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Cartoon comedy

February 11, 2010

Since we’re updating the blog, I’ll throw my two cents into the ring.

FX’s new animated show, Archer, is pure entertaining fun. It has a very Sealab 2021 feel, so much so that I went to the internet for information, and lo! Archer is brought to us by one of the co-creators of Sealab. If you missed Sealab back in the early years of this century, the can’t-miss episode is Bizzaro (I can only find a clip compilation, but the entire episode is worth seeking out).

Archer has the right mix of dry delivery and absurd humor, and clocks in perfectly at 30 minutes- longer would be too much to sustain, and 15 minutes wouldn’t allow for set-ups of longer jokes. As a bonus, it offers some vocal talent powerhouses- Jessica Walter (of Arrested Development) and Chris Parnell (of SNL and 30Rock), among others.

Between Archer and It’s Sunny in Philadelphia, FX is really on the cutting edge of comedy these days.


What has happened to our blog?

February 11, 2010

Well friends, our poor Tasteful Geekery has been left unattended while we focused on that other blog of ours.

The reason for this, for me, has been that my opinion of most television as of late has been: 1) wow, this is really entertaining, or 2) I’m sick and tired of this crap. I wish I had more interesting insight, but admittedly, I did not.

To get back into the swing of things, I’ve decided it’s time to write a short little something about the one of the entertaining shows I’ve been faithfully watching. There are some really great half-hour comedies on tv right now, but the best — hands down — is Modern Family.

I wasn’t so sure about the show at first. It has a format that takes some getting used to, much like Arrested Development. And like AD, it’s a comedy where the core value is family.

Oh, how it sings to my heart that this liberal-leaning show is espousing true family values!  It’s a show about extended family who, despite their significant differences, love one another very much. Instead of paying lip service to the importance of family, it actually shows it on a weekly basis. The characters often make huge mistakes and can be somewhat misguided. But ultimately, they end up in a place where they put family first. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the sappiest show on tv right now, and I love it.

And on top of all of that, it is damn funny. Now, it can lean into that contact embarrassment realm (you’ve been forewarned), but the discomfort is worth the heart warming and huge belly laughs that come with each and every episode.

Is it me, or does every Nazi want to clone Hitler?

October 21, 2009

It was a good weekend for cartoons, what with Clone Wars taking on Hitchcock’s Notorious on Friday night and The Simpsons’ twentieth (!) “Treehouse of Horror” (not its best offering, in my opinion — that honor will always go to episodes IV and V — but still entertaining) on Sunday.

But Sunday night also brought possibly the best news for cartoon-loving nerds everywhere: Venture Bros. is back, baby!

It’s hard to sum up what makes Venture Bros. so damn entertaining. On the surface, it’s a parody of the old Johnny Quest-style adventure shows. But reducing Venture Bros. to a one-note premise like that is like saying that Battlestar Galactica was about homicidal space robots. It’s the truth, in a way, but it’s missing all the layers and complexity that made the show compelling.

Like the very best comedies, Venture Bros. builds its jokes on the strength of its characterization and continuity. Any particular scene will have numerous things going on: the omnipresent pop-culture references, in-jokes specific to the audience’s knowledge of the show’s history, foreshadowing for future plot lines that will only make sense upon later rewatches. As with shows like Arrested Development — or the The Simpsons in its heyday — I can (and have) watched episodes of Venture Bros. over and over again, and gotten something new out of them every time.

(Spoilers for the premiere after the jump) Read more…

Help me, Cartoon Network. You’re my only hope!

October 7, 2009

I adored the 2003 Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series, which helped bridge the gap between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Return of the Sith. The crisp, minimalist animation style looked great; the short episodes were filled with action and allowed a variety of different characters to have their chance in the spotlight. It was fun and fast paced — qualities with which the actual films struggled.

So when I heard about plans for an animated Clone Wars movie and a new tv series — both covering the same time period but using a different, colder CGI style and adding a teenage apprentice for Anakin — well… I was a little skeptical. Fortunately, although I still prefer the look of the Tartakovsky version, the new series (and yes, Anakin’s headstrong apprentice, Ahsoka) have otherwise completely won me over.

Like the original animated shorts, the 2008 series follows a variety of characters from the expanded universe (as well as more familiar favorites like Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu).

clone wars obi

Storylines are presented in multi-episode arcs, which allows for a higher level of detail, characterization, and continuity than you might expect from a 22 minute cartoon aimed at kids. The dialog is snappy, both heroes and villains are vibrant — even the clone troopers have distinct, interesting personalities — and the whole thing is full of action.

It’s also full of female characters, which is more than you can say for either of the main trilogies. Read more…

Oh, NCIS. Why can’t I quit you?

October 4, 2009

I shouldn’t like NCIS. The writing is clunky, heavy-handed, and jingoistic. I can usually figure out the culprit of the week by the thirty minute mark, even when I’m paying more attention to surfing the internet than I am to the show. The characters are cartoonishly over the top, and Mark Harmon’s Gibbs is such an implausible Marty-Stu that all I can do is laugh whenever he demonstrates his latest super human ability.

(Sometimes I like to picture the writers sitting around waving pom poms, shouting, “GIBBS, GIBBS, HE’S OUR MAN! IF HE CAN’T DO IT, NO ONE CAN!” It would explain a lot.)

I should hate this show. But somehow, I don’t.

I mainlined all six seasons this summer (USA reruns are like sweet, sweet crack), and I was insanely excited for the seventh season premiere. Like, bouncing out of my seat excited. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

So what is it about NCIS that makes it so compelling? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but this here’s what keeps me coming back: Read more…

Some British Hilarity

October 2, 2009

So I am addicted to ridiculous humor. I also have no qualms about contact embarrassment (though The Office is really testing my boundaries on that lately). Which is why I think British tv works so well for me. Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been discovering more and more shows from across the pond that speak so well to my sense of humor.

First, there’s That Mitchell and Webb Look, brilliant sketch comedy by a couple of guys who owe a lot to Monty Python. It’s somewhat similar to Little Britain, which has been easier to find here in the States, but much, much funnier. The first season is available for instant streaming on Netflix, and the beauty of sketches is that they’re pretty easy to find on Youtube as well. By far the greatest sketch on the show (possibly one of the greatest sketches I’ve seen in my life) is the Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar.

Also from the Mitchell & Webb duo, Peep Show is pee-your-pants-funny (that, from me, is a compliment). The shaky cam and the extreme contact embarrassment will probably put off most of my tv-watching friends, but it is the height hilarity. I don’t know that a single clip on Youtube would do it justice, but the first season is available (on dvd) from Netflix.

Finally, my new favorite show, The IT Crowd. Written by the same guy who wrote Black Books, a show I can watch over and over again and still hurt myself laughing, the IT Crowd has gathered a pretty large following both in Britain and here. In fact, there was an American version slated for NBC (starring none other than Joel McHale!), but it was pulled from production. Which may be for the best, I feel like an American version would play up the nerdiness of the characters into caricatures and would lose some of the surrealism (the goth in the closet, for instance- see this clip for some hilarity).

What are you doing, House?

October 1, 2009

I wish I could just say good bye to House.

My affections for this show have been slowly waning ever since they broke up the original team. I pretty much disliked the entire new group, except for Kutner, and we all know what happened there.

So when I thoroughly enjoyed this season’s opening episode I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I have a background working in mental health and the show took great leaps in its portrayal, in my opinion. However, I don’t really expect realism when it comes to the mental health system on television, so I let all that slide. What I really loved about this episode was House’s growth. He obviously made some progress dealing with his issues and I thought they portrayed that well. I especially loved that for the first time on the show they were able to show that one moment where he did something different. The moment he could build upon. And I think they rightly pointed out that he wasn’t all of a sudden cured; he still has a lot of work to do.

I had heard before this season started that they were planning to bring Chase and Cameron back to the forefront and this also pleased me greatly. I loved their wedding and thought that this season was the right time to bring them back. Then I found out that they were writing Cameron out of the show. I am so extremely disappointed by this. This weeks’ episode continued the themes of the parts I enjoyed from the season premiere and the scenes from next week’s episode show Cameron and Chase involved in the story.  If I didn’t know Cameron was leaving, I would be overjoyed. But it seems as though the writers are going to tease us with a cohesive team just in time to rip it apart.

What is going on with this show? I’m starting to think I should just expect them to do the exact opposite of what I want and either accept that or stop watching.