Posts Tagged ‘Larry David’

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season Eight Review

About midway through Season Eight of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I was worrying that the show was in the twilight of its run. There wasn’t anything major wrong with the season, but it seemed like every episode had enough minor flaws—it was too long, one story was weaker than the rest, a crucial plot development didn’t make sense, etc.—to prevent the humor from really clicking like it does in the best episodes of the show.

More generally, I wondered if airing at the same time as Louie was hurting my perception of the show. Both are shows about middle-aged, bald, single, misanthropic comedians who often have trouble relating to other people—and they both aired during the summer, when there are only a few comedies airing—so it was inevitable that I would be comparing the two. And the comparison was not working in Curb’s favor. In weeks where Louie was airing such memorable episodes as “Oh Louie/Tickets” and “Come on, God,” Curb was airing uninspired efforts like “Vow of Silence” and “The Hero.” I even started to wonder if Louie was making Curb redundant.

But then Season Eight ended on a run of four straight stellar episodes, and my worries mostly dissipated. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while maintaining NPI’s AAA credit rating…

  • The most common specialty for blind mathematicians? Geometry.

Did The Marriage Ref Single-Handedly Ruin Jerry Seinfeld’s Reputation?

The following things were written following the “sneak peek” of The Marriage Ref—the new show from Jerry Seinfeld that has been promoted like it was the boss’ son—that aired after Sunday’s Closing Ceremonies on NBC:

“And then, just as the ceremonies were reaching a brilliant crescendo of Canadian self-satire, NBC cut away… to the premiere/preview of Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref, the most God-awful mishmash of a comedy-variety show to lead into local news on NBC since immediately before the Olympics.”

“Painful, pointless, obnoxious… I would almost rather have The Jay Leno Show back.”

“I had just watched 30 minutes of the goofy Olympic Closing Ceremony which was — and I say this with all due respect to my second favorite country on earth — the sort of thing you would see if you gave a third grade teacher $30 million to put on a school play. And that 30 minutes at the Olympics was like heaven, like sheer bliss, like a show co-written by William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Mel Brooks and the author of the 23rd Psalm compared to The Marriage Ref.”

“The only good thing I could find about this was the fact that I only had to watch half an episode. When the show comes back on Thursday, it’ll be a full hour long. And that’s probably the worst thing about it.”

“Would you rather watch dolphins get slaughtered, or would you rather sit through a second episode of The Marriage Ref?”

It’s worth noting that all of these statements came from writers who have made a point of highlighting their appreciation of Jerry Seinfeld and his classic sitcom (the first quote came from James Poniewozik of Time, the second from TV critic Alan Sepinwall, the third from sportswriter Joe Posnanski’s blog, the fourth from Todd VanDerWerff at The AV Club, and the last form Bill Simmons’ Twitter). I cannot remember the last time, if ever, a show with such a prominent and well-regarded name attached to it has failed so spectacularly. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while wondering why they even bother with the Grammys…

Aught Lang Syne: What John S Is Looking Forward To….

In this final installment Aught Lang Syne’s conclusion, John S presents what he is looking forward to in the coming decade. In case you missed it, Josh posted what he is anticipating here, and Tim posted his here. We at NPI hope you’ve enjoyed our retrospective on the Aughts.

In the Teens, I’m looking forward to….

…A Suitable Name for a Decade: Were we happy with “the Aughts”? Of course not. But we stuck with it for the sake of consistency. And even if it won’t be accurate for 30% of the decade, at least all the 2019 decade retrospectives will refer it as “the Teens.”

…The Future of Television: I’ve already touched on this, but television is currently at a crossroads. If anything, things have become more dire for the old model. Network television is apparently on its way out, and free television may be a casualty. This, of course, may have disastrous consequences: With free TV gone, shows’ budgets may be severely restricted. As a result, shows will not be able to have big casts, shoot extensively on location, or attract the best talent. In other words, the Golden Age of TV will be over.

It’s probably inevitable that television will undergo some growing pains, but I think that ultimately the industry will get stronger. The evolution away from the old network model will actually be conducive to more innovative programming. Broad hits like CSI and American Idol may suffer, but shows like Mad Men—which is already on pay-cable and maintains a large cast, original sets, and great actors—ought to be able to survive. In fact, the cable model, which is what people say we are drifting towards now, already produces most of the best television. No matter what, though, it will be fascinating to watch a medium that is hitting its creative stride at the precise moment that it faces logistical upheaval.   Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Funniest Comedians of the Decade

Comedy is a broad subject. It’s not confined to any one medium, genre, style, or format. It’s hard to define and almost impossible to quantify. But here at NPI, we take comedy very seriously. The comedy of the Aughts in particular will always have an important role in shaping our senses of humor. So today we present a list, in no particular order, of people who helped to truly shape the comedy of the decade. This is not a list of people who were funny once or twice, but people with a body of work that is both rich and impressive. This means that a lot of people had to be cut. Great stand-up comics (Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari), some hilarious supporting comic actors (Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman), and even some groundbreaking comic teams (Flight of the Conchords, Stella), couldn’t make the list. And that’s because the following individuals/groups reached a level of success, both in terms of popularity and quality, that helped define the comedy of the decade.

The cast of Arrested Development

Arrested Development has the funniest ensemble cast in the history of comedic television, and it’s way ahead of whatever’s at #2. Tim has already extolled the virtues of Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, but the fact is that the main character is about the sixth-funniest cast member on the show. Michael Cera gave a breakout performance for three years as George Michael, completely selling every awkward quirk of the character, including (and especially) his love for his cousin. David Cross played Tobias’ obliviousness and physical awkwardness to perfection, conveying every sexual inadequacy and illicit implication (“She said ‘single,’ right?”). Will Arnett made a magician named Gob come off as arrogant, creepy, and sympathetic. Portia Di Rossi played Lindsay’s self-righteousness and laziness as mutually coexisting. Jeffrey Tambor, as the family patriarch, managed to make the character so memorable that they had to keep him as a regular, even though he was supposed to remain a guest after the pilot. Tony Hale’s Buster, Jessica Walter’s Lucille, and Alia Shawkat’s Maeby, rounded out the cast, ensuring the show didn’t have a single weakness. Even guest stars, like Henry Winkler, Ed Begley, Jr., and John Michael Higgins, manage to turn their characters into memorable comic stars.

Most important, though, was the way the cast interacted. Plenty, if not all, great comedies have breakout characters and star performers, but few entire casts have had the chemistry that this cast had. Exchanges between Michael and his son, for example, are so great not just because of the dialogue and each character’s eccentricities, but because of the interplay between the two characters. Their ability to talk over each other, fill in each other’s awkward gaps, and respond nonverbally to the other’s lines are as funny as anything in the script. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade’s Top Ten Seasons of Television

Yesterday’s overview of the television of the Aughts made the claim that this was the Golden Age of television. Well, here’s the proof. These are the ten best seasons of TV to air from 2000 to 2009. The criteria are simple: The season had to begin and end between January 1st, 2000 and today (that rules out Season Four of Friday Night Lights). Also, I have to have seen it. (A person can only watch so much TV, so with apologies to fans of Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Rome, The Shield, and Breaking Bad Season Two–all of which I have yet to watch–I cannot include these seasons.) Finally, the list is not limited to one season per show, but it is heavily weighted against a show’s second-best (and third-best, etc.) seasons; I didn’t want to just make a list of seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos, but depth deserves some credit. Even within those parameters, though, several very good shows could not make the cut. Here is the illustrious “Honorable Mention” category:

All seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos not already included, Lost Season Four (2008), Mad Men Season One (2007), Breaking Bad Season One (2008), Heroes Season One (2006-07), The West Wing Season Two (2000-01), Dexter Season One (2006), Firefly Season One (2002-03)

And now, the Top Ten:

Continue reading