Thursday, October 29, 2009

30 Rock gets it.

I don't usually watch sitcoms. Maybe one or two, like if an episode of "M*A*S*H" comes around, or a late-night "Honeymooners." But tonight I had the TV on while I was cooking dinner and allowed myself a glimpse at this week's "Comedy of the Awkward" (see my previous posts if you don't get what I mean).

Tonight on 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin went to a very small, blue collar, "middle-America" town, one that us "city slickers" might call "back woods" or even "redneck." He has been upset that Tina Fey has been seeking the next great, all-American comedy star in places like San Francisco and Toronto. He finds a ventriloquist and falls in love, thinking that people in these smaller, more rural areas are somehow better, kinder, nobler folks. Tina Fey, whatever her motivations, wants to prove him wrong. With but a few brief heckles, she brings out the worst, rudest, nastiest, most impolite, raunchy, and downright offensive comedy out of the ventriloquists, thus totally blowing Alec Baldwin's worldview out of the water. so much so, in fact, that he stomps on the dummy at breaks its head off.

The punch line , and I;'m not quite sure how it got there (I don;t have TiVo), came when the dummy said "All God's Children are terrible."

OK, that might not be completely true, there may actually be good people in the world, but just being in a small, rural community does not make you a more "good" person than living in a big, cosmopolitan city makes you a bad one. There is good and bad, smart and stupid, cruel and kind everywhere. Sometimes it's a different kind of cruel or kind, smart or stupid, but people are people, and they always will be.

And sometimes it can all be wrapped up in one person. I just chased down a purse snatcher and helped get the victim's purse back, but my choice led to the person I was with getting knocked to the ground and getting hurt. What does that say?

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's official: The Zombie Apolcalypse has gone Mainstream

It all began with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead
. That movie begat a few sequels and remakes (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, etc), a series of spoofs (The Return of the Living Dead (Collector's Edition) and 4 sequels), at least one porno (Erotic Nights of the Living Dead) and then more remakes (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (Widescreen Unrated Director's Cut), Night Of The Living Dead 3D), and the nuclear post-apocalypse genre was co-opted by zombies. Movies like "28 days later" and the "resident Evil" series took us there. Then "Shaun of the Dead" gave us the heroic comedy and "Doomsday" gave gave us the tribute pastiche.

Then "Zombieland" came along and gave us the John Hughes road picture zombie movie (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way). In the world of the printed word Max Brooks gave us "The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead" and "World War Z." Comic books gave us everything from Marvel Zombies to Black Gas to Walking Dead to Dead World to Zombie Highway to Jesus Hates Zombies to adaptions of Shaun of the Dean and continuations of Romero's Living Dead franchise. There is even a very clever webcomic called "Zombie Hunters."

And now I know the Zombie Apocalypse has finally, and officially been embraced by the mainstream. It was spoofed in The Simpsons in last night's Halloween episode.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How My Sitcom Choices Reflect My Life

Hen I was a kid, I wanted to be popular in school, and I watched "Happy Days."

Over the past year I have spent some time dealing with relationship issues, and I watched "Two and a Half Men."

Now I am dealing with career issues, and I find myself watching "The Office."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comedy of the Awkward.

Tonight, in a fit of “Dammit, I just wanna,” I watched most of “Parks and Recreation” and all of “The Office” and “Community” on NBC (Channel 4 in NYC) tonight. These shows are part of a trend I like to call “Comedy of the Awkward.”

When my generation (specifically, me) was growing up, it was the era of “Free to Be You and Me.” Time was not spent on training us to behave and get along in society. We did not learn how to “fit in” and “get along.” We were allowed, nay, encouraged to “express ourselves.” There was no need to go into something with a preconceived notion, to blindly accept authority, to follow the rules. We could just “be ourselves,” say what we thought, and ask questions.

(…and just as a non-sequitor aside, don’t you hate it when something that your ex-girlfriend who is no longer talking to you got you interested in comes on TV and now the person you would have enjoyed talking about it with won’t talk to you? Yes, freestyle wrestling is on TV right now. Anyway…)

We were told never to assume that people are what they seem to be, not to judge a book by its cover. Trained that all people are just the same, only different, to be fair and honest and generous, to say what we mean and accept people at their word.

All this made us completely unable to get along with people who somehow missed the whole point of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the people who went to school, got jobs, and went to work, who basically came before us and set up and ran the world that we would have to move into when we got out of the shelters of our progressive schools and enlightened families.

So there we were, uncomfortable in our new suits and constricting ties, awkwardly attempting to fit into the social scenes that we were not brought up in, squirming as we heard the jokes and assumptions that were made about different ethnicities, genders, financial status, sexual orientation, etc. Suffering the indignities foisted upon us by schemers and scammers, opportunists and assholes. We slowly, awkwardly, tragically came to realize that all that wonderful, utopian stuff we had been raised to believe has a snowball’s chance in hell at being accepted by the rest of the world just on the basis of its rightness.

And so, our life would be filled with awkwardness. Everything we would say and try to do would be misunderstood and wind up getting us in trouble. We would have to accept the fact that we are different and unique, and learn to either reject that and embrace the mainstream, or revel in it and fight that good fight, never compromising, even in the face of Armageddon.

And so Amy Poehler has to deal with people who don’t recognize her female political heroes and a judging committee for a beauty pageant that only sees the “hot” one. John Krasinski faces office rebellion when he finds himself having to decide how to distribute the raises for the year. Gillian Jacobs learns that helping someone live their dream does not always mean that you are going to get warm and fuzzies from them.

And this kind of comedy would not exist if it weren’t for my generation thinking that the world could ever be a different, better place.