Monday, October 31, 2005

I Blew Up My TV

Killed it dead three years ago. When I called the satellite service to cancel, the man on the other end sounded incredulous and offended: You don't watch any TV? Not really, I said. Long pause, followed by sputtering: B-b-b-but that's un-American!

I don't miss TV. Except. The comedies:

  • I have 150 episodes of Seinfeld on videotape from when they first aired, sitting in my basement. I won't need to watch them for a while; they've been committed to memory.

  • Sheer sustained brilliance: The Larry Sanders Show, Sports Night.

  • Classic TV faves: The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Simpsons.

  • Recent mind-boggling discoveries on DVD: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, The Office.

  • I didn't grow up in the States and have never seen old shows like: MASH, Honeymooners, Brady Bunch, Soap, Sanford & Son, All In The Family, you-name-it. I have no idea which of these (or other old comedy shows) hold up well today.

  • I've never seen a single episode of: Sex & The City, Gilmore Girls, Six Feet Under, Freaks & Geeks, The O.C., Chappelle, The 70's Show, Daily Show.

  • About dramas. I used to watch a lot of these ten years ago but I get my drama fix just from movies these days (and Lord knows that movie queue is a mile and a half long). So, realistically speaking, I don't expect to be watching any TV dramas for a while.

So, here's my plea for help: I need recommendations for good comedy TV shows, old or new, on DVD. For which I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Blogger Flickhead said...

Fawlty Towers.

October 31, 2005 7:35 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Just realized: I've seen one episode of Mr. Show and it was great. I'm pretty clueless: are Six Feet Under and Gilmore Girls even comedies? I'll gladly take dramas if they're funny.

October 31, 2005 11:37 AM  
Blogger girish said...

David in halloween drag.

October 31, 2005 11:41 AM  
Blogger girish said...

"There's always a bit of irony or humour embedded in everything I do, which monitors the realness, the earnestness of the work.".
I love the way Sufjan uses the word "monitors".
via Largehearted Boy.

October 31, 2005 12:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

It's totally bizarre that I've seen all three of these screen capture quiz movies within the last year. (scroll down to see pix.)

October 31, 2005 2:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Giving an exam to my master's class tonight; but now, twiddling my thumbs. Not much to do until then. (Can you guess?).
But afterwards, the grading hits.

October 31, 2005 2:19 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

If you like Seinfeld, be sure to watch some episodes of the Honeymooners; its almost robbery. My personal favorite TV series would be MASH-- the melancholic drama in the back of it all adds a lot to the humor, completes the characters. Cheers is second, for the same reason.

October 31, 2005 4:26 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Flickhead, not sure why I had just American series on the brain while writing this post, but yes, those dozen episodes of Fawlty Towers are priceless.

Brian, I didn't realize the connection between Honeymooners and Seinfeld. I've never really watched Cheers but enjoy the occasional Frasier, especially the first season.

I'm also reminded of a couple of less-known shows I really liked that had miserable ratings: The Bonnie Hunt Show and Chris Elliott's Get A Life. Oh, and one relentlessly self-reflexive piece of meta-television called Parker Lewis Can't Lose.

October 31, 2005 4:42 PM  
Blogger girish said...

And just so you know, I'm expecting Darren to weigh in on Gilmore Girls. :-)

October 31, 2005 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, I don't watch much television, either. Most of what I see comes late at night (Letterman, for example) when I'm unwinding from the day. I've never seen an episode of Sex & The City, Gilmore Girls, Six Feet Under, Freaks & Geeks, The O.C., Chappelle, The 70's Show, or Daily Show either.

So I don't have much to recommend, although if you haven't seen The Honeymooners, it's definitely worth it. One of the great, classic American comedies in my opinion, with working-class characters as simple as they are endearing. I still think it's riotously funny.

I recently picked up the DVD of a short-lived ABC sitcom called The Job, with Dennis Leary. He plays a smart-ass cop who has a messy life, a wife, and a mistress. I like it because the police department is full of absolute misfits, all of whom are individually interesting. Plus, there's no laugh track. (Having said all that, it is ultimately appealing only if you happen to like Leary's type of humor). Seeing it againg since it first aired a few years ago, I had forgotten that it has some nice humane moments here and there that are all the better because they are not maudlin or sappy.

October 31, 2005 5:13 PM  
Blogger Sachin G. said...

Get DVD's of the British Comedy Couplings. It is hilarious :)
Sort of like a cross between Sex and the City (which you have not seen) and Friends, but only much much better. Sex and the City is funny but only shows things from women's point of view. But Couplings gives both sides a say, even though the comedy is more towards men (being stupid more like it). There are 4 seasons, the last season is not as great as the first 3 because the best character left the show. Can you Imagine Seinfeld without Kramer?
Well that's what happenned to Couplings at the end of Season 3.

By the way, I have not seen the O.C, Six Feet Under, Gilmore Girls, CSI, Lost despite having full cable..

October 31, 2005 5:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, The Job sounds great--I've never even heard of it.

Sachin, I don't know Couplings; thanks for suggesting.

I like to use sitcoms for unwinding as well.
Since I've only been watching them on DVD the last couple of years, I'll go through phases when I'll do marathon sessions of Sports Night or Arrested Development or Curb when I supposed to be unwinding, and before I know it, it's 3 am and I'm hopped up and wide awake and the next day is semi-ruined...

October 31, 2005 5:21 PM  
Blogger Sachin G. said...

Hey girish, not many people know about Couplings, which is a real shame. I don't know of anyone else who has seen this show and I keep telling them to rent it.
If possible, rent the first season dvd and if you don't like it, then you can ignore the rest. I liked it much better than the other British Comedy, The Office.

October 31, 2005 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Hillis said...

If you've seen all three of the films on my site, why aren't you entering the contest, G?

(Somewhat relatedly: After I digest all the Halloween candy and Austin Tex-Mex, I'll be building an icon to link you on Cinephiliac!)

Also, Mr. Show holds up well a few years later, do check 'em out...

October 31, 2005 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Girish, if you are interested in The Job, you might go to Amazon and check out Donald Liebenson's editorial review. He summarizes the show far better than I ever could.

In one of my favorite episodes, Leary has arrived at work after eating something that doesn't agree with him. He has to use the restroom really bad, but after he finally gets there, he's held hostage by an armed Spanish-speaking hoodlum who managed to esapce because one of Leary's absent-minded colleagues not only forgot to cuff the guy, but also left his gun lying around.

October 31, 2005 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Oops. I meant "escape". I really have to learn to type carefully.

October 31, 2005 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

I have to admit that my enthusiasm for Gilmore Girls is waning this year, but I would encourage you to give the first few discs of Season 1 a try. Every episode is written and performed at a His Girl Friday clip, and there's a higher obscure-cultural-reference per episode ratio than any other show I can think of. Plus, Lauren Graham is ridiculously cute, so there's that.

I don't know if any of the episodes have been released on DVD, but both of Bob Newhart's first two shows are consistently great. I grew up on 'em.

And I'll own up to my deep, abiding love for the first few seasons of That 70s Show. Joanna and I have probably seen every episode four or five times, but if it's dinner time and a rerun is on, I'll watch it.

So, what does it say about me that I never really liked Seinfeld?

October 31, 2005 6:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Slagor said...

Hey G -

You already know what I think about TV shows...Sports Night, Curb, Arrested Development, Mr. Show, Ali G Show, and of course.....

My favorite TV Show of all time...BBC's "The Office" - it kicks the NBC version's ass all over the place.

October 31, 2005 8:48 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all.
Michael, I've just added "The Job" to my netflix queue.
Darren, I've also added "Newhart", "That 70s Show" and the first few discs of "Gilmore Girls".
Christmas break will be well-spent.
And Mike, thanks for turning me on to "The Office".

October 31, 2005 11:05 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey thanks, Aaron.
I did enter the contest; just sent you an email.
Your questions are hard. Which is why I was shocked I knew these.
And thank you for building that link. You're very kind...

October 31, 2005 11:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ben's so gracious with his spammers.
Wait a second, didn't I link to this exact same post once before?

October 31, 2005 11:46 PM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

It's British but "Absolutley Fabulous" is just that and after Fawlty Towers, just about the funniest British TV stuff I've seen ...

BTW ... Great Blog!

November 01, 2005 5:59 AM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

I find "Coupling" hilarious.

November 01, 2005 9:04 AM  
Blogger LondonLee said...

I'll second the recommendation for "Gilmore Girls", it's the best written show on TV.

The current sitcom "Scrubs" is brilliant too, that's on DVD now I think.

November 01, 2005 9:16 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Definitely agree on Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous (the originial seasons, not the new ones though). I never really got into BBC's Coupling, but then, I wasn't a fan of Friends or Sex in the City either. I would recommend Taxi (particularly the early seasons before Andy Kaufman started getting more airtime), but I wonder if it's too particularly New York...but then again, I never imagined that people would "get" Seinfeld either.

November 01, 2005 9:55 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I remember my dad hooking up a booster antenna on the terrace of our house in Calcutta (I must've been fourteen) so that we could catch telecasts from Bangladesh. They came in fuzzy but that added to the illicit charm of it all. The first series I followed rabidly was Kojak, and it was so New York. When I actually got to New York a few years later, I was surprised to find that it didn't look too unlike it. (All that location shooting.)
No Greek-American, lollipop-sucking, shaven-headed, raspy-barked, three-piece-suited cops in sight though.

November 01, 2005 11:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I am a bad Indian.
I woke up this morning and didn't remember that it's Diwali today.

November 01, 2005 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

When it comes out on DVD, check out "Weeds", about a pot-dealing suburban widow.

My cable is still out, so I may have to see missed eps of Rome and Showtime's Masters of Horror series. Also Nip/Tuck which has moments of humor, and is closer to the real Miami than CSI:Miami.

November 01, 2005 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Before I forget, Futurama almost always makes me laugh.

November 01, 2005 3:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

My netflix queue positively bursteth.

November 02, 2005 11:12 AM  
Blogger rdl said...

Honeymooners by far is one of my favs. classic. i loved soap. The Mary Tyler Moore show was great, but I don't think that is on anymore. Also like the old Cheers episodes with Diane. And then Everybody loves Raymond is great.

November 05, 2005 11:38 PM  
Blogger Shasta said...

lol. bad indian. i cut my tv out in 2001, but have recently been introduced to 'arrested developement' by a coworker... hilarious. i've never seen any 'six feet under,' but have heard that one of the writers wrote the screenplay for american beauty, so it might be good...

November 06, 2005 4:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

rdl and shasta--thanks for your tips.
I've liked the couple of Mary Tyler Moore epsiodes I've seen.
And Shasta--love the pics at your site.

November 06, 2005 1:19 PM  
Blogger Shasta said...


November 08, 2005 6:21 AM  
Anonymous The Pop View said...

Mr. Show and Chappelle's Show are both mind-blowing. How did this stuff get on the air?

The first few seasons of Cheers are really good. The creators, Glen and Les Charles, came up from the MTM stable, so also check out Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Taxi.

I second the vote for Gilmore Girls. While it's not always been great all the time, it's been remarkably consistent. This season (its 6th) has been a good comeback.

Roseanne took until the 2nd season to hit its stride and was very influential. Newsradio was good while Phil Hartman was on it. The Dick Van Dyke Show is an all-time classic. It took me a long time to watch Everybody Loves Raymond, but it's a really great show that emphasizes character over quips.

In regards to Fawlty Towers, if you're going the British route, you also ought to watch Blackadder, Red Dwarf, The Young Ones and The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin.

Finally, let me say that the U.S. version of The Office has finally established its own identity in its second season and is really funny.

November 17, 2005 12:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Big thanks, Mr. Pop View.
Ideas galore for my Netfix queue.

November 17, 2005 12:56 PM  
Anonymous The Pop View said...

Argh! How could I forget? If you're looking for funny television, you have to include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Get the Indecision 2004 box set. Oh, and Shout Factory has released 4 volumes of SCTV!

November 17, 2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nice times two.

November 17, 2005 1:22 PM  

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