By Diana Losen
As a tireless journalist devoted to seeking truth everywhere, I undertook the significant task of watching multiple episodes of each of the shows I reviewed so that you don’t have to bemoan those 20 minutes you won’t ever get back. One common theme I gleaned is: It’s a good time to be a supporting character. They’re stealing spotlights right and left and in some cases are all that’s keeping me watching. Some shows seem to be forgetting that it should save the most screen time for its strongest, funniest characters while others are having trouble spreading the funny around. On the sunny-side up, there are a lot of quality, truly funny shows available right now. But don’t just take my word for it – peruse these short reviews I wrote. And then take my word for it.
Go On – 95
My favorite new sitcom of the Fall. Go On hits just the right balance of witty and wacky, with its band of strange characters and their sarcastic new member Ryan played by Matthew Perry. (Yay, he’s back on TV!) Perry’s still a pro at cracking wise and paints a main character just the right blend of humorous and human. While there are usually a moment or two of each episode that hovers over honest emotion and grief, the show is quick to make light again, staying true to its brand as a sitcom. This also reflects the attitude of its main character: vulnerability’s best in baby steps with as many layers of snark in between as possible.The supporting cast are also very entertaining and include characters ranging from the perpetually angry, the brilliantly creepy, and the token cat lady. Go On: I hope you do.
The Mindy Project – 88
This show is a twenty minute foray into charming, smartly written Rom Com. Unlike a depressing number of romantic comedies, this show actually delivers on the comedy. It secures laughs through a variety of humor strategies ranging from the ridiclous (see Morgan: ex-Con and male nurse) and the quippy Mindy. It strikes a tone similar to Bridget Jones Diary: not perfect, not trying to be, still funny.
Ben and Kate – 76
The title characters are nothing new. Neurotic, awkward sister and wacky, stuck-in-a-rut brother. Thankfully, the supporting characters prove more original and interesting. Ben’s dynamic with Tommy is entertaining as is the ridiculous, Australian BJ who has no filter for her often outrageous thoughts. Thank God for that, because without BJ providing the most consistent laughs I wouldn’t watch the show at all.
The New Normal – 70
The New Normal has snappy enough dialogue and a crisp pace. Pity it feels like a story I’ve heard before. The character of the overblown, over-hateful bigot grandmother alone is tiresome. If the show keeps spreading its reach to different topics and exploring the main characters as people who have personalities that extend beyond their sexual orientation – it could prove to be very funny. Here’s hoping The New Normal earns the first part of it’s title.
Animal Practice – 65
This is one of those sitcoms that isn’t good or awful enough to laugh at. It feels like a draft of a show not ready to be aired and in that way the second part of the title seems fitting. It’s practice. The character Angela is clearly meant to be the kooky one but has only been written with one layer of weird. The writers seem unwilling to write characters who are multi-faceted in their strangeness. Similarly Dr. Coleman is ever enamored of his own awesomeness while Dorothy is always trying too hard at something. The story lines may change, but the jokes don’t seem to.
Returning Sitcoms on the Menu
Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23 – 65
You might want to skip watching her show too. Krysten Ritter seems to delight in playing the nonchalant title B, but the fun the audience can get out of watching pales in comparison to hers. If you’re hankering for a sighting of James Van Der Beek and tired of Dawson Creek’s re-runs, it’s worth watching for a bit. He proves a good sport, traipsing around playing a silly version of himself. The show is solidly sort of okay-ish, but if you’re looking for high quality, there are a lot of other sitcoms that deserve your attention more.
The Office – 85
Yes, it’s still funny, but I admit to feeling a little relieved that this will be the farewell season. The longer a show continues, the harder it is for its characters to surprise us anymore. This is a problem as the element of surprise is kind of the backbone of good comedy. Audiences don’t want to see punchlines coming.
Happy Endings – 85
The strength of this show lies in the friendship dynamic between the main characters that lets them mock each other without shame or stopping. Get in on the snark.
Modern Family – 90
Still a solid show although two of its stronger characters are getting less and less funny. Gloria poves hormonal and cranky in a way that is just…hormonal and cranky. Her punchlines lack punch. Cam, who at the beginning of the show was one of the funniest, most interesting characters has been reduced to one or two notes, both of which register high and whiny. Thank God for Phil.
Parks and Recreation – 95
Delightful as ever. The beauty of this show is in its many, colorful characters. Here’s a show that has seen the value in giving everyone a different humorous spin, down to its smallest side characters of talk show hosts and acquaintances.
After all my viewings, I was able to reflect on the variety of sitcoms available these days. Some would say there’s: satirical, witty, crude, physical, wacky etc… While these distinctions certainly exist, there are only two varieties that matter: Funny or Not Funny. To hit a timely note, the amount of shows that land in the first category this fall is something to be thankful for.