September 19, 2011

Staying at the Party to Long

I always hate it when sitcoms stay on longer than they should. Basically if a show goes beyond seven years they are pushing their luck, especially when most of the cast has taken off.  One of the all time great examples of this was “Happy Days”. There’s a reason why this show originated the phrase “jumping the shark”. How in the world did that show go eleven years? I guess times were different then, but by the end it was really “The Fonzie Show” and the creators had to keep inventing characters to keep the show going.  All of whom have been forgotten.
Even if actors stay something happens to the writing. Simple age wears down any good show. “Night Court” was boring, “Who’s the Boss” got silly. The writing just gets stale and the actors even begin to phone it in. Even poor “Seinfeld” was not immune to this. Let’s be honest, were those last two years really that good? Sometimes the show plows on and becomes a shadow of its former self. “Will & Grace” was so bad those last two years, it was as if they were doing a parody of their own show. “Mad About You” had the same problem; the plots were stupid and the acting just silly. “Everybody Loves Raymond” also got old; every episode became the same formula over and over. On “King of Queens” the main characters became much meaner for some reason; the whole last season is hard to watch. “Murphy Brown” became so horrible I can barely bring myself to talk about the way the actors forgot how to play their roles, and the biggest example has to be what happened to “Roseanne” in that last season. After they won the lottery and, well, it was just dumb.
Of course some shows are smart enough to figure this out and stop before they get stale. “Cosby Show” bowed after seven years when they easily could have done eight, same with “Family Ties” and “Full House”. The only show that left after a long run which I felt could have continued was “Cheers”. I really think that show could have had a 12th season, it was still that good.
“Friends”went out right on time, I give the writers of that show a tremendous amount of credit for keeping it fresh and funny. The thing with “Friends” was that the show evolved rather than trying to do the same thing over and over. Also it evolved naturally, it didn’t abruptly change its entire format in its last season so it could have a last season, like a little show called “Scrubs” horribly tried to do.
“Scrubs” was not the first to revamp is format to stay alive. “Laverne & Shirley” was another, when they changed the setting to California to shake the show up it was horrible. Same thing with “Coach”, did anyone watch when the setting moved to Florida? I know I didn’t. “Home Improvement” ended because the cast knew to continue it would have to be revamped and that would be a mistake, they were smart enough to know reinventing never works. It could be said it still left a little late, but at least it ended graciously. The worst example of reinventing was probably “Family Matters”; I mean what did that show becomes exactly toward the end?
The reason I am bringing all this up is because tonight is the season premier of “Two and a Half Men”. Forgetting about the Charlie Sheen/Ashton Kutcher stuff for a moment I can’t help but wonder why this show is still on. I will be honest, I was never a huge fan and maybe I am wrong and the show is still as fresh and creative as it ever was. Problem is now they are changing cast members, and that almost never works. “Three’s Company”, “Designing Women”, and “Head of the Class” are all examples. In fact the only time I remember that working was when “Valerie” became “The Hogan Family” with Sandy Duncan. Anyone even remember that show? It’s one thing to add a cast member like “The Brady Bunch” with Oliver or Leonardo DiCaprio on “Growing Pains” (neither worked by the way). It’s another to replace a main cast member after so many years and have it work.
I wonder why they are keeping the show going when it has been on for years and will be in syndication forever. Don’t they realize that it doesn’t work?  Are they running it dry, or will the show be reinvigorated?  I guess we will see. I do look forward to watching to see what happens.
By the way, I know I was picking on sit-coms so I will say drama’s have this problem also. Just ask a little show called ER.

September 18, 2011

Top 5 Worst Episodes of Seinfeld

Seinfeld was an amazing show. It literally changed the way sitcoms are made, and to this day the catchphrases are all household terms. It was on for 9 seasons, and every episode was a well written classic.
Well, maybe not. When this show was on top of its game it was fresh and very well written. There were usually three stories an episode which crossed over each other in a very smart way. Unlike a show like Friends where the stories were separate, on Seinfeld they usually affected each other in one way or another. There some amazing episodes, most famous of which is “The Contest.” Smart, well-written, and damn funny this episode is the quintessential episode. However, there were a few episodes which were off the mark. Maybe the writers were having a bad day, or a great idea just got lost somewhere along the way. Here are the five worst in my opinion, the last two almost unwatchable.

#5. “The Finale”. Yeah, you all knew this one would be on here so let’s get it out of the way. I was just as excited as anyone else when the series ended in 1998. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen, having my own ideas on how it should end just like everyone else. As I sat there, watching this episode unfold I kept hoping that something would change the plot, that it wouldn’t go where it was going. I had that feeling before, but I will discuss that later. Truthfully, I could have lived with this whole episode if not for that damned ending. For those who don’t know, in the episode Jerry and company are diverted en route to Paris and wind up getting arrested. Forget the fact that the “crime” isn’t really one in the country, but they actually get convicted. It was nice to see all those guest stars again, but whey did the end of the episode have to have them in prison? Seriously? I could go on and on, but honestly all they had to do to save this was one last scene, some kind of epilogue showing them, say a year later, and resuming their lives. Thankfully they did it, years later on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. That mock reunion was the final episode we were denied.
#4. “The Susie”. To be fair, I never fully disliked this episode. It starts with a relatable premise; someone at work thinks Elaine’s name is Susie. I had something like that happen myself. However, the episode then starts spiraling down and the premise, which was really good, just doesn’t go anywhere. I mean a mock funeral? It doesn’t help that Kramer’s story is non-existent and George’s story is lame. Sure his answering machine message is cute but really, we’re supposed to believe he cares about making a ball entrance? On the DVD for the episode the writer himself admitted this one didn’t work, so if the writer thinks the episode stinks them who am I to argue.
#3. “The English Patient.” This one is a tough one because I loved Lloyd Bridges and don’t want to say he was bad in anything. However, his two appearances were two of the most painful episodes ever. Not his fault he got stuck with a horrible script. Actually, this was a tossup because I’m really not sure if this was worst then “The Blood”, I just know both are hard to watch. They both have over the top performances and the stories are just stupid. However, the annoying Cuban storyline in this episode is what particularly makes me cringe (and seriously, how hot were those crepe’s anyway?)  It's just bad, and I can forgive “The Blood” for it’s over the top acting on Jerry’s part which is really what killed that one. Again, a tough call so let's say "The Blood" is 3(a).  
#2. “The Barber”. I wish I could tell you how many tries it took to get through this painful episode, happened only after I understood what they were going for.  I mean, who decided that using opera music was a good idea? Though not as bad as the painful “Star Trek: Voyager” episode where they did something similar, this is still hard to watch. The plot of the ep is like a famous opera so why not go all the way with that concept, right? Wrong! It is just painful, but the music isn’t the worst part. The worst part is the story. We’re supposed to believe Jerry, who's and entertainer and doesn’t really care about people, is so worried about offending his barber that he goes even though he stinks? The whole thing is poorly written, even including a scene where Jerry lets Newman hang out in his apartment. This seem wrong to anyone else? Again, it doesn’t help that Elaine’s story is boring and George’s, actually, is the only good thing in this one.
#1. “The Heart Attack”. Ironic that an episode from so early on would be the worst episode. This is #1 because it was the only episode, aside from the Finale, I outright hated when I first saw it. Just with the final episode I kept hoping the story would somehow change, but it never did. I mean, where do I start? George needs his tonsils removed? They go to some guru who turns him blue? Then two ambulance drivers get into a fight over chicklets? Horribly written, poorly executed, and just way over the top. I got the feeling on the DVD this episode had problems, which sure seems the case.  To paraphrase Roger Ebert, “I hate, hated, hated” this episode.
One last note, I know there are a few I missed. I could have made this a top ten, but chose to keep it at 5. I thought about putting "The Diplomate Club" on here because I hated it when I first saw it. However, I have seen it in re-runs and have learned to appreciate it even though it was not the best epsiode every by far. "The Muffin Tops" is another, but the epsiode starts out strong with an ok story which nose dived in the end. Let's call these honorable mentions.
 That’s it, there’s my list. The truth is most of the episodes of Seinfeld were great, and they can be forgiven for being off the mark once in awhile. It doesn’t change the fact that this was the greatest show in history, and will be with us always. “yadda yadda yadda”

September 17, 2011

Random Thoughts - Emmy Awards

Random Thought is my format for discussing current events, whether they be movie or other things happening in the world. Today let's discuss the Emmy Awards.

So the Emmy Awards are this weekend, and even though I basically gave up watching first run television awhile ago I still enjoy tuning into the awards. I like to see the special awards and tributes, including the In Memoriam one about all those who've passed in the last year. However, it's not like the old days when I used to watch them because I loved them. It just seems like television is so different now. Kids today can't appreciate the way it was in the 70's, 80's, and maybe early 90's when it felt like one big happy family on those awards shows. These were shows and stars we loved and enjoyed watching. Now, most of the show's nominated are HBO shows which, honestly, how many people watch? When I was younger I used to get so excited about the fall preview issue of TV Guide, and just abosrbed all the shows. Now, the new season doesn't mean anything anymore. I know, I am sounding like an old person. I just wish we could go back to the days of well written, quality scripted comedies and drama's rather than the reality crap which overwhelmes us. When everything wasn't so rushed and forced down our throats. Ever watch and old episode of "Facts of Life" or "Family Ties?" They seem so slow now because they took time to tell a story rather than just throw a million jokes at you for twenty minutes. If we were really lucky they even educated, who does that today? Thank goodness for my old tapes and for DVD's. So, I will watch this year but without the excitement I used to watch with.