Some quick notes on some not-that-notable debuts I should’ve long since blogged.
Sit Down Shut Up is one that I should like, dadgummit. It’s an animated series with a school setting, mixing creative staff and actors from Arrested Development with voice cast from Saturday Night Live. Bunch of things I like there. But when you add it up, the total is much less than the sum of its parts. It’s built around the wild characters of the faculty of the school, which to some extent uses a humor like Arrested Development, only more broadly drawn — and the drawn part is the problem. Whereas Arrested Development dealt with the banality of human existence, and all the characters (for better or worse) were thoroughly human at heart, Sit Down has a bunch of drawn characters, designed to emphasize there ridiculous characteristics, and thus dehumanized. Think about the basic characters of The Simpsons and King of the Hill — their basic looks aren’t funny. They’re open, you can certainly do funny things with them visually, but at heart they are human. Gag looks are saved for supporting bit players like Professor Frink and Bumble-Bee Man.
That all might be fine if we were looking at still pictures, but we’re not. These folks need to come alive – and there is no chance for them to surprise you, no chance for them to be anything besides just what they look like.
Meanwhile, in the world of the traditional three-camera sitcom, we have… a traditional three-camera sitcom. Surviving Suburbia is a goofy dad with a pretty wife (played by a much-younger actress) and goofy neighbors, and dad has schemes to get away with things which backfire on him. It is basically the default sitcom of most of the past forty years, the kind of basic sitcom that actually seemed just on the edge of dying out, with the cancellation of According to Jim.
And yet, that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with basic sitcom 101. If well done – and that’s an if – it can be a basic half-hour entertainment. What’s wrong is when such things are flooding the airwaves, when there’s little but, and when they’re badly done.
So is this one well done? So-so. The good news is that most of the acting slots are filled by folks with strong and/or successful sitcom credentials (Bob Saget, Cynthia Stevenson, Jere Burns.) They deliver well what they have… which, in the one episode I saw, was ho-hum material. This will never be a special series, never be wonderful. But if you want something to watch, it’s a lot less painful than most recent sitcoms with loftier goals. Adequacy, thy name is Surviving Suburbia!