List, Television

TOP 5 CURRENT US SITCOMS

The 5 US sitcoms you should be watching right now.

PicMonkey Collage

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt

rawIt won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fantastic Netflix sitcom that stands out from the majority of other shows due to its premise. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (AKA the minds behind the brilliant 30 Rock, which ran from 2006 to 2013), the show begins with 29 year old Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) being rescued from a bunker where she has spent 15 years in captivity after Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) led her and three other women to believe that they had survived the end of the world. Becoming known as one of the “Indiana mole women”, Kimmy decides to break free and start a new life in New York City, despite not knowing much about the 21st century world.

The fact that Fey and Carlock have taken a decidedly dark premise and made it into something as bright and cheerful as this show is a credit to them, but even moreso to Kemper for making the character of Kimmy so endearingly likable – she feels like an extension of her role as Erin in NBC’s The Office, which can only be a good thing. The cast is brilliant in that it moves away from the typical group of friends who met in high school/college hanging out and instead presents an eclectic range of people who appeared in each others lives randomly, from Kimmy’s broadway yearning roomate Titus (Tituss Burgess) or eccentric landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), to the ever hilarious Jane Krakowski as a wealthy Manhattanite.

Whilst the show could perhaps become a little grating, there is no denying that it is totally unique and hilariously funny – something which has seen Netflix renew it for a third season before the second has even begun streaming (season 2 is set to make an appearance on the 15th of April), and the fact that it was nominated for a total of seven Emmy awards. If you haven’t already seen it, what are you waiting for – all 13 episodes of season 1 are available on Netflix right now!

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

tumblr_ndwxelm1Cg1qdt9vko1_400Another show that is an acquired taste, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a cult hit that has been broadcast on US network FX, then sister channel FXX, since 2005 (it is available to stream on Netflix for those of us in the UK). Now in it’s 11th season and renewed for a 12th, the sitcom was developed by Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, who both star as members of the ‘gang’ that the plot revolves around.

Described as “Seinfeld on crack”, the show takes the typical ‘group of friends hanging out’ trope and flips it beyond recognition. Revolving around the exploits of a group of people who own a bar – Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and his twin sister Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and from season 2 onwards the twins ‘father’ Frank (Danny DeVito) – the show is about as far removed from Friends (1994-2004) as you can get.

It would be a stretch to describe the gang as friends – co-dependent alcoholics, sure, but friends is probably too light a term. The show really hit its stride with the inclusion of DeVito from the second season, and there is no issue safe from the shows satirical gaze. Taboo topics are the norm – it’s almost like a live-action South Park (1997-) at times – meaning that the show is not one for the easily offended.

The comedy is derived from the fact that the characters are all hugely self centered and damaged in their own ways – from Charlie’s anger issues and glue sniffing to Dennis’ increasingly obvious sociopathic tendencies – and it is amazing that they can continue to come up with such inventive ideas after over a decade. In season 7 episode The Gang Gets Trapped, Dennis perfectly sums up the shows premise in one of this trademark rants:

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten…somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another. Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home.”  

If you like your comedy jet black and packed with too many pop culture references to count, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the show for you.

3. Broad City

746b285916fc5f9e55c0b334e38d7a39Broad City is a show that, since it began airing on Comedy Central in 2014, has drawn endless comparison to Lena Dunham’s Girls (2012-). Whilst both tell the story of women in their twenties living in New York City, the two shows are in fact very different beasts – each with their own distinct strengths.

Starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jackson as fictionalised versions of themselves, Broad City began life as a web-series before being picked up by Comedy Central. It is due to begin its third season, with the second in particular garnering critical acclaim. Glazer and Jackson met whilst taking classes at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade, and no other than Amy Poehler took notice of the web incarnation of the show, now serving as an executive producer on the series.

First and foremost, Broad City is hilarious. Charting the exploits of self-centred, work-allergic stoner Ilana and wannabe illustrator Abbi as they get themselves into all sorts of weird but strangely relatable situations is a mine of comedy potential , and the duos writing is consistently strong. The cast is rounded out by some eccentric supporting players, including Ilana’s lover Lincoln (Hannibal Burgess) and Abbi’s roomate’s oddball boyfriend Bevers (John Gemberling).

Broad City also manages to be progressive at the same time as funny – usually the best sort of progressive, really. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the show was described as “sneak attack feminism” and Jackson was quoted as saying:

“If you watch one of out episodes there’s not a big message, but if you watch all of them, I think, they’re empowering to women.” 

And she’s right. Watch one episode of Broad City and you will be treated to some real comedy gold – a favourite of mine includes Ilana trying to track down a TV remote she lost months ago in order to cancel a subscription – but if you watch the entire series, you will be treated to a show where women do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want (and they don’t answer to anyone – man or woman). Roll on season 3!

2. Brooklyn Nine Nine

130d218593d8b917c20a9dc277f87818Brooklyn Nine Nine is without a doubt one of the best sitcoms around at the moment. Currently airing its third season on Fox in the US (catch it on E4 in the UK) and featuring an eclectic ensemble cast, the show has received critical acclaim since it began airing in 2013.

Essentially a fusion of two arguably tired genres – the cop show and the sitcom – Brooklyn Nine Nine has taken the best from both concepts and created something fresh and hilarious. With an ensemble cast that includes Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher, the show manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of modern sitcoms and uses the police precinct setting to generate totally different storylines.

The show hit the ground running and it has only been up from there, with season three shaking up the status quo and showing that creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur aren’t afraid to mix up the dynamics. Goor and Schur are known for their work on the equally acclaimed Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) and Schur also worked on the US version of The Office (2005-2013), so there is no doubt that the pair know what they are doing when it comes to hilarious sitcoms.

The writing is fast paced and hilarious, and the workplace setting means that, much like the success of Parks and Recreation and The Office, personal lives do not factor in so much as to be overbearing. There is plenty of workplace action, and the characters all have totally different backgrounds, with the contrasts and relationships between them driving the comedy.

There’s been no word yet on a fourth season renewal, but Fox would be deluded to cancel a show that has been so well received and seems to only be getting better with time – expect to be seeing plenty from the Nine Nine in years to come.

1. New Girl

giphyWhilst the rest of the shows on this list are great because they generally invert or avoid sitcom tropes and stereotypes, New Girl is included because it not only embraces them but pulls them off well. The Fox show began airing in 2011 and is now in it’s fifth season. Originally based around the Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a teacher in her early thirties who moves into a loft with three men – Nick (Jake Johnson), Shmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) – after a messy break-up, showrunner Elizabeth Merriweather soon saw the potential in her cast and established New Girl as an ensemble that also included Jess’ best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone).

The tropes are all there – the will they/won’t they couple (two actually – but recent events have established an imminent Ross and Rachel/Monica and Chandler situation), the group of friends hanging out, the bromance etc, but when it’s done this well, they don’t seem so tired (look to The Big Bang Theory for a modern example of when the tropes don’t work). Unlike most of the entries on this list, New Girl is the sort of show that has the universal appeal of Friends – it’s a simple concept made great by a brilliant cast – special mention to Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield in particular.

One thing that does set the show apart is that when we first meet the characters they are already in their early thirties – most sitcoms begin with young fresh faced twenty-somethings – meaning they have already lived a lot. This provides a whole new take on comedy – these are characters who are falling in love, but not for the first time, and they are moving up in the career ladder rather than starting out on the bottom rung. Whilst only a small deviation from the classic sitcom set-up, when paired with the fantastic writing it’s enough to set the show apart from the rest.

New Girl is available in the UK on Netflix (seasons 1-3) and on E4.

What are your favourite US sitcoms currently airing? Let me know in the comments section!

Advertisements
Standard
List, Television

FRASIER CHRISTMAS EPISODES – RANKED:

Ranking beloved sitcom Frasier’s (1993-2004) Christmas offerings.

 

2879478C00000578-3074197-image-a-31_1431124976896

Daily Mail

Despite ending 11 years ago, Cheers spin-off Frasier is still held in high regard as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and certainly one of the greatest spin-offs ever created. Starring Kelsey Grammar in the titular role alongside David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leevis and Peri Gilpin, the show is a hilarious classic that only gets better with repeat viewings. Over 11 seasons the show produced an impressive seven festive episodes which feature everything that made Frasier so great, combined with a dash of festive cheer, ranked here for your pleasure…

7 – THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (SEASON 7)

7x11-The-Fight-Before-Christmas-frasier-22479270-720-540

Fanpop

Frasier is at his haughty best here, having planned a traditional christmas party with only Roz (Peri Gilpin) allowed to attend from the KACL gang, only to find that rival Cam Winston is also holding a party and has poached his guests. This provides the festive setting to the episode, which revolves around the previous ones revelation to Daphne (Jane Leevis) of Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) long standing feelings for her. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Niles/Daphne dynamic was at its best when he was infatuated with her and she was hilariously unaware of it, so I was never a fan of them getting together, as much as Niles deserved them to. Whilst the episode does have some funny use of the crossed wires trope, it ranks last as it it signified the beginning of a period of decline for the show.

6 – WE TWO KINGS (SEASON 10)

CBS_FRASIER_227_IMAGE_CIAN_389687_640x360

TV Guide

This episode revisits one of the show’s most common occurrences  – Niles and Frasier arguing. This time they are bickering over how to spend christmas, which drives Martin (John Mahoney) to announce he is going to work on the day. This leads the brothers to attempt to mend fences by putting together a surprise for Martin which, low and behold, does not go to plan. Even in its darker days Frasier was bolstered by its phenomenal cast, and this is an example of that situation at work, with laughs throughout. The Frasier-Niles rivalry rarely disappoints, but this episode loses marks for giving Roz a lazy subplot volunteering as an elf at the mall, whilst Martin’s decision to work feeling like a rehash of season one, suggesting the show was running out of steam by its tenth year.

5 – MARY CHRISTMAS (SEASON 8)

8x07-Mary-Christmas-frasier-22695877-720-540

Sarah TV

Frasier is realising a dream of his by hosting the Seattle Christmas Parade, but worries it won’t go to plan when his co-host comes down with food poisoning and is replaced with Mary (Kim Coles), who he had previously clashed with at KACL. As predicted, chaos ensues, with incidents including Frasier hitting Santa with a microphone. Season eight was a tough time for the series, with changes in dynamic and a decline in quality, and it shows in this episode. Whilst funny moments are scattered throughout, it’s nothing like the offerings from the shows hey-dey.

4 – FRASIER GRINCH (SEASON 3)

tumblr_nh29qhfz8S1tpy2hqo1_1280

Tumblr

The ‘Frasier learns an important lesson’ storyline wasn’t unique to christmas episodes, but plays well here. Frasier is determined that he only get Fredrick (Luke Tarsitano) high-end educational toys as gifts, even though Martin thinks he should just let Fredrick be himself. There is a great balance between the funny and touching here, with the end of the episode holding a sweet message. Eddie features – dressed to the nines in a santa suit and hat – and we get to see the Crane apartment in fully fledged Martin christmas mode, talking Santa and all. The only reason this episode doesn’t rate higher is because it lacks the laugh out loud hilarity of other episodes.

3 – MIRACLE ON THIRD OR FOURTH STREET (SEASON 1)

eddf6e9e55b032060a3cf980cc5a8da0a05284c0bb8635517f39be9d49ba5995_large

Lockerdome

This early episode was when the show was still finding its feet, and features Frasier facing christmas alone after Fredrick receives a chance to spend the festive in Austria and he and Martin argue. The first christmas episode of the series, it sets a trend of the Cranes arguing about decorations, which goes on to be a fun staple of the festive specials. Eddie is hilarious, drinking from Niles’ cup and hiding under a pillow when the argument occurs, whilst the latter half of the episode with Frasier’s depressing christmas callers becomes increasingly hysterical. The episode does lack the shows winning ensemble in the latter half, but it’s still great festive viewing.

2 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, MRS. MOSKOWITZ (SEASON 6)

frasiermoskowitz

Neogaf

The best episodes of Frasier tended to have a very simple premise – events would conspire, building up to a hilarious and absurd finale – a formula that served the series well for 11 years. This festive offering is a perfect example – Frasier is set up on a blind date with the daughter of a woman he meets in a department store. It transpires that Mrs. Moskowitz (Carole Shelley) believes Frasier to be Jewish, leading to a visit to his apartment where he and her daughter Faye (Amy Brenneman) attempt to cover up the fact that he’s not. This is complicated by the delivery of a christmas tree and Niles dressed up as Jesus, leading up to a truly hilarious final act.

1 – PERSPECTIVES ON CHRISTMAS (SEASON 5)

kkkk

First Time Mom

This season five episode came out when the show had really hit its stride, utilising the winning formula . Various different plot lines intertwine and culminate in hilarious misunderstandings, providing laugh out loud moments aplenty. The story is told through flashbacks as Martin, Roz, Daphne and Niles get massages as a Christmas gift from Frasier and the episode plays out as a series of interlinking sketches where we get to see each character at their best – the winning sequence has to be when crossed wires leads Daphne to believe that Martin is dying when he is actually appearing as a shepherd in a christmas pageant. Brilliant stuff.

Which festive Frasier is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below!

Standard
Reviews, Television

PEEP SHOW – FINAL EPISODE

peep-show-episode-6Who can believe it, it’s finally over. After 12 years and nine fantastic series, Peep Show finally drew to a close on Channel 4 last night, marking the end of an era as we bid goodbye to the El Dude Brothers, this time for good.

Series nine has been another excellent series, with quite a few episodes that are sure to acquire the label of ‘classic’ Peep Show in coming years. The clever writing has allowed us to return and say goodbye to an impressive amount of the characters that have played supporting roles in previous years, and whilst it was disappointing not to see Big Suze or Nancy make a return, it is equally heartening that the writing did not resort to a ‘greatest hits’ medley in its closing episodes.

In the finale Jeremy is turning 40 and struggling to keep up with younger boyfriend Joe, who is an advocate of the hard partying and drug taking that Jez has spent the majority of his life partaking in. The thing is, it’s a young man’s game, and no amount of eating cashews and drinking your own pee (yes, really) is going to take away from the fact that Jeremy is hitting middle age.

imagesMark on the other hand looks like he might be getting his life on track. Granted, he gets fired by Johnson and replaced by old rival Jeff, naturally all at the hands of Jeremy, but it also looks like he might actually ride off into the sunset with April. April was the one all along, and it seems like she might be able to overlook the fact that Mark tried to bury Sophie in a ballpit last week. But alas, this is Peep Show, and there was no way that anyone was going to end up happy. Sitcoms like Friends were all about wrapping things up nicely and allowing everyone their happy ending, but to do so with Mark and Jez would be to go against the grain of what the show was about all along.

So instead we end with things pretty much as they started – all they have is each other – Jez likes how things are, Mark wants him out. April left Mark after it emerged that he had gone along with Super Hans and Jeremy doing a little kidnapping of her husband, Joe left Jez for being unwilling to stay up for a week, and Molly left Super Hans for partaking in the aforementioned kidnapping. Matt King has been undoubtedly one of the best things about this series, and the show as a whole, and his exit was suitably hilarious. As for the El Dude Brothers, we can be sure that they will be continuing to make each other miserable as they embark on middle age.

Here are my five favourite quotes from an episode full of them…

“It’s complicated. We’ll probably never fully understand – like Stone Henge.”

– Jez explains the unexplainable

“Hello Dad, you’re living inside me now, are you?”

– Mark catches himself sounding like his father

“Do I smell corporate lube? Am I about to get organisationally fucked?”

– Mark senses trouble ahead just prior to getting fired

“When I was doing the invites it became clear that you’ve betrayed everyone you’ve ever been close to”

– Mark sheds some light on the revolving door of Jeremy’s friends and lovers

“Bollocks to it. I’m gonna van it to Macedonia, finally set up the moped rental”

– And with that we say goodbye to series favourite Super Hans

Standard
Television

THE IT CROWD: WHERE ARE THEY NOW:

PicMonkey Collage

The IT Crowd was an excellent sitcom that aired for a total of four series on Channel 4 from 2006 to 2010, with a one of special bringing the show to an end in 2013. But what came of the people behind the show, which was based around The IT department at the fictional Reynholm Industries in London? After some investigating (trawling IMDb and the wider internet), I found out…

GRAHAM LINEHAN (CREATOR)

graham-linehan-2.-shaun-webb-photography.1Linehan was already well known in the sitcom world due to his hugely successful shows Father Ted (1995-1998) and Black Books (2000-2004), and by his own admission he took the tried and tested formula he had established in these shows and applied them to the tech world with The IT Crowd. Since the final episode aired in 2013 he created The Walshes (2014), a mini series set in Dublin which aired for three episodes before being cancelled. Since 2013 he has written BBC sitcom Count Arthur Strong with Steve Delaney, who also stars in the show. It has run for 2 series and a total of 13 episodes, with a third commissioned for 2016.

On a more serious note, Linehan also made headlines earlier this year when he and his wife Helen spoke out to campaign for abortion in Ireland, after Helen had an abortion in the UK for medical reasons back in 2004.

CHRIS O’DOWD (ROY)

Chris_O'Dowd_at_British_Comedy_AwardsChris O’Dowd, who played the loveable Roy (a character that Linehan said was based on himself, but was not originally intended to be Irish), has possibly been busy since his days on The IT Crowd, working consistently both in the UK and US. He has had supporting roles in a number of films including Thor: The Dark World (2013), St. Vincent (2014) and Cuban Fury (2014). He had a more significant supporting role in this years The Program, playing David Walsh – a journalist who believed in Lance Armstrong doping allegations for years before it became public knowledge.

In terms of television work, he co-wrote and co-starred in Moone Boy (2012-15), where he played the imaginary friend of a young boy in Ireland. The third series concluded earlier this year, and it is currently unknown if the show will continue. O’Dowd also narrated Irish children’s show Puffin Rock (2015-). One series has aired so far, with another commissioned for next year and currently in production.

Furthermore, the actor has a number of projects expected in 2016 – Loving Vincent and Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiars, the latter of which is based on the 2011 debut of American novelist Ransom Riggs. He has also written the upcoming Adventures of Super Frank, which is expected next year, though details are still decidedly scarce.

RICHARD AYOADE (MAURICE MOSS)

Richard+Ayoade+Submarine+Portraits+2011+Sundance+YATBZXtqkKTlRichard Ayoade, who played the eccentric Maurice ‘Moss’ has also worked fairly consistently since the end of the series. He has written and directed two feature films – The Double (2013) and Submarine (2010). He took over presentation duties of factual show Gadget Man from previous host Stephen Fry in 2012, with the fourth series beginning in June this year. He has also appeared in 6 episodes of Noel Fielding’s Comedy Show (2012-2014) and voiced Mr. Pickles in The Boxtrolls (2014).

Much of his television work is with Channel 4, who he also hosts Travel Man: 48 Hours In… for. Furthermore he voiced Mr. Snowman on the revived series Danger Mouse in 2014 for two episodes.

Ayoade has also been fairly active as a writer and in 2014 released his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey through Faber and Faber and also assisted on the writing of The Mighty Book of Boosh with Noel Fielding.

KATHERINE PARKINSON (JEN BARBER)

Katherine-Parkinson-katherine-parkinson-34556461-800-1000Katherine Parkinson completed the central trio, playing the painfully tech illiterate head of IT and ‘relationship manager’ Jen Barber. She has worked consistently since 2005, generally in guest roles on television series as well as occasional supporting roles in films.

Film roles include How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008), St.Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (2009) and The Boat that Rocked (2009). She has gained more traction in television, landing several series in the last couple of years including The Kennedys (2015) a BBC sitcom set in the 1970s which concluded its first series last month. She also starred in another BBC sitcom, In the Club, last year.

Parkinson has also branched out from her comedic roles, playing Rachel Stein in The Honourable Woman, a political thriller which aired on the BBC in 2014, as well as Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans this year.

MATT BERRY (DOUGLAS REYNHOLM)

Bxe9vTh6Matt Berry portrayed the hilariously inappropriate Douglas Reynholm from series two to the final episode. The role of his father, Denholm (Chris Morris) was originally written for him, but Berry was unavailable when the first series was being shot. This allowed for the entry of his character in series two and arguably only made the show better – bringing in the comedic talents of Chris Morris too.

Berry has worked consistently since, mostly guest starring on a variety of comedy shows in the US and UK. He has played Steven Toast in the critically acclaimed Toast of London since 2012, with episodes currently airing on Channel 4. He also played Beef on House of Fools from 2014-15, appearing in 13 episodes. His one off appearances include It’s Kevin (2013), Portlandia (2013) and Svengali (2013). His film appearances include Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and voicing Bubbles in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water (2015).

CHRIS MORRIS (DENHOLM REYNHOLM)

_47179062_morris_apChris Morris played Denholm Reynholm, the hilariously intense boss of Reynholm Industries for the first and part of the second series. He had a small role in The Double (2013) and wrote Four Lions (2010), narrating over the end credits. He is also credited with acting in one episode of Veep in 2012, as well as directing four episodes between 2012 and 2014 and producing three. Furthermore, he wrote an episode of Black Mirror in 2013.

NOEL FIELDING (RICHMOND)

tumblr_lcn221nwAg1qcxh6ho1_500

Noel Fielding only played the goth Richmond in a total of seven episodes across the series, though he inhabited the role so well that he felt like an integral part of the cast in spite of his surprisingly brief number of appearances. Fielding has continued to perform stand up consistently since the end of the show. Fielding wrote The Mighty Boosh (2003 – 2007) as well as writing and starring in Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy from 2012-14. Other work includes being a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks from 2009, founding member of alternative music project Loose Tapestries and a number of art exhibitions, making Fielding one of the former cast members with the most varied career path.

Standard
List, Television

5 TV SHOWS CANCELLED TOO EARLY:

*NOTE* – Contains spoilers for some of these TV shows, continue at your own peril.

PicMonkey Collage

The American system of making television is one that is very different to over here in the UK. It is a much more commercial system which, for better or worse, is mainly interested in making money through selling advertising slots. This can mean that successful TV shows are dragged out long by their natural sell by date – just look at CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its numerous spin offs as a prime example. However, it can also mean that shows which are perhaps more of a slow burner are for one reason or another cut down in their prime. Ratings are the dictating force on US networks, and if a show is failing to hit high levels of viewership it will be axed – a fate that has befallen many a good show. Here are five examples of American shows that were cancelled too soon…

5 – CLONE HIGH

Clone-HighWhat do the guys behind The Lego Movie (2014) and the creator of Scrubs have in common? The answer is Clone High – an animated MTV series that lasted for one season back in 2001-02. Phil Miller, Christopher Lord and Bill Lawrence all worked on the highly inventive series, which focused on a high school populated by clones of famous historical figures including Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and John F Kennedy.

It was an interesting premise, and the show was since gained a cult following, but upon its original airing it was dogged by a controversy over its depiction of Gandhi, which saw groups of people in India go on hunger strike in protest. The show never fully recovered and was hit with low ratings, leading to MTV cancelling the series in the face of mounting pressures.

4 – FREAKS & GEEKS

freaksandgeeksFreaks and Geeks is one of those shows that is hysterical to watch now because it features such a range of some of the biggest stars in comedy before they made their names. James Franco, Jason Segal and Seth Rogen all started out in Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s (two of the biggest comedy directors in Hollywood today) sitcom set in the an early 1980’s American high school. It is also really worth watching because Biff from Back to the Future is in it (Thomas F Wilson plays Coach Ben Fredricks).

The show followed the lives of ‘freaks’ Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and co. and her brother Sam (John Frances Daley) and his friends, the ‘geeks’. Whilst it might seem crazy now that the show was cancelled after only one season consisting of 18 episodes, back in 1999-2000 these comedy giants were still small-time, though it is arguably Freaks and Geeks that set most of them on the path to success. The entire first season is available on Netflix and is well worth your time (I repeat, Biff from Back to the Future is in it).

3 – PUSHING DAISIES

pushing-daisies_1280x1024The 2007-08 Writers Guild of America Strike has a lot to answer for – it played havoc with a whole host of shows – but perhaps one of the worst outcomes us the fate of Pushing Daisies, ABC’s ‘forensic fairy-tale’ that aired right in the midst of the strike. The show followed the life of pie-maker Ned (Lee Pace), who has the ability to bring people back to life by touching them. The downside is that if he touches them a second time, they will return to being dead permanently. This causes chaos when he brings back to life childhood crush Charlotte ‘Chuck’ (Anna Friel) and then enters into a romance with her.

The show was met with huge critical acclaim and was nominated for a total of 12 Emmys in its first season. However the first season was cut short by the strike, and attention had waned by the time it returned, with ratings dropping. The show was cancelled at the end of the second season, breaking the hearts of the shows cult following as they never got to find out if Ned and Chuck were able to make things work.

2 – TWIN PEAKS

TWIN PEAKSTwin Peaks is never far from anybodies lips when the subject of TV shows cancelled too soon comes up. The CBS show came from the king of the surreal, David Lynch, along with Mark Frost, and was based around the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Airing from 1990 to 1991, the show – like much of Lynch’s work – looked at what lurks beneath the veneer of idyllic small town life and saw Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) become further entrenched in the fictional Washington town as he investigates Palmer’s murder.

The show was met with huge success in its first season, but things took a nosedive as the second season began in 1991. CBS worried about the fact that Laura Palmer’s killer had not yet been disclosed, and placed pressure on making the reveal. This led to the mystery being solved in the middle of the second season, which along with various timeslot changes led to a sharp decline in ratings. The show was cancelled at the end of the season, leaving the plot on a frustrating cliffhanger.

Lynch returned to Twin Peaks in 1992 with the prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but he has since expressed huge regret at the Laura Palmer reveal. He claims that they never originally intended to tie up the mystery, and that in doing so they “killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

The show is set to be revived in 2017 with many members of the original cast returning and Frost and Lynch once again at the helm, so here’s hoping they can tie up those loose threads and return Twin Peaks to it’s former glory.

1 – HAPPY ENDINGS

happy-endings-food-w724Happy Endings was a fantastic ensemble sitcom that aired on ABC from 2011 to 2013. Lasting for a total of three seasons, the show charted the lives of a group of friends living in Chicago. The gang consisted of married couple Brad (Daymon Waynes Jnr) and Jane (Eliza Coupe), Jane’s sister Alex (Elisha Cuthbert), Dave (Zachary Knighton), Max (Adam Pally) and Penny (Casey Wilson). The show quickly became popular with critics for its quickfire wit and outrageous antics.

Originally airing on Wednesday nights following ABC’s sitcom juggernaut Modern Family, the first signs of trouble for the show came when ABC decided to change their timeslot to Tuesday nights in season three. Ratings immediately deteriorated and attempted damage control saw the timeslot make another change to Friday nights, which acted as the final nail in the coffin. Further drops in ratings led to the shows cancellation at the end of season three.

Happy Endings felt like it still had a lot of steam left, and this wasn’t helped by the fact that the show was cancelled quite suddenly, robbing fans of any real sense of closure as the series ended on a cliff-hanger of sorts, with viewers finding out that Alex and Dave had broken up for the second time. A huge part of the shows success was down to it’s excellent cast, something other networks obviously picked up on – as soon as the show was cancelled Fox brought Waynes Jnr back to New Girl, as well as enlisting Pally for their other sitcom The Mindy Project.

Which shows do you think were cancelled too soon? Let me know in the comments section!

Standard
Opinion, Uncategorized

WHY US REMAKES OF UK SITCOMS RARELY WORK:

tumblr_nsw3vlYSvj1rfwfq9o1_1280Remember back in 2012 when MTV came out with an American version of The Intbetweeners? There is a good chance that you have made significant efforts to repress that dark time. The remake, which was thankfully cancelled after one unsuccessful season, stripped the concept of anything that made the beloved UK show so funny in the first place.

But why is it that US networks have such a problem in remaking UK sitcoms? It’s certainly not for lack of trying – pretty much any sitcom that was well liked in Britain has had American remake attempts, though the vast majority of them make it past the pilot stage. Peep Show, Fawlty Towers, Gavin and Stacey, Spaced, nothing is safe from the US treatment it would seem. The common answer for this is that Americans don’t understand sarcasm, and whilst the British/American humour is very different the reason for the failure of these shows is not so straightforward.

gavin-staceyThere are exceptions to the rule which go a long way in explaining things – look at the US Office for example. Based on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s BBC mockumentary series, the US version starring Steve Carrell went on to have 9 successful seasons at NBC, even surviving Carrell’s departure in season 7. The reason for this? After a shaky first season which relied on copying much of the content of the UK version, the show firmly established its own identity. Whilst characters were initially based on UK counterparts, writers soon also established totally new creations and took the ensemble in a distinctly different direction. This is the key to the shows success, taking the basic concept, applying an American view to it, and establishing its own identity entirely.

It is this that is the stumbling block for so many of these remakes – Us and Them (the US version of Gavin and Stacey), The IT Crowd and The Inbetweeners being perfect examples of this. If you look at the failed pilot of the US version of The IT Crowd (which also starred Richard Ayoade as Moss) it is an almost frame for frame remake. Similarly, The Inbetweeners copied the majority of the plot of the original whilst sanitising the language – the iconic “bus wankers” becomes “bus turds”, and there lies a problem straight away.

19071What makes the likes of The Inbetweeners so funny and relatable is very distinctive to British culture. The vulgarity, swearing and painful awkwardness is explored in a no-holds-barred method in the UK – the central four look and act like teenage boys really do. American high school culture is a whole genre in itself, and there are plenty of US comedies which chart its pitfalls (MTV’s Awkward, for example), but teenagers are generally much portrayed in a very different light –  the ‘nerds’ and ‘outcasts’ still have good looks, nice clothes and only an endearing level of awkwardness.

Shows such as Peep Show and Only Fools and Horses are representations of British culture at the time they were produced. Only Fools and Horses touched upon the struggles of the working class in Thatcher’s Britain, whilst Peep Show contains critique of the recession among countless other nods to UK culture. It is this sort of observational comedy that is very difficult to translate into another culture, and it is this, rather than the concept of sarcasm as a whole, that American audiences fail to warm to.

Another reason so many remakes fail boils down simply to the massive differences in the way television is produced in the UK and US. Television is a big commercial business in the US, dominated by profit hungry networks. This means that a lot more money is thrown at projects than in the UK, which still often relies on traditional shoestring budgets. This leads to US remakes often having a much more polished look that don’t always suit the show – the ‘low-quality’ look of most British sitcoms actually enhances the message final product, such as with The Royle Family.

the-it-crowd-remakeUS networks are also much keener to sell advertising slots, which is the main reason US shows have much longer seasons than UK series. This can allow for much more character development and multiple story arcs per season, but does not suit direct remakes of UK stories, which tend to be much tighter and more compact. Even the structure within episodes are different, with US shows tending to end each section on mini cliff hangers to keep viewers interested over frequent advertisement breaks, whilst many UK sitcoms do not have breaks if broadcast on the BBC, and usually only have one if on another network.

Ultimately it is not down to one system being better than the other, rather just a significant difference in culture, which causes difficulty in translating UK sitcoms into something that is appealing to a US audience. Check out some examples of UK sitcoms that were remade in the US below and let me know what you think in the comments box!

Standard