Going for laughs is as old as entertainment itself. Going for laughs by being the weirdest act under the tent? I have no idea who first tried it, I just know that it takes a near perfect touch to get it right (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is the gold standard for this right now).
But there are some shows that seem to have a knack for it and they’re worth taking a look at.
Man Seeking Woman
Ho-hum, another rom-com sit-com color-me-bored.com. But wait. Unlike early season cancellations like A to Z or Manhattan Love Story, this show is not just another date-night sitcom. Josh (Jay Baruchel) is an ordinary guy, living in Manhattan. He just broke up with his girlfriend Maggie (Maya Erskine), his sister Liz (Britt Lower) endlessly offers positive encouragement in the form juice cleanses, yoga and other assorted happy-face tortures. His roommate and pal Mike (Eric Andre) exhorts him to man-whore it up a bit to get over his malaise. All very familiar.
Where Man Seeking Woman distinguishes itself is in its real-life manifestations of the pitfalls and pratfalls of the dating life. When Josh gets set up on a blind date and gets warned by Mike that she’ll likely be a troll, Josh is rather stunned to sit down to dinner across from a troll – that would be a scaly-green-pointy-eared-I-live-under-a- bridge-and-I-have-a-riddle kind of troll . When Josh meets Maggie’s new boyfriend, he’s Hitler – I mean actual Hitler, a 90 year old Nazi in a wheelchair who, upon learning Josh’s last name is Greenberg mugs “UH-OH!” and draws big laughs from a group of party goers.
The wonderful absurdity of these dating life cliches are perfectly offset by Baruchel’s slightly slobby everyman personna. The humor works the same way it did in the brilliant This Is The End. Getting over a relationship isn’t quite like living on a demon-infested post-rapture Earth, but it’s only slightly worse.
Man Seeking Woman has no shortage of material from which to mine its humor, as it will be open season on every cliche in every romcom ever made. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
The Mike Tyson Mysteries
There’s a plethora of stoner-friendly comedy on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, but one of my personal favorites is this loony detective show featuring the voices of Mike Tyson (as himself), Rachel Ramras (as his adopted Asian teenage daughter), Norm MacDonald (as a talking pigeon) and Jim Rash (as a gay ghost).
The opening credits alone tell you most of what you need to know about this show, as they feature Tyson punching a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the face, the talking pigeon in scuba gear, Tyson and his daughter riding a white tiger…you get the idea. The nominal plotlines have the team riding around in a Scooby Doo inspired van solving mysteries, but the cherry on the comedic sundae here is Tyson’s own self-caricature of a performance.
Every episode, moreover, ends with a quick shot of live action Mike Tyson – a sort of knowing wink to the audience that he is indeed in on the joke. I have yet to watch one of the 15 minute long episodes of this show and not laugh out loud at least once. That’s a better record than most sitcoms.
At the other end of the spectrum is this breezy gal-pal comedy from VH1, which is trying its hand at scripted television. Best if they would try again to be honest.
The premise here is for a nostalgia show, specifically the mid-’90s. 40-something Rebecca (Laura Ramsey) has a failed marriage, a terrible job, a snooty cousin who rubs her nose in it, a disapproving mother, and an estranged best friend (Sarah Goldberg) she hasn’t seen in years. Who wouldn’t want out of that deal?
Sure enough, a magic elevator ride transports Becca back to the ‘90s, when she was in her 20s, and gives her a chance to fix her life and make everything right again.
Sounds innocent enough when I read it here, but watching this show, I couldn’t help but feel like the unbelievably trivial problems of the characters was more than a little insulting given the chasm between the world that existed in 1995 and the living hell that followed (just as a reminder – we had a presidential election that had to be resolved by the Supreme Court, the 9/11 attacks, the Afghan war, the Iraq war, the global economic collapse of 2008…I’d go on but I might kill myself). As a result, it is a little hard to give a shit who Rebecca will sleep with next on her sojourn back to 1995.
Of course, the show isn’t about politics or war or anything heavy, it’s just a little nostalgic comedy like That ‘70s Show, right? Maybe if they tried a little harder to convince me I’d forget all that bad stuff and actually get into the show, but to be honest, the effort here is lacking. 40 something Rebecca and 20 something Rebecca look nearly identical.
There’s also not much ‘90s nostalgia beyond some obvious soundtrack choices and one or two costume choices. Let’s face it: the ‘90s didn’t stand out that way like the hippie-chick ‘60s, the disco ‘70s or the big hair ‘80s did. What was the equivalent trend in the ‘90s? Yeah, I don’t know either.
Either way, this show doesn’t do enough to get me to care, and I don’t think it will be around as long as the decade it is celebrating.
I don’t know if anyone has been bothering to watch The Late Late Show since Craig Ferguson signed off, but its series of guest host turns took a particular odd turn last week on Wednesday and Thursday. Whitney Cummings hosted with no audience. The monologue was delivered in silence. Awkward silence at that. This is NOT like that football game with no announcers. It was much much worse. I can only hope they won’t put any other comics through this before James Corden takes over for good.
I don’t know what the best Super Bowl commercial was, but I do know what the worst one was (no, not the Nationwide ad with the kid who turns out to be dead). It was NBC’s network promo for The Night Shift. How did this piece of shit get another season out of NBC?
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) Once your brain’s a pile of shit, it stays a pile of shit (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia); 2) No one pushes the ball across the football table and into the scoring zone like Tom Brady! (The Daily Show); 3) Bitches need to bring they own cheese (@Midnight).
Wanna know how to get Marshawn Lynch to talk? Get him playing video games. That’s just what Conan O’Brien did during a segment of Conan featuring Lynch and Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots. The three of them played Mortal Kombat. This is a recurring feature on Conan, but this one was particularly funny, and I don’t know whether the two athletes were fed their joke lines or not but the segment felt completely unscripted. Best part: Gronk and Lynch teaching Conan how to grab his crotch as part of a touchdown celebration.
The Mindy Project is back on Fox on February 3.
The series premiere of Fresh Off The Boat airs on ABC on February 4.
Nashville returns to ABC on February 4.
The series premiere of Allegiance airs on NBC on February 5.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: [email protected] I welcome your input!