Thursday, September 04, 2014
Sitcoms are hard
Now it can be argued that these new R&M-lite sitcoms are fresh because they don’t follow established rhythms, and the fact that the performers are somewhat amateurish is the great appeal. And that’s fine for five-minute webisodes.
But for my money, if I’m going to devote a full half hour I would prefer a great comic actress like Julia-Louis Dreyfus who has acting chops delivering lines from seasoned comedy writers who really know how to create stories, get the most bang for their buck out of comic situations, and can provide funny lines on a consistent not sporadic basis.
All three of these comedy teams are talented. I am a huge fan of Garfunkel & Oats’ songs. They’re funny, razor sharp, and inspired. But every word is clearly tailored. They didn’t just start riffing.
Abbi and Ilana from BROAD CITY are fresh faces, and it feels like they’re trying to do a funny GIRLS, but again, it’s so uneven. Agreeing to clean someone's apartment half naked for $200 and then learning the guy can't pay, thinks he's an actual baby, wears a diaper, and has an accident is an example of their hilarity. "Bad job. Really bad job."
But in all of these shows, they could use some direction and creative guidance. Y’see, here’s the dirty little secret:
SITCOMS ARE HARD
Real hard. Real fucking hard. You can’t just point a camera at two amusing women and expect a successful sitcom. The characters need a purpose, the show has to be about something, there have to be relationships, the comedy must payoff, and you have to care about the people. Just stumbling through life, encountering quirky characters, and slipping on urine isn’t enough.
These shows all feel like they’re taking short cuts.
Maybe that’s the Faustian contract they have had to make. Their sitcoms got picked up simply because they are cheaper to produce. They don’t need big staffs. They don’t need elaborate sets or four days of rehearsal. “Let’s just do a scene where we go to a tax accountant with a bag of receipts and drive him crazy.” “Cool. Let’s do that.”
But I think for the stars, they’re doing themselves a disservice. Whether it’s true or not, it appears they’re settling. All three R&M’s have great potential. They’re naturally funny. And with time, some direction, and being really really tough on the material their shows could blossom. At the end of the day, you are competing against Julia-Louis Dreyfus, and Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Game on. Do better.