April 17, 2009

TV Review | Sit Down, Shut Up 1.1, 1.2 – “Pilot,” “Miracle’s Are Real”

The main selling point of Sit Down, Shut Up (Fox/Global: starts April 19, 8:30 PM; 7:30 PM Central [Fox]) is that it’s a new series from Mitchell Hurwitz and Two and a Half Men writers/executive producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum.  Most people stop at the mention of the Tannenbaums and go “ew, Two and a Half Men? that show is shit!”  In all fairness, Two and a Half Men is shit, but let’s move on.

Sit Down, Shut Up is similar to Arrested Development in that it features Jason Bateman and Will Arnett in lead roles.  The show is fond of ludicrous character names – Bateman is everyman P.E. teacher Larry Littlejunk, while Arnett is English teacher/womanizer Ennis Hofftard.  Saturday Night Live castmembers also feature, with Will Forte, Cheri Oteri and Kenan Thompson earning some pay.

The pilot takes a while to introduce Sit Down, Shut Up‘s characters, hardly Knob Haven High School’s finest.  Littlejunk, Hofftard, New Agey science teacher Miracle Grohe (Kristin Chenoweth), Acting Principal Sue Sezno (Thompson), happily oblivious Ass. Principal Stuart Proszakian (Forte) and bisexual drama teacher Andrew LeGustambos (Nick Kroll) are the most focused-on.

Tom Kenny is terrorist/custodian Muhannad Sabeeh “Happy” Fa-ach Nuabar.  Oteri plays ugly, gruff librarian Helen Klench, while Henry Winkler rounds out the cast as German teacher Willard Deutschebog.  The pilot even goes so far as to underline key catchphrases, just in case Sit Down, Shut Up becomes popular and Mitchell Hurwitz needs to license some shirts.

Sit Down, Shut Up is ostensibly a remake of the same-named 2001 Australian sitcom, except that it’s a pragmatic adaptation.  The show is similar in style to Bromwell High, a 2005 British/Canadian series that focused mainly on teachers.

Sure, Bromwell High also focused on three students, but the “students second” attitude is similar.  While Sit Down, Shut Up can be funny at times, Bromwell High had Iqbal.  Advantage: Bromwell High.  Next on our list, item 54…

Larry Littlejunk is a fairly boring lead character, as much the straight man as Michael Bluth on Arrested Development.  I’m going by two episodes of a series that will air after I write this review, but I already don’t care for his infatuation with/hatred of Miracle Grohe.  The other Sit Down, Shut Up characters are more interesting, even Deutschebog.

There’s a lot of fourth-wall breaking in Sit Down, Shut Up, which doesn’t seem as odd in an animated show airing before Family Guy.  There isn’t a fundamental difference between Sit Down, Shut Up and AD the way there is with Family Guy and American Dad! or The Simpsons and Futurama.  That’s a problem.

The photographic background gimmick is just that.  It’s not important to the show, although the backgrounds and animation are blended almost seamlessly.  Mo Willems‘ character designs are much more important, giving the show a clean and visually distinctive look.  Stuart Proszakian looks fairly close to real-world Will Forte.  It makes me wonder why Arrested Development wasn’t a cartoon, since that might have earned the show a few more years.

The first two episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up are as uneven as Arrested Development was during its three-season run, which is still funnier than the shows currently on Fox’s Sunday lineup.  Compared to the twentieth season of The Simpsons or Family Guy at its Conway Twittiest, Sit Down, Shut Up isn’t that bad.

Will Arnett is always fun to watch, while Kristin Chenoweth is perfect as Miracle Grohe.  Nick Kroll’s voice is also appropriate for LeGustambos.  Kenan Thompson is in a role where his tendency to overact is muted, which is odd since he’s voicing Sue Sezno.  Thompson playing a woman should lend itself to all sorts of Virginiaca-isms, but he reins himself in for Sit Down, Shut Up.

Cheri Oteri underperforms as Klench, while Forte just plays Forte and gets away with it.  As for Tom Kenny, he could have stayed home since Happy’s not much of a character.  Sit Down, Shut Up wastes Kenny in a role that amounts to barely a minute of screen time per episode.  It’s like hiring Bobcat Goldthwait to yell “ahhhh!” once every twelve minutes.

The show has garnered mainly negative reviews so far.  I’m actually amazed critics are piling on Sit Down, Shut Up.  Either I’m not noticing how bad it really is, Mitchell Hurwitz’s comedy style is no longer in vogue, or the critics expected such a high standard from SD,SU that they’re overreacting to a fairly manky pilot episode.

The real problem with SD,SU is that it comes up short compared to other shows set in a high school.  It’s hard to go up against Daria, Bromwell High, Summer Heights High and Clone High and not expect to be sacked harder than an inept quarterback carrying his team to the ass-end of a 105-0 blowout.

It’s not like Sit Down, Shut Up can’t improve.  Futurama and American Dad! found their niches despite poor starts.  The first season of The Simpsons was absolute shit compared to what it became later.  If Sit Down, Shut Up is going to be all Stuart-is-a-prison-clown jokes, the show won’t last, but I’m not ready to throw it into the Fish Police/Capitol Critters box at this point.

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February 21, 2009

Arrested Development Movie? Seriously? Fuck You.

There are a lot of scatological comparisons that one can hit up when describing the fleeting pleasure of Arrested Development: a really good dump after being backed-up for days; the biggest fart you’ve ever let off, in length, intensity and girth.  Really, though, it seems just filthy trying to point out the fleeting, overall satisfaction of this cancelled television series.  A fart and a dump are rather necessary to the general health of your intestinal tract, but playing around with either one is disgusting.

As much as Arrested Development was needed to help transition television comedy away from the Seinfeld setup, AD was needed to help reel a new generation of viewers into what will become, undoubtedly, this generation’s Newhart.

Before I go on, Bob Newhart is downright hilarious.  Go get his book, or better yet, get the audio book.  He reads it and his delivery is fantastic.  Do it now.  Don’t buy the third season of Arrested Development on DVD.  Spend your money wisely, for once.

Digression aside, fuck the movie and fuck you, Arrested Development, for having retarded fans that might warrant a movie.  The creative bankruptcy of the movie industry is evident so that in 2009, the biggest blockbusters will be adapted from toys played by kids of twenty years ago.  Granted, the two figured (G.I. Joe and Transformers, if you didn’t guess yet, you twit) were predominant in the shared culture over the last two years, but so was AIDS.  Where is my AIDS: The Movie?  Don’t you fucking tell me that Philadelphia or the ending to Forrest Gump is all I’m getting.  I want CGI AIDS.  I want Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay AIDS.  I want AIDS with Jay-Z on the soundtrack and guest cameos by Jack Black and Samuel L. Jackson.

Not quite the blight upon humanity but almost as unpleasant, Arrested Development launched the career of Michael Cera.  Known for being the star graduate from the Will Ferrell School of Lazy Acting, Cera has rocked the awkward jackass teenager character in every project that he’s worked on, humping that dry leg for all the hipster money he can get.  Thank you, hipsters, for your shitty tastes have once again ruined the world for a good five years.

Having no urge to see Juno, Superbad, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist or fuck whatever comes next in the douchebag’s career – fuck, what was I saying?  I was so unenthused just writing the names of projects that feature Cera’s apathetic approach to crafting a character, the fallback on “stammering idiot” and “sensitive guy you’d want to kick in the teeth because he’s so passive,” that I lost any urge to go on with a point.  Shit.  How about another Judd Apatow movie?

What?  He’s doing one about terminal illness now?  Wow.  Man, that’s pretty fucking lame.  Oh, he did a movie with Jack Black and Michael Cera as cavemen?  God, why the fuck did Arreste–oh.  Yeah.  That’s what.

Fuck Arrested Development.  Yeah, yeah, another cult show on Fox got the shaft.  Boo-fucking-hoo.  Look, it was too witty for its own good.  It bordered on precocious too fucking much, like there was a pregnant pause where it was expected that Ron Howard would walk into frame, give the audience a week and leave.

I’ll admit, I watched Arrested Development when it first came around on Sundays since I had no cable and it was easier to leave the television on than turn it off.  From what I saw, it was a decently written series written by a man noted for The Ellen Show and half a season of The Golden Girls.  I think that might sum up the feeling from watching Arrested Development: it’s both benign as a grandmother in Florida and topical as a blonde woman saying she likes to kiss girls.

So, as long as it was on Sundays, I caught it.  It left, came back, and left again.  People were all happy about AD on the Internet, but that didn’t translate to ratings.  It’s another cult show with a rabid fanbase that couldn’t move units and fuck – there it went.  Got a shortened third season, saw the writing on the wall and wrapped itself up.

I watched the two-hour block that Fox used to dump all the remaining episodes of season three, one big series-ending finale to bid the characters good-bye.  Shit, it ended well enough.  Every loose end was tied, every witty joke was made.  Most shows get the idea that the end is coming, but be it grace or the many awards it won, AD got the chance to actually write a finale and put a creative cap on the show.  It was a good ending and I don’t see why a movie has to come about.  I don’t see the need for it.  I also don’t see the need for Jack Black and Michael Cera to dress up as cavemen.  What do I know?

Cera almost saved himself from getting kicked in the teeth by expressing he might not be on board for this movie.  I guess his star has risen so much, now he rolls around in a fake-fur smock with a fat-ass who used to be in a fake band.  Practical Oscar material, this fucking role.  I guess Cera thought himself too busy, but no, news comes out that the movie’s a go and that it might be around next year.  Fuck.

We could have been better off had news of the AD movie never happened in the first place.  This can be said about the tsunami that killed over 150,000 and the genocides in Africa that continue to desolate the people of the land.  The same can be said about this stupid television series.  The docu-comedy, the half-sincere bullshit of it all might have never taken.  We’d be out Pineapple Express and Kevin Smith would finally stop making movies.

Doesn’t that sound nice?  It’s this commitment to failure that drives me crazy, and I’m ready to move on to some real creative mojo.  Why the fuck do we need a movie for Arrested Development, a show that’s been off the air for three years?  Why do we need to create what will just be a 120-minute episode that will not so much answer questions, but pose new questions and answer them (hopefully) in the allotted time?  Fuck that.  Fuck you.  It’s time to grow up and move on.

There’s nothing fun about being one age forever.  There’s enough shit out there you weren’t around for that you can discover and be just as excited as you are pining away for the Bluth Company.  There’s bound to be something worthwhile going on RIGHT NOW, though you have to wade through miles of shit for it.  Hey, it’s a higher quality of shit because it’s not Arrested Development shit.  Goddamn, I tried to avoid the scat images but when you’re digging through the already-digested material of pop culture, it’s hard not to come out smelling like your septic tank.

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February 13, 2009

Dollhouse? Seriously? Fuck You.

Tonight (February 13th, 2009) is when Joss Whedon’s latest television foray, Dollhouse, premieres on the Fox network.  Dear god, why?  Check this from the wiki:

“…Whedon had a 5-year plan for the show and had already planned out the evolution of his characters through that point.  Whedon has said repeatedly that he hates ‘rewind television,’ episodes where the characters don’t learn and don’t evolve from show to show.  That’s why he has already mapped out an evolution for his characters.”

Five years!  Motherfucker needs to get through the first season before he starts talking shit about FIVE years.

Jesus Christ, this is Whedon’s biggest flaw.  He can’t write for television, not the primetime big networks.  He’s too concerned with the long stories of each main character – and FUCK, this Dollhouse series is boasting NINE of them. NINE! – that he’s not seeing the immediate.  If the casual viewer can’t immediately latch onto ONE character, they’re not going to give an everloving fuck about NINE.  Shit, I thought that was elementary.  The viewer only has so much attention to give; over-taxing their attention span makes them switch the channel.

Whedon is spoiled.  He got away with the long television run on Buffy the Vampire Slayer because of it always being on a second-tier network.  Had The WB and UPN grown the huevos to challenge the bigger networks, Buffy would not have lasted as long as it did.  It was never in a position to be in direct competition with any of the shows on the bigger channels, and that needs to be understood.  Buffy was on a network that had lax emphasis on generating the ratings.  A show that brought in four million viewers on average could be considered, to that network, a success.

The wiki lists the highest season rating for Buffy at 5.3 million viewers.  The lowest seasonal rating for House is 13.3.  If any of the Firefly episodes brought in that many viewers, it would still be on the air.  Instead, we have a not-even-one season with a rabid fanbase bitching on the wiki about how Fox fucked up the order of the episodes, that the pilot was a two-parter that didn’t get shown the right way.  Bullshit.

Y’know, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a two-parter for a pilot, but TNG didn’t have nine main fucking characters.  TNG didn’t need two hours to wade through Whedon dickery to get the basic points of “this is the bad guy,” “this is the good guy” and “this is the conflict of the episode.”  Whereas TNG – any successful television sci-fi, really – could be picked up by any boob flipping channels, Whedon’s shit needed you to know what the fuck was going on in all the past episodes in order for the viewer to understand what was going on.

Hating “rewind television” means hating television.  Even with TiVo, DVR and all the advances of science, the bulk of a show’s viewers are walk-in customers who, interested at the flash they see, stay on the channel.  Look at Fox’s successful shows.  House doesn’t require any brainpower when you tune in for your first episode.  There’s the asshole brilliant doctor, his assistants who hate and worship him, the sexual tension with a female that gets either resolved or complicated in the episode and some kind of disease that gets convolutedly cured by the end of the show.  There are always small favors given to the dedicated who stick around week after week, but the episode is written to draw people in.

I mean – fuck, ‘Til Death, the mediocre sitcom about suburban married life featuring Brad Garrett, brings in the same ratings that Buffy did.

Fuck Joss Whedon and fuck his fans, who do elaborate displays of assholery in order to convince the rest of the world that “Whedon = money.”  Their dickery with Firefly got them a movie and fuck, Serenity took in $10.1 million its first week.  It didn’t make back its budget until it was put out on DVD.  Whedon doesn’t mean bank and if Dollhouse is another primetime failure, maybe the bullshit aura of “genius” and “competency” surrounding Joss Whedon will finally dissipate enough for meth-riddled Fox execs to understand that he’s just a hackneyed fantasy pillock.  Fucker needs to get past the first year to prove he can hang on the big networks.

And I’ll put money down.  Even in this shitty economy, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie will make three times Serenity‘s opening gate its debut week, and that’s a cautious/chickenshit wager.

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