A LAUGHING MATTER – Comedy Gold On TV

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They say that laughter is the best medicine and, believe me, this is true.  For me, the dark spots in this world are forgotten when I watch great comedy.  In fact, comedy tv shows are my preferred go-to and I never tire of my favorite shows.

Now, being a Brit, my favorites tend to be American comedies with a rather weird vibe.  I never liked Seinfeld, as I didn’t connect with their characters nor was I big on American sketch comedy (Canadian sketch shows did make me laugh).  However, I love a lot of American sitcoms.

frasier_logoFRASIER

(11 Seasons, 1993 – 2004)

I had seen Cheers, but didn’t really get it.  It had moments, but I really didn’t care for the characters (again), as they didn’t relate to me.  However, I loved the spin-off show Frasier, with the superb comic timing of Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce.  It connected me to its characters, who were socially awkward and screwed up emotionally.

The supporting cast was amazing as well.  How could you fault the likes of John Mahoney (now sadly departed) as Frasier‘s father or Peri Gelpin as the beautiful but brittle Roz?  The writing was whip smart and the direction was likewise clever.  Whilst Cheers was simple stories about real people, Frasier was filled with moral ambigiouity and characters with great depth.

Starting in 1993, the eleven (name check to Stranger Things eh?) series of Frasier gave the show room to grow and develop, as the characters faced farcical situations that would test the learnings of a tenured professor of Ethics.  I still watch avidly, whenever it shows up on any platform and am never disappointed.  There is something timeless about the whole show, but I loved seeing Daphne (Jane Leeves) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) get together after more false dawns than could be counted.  I loved hearing Frasier try to explain his thoughts to his father, who would roll his eyes and mutter under his breath.

Overall, this show introduced me to the American sitcom and informed my taste for other comedy shows that have become a major influence in combating the dark side of life.

friends_logoFRIENDS

(10 seasons, 1994 – 2004)

After the amazing Frasier, Friends was the next sitcom that I became mildly obsessed with.  This was different from Frasier in that it had younger leads, who were all largely of the beautiful people club.  I found the chemistry between the leads as being fascinating.  The storylines were light, but the heart of the show was always pure.

However, it did lose its way with the various friends pairing off.  Ross and Rachel was organic and sweet, but when the others got together, it didn’t seem natural.

Leaving that one issue aside, the show gave me many happy hours of mindless fun.  I could dip in and out and enjoy the mild mayhem and the sweet optimism.

People often ask you – which character was your favorite?  I tend to have to empathise with characters and so I found Ross mostly the most easy to identify with, the nerdy guy who was clumsy.  I never would identify with him physically, as he was tall and good looking (not me at all), but his social anxiety fitted me to a tee!

The best episodes were those that were really ensemble pieces and still they hold up today, some twenty odd years after the show started.  I still watch repeats on Netflix all the time!

COMMUNITY

(6 Seasons, 2009 – 2015)

The life of students and staff at fictional Greendale Community College was focused on in the madball comedy that was Community.  The six series became very special to me, in that it totally was unlike any other comedy show I had ever seen.  It was irreverent, trippy and severely warped and I loved it!

I entered the fan club after watching Series 4, generally considered a sub-par season due to main show runner/writer Dan Harmon leaving (only to return for subsequent seasons).  The show completely captivated me and I would have loved to have attended Greendale!

The one factor in all of my picks is the strong ensemble casts and with Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Ken Yeong, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover and Jim Rash, you had the best troupe in television.

The other factor is the heart that this show had.  Every character had a sympathetic story (apart from the School Board members, who were pure evil).  The show was innovative in its introduction of different mediums for episodes, including stop motion and felt animations.  In fact, one of my favorite episodes, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” was a stop motion holiday special, like The Polar Express.

The characters developed over the time of the life of the show.  They moved from being quirky students to completely out of control staff members at the college.  The writing was cool, the dialogue snappy and funny and the whole package was incredible.  The show was a success, but a sixth season was only secured when Yahoo funding was provided.  It will forever live on in my heart as one of the best comedy shows ever.

THE BIG BANG THEORY

(11 Seasons, 2007 – present)

This is the one comedy that is still on our tv screens.  It has been praised to the heavens and has millions of viewers worldwide.

What can you say about the show that hasn’t been written before?  Well, for once, you could stop talking about it being Nerd Culture or Geek Chic.  This show only uses Nerd references as a background to the relationships between the socially awkward bunch of friends.   This is its appeal!

It has another fine ensemble cast and an expanding universe where rock star actors like Billy Bob Thornton drop in and mug their way through hilarious stories.  I identify with the characters, not only in their interests, but in their anxieties and phobias.  I delight in the fact that a nerd can marry an attractive woman (I am living proof that this does happen, but don’t tell the wife).  I am also used to watching the show through my hands, saying “noooooo!” whenever something embarrassing happens.

The show has grown and the characters have moved on from the youthful geeks that started out in 2007.  I have grown with the characters and developed a true affection for Leonard and Raj, whilst still finding Sheldon to be a character I will never truly empathise with.

The one factor that makes this show such a delight to watch is the supporting characters, such as Stuart Bloom (the comic book shop owner with clinical depression) and Barry Kripke (the hilarious John Ross Bowie, who is Sheldon‘s arch nemesis).  Kripke actually uttered my favorite line of the whole show, when he says of the deceased Professor that he was found to have been “dead at his desk for two weeks“.  Not an immediately hilarious line, it resonated for me when I used to fantasize about bumming out a hated manager of mine by actually dying on her…My wonky sense of humor for sure!

30 ROCK

(7 Seasons, 2006 – 2012)

My final pick is my favorite show of all time.  30 Rock was created by Tina Fey that ran on NBC from October 11, 2006, to January 31, 2013. The series, based on Fey‘s experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live, takes place behind the scenes of a fictional live sketch comedy show “TGS“.

The two main characters, Tina Fey‘s Liz Lemon and Alec Baldwin‘s Jack Donaghy head the show and their relationship is the real foundation of the comedy.  They are both fantastic and they bring a chemistry that is rare in tv comedy.  At opposing ends of the political spectrum, their true affection for one another stretches out over the seven seasons and provides some of the most silly and heart warming points of the whole show.

Backing up Fey and Baldwin is an array of comedy talent, including the amazing Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, the manic star of TGS.  The camera work, lighting and scripts are also some of the strongest on television.  I always watch the show to uplift my spirits and cleanse my soul of darkness.

The show is manic and goes full pelt into madness at every opportunity.  However, the heart of the show is about the relationship between Fey and Baldwin’s characters.  I always find them to be supremely funny and it does my heart good to hear the frankly ludicrous lines that flit in and out of the show.  One memorable scene has Jack consulting Mitt Romney‘s horse about the upcoming election…What other show could give you that?

There you have it; my ramblings about American comedies that are on my Mount Rushmore of shows.  There are many others that I have real affection for, including The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Dads, Happy Days, Spin City and 3rd Rock From The Sun, but these are honorable mentions only.

I am planning on focusing on British comedy classics for a later post – I’m sure you’re all waiting with anticipation at Defcon whatever it is!  Thanks for reading Blamers

Coxy

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