Category Archives: In defense of:

In Defense of Seth MacFarlane: Comedy is in the Eye of the Beholder & Peeling Back The Onion

Seth MacFarlane OscarsFirst, some context: we are not especially devoted Seth MacFarlane fans. For a time we watched Family Guy semi-regularly and certainly were a part of that groundswell that helped resurrect the show from its premature grave. But do we consider ourselves MacFarlane evangelists or advocates? Not at all. We still haven’t seen Ted, and are not exceptionally eager to do so. We rarely watch American Dad and we can’t say for sure that we’ve ever caught an episode of The Cleveland Show. We were, however, impressed with his performance hosting the SNL premiere, and it demonstrated that not only could he do funny voices and write an off-color (and oft-humorous) joke, but he could also perform, and perform live, which is not always second nature for a writer-producer-voice actor. Did that mean we were thrilled to learn he was tapped to host this year’s Oscars? No, not really. We thought it was somewhat a knee-jerk, ill-advised decision (probably due, paradoxically, to his mess-up when presenting at the 2012 Emmys). But we knew, at least, that he could hold his own on stage, singing, dancing, cracking wise, and thinking on his feet. Was he going to offend some people? Probably. But that would come with the territory. Wouldn’t that be by design? If you wanted someone with only a love of musical theater and a flair for singing and dancing, then wouldn’t you just turn to Billy Crystal for a record 74th time? So, with Seth MacFarlane, that’s the package, that’s the deal (a faustian bargain, depending on your point of view): some dick and fart jokes and some mildly anti-Semitic and racist humor mixed with some sprinkles of old Broadway.

So were we surprised that MacFarlarne’s hosting turn this past Sunday night was met with a mix of disappointment and outright scorn? No, not at all. That was to be expected. But, after seeing the show, we were taken aback at the amount of criticism leveled at MacFarlane because, frankly, for someone who trades in abortion jokes and greased up deaf guys, we found his material relatively mild. It was almost as if we were watching a different show, different from the one that so much of the (tweeting) public found so repugnant, so misogynistic  and racist and base. And, to our surprise, we found ourselves in MacFarlane’s corner. Not because we found his turn especially remarkable. But because it wasn’t that bad. And, more importantly, it wasn’t that vile.

Read on: 9 things that we didn’t find so sexist, and a rotten Onion…

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Filed under Analysis, Fashion Show at Lunch, In defense of:, Lists, Other people's stuff, The Big Screen

In Defense of Mark-Paul Gosselaar

In keeping with the trend started with yesterday’s post, we’re talking about Saved by the Bell again.  But this time we’re responding to Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s comments to Yahoo News about Saved by the Bell, telling them “It’s not a great show.”  This statement seemed to promote outrage among the blogosphere, viewed as heresy committed by the biggest star of the legendary, landmark, immortal teen sitcom.  But we’re here to say that not only is Mark-Paul not guilty of treachery, he’s downright accurate.

Now we feel comfortable saying we adore Saved by the Bell as much as anyone.  There are two reasons to marathon the entire series, as we did last year: 1) Masochism or 2) Genuine appreciation for the show.  While watching all five seasons wasn’t a completely painless experience, our feelings clearly place us in the second camp, SBTB acolytes.  But just because we volunteered ourselves to watch every episode – and enjoyed much of it – that doesn’t mean the show is infallible.  In fact, having recently viewed every minute of it, much of Saved by the Bell is terrible.  The acting, the writing, the jokes, the sets, the music, the lipdubs, all bad.  But whether or not we appreciated that camp factor at the time (and we doubt we did, considering how invested we were in Zack and Kelly’s relationship, to this day the most important relationship in our lives, real or fictional), we certainly do now.  It couldn’t be less like a realistic portrayal of high school, the opposite of Freaks and Geeks. But that’s fine.  It was the perfect show for Saturday mornings in 1991 and weekeday afternoons in 1993.  It wasn’t the high school experience we had, it was the one we wanted.

Just because something is bad it doesn’t mean it can’t be really, really, really good.

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Filed under In defense of:, Saved by the Bell

Gallagher: Still Mad After All These Years

Back in March Gallagher suffered three separate heart attacks and it seemed like the very appropriate time to post a long-gestating Gallagher piece we had been planning to write.  Well, obviously, two months have passed, but during that interim we kept this tab open in our browser, a reminder that, eventually, we needed to get to it, to talk about Gallagher, to try to make some sense of this fallen from grace comedian in the twilight of career, and possibly of his life.

We should preface this by detailing our own personal history with Gallagher.  We very clearly recall watching his cable specials as a child, filling time slots in the early years of Comedy Central and possibly even on VH1, before they had Celebrity Rehab to occupy the bulk of their schedule.  Of course we remember the watermelon smashing – the Sledge-O-Matic – but we also vividly remember a giant couch, outfitted with a trampoline under the giant cushions, and as an eight year-old that seemed like the coolest thing ever.  It was like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann, but crossed with a playground, with a purpose.  We wanted one.  The stage, with its oversized props, was quite literally a giant toy store, and Gallagher was the wily proprietor, with a sparkle in his eye and a mischievous grin.  We’re not sure at the time that we really understood “comedy,” but we liked whatever he was doing.  It may not have been comedy, but it sure as fuck was entertaining to a kid still five-years shy of his Bar Mitzvah.

Read on: Our journey with Gallagher continues and we look back at one of those early specials…

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Filed under Analysis, Bad Humor, Good Humor, In defense of:, Masochism, Nostalgia Corner

Gallagher Defines WTF

Say what you want about Gallagher, that he’s a homophobic, racist, sexist, xenophobe, sure, but he’s also a first-rate entertainer.  And he can also be immensely entertaining, as we found out in the latest WTF Podcast with Marc Maron.  Listen at your own peril.

We’ve admitted to having a soft spot for Gallagher, having vivid memories of watching his stand up specials that were replayed on Vh1 in the early 90s, and, in fact, seeing him live when he played Westbury Music Fair in the late 90s (and he was totally generous about autographing the t-shirt we had our parents buy us).  While we certainly don’t agree with his politics, or really any of his views in general, we still think he’s gotten somewhat of a raw deal, at least in terms of the perception of his career.  He might be hanging on now, truly a lion in winter, and his act might have gone off the rails, but there’s no denying he was a star for a time, and that few comedians have achieved the degree of success that he did.  And, in fact, his most popular bit was his undoing, as the watermelon smashing Sledge-O-Matic routine has unfortunately come to define him (well, maybe until now), obscuring the more creative, cerebral parts of his act.

It’s doubtful we’ll ever witness a full-fledged Gallagher comeback.  By now he seems to have lost or screw or two.  Or perhaps he was always missing a couple, but their absence just manifested itself in less crazy and bitter ways.  But at least we know that if our car ever gets stuck on a bridge that Gallagher has our back.

 

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Filed under Bad Humor, Good Humor, In defense of:, It's gross., Other people's stuff, TV Killed the Music Video Star, Weigh-in

Gratuitious Search Term Bait of the Day: By George, We Think They Got It

A rather odd search term today, part of which we understand, part of which we’re not so sure about, as one of today’s top phrases was “jason feeny.”  Certainly, we could see why someone would end up on this site by searching for Feeny, as Boy Meets World’s Mr. Feeny (as portrayed by the esteemed William Daniels) is one of our all-time favorites, someone whom we should write about more.  We’re thrilled if this is where searching for “feeny” takes you.  And we cite the name “Jason’ at least once a week, thanks to our preferred SNL cast member, Mr. Jason Sudeikis.  But “Jason Feeny?”  We don’t know who that is.  So since you get enough Sudeikis on this site (for example, earlier today, for no reason at all), we’re going to devote this post to the distinguished, debonair,  George Hamilton Feeny.

In a post we hope to craft soon we’re going to argue that the shows that comprised TGIF (Family Matters, Full House, Perfect Strangers) weren’t entirely terrible.  They certainly had their deficiencies, and no one would confuse them with truly smart, groundbreaking television.  But they had their time and their place, and we’re important shows of their era.  However, the cream of the crop from that block was Boy Meets World, which joined the TGIF line-up in 1993.  In fact, it’s probably the only real quality show from that group by most criteria, and while we would accept a case that Full House and Family Matters were lackluster sitcoms, we’ll go to our graves defending Boy Meets World.

Lasting seven seasons, just barely making it to the new millennium, the show (through a few time jumps) followed Cory Matthews from elementary school to college, often reinventing itself in the process.  Over its run the show featured new characters and locations, and even a change in comic sensibilities and personalities, but the one constant was Mr. Feeny.   He started as school teacher to Corey, his brother Eric, his longtime love Topanga and best friend Shawn, then became their principal and finally their professor.  But through it all he was their mentor, their guide, dispensing equal parts wisdom and tough love.  So it was fitting then that the series ended with those children, now grown, thanking Mr. Feeny for teaching them, for caring about them, and for shaping them into who they are.

Did you cry?  A little bit?  That’s okay.   Us too.

Two more Feeny moments and an overdue thank you…

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Filed under Feeny, Gratuitous Search Term Bait, In defense of:, TGIF

In Defense of: Jim Halpert

One of the thorniest arcs on this uneven season of The Office has been the promotion of Jim to co-manager, a move that has seemed more like a demotion, as he has seemed to have lost the respect of his co-workers (and possibly his wife) as well as misplaced his charm.  Where there was once a shaggy haired goofball there’s now a well-coiffed suspender-less Bill Lumberg.

With The Office returning from winter break just an hour from now it’s a good time to ask, have we lost our lovable, affable Jim?

Last month Awl.com published an article entitled “The Office is the Most Depressing Show on Television,” locating the show’s current problems in the de-evolution of Jim, noting that’s here’s proved himself to be merely “a mediocre man who has already realized his full potential.”  And just last week Macleans explained “Why no one likes Jim anymore.”  Is this true?  Does Jim Halpert have no friends?  Is he the most annoying character on television?  Has he become a humorless, corporate tool?  A virtual washed up high school football star, his best days behind him?

I don’t think so.

Read on: Why this could be their ultimate gamble…

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Filed under Analysis, Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam, In defense of:, Other people's stuff

In Defense Of: Jay Leno/How He Might Screw This All Up AKA More Thoughts on ‘Late Shift 2: Dave’s Revenge’

Do I want Jay Leno to have a show?  No.  I think his time has come and gone.  When Gallagher talks about late night comedians as the manifestation of mediocrity, Leno is the poster boy (which makes me think, wonder what Gallagher has to say about all of this).  But if Leno is known for anything, it’s being the nice guy, the non-threatening (save for the chin) host.  Yes, perhaps he shouldn’t have taken the Jay Leno Show gig, just moved on to washing his cars and dropping by his Comedy and Magic Club, and let Conan take over The Tonight Show without his predecessor breathing up his neck.  But, in the end, it was NBC who decided five years ago to lock in The Tonight Show transition.  In the last year they look guilty of committing knee jerk reactions, but in this particular case it seems their mistake was planning too far ahead, being too cautious in trying to plan the next phase of The Tonight Show.  Perhaps they were trying to avoid The Late Shift 2, and, instead, directly caused it.  But they didn’t have to try to keep Jay in the fold.  Ever the good NBC soldier, even with a few “good” years left in him, Leno wouldn’t have defected to another network.  But NBC got greedy, tried to have its Conan and eat it too.  Leno thought he was doing the right thing, and in his eyes, as someone who no doubt also idolized Johnny Carson, this was his chance to truly own his program, and move out form Carson’s shadow.  If he knew then what a disaster it would turn out to be, and the repercussions it would have, I don’t think he would have taken the gig.  He didn’t get where he is by ruffling feathers.

Which is why I almost feel bad for the guy as I watch him get bashed by Jimmy Kimmel and especially David Letterman.  Dave is clearly, and with good reason, still bitter over losing to The Tonight Show to Leno, and makes his animosity towards his former and (possibly) future rival abundantly clear, repeatedly referring to him as Jay “Big Jaw” Leno.

So while Letterman’s personal vendetta against Leno is certainly understandable, it doesn’t seem entirely fair to excoriate him the way Letterman does.  Certainly, Letterman, of all people, should understand the mistakes made by, in his words, “the geniuses in programming” (He also takes some unnecessary shots at Carson Daly, but, really, getting referenced by Letterman is the closest Daly is going to come to the 11:35 slot (piling on!)).

Much more: The case for Conan to CBS builds, Letterman as our FDR & why Leno could ruin all of this…

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Filed under Analysis, In defense of:, Talkies