As promised, here’s another veering-off-topic rambling post from the still sick Sha. The weather outside is getting warmer and warmer and now I’m cooped up inside, wracked with shivers. At least I know my TV is getting its use?
Today I caught up on the new episode of Brooklyn 99. Favourite character? Raymond Holt, hands down. That man is so sassy while respecting the importance of the semi-colon. (I used to love grammar, then I wrote 101 essays and realized I will only use grammar when required. Oops.) Am I alone in thinking a lot of new comedy shows lack original jokes and the old ones are repeating content? I’ll be honest in saying I expect “a lot” from a comedy show. Even in twenty five minutes, I need a believable plot line (unless the show’s premise is based on the absurd), solid jokes that are not disrespectful (this is major to me), and originality.
I can illustrate this best with Modern Family (a show I’ve watched every episode of, but am now getting a little tired of). At the beginning of the show, the plot line was believable. Each episode followed the three family groups on their misadventures, usually caused by miscommunication, misunderstanding or some kind of challenge. Little life lessons were dropped along the way. I loved that the show explored topics related to gay parenting, interracial adoption, age-gap marriages, step-families, etc. There was a lot to work with. But now the show is in its … ninth season? And the plot line wavers in its believability, the jokes fall flat much more often, and sometimes I feel like I’m watching an episode I saw a few seasons ago.
Take Haley dating Alex’s professor, Dr. Arvin. The pair have little in common (which can happen in real life but, really, what do they talk about?) Alex pines for her professor but Haley gets the guy because he … sees something magical in her? The plot line makes little to no sense and just shows Haley getting everything she wants with minimal effort (again) and Alex kicked to the side despite how hard she works at *everything* (again). Though the show used to survive on a “every episode has a mini moral” format, this … has no clear moral except kickback and relax, because you’ll get what you want, no worries.
Switching back to Brooklyn 99 (and now don’t go thinking I believe B99 is the Holy Grail of comedy; it’s just my fave atm), Amy is definitely the Alex if we want to make parallels. Jake would be the Haley. But … not exactly? Comedies often thrive by exploiting specific traits in characters, often to the detriment of their development. AKA this character is the funny one so he will be funny and nothing else! In Alex’s case, she’s smart and focused and sucks with relationships. (Can you think of anything else?) With Amy, yep, she’s smart and focused, but she also recognizes her flaws (sometimes *too* focused) and turns to her friends to improve. Brooklyn 99 allows its characters to grow with time, while Modern Family’s characters remain static to allow for jokes. Exploitative Haley and Smart Alex and Dumb Luke and Latina Gloria… They all seem to exist within that one characterization. Which sucks for the show because … more character traits means more plot line possibilities.
Raymond Holt entered B99 as a character who appeared very static. He was serious. Deadpan. Closed-off. But Jake’s “no is not an answer” attitude chipped away and Holt transformed through five seasons into a man with a corgi named Cheddar, a husband named Kevin, a passion for the police force. The show’s ability to incorporate ongoing plotlines (i.e. Jake and Amy’s relationship, the precinct’s investigation into Lt. Hawkins, Amy’s journey to becoming a captain) makes the show more complex without overburdening each episode. As viewers, we know what the characters aspire to (um, except Scully and Hitchcock, that is one huge mystery) and can root for them. But how to root for anyone on Modern Family? Each episode is isolated in its own world. Thus, the standout has to be the humour but that isn’t even winning any awards.
I’m not going to sit here and rag on Modern Family. I mean, okay, I kinda did? The show does have its ups. But in my opinion, the format is not suited for nine seasons (or the ten that it is now going into). I’ve watched how many episodes … 208. I just looked that up and I need a HOT SECOND. I’ve watched 208 episodes. And what has really progressed on that show? Mitch and Cam have married and adopted a child. Mitch has changed jobs a few times … but he’s still a lawyer. In fact, any discussion where he loses or gains a job is always one of three plotlines, so how can I be blamed for forgetting? It was never a major deal. We maybe had an episode or two where Mitch was all, “Oh, no, how will we pay for our home, ahhh,” but that was miraculously solved in the next episode, if not the same one. Losing a job on Modern Family is mostly depicted as, “Ugh, because you’re at the house so much you’re decorating a lot and I don’t like that so maybe get another job?” I guess I can’t expect high stakes from a family show but … okay.
As for the Dunphy family, I can’t even remember if Phil still sells houses. I don’t even know what most of the family *does* during the day, to be honest. (Other than have hilarious mishaps.) Alex goes to university but she’s at home all the time so how close is her uni and does she just skip all her classes? Luke is on his way to college and keeps referencing a job … at the golf club? Is he still there? I don’t know. I don’t know what they do with themselves. I don’t know who they are.
Then of course, the Pritchetts. Yet again … what does Gloria do during the day? She admitted her sauce business failed, so does she honestly just shop all day, like her own husband likes to wisecrack 24/7? Does Jay just live in the country club? If you have answers … let me know!
These people only exist to make on-screen jokes. I accept this. I know this. Which is probably a mistake if you want a show to live on for as long as this one is going but also, no network will renew a show if people aren’t watching. SO PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. I’m WATCHING. I watched the newest episode maybe six days ago. And perhaps this post is my way of accepting it’s time to let go.
In an odd way, I might compare Modern Family to F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Both shows follow a group of people on their day to day lives, often including misadventures. However, where F.R.I.E.N.D.S. succeeds is again what I mentioned earlier: there is a serial component to the show. The Ross and Rachel relationship (not my fave, but it did add something to the show). Monica and Chandler. Not only the relationships, but characters stepped outside a 2D characterization. Yes, when I hear Phoebe I think: the kooky one. But I also know she will go to any length to help her friends. She’s warm and loving. Phoebe had a tough childhood. She plays music. Phoebe is more than ONE personality trait repeated in *every single episode*.
Well. Looks like that’s that then. I must stop watching Modern Family. I mean, when the show hits, it connects. Possibly a grounder (that’s like, one of those balls that can get you to second or whatever, but isn’t the best hit, right? I’m not that into baseball) but no home run. And when it misses, you feel like you just watched a YouTube smashup video. Maybe I’ll keep watching because I’m a glutton for punishment and I like Alex’s snark. Who knows. Who knows. Who knows.
And reminder, if you like this show, NO SHADE. ~Everyone is allowed their own opinion~ Mine is just extra salty because I’ve been living on oatmeal for the past three days.
How do you pick quality comedy TV? What are your fave comedy shows?
2 thoughts on “TV Time with Sha (Part 2)”
I absolutely agree! Modern Family’s first two seasons were so stellar because they were hilarious in the context of believable situations, and it used to be my favorite show. But then from season 5 on, things started to get so….hyperbolic. And forced. It’s unfortunate because I can still see how they could’ve made the show work as the kids grew up, but they defaulted to drama instead. *sighs*
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Yes to the tenth power. Show runners need to have a vision for the future when planning shows or they’ll just spiral into madness.
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