Tag Archives: comedy

"30 Rock" isn't over – but should it be?

Alec Baldwin’s recent comments about the end of 30 Rock were quickly rebutted and walked back. Initially promising one more season, Baldwin changed his tune to five more, placating fans still shell-shocked by Arrested Development. But as the critical darling nears the 100 episode mark, would ending it be such a bad thing?

After four seasons of rewriting the book on the TV sitcom, the fifth season has been mixed, at best. Story lines have been underdeveloped and quickly discarded. After making Jack’s struggle to balance work and romance a focal point for several seasons, he finally married alpha-female Avery (Elizabeth Banks) and had a child. But with Banks’ limited availability, the “Jack as husband and father” story line has been kiboshed. The same can be said about Tracy’s newest child and Jenna’s romance with the crossdressing Paul (Will Forte). Instead of continuing to mine new material, the writers have fallen back on “Tracy/Jenna as diva” gags that have been run into the ground.

Story lines are driven by character interactions, and while we have seen most combinations multiple times, new characters (and new angles) have been neglected. While writing-out dimwit cast member Josh (Lonny Ross) wasn’t a big loss, abandoning his replacement Danny (Cheyenne Jackson) has been. The show rehashed a gag about forgetting about Danny this season, but scripting around his character would give the show a much needed infusion of new blood.

However, the most significant problem is the amped up writing. Compared to the earliest seasons, the latest episodes are too frenetic, the jokes too contrived. Going for the cheap joke and the throwaway reference makes the show resemble Family Guy. As South Park deftly satirized:

30 Rock is still fantastic TV, but it no longer lingers in the collective consciousness or holds up on repeat viewings. The problem is magnified by a show that manages to out-30 Rock 30 Rock: Community. Community has taken the reins on the Thursday night block, playing to the strengths of a talented ensemble. The show is “meta” at its finest, even topping 30 Rock‘s forays into the examination of the sitcom medium.

Ending 30 Rock now would preserve the show’s reputation as a television classic, while letting Community shine. While NBC probably won’t do it, it should. Making way for new classics keeps the Peacock vibrant… even if this topic will pop up again after about 50 episodes of Community.

Laughing in bars with "You, Me, Them, Everybody"

I will admit: I haven’t watched a late night talk show in quite a while. Sure, I enjoy Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson when I watch them, but I’ve been without cable for two years and a talk show is too ephemeral to follow without it. Like most members of Team Coco, I didn’t even watch Conan’s stint on “The Tonight Show.” But as a fan of comedy, music, and conversation (can you be a fan of conversation?), talk shows are a natural fit for my tastes.

You, Me, Them, Everybody Live is a live talk show and podcast hosted by Brandon Wetherbee at Petworth’s Looking Glass. A recent transplant from Chicago, Wetherbee has hosted YMTE since 2008 and brought the show with him to DC late last year. As he admitted during a recent show, YMTE is basically extended practice (and an audition) for a show after Craig Ferguson, and his free-rolling style is similar.

I caught the most recent show at the Looking Glass. After Wetherbee’s monologue, guests included the Washington Post’s Chris Richards, comedian Chris Barylick and folk band Big Chimney. While I’m a fan of Richards’ writing (and his music with ex-band Q and Not U), Barylick’s set didn’t do it for me and Big Chimney isn’t my cup of tea. But like good talk shows, there’s usually something for everyone, and if not, there’s always next week.

Catch You, Me, Them, Everybody Live! at the Looking Glass on Monday nights, and subscribe to the podcast. This Monday, guests include Sean Peoples of Sockets Records, comedian Jessica Brodkin (featured below), and local experimental rockers Laughing Man.

First thoughts: "Mr. Sunshine"

Matthew Perry has never been able to escape from the shadow of Chandler Bing, the fount of sarcasm that he played for 10 years on Friends. Mr. Sunshine, his new passion project on ABC, seems to embrace that fact.

Perry plays Ben Donovan, the manager of a second-rate San Diego arena, who is entering the mid-life crisis that typically befalls people who call it The Big Four Oh. His boss Crystal is played by Allison Janney, who seems intent on pushing the limits of the zany boss trope. Rounding out the cast are Las VegasJames Lesure as Ben’s friend and polar opposite, Andrea Anders as his sometime-love interest, Portia Doubleday as his pyromaniacal assistant, and Nate Torrence as Crystal’s clueless son.

From the pilot, it’s obvious that the single-camera show is more Cougar Town than Modern Family. Perry is writing and producing the show alongside Alex Barnow and Marc Firek, the team behind the unremarkable sitcoms Rules of Engagement and ‘Til Death. The writing isn’t *that* bad, and there were a few oddball lines that get some laughs. Mostly, the show leans heavily on the comedic timing of Perry, Janney, and Anders (who was a gem on the short-lived Better Off Ted).

Here’s hoping the show can move beyond the de rigueur sitcom themes of commitment-phobic men and 40 year olds behaving badly. At the very least, it’s something to watch after Modern Family until Cougar Town returns.