an awesome way to watch TV

Saturday, June 25, 2011

For Your Reference

Sometimes people ask me, "Do you watch "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia"?" and I have to say no and then they ask me why, and while a small fraction of my answer has to do with my ex-boyfriend, mostly it has to do with shit like this*: "Rob McElhenney had gained 50 pounds just because playing Mac as a fat guy would be funny"

Nope. Go back to satirical television school and take a class from Trey Parker & Matt Stone, please. You lose.

*Also, the first episode I watched dealt quite offensively with the issue of a transgendered woman, and I just couldn't stomach it. No judgment, it's just not for me.

Let's Hear It For The Gays!

Happy Pride, everyone! And happy gay-marriage-is-legal-in-NY! I'm so gonna be dancing my face off tonight. To celebrate, I thought I'd talk about some of my favorite gay television characters. We've still got a long fucking way to go in terms of media portrayal, and I am purposefully ignoring Glee completely on this list - you can go back and read some of my Glee posts if that's what you're interested in, but their characters are so poorly maintained that while I love first season Kurt I kind of hate a lot of second season Kurt and we won't even get into their TERRIBLE track record of biphobia. So. Let's start with a good one.

Alastair/Athena, "Huge"

I have been trying to get everyone I know to watch Huge with me and everyone says, "Yeah, that sounds great," and then we never do. But it is THE BEST, you've just got to start watching and you'll be hooked. Now, not to give too much away, but Alastair is an incredible character. He's super awkward and weird and no one really gets him and he's totally open about finding power in the name Athena and wanting that to be his nickname or whatever and when the jock kid calls him that out of kindness and acceptance you will CRY and if you don't you are made of permafrost. Anyway, what's great about Alastair is that he is pretty much the embodiment of "Questioning". He's totally queer but is still figuring out what that means and even though he may have curiosity about guys he's got it about girls, too and is really just trying to be himself and find the best way to do that. He's not afraid to be genderqueer and embody the feminine along with the masculine and most of all he doesn't want people making assumptions about him based on what they see or hear. Alastair is one of the main reasons why Huge is so great, and probably one of the main reasons it was cancelled, lest teenagers realize it's ok to be whoever they want to be or some other TERRIBLE lesson like that.

I should just end this list now, because it just can't get any better than that.

The Cast Of Will & Grace (minus Grace)

Will & Grace is one of those shows that doesn't really get talked about anymore. I don't think I've mentioned it once in almost a year of this blog. But it really was, for at least the first few seasons, revolutionary, brilliant, and hilarious queer comedy. Sure, there were some issues with stereotypes, but Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes are such great actors that they dealt with those unavoidable roadblocks with grace and dignity. Megan Mullally's pansexual Karen is one of the greatest television characters of all time; they should have ended the show before Harry Connick, Jr came on to ruin everything and created a spin-off called Jack & Karen, because who wouldn't watch that? I remember seeing two men kiss on primetime TV, and how powerful that was for me as a little baby queer with an uncle about to get gay married. I love, love, love Sean Hayes (if you haven't seen Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, do it NOW) and think he deserves tons of credit for making flamboyance into something more than a limp-wristed caricature and for showing the world that it's ok to be stereotypically & effeminately gay, but that that doesn't mean that's ALL you are. I think it's safe to say that the television world would not be what it is today without Will & Grace.

Chandler & Phoebe, "Friends"

Both totally bi. Like, so bi I've considered writing a dissertation about how bi they are. Really the argument could be made for all of the so-called heteros on Friends, but Chandler and Phoebe are the most obvious about it. I love when Phoebe slips in a sly reference for her love for the ladies and it is totally NBD and that Chandler's queerness just subtly becomes part of who he is.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jon Benjamin Has Awesomeness

So, for whatever dumb reason, I waited until today to watch Jon Benjamin Has A Van. For whatever dumber reason, Comedy Central only has ONE episode available to watch on their website, which seems pretty ridiculous since the show just started. Regardless, after I get off work I'm going a-internet hunting for the first two episodes because JBHAV, like all things Jon Benjamin graces with his greatness, is hilarious.

It's hard to describe what kind of show it is. It's kind of like sketch comedy, with a main skit that runs through smaller gags. It reminds me of Mr. Show crossed with Louie (which is back starting Thursday! Even though I'm still angry at my lover Louis C.K. for his dumb Twitter remarks about the Tracy-Morgan-is-ignorant-and-terrible imbroglio, I will continue to allow him to make me laugh), meaning that there's no real structure other than what Jon Benjamin wants as structure. And that's a good thing. Some of the best comedy comes from naturally hilarious people just fucking around and doing their thing, and that's exactly what JBHAV is.

There's not much to say about the show besides it's really funny, you should watch it. Jon Benjamin totally has some kind of magical comedic energy - just having him around something automatically makes it great. And I'm being serious when I say that the best thing about JBHAV are Benjamin's eyes - they twinkle, they laugh, they deadpan, they draw you in to their rippling blue depths. It's surprisingly fantastic how much Jon Benjamin can make me laugh with just his face when he's been mostly a voice actor for the majority of his career - although I shouldn't really be surprised, since he's such a brilliant voice actor. He has some of the best comedic delivery in the history of laughing, and Jon Benjamin Has A Van takes complete advantage of his fine, fine skills (and his sexy-ass face).

This is going on the Summer Watch List, guys. I just hope Comedy Central ponies up some new episodes soon, and that JBHAV doesn't get lost behind the murky puke that is Ugly Americans.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Is Not All That

This is what ABC Family cancelled Huge for: white girls with the same haircut doing terrible things. And a girl with a cat face. Really? REALLY???!!! Winnie Holzman and Samantha Dooley - resurrect Huge on a different network, please!!! One that is not The Worst at making good shows.

Speaking of white girls who all look the same, I'm sure if you were on the internet in the past two weeks I'm sure you saw an ad for iParty With Victorious. You may or may not have been blown away by the fact that they look like the same person:

Other than Miranda Cosgrove having more curl in her hair, they are practically identical. Whatever happened to the channel whose most popular show used to look like this:

...HUH? Nickelodeon, come back! You were once the pinnacle of children's programming - now you are homogenized skim milk, which is so bad it's on Ron Swanson's Pyramid Of Greatness twice: "Skim Milk: Avoid It."

Expect more forceful opinions on the greatness of mid-nineties Nickelodeon shows once I can find episodes of Hey, Dude and Salute Your Shorts. In the meantime, iSuck With Terribleness can leave now, please.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Community, Out There Being Awesome

So I don't particularly like talking about The Emmys, because they're mostly dumb and meaningless - you just can't judge a show by watching one or two episodes of it, that completely negates all of the work tv shows do building character arcs and whatnot - but thankfully, I don't have to, because Abed did it for me! You can read this awesome bit ostensibly written by Abed Nadir that will serve to remind you how many awards Community deserves HERE.

Thankfully, The AV Club has done a four-part interview with Dan Harmon, the creator of Community, where he goes through the second season of the show episode by episode, is remarkably self-deprecating and honest, and gives some great insight into how the show is made. HERE is the link to the third part of the series; links to parts one and two can be found at the top of that page - the fourth part will be posted tomorrow.


Monday, June 6, 2011

"But...I'm...White..." : Cheers vs Wings

Eeek! Blogging fail. I don't think I've ever abandoned you all for so long. But hey, I've been on vacation and there hasn't been any new TV to provide me with some initiative, so I guess it's up to my weary brain to come up with ideas for good summertime posts. Don't worry, things won't remain at this sporadic pace - once I'm working again I'll be back to writing on a more regular basis.

So, a few weeks ago - or maybe it was a month, I can't keep track - Linda on Pop Culture Happy Hour was talking about how Cheers is on Netflix instant now, and how she spent the whole weekend watching Cheers and how the comedy really holds up. Now, Cheers ended shortly before I became a regular primetime viewer, so I only had a few brief memories of the show when it was on. I decided that this would be a great opportunity for me to educate myself on one of the most classically beloved sitcoms.

It did not go so well. Cheers does not, sorry Linda, does NOT hold up. The only thing that makes the show even remotely enjoyable is Ted Danson's inescapable charm. I have never found him attractive, but damn if he couldn't charm the pants off of anyone he wished. However, basically all other elements of the show are unbearable. Diane is a huge bore whose backstory consists of being abandoned at a bar by her creepy boss with whom she was about to elope, but instead he leaves her to go back to his ex-wife. Wha??? It informs her character not at all except to establish that she is a snob and an intellectual and here she is surrounded by all these boors isn't that hilarious? Not really. Carla, who I remember liking when I was a kid, is instead one of those people that thinks that being tiny allows them to get away with being a violent asshole. It's not cute when you shout in people's faces and punch them in the neck when you don't get your way, EVEN IF YOU ARE SHORT. Now, let me ask: is Coach supposed to be retarded? Nevermind, it doesn't matter, either way he is The Worst. The way he screams "NAAAHHRM!" whenever Norm walks in is so abrasive and awful it boggles my mind that it became a touchstone of the show. Speaking of Norm and Cliff, these characters are not endearing. They are drunks. Barney on The Simpsons is such a great character because he is an exaggeration of what Norm & Cliff would really be like. Anyway, when you come down to it, none of them are likable except Sam.

And here's where we get to the crux of the issue of watching Cheers from a modern standpoint: this is a show about a bar. Everything happens at a bar. Almost all of the characters we see are drunks or at least drink a fair amount - except Sam, who's an alcoholic, and Diane, who is boring. Maybe in 1982 it was normal for people to get off of work and go drink by yourself in a bar every night; these days, that kind of behavior is sad and problematic. Thus characters like Norm, who, at that time might've been the guy who reminded you of your uncle or something, are now just pathetic misogynists who have probably caused multiple drunk driving accidents without even knowing it. Knowing what we know now, it's hard to find any of the Cheers ensemble endearing.

The comedy is also incredibly stilted and old-fashioned. I can see the setup of a joke coming from a mile away, and when the punchline eventually comes, it's painful. I mean, I understand that this is Eighties television we're talking about - I've seen Alf and Family Ties and all that and I get how low the bar was set for a long time. But just because Cheers might've been better than 21 Jumpstreet (and it's not, I watched all of that after-school epic last summer) doesn't mean that it deserves all the love it gets.