Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Smarmy jokes in pilots

My, how things have changed.

A number of years ago I was showrunning a show and reading through a mountain of spec scripts looking for new staff writers.  Again, young scribes, remember -- we want to like your script.  Nothing would please us more.  Every time we pick up a script we’re hoping this is the one

Most are disappointing though.  One in particular I thought was terrible.  It was a spec NEWSRADIO.   (Warning:  adult content ahead)   The story was that the Dave Foley character comes into his office one morning to find there is a big cum stain on his couch.  The episode is trying to determine who left it.  Hilarity ensues.

Now who doesn’t love a good cum stain joke?  I mean, really.  It’s the staple of comedy.  However, for a network situation comedy, it’s a little inappropriate.   Not to mention smarmy.  

So I decided to do what I thought was a good thing.  Instead of just writing a standard rejection letter I called the agent.  I told him that his client was doing himself a disservice by sending around this particular spec.   Some might find cum stain jokes offensive.  Besides, it’s not a good representation of NEWSRADIO.  They would never do that episode.  And NBC would never allow them to do that episode.  If the writer had anything else I’d be happy to read it. 

The agent basically told me to go fuck myself.  This was a brilliant script and if I didn’t recognize it then I was an idiot.  No good deed goes unpunished, right?   I don’t know whatever happened to that writer but I’m guessing he didn’t make it.   I never saw his name on a show.  And when I received scripts from that agent they went right to the bottom of the pile.

Last night did you see the pilot of 2 BROKE GIRLS that debuted on CBS?  One of the stars is Kat Denning, who was in one of our failed pilots and I’m very happy for her success. (Aaron Paul was also in that project before moving on to BREAKING BAD.  We’re like the Broadway Danny Rose of pilot creators.)   Anyway, there are two, maybe three cum stain jokes in it.  This is the pilot – subject to all that extensive research testing.  So apparently cum stains on a uniform a waitress is supposed to wear during business hours at a diner are now not objectionable.  There are actually a lot of good jokes in the pilot but the cum stain jokes aren’t three of ‘em. They're pretty lame cum stain jokes.  

This is certainly an example of how standards and tastes change.  (No pun on “tastes” intended although if you laughed, sure, what the hell?)  I’m sure that agent would say “I told you so” (except that I’d never take his call), and maybe he’s right.  I hope not but I dunno.

Would our failed pilot with Kat Denning and Aaron Paul now be in the sixth year of production if we only had thrown in a couple of cum stain jokes?  And there were places for ‘em.  There always are.  But we took the high road.  We like to think we're good enough comedy writers that we can make people laugh without having to resort to lines like, "Gee, I sure hope that was clam chowder". 

On the other hand, maybe this explains why we don't have a pilot in development this season.  

75 comments:

Sebastian said...

Saw the promo on 2 1/2 men for this show. The title is just as good as "Cougar Town" and I think a lot of people won't watch because of it.

Anyway... I watched anyway and boy...

I came for Kat Denning and stayed for the laughs. Get it? Get it? *dry laugh*

Anyway, I was zapping last night and came across a "Frasier" episode (the one where Daphne talks about how she sun bathed in the nude and nobody listens to Frasier's show) and today I am getting out my DVDs and start to watch the whole show from the beginning.

Because I found while I like "Happy Endings" a lot, while I think "Friends with Benefits" is a nice show and while HIMYM is always good for a laugh, "Frasier" is the show that manages to wake up my neighbors. Still.

And to go to sleep I read this book Ken wrote which is called *choking sound* *pummeling sound*

Mark Thompson said...

You didn't mention that the show intro had a boob joke, a vagina joke and folks having sex in the food storage which set up the "she's coming" joke.

It's heartwarming to see the return family friendly comedy.

Roger Owen Green said...

Thanks for the piece (bad choice of words) - I'll be able to pass on 2 Broke Girls.

LouOCNY said...

Sebastian - I am waiting for the Complete Barney Miller box set coming out next month....

Charlie O'Brien said...

It's one of the why I never liked "2 & a 1/2 Men." Sitting through the first 15 minutes last night made me think I had wasted 15 minutes - so, click, goodbye. Never did get to Kutcher's scenes. Sorry, that's just not funny. ('Dharma & Greg' cameo almost saved it.)
PLEASE, make me watch 10 episodes of "Modern Family" in a row - nirvana!

Ror y W. said...

I stopped watching "Two and a Half Men" because it became nothing more than 22 minutes of masturbation jokes.

I did watch last night's "Two and a Half Men" to see the man-child intentional womanizer be replaced by the man-child accidental womanizer.

Then, since I was already watching CBS, I sat through "2 Broke Girls" a series of one-liners attempting to pass for a situation comedy.

By comparison, "How I Met Your Mother" is brilliant. At least there are stories with characters who have some dimension.

Johnny Walker said...

I can't imagine that episode being broadcast on US network TV!

That said, I don't consider myself someone who is hugely entertained by gross-out humour, but as a viewer I can find US shows a little unnecessarily puritanical...

Sure, there's a valid market for family-friendly shows, and I appreciate that (and enjoy them), but when a show is about adults and relationships, sex is never far away... and it's a little sad when euphemisms and hints have to be employed when adults would never use them in normal conversation.

(To clarify, I'm not trying to make an argument for more gross-out humour, just more realistic dialogue about something that is everyday and normal.)

There was a cheeky show in the UK called "Coupling" that attempted to do something similar to Friends, but with a more realistic/playful attitude towards sex. It did very well and was remade for NBC... although I don't know how much of the original content was kept.

DogsOnDrugs.com said...

Oh c'mon, let's not be prudes here. Cum stain jokes are hilarious!

- Monica Lewinsky

Kathy said...

I read a NYTimes review that told me there would be cum stain jokes and based on that alone decided not to watch. I've seen a sum total of 20 minutes of 2 1/2 Men over the years. I know, we need to "push the envelope" and all that, but people, please. There's a whole vast world out there to make fun of.

I used to do stand-up, once upon a time. My observation was that those standups who were not very smart invariably went to sex jokes. They weren't funny sex jokes, they were just more and tasteless. They weren't smart enough to figure out how to make people laugh with humor, so they decided to make people laugh with sex. But, you know, we've reached saturation with that, too.

I hope (and maybe this is setting the bar too high) that even the less-smart are smart enough to figure that out...and maybe reach a bit to find some actually funny things to talk about.

Modern Family! Arrested Development! 30 Rock! Where does/did their humor come from? There's some sex in there but it's not the focus of every joke.

Please, people, reach!!!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

"Damn you kids for playing on my lawn and leaving your cum stains everywhere!"sdf

Rob said...

ME-TV fall primetime lineup:

MASH
Mary Tyler Moore
Dick Van Dyke Show
Bob Newhart Show
Odd Couple
Cheers
Taxi

I think I'll pass on "2 Broke Girls".

Michael said...

Once, on MASH, Hawkeye was riffing in the OR about patching up kids to be shot again and said, "What would Hippocrates say? What would Socrates say? And what would you say to going to the supply room for 10 minutes of heavy breathing?" Frank yelled, "Would you knock it off?" Hawkeye said, "That's what I'm trying to find out." I was about 10 at the time and didn't get it. Later I did, thought it was hilarious, and marveled that it got through.

On the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou, Murray, and Ted get drunk with Mary's boyfriend. When the boyfriend walks in from surprising Mary, who is dining with a former lover, Ted is splayed across Lou's lap and he asks if Ted is drunk. Ted says, "First time." Lou says, "Tonight, in drinker's terms, Ted lost his olive." The howl from the audience was long, and you could see the other actors were trying hard to control themselves.

Now, to me, those pushed the envelope, but not all THAT far. If I watch Chris Rock, I expect certain verbiage. I don't expect it in prime-time television shows on the major networks. If that's the best they can do, no wonder that the only shows I watch regularly are Stewart, Colbert, and Masterpiece Mystery.

Walt said...

I actually watched 2 Broke Girls. Not a bad concept, OK performances, and a few funny jokes mixed in. But the over-the-top cum-stain jokes were not funny and a sad attampt to try to shock and appear cool.

Neil D said...

Every now and then (more often, it seems, as seasons pass) there's a clumsy, obvious, unfunny, blatant sex/bodily function joke on The Big Bang Theory, and I am reminded that this is indeed brought to us by the same man that brings us 2 1/2 Men.

John said...

"Edgy" outrageousness as a substitute for something that's actually funny has been an increasing problem on network sitcoms for years, as they think that's what viewers want to keep them away from basic cable or the pay channels.

Adam Paull said...

Boundaries are funny. Once you take them away and allow 'anything goes' than it's actually a lot harder to be funny. How do you get laughs hinting that you're being naughty when you can just be naughty?

Here in Australia and in the UK, the 'F' word and even the occasional 'C' word are used every night in network television broadcasts, and have been for about ten years now. Even the Aussie version of '60 Minutes' did a story on the word 'fuck'. Swear words are dropped without anyone battering an eyelid, and as a result, an entire vein of 'aren't we naughty' / double entendre comedy has practically disappeared from our screens.

Unfortunately once the novelty of the shock wears off, writers and performers are left with nowhere to go.

Imagine the classic Seinfeld episode 'The Contest' written for a show today - I'd hate to think...

Gazzoo said...

Hey, didn't that spec script get recycled by 'The Office' when Michael found a dump in his office and he was trying to find out who did it? (Turned out to be Todd Packer)

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Two and a half men has raised the bar on distaste for certain. Now, with that said, I love two and a half men, but I'm concerned what might be next.

On that note, Ashton is going to GREAT on "men". I'm sure your review is forthcoming...

Janet T said...

I stopped watching sitcoms several years ago (with the exception of 30 Rock on Netflix) We watched “Up All Night” last week and may try it again this week, and we will try “The New Girl”, this week. I truly like comedy shows….I just haven’t found any sitcom in the last few years worth watching. There is nothing witty about them at all.(I was always a Newhart fan) I find more humor in Rizzoli and Isles than Modern Family.

Mac said...

That's depressing. How would you pitch FRASIER these days? Frasier doesn't know that Eddie's been humping a cushion - he finds the stain and sure hopes it's clam chowder? No wonder MODERN FAMILY hoovers up the awards.

Stephen Thomas said...

Glad I'm not the only one. The majority of sitcoms (and sadly, most new "breakout standup comedians") the past decade or so are nothing more than "Porky's" without the funny parts.

Please please please let the Arrested Development movie become a reality at some point.

Pyror said...

The increasingly smarmy nature of 2 1/2 Men (and its lack of clever humor) and its concomitant popularity just makes me weep for America. Our popular entertainment is just weak, and getting weaker, and I really don't think it's a case of "when I was a kid..."

The jokes that Michael referenced in his comment are very telling. Where is the cleverness in today's shows? Are you seriously telling me that these comedies are the best networks can come up with? Or are networks telling us that this kind of humor is what we deserve, as a nation of dolts?

However: I calm myself by thinking about Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife, etc., and reassure myself that there are a few people left who care about what they do—and in a lot of ways, there are way more quality shows now than ever. The Homeland pilot (legally available on sneak preview) is also awesome. It's just the networks that seem to be aiming for the lowest common denominator.

SB said...

FYI, last night's "2 Broke Girls" was a monster hit, and pulled in the biggest numbers for a sitcom premiere in years. It held onto 70% of "2 1/2 Men"'s enormous lead-in, and over 19 million people watched. Looks like America is giving cum jokes the big thumbs up!

Don Jennett said...

If the ratings don't "come," how about "Two and a Half Broke Girls"?

Tom Quigley said...

Watched the second half of TWO AND A HALF MEN just to see how they introduced the Ashton Kutcher character. Don't know yet if they're going to play him for a put-on who pulls the wool over everyone's eyes (kind of like Charlie was always trying to do), or the wide-eyed young man who Alan feels the need to take under his wing just to try and keep him on the straight and narrow in Alan's view of the world (I'm suspecting the latter, since I think he feels he's already lost that battle with Jake)....

With that, stuck around for the first half of 2 BROKE GIRLS... Got bored with the premise that's been done a thousand times (character taking a big uncomfortable step to make a change in their life/entering a world in which they are a fish out of water, so to speak), and wasn't impressed with any of the jokes, bodily fluid-related or otherwise. Turned it off at the first commercial break (or maybe turned over to MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL on ESPN -- doesn't matter)... Won't watch it again, and will give it about three to four weeks before I hear CBS announce they're cancelling it.

Mike said...

Ken,
Careful not to get on the wrong side of this again!

Tom Quigley said...

BTW, later on last night, Nick at Nite aired the FRIENDS pilot, and it was soooo much better than 2 BROKE GIRLS... Really, a textbook example of how a pilot should be done.

Anonymous said...

FCC needs to be more aggressive in its regulations, especially if the network censors don't get to work.

Ian said...

I say the writers should pick one, slightly oblique off-color joke and make sure it's a winner. Then stop.

I would have been fine with the "I hope that's clam chowder" remark if the writers had stopped there. It was vaguely remeniscent of (but inferior to) the "I see Eddie still has that certain spring in his step" line on Frasier several years ago.

I can do without references to dry vaginas altogether.

But the biggest problem I have with "blue" humor is not the vulgarity. It's that they're usually NSF (not sufficiently funny). If they had me ROFLing, it would be another story entirely.

BigTed said...

I don't mind sex jokes as long as they're funny. (I actually think the writers of "Two and a Half Men" do a good job with humor that's entirely based on sex, farting and hangovers.)

But the gags in this show just weren't funny at all. It was as if the writers expected us to laugh at the outrageousness of the humor without bothering with actual jokes and real punch lines.

Which is too bad, because it features two appealing actresses and a set-up that could work -- if it were actually funny.

Jonathan Ernst said...

These CBS comedies are all terrible. Pushing the envelope? Edgy? Please. They're edgy in the way a fake-vintage motorcycle T-shirt from Target is edgy. It's an approximation of truly original, maverick material. The British version of The Office was edgy. The Ali G Show was edgy. Even Seinfeld was pretty edgy. How I Married Your Mother and 2 1/2 Men and the like are just reworking the ground others have broken.

Michael Hagerty, Founder/Editor of TireKicker said...

Does a PBS documentary on Jackson Pollock's "white period" count?

Charles H. Bryan said...

Buffalo Bill was edgy -- and soon cancelled.

Liked Kat Denning's character and the 'how to treat a waitress' scene. Maybe 'Bryce Lee'. Recognized Garrett Morris. Didn't care about any other character on the show, not even the horse.

I'll stick up for HIMYM because they at lest attempt to do something sytlistically different here and there, and the cast is good; not always successful, but usually satisfying.

2 1/2 Men? Loved the Dharma and Greg cameo, and that the producers rounded up a bunch of the old girlfriends. Appreciated that Alan Harper would actually express some grief over his brother. Ashton is still just not very funny. Looking forward to an Emmy nom for the dustbuster.

Cap'n Bob said...

You can blame Bill "Horndog" Clinton for all the cum stain jokes. He started the ball rolling. Was the script you're talking about, Ken, before or after the famous presidential DNA on Lewinsky's dress episode?

David SG said...

After Seinfeld did the masturbation-contest episode, a lot of shows started getting dirty. Friends was one of them. I can't remember all the boundary-pushing plots going on at the time, but one that sticks out (pun intended) is the baby's first-year birthday cake that turned out in the shape of a hard-on. That one, I thought, was creepy. But that's what was getting produced.

Wasn't News Radio from about that time? The cum-stain script doesn't surprise me at all considering what was considered "cutting edge" back then.

amyp3 said...

FYI, last night's "2 Broke Girls" was a monster hit, and pulled in the biggest numbers for a sitcom premiere in years. It held onto 70% of "2 1/2 Men"'s enormous lead-in, and over 19 million people watched.

And Better Off Ted is dumped after 1.5 seasons, Raising Hope struggles in the ratings ...

Jesus-the-Good-TV-Lover Wept.

Herb Addelman Score said...

RE: 2 Broke Girls. Within a few weeks, most viewers will be going, no clam chowder necessary. The Mad About You re-runs on Antenna TV are much, much funnier than 2 Girls of any financial status. The curiosity surrounding 2 1/2 Men obviously lead to the big rating for the Girls, but that won't last.

Ken, heard your interview with Shannon on the pre-game show yesterday...remember in the 'old days' when guests on the pre-game show will receive...what was your prize? An umbrella? Hopefully, it wasn't a bowl of cold clam chowder. Stunning game by the way, I don't expect the M's to score in double digits. Hell, I barely expect them to score.

Phillip B said...

A relocation finds me without television this week. Reading all of this makes me glad to be reading Twain and listening to my iPod....

Cedric Hohnstadt said...

I can't tell you how many times I've turned off the TV and thought, "That was a pretty good show, but there weren't enough jokes about blow jobs." One of the reasons TV viewership is in the tank is that there's just not enough sleaze, right?

Thanks for taking the high road, Ken.

MikeN said...

Here's the thing. I feel Becker was heading in that direction as well, especially compared to Frasier and Cheers.

emily said...

My "2 1/2 Men" review:

Ugh...

Tomas said...

And when I received scripts from that agent they went right to the bottom of the pile.

But isn't that a bit unfair to the other writers with that agent? It's not their fault that the agent was rude to you.

Kirk said...

The thing about the Seinfeld masturbation episode is the words "masturbation" or "playing with yourself" or "jacking off" or "spanking the monkey" or "beating the meat" were never mentioned. The closest they came was "you know". Really, if you didn't know that such a thing as masturbation existed (and you born a eunich), you'd have no idea what that episode was about.

The creators of South Park once criticized the makers of Family Guy for being tasteless. This from the makers of a show in which the word "shit' was said some 250 times in a single episode, with a clock in the corner keeping track. Of course, that episode itself may have been meant as an ironic comment on what you can now get away with on TV.

I guess it all depends on the context, or lack thereof.

selection7 said...

Tomas, Ken said "bottom of the pile", not "trashed".

Besides, an agent represents what they like to some degree, so when an agent sends a script, it's a little like a recommendation. Would you trust a recommendation from an idiot? It's common sense to give more priority to what you trust and less to what you don't.

Naz said...

Thank you for taking the high road. Much appreciated.

Chris said...

Do you think it would be ok as a stand-up comedian, if you write a pilot, to use material you've already performed, if it killed?

Johnny Walker said...

The reason they didn't use explicit language in the Seinfeld episode was because they weren't allowed to. They weren't even sure if they could do the episode in the first place, so they played it softly to appease.

It's also the same reason they didn't swear.

Here's a thought: Could the growth of crass TV in America is probably a reaction to the conservatism that still hangs over it? It's what happened in the 60s with films. And like in films, if anyone could say what they wanted, I think the crass bubble would quickly burst.

(Which isn't to say there aren't crass movies, but you guys have a weird rating system that means that "adult content" (i.e. unrated movies) are an exciting taboo -- every US comedy these days has an "unrated" edition.)

If TV was more permissive I wonder if programs like Two and Half Men might suddenly seem dull and childish.

KXB said...

Her name is Kat Dennings (with an S), Ken; by the way, those cum stain jokes came from the "minds" of Michael Patrick King (fresh from making TWO atrocious Sex and the City movies that totaled 5 hours and no good jokes) and Whitney Cummings (no comment, as I don't want to get banned here)...

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Funny you mentioned that cum stain jokes aren't appropriate for network TV. I recall seeing one in an episode of ER, back in 2003.

Rob M said...

2 Good Girls is the product of Michael Patrick Kelly, who loves a certain formula as judged by Sex And The City.

Take appealing actresses.
Saddle them with dialogue no real human ever says.
Write lame single entendre jokes.
Deliver them with timing and repetition that would give even Jay Leno pause.
Repeat.

Two and A Half Men can at least make the dirty funny with actors that can sell the smut. It's never been a great show, but it's made me laugh. Watching 2 Broke Girls I merely felt like my time had been wasted.

As for Two and A Half Men, Chuck Lorre truly missed an opportunity for funny, simply by making the unseen Charlie Sheen into a character. He could have stretched his death out over a three or four episode arc having the cast detail his unseen exploits and then his funeral. The funeral provided a funny line about what happened to his body, but the sex jokes at the funeral fell flatter than normal.

As for Kutcher he appeared to be woefully miscast. How they're going to build a decent season out of a millionaire version of his 70's show character is beyond me.

The Roast of Charlie Sheen was also an odd affair, with the panel of roasters being relatively thin and obscure, and many of the best lines going to Charlie. When you have trouble coming up with good Charlie Sheen roast jokes, you know you have a problem.

Mary Stella said...

I have the same question as Cap'n Bob about whether cum stain jokes are thought by some to be more funny in the post-Clinton/Lewinsky era. Was Something About Mary the coming of age for jokes with this subject? (Oh, how tempted I was to type that with a u, but I resisted.)

wv= buttoss. Butt toss. Needs no elaboration

Anonymous said...

Re: juvenile humor. That is the problem here. Hammering these formerly unmentionable topics is returning us to junior high, when it was cool and exciting to harp on such things, because we were kids spreading our wings. But we all supposedly grew up. Why do the networks and "popular" (or "poop-ular" re: the wind passing the 1/2 man did last night on Lorre's schlock-fest) culture think it's cool and exciting to return us to junior high again?? Because that's the coveted demo, I suppose. How depressing.

Johnny Walker said...

(My kingdom for an edit button.)

jbryant said...

Kirk: If I recall correctly, the "shit" episode of SOUTH PARK was in response to CBS allowing CHICAGO HOPE to use the word in an episode in prime time.

MikeN said...

The movies went in that direction because the Catholic Church stopped rating the movies.

pumpkinhead said...

My favorite joke that sneaked through, from Gilligan's Island:

Ginger: I've been stuck on this island for a long time, and I want you to get me off.

Robot: I'm not programmed for that function.

Craig Russell said...

All primetime network TV is a mirror of society. In 1981, 91 or even 2001 clam chowder and cum jokes were over the line. In 2011 the only word left on mainstream Cable or Network TV that isn't said is "Fuck". The Sheen roast on Comedy Central (on at the same time as 2 Broke Cum Whores) left "Shit" in, but bleeped "Fuck".

This all had to pass suits and censors before hitting the air. If it was "too far" it wouldn't have made it on the air. Just the simple difference between 1981 and 2011.

If you really want to see this mirror in action, look at the TOP 40 charts. The songs Ken used to play on the radio in the 70's were NOTHING as compared to today. Not much different than TV.

BTW, I actually didn't mind the 2 waitress wisecrackers...That Kat Dennings is...built. And I will leave it at that. It, also, has someplace to go, they have the money goal which they are keeping track of at the end of the show. If you got that far, they need $250,000 to open a cupcake store. And they have 387 odd dollars to this point. Similar to HIMYM...at somepoint, in the future they will get 250K, and the show could be over. Same with HIMYM. The show can end at somepoint, but the story telling is set 20 years in the future. It gives the show someplace to go.

That Jenna Elfman show last year had no where to go. She had the baby. Show over. (And it was) All great shows have an end somewhere. (MASH, Frasier, Mad About You, Wonder Years, etc) HOW they get to the end is the difference between good and GREAT shows.

Frank said...

I knew cum jokes would make a happy cum back story!

Rich D said...

I’ll admit that I was thrown off by those jokes as well, to the point where I turned to my girlfriend and remarked “I think the PTC is protesting the wrong show.” Overall, though I think that the show was pretty faithful to co-creator Whitney Cummings’ stand-up voice, perhaps more so than the reviews for the show see is starring in seem to indicate. The cast was generally good, but I hope that they find more for Garret Morris to do, and that when he gets it he can ratchet back his tendency to overplay things.

Neil D said...

Oh, I forgot to ask -- in the Newsradio script, who was responsible?

captcha: sempayen -- there's a relevant joke in there somewhere... getting paid in... nah, never mind.

cshel said...

I thought 2 Broke Girls was dumb. It felt and looked very old-timey sit-commy to me, despite the lame cum jokes. And it was like a polyester version of something trying too hard to be edgy. Snore.

Why is it so hard to create a decent sitcom? And it's frustrating when good ones get yanked.

I wish they would do more shows in all genres that have a predetermined limited run. They could do some cool shows/stories that are only meant to last a season or two.

HogsAteMySister said...

Bill Clinton was a great cum stain joke. The biggest. Besides Monica. Let it lay. Ahem.

dictionary.com said...

smarmy: excessively or unctuously flattering, ingratiating, servile, etc.: the emcee with the smarmy welcome.

???

Jessica Anderson said...

This is off topic of sex jokes, but still about 2 Broke Girls. Did it throw anyone else that she gave her SAT score on the 2400 hundred scale (as opposed to 1600), but it was the high school class of 2007 that was the first class to take the new test and yet somehow she had already gone to undergrad and Wharton by 2011? I guess maybe she graduated college two years early, but I think it would've just made a lot more sense to do it on a 1600 scale...maybe I'm being too picky, but it really took me out of that moment.

Todd Ayres said...

I would warn some of you to not get caught in the time warp. I have tried to watch older shows as well and constantly get caught up in how great or terrible they were. Shows that hold up (for me) from my childhood: Cheers, Roseanne etc. Those that do not: Fresh Prince, Saved By the Bell etc. Fact is, some shows are popular and remain timeless. Others are stuck in a time in which it should remain.

That said, 2 Broke Girls LOOKS like it's from the early 90's. The sets look like a high school play. However, the acting and some of the jokes actually made me laugh out loud. And c'mon. It's a PILOT! We all know how rushed and phony those tend to be. I watch the Friends pilot and cringe at how stereotypical most of the characters were.

My hypothesis is a generation gap. I saw nothing offensive in this show at all and perhaps it's because of its classic sitcom feel. I don't know if y'all have been on the internet... But there's some pretty racy stuff on there too...

jbryant said...

FWIW, "dictionary.com," Merriam-Webster also accepts "of low sleazy taste or quality" as a definition of smarmy.

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

Yeesh. I just watched the new Two and Half Men. The thing that bugged me most, far more than any sex-based jokes, was its lack of taste, and the fact that I didn't laugh once. It was just a show about horrible, shallow characters with no redeeming qualities. Quite frankly a cum stain joke would have been a welcome relief from the nasty personalities on display.

Is this what passes for comedy now? A mother pretending to weep at her dead son's funeral, and an explicit description of someone's demise. I loved the Ealing Comedies, but this was just mean and nasty.

I'm also really shocked that such a big show couldn't muster more than this out of the gate. I've never been a big fan of THM, but it has made me laugh. I guess the challenge of replacing the main character in a sitcom is (unsurprisingly) extremely difficult to surmount, but if this was a pilot episode (and it kind of was), I wouldn't pick it up.

I don't like to dance on people's graves (unlike the writers and characters of THM), but I think I may join Charlie Sheen in not exactly getting upset at the probability that not many people will be tuning in to see episode 2.

Gary Pratt said...

My wife and I hadn't watched a sitcom in several years when we decided to give 2 Broke Girls a try. I DVR'd it and read your post and the comments before watching it tonight.

I was amazed at how horrible the show was. It was so crude that we only watched the first 5 minutes (if that much).

Thanks for the warning, Ken! Too bad I didn't just avoid the show altogether.

Brian Doan said...

A Michael Patrick King show that's built on smug, tired sex jokes? Knock me over with a feather.

If I recall, the SOUTH PARK episode about FAMILY GUY was less about whether FG was "crass," and more about FAMILY GUY being full of obvious, unfunny non-sequiturs that its producers think are daring and cutting edge (hence the manatees 'writing' scripts by pushing together floating balls with random words on them). Which I think is pretty true, actually.

Skipped Chuck Lorre's Madhouse of Unfunny, but I did enjoy THE NEW GIRL. The writing was a little scattershot, as it tried to set up multiple premises and a "quirky" tone, but the cast is very appealing. And the show created a charming atmosphere and made me care enough about the characters that I'm curious to come back and watch again next week, which is what my favorite sitcoms always did.

Rob M said...

The problem with all of the sex jokes in the series is that they called attention to themselves like an 8 year old dropping an F-bomb.

If you watch any episode of Sex And The City you'll see similar jokes told with a similar sledgehammer. I don't think Michael Patrick King is capable of subtlety.

That's why I'm pretty sure the show will be like the pilot, except perhaps even more so later.

Monica said...

Just to let you know that the London Screenwriters' Festival 2011 will have a session on writing sitcoms, amongst many other events (http://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com).

Best
Monica

Tom M. said...

I think it's kind of amazing that a few people are singling out Arrested Development for avoiding dirty jokes and sex jokes. Love the show, but let's be real here. One of the running plots was that a teenage boy wanted to have sex with his teenage cousin. And about 90% of Tobias' dialogue was double entendres for homosexuality. And Lindsay walked around the house wearing a shirt that said "SLUT." And GOB was a male stripper. And about 30% of the jokes were sex jokes.

I mean, they were GREAT jokes. And It was an awesome show. But maybe we could find a better example of "clean" comedy?

Anonymous said...

I expected more from 2 Broke Girls. Not sure why but I did. The premise was stupid and the jokes were not funny. I'll give it one or two more tries to see if it improves, but I don't think it will.

Chris Lawrence said...

Ironically NewsRadio did, very early on, air an episode where a punchline was that Beth was sitting on the couch just after Lisa and Dave had a quickie there. (And they had another episode where Phil Hartman excessively used the word "penis" to the extent that the network refused to air it for a year.) So the stain plot wouldn't have been that far-fetched for the show, although they'd have had to be far more subtle about it then than today.