TV Time-Out: #7
If one was to chart the popular situation comedies in terms of mankind's evolution, I would venture The Honeymooners represents the invention of the wheel. A single-camera, shot-on-film series, that featured Brooklyn native Jackie Gleason as NYC bus driver Ralph Kramden, this series has stood the test of time. (And obvious spin-offs, such as All In The Family and The King Of Queens have fared well, too..) If you have never seen a Honeymooners episode, I suggest you check one out.
The next significant entry on the evolutionary scale would be I Love Lucy, which I don't really like, but admire regardless. It represents the "horse and buggy" so to speak. It was the first televised situation comedy that had a woman as the lead character. (Lucille Ball garnered such popularity and power from this series, she later formed a production company and was behind the original Star Trek.) Not to mention her Latin Lover Desi was smart enough to conceive the idea of three live-stage cameras. This allowed for creative editing without re-takes and remains the industry standard today.
Seinfeld marks the next major step up. A comedy about nothing, this one is akin to the mass production of the car, or how individual narcissism is actually more important than world peace or ending poverty. Featuring four individuals living in NYC, each is completely preoccupied with a self-loathing abandonment of family, the pursuit of greed and sex, and an open hostility towards others. Especially those that exhibit any sign of decency.
Which brings me to my final evolutionary analogy: Arrested Development, the comedic equivalent of man's flight to the moon. The first time I ever watched an episode of this series, I was slightly, and briefly perplexed by the flow and charm of the story. But by the second and third episodes, I was laughing non-stop. And wondering, how does something like this exist without the hype and fanfare it deserves? I literally stumbled upon it.
Centered around the crazy Bluth family, AD employs a documentary-styled look complete with scene-by-scene narration via Ron Howard. Set in Newport Beach, the series was created by Mitchell Hurwitz (The Ellen Show, Golden Girls, etc.) and has earned six Emmys and a Golden Globe. Unfortunately, the show never really caught on, and production stopped in February 2006.
The original concept for this vehicle was a "riches to rags" story, in the shadow of the growing corporate scandals that seem to plague our society. All of the Bluth family members are excessive in nature, and fail to understand their family wealth is lost. The one exception is Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) who attempts regularly to convert any remaining family assets into a new business model. His father George (Jeffrey Tambor) is in jail for crimes he may or may not have committed. George constantly manipulates and degrades Michael, while his mother Lucille (Jessica Walker) continues to drink and spend money like the old days.
Michael's twin sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), and his brothers George (Will Arnett) and Buster (Tony Hale) all have issues with their parents and money, and do everything in their power to complicate and stop Michael's quest. Perhaps one of the funniest character is Linsay's husband Tobias Funke (David Cross) who happens to exhibit speech and mannerisms that hint at obvious homosexual tendencies.
All in all, I can't say enough about this show. I seriously doubt there will ever be a situation comedy as funny as Arrested Development. It's a little tough to find, but it is out there and has a big cult following. If you get a chance, check it out.