Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Comedy

I've been watching old episodes of Frasier recently and I can't help wondering, what happened with clever, witty comedy?  Judd Apatow and whoever was responsible for the American Pie movies have relegated movie comedy to purely lowest common denominator.  Nothing but juvenile, low brow sex and fart jokes with some drug humor thrown in.  Movies have become a race to the bottom where, I imagine, the directors end filming not with the traditional 'cut' but instead 'the Aristocrats!'.  Judd Apatow is the worst thing to happen to comedy since the laugh track.

Which brings me to television comedy.  The majority of shows seem to fall into the category of formulaic sitcoms.  Stereotypical characters (who come across more as caricatures) getting themselves into ridiculous situations followed by forced laughter from a presumably drugged studio audience.  Throw in some outlandish characters doing off the wall things (i.e. Tracy Morgan's character on 30 Rock), some characters with funny sounding names (the entire premise of the now cancelled Outsourced), and a guy with funny hair and glasses (see The IT Crowd) and you've got yourself a show.  I'm reminded of Ricky Gervais' character on the show Extras - his dreams seemingly come true as he gets the opportunity to star in his own sitcom but soon turns into self loathing as the network turns his character into a guy with a funny wig and glasses shouting catch phrases.  This excerpt from Extras between Ricky Gervais' character (Andy Millman) and his agent just about sums it up:

Andy Millman: It's bad.
Agent: It's not BAD, is it.
Andy Millman: It is.
Agent: No, "bad" suggests that, you know, it's evil or something. You know, it's not - It's poor... it's rubbish... you know, it's shit - it's a shit sitcom.
Andy Millman: It's a shitcom! Oh, we've sorted that out, thanks very much. That's the career over.
Agent: That's what one of the reviewers said!
 
And while I'm thinking about it, I have to throw in this clip of David Bowie on the show. 


Even shows like the Big Bang Theory which started out clever have devolved into your standard relationship jokes which have been done a thousand times before on a thousand other shows.  The main characters are supposed to be brilliant physicists, but I saw a recent episode where they spent 3 or 4 straight minutes making erection jokes.  I believe that's jumped the shark.  And I won't even get started on the steady decline of the Simpsons or the re-introduction of Futurama which has been nothing short of a disaster. 

So I guess my question is this:  is comedy dead?  Is this the fallout from the writers strike a couple years ago?  Is there some other reason behind the death of comedy?  I'm hoping for something fresh and original to come along, but instead I'll just have to settle for the resurrection of Arrested Development and hope it doesn't let me down too. 
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