying to fake the symptoms. Over the course of the season all the characters improve their relationships with other members of their respective families. In the finale Elka is discovered to be in possession of a great variety of stolen jewelry.

As it often happens, the show starts off on the average level of everything, and then gets better with time. The premise feels somewhat artificial at first, but after several episodes pass, and the new environment more or less settles, the awkwardness goes away, the acting becomes bolder, and the writing – more ingenious. The two main components of the cocktail of this series is the contrast between the California glare, bright but superficial, and Ohio provinciality, solid but dull; and the chemistry within the nonuniform group of the 4 ladies. All in all it works pretty well – surprisingly well.

Of course, power cast has something to do with it. All the 4 primary characters are pretty well-known, and, more importantly, do a beautiful job. They are further reinforced with a range of great secondary characters and guest stars, such as Wayne Knight and Susan Lucci.

But the main thing is still the writing. The stories, although revolved mostly around romance and relationships, the least original thing in the world, have certain freshness to them that derives mostly from the aforementioned 2 components. The humor is pretty nice – not great, but it can definitely get there, and already in this season there were a few truly amazing ideas, such as the theme of the finale, or the smart bleeping in the airport.

All in all, at this point the show seems to have a lot of potential. It’s fresh and vivid, and funny enough.

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Roseanne (s.09, 1996-97)

In the 9th season of Roseanne that became the final one of the original run the story mostly revolves around Roseanne winning the state lottery and dealing with positive and negative effects of the sudden wealth. The season starts, in correspondence with the previous season’s finale, with familial discord. Immediately after that conflict gets resolved the family becomes rich. Dan decides to take better care of his mother and takes off with her to California to consult with the best doctors they have. During his absence Roseanne goes to Golden Chamber spa with Jackie, attends a charity ball in New York, visits some vineyard, travels to Washington, DC, and rescues a train full of hostages on her way, and holds Thanksgiving party. Jackie gets courted by a Moldavian prince, who even takes her to dinner to Manhattan. Beverly comes out of the closet. Leon and his partner decide to adopt a baby. After Dan gets back things suddenly take a different turn. Jackie’s prince marries someone else never to explain himself. DJ’s voice starts to change. Dan makes a very bad decision that nearly ruins the family. In the result of the latter Roseanne falls into deep depression and barely makes it out. She gets invited to the Landford country club, the nucleus of local elite, and meets son of Wellman, the owner of the factory she used to work on. Together they come up with a deal about the factory that should serve the benefit of its workers. DJ meets a girl named Heather, and asks Mark for advice about girls. Roseanne gives Dan the 2nd chance, and the family reconciles. Darlene gets rushed to the hospital and gives birth prematurely, so that the baby barely survives. Beverly finds a girlfriend named Joyce. Jackie gets to wrestle with a professional. Then network and cable compete to make Roseanne’s story. Dan’s mother comes to visit and tries to kill him. Becky gets pregnant. Season’s finale puts all of the above in a very different perspective.

As far as I understand, the 9th season is a sort of bonus one – they were planning to finish after 8th; and so essentially it’s about all the members of crew and cast having fun. Hence a number of implausible episodes, such as the one with hostages on a train (Segal, by the way, made an appearance there). Some of them were good, others – quite shaky, but the overall impression is positive. Later on a drama was attached, which was in part to conceal absence of John Goodman. It not only worked perfectly (one of the best solutions of this issue I’ve seen so far), but elevated the show on a whole new dramatic level. Darlene’s pregnancy development reinforced it even further – even though it was clear from the beginning that the baby cannot die, the intrigue did add tension to the narrative, along with some suspense.

The thing with the lottery winning gave some dubious episodes, but also some pretty great ones – for example, Roseanne meeting Edgar Wellman and the thing with the factory is among them.

Sarah Chalke played Becky ones again instead of Lecy Goranson: on the one hand, it’s a pity, but on the others – she did quite fine, especially considering that neither Becky, nor Darlene, nor David, nor Mark, nor DJ, were present in the story very often. Nancy played a larger part than in couple of previous seasons, which was cool. Leon also increased his presence significantly.

The finale is made as if it was conceived long ago, but it probably wasn’t. Still, this doesn’t undermine the piercing and aching sincerity of its message.

All in all, notwithstanding some questionable decision through-out the season, the closing for the show proved to be pretty good. Now I’m really looking forward to see how Roseanne would wriggle her way out of certain story solutions in the come-back season that is about to be shown. This was an exceptionally significant show, even though it’s not as esteemed now as Friends, for example. In any case, it definitely deserves to be remembered.

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The Millers (s.01, 2013-14)

The Millers is a family sitcom about – take a wild guess – the family of Millers. Nathan Miller is a recently divorced 43 years old newscaster for the local TV channel; his sister Debbie owns a all-green-organic restaurant with her husband Adam (they also have soon-to-be-teenage daughter Mikayla. Debbie’s business is struggling, which is why Nathan constantly helps her out financially. Nathan maintains friendship with his cameraman Ray. The established balance of relationships changes drastically when their parents Carol and Tom move to live with them because their own house got flooded and requires time to be repaired. As soon as the parents learn about Nathan’s divorce, Tom walks out on Carol, looking to find happiness in life. The parents also get divorced eventually, but remain closely related because they both live at their children’s, and actively participate in each other’s lives.

Greg Garcia’s take on the family comedy seems to have all that is needed – compelling, life-like situations, distinct characters, great cast – and yet it’s a failure. I think, there are three reason to that, the combination of which led to cancellation of the show in the middle of its 2nd season (and the fact that episodes from that 2nd season are basically impossible to get).

First is the character of Carol played by Margo Martindale. While the execution of the personality is rather great, the character itself is far from amiable and therefore unpleasant to follow. It’s over-domineering, smothering mother who prevents her children from evolving into full-fledged, independent persons.

The second reason is the humor, which is mediocre at best. Absolute majority of the jokes, situations, gags, etc. are simply not funny.

Finally, the third reason is that the situations presented in the show often cross the plausibility border and become more anecdotic than realistic, and, correspondingly, are perceived as bullshit, even if on the unconscious level. I think, this may be an overcompensation for middling humor, – sadly, it only made things worse.

The result is all the more lamentable because of truly abundant cast – Arnett, Martindale, Mays, Bridges and many others are all truly good actors, and still their collective effort proved to be insufficient to make this show work. Lulu Wilson as Mikayla was pretty good; there were also appearances by Roseanne Barr (who got so slim I recognized her only by her voice), June Squibb and Jeffrey Tambor, – but none of that managed to save the day. And all because of poor writing.

All in all, the show is not worth the time. It simply isn’t good.

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Roseanne (s.08, 1995-96)

In the 8th season of Roseanne the family brings into the world another baby and names him in the honor of Jerry Garcia. Becky and Darling both work at the diner. Dan and Rosie crash a bar mitzvah. The show travels to the 1950s. Family takes a trip to the Disney World and travels first class on the way there. Also, Dan grows a beard (although, not for long); spends some time with DJ; briefly reunites with the band of his youth; puts new linoleum in the kitchen; faces a hard life decision; quits government job; has a heart attack; and talks to god. Becky fights with Darlene; gets a lot of visitors to the trailer; and decides to go to college. DJ takes a photo class; plays a part in the thanksgiving play; makes a business on mice for laboratories; and inherits from a relative more than Roseanne does. Roseanne breaks into a competing restaurant; gives birth on Halloween; takes a trip to a mall with Jackie and experiences a case of road rage on the way back; records a video time capsule for the newborn; plans Leon’s wedding; and gets interviews by Wake-up Chicago TV program, which leads to a long-time gig. Mark cooks for the family; and almost wins at scrabble. Jackie divorces Fred; becomes a bit too competitive when working in the supermarket with Roseanne; gets a computer and immediately becomes addicted; goes ballroom dancing and almost hijacks her mother’s crush. David plans to move out; and gets a job at the amusement park (Edelweiss Gardens). Darlene turns down a high-paying job, which causes a real crisis in the family; gets pregnant and proposes to David; and gets married. After Dan’s heart attack, he cheats on the prescribed diet, which leads to a huge, really serious fight with Roseanne.

The season is pretty great. The quality is more or less consistent through-out the whole thing. Lecy Goranson comes back as the primary Becky, but gets substituted by Sarah Chalke on several occasions (Chalke also pays the family a visit on Halloween as a friendly neighbour). The writers take a notable stand on the human rights issue – in particular, the parody on the 50s sitcoms is especially curious (but there is no Darlene, and it could have been funnier). The gay wedding is quite interesting, as well as the trip to Disney World – this last thing was due to the fact that Disney company bought out the parent TV channel and compelled all the projects to promote Disney; all things considered, the writers of Roseanne weaseled their way out of the situation rather craftily.

The development with Roseanne’s TV gig is pretty great; same goes to the Darlene’s wedding and subsequent Dan’s health issues – that story branch evolves in a logical and consistent fashion, and is rather powerful at that. DJ’s part in the story finally seems adequate to his age. The quality of humor is pretty high – there are ups and downs, of course, but there were no real lapses, and, on the other hand, – quite a few truly great moments.

All in all, the season is give or take on the level of the 7th, which is not bad at all, especially after the disastrous 6th. If the original run would manage to preserve this standard of quality, it would be really great.

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Roseanne (s.07, 1994-95)

In the 7th season of Roseanne Darlene, while being away in college, breaks up with David and starts dating a guy named Jimmy, which doesn’t last. Eventually there appears a possibility of them reconciling. Becky and Mark live in Roseanne’s house for a while, until they find their own trailer and move out. Jackie and Fred experience troubles with their marriage; Jackie briefly goes out with a guy named Pete – just as a friend, but that turns out enough to drive the couple into marriage counseling, which ultimately doesn’t help. After breaking up with Darlene, David tries to date other girls, and has some sort of fascination with Becky, but that doesn’t lead anywhere. Roseanne gets pregnant and goes through a number of emotional upheavals related to pregnancy. DJ takes part in the upbringing of his cousin, Jackie’s child, and by the end of the season gets his first girlfriend Lisa. Apart from that Dan shaves his armpits; Mark gets sick; David rats Darlene out; has a sex dream about Roseanne; graduates high-school and decides not to go to Europe; Darlene admits taking drugs; moves in with Jimmy; fights with Becky because of David; and gets dumped; Becky doesn’t get enough acting in bed; DJ has a problem with David; cheats Darlene out of her allowance; gets fired from the diner, goes to work for Dan, but soon returns back; beats David; participates in a play; has an erection problem; eats cardboard; goes to Chicago; and resurrects a bee; Roseanne becomes a victim of a Halloween prank; hires Stacey to be a bus-person; and pretends to be sick; Beverly gets busted for DUI and becomes sober; babysits for Jackie; and gives her couch to Roseanne. The season touches upon such issues as racism, abortions, gay people, naturism, and Nielsen ratings. Additionally, a few things deserve a separate mention: the flashback episode, and particularly the TV mothers scene; John Goodman’s audition tape; and the parody on Gilligan’s Island (and reverse).

Thankfully, the dark haze of the 6th season dispersed quickly enough – the 7th season is much better in everything. The storylines are more internally consistent and develop in a more logical fashion. The drama is appropriately intense where necessary, but never too much or out-of-place. The humor all in all is quite good, and some episodes are truly brilliant.

Roseanne was absent for several episodes in the second half of the season because she was actually pregnant and couldn’t attend – this was addressed in a smart and funny way, and some nearly genius things were done to cover up her absence. The bit with all the TV mothers is absolutely remarkable. The episode with the Gilligan’s Island, even though I never watched the show and probably never would, is just as marvellous, and same goes for the continuation, when the actors from that show took places of Roseanne’s cast. There were some smart and relevant references to the OJ trial, the Friends, and Michael Jackson. Sharon Stone, Ellen DeGeneres and Danny Masterson honored the show with their brief appearances.

It’s just like there was no setback at all. In the 7th season the show is perhaps even more powerful and viable than any of the first 5 seasons. I find this ability to move on and build up even more outstanding than the return of the quality. Extremely interesting, and highly recommended.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.06, 1993-94)

In the 6th season of Roseanne Darlene goes to another city to study in college, where she rents an apartment; over the course of the season she repeatedly visits her parents’ house; goes through a conflicting stage in her relationship with David; and doesn’t want to have kids. Roseanne contemplates the idea of having another child, but then changes her mind; smokes pot with Dan and Jackie; throws baby shower for Jackie; lands money to Mark for him to continue education; learns about networking; brings David home; goes to the gay bar and gets hit on; and gets a stove for free. Dan works as a foreman in the city service with a number of men under him, including Fred; likes Nancy; breaks his nose; has a talk with DJ about masturbation; goes to lunch with Phillis; has a reunion party; doesn’t want to hire Mark; throws David out of the house; admits his mother to a mental hospital; and learns the truth about the past of his family. Jackie goes on a date with Fred; has a house-warming party; gets pregnant; learns how to lie better; avoids Fred as best as she could; gets sued for custody of the child; finally gets together with Fred; finds out about her real name; gives birth to a boy; overcomes Fred’s concerns about her past; almost gets proposed to; gets married. Beverly gets pushed by her daughters to the status of silent partner, and later sells her share to Leon; and gets hurt while having sex. DJ flanks school and even gets closer to Darlene on that ground; steals car; starts helping in the restaurant; attends ballet; blackmails Darlene out of her savings; has a sex talk with Darlene; and starts going to church. David gets caught hiding pot in the house; goes as if to Michigan to live with his mother, but really to live with Darlene; slaves to Roseanne after coming back; comes live with Jackie; returns back; and turns out to be sexist. Becky returns reincarnated (in the body of Sarah Chalke) and moves back in her parents’ house, together with Mark; and starts working as a waitress in a night club. Mark loses his job; manages to get hired by Dan; gets expelled from college; fights with the family and moves out; and moves back in. Leon buys out Beverly; later he starts working to undermine Roseanne and maybe even push her out.

A series of poorly thought-through, chaotic story solutions made Roseanne into a complete mess. There are still some instances of quality humor through-out the season, but the logic of development, the characters’ motivation, the condition of drama – these very important aspects leave much to be desired.

Nancy is pushed to the sidelines and also made to look rather superficial and plain stupid at times. Mark, who previously produces an impression of a person who may not be book-smart, but is good with his hands and overall quite decent, is not a downright stupid looser. Jackie in her relationship with Fred (early stages) acted so utterly unreasonable, it was painful to watch. The same thing with Dan on 2 different occasions – in the matter with his father, and in the matter with David. It was astonishingly bad writing for it brought the show closer to melodrama. David is made into a total whimp, which he wasn’t before. New version of Becky is not nearly as good as the old one (even with ironic attitude to the fact of the change).

To the habitual kind of comedy there added another one – parody: on several occasions different shows (mostly soaps) were slightly mocked, and I can’t say that it was bad or good, but the mere fact that the writers resorted to the lower styles confirms for me that there was a crisis in the story department.

Some minor characters, such as Crystal, Anne-Marie, and some others, disappear from the story for no particular reason. Admittedly, Crystal appeared in a couple of scenes, but that was kinda sad.

Like I said, there’s still quite a lot of great stuff – the chemistry between the characters was pretty much preserved; some of the episodes were particularly good (although, none of them was wonderful); the humor was mostly okay and sometimes rather great.

But the season still upset me more than amused. I find this tendency quite troubling.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.05, 1992-93)

In the 5th season of Roseanne the Connor family goes bankrupt with the motorcycle business, and, after getting a financial contribution from Roseanne’s mother Beverly, goes into the service sector by opening a loose meat sandwiches restaurant together with Nancy, Jackie and Beverly. Becky goes with Mark to Minnesota after he receives a good job offer there; they both appear only in a couple of episodes in the beginning, and an additional scene somewhere in the middle, and that’s it. Dan is forced to go back to the drywalling, which he hates; gets arrested for protecting Jackie; goes into existential crisis; takes a job in a clothing store; has to work on their anniversary; upgrades Roseanne’s wedding ring; almost gets a business of re-selling houses; and gets a government job. Nancy gets separated from Arnie; gets a liposuction; starts dating a woman; survives Arnie’s visit; falls for charming guy named Roger and wants to conceive a baby from him. Jackie goes to a singles dance; starts dating a younger guy named Fisher; later she moves in with him; and then heavily regrets it; and buys a house for herself. Darlene keeps working with David on a comic book; their relationships develops naturally, although she tries to avoid sex on the initial stages; she gets a sweet 16 party from the family; dyes her hair black; goes to a concert with Molly; becomes a vegetarian; applies for the writing school along with David; gets in (he doesn’t) and decides not to go; almost breaks up with David because Molly kissed him; goes to the prom; finally loses virginity; gets a job in a supermarket; and decides to leave anyway. DJ gets caught peeping after Molly; names the restaurant; tries playing hockey; tastes beer for the first time; gets punished by Darlene; brings obscene reading material to school; writes a play on Landford’s history; brings up the contract; makes a new friend called Jordan; meets new neighbour boy named George; touches a boob. Roseanne goes around asking for a loan; almost forgets the value of Halloween, but gets reminded by all the ghosts; feels old; goes to a self-defense class; almost becomes friends with Charlotte; makes up with her old-time friend Ronnie; experiences the loss of her father; makes boudoir photos of herself for Dan on account of their anniversary; looses a tooth; and lets Darlene go. Beverly gives her daughters $10,000 each; moves to Landford; and then to a retirement home; turns out to be an atheist; and gets a boyfriend. David gets frustrated from not having sex with Darlene; doesn’t move to Michigan with his mother and instead gets to live with the Connors; and doesn’t want to let Darlene go. New neighbours move in (Sy with daughters Molly and Charlotte); later the Connors go to a vacation in California with them. Arnie appears additionally as Jackie Thomas (title character of the show he had at the time). Leon shows up in a small role of a health inspector.

Notwithstanding rather drastic changes in the plot (the shift into the restaurant business happened in a matter of several episodes), the development of the story is gradual and consistent. Perhaps, the only thing I didn’t like was the almost complete absence of Becky. Everything else seems to be in order. Apart from the new business model, the most interesting things in this season were the Darlene’s evolution, growing embeddedness of David, who basically became part of the family (also the way it came to happen is pretty great), and the writers resorting to really serious themes, such as domestic abuse, which doesn’t seem to hinder with the comical part of the narrative. DJ is still a baby – his share in the story does grow, but not as fast as I hoped; by the way, in this season he’s approximately the same age Darlene was in season 1, and yet he is not as active in the story.

The writing is really good; there were some brilliant episodes, namely the Halloween one (although these are traditionally great), those about crime and punishment; those related to the neighbour girls, as well as others. The subject of a restaurant appeared in the show for a reason: Roseanne and her then husband Tom Arnold had the same kind of restaurant; it was closed down after their divorce, so I wonder would that be reflected in the story as well? I guess, I will see soon enough.

Notable are the guest appearances by Joan Collins and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The acting all in all is just as great.

Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound, strong season with a lot of truly great humor and significant admixture of serious drama, which emphasizes the brightness of the funny stuff.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.04, 1991-92)

In the 4th season of Roseanne Dan with his wife undertake the new business in the form of a bike shop, where they repair and sell motorcycles. The business is slow – they barely make the end meet, and they also slave themselves to death. Roseanne works in the restaurant at the same time as she’s helping Dan. Becky and Mark are in a serious relationship; Becky goes on a pill; Mark helps Dan in the shop as he is a good mechanic. Crystal raises her new baby, with pretty much no help from her new husband, and later in the season she gets pregnant again and then gives birth to a baby girl, which makes her life this much harder. Darlene gets all dark and moody, she gets enthusiastic about book and literature, and eventually starts to write herself. At some point she meets David (initially Kevin), who is Mark’s brother; they become friends and then start dating; they also start drawing a graphic novel together. Apart from this: Becky gets to be in charge of the family more and more often; wants to get some vehicle and eventually gets her mom’s old car; works as a cashier in the supermarket; breaks it off with Mark; briefly goes out with Dean (in memoriam) but thinks about getting back with Mark. Jackie becomes a fragrance girl; has a one-night stand with Arnie; goes to the truckers school; becomes a trucker and starts working as one; wears the same costume as Crystal on Halloween; calls Booker when she’s depressed; meet her father’s lover together with Roseanne; visit with her sister their childhood house which is about to be demolished; she goes to therapy and brings Roseanne in. DJ brings home a dog; builds a sundial; loses a friend when their neighbours go back to Chicago; gets a video game for birthday; and wins a spelling bee. Darlene quits basketball team; becomes friends with Karen, the bookstore owner; gets beat up on account of her big mouth; comes to Dan with her personal problem; and together with her sister really upsets Roseanne on Mother’s day. Roseanne buys an umbrella stand off the robbers; makes fun of Wayne Newton in Vegas; allows Becky to invite Mark for Thanksgiving; resumes smoking and then quits again; goes through her parent’s  divorce; becomes a Santa Clause with Jackie as Mrs. Clause; gets addicted to bingo; quarrels with Crystal; throws her back off; gets a breast reduction; tries to hook Jackie up with their accountant Art; gets thrown out of the fake family for the commercial; gets tested on polygraph; tries to get a manager job, but the restaurant gets closed down. Leon allows his boyfriend to meet his mother; breaks up with him; gets promoted and tries to find the girls new jobs, but fails. Arnie gets married to a girl named Nancy; and later gets abducted by aliens. Dan helps his bowling team to be not the worst; gets a snowmobile job; gets a tatoo; and helps drunk Mark.

The show becomes more and more consistent with each season. There were no hanging storylines this time – everything that was outlined at the end of season 3 received a proper development in this season. The evolution of the family story seems to be rather logical and coherent: the overall storyline is interesting enough, and the writers are sticking with it, which is great; lines of the separate members progress in a way that corresponds their character traits and nicely intertwine with all the other significant story streams.

The quality of execution is more or less the same, except that the acting is maturing little by little, and the drama grows deeper. The humor remains rather high quality. George Clooney makes an appearance (as far as I know, his finale one on the show); Johnny Galecki, Sandra Bernhard, and Dan Butler (from Frasier) appear in the series for the first time.

All in all, the show is just as great an entertainment as it ever was; it’s extremely laudable and promotes some positive things, such as tolerance and sense of responsibility, at that the position of the writers produces an impression of sincere and consistent. So far I haven’t detected a single reason not to watch Roseanne.

Names and figures

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

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

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