Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Merchant’

Top Ten Things To Be Excited About In The Fall TV Season

As I said last year, it now seems like the fall is the worst season for television. The new shows are mostly on networks, which means the good ones will likely be cancelled in a few weeks, and the best of cable—Breaking Bad, Louie, Wilfred, Pretty Little Liars, Mad Men—seems to air on a summer or spring schedule. Still, there are some great shows coming back this fall, and the sheer quantity of new shows means there’s bound to be something good. Here are the 10 most intriguing shows…

10) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Premieres September 24 on ABC

I’ve pretty much abandoned network dramas at this point, but this one is from Joss/Jed Whedon, which bodes well. Plus, given the Avengers pedigree, it’s likely to last at least a full year.

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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

The Invention of Lying: A Review

Lying Ricky Gervais“It’s funny because it’s true.” We’ve all heard this statement and variations of it before. The truth is funny.

Well, Ricky Gervais has decided to turn this comic principle into the premise for his new movie. The Invention of Lying takes place in a universe in which nobody on Earth has ever told a lie. No lies, no mistruths, no fictions, no deception.

The first few scenes, which basically just lay the groundwork for such a universe, show just how durable this premise is. Gervais picks up a date who announces: “I’m disappointed and pessimistic for our date tonight.” He watches a commercial for Coke in which a pitch-man says, “I work for Coca-Cola and I’m asking you to please not stop drinking Coke” and uses the slogan “Coca-Cola: It’s very famous” (Pepsi’s slogan: “When They Don’t Have Coke”). He writes “scripts” that are basically just descriptions of historical events for Lecture Films (“Nobody wants to see a movie about the Black Plague.” “I got the 1300s! What do you want me to write about?”). All of these scenes are good for at least a few laughs. Continue reading