from Hunter Leath
Football, Baseball, and Television in Perfect Harmony
This is not a column about calculus. The first week I wrote this, I didn’t plan on writing multiple times until it was read and the reactions were positive. There is very little reference to calculus in these columns any more, but I swear I will come back to it in future weeks. Right now, I have more pressing issues to deal with. There was a weekend of football that just concluded recently and the most beautiful game ever invented came to a culmination in a very important way. Here is a combination of thoughts from the two monumental weekends in sport and my first review of comedy television this fall. As you know, there are really only three things in this world I feel are worthy of my never ending review, and all three will be touched here. Sorry for all the dictation. It was completely unnecessary, so I’ll stop.
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT (and stuff like that) The World Series just wrapped, and there is plenty to analyze from the four game sweep of the Detroit Tigers by the San Francisco Giants, but really there is a lot to analyze from the season at large. Twenty years from now, there will be two things remembered from the 2012 MLB Season: the World Series Champion and Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown. Let’s forget about Miggy for a moment and talk solely about what the first memory means. Miguel Cabrera’s accomplishment is amazing, and it will be remembered as a great feat of personal talent. But, if he is the one player remembered for the 2012 season, why are the Giants to be the one team remembered? No one will see this as the year that the Nationals burst onto the scene in two decades. No one will dare say that this was the year of the small markets because of play from the Orioles and the Athletics. No one will remark that the Yankees were the best team in the AL nor will anyone discuss the significance of the controversial call that ended the first ever Wild Card Game in MLB history. Only the most fanatic of the most fanatic fanatics will dare talk about the collapse of the Texas Rangers or the lost season of the Boston Red Sox and next to no one will reminisce about the almost great season of the Chicago White Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates tantalizing quest to claw out of the cellar nearly ending. The Giants will be remembered because they have the trophy, and that is how it always has been. But is that fair? Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout will be remembered for each of their record breaking regular seasons. But tell me right now who drove in the game winning RBI for the Giants in the clinching game 4? I bet you can tell me who won last year’s Cy Young Awards, but who was last year’s World Series MVP? Let’s flip it, you can tell me easily who won the World Series last year, but who had the best record in their league? How about the year before that? And before that? You can quite easily see what I am getting at, but let me hammer it home some more. In five years, will you be able to tell me that Pablo Sandoval was the surprise stud of the World Series and won himself an MVP Award for the series or will you think it was Buster Posey because he won (pure conjecture) the NL MVP for the regular season? Will you know that the Giants most reliable pitcher this postseason may have in fact been Barry Zito, or will you just assume it was Matt Cain because his numbers were the best in the season? Conversely, will you be able to tell me that they were underdogs to a far superior Reds team or will you just remember they came back from two down? Will you comprehend that they were the third best team in the National League coming into the playoffs, but earned a World Series as much as any other champion? In essence, will you remember more than just the teams in the playoffs and the players from the season. We are members of a culture that emphasizes both personal perfection and being a team player. The more that we work as a team, but perfect ourselves in the long run, the better we are perceived as. That attitude has given rise to this remarkable contradiction in baseball. (Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe we just view baseball weirdly and it isn’t because of an overarching socio-political trend and I am overreacting, but let me criticize the world in veiled attempts of deepness while I really critique nothing. I do that a lot, I now realize. I am sorry, but it is because of the way I was raised. I live in a culture where overreacting is customary.) We seem to only remember the teams based on postseason excellence and the players based on regular season performance. As great of stories as the Orioles and the Athletics were this season, they don’t matter for anyone but fans of the team and historians of the game. Here are a few examples for you: the 2001 Seattle Mariners, the 2007 Colorado Rockies, the 2007 New York Mets, and, hop in the way back machine, the 1951 San Francisco Giants. The 2001 Seattle Mariners are of no value to most now. But in that season, they were unstoppable. They, according to baseball reference, have the second best team WAR in history. They had the best run differential in baseball, had the American League MVP in Ichiro Suzuki, and above all else, set the American League record for wins in a single season with 116. This was an unbelievably talented baseball team that looked poised to win their first World Series, but they lost to the New York Yankees in five games in the ALCS to end the season with a bitter taste in their mouths. Since then, the team has not reached the playoffs again and very few realize how dominant of a team this was. The 2007 Colorado Rockies launched one of the more remarkable comebacks in the history of baseball. The Rockies went 20-8 in the month of September, including an eleven game win streak, to pull even with the Whale’s Vagina Padres for second place in the division and first place in the Wild Card standings. They won that game in 13 innings and took that momentum all the way to their first World Series, to be promptly and systematically annihilated by the Boston Red Sox in four games, being outscored by 19 runs in those four games. When 2007 is spoken of in baseball annals, few remark upon the Rockies and their comeback for the ages, because they couldn’t win when it counted most. Quite oppositely, the 2007 New York Mets really Metted it up that year. (That has to be a verb, doesn’t it? What else could we call it? The only other thing I can think of is calling it Tony Romoing, but that already means so many things. I’m sticking with Metting.) In September, they went 14-14, losing 12 of 17 in their last five series of the season and they lost their last game of the season when Tom Glavine surrendered seven runs in the first inning. Is any of this jogging your memory, or do you just think of the 2007 season as the year the Bo Sox pulled out their second series in four years? Hopefully this example will be more of a teaching experience than a memory invoker. The 1951 New York Baseball Giants are actually remembered quite well for one game. The 1951 Giants were the ’07 Rockies on crack. This team was 13 ½ games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers for the pennant and they slowly clawed their way back into the hunt for the pennant, winning game after game after game after game to force a one game playoff against the crosstown Dodgers for the pennant. If my subliminal messaging hasn’t been working thus far, here is what happened in the playoff: THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! BOBBY THOMSON OFF OF RALPH BRANCA IN THE NINTH, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! That comeback is revered as possibly the best in the history of baseball, and that hit is quite possibly the most famous home run in the history of the game. But, the story did not end there, as they lost the World Series to other crosstown rival New York Yankees in a series notable for being Joe DiMaggio’s last and Mickey Mantle’s and Willie Mays’s first. Why is the story of this team always told incomplete, yet we will never forget what the 2012 version of the Giants did in the postseason? It doesn’t matter how you win, it matters when you win. If the 1951 variety had won squeaked into the World Series AND won it, they would be considered arguably the greatest team in history. But they didn’t so they are simply a memory of a single game. Oddly enough, had the Giants of this year won the World Series in a way that didn’t involve six elimination games, they wouldn’t be any more worthy of thought than the 2005 Chicago White Sox, a very boring World Series champ. But, they did it dramatically and at the end, so they will be reveled about in lore from now until the MLB ceases to exist because of the takeover by the sea creatures who can neither grasp baseballs nor bats and will abolish the game as our national pastime and replace it with underwater croquet, a much classier sport for sea creatures to both partake in and attend. The world will never be the same because of this (The baseball world because of the Giants, not the actual world because of the sea creatures) as another triumph has to be etched into the stone tablets which bear our most precious baseball artifacts and stories. Congratulations to the Giants for a great season, but please be good baseball fans people. Don’t dismiss the season because of its ending. It’s like voting for a presidential nominee without being able to list one past accomplishment: just silly and insulting to those who genuinely care.
Selfish Football Analysis from a Usually Unselfish Fan I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the Titans more than just in passing in this column so far, despite the fact that they are having a season that makes me want to jump off of a building into a nest of rattlesnakes whereupon I will be scalped by Choctaw Native Americans accidentally sent forward in time by some sort of weird vortex that transported them through both time and space, as no Choctaws inhabited the modern state of Georgia, but rather mostly were from Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana. That all ends today, as I have some ranting to do. Friends, as you all know, when someone begins a speech with friends, they mean business. As you also know, I tend to take my Titans very seriously, to a point of obsession. The thing about obsessed people is that they tend to go overboard a little bit. Something in their DNA makes the smallest of positives feel like having your head mounted upon Mount Rushmore in place of Teddy Roosevelt and the littlest of negatives makes them feel as if they had just been commissioned to serve a prison sentence as a roadie for Nickelback: angry and confused. I am at a point of distress, as a member of the obsessed. I have reached my tipping point. I have endured too much as a fan, and I am only 18 years old. I have too many burdens for a teenaged football fan, and I have had enough. The Tennessee Titans can only dangle my feet above the flames for so long before I start to fight fire with metaphorical, less powerful fire. I understand that nothing I can or will do can or will affect the outcome of games in which the Titans participate, but methinks that posting an angry rant on the internet will serve some sort of a purpose. Millions of idiots do it every day, so why can’t I join that horde of idiots? Friends, starting a second paragraph in the same way in which you started the first fosters a sense of parallel structure, so that is what is happening here. With that profound logic being said, I have a few grievances to air as a member of a fan base that needs some questions answered. First thing is first, when is our ownership going to show a commitment to winning the Super Bowl? The Titans have taken positive strides in the past two years, ditching Jeff Fisher and Vince Young/Kerry Collins in favor of a do over in both coaching and quarterbacking, two of the biggest indicators of success in the NFL. The Young/Collins dynamic was replaced by a white, injury prone Vince Young with a better throwing motion and a balder Kerry Collins, but I like the QB play of the Titans. Where I feel angry is in the other set of clones we hired, our coaching staff. The dumbasses in the front office decided that to keep a sense of continuity, they would hire Mike Munchak to be our head coach, who was the only coach on staff that had been with the team longer than Jeff Fisher. That sounds like a great idea, as you tell the world we are making a change, but you tell your players that everything is that same. Wait. That is an AWFUL plan. You don’t hire an assistant of a failing coach to replace that failing coach. And Fisher was barely failing in the first place, as he had just finished a 6-10 season following an 8-8 and a 13-3. That isn’t failure, rather it is natural regression. Teams figure out plans, especially after over a decade of using the same strategy, and good teams can quickly drop back to the cellar. But, the organization, especially owner Bud Adams, wanted to change with the same. I believe it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing multiple times and expecting a different result. This is what Bud Adams did in theory. And it worked, that is the crazy thing. Last season, the Fathers of the Gods posted a 9-7 record under the leadership of the Hall of Fame coach and the hire seemed like a brilliant decision by then General Manager, now Executive VP Mike Reinfeldt. However, much like the Gods defeated the Titans, the Gods of Logic defeated my Titans. Now let me tell you friends, the addition of words to the same old opening shows that in this paragraph the story will take a foreboding turn. The Tennessee Titans have been flatter than a face after listening to two hours of NPR this season. And I place all of the blame on coaching. Keep in mind; I am currently writing this with a clear mind; a mind in no way currently under the influence of a football game that could sway my opinions. I have a clear head. My head is so clear that I will type this following fragment: Chris Johnson is not at fault for the woes of the Titans this season. If you ask me that during a game, I will tell you something that I think is witty about how awful he is. But that will not happen here. Nay, I say this will be a place of clarity and a place of logical argumentative statement against the Munchak regime. I believe that this story, much like in the Other Guys I think the best way to tell the story is by starting at the end, briefly, then going back to the beginning, and then periodically returning to the end, maybe giving different characters' perspectives throughout. Just to give it a bit of dynamism, otherwise it's just sort of a linear story. On Sunday afternoon, the Titans lost in overtime to the Indianapolis Colts, led by the new and for the next 16 years of my life future bane of my existence Andrew Luck. The loss was far from undeserved, but there are a few key moments in the game that are in need of special emphasis. But first, we must travel backwards in the season a tad bit. You see friends, in this paragraph I will try to appeal to your pathos by often beginning sentences with short, conversational phrases. The fact is Mike Munchak has not done a remarkably good job this season of calling certain situations, most notably key fourth downs. Week one against the Patriots losing by a mark of 21-3 and facing a fourth and goal from inside the five, Coach Munchak forwent an attempt at closing the gap to 17 and kicked a short field goal. That call virtually ensured that the Titans would not be able to come back due to both an insurmountable deficit based off of time left in the game and fear in the eyes of the coaching staff. As you would guess and probably know, the Titans were defeated in that game. However, as you would not expect, when faced with a similar situation the next week against the Chargers, Munchak dialed up a 23 yard field goal from the six yard line down 17 in the second quarter. While more excusable, when your team is being shut out and you just seized all of the momentum on defense with four consecutive stops and had driven the ball into the red zone like a as quick as a formula one car in traffic (really fast but really slow), you can’t surrender the points. Statistically speaking, going for it on fourth down from inside your opponents ten works three sevenths of the time. By basic standards, that means the expected value of scoring is 3. Going for it on fourth down based off of that logic is equally beneficial to booting a short kick. And I know you don’t want me to get more technical, but furthermore, forcing a team that had been stopped on its last four possessions to start a drive on its own six yard line with less than five minutes left in a half posts an expected value of -1 for the offense, meaning that even had the Titans failed, the Chargers would have been statistically expected to lose points on that drive. These two decisions set the stage for mistakes to come in games which, frankly, are far more important to the Titans’ season. Disconcertingly, changing the parallel construction of paragraphs suggests that the tone is about to get darker and we will venture into uncomfortable territory. All of this brings us back to the Titans hosting the Andrew Luck led Colts. The game was close throughout, with no one ever holding a lead larger than seven points, but any onlooker would concede that the Titans were in the driver’s seat all along, dictating the speed and controlling the clock of the game from the second the game kicked off into the hands of the Darius Reynaud. But, I am really concerned with the series of events that occurred in the last minute thirty of regulation and overtime. After the two minute warning, the Titans held the ball with the game tied at 13 on the Colts’ 42 yard line. On first and ten, the Titans ran a play off tackle to the left side, gaining one yard and pushing Chris Johnson’s yardage total to 99 on the day. As the clock ticked away, Hasselbeck dropped back on second and nine and threw incomplete. On third and nine from the opponents 41 yard line, Hasselbeck dropped back again and threw incomplete again. For a moment, let’s analyze the play calls on that series I just explained. Chris Johnson had been running well all day and was on the cusp of the century mark for the day, so the first down call was perfectly sensible. As a matter of fact, the Titans held all three of their timeouts at the moment, so running the ball and pushing into field goal range was an entirely feasible and smart technique. Sadly, Hasselbeck, who to his credit played very well that day and to the point of that second down had only thrown incomplete five times, was trusted with winning the game with his arm and our receivers could not press open. Despite the ghastly play calling, the Titans were still at a point where a 58 yard field goal could be kicked. This is where my view on the game is polarized compared to most. When I saw Brett Kern step on to the field, leading his punting unit behind him, I all but threw my sister through the television set. I don’t particularly dislike Brett Kern, but it was a 58 yard field goal and there was a NINE MILE PER HOUR wind at our back that at some points on the day was so strong that it forced kickoffs to flutter out at the 15 yard line and Rob Bironas may be the best kicker in the game today who has already kicked a game winner on the season. But, with 56 seconds left, the punt unit let a ball fly and the Colts, also in possession of their full arsenal of timeouts and also having led a sub one minute comeback this season, now held the fate of the game on their shoulders. I will come back to the kick/don’t kick later, but just as the game moved swiftly, so too shall this paragraph. But also just like the game, there must be a short commercial break for Southwest Airlines: Bags Fly Free. As the Colts drove the ball down the field, let me rephrase that, as the Colts ineptly tried to move the ball down the field on downs that weren’t third down and refused to be stopped by any manmade force on third downs, a questionable call occurred. Dwayne Allen, a rookie tight end for the Colts, fumbled the ball on about the 30 yard line and the Titans recovered. However, the officials ruled Allen down. That is okay by me; that is why the rule that questionable calls must be booth reviewed under two minutes was instituted. There was conclusive video evidence that the ball was fumbled, but for some reason, the booth REFUSED to review the call. I don’t understand the logic. The commentators believed that it was because a whistle had blown, but how could that have been ascertained by the booth or the field crew without having watched the replay? I wish there was any way to read the minds of the officiating crew as a whole from that game. I understand that on blown call doesn’t end a game, but had the call be made correctly, Rob Bironas would have been given the chance to win the game on at most a 47 yard field goal, potentially much shorter as there were 30 seconds left and the Titans still held a timeout. But, just as soon as the Colts took a knee the next play, the game was sent to overtime. The Colts won the toss. The Colts started their drive on the 20. Using only two passes, the Colts drove down the field all 80 yards while absorbing about 50 rushing yards. The Colts won the game. And I freaked out. It was legitimately the maddest I had been after a football game since the Titans lost to the Ravens in the AFC Division round as the one seed. It was that bad. Friends, my internal monologue has slowed down, and I am typing slower too. This obviously means I am reaching a conclusion. Mike Munchak was presented an opportunity to win the game with under two minutes and the ball was in his hands, and he chose the conservative technique. I will admit that had the kick been a misfire, then the Colts would have had immaculate field position to win the game. But in punting he did in fact lost to game by punting too. I would be mad if it was a one-time deal. But it isn’t the first and surely will not be the last. I would have trusted my kicker, but there are so many outside intervals that I can’t even begin to pretend to know. I do know one very important fact though. To quote Herm Edwards, you play to win the game. It doesn’t seem that Mike Munchak has functioned according to that dynamic this season. And it might be a shame, but I think it is time for a change.
Chalupa Batman MacArthur Rises: A Mid-Midseason Look at Comedy Television As all of the three of you that habitually read this site and the one of you reading this on printed out paper from the mail definitely know, I have a deep passion for comedy TV. This year has so far had many pleasant surprises and many abhorrently awful disappointments, but I will focus on only the ones that I care to focus on. (I would give a number, but I really haven’t done any pre-writing for this like my last TV column and I am improvising. I watch a lot of TV though, so let’s assume I’m going to ramble on for about three more pages.) Since I think logically and linearly, I will start on Monday nights and slowly progress my way to the end and hit every show that matters in between. Caution: Spoilers be ahead.
MONDAY NIGHT: Monday night used to be the Mecca of television. Dating back to less than five years ago, CBS aired How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory on Mondays, the best comedy lineup in the nation, FOX aired 24 and House for arguably the best drama night on TV, and NBC played its action behemoth Heroes to the best rankings of any Monday night programming. But, Heroes declined in excellence and was cancelled, House and 24 ran their courses and have since ended and CBS shipped two of its three pillars of comedy to Thursday, replacing them with a warm and fuzzy mix of shows that have no appeal to the common folk and shows that have no appeal to the intellectual fanbase. That being said, Monday still has one show worthy of note in the Nick Suss realm of TV review.
How I Met Your Mother: This season of HIMYM has been exactly what you would expect from this show. The season has been far from its best, arguably its worst, but was always enjoyable. The thought that this show will ever be what it used to be is awful, as the show is past its prime and should end after this year. There is no sense in reviewing the season plot wise, as the show is repeating archetypal behaviors from the past to give the audience a cyclical sense and a good feeling of familiarity. Ted is dating his paramour from season one, Victoria. Barney is once again single and running plays from his playbook like he always has. Marshall and Lily are dealing with the same issues they did as an engaged couple as in season one, but now they have been adultified into the troubles of child rearing: for example, instead of having to pick a best man and a maid of honor, they had to pick godparents. Robin is dating an unlikable buffoon to, instead of create sympathy for a relationship with Ted, create sympathy for a relationship with Barney. The show has come full circle, and it needs to end as a result of this. They are out of new plots and even though changes have happened to the characters over the past seven or eight years, they are stuck in a rut and all the foreshadowing Bob Saget can do can’t save this show from its own faults. A show that undoubtedly will be remembered as a great from its generation needs to realize that its time has passed. The stage has been set; only one question is left to be answered: how did Ted meet his wife.
TUESDAY NIGHT: Tuesday has always been my least favorite night of television. As you know, since I am a comedy connoisseur and a disliker of the dramatic arts, the combo of the NCIS and CSIs with a bunch of Law and Orders and the far superior Lost never appealed to me. And, come winter and spring, all Tuesday becomes is an excuse to air results shows for American Idol, The Voice, Dancing With The Stars, and every show on Bravo!. That being said, Tuesday has shifted. The acronyms still run the night for CBS and are the most watched shows on television, but the other three networks have augmented results shows with comedies on Tuesdays. FOX has based its entire comedy lineup around this day of the week, NBC has created a farm for the future of its Thursday nights on Tuesday and ABC has its reserve comedies air on this night. That being said, I’m still not that much of a Tuesday night fan. I’ll talk you through what I have seen as the best and as the worst of Tuesdays.
Happy Endings: I’ll come out and tell you the truth. I like Happy Endings more than I should. I like it to a point that thought this season has only run through two episodes, I’d go as far to say it can compete for the best comedy on network this year. Without a doubt, this is a show that has been and quite possibly will be snubbed for Emmys because the acting and writing is beyond comparison on network right now. The core of six main characters on this show has reached a niche, which may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. Each character serves a specific purpose and this show does one thing with its characters that no show since Friends and the early seasons of Scrubs were able to do: shift combinations of characters each week. Shows like Big Bang and Modern Family have great writers that can put the same people in the same room with the same people every week and still be funny. However, shows like Happy Endings that run entirely on critical acclaim and are not as viewed as the others have to mix and match, and they do quite successfully. In real life, groups of friends don’t hang out with the same friend every day and only see their other friends when assembled as a group, so this show takes advantage of this human condition and uses it as a key dynamic. This year in the first episode Penny was paired with Max, Brad with Jane, and Alex with Dave. The next week, Alex and Dave remained with each other but Max paired with Brad and Jane paired with Penny. This keeps every viewer guessing and shocks the comedy nerves into a point of unpredictability. Beyond this quirk that keeps the characters fresh, the show is unparalleled in its blend of comedy and meta-comedy. There are certain things the show uses, i.e. its constant mocking of LeBron James and the Miami Heat, that do not belong as jokes on a television comedy work too well. Furthermore, this is a show that relies on physical as much as cerebral comedy. Back to the days of I Love Lucy and all the way through Modern Family, the great comedies have always found ways to use physical jokes. Whether it is Kramer bouncing through a door, or Ross getting a bad tan or bad teeth whitening or Tim Taylor hitting his head on a pipe, physical comedy is omnipresent on great comedy. Happy Endings has taken this to an extreme, almost using a Seth MacFarlane-esque repetition of jokes by devoting three minutes to Dave and Max trying to best an impenetrable piñata and having Penny crash through both a plate glass window and its plastic replacement. The show is beyond funny, it’s close to comedy perfection, and there are only two other shows on TV upon which I would bestow that honor. Please, for the sake of your friend, watch this show and help keep it on the air. Please.
Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23: Frankly, this show is awful. Frankly, I don’t quite know how anyone could enjoy this show. Frankly, the fact that it remains on the air is an enigma. And frankly, my repetition of frankly has been funnier than any joke it has displayed this year. The show is an unsuccessful rip off of Episodes. It bores me and the characters are all wholly unlikeable. Yet, I watch it because I’d rather do that than do homework. Here is my basic review of the show. It tries to make funny of the genre of the sitcom through doing things that other sitcoms do, but it just comes off as a bad sitcom. It sees the successes that Happy Endings has mocking comedy plot archetypes, but doesn’t do it with the same fervor. Watching this program is like watching the film Cop Out after you watch The Other Guys. You see the idea work so well before you see the idea fail miserably. The inclusion of James Van Der Beek as himself creates my comparison to Episodes gone wrong. He is without a doubt the best part of the show, but it really isn’t believable that the star of a teen show that ran for, if I am not mistaken, only four or five years, would have this inflated of an ego without having done anything else. The two females of the show fill the slots of angry street smart girl who cons people for a living, because those exist in real life, and starry eyed Midwestern girl that is trying really hard to make it in the big city, because those exist as much as TV leads us to believe. The show is worthy of no more review.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: When it comes to comedies, only ABC runs shows on this night which can be classified as comedies, as much as NBC might think they do. Actually, I’m not sure what NBC does on Wednesdays. Maybe SVU is still on the air and I didn’t know. Maybe they just run reruns of The Cosby Show to appeal to the African American market because literally NOTHING ELSE they do does. Think about it. But anyway, ABC runs the joint on hump day, and they do it with one new show, one sophomore, and two seasoned vets. I’ll focus on two of these shows to illustrate both what this network is doing wrong and right.
Modern Family: I’ll be the one to say it since no one else will: Modern Family no longer a great show. I’ll go as far as Modern Family is a subpar comedy at best. I’ve seen every single episode of this show and I’ll admit that the first season of Modern Family was the best debut since Arrested Development (JUST TWO MORE MONTHS!) and the second season was pretty damn fantastic too. But, and this is a huge but, the show has gotten lazy. Even the always reliable Halloween episode couldn’t do it for me this year. Lloyd and Levitan, the creators and show runners, realize that even if they had the plot of an episode be Phil reads a phone book to Luke, Jay shout gay slurs at Mitchell and Cameron, and Gloria jumps up and down while saying words that are difficult to say for her, the show would be hilarious. Just because a show has good characters does not mean the show is good anymore. Even this week’s blatant attempt at being both edgy and heartwarming with the ideas of gaydar, 127 Hours, and ventriloquism being at the forefront couldn’t make me laugh despite the fact that funny things are happening on screen. This show is no longer believable as a mockumentary, the man filming Phil would have lifted the motorcycle off of him, nor is it representative of a modern family, which is sad. ABC needs to go ahead and light a fire underneath the asses of the writers, because they have ceased to be funny. I may be over-critical, but changes need to happen for this show to retain my viewership.
The Neighbors: Bet you didn’t see this coming. Bet you thought no one on the entire planet Earth or Zabrovia watched this show. Bet you didn’t get the Zabrovia reference. Bet you didn’t think I would keep this going for four sentences. Nevertheless, I’m not going to tear The Neighbors to shreds for being awful, because, believe it or not, I don’t think this show is awful. Could it be better? Of course, no show about aliens being stranded in suburbia is going to be absolutely hilarious, but I do see promise in this show. Let me start with a disclaimer: I came into this show with such low expectations they could have used nothing but fart jokes and puns on the name Dick Butkus and I would have enjoyed it. But, and much like me and Modern Family this is a huge but, this show is actually inspired. The creator, most known for writing Cars and Tangled, has put together a dynamic that is more understandable than most sci-fi shows but still outlandish enough to create comedy. I’d be lying to say that I think this is must see TV, but I would also be lying to say I wouldn’t be disappointed to see this show get the axe. As horrible of a premise as this show portrays, it manages to do it with heart, which surprises the hell out of me. Surprisingly, the part of this show that frustrates me is not the aliens, but the humans. These characters, who should be relatively easy to develop because they are human beings, are tepid pools of waste some weeks, which is problematic, as they are given top billing. The aliens are both funny and round; they have already shown potential to learn and also unwillingness. I fully understand I shouldn’t enjoy this show, but I do. What are you going to do, sue me?
THURSDAY NIGHTS!: Here is the climax of this review. It is the only day of the week on which I will span three networks and also is the only night which I have more than two shows to review. I will review eight. You got that? You ready to brace yourselves for some crazy crap. You best, cause here is comes.
The Big Bang Theory: Earlier I said that there are only three shows on TV that I believe are close to perfection. This is the second example. Thus far this year, no show on network has been funnier than TBBT. I will say that this season has been far better than last year, which was disappointing but still funny, and is setting the stage for another year of great television. Beginning the year with Howard in space, the show had to rely on chemistry between off screen characters to keep one of the key cogs of the show involved, and they managed to pull that off. After a great premier, the show had one weak episode that showed a confused and doubting Penny second guessing her relationship with Leonard and a string of hilarious episodes. This week’s episode I believe to be the funniest thus far, mostly because the show has a way of making the simple be oh so funny. This week the show revolved around Sheldon playing Words with Friends with Stephen Hawking, Leonard wanting to modify a paper Penny wrote for community college, and Raj and Howard cracking jokes in between minor subplots. As simplistic and run of the mill as this may sound, the execution was impeccable, making Big Bang the most watched comedy in America yet again. The writing staff does such a good job of reading what the public wants based off of reactions and putting them on air that it is a wonder that this show isn’t a utopia of public interest. When the public wants more Amy and less of Raj, the writers oblige. When Stuart is off putting as a full time role, he is taken off air for the week. When Penny and Leonard need to be together, they are. When Leonard and Penny need to be apart, they are. When Sheldon needs more air time, it happens. When Sheldon needs to stop saying certain catchphrases because they’ve ran their course, he stops. It is as if the show is in my head, which is surprisingly comforting. There is so much more I can say about this show, be it my analysis of why Raj is trying to make of for his parents favoring his sister of he in childhood through continually regressing in age or my theory that the entire show is an invention of Sheldon Cooper on second life, but I have already said so much and will undoubtedly say more, so I will cut myself off.
Two and a Half Men: I’ll keep this one to two and a half sentences in the spirit of title of the show. Despite an awful season last year, this show has been surprisingly above average this year, finally allowing the character of Walden to replace Charlie, allowing Alan to fall back into his role of being the downtrodden and despondent type, and giving Jake an opportunity to appear in the show as a featured character rather than an every down back like he used to, which frees up extra joke space for the Emmy winning Jon Cryer. Surprising, but true.
30 Rock: The farewell season of 30 Rock has been a clusterf*** of jokes on jokes on jokes on jokes on jokes. As the show normally does, it does not allow time for breaths in between jokes, as there is never any attempt to be warm or fuzzy, just in your face funny. Though it is obvious that the show has lost a step, the plots they have thrown in our faces have been outrageously funny and quotable as always. Jack Donaghy has to deal with the dilemma of being Pokemoned with Ryan Lochte, Liz gets turned on by organizing her love life into files and cabinets, Kenneth has to adjust to sitting in the dark while waiting for morning, I mean sleeping, in the same apartment as Hazel Whassername, played by the ever so lovely and person who owns the Nick Suss distinction of being funnies woman on the planet Kristen Schaal, Tracy Jordan gets to play the ever so stupid Vice Presidential candidate Governor Dunston, and Jenna Maroney holds the fate of the 2012 Presidential election in the hands of her unwindulaxing attitude. Aided by genius guest performances by Bryan Cranston and Gary Cole and less genius a performance by the aforementioned Ryan Lochte, this season of 30 Rock will quite possibly be the most fitting final season a show has ever had. It’ll be a bumpy ride, but it will be pretty damn fun to get there.
The Office: Expectedly, this show started off with a lot of promise this season, just as it did last season, just to see the plots fizzle like a solo from the pipes of Broccoli Rob. As much as the Nard Dog wants to be known as the Boner Champ, he still isn’t a believable boss, and his metamorphosis into Michael Scott is disconcerting to fans that don’t want to see his legacy tarnished. The additions of two new characters were both fantastic the first two weeks, but they have since seen the roles become diminished to a point of serving as background characters. It would be nice if someone explained what happened to Ryan and Kelly, but no one ever did. I don’t think Stanley has had a line all season, and Kevin is in a similar boat. Every third word Angela says is about her husband, who frankly no one cares whether or not he is cheating with Oscar. The acknowledgement of the cameras in the first episode was heavenly for someone who wonders why this documentary is being filmed and wants nothing more than the show to end with the beginning of the show being watched by the cast, but it never since has been referenced. Jim’s plot of starting a new company is nearly a decade in the making, but it is nothing if it is gradual. They jammed it down our throat as if it were nourishment and we needed to be Kevin sized. This show is still enjoyable enough to be must see TV, but only because we need to understand why and see how it ends.
Parks and Recreation: I still don’t like this show too much, but I watch it as a bridge between great and greater TV. This show is the anti-30 Rock. It is nearly entirely the light and fuzzy as opposed to jokes being used like they were the entrance to a Nicki Minaj song: jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes, jokes. I haven’t watched the show in two seasons, but from what I gather not much has changed expect now Leslie works somewhere else. The show is good, I’ll give it credit, but I am not a fan. Here is the one compliment I will give it: better than any other show currently airing, the show strives to make every character a better person as time progresses. Some shows like to have their characters be stagnant for effect, but Parks and Rec like to have their characters learn from their mistakes and better themselves. How else can you explain Ron Swanson having a nice girlfriend with two little girls who works as an assistant principle rather than a girl named Tammy? How else can you explain Ben Wyatt’s (MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON OUT AS IF YOU CARED) proposal to Leslie Knope? That is a silly thing to do; she is a person who has almost nothing together in her personal life, but true love conquers all as they say. How else can you explain the cast, who normally treat Jerry like Toby if he was a known coconspirator of Hitler, rallying together to raise money for him after he had a Fart Attack? This is a warm comedy, but not my favorite.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: This is a perfect example of a show that knows where its bread is buttered. After a poor performance in their first show, the show did something in their second episode I had only seen attempted once before, to questionable results, by Scrubs. They did a literal rehash of past plots using direct quotes from other episodes to create a new episode displaying the monotony of life. After that they explored the mystical world of the McPoyle’s in a bone chilling Halloween episode and got all sorts of jokey by bringing back the waitress in the most recent episode which addressed economic class structure to boot. This is still a show that when it is on can be perfect, but is also a show that can do things no other show on TV can do, so it is slightly unfair. They have been grandfathered in to certain gross jokes that other shows can’t use and they are on FX which is almost a free pass to be as perverse as physically possible. That being said, Sunny is off to a great start this season, trying to lead FX to yet another comedy rotation title on the leadership of its veteran arm.
Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell: If you have seen this show, you are really excited I’m typing about it. If you haven’t seen this show, you really need to get excited quick. I operate under a rule that I will give every poor looking show a chance as long as I see the commercials for it over 50 times. Kamau managed that and some, which drove me to listen to his barrage of fantastic and poignant jokes that really couldn’t be any funnier at some points. In his premier episode, speaking about the political strife the confusion of sheiks and Sikhs, Kamau had me rolling with laughter, partly again because of low expectations. Thinking it was a fluke, I returned for a second episode and it still served as a nice reminder that being completely leftist can be funny without being tasteless. Bill Maher should take some pointers from Kamau. His bias is not understated in the title; he is a borderline socialist that reminds me of what I assume someone close to Malcolm X would act like. His views, however skewed some including I may see them to be, are actually very funny. If you felt yourself detracted from the show because of how much you detest the Stewart impersonators, you simply couldn’t be more wrong. He seems to draw more inspiration from Joel McHale than from The Daily Show, using graphics and short skits to get his point across rather than mocking a certain news station or reader. I am in no way insinuating that all people will enjoy this show. Rather, take it as a suggestion. This show, however biased it admits to being, is always on point. Give it a chance.
The League: Ah, now we have reached the point that I have been waiting for. I saved this show for last for a very basic reason: you always save the best for last. That is right, I have officially switched allegiances. As much as Big Bang is still my favorite show of all time, it is no longer the funniest show on television. That title, by quite a large margin, now belongs to The League. Much like the Mouth Breather Eli Manning, this show seems to be peaking in the fourth. The fourth season of the show has been a litany of call backs to past seasons and creations of new jokes that undoubtedly deserve to be called back. The season began in a frenzy, bringing in guest stars Jerry Jones, Jason Witten, Felix Jones, Desean Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, Rich Eisen, and Trent Richardson into the mix and culminating in Jenny going into labor after Rosterbating to the images of the aforementioned Witten and Jackson and also to the image of Shiva. Drafting while giving birth, Jenny hears something disconcerting. Her husband Kevin, unbeknownst to Jenny, had traded the rights to the name of their unborn child to Ruxin, as well as commissioner status, to keep his Shiva Bowl title from the previous season. Ruxin, always greedy, trades name rights to Taco in exchange for the first pick in the draft. Promptly, Taco names the child Chalupa Batman MacArthur. From there the baby is, like Andre, only half circumcised, Ruxin suffers appendicitis just months after suffering a stroke, Rafi returns to ejaculate into Chalupa Batman’s, otherwise known on his birth certificate as Christopher, breast pump, Kevin and Jenny steal Jay Cutler’s baby’s breast milk, and Taco almost becomes normal. This show has reached a point, to quote TVFanatic.com, “where all the jokes fall in a spectrum between Adult Swim style absurdity and Seinfeld nihilism…”, which is a beautiful spectrum to be in. So enjoy life and watch this show, because, as Taco says, people die all the time. Damn that mountain lion.
SPECIAL SATURDAY REVIEW: A SKIT BY SKIT REVIEW OF LOUIS C.K. ON SNL
Already, so they seem to be starting off with Cecily Strong mocking Michael Bloomberg’s sign language translator. Her jazz hands on the word pizazz were a crowd favorite, but I have anticipated their Chris Christie for days! Nasim Pedrad is doing a good job, but the subject matter is more potent. Christie and Obama have a curious bromance together. When Bloomberg returned to speak Spanish, his joke about Homeland was hitting but also fun. That was a pretty good cold open, good enough for me to consider it top two this year with the Biden/Ryan debate.
First remarks from people in the room upon seeing Louis C.K. walk in: has he ever changed clothes and does he ever age? Remarks during the monologue: nothing but laughter. The monologue was the best one of the season, edging out MacFarlane’s by quite a bit. His tale of his encounter with an old lady at JFK airport was classic C.K. stand-up, which makes me happy that Lorne let Louis do his standup instead of a song and dance. The first thing that came to mind with me was his use of faces and noises to get laughs, but after that he got to the jokes. He talked about losing a game of chicken on helping up an old lady after falling. He went on to tell us only the bad details, refusing to say the parts about her changing his life. Finally he went into classic Louis C.K. mode, talking about how he wished he desired 72+ year old women because he loves them too much. Fantastic monologue, believe it.
Next, the always reliable crew from Fox and Friends made another appearance, merely as an excuse to showcase Bobby Moynihan and his unbelievable talent in playing the stupid character. However, no degree of Donald Trump believing that President Obama has been fraternizing with Jafar and The Riddler can make me see Sudeikis as a fit replacement for Darrell Hammond in this impression. They should retire Trump in his entirety unless Hammond comes back or he one day does become supreme overlord of the United States of Trump. The highlight of the skit, as it seemed to be most of the night, was Louis C.K.’s appearance, this time as his old, sad sack, downtrodden character, but this time with a squeakier voice. His role as the straight man played against the group of people that support throwing trash at Rosie O’Donnell, believe in Piranha AIDS (PARADES), and dunk their cookies in shampoo when they run out of milk, was classic CK form, bringing this skit to a predictable but funny conclusion. This week’s incarnation of the short was an unassuming one to begin with. At first, I thought that the writers were poking fun at the new Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis joint film Lincoln, but with a little CK zing added in. However, as Lincoln uttered the line “it’s just… well… I don’t have any… you know, black friends” I noticed the tone they were going for. And then it hit me like the chords of the Hot Chocolate song itself, they were doing an episode of Louie written by Lincoln! As a strong fan of the show and a huge lover of TV parodies on SNL, this skit was the best of the night for me. All of the jokes, presumably written by CK himself, seemed like they would have fit perfectly on the show. Aidy Bryant played a perfect Louie-fied version of Mary Todd, not telling a single joke but being hilarious, and Kenan began his onslaught of this episode as Freedman Jones. This was an unbelievably funny skit, and quite possibly one of the best shorts we will see in a while, or at least until the Island returns. Following that previous skit up is a daunting task, but trying to do so with a skit based around Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, and Louis is not a bad idea. Armisen, introducing the show as the follow up to 24 hours of Boomerang Disasters, was the host of the Australian equivalent of Turner Classic Movies. Though the skit fell flat at many points, I wonder whether or not some of this was on purpose. The accents were putrid and the jokes were crude, but when it was all said and done, McKinnon did her best to steal the skit and succeeded too. Her line “time to pack up me teets” had me gasping for air, but all of the references to boners left me wishing they had written a more productive skit. After a vocal performance by the man in the concealed boner trench coat that is the lead singer for fun., update proved its worst outing of the season. However, this is understandable. Up to this point, Seth Meyers has had to carry each episode, and now he finally had a reliable host to go back to playing second fiddle. And second fiddle he did, dropping Sandy jokes like they were hot, accusing Mitt of being an attention hog, and pointing to the fact that everything said in primary season is like pledging a frat. He posted a true laugh out loud joke with his third Jerry Sandusky reference of the young season, proclaiming point Sandusky in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s effigy being burned. After a visit from a social media expert who pointed out that Obama=poop, we had another visit from the girl at the party you wish you hadn’t talked to. I didn’t like her the first time when she was on Update Thursday, but this time she proved to be a little bit funnier. I personally didn’t enjoy her non sequiturs, but everyone else in the room was cracking up, so I guess she has some appeal. I feel guilty for finding the skit following update so freaking funny, but CK’s excuse to make funny noises was hysterical. His use of the horn of the ram to search for Zog was the first of the WTF skits of the night, but not the last. Kenan reappeared to play Dave, and Bill Hader dropped by to exclaim his disdain by yelling Zesus Jeist! There is nothing more that can be said about this skit, as it was too simplistic, as was the next one, which had Louis CK pretty much playing Buck Henry’s character from The Graduate. The skit was a one joke pony, talking about taxidermy bobcats, the choice between 7 and 119000 dollars and creepy tax advisors. The skit was predictable, and at times painful, but I found it hilarious when the back and forth between CK and Moynihan was going down well. After we were visited by the man in the rapist trench coat once more, CK, McKinnon and Kenan all game together to end the episode quite well. The skit, straight out of WTF land, involved McKinnon, the former preacher, and CK, the Wycan trying to kindle a love affair with one another. Kenan went into the classic facial expressions book, slaying the audience with his fourth wall defying and fear gripping stares. Louis, obviously playing an exotic animal coroner, played a drunk to perfection and McKinnon solidified her status as the best woman on the show with this episode. In a night where the host stole the show, it was good to see that Thompson and Moynihan still got it, and that the new girl is every ounce as funny as who she was brought in to replace was at the beginning of her career. All in all, the episode hit on almost every skit, and I was thoroughly pleased. Next week, CATWOMAN!
That’s it. If you read all this, I give congratulations to you. It was my first column to eclipse the ten thousand word mark, which really is a lot harder than it sounds, and it sounds insanely difficult. This took me over a week to type and I really will never do anything like this again. I hope. If it so happens I do, I will tell you guys not to read it. Because this was awful. 10000 words? Why would I subject myself to this journal of futility. I put too much work into this. I did my part. If you think this was worth it, tell your friends and make them read it. Then tell them to tell their friends. Etcetera. Please, don’t make all this work go to waste.