Never mind the store

Look, I’ve gone through life without any particular opinion Pauly Shore. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of his movies, and while the little bits of him I have seen haven’t particularly wowed me, I haven’t really seen him doing his thing.

I did, however, see him once in person. I was at The Comic Store, which is his mother’s comedy club, to see The Smothers Brothers. He was obviously doing some management work there. It’s that sort of activity that forms the basis of Minding the Store, Pauly’s new mock reality series about him running The Comedy Store for his mom. It’s certainly an attractive concept, with the club giving an excuse to show some comedians and the handheld camera style of reality shows being cheap to make.

Alas, it’s not funny. It comes across as both a purposeful showcase for Pauly’s talents, which aren’t impressive, and an ad for the Store. Good “mockumentary” (defined by the Christopher Guest team from Spinal Tap on) gets it strength by being that close to reality, catching the reality of the absurd. But Pauly Shore making up a tape to pitch his dramatic acting ability by reading a scene from a blaxploitation flick doesn’t feel close to funny, it feels like someone standing up and shouting “hey! I’m funny!” Walk the walk, Pauly.

And schedule more Smothers Brothers shows. That was fun.

Published in: on July 31, 2005 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Froggone

Mark Evanier passes along word that The WB has dropped Michigan J. Frog as their network mascot.

Me, I could never quie understand why a network wanted to get behind the message “we’re only entertaining when you’re not watching”.

Published in: on July 24, 2005 at 9:24 am  Comments (5)  

Close 'er down

I hadn’t gotten around to removing The Closer from my ReplayTV recording list, so it caught the most recent episode… and since it was on the hard disk, I reckoned I’d watch it. Part way through the episode, the lead character purposely causes vast damage to a business (a pseudo-Craig’s List) because she didn’t like their attitude. I don’t love watching this gal, and I cannot root for her. Personally, I want to see her arrested. I’ve made sure to delete this from the recording list.

Meanwhile, I had another brief dance with the possibility of one of my comics projects being turned into a TV show (this time it was a cable network rather than a producer or rep). Looks unlikely at this point, but it’s always interesting to hear the song in the distance.

Published in: on July 21, 2005 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

New Daily Show digs

The new set of The Daily Show is large pieces which dwarfs the human inhabitants of the set. This does not serve the comedy.

(And hey, did anyone see last week’s Mallard Fillmore strips, where the cartoonist is apparently in a tizzy because America (the book) (a Daily Show publication) has a parody MF strip that someone who didn’t notice that the book has a fake intro by Thomas Jefferson and fake quotes and fake comic strips and fake other things throughout might think is real? It’s an odd example of a supposed-satirist not seeming to understand the concept of satire. It’s also kind of odd for a current events strip to go after a book that was released 10 months ago…)

Published in: on July 12, 2005 at 1:47 am  Leave a Comment  

B begone!

I’ve been watching the first season of The Bob Newhart Show lately. Very watchable stuff, holds up quite well. But there’s something that it’s got me thinking about: B stories. You watch a sitcom, and it has its A-story (Grace can’t tell Will that his boyfriend broke up with him in a phone message) and its B-story (Jack and Karen try to start a new charity, Clothe the Homeless). Some shows even have a C-story (Friends would go that way, in their effort to really include all six friends in every episode). It wasn’t always that way, as the Newhart episodes remind me; of the 20-some I’ve watched so far, only one had even a vague attempt at a B-story. That’s the way things used to be. And you know, I really should know when the changeover came, what the influential sitcoms were that brought about the change… but I don’t.

Meanwhile, my wife is focused on how sitcoms reflecet cultural development. We just watched an episode in which Bob’s wife decided to take a job, and it caused a lot of conflict in the home, and ultimately she decided to keep the job. Lara reflected on how on The Dick Vany Dyke Show a decade earlier, the same events would have a different outcome, with Laura Petrie chosing the housewife role in the end. And today, the husband would probably reject any attempt for the wife to end her job…

Published in: on July 12, 2005 at 1:42 am  Comments (1)  

1600 Murder Street

I just had a great idea for a new TV series: White House Homicide. It’s about a team of investigators that specialize in solving murders that happen at the White House. I mean, you’ve got a great setting and great intrigue… just add a new murder every week, and you’ll have a hit!


I watched another episode of 30 Days, this one with a conservative Christian moving into the strongly gay Castro district of San Francisco — and the problems with the scripted feeling of it all became apparent. We got to see him go for the talks with the lesbian preacher who was putting forth how homosexuality is not inconsistant with being a good Christian. Problem was, at least as shown in the show, her argument was really weak, basically boiling down to “you don’t follow so closely these other Christian precepts, so why consider this a sin?” Now, that may be reason to hone more closely to the other precepts, or it might be an argument to abandon Christianity altogether, but it came across as “you’re already a poor Christian, so anything goes.” I certainly believe that the man may have a more human view of homosexuals as a result of actual substantial exposure to them, but he actually read a speech at the end to gathered homosexuals that made it sound like he as past all his concerns… and it didn’t sound like he actually now believed that homosexual activity was not sinful, he just didn’t focus on that.

Published in: on July 10, 2005 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Closer than you think

The advisory at the start of The Closer warns:

The following program may have content that is sensitive to some viewers.

That really impresses me. Normally, it’s the other way ’round.

Published in: on July 6, 2005 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mildfire

I’m in the midst of watching my first episode of Wildfire, the new ABC Family Channel teen drama set among the wealthy and the working class of the horsey set. After having watched about half an episode, all I have to report is trite by-the-number conflict with some of the weakest acting I’ve seen on dramatic television. Perhaps this will seem fresh and enthralling for some 14 year old girls out there, but it’s a long time since I’ve been 14 and I’ve never been a girl, so I doubt that I’ll suddenly fall in love with it.

Published in: on July 5, 2005 at 12:49 am  Leave a Comment  

A weekly monthly show

I caught most of an episode of 30 Days last night. This is Morgan Spurlock’s new show on FX, in which he has people try doing something for a month; last night’s episode had a West Virginia Christian living as an American Muslim. It’s an interesting concept, and well put together, but I think that it undercuts the point by making it clear that they are trying to make a point. The way it was set up and presented made it clear that the goal was to show that most muslims have nothing to do with the kind of folks who fly airplanes into buildings, and that their religion is more closely tied to Christianity and Judaism than most Americans care to understand. All that is true, but the presentation didn’t make this look like a journey of discovery for the viewer, but mainly a journey of discovery for the participant down a path carefully arranged and displayed for the viewer. One wonders how much they will allow themselves to vary from the script, to not go follow the spin that the politics of the piece dictate. Even if events don’t follow that path, there is always much that can be done in editing when you have a month’s worth of footage and an hour of show.

For those who don’t get FX and thus haven’t seen much about the show: the first episode (which I missed) featured Morgan and his wife trying to live on a two minimum-wage income (and what a surprise, they found it to be hard), and the next episode has a conservative fellow going to live with a gay man in San Francisco.

A couple episodes where it is revealed that, say, some folks at a big corporation aren’t evil, or a different culture besides conservative American Christianity really is kind of vile and disgusting, or some other such thing would go a long way to letting the viewer believe the results that this show puts forth. (I’m not saying that such results would be correct, mind you, but they would suggest that the show doesn’t have the built-in bias.)


In other FX notes: Rescue Me seems focused on trying to bring the characters down even lower. It’s still well made, but there will reach a point where these efforts go beyond making a statement, go beyond building drama and comedy, and just become a form of schadenfreude. I hope they can steer clear before that is reached.

Published in: on July 4, 2005 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thin concept

In recent years it has been hip for actors to play themselves as venal, irritating, and obsessed with lust and their own fame. This was probably used to best effect on an irregular basis with various performers on The Larry Sanders Show and on a recurring basis with Jennifer Gray on It’s Like, You Know…, and it continues as a staple on things like Curb Your Enthusiasm. (I’ll give an extra tip of the hat to Alan Rosenberg in the film Frankie and Johnny are Married, although there while he is playing a character named “Alan Rosenberg” it is known that he was actually taking the part of a specific other known actor in this based-on-real-events film.)

I’ve now watched the first DVD of Fat Actress, Kirstie Alley’s Showtime sitcom, and it is yet another entry into this derby. This is a series about a successful TV actress who is trying to reestablish herself despite having put on a large amount of weight; think a chubby I Love Lucy trying to do goofy things to break back into showbiz, and you’ll have the goal here. Alas, it doesn’t reach the goal. Much of it is very forced, it’s all a large wink atthe camera, and problem is that we’ve seen that wink before done much better.

Now I’ll admit my biases. I haven’t really been into Kirstie since she took off the vulcan ears. She never filled the void left by Shelley Long on Cheers, and Veronica’s Closet never did much for me. But this show has guest stars who I want to see, and uses them badly. John Travolta, Wallace Shawn, and even Mayim Bialik get ill-used. (Mayim plays herself as a lusty, scheming gal who wants to be called “Blossom” in the midst of lovemaking… and it doesn’t feel at all real, but merely like something we’ve seen before in similar “look, I can make fun of myself” pieces. Alas.)

Some folks have reflected that most of the pay cable sitcoms seem to be about the inside of showbiz (such as The Entourage, which I like, and Lisa Kudrow’s new series, which I’ve not seen.) And there’s been some good shows done that way, such as The Larry Sanders Show. But it now looks like it’s a well too easy to go to, and they should seek out other topics. (I hear disfunctional families are funny.)

Published in: on July 4, 2005 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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