Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Week In Review: TV

Now that I am teaching nights three times a week Ugly Betty, 30 Rock and House are out until I get a tivo. With Studio 60 gone, the only thing I watched this week -- and the only thing I will watch in future weeks I imagine -- was LOST, but of course you should talk about whatever TV you like.

Spoiler-free notes on Lost that I will expand in the comments: This was a good but not a great episode, because it made one very common screenwriting mistake twice. You have a great idea of where you want your characters to be or get to, but then you have trouble because you don't know how to get them there or you don't want what you invented to cause future problems. I know people who thought the whole thing was stupid but I disagree -- it had some great moments and images, and was a pretty good story overall.

Saul of the Molemen. This was a show that I did not like very much at first -- I enjoy, but am also getting a bit tired of, the way cartoon network takes every single show the audience enjoyed in its childhood and spoofs it by making it grim or insane. Robot Chicken, a very weak show, is the big offender but the pattern was already there: Space Ghost is an idiot, Sealab is insane -- on Robot Chicken this becomes Fincher's Seven in Smurf Village, the Peanuts Gang grown up as heroin addicts, Skeletor needs to go to the dentist, and so on. When they ran out of cartoons they hit claymation (Morel Orel) and with Saul, Land of the Lost. But Brad argues that the show is great because it works on more than one level -- the story is fictional of course (there are no such thing as Molemen) but so is the actor playing Saul (he is not a bad actor in purpose, he is playing a bad actor playing Saul). I am still thinking about this, but will admit that the show can be pretty funny. Perhaps Brad will show up and say more. Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job has just lost me -- I don't hate it but I don't get it.

13 comments:

Geoff Klock said...

Spoilers on Lost: the idea of winning an old computer chess game to unlock the communications tower is great. Not so great is that in order to have Locke do this he has to leave his very dangerous prisoner to go play it -- that makes him look like an idiot. Having this site for the show is cool and the ENTER 77 code is cool, but it seems like Locke's only reason for blowing the place up is because the writers don't want the characters to have another comfortable place to live with lots of supplies, as with the hatch. And wow -- that placelooked like an IKEA warehouse.

pat moler said...

House was awesome this week. Best ep this season.

fraction. said...

I only saw the pilot for TIM & ERIC but by the time it was over, two drops of pee had come out.

I don't know if that's because of the show or not.

Erik said...

Why wait for Tivo? You can catch Ugly Betty over at ABC.com and 30 Rock at NBC.com. I've actually never watched Ugly Betty on my television at all.

Geoff Klock said...

Fraction: nice. I am going to have to give it another try. You should blurb the DVD collection.

Erik: yeah, thats a good point. Thanks.

LurkerWithout said...

CNs adult swim doesn't have much to offer me of late. Robot Chicken is always very hit or miss. And honestly its easier to just watch the skits on youTube. I miss them showing anime like Big O, Cowboy Bebop or Fooly Cooly. Until season 3 of The Venture Bros is ready, I doubt I'll be bothering AS...

sara d. reiss said...

I like watching "Tim and Eric Awesome Show..." but I don't know why.

I watch Lost cause at this point I can't stop, but really right now I'm still continuing my discovery of british telly gems. Black Books is my current obsession. Dylan Moran is f'in hilarious

Geoff Klock said...

Dylan Moran is awesome. Plug him into youtube with the word "monster"

brad said...

Geoff, when you talk about Morrison at his best, you often say that his comics feel like they're from the future. Well Tim and Eric make comedy from the future. This is what SNL will look like in 2027. My experience goes something like this: I start watching one of their segements, and it's colorful, and it's pulling from at least ten different genres simultaneously. And the characters are acting wild and the form in which they exist is not sacred to them: whatever they're context or whatever the narrative, the characters are playing right at the very edge, where they'll either fall into an abyss or pop the bubble they're living in and send the universe imploding in on itself. Then all of a sudden, something magical will happen. I will have a moment of clarity. Every aspect of their surreal antics will align, and I will peak like a hippie in the desert. I'm filled with unexpected joy. It's hard to define, but I'll try: Hardly anything saturates my entire brain anymore. In this media-soaked world, my brain is distended. Most things just fall in there without eliciting a visceral response. But Tim and Eric manage to fill the whole fucking thing up. And once my threshold is reached, it's unrelenting, and I'm laughing like I'm being pinned down and tickled. And I'm grateful to them for making me lose control.
I love Saul, too. But Tim and Eric are really trying to break out of the cage.
It's true that Saul is a satire of a throwback, but I think that that's a limited way to look at it. It's a lot more then that. First of all, it's not exclusively a satire. Sometimes it is the actual thing. Sometimes it's like watching what Sid and Marty Croft would actually be making if they were still making shows, taking green screen and puffy costumes to there logical extreme. It's true that Saul (and every other character) is actually two characters at once. They are the character in the story and they are the actor playing the character. This carries through the entire production. Every element of the show, from the sets, to the music, to the editing, invites you to think about the people behind the scenes who are just as schmucky as the fictional actors.

Matt Brady said...

I've watched a little Tim and Eric Awesome Show, but it's a bit weird and scattershot for me, with them seeming to just do whatever they think is funny/silly. It's sketch comedy kind of like Mr. Show (which makes sense since Bob Odenkirk is the producer), but not as funny or well-connected, in my opinion.

Geoff makes a good point about Adult Swim's recent output; I too have gotten tired of the constant parodies of childhood entertainments. Robot Chicken is mildly amusing, but that seems to be the only thing it does. I recall one bit where a Sailor Moon character stated, "Boy, anime sure is weird!". Thanks for pointing that out, Seth Green.

The other direction that Adult Swim has gone in is the random, surreal style. Space Ghost and Aqua Teen Hunger Force did well with that "anything can happen" style, but their success led to the completely nonsensical and obnoxious likes of Squidbillies and 12 oz. Mouse. I can't even sit through an episode of the latter if it's playing on a TV while I'm in the room doing something else. Tim and Eric Awesome Show (and it's predecessor, Tom Goes to the Mayor) kind of falls in this category, but they at least work hard to make it funny rather than just be annoying and random.

If you ask me, the best shows on Adult Swim are the ones that come up with funny characters, although I do prefer character-based comedy. ATHF is at its best when it's about Shake and Meatwad (and sometimes Carl)coming up with a crazy scheme rather than some monster stopping by and annoying everyone. Home Movies is great, with well-drawn and funny characters bouncing off each other in an improvisational manner, and only descending into parody when the kids make a movie in the style of a well-known film, and even then the joke is usually about their acting or directing. Stroker and Hoop can be funny, but the best bits are drawn from the characters interacting; it can get tiresome when it's trying to be shockingly sexual or something.

But if you ask me, the best Adult Swim show (and one of my favorite TV shows period) is The Venture Brothers, which is arguably a parody of shows like Johnny Quest. However, once again, much of the comedy comes from the excellent characters and the way they interact with each other. The dialogue is great, and the plots never fail to leave me entertained and amused. Maybe it's that it shows a lot of love for the genres it's spoofing, rather than just mocking them. It's great fun, and often has literally left me gasping for breath from laughing so hard. My wife loves it too, so it's not just for comic fans. Someday I need to pick up the DVD set(s) so I can own this bit of genius.

Matt Brady said...

Wow, that was a long comment. After reading over it, I discovered that I made the dreaded "its/it's" error. Crap. I usually pride myself on not making grammatical errors like that. Sorry, everybody.

brad said...

Like Liquid Television in the 90s, Adult Swim is a forum for artists to create at the fringes. If you're not moved by Tim and Eric, I pity you. Eat my dust.

Geoff Klock said...

Brad: thanks for that. That was just what I wanted you to post.

Matt: I am with you -- the Venture Bros is the best in part because they love their source material so much. I am going to continue to watch Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job until I get it, in part so I do not have to eat Brad's dust. :)