Save Mindy!

The Mindy ProjectAs if cold, dark winter nights aren’t bad enough, this week Fox released the news that, due to low ratings, as of January 28th, The Mindy Project will go on hiatus until April – essentially bumping it from the winter schedule.

This is horrible news for Mindy lovers.  The comedienne’s sitcom is one of the funniest on television and by far the best on Tuesday nights, a night filled with good comedies.

This is my plea to readers to catch up on this hilarious, hero-less 30 minute comedy teeming with celebrity guest stars that actually complement the show.  Trust me, your tv lineup will be better for it.

In case you haven’t checked it out, here are some highlights from this season:

Fall TV 2013: New Sitcoms

After a raucous wedding weekend all I wanted to do on Monday night was to curl up on the couch and watch something light.  It turns out I don’t have a Monday watch list and there wasn’t anything that caught my attention.  Instead, I decided to surf the net for some new comedies I’d heard about but had yet to watch and see if there was a hidden gem in the mix – which is rarely the case.

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First, I found Package Deal, a new sitcom about a girl who has to accept her boyfriend’s oddball brothers for the sake of their relationship.  Sadly, it was so bad I turned it off after the first few lead-in jokes that were so hammered by a laugh track that I was cringing before the opening credits.  I say sadly, because it’s a Canadian show and we, as a country, can do much, much better. Canadians are funny. Shame on us.

My rating: I hope it doesn’t last.

My IMDB rating: 1/10.

This also led me to wonder why comedies are still using a laugh track.  Doesn’t everyone find stock laughter annoying by now? Sure, there are a lot of successful sitcoms that used (and I use the past tense purposely because I don’t find The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men funny. At all.) the laugh track to their advantage: Seinfeld, Will and Grace, Friends – but is it still relevant or even necessary as tv enters a new Golden Age of creativity? I think not.  Case and point was the next show I found:

mom

Mom is also a new sitcom with a laugh track about dysfunctional moms played by two actresses that I really like: Alison Janney and Anna Faris.  Faris is a talented comedian who, I feel, is forever dragged down by bad material.  This happens to be more of the same.  Faris’ performance is decent but completely ill-timed with the laugh track.  Only Alison Janney, a consummate professional, is so natural in front of the multiple camera format and laugh track that she provides the only humourous moments of the show.  I lasted into the second episode because I wanted so much to like it but seriously, the laugh track is  doing the show no favours and I feel it would work better without it.

My rating: I wouldn’t be surprised if this show came into its own but so far I’m not interested.

My IMDB rating: 4/10

DADS

Finally, in typical Seth McFarlane fashion, the laugh track in his new sitcom Dads is used ironically, or at least I hope it is.  The jokes are so Republican (read offensive) or so not funny that the canned bubbles of laughter that burst at the predictable punchlines is almost funny in itself. Almost.  Again, a talented cast, including one of my favourites Giovanni Ribisi, is completely wasted and I couldn’t make it through the episode despite one or two moments that were genuinely funny.

My rating: I expect more MacFarlane.

My IMDB rating: 3.5/10

There are only two new comedies that I have been able to stomach this Fall season and neither of them have laugh tracks.

the crazy ones

The first, The Crazy Ones, from super comedy creator David E. Kelley, stars Robin Williams as an ad agency exec who might be losing his mind or his touch.  The show is funny because Robin Williams is funny and watching James Wolk’s character Zach Cooper try to keep up with him and roll with his frenetic improv is magic.  I have never been a fan of Sarah Michelle Geller’s acting and this show has not changed my opinion.  While I understand that she is meant to be the voice of reason, either it’s her performance that is lacking or the writing because her ‘I can’t believe he just did that’ facial expression was so overused to pass an incorrect judgement on Williams’ brilliance – a trite cliché for storytelling in general – that I hoped for scenes without her.  That said, the show itself and overall cast (that includes an alumni from the Mindy Project and the New Adventures of Old Christine) has the potential to become very funny.

My rating: Wolk and Williams are worth the 30 minutes.

My IMDB rating: 6.5 but I guarantee it will be up to a 7 before Christmas.

brooklyn nine nine

Finally, Andy Samberg’s departure from SNL has led to Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  For me the premise, a sitcom, cop show, is funny.  Andy Samberg is funny.  Some of the characters do a good job of getting some laughs but generally without Samberg the show would falter.  His timing is impeccable and it seems that this is another show that could grow into its skin as the cast becomes better at feeding off each other or as the writing grows stronger so it doesn’t rely so heavily on delivery.

My rating: I’m looking forward to this show getting good.

My IMDB rating: 6.5

Thanks Fall Season of New Pilots but until The Crazy Ones or Brooklyn Nine-Nine have a few episodes under their belt, I think I’ll stick with what I know and love:

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Veep (2012 – )

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Created by: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Sufe Bradshaw, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole

Leave it to Armando Iannucci, the man behind the critically acclaimed BBC series The Thick of It, to add some genuine humour to the traditional American sitcom without having to copy the popular mockumentary style that has almost become a prerequisite for success (not that there’s anything wrong with that; three of my favourite comedies follow the style, if not more).  Veep is a 30 min look into the office of the first female, yet innocuous, American Vice President, Selina Meyer, played with characteristic hilarity by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her fumbling support staff.

What I like: While most critics panned the show’s first season with reason, almost anything Julia Louis-Dreyfus does makes me laugh.  From Elaine, to Christine (in a much underrated and under watched series) and now Selina Meyer, Louis-Dreyfus manages to continually transform herself to suit her characters, an almost impossible feat for sitcom actors.   The show also brings back a loveable face in Tony Hale, of Arrested Development fame, as Meyer’s “bag man” whose character is pleasantly reminiscent of Buster Bluth.  The supporting cast is stacked with eccentric and funny characters who are constantly trying to avoid image catastrophes.  It is a winning combination.

What I don’t like:  Only through my research did I realize that what made Armando’s The Thick of It, so popular was his flagrant use of profanity that, as one critic put it, turned “swearing into poetry”.  He does the same thing here but with a lesser payoff.  The f word often substitutes for, or unnecessarily overpowers, a punch line.  Perhaps the swearing is supposed to add something to a show that fits cleanly within its genre but it does not distract us from the fact that each episode follows a formula of stock characters finding themselves in compromising situations.  However, with the White House as the backdrop the stakes are higher and funnier for each blunder, like a press release photo of a hostage recovery operation that features Meyer distracted by her phone because all the other publishable options were unflattering to the President.

My rating:   Julia raises the bar, yet again.

IMDb : 7.1         metacritic: 72%

Airs: Sundays on HBO.  Season 2 returns June 2.

Tuesday Night Comedy

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What to do on a Tuesday night when it’s -30C degrees? Grab a drink, curl up on the couch and tune in to New Girl at 9pm followed by The Mindy Project at 9:30pm.  These two sitcoms make my Tuesday night.  Granted, I know a lot of us are ‘over’ the genre (what do people see in The Big Bang Theory?!) and both of these are sitcoms in their truest form:  22 minutes of quirky characters finding themselves in compromising predicaments; but that doesn’t preclude them from being funny.  In fact, they feature two of the funniest people on television in Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Max Greenfield as New Girl’s Schmidt and the eponymous Mindy Kaling.  Here’s a tidbit about both but there’s no real point in critiquing them because a) I enjoy them for what they are: laugh out loud (literally…) funny and b) I’ll let the material speak for itself.

New Girl (2011 – )

Created by: Elizabeth Meriwether
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson

IMDB: 7.9/10
Airs:  Fox, CityTV Tuesday, 9pm.


Video courtesy of cooooourtneyy
**These clips don’t even include Season 2’s ‘drum roll’, ‘rebranding party’, ‘Halloween headbutt’,  ‘stripper dance’ or, of course, the ‘Douche Bag Jar’.

The Mindy Project (2012 – )

Created by: Mindy Kaling
Starring: Mindy Kaling, Chris Messina and Ed Weeks

IMDB: 6.4/10
Airs:  Fox, CityTV Tuesday, 9:30pm.

My rating: The writing and casting are far better in New Girl but Mindy Kaling may be the funniest woman on TV at the moment.