The land where comedy goes to die

Posted on May 28, 2012


You’ve got to give it to the USA, they’ve come up with some gems over the years – like the Internet, rock ‘n’ roll and home delivered pizza. But lately there’s a more inferior collection of Yankee exports wafting across the Atlantic, in the form of very specifically titled, very specifically crap new TV shows.

American sitcoms are television’s answer to Ibuprofen – something you resort to when your frazzled brain needs to unwind. But they’re becoming bizarre. It seems that outside the safe paradigms of high-school-teen-drama and young- professionals-trying-to-make-it-in-the-city, that have dominated US TV for so long, some producers just don’t know what to do. So they get brainstorming, neck 13 espressos, have a monumental panic attack and come up with a really ‘wacky’ (breathtakingly stupid) concept that’s going to be impossible to maintain for more than seven or eight episodes.

First there was New Girl. Moderately funny in places, and holy jumping squirrels isn’t Zooey Deschanel cute when she wears nine different hues of polka dot within one episode, but ultimately doomed to run out of steam. The whole show hinges on the premise that Deschanel’s character is the new kid on the block in an apartment full of (gasp) boys, but we all know that eventually she actually won’t be the new girl any longer. This is pretty inevitable thanks to the presence of, you know, time. Then what?  

Er helloooo, I said KITTENS!

Then we have MTV’s I Just Want My Pants Back. Woah! What kind of dastardly plot could a crazy name like that be camouflaging? Maybe ALIENS invade the planet on a murderous mission to build their mother-ship out of human undergarments, or perhaps it’s the tragic tale of a young knicker thief who steals pants to fund his marmite addiction. No? Ah, so it’s a group of twenty-somethings trying to make it in Brooklyn then. Which is more or less a carbon copy of all the other sitcoms, just cunningly disguised with a silly name. Sneaky, MTV. I see what you’re doing there. Tragically the programme seems to have been axed after just one series, after receiving poor ratings. I can’t think why.

Next up is 2 Broke Girls – yes they really are going to drag out an entire series on the premise that there are two girls, and they’re really poor. Oh, and they don’t really like each other to start with. Or something. Nothing to see here, people.

The latest 30-minute window of joy I give you, which premiered on E4 last week with the strangest title yet, is Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23. Perhaps a chilling tale about a psychopathic killer who gets his victims by hiding arsenic in processed meat? Nope, it’s about two girls that don’t get along…wait, this sounds familiar. See above. Somehow this show actually has OK-ish reviews, most of which cite its saving grace as James Van Der Beek who plays himself, and laments the lonely road he walks as an actor immortalised as Dawson from Dawson’s Creek. Yes, you heard it, the sound of comedy DYING.

No-one takes me seriously as an actor anymore, not even in a man vest, GOD…

One thing all these shows have in common is ridiculously perfect, beautifully and colourfully furnished homes. This is understandable, as bad jokes and canned laughter are far more acceptable if they’re set against the backdrop of a delightful lamp.

But actually, you don’t need to even watch these programmes. I’m serious – you can get all you need from the 30-second-long adverts which give away more or less every single punchline for the upcoming episode – the rest is just humourless filler and lovely curtains. Then there are the signature musical riffs – usually on the piano – that blare out between scenes, approximately every 45 seconds, which signify that some kind of, something’s about to…no, nothing of note ever actually happens.

Since the hit show Friends departed our screens and left a dearth of genuinely funny, light American entertainment on TV, you really are better off reaching for the hard drugs (I mean aspirin, children, put that crack down AT ONCE) to ease a tired mind – because you won’t find any relief here.

Image credits

Sitcom blooper reel –
Zooey Deschanel –
James Van Der Beek –