Monday, December 01, 2008

The CBS Monday Night lineup

I thought I’d review the CBS Monday night comedies. Not this past Monday because I haven’t seen them, but the week before. Thanks to my DVR I got around to them on Friday. And I figure, if you missed any of these I’m sure they’re on the CBS website or Hulu or YouTube or rerunning on CSPAN.

I know this is subjective and you're welcome to say "Huh? You liked THAT?" or "How come you didn't say Charlie Sheen is the greatest comedian since Alex Karras?" Just leave your name when you comment.

BIG BANG THEORY – Jim Parsons (pictured left) as Sheldon is hilarious. Imagine people watching a comedy because the star is funny, not handsome. The stories are not very complicated. In this episode Sheldon tried to keep Leonard and his new girlfriend together. That’s pretty much it for every scene. But the jokes were good. And BIG BANG THEORY barrages you with jokes. Thank God a lot of them work. I appreciate that BBT really makes an effort to make you laugh. And they’ve got the right writers and cast to pull it off.

TWO AND A HALF MEN – Wish they’d take the high road more. Wish I created a show even half that successful. But note to director: Tell the kid to stop growing.

WORST WEEK – Americanized version of the British sitcom. Not much in sophisticated storytelling here either. It’s the wedding day, things go wrong, the show ends. It’s slapstick farce, something you rarely see on weekly sitcoms. Why? Because it’s so damn hard to pull off! There were some big laughs in this episode. Great misunderstandings, terrific payoffs, ambitious stunts, they set a swimming pool on fire, and Fred Willard substituted THE BARNEY MILLER THEME for “Here Comes the Bride”.

Kyle Bomheimer as the less Jewish/more middle America-friendly version of Seth Rogen is pitch perfect as the hapless groom. He’s just real enough, just sweet enough, just earnest enough that you root for him and don’t think he’s a total schmuck.

Of the two versions I think I still prefer the British but that just may be because Sarah Alexander (pictured right) is in it.

My big question about this show is how do they sustain this farce every week? FOUR CHRISTMASES can’t sustain it for fifteen minutes.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER – For my money, the best of the four. You really get the feeling the writers are trying to tell unique stories in inventive ways. “The Naked Man” episode was a good example. I’ve never seen a show built around whether it’s good form on a first date to surprise your date by taking off all your clothes when her back is turned. Not even on THE FLYING NUN. But it was funny, there were some nice twists, and everything paid off nicely. Maybe it’s my CHEERS bias but I like shows where characters with different comic points-of-view all get together and bat around a topic. The humor here is more observational and character specific (also a personal preference) and you gotta love Doogie. I wished they’d use Jason Segel more and dressed Cobie Smulders in less. How about “the Naked Girl”?

CBS has a good Monday night line-up. Some week I might actually watch it on a Monday night.

32 comments:

D. McEwan said...

I've been enjoying - to a point - WORST WEEK. I love slapstick farce. The problem is that, since everything always goes wrong, they just can't slip an artful set-up past us. I didn't see the wedding episode (Set the VCR for teh wrong hour) but in THE WEDDING CAKE episode, you knew from the title that the cake was doomed. You knew when he handed the heirloom ring to the infant that the infant would swallow it. You knew when the fiancee expressed a desire to be married in the country club gazebo that the gazebo was on it's last day on earth, and when the golf cart he was assigned had a braking problem, you knew what would happen to the gazebo.

It needs to be written a lot more cleverly to slip it's set-ups past us, as it is becoming too obvious.

The show's big strength so far is the cast. I like Bornheimer a lot. He's also a lot sexier than Seth Rogan. (Not that it's hard to be sexier than Seth Rogan.) Olivia Dukakis was funny. And bringing in Fred Willard, well that is always a good idea. If they brought in Betty White, it might be perfect.

Anyway, if HEROES gets any worse, I may end up seeing more of these shows.

Kevin said...

Hope you get a chance to see tonight's episode of How I Met Your Mother (The Bracket). Another thing I like about this show is how the writer's don't feel the need to resolve the MacGuffin in the episode. In "The Bracket," the plot is driven by Barney needing to track down a past fling, but when the episode concludes, Barney (and we the audience) still don't know who she is. Also, there's a nice inside joke/reference to Doogie at the end.

Roger Owen Green said...

I never watch ANYTHING from the day it comes out except the news, and even that's time-shifted. I still have episodes of the Office from October. TG for the DVR. And reruns. And pre-emptions.

Pacquiao VS De La Hoya FREE Live Stream said...

I've seen some episodes of this one and I'm starting to like it.

Joe said...

It'd be safe to say that people would gleefully watch Sarah Alexander at a lectern reading the phone book aloud.

That said, it is rare (and I mean rare) for a sitcom to be as good as the Britcom which spawned it. The Office manages it, but I'm blanking on any others. Still, WW comes admirably close.

Jayne said...

I didn't quite take to The Worst Week. I DVRd several episodes but only watched two of them. Maybe I'll try again later.

The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother though are by far the best things on television right now.

Jim Parsons' Sheldon is the funniest geek to ever grace the small screen. Thanks to him, I will never play Rock, Scissors, Paper the same way! Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock!!!!

Neil Patrick Harris is comedic gold. Major kudos to the creators of Barney Stinson.

Last night's HIMYM was a rerun but as has been mentioned, it's a great one! The Bracket ranks near the top of the stack.

Tom Quigley said...

"If they brought in Betty White, it might be perfect."

By coincidence, Doug, Betty White in fact DID show up in last night's episode of BOSTON LEGAL as the plaintiff in a case where she was suing a network programmer for catering to the Gen-X crowd and not providing enough entertaining programming for the age 50-80 demographic -- and John Laroquette's character as her counsel gave an elaborate presentation on that age group being the real money spenders in this country, citing numbers and figures, etc. But the best line in the scene is when Laroquette says that the only show left on TV that the older crowd enjoys watching is "Bos-" and then interrupts himself with "Well I can't say the name, because that would mean breaking the fourth wall." Loved it!

Mike Bell said...

I find myself watching Two and a half men more and more. I recently caught the rerun featuring Denise Richards. It was especially, deliciously cringe-worthy.

doggans said...

I just got into How I Met Your Mother this year, and I enjoy it a lot. Not much else to say.

Seeing as this is the internet, I presume you're all aware of NPH's excellent, excellent work in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog by now?

JayhawkMom said...

My husband and I LOVE LOVE LOVE HIMYM. It seems perfectly crafted for our age group. (We're 30.) But I can see how other demographics would enjoy it as well. But it perfectly captures the humor that people our age typically enjoy. No cheeseball antiquated sitcom-y hardy-har-har jokes. Just five friends talking and joking with each other like real youngish adults. Although I must say I don't know a Barney in real life!

Kathy said...

I love the Big Bang Theory, but I fear that the writers are in danger of over-using Sheldon.

Take Seinfeld's Kramer as an example of a wacky "second lead". Kramer was on the show a lot, I'll grant you, especially after the writers understood exactly how much he'd caught on in popular culture. However, Kramer's storylines always were B storylines, or they featured Jerry prominently.

If you watch a few episodes (especially late first season or early in this second season) in a row, you start to realize that the show is starting to over-use him, and a lot of the funny related to him is kind of one-note.

I think Parsons is doing an amazing job creating a memorable and hilarious character, but I don't want to see him run into the ground. That would be a terrible shame, and I believe they're running the risk of it right now.

Also, HIMYM is, I agree, great.

Mike said...

As a big fan of your blog -- and your TV writing apparently, though I didn't know how many of my favorite shows you watched until I read your blog and now can't seem to NOT see your episode when I'm watching TV and bore my boyfriend with "that's that guy I read" and he pretends that he's never heard me say it -- I'm pretty psyched that we're in agreement with Big Bang Theory and HIMYM. What I find so amusing about the two of them as a successful Monday night pairing is, though both are filled with many many jokes and talented casts, they couldn't be more different. BBT had a one major premise (pretty girl and smart guys mix it up) and most episodes have one single premise. HIMYM, on the other hand, while also seeming at first to have a single premise (explained in the title), is actually complex and layered in its storytelling in an almost Lost like way. However, different, though they make a perfect match -- simply because they are consistently funny.

Mike said...

Sorry for the double post, but...

I also agree with Kathy -- I'm afraid the writers are running the Sheldon character into the ground. As I've leared from this blog and because it makes total sense, writers will want to write for the funniest character and (my opinion) most talented cast member. But too much could become a bad thing and Sheldon's being annoying to his friend is occasionally becoming annoying to me as an audience member... though last week's attempts to keep Leonard with his girlfriend were redeemed by the fact that he was fruitful in his efforts and Sara Rue fits so perfectly in the cast.

Even though I'm gayer as NPH -- or at least as much -- I also agree with the thoughts Cobie Smulders playing the Naked Girl, though NPH in his Naked Guy scenes made me a little angry. NPH and Smulders looks that great (probably) naked AND are talented... I'd be angry with God for being unfair but fortunately, we get to enjoy them all.

James said...

@Tom Quigley: There's usually at least one breaking-the-fourth-wall line in every episode of Boston Legal ("Yes, I know we'll get letters" has been used a number of times). Like there seems to be at least one penis joke in every episode of My Name is Earl.

What I like about HIMYM is much the same as what is mentioned in the post... the writers definitely seem to try to be creative and new. I totally didn't see the "It works two out of three times" bit coming back at the end. I love being surprised like that. What I don't have a feel for is how long they can string the audience along about who the Mother will be. But I've always been impatient.

Paul said...

So . . . basically you liked everything? Yawn.

Brent McKee said...

"So . . . basically you liked everything? Yawn."

Well Ken seems to like "Two And A Half Men" less than "How I Met Your Mother" and "Big Bang Theory" and has more criticism for "Worst Week" than for either of the other two. That is, I think, different from "liking everything." But maybe that's because I agree with his assessment (particularly when he says "Wish I created a show even half that successful" - I wish I'd created anything half as successful as "Two And A Half Men").

Frasier Fan said...

James wrote:

@Tom Quigley: There's usually at least one breaking-the-fourth-wall line in every episode of Boston Legal ("Yes, I know we'll get letters" has been used a number of times).
___________________________________

That's true but last night's was special in that Carl's whole case was based on breaking the 4th wall! It was a big fat F-U to the network! I loved it! Plus there were numerous 4th wall moments throughout the episode. I loved the fact that Catherine's ringtone was the theme from The Practice! (though not really 4th wall, it was typical self referencing humor for BL)

As for The Big Bang Theory, I haven't found Sheldon to be overused at this point but I do agree that an episode needs to be focused on Leonard once in a while. And Raj. I could do without much focus on Howard. He's bordering on creepy right now!

D. McEwan said...

"Tom Quigley said...
"If they brought in Betty White, it might be perfect."
By coincidence, Doug, Betty White in fact DID show up in last night's episode of BOSTON LEGAL"

It wasn't a coincidence. I used Betty White as an example because she was on my TV screen at the moment I wrote it (If you note my posted time you'll see it was during Boston Legal), and there she was, being just as wonderful as she's always been. She's on my short list of Folks Who Improve Anything They Are On.

Also, I worked with Betty White once, 35 years ago, and she is a complete joy to be around.

I was slightly disappointed with the fact that she didn't kill anyone last night. Her BL character getting away with murder over and over is funny. (Poor Leslie Jordan. WHAM! with the skillet!) But the funniest line of the night was Betty passing herself off as Candice Bergan's YOUNGER sister.

I don't think Larroquette used the word "Fourth", just "The wall thing" with a gesture. "Fourth Wall" was a little more on the nose than they try to be with their endless "We're in our last season" remarks, but I could be wrong. I didn't tape it so I can't recheck it. The breaking the wall jokes are getting tiring. It's a legal dramedy, not The Burns & Allan Show. At least they haven't asked Henry Gibson's judge character about LAUGH-IN. (Henry is also on the list of Folks Who Improve Anything They Are On, and is also a sweetheart to work with.)

Nat G said...

HIMYM is the finest sitcom on TV not just by default (although the dearth of comedies would encourage that) but that for all its exaggeration, it's all grounded in real human character. You can feel along with these folks.

The Big Bang Theory, as much as I want to like it, is problematic. Perhaps it comes from spending too much time at CalTech, with the sort of folks this is supposed to be sending up, and finding that it misses them altogether. (It's the same problem as just about any show has with the knowledgable portion of the audience, I suppose.) I watch it, and it certainly has improved and is watchable at some level most of the time... but it only really lights up for me when you have both Galecki and Sarah Gilbert onscreen at once. Whether its their years of experience together, or whether whoever cast them as a couple on Roseanne just saw something, but they work.

And I want to see one episode of Worst Week where they spend the entire time setting up the collapse, putting the china right next to the door with the bad spring, putting the open can of paint on top of the ladder next to the pile of valuable first editions, leaving the baby in the room with the open oven... and nothing bad happens. (Then again, I'm not clear if the show is supposed to be over, as the episode you reviewed ended the "week".)

Emmett Flatus said...

Monday is my least favorite CBS night. Only 2½ Men is captured by my DVR. And, even that is becoming iffy.

Jayne said...

You're right D. McEwan. What Carl (Larroquette) actually says is: "The only show that is brave enough to have its stars over fifty is "Bo -- ". Gee, I can't say it. It'd break the wall." (As he looks into not one, but two courtroom cameras.)

D. McEwan said...

Thanks Jayne. That was how I recalled it.

Nat G., yeah, you're right on WORST WEEK. and yet it will continue. (I like that open can of paint on top of the ladder next to the first editions. I'm assuming it's a shaky ladder, and it's in the path of the kitchen door.) I guess when it comes back (Repeat last night) it will be WORSER WEEK. Maybe they should have called it BAD WEEK, then they could do WORSE WEEK, and finally get to WORST WEEK. By starting with WORST WEEK, they titled themselves into a corner.

Maybe next will be The Penultimate Worst week, and then The Ultimate Worst Week, and then The Ultra-Ultimate Worst Week, then Beyond The Valley of the Worst Week Imaginable, Escape From the Worst Week, Battle For the Worst Week, Conquest of the Worst Week, Bride of the Worst week, Worst Week Meets the Wolfman, Worst Week's Revenge, Abbott & Costello's Worst Week, I Was a Worst Week for the FBI, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

D. McEwan said...

Damn! I left out The Seven Worst Weeks of Doctor Lao. And it's the best one two.

And When Worst Weeks Collide!

D. McEwan said...

"And it's the best one two."

I meant of course, it's the best one too." Gotta proof read.

Worst Post!

(Indiana Jones and the Worst Week of Doom! I'll stop now)

(No I won't: Worst Week IV: A New Dope.)

Nat G said...

Sorry, that last one was your Worst Tweek.

Christopher said...

I haven't seen the referenced HIMYM about first date surprise stripping, but there was certainly much commentary on Seinfeld after a date of hers "took it out".

mrswing said...

I really don't like 'Worst Week' (though I've only seen the British series), though I wanted to...
Three reasons: 1) no comic flaw in the main character (except for a desire to be polite and sometimes tell a little white lie to avoid a conflict). So all the horrible things which happen to him are caused by external forces, making him purely a victim. And I don't really like laughing at victims.
2) The predictabilty of the set-ups, as has been mentioned before. I have never yet been surprised in any of the episodes I've seen - I could predict every 'big laugh'. Moreover, some of the set-ups suck - as when he ends up in his mother-in-law's bed. There's absolutely no reason for the lead to go into the wrond room...
3) suspension of disbelief. Are we really to believe that a nice, attractive young man is going to marry a neurotic bitch with parents who hate him to an absurd extent? Or that they remain together after all the embarassments and painful incidents which happen to them over the course of the series? There's absolutely no emotional truth to be found in any of the characters. And as John Vorhaus says, comedy is pain and truth...

And I'd gleefully watch Sarah Alexander at a lectern reading the phone book aloud if it was a very small lectern and she was buck naked.

jbryant said...

d: Henry Gibson was the first celeb I met when I moved to So Cal in '93. I was working for an animation company for which he was doing some voice work. He came into our department asking for directions to the nearest IKEA, and I helped him out (after fawning over his work in Laugh-In and Nashville, of course). Really sweet man, and he's been wonderful on BL.

bettyd said...

And Henry Gibson was smart enough to skip the terrible Laugh-In thing at the Emmys! IIRC

Joe said...

Henry Gibson was majestic in the Blues Brothers.

Pamela Jaye said...

Damn time shifting.
The only shows i'm reallly behind on are 90210 (so shoot me) and Boston Legal.

i knew i should have stopped when it was mentioned. but no, not me. i read on.

now that 4th wall joke is spoiled. which is too bad as, in a series full of 4th wll breakage - that was the most overt (and meta) of them all.
sigh.

we don't get the final ep tonight (here). they are airing in Sunday at 4pm....

as for Monday nights - i don't watch Sheen and Worst Week (missed the pilot) but I watch the 8-9 slot and also Chuck. It's Awesome. Soon they are going to drop House in that slot. let's see how many three-ways we end up with (and if we win The Belt for getting them)

Sticky said...

Monday night was my 1st opportunity in a week or two to watch a couple of my favorite shows on CBS and I was extremely disappointed to see the writers have decided to blow these shows up. probably better for me as I will no doubt find something more constructive do to do with my time.