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Archive for the ‘30 Rock’ Category

5.  30 Rock – NBC Thursdays 9:30/8:30

4.  Cougar Town – ABC Wednesdays 9:30/8:30

3.  Nurse Jackie – Showtime Mondays (Premiers March 22) 10:00/9:00


2.  Parks and Recreation – NBC Thursdays 8:30/7:30

1.  United States of Tara – Showtime Mondays (Premiers March 22) 9:30/8:30


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I’m not going to lie, you guys. I am REALLY excited about today’s list.

I love the “You’re NOT my father!” moment of pretty much anything. One of our most gloriously over-used cliches in both TV and film, it’s pretty self-explanatory. A well-meaning authority figure tries to instill a little wisdom or caring and the uncaring brat responds with that most below-the-belt of blows- “You are not my biological parent.” It’s best when used in a sitcom so there’s a proper storm-out or run up the stairs (A Full House specialty, the run up the stairs) and the studio audience can go, “Ooooooooooh.” I highly encourage you to say, “Oooooh” at the end of each entry, it really does make a world of difference.

5. Shawn Hunter to Mr. Turner in “Cult Fiction” on Boy Meets World (1997)

Ah yes, the classic “Cult Fiction” episode. Occasionally, a series will whip out the old “main character joins a cult” situation (Kelly on 90210, Tori Spelling and that religion that’s supposed to be Scientology on So Notorious, Veronica Mars tries to live on that farm in that one episode) and who doesn’t love TV’s squishy take on what a cult is really like (namely, there is so much hugging involved that this can’t be kosher). When it comes to Boy Meets World, poor (ha ha ha, SHAWN’S POOR!) Shawn Hunter has been having a hard time of it lately- his trailer trash lifestyle has become even more trailer-tastic after his dad takes off after his wayward mom and leaves Shawn in the care of first the Matthews (who clearly don’t know what to do with someone who wears so much flannel and doesn’t appreciate clean cut wisecracks from a little sis) and then oh-so-cool teacher Mr. Turner, not at all sketchy for a single man with a Jheri-curl to take in a teenage boy. When Shawn takes up with the Huggers, Mr. Turner steps in and obviously Shawn’s not going to listen to someone who is NOT HIS FATHER. Don’t you ever watch television, Mr. Turner? God.

4. Jessie Spano to her New Stepmom in “Palm Springs Weekend I & II” on Saved By the Bell (1991)

Some woman at the hotel where the SBTB Palm Springs episode was filmed. I love the internet.

Some woman at the hotel where the SBTB Palm Springs episode was filmed. I love the internet.

This is the Saved By the Bell episode where you muttered to yourself, “I think there’s something wrong with Jessie Spano.” She REALLY hates her new stepmom to-be. Like, tries to drown her in the Palm Springs pool hates-her (not ok, Mama). Although, if I were forced to wear that heinous bridesmaid dress, I might also consider making snide remarks about my dad’s fiance’s youth and inappropriate hotness to everyone too. I mean, she’s a aerobics instructor for God’s sake. I think we all know why this wedding is taking place.

But don’t worry. Zack Morris, next door neighbor, best friend, always there with a snappy blazer, is there for some friendly advice. Namely, suck it up and get back to the wedding, in the name of all that is holy so we can end this episode and move on to California Dreams where I think Jake and Tiffani are about to hook up in the gang’s garage thisisthebestSaturdaymorningever!

3.Tracy Morgan to Everyone Who Tries to Tell Him What To Do in “Rosemary’s Baby” on 30 Rock (2007)

You have no idea how much I wish there was a clip of this scene. Basically, Tracy has an issue- whenever an authority figure (Jack, in this case) tells him not to do something, he has to do it. Even dog-fighting, the most repulsive thing a person could do (which Grizz and Dot-Com hilariously try to circumvent by recruiting poodles). When Jack tries to talk some sense into Tracy, he retorts, “You’re not my dad!” And prompts a series of flashbacks when Tracy was a little boy, played by Elijah Cook who is SPOT-ON with an attitudinal delivery that just kills me every time. It goes something like this:

“Tracy, don’t play with matches!”

“You’re not my dad!”

“Tracy, don’t stare directly at the sun! It’ll make you crazy!”

“You’re not my dad!”

And my favorite- little Tracy’s dressed for church in a red dress and matching hat. “Tracy! You’re not going out dressed like that!”

“You’re not my dad!”

AAAAAND scene. Seriously, Hulu, I can’t believe you want to charge me and yet you don’t even have that clip. Pathetic.

2. Buffy Summers to Ted (John Ritter) in “Ted” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)

In one of Buffy‘s greatest episodes ever, John Ritter plays Ted, new boyfriend to Buffy’s mother, poor suffering Joyce. Everything seems dandy except Buffy thinks he’s a giant creep. Nobody else does though, since Ted’s making these cookies with dreamy tranquilizers in them, that make everyone just love the guy. We see flashes of the real Ted though, when he tries to smack Buffy around and it’s all the more creepy and awful because nobody sees it or is really on her side. So when she has enough and roundhouse kicks him down the stairs, it’s a short-lived rush of satisfaction. See, Buffy actually kills Ted and the ramifications of her killing a person, not a demon or a vampire, are pretty heady. (Not to mention the most dramatic “You’re not my father!” overreaction ever).

Luckily for all of us, he’s actually a sociopathic robot who comes back to life to try and recruit Joyce into living with him in his creepy basement of love. Which means we get to see Buffy’s fears validated. And she gets to kill him again, always a bonus.

1. Will Smith to Uncle Phil in “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1994)

This picture is unrelated. It just makes me laugh.

Welcome to the part of the program where I tear up uncontrollably. I’ve mentioned previously my inability to watch this episode of what has to be one of the most ridiculous sitcoms of all time without getting choked up and making excuses like, “I’m sorry, there’s a ceiling tile in the bathroom that needs my attention” so that my friends don’t mock me when Will blows up at Uncle Phil for not exactly being psyched that his deadbeat dad Lou (Ben Vereen NO!) has shown up to make yet more false promises. And then when Lou makes an excuse about bailing on him AGAIN and Will breaks down I just, I can’t- I’m sorry, there’s a ceiling tile in the bathroom that needs my attention right now. (PS originally my choice for this week’s topic was “Very Special Episodes on Sitcoms That Actually Really Did Make Me Cry Don’t Judge Me” so you see we’re killing two birds here.)

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by Beal

5.  Family Guy “I Dream of Jesus” featuring “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen (October 5, 2008)

foto-trashmen-surfin-bird-1964jpgIn 1963 this extremely annoying song reached #4 on the American Billboard Hot 100, (forcing me to assume that when it came to entertainment, the people of the 1960’s were none too discerning). After the episode was released in the UK in April 2009, the song reached #50 on the UK charts, a feat it failed to do when it was released in 1963 (when British people apparently still had standards). At any rate, this episode is hilarious (possibly my favorite) and it’s all because of this ridiculous song. Peter hears the song while the Griffins are out to eat at an authentic 50’s diner and the owner/manager allows him to take the record home because they were about to throw it away (with good reason). It quickly becomes Peter’s new favorite thing and the ONLY thing he can focus on. Brian and Stewie steal the record while he’s sleeping and destroy it Office Space style, before going to every record shop in town and scooping up every copy so that they will never have to hear this golden oldie again. You didn’t know about this? So what you’re saying is that you haven’t heard. . .

4.  30 Rock “Larry King” featuring “99 Luftballons” by Nena (February 26, 2009)

album-99-luftballonsCold war era German protest song; Deceased grandmother’s last recording of sentimental lullaby? Nena; Nana? What’s the difference? When mayhem and chaos plague New York City (due to some uneducated drivel Tracy spews during his interview on Larry King Live) Liz Lemon requires an escort to Long Island City to fetch her cell phone, which she left in a cab. She drags Kenneth along and the debate begins as to whether they’re REAL friends or if Liz just uses him when she needs something. (He’s a nice guy and all, but can anyone REALLY be friends with Kenneth?) What Kenneth doesn’t know (apart from all social cues) is that Liz desperately wants to retriever her phone because the cabbie that found it, also found “adult” pictures of Liz on it! Here’s the part where Liz makes up a fantastic lie that involves not only a dead grandmother, but a 26 year old international pop phenomenon.

3.  Cougar Town “Into the Great Wide Open*” featuring “Single Ladies” by Beyonce (September 30, 2009)

BeyonceSingleLadiesThat’s right, a show that’s been on for less than two months is making my list AGAIN. And even though my street cred is about to plummet, I do enjoy a little “Single Ladies” in my life (ask Judi why she does or does not hate this song) ESPECIALLY when it’s used in a montage of shameless candid photos from a night of middle-aged mayhem. Remember how the movie The Hangover kind of sucked, but it redeemed itself during the credits when they showed the photo montage of everything that happened during their collective blackout? Well this scene in Cougar Town is sort of like that, hilarious and fun (but without a two-hour build of up “I wish Vince Vaughn was in this movie”).

2.  The Sarah Silverman Program “Maid to Border aka Brian’s Song” featuring “Two Princes” by The Spin Doctors (November 7, 2007)

51WtXlFSboL._AA240_Brian Posehn and Steve Agee play the unlikely “gay neighbors” on The SSP. This video game/pot/TaB/heavy metal loving duo are hardly your typical gay BFF’s. They’re a bit slovenly, argue all the time and smoke entirely too much marijuana (if that’s possible). What’s important though, is that they know and love each other, or so Steve thought. When Brian starts taking daily walks to “listen to metal on his iPod” Steve becomes a little suspicious. And then he discovers something WONDERFUL: The Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” is the ONLY song on Brian’s iPod. Meaning, he has been listening to this song EXCLUSIVELY for god knows how long, while walking around town skipping to the beat.

Watch clip HERE.

1.  Full House “Joey Gets Tough” featuring “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany (November 25, 1988)

Tiffany-I_Think_We're_Alone_Now-12inNo other pop song is so ingrained in my memory as not a pop song, but the song that “D.J. and Stephanie stayed up late to watch on television.” Talk about being in desperate need of a Tivo! Or hell, a VCR!! When Danny FORBIDS Deej and Steph from staying up late to watch “Tiffany: Live from Tokyo” Joey could have just taped the event, allowing the girls to watch it later. But then we wouldn’t have gotten the angry father catches pajama clad tweens dancing with his irresponsible best friend whom he doesn’t even pay to watch his children. And what time was this damn concert on anyway? She’s “LIVE” from Tokyo, yet, it’s roughly 10 p.m. in San Francisco? That makes it what? 3 p.m. in Tokyo? What kind of shitty mid-afternoon show is this? And who stays up late to see Tiffany “perform” anyway? Couldn’t you just listen to the tape before bed and call it a day? CHILDREN BEEEHAAAAAAAVE. . . .or Joey’s going to GET TOUGH!

*I just noticed that EVERY Cougar Town episode shares its title with a Tom Petty song.

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by Judi

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer– “Halloween” (1997)

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I mean, it’s a no-brainer that if you have a show about vampires and werewolves and witches, Halloween would be a pretty big deal. And Season 2’s “Halloween” is especially fun, if only for the premise of “what if you actually turned into your costume?” In Buffy & Co.’s case, it’s the work of creepy Ethan, a dangerous ex-friend of Giles’ from his days when he was known as “Ripper”, who sells the kids enchanted costumes. Buffy, in an effort to be more like her vampire boyfriend’s old girlfriends from the eighteenth century, turns into a pansy-assed noblewoman who’s swooning at every turn. Willow at first dresses slutty (check out those abs!) and then gets nervous and throws a sheet over her head, which of course turns her into an actual ghost. Xander’s a tough-as-nails military guy. It’d be fine if Spike didn’t choose that moment to attack. Oh, and all the little monsters in the neighborhood? They’re all actually little monsters now. Demon want some candy?

4. Bones-“The Mummy in The Maze” (2007)

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Dr. Brennan, for all her social awkwardness, LOVES Halloween. It’s not terribly surprising considering the morbid nature of her work but she really, really gets into it as does the rest of the Squints (which is, incidentally, FBI agent Boothe’s costume as a giant note-taking nerd. Just perfect for his captain-of-the-football-team image). Angela’s dressed full-out as Cher at the Oscars, Cam’s a hot Catwoman and Brennan’s Wonder Woman. And the case is a mummified body found in a giant hay-maze. The episode’s got creepy goths, RIDER STRONG as a maybe-pedophile, and a murderer who likes to kidnap young girls and, literally, scare them to death (he sticks one girl in a vault with a bunch of snakes). By the end, Boothe and Brennan are roughed up, filthy and tired from wrestling with a creep dressed up like a clown. You know, just like real superheros. (By the way, if you’re looking for something to watch that’s genuinely disturbing but not Halloween-centered, that episode where she wakes up bloodied and bruised after blacking out in New Orleans is SO GOOD. It’s got voo-doo and men who like to have sex near dead bodies and it’s the goriest Bones episode ever- and this is a show where a body once melted in a pool of lye).

3. 30 Rock– “Stone Mountain” (2009)

That’s right- LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE made my list. 30 Rock, off to a great start after a shakier 3rd season (too many guest stars, not enough writers room), hits so many great points about Halloween that I had to rewind my TiVo twice because of the happy clapping (I tend to watch TV like I’m Simple Jack. Is that offensive? Maybe now getting my profile rejected from Match.com isn’t such a surprise). From the discussion of the merits of a gay Halloween to the reappearance of Jenna’s gay-entourage (“Girl, your face called- it says it’s time to PICK IT UP.”) to a special appearance by Betty White! (who’s reading “From Peanut to President” by Milton Greene, love) to Jack and Liz’s visit to Kenneth’s town of “Small Mountain” (you really couldn’t bring him along? He probably hadn’t been home in years), I don’t even care that the whole episode wasn’t Halloween-crazy. I got my fair share of Lutz and, for that, I am appeased.

Watch episode here.

2. Beverly Hills 90210– “Halloween” (1991)

Oooh, a classic. Brenda and Dylan are Bonnie & Clyde, Donna’s a too-realistic mermaid who can’t move, Brandon and Emily Valentine (yay) take her niece and nephew trick-or-treating but then lose them, oops. Luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Walsh save the day. And the highlight- though it’s only Season 2, this is the SECOND time Kelly is sexually assaulted (the first one happened off camera, as recounted in the slumber party episode) and sweet sassy molassy, it will not be the last for poor, calamity-stricken Kelly Taylor. But don’t worry- Steve, dressed as Zorro, saves the day. Also, does that cowboy look like Christ Kattan to anyone else? Now I’m even more disturbed.

1. The Simpsons– “Treehouse of Horror I” (1990)

The Simpsons’ famed Treehouse of Horror series is so beloved by its fans that if either Beal or I left an episode off the list, we might be egged by one of our thirteen regular readers (what’s up, guys?). “Treehouse of Horror VI” was so good, in fact, that it was even nominated for an Emmy in 1996 for “Outstanding Animated Program” but it, sadly, lost to that timeless classic Pinky and the Brain, though I don’t recall any ground-breaking, 3-D animation happening on THAT episode. Whatever, ACADEMY.

But for this list, we’re going waaaay back to 1990 for “Treehouse of Horror I,” before they even knew they would have to start numbering them. As Treehouse of Horrors follows no continuity or other realism rules for the show, anything goes, which means we don’t see Bart & Co. traipsing around in costumes but we do get thirty minutes of genuine Halloween mayhem- gorings, murder, rabid bats, killer idols, tributes to The Shining (see clip). It’s the spirit of Halloween at its best, ignoring the cries for candy from greedy fat kids and “Should I be a slutty pirate or a slutty fairy? OOH, CAT. Slutty cat it is!” from every female over the age of sixteen. In this episode, the first act finds the family Simpsons moving into a house that would’ve made the Amityville Horror weep. Marge confronts the bleeding walls and flying objects and tells the house to behave. The house collapses in on itself- it’d rather die than live with Homer and his brood. In the second act, they’re abducted by aliens and what ensues is one of my favorite gags ever- the “How to Cook (For) (Forty) Humans” misunderstanding. And then, the third act is a retelling of Poe’s “The Raven.” Pretty classy, right?

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by Beal

5.  Cougar Town (2009 – Present) – ABC Wednesdays 9:30

Cougar_TownI’m really going out on a limb here, being that only three episodes of this show have aired, but thus far, it is legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. I definitely sing the praises of Courtney Cox. I think she has some serious comedy chops but, it’s not just her, Christa Miller and Busy Phillips are hilarious too. And even though I think the humor in the term “cougar” is lost on me, the show is really funny. Recently divorced Jules (Cox) was married for 20+ years to an 80’s teenager, Bobby–think Wooderson from Dazed & Confused but more funny, less creepy. Her best friend and next door neighbor Ellie (Miller) hates her own baby Stan (who is not so fond of her either) and didn’t smile at him for the fist couple months because she didn’t want smile lines. She bosses Jules around and since they’ve been friends forever, sitting in, sipping wine and playing Scrabble, among other lame activities, she’s upset at Jules’ burgeoning friendship with Laurie (Phillips) who is her young coworker but, more importantly, drunken club trash. Definitely the best comedy of the Fall 2009 line-up.

4. The Sarah Silverman Program (2007 – Present) – Currently on Hiatus – Comedy Central

sarah-silverman-programI love any show that is described by the guide as “an irreverent comedy” and it doesn’t hurt that it stars the hilarious Sarah Silverman as a more selfish and delusional version of herself, her sister Laura, and stand-up comedians Steve Agee and Brian Posehn as gay lovers/stoners/TaB enthusiasts. This show is reminiscent of my all-time favorite comedy Strangers with Candy in that the lead character (Sarah) gets involved in a hot button issue but no matter how well-meaning she is, she fucks it all up (but in a funny way, of course). From poking fun at abortion, to vigilante terrorist hunting, to homelessness and black face, there isn’t a subject too racy for Silverman and her cohorts to mock. Silverman was even nominated for an Oustanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of, well, her bizarro self. Check it out. You might be offended but you’ll laugh.

Check out my favorite scene HERE.

3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 – Present) HBO Sundays 9:00

curb_your_enthusiasm-thumb

Larry David is probably the funniest man you’d never want to meet. As the creator of Seinfeld, he gives the illusion that his offbeat sense of humor is the best in TV Land. However, in his HBO series, a mockumentary style, fake reality show based on his real life, “offbeat sense of humor” could really be replaced with “off-putting sense of humor.” That said, this show is pee-your-pants kind of funny. There is something wrong with David. To say he lacks social graces is an understatement. He’s hilarious and super witty, but more often than not is so socially inept that much of my laughter is of the nervous variety. “Real” celebrities appear in his show on the regular (as themselves but not necessarily true versions of themselves) and even though they’re his friends, they find his antics to be generally pretty offensive. In every episode, though, when he just barely crosses the line, you can’t help but feel for the guy and then squirm and laugh for the remainder of the program while he awkwardly cleans up his social gaffe. Bonus: The cast of Seinfeld appears in multiple episodes this season (don’t call it a reunion!).

2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005 – Present) FX Thursdays 10:00

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This is the show that turned network television on its ass. A show that could never exist within the strict confines of “appropriate” found a home on FX in the summer of 2005 and I could not be happier. Touted initially as “Seinfeld on crack” I found myself annoyed at the comparison to the funniest TV foursome of all time. However, these fools are quickly on their way to becoming my favorite four interacting characters on television, ever. This dim-witted gang, made up of siblings Dennis and Dee, idiot Mac and mildly retarded Charlie come up with the greatest half-brained schemes I’ve ever seen. Throw in Danny Devito as the more-than-fucked up father figure and I spend a solid 30 minutes laughing my balls off. Totally original plot lines blended with a lot of ridiculously wonderful ad-libbing and a lack of morals or concern for human life make this the second funniest show on television.

1. 30 Rock (2006 – Present) NBC – Premiers October 15 – 9:30

key_art_30_rock

It should come as no surprise that this is the funniest show currently on television. After all, it DID just win an Emmy for it, as well as dozens more in the past three years for its overwhelming hilarity. Last year, Tina Fey entered the hearts and minds of millions of Americans for the first time with her DEAD ON impersonation of idiot VP candidate Sarah Palin, but here at NTO, we’ve been loving her for the past three years as Liz Lemon, producer of TGS on 30 Rock (and for years prior as head writer/Weekend Update regular on SNL). Seriously, TGFTF (Thank God for Tina Fey). Not only did she create and write the funniest show on television, but she got Alec Baldwin to star in it. Now, say what you want about this guy’s personal life or acting career, but you can’t deny that he was BORN to play the role of Jack Donaghy, funniest man on television. This show seriously has more one liners and catch phrases than any show since Seinfeld (yes, I am aware that I’ve no mentioned Seinfeld three times, but it’s the gold standard by which all other comedies are judged). And Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), holy shit! He did nothing for me on SNL and I think he’s mostly playing himself, but I’m okay with that because he’s a riot, a first class idiot for me to laugh with. I wish that something I could say or write would do this show justice, but it won’t, so just trust me and watch it already.

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by Judi

It might seem like we’re stuck in the past over here in NTO Headquarters, throwing around clips of Bewitched and Beverly Hills 90210 and references to My So-Called Life and such but make no mistake- we’re just as obsessed with the new TV shows as we are the classics. That’s why, today, we’re focusing on the Top 5 Best Comedies that are on right now (not literally this second but currently airing new episodes or in production.)

Ok, that’s one of the reasons why I picked this topic. The other reason is that I need a little help here. Last night, for my birthday, a friend and I decided to see a Second City show. Second City, as you may know, is a Chicago institution. It’s a sketch comedy/improv training ground that’s birthed the careers of most of the past and present casts of Saturday Night Live and comedy stars including Martin Short, Jim Belushi, Alan Arkin, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner and Tina Fey SO I HAD VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS. What I was NOT expecting was to leave before the third act because I could just not take the awfulness anymore. That skit that Millie puts on about how drinking is not cool in the Freaks & Geeks cafeteria? Better than what I saw last night. And apparently it was just me because the drunk Midwesterners who surrounded me ATE IT UP WITH A SPOON, the skit with the girl singing a song about Chicago club girls (“they’ll give you a blow job for a free drink”. Clever), the skeezy Italian guy trying to sell a Sopranos-esque health insurance policy (complete with gold chain, red sunglasses and shirt wide open- oh yes. Apparently, it’s 1985 again.), the fart jokes, FART JOKES…

I could go on about it but I’m honestly so depressed that THIS is where the best & brightest of our future comedy stars are heading that I just want to talk about something good before my head explodes. (Also the fact that the tickets were TWENTY DOLLARS EACH I WANT MY MONEY BACK). Cough-hack-cough.

Top Five Comedies to Watch Now Before It’s Too Late

5. Better Off Ted (2009 – Present)- Currently on Hiatus- ABC

better-off-ted

My favorite new show of the last year, Better Off Ted introduced us to the slightly off-beat world that exists within global corporation Veridian Dynamics. It’s a brilliant setting for a comedy that’s willing to zing off into bizarre directions, since VD (I’m sure that’s not a coincidence) is always working to create the newest must-have product, be it bullet-proof dinnerware or an untested “energy patch” that sends an unwitting colleague into La La Land. Narrator Ted is bland but a good, steady foil for the nuttiness around him, the lab guys are perfect, awkward and brimming with nerd-love for both their work and each other, the perky love interest is made interesting by being just a LITTLE too crazy in an all-too-believable way and, of course, Portia DeRossi as Veronica. She’s kind of like a young, hot Mr. Burns if Mr. Burns ever dumps the power plant and sets up shop in corporate.

4. New Adventures of Old Christine (2006 – Present)- Wednesdays on CBS

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE

Of all the networks, CBS is the channel that has so stringently clung to the old-fashioned sitcom format (Two & A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother) while other networks drift toward striking comedy gold in newfangled formats like mockumentaries (NBC), high-concept (ABC) and cartoons created by Seth McFarlane (FOX). And while any of the CBS comedies will do in a pinch when you’re looking for a little laugh-track comfort (all except Two & A Half Men which is basically unwatchable), it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Christine that’s the most underrated.  The writing is great, they don’t rely on the cuteness of little Ritchie at all to win scenes, and honestly, even without Julia, the supporting cast (Wanda Sykes, Hamish Linklater, and the guy from S.H.I.E.L.D.) could stand on its own just fine.

But really, you’ve got to watch it for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her manic energy, her endless hang-ups and neurosis, the way she absolutely crushes every scene and every line in it. She’s always been a pro but her work here proves that she’s undoubtedly the best sitcom actor at work right now and that you need her in your life. Just watch her flop around in her airplane seat before takeoff, cranky for a glass of red wine (“Ma’am, we haven’t even closed the door yet), all but incapable of getting through the day as a functional adult. Comedy heaven.

3. 30 Rock (2006 – Present)- Thursdays on NBC

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It’s been tough for 30 Rock to stay consistent and it’s not all their fault. The first two seasons were so knock-out perfect and yet, despite all the award wins and critical love, the show still flounders in the ratings. So sure, they started relying on heavy-hitters Alec Baldwin, Kenneth the Page and Tracy Morgan, all but staying out of the writer’s room for the last season and tossing in A-List guest stars whenever possible (Jennifer Aniston! Salma Hayek! Steve Martin! Alan Alda! OPRAH!).

Now that the show has nabbed its third-straight Emmy for Best Comedy Series, maybe we can get back to business. Because the best of 30 Rock rests on Liz Lemon’s buckling shoulders as she tries to get her variety show out there every Friday night, despite the legitimately insane talent around her (Tracy & Jenna), the idiots (Kenneth, the writers) who launch milkshakes and fax machines at her and the meddling of her overwhelmingly Alpha Male corporate honcho boss/unlikely best friend Jack Donaghy.

2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005 – Present)- Thursdays on FX

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For a while, I was worried about Sunny. How could a show so perverse, so dark and unwieldy  survive after we become so used to it? Will it still be as funny when it fails to shock us (accustomed as we are to not only the gang’s absolutely reprehensible moral code but also Charlie’s inability to read, Dee’s willingness to have sex with anybody, even an ancient Korean man for a microbrew recipe, Dennis’ extreme vanity and Mac’s delusion that he’s a macho tough guy).

If last night’s intervention episode is any indication- YUP. Still BLINDINGLY funny. Danny DeVito’s hacking on the sidewalk as he guzzles wine from a soda can, his hair all standing up, as he gets ready to nail a recent widow is funny in itself but it’s Mac’s reaction that just killed me. That’s why the show works- as AWFUL as they all are (at first, the cast was compared to Seinfeld’s but Jerry & Company would run in the other direction if they ever stumbled into Paddy’s Bar), they’re all deluded enough to believe they’re good guys, thus they get to act horrified by each other, superior to each other. It just works so well and you don’t even have to cringe because they always get their comeuppance and it’s always so so good.

1. The Office (2005 – Present)- Thursdays on NBC

office

While The Office isn’t really as good as it used to be, it’s still miles ahead of the competition, thanks to its supporting players. Carell, Fisher, Wilson and Krasinski are all fine and good but, for me, the best of the show remains with Phyllis, Kevin, Angela, Oscar, Andy, Kelly, Ryan, Stanley, Meredith and Creed. Without them, the show could get weighed down by Michael Scott’s gaffes, Dwight’s not-so-shocking-anymore one-liners, and Pam and Jim’s adorable smugness. Just think of last season’s fire drill and Angela throwing her cat into the ceiling and try not to laugh. Or the dance party episode as Kelly gets down. ANYTHING Meredith says and the immediate horrified expression on the person next to her. Creed’s serial-killer-like reveals to the camera. Stanley’s fits of rage and his deadpan, sour-faced indifference. Basically anything Andy says and does (thank you, Daily Show, for sending him to us and Carell too).

Adding to all that, The Office remains in spirit as close as it can to the heart of its British forefather, not shying away from truly dark, difficult moments, crushingly sad realities or letting anyone forget that none of these guys (not even impish Jim) is perfect in the least. It’s still the smartest, funniest show on TV right now. Limitless paper in a paperless world.

Best Newcomer: Community (2009)

Best Recently Departed: Samantha Who? (Canceled 2009)

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by Judi

sandwich-day-liz-red-dress Show: 30 Rock

Character: Liz Lemon

Actor: Tina Fey

Basically: The intrepid Liz Lemon, introduced perkily in the 30 Rock pilot as this generation’s That Girl, is the creator and head writer of Friday night sketch show TGS with Tracy Jordan, formally The Girlie Show starring her longtime friend Jenna Maroney.

As the series moves into its fourth season, we now know a little bit more about old Liz Lemon. Actually, we know a lot more. Too much, in fact. In brief, the show is pretty much her entire life. Her love life is a disaster (see Dennis, Conan, Wayne Brady, Floyd and Jon Hamm), she has the appetite of a greedy trucker, and everyone around her is either crazy or a complete mess. Oh, and her best friend/mentor is her arrogant, ultraconservative boss Jack Donaghy.

A few other things-

-Will throw a trident if you steal her food.

– When she was eight, her name was on the scoreboard at a Phillies game but they misspelled it as Lez Lemon.

– She was rejected by two men who later went to clown college

– She reads the newspaper every day (“Yeah, suck it- I DO read the paper.”)

– Allergic to dogs because she got bitten by a dog on the day she got her first period.

– Went to elementary school with Sheryl Crow (“Oh, I’m a kidney!”)

– Speaks remedial German.

– “Liz is generally pretty racist.”

– Enjoys Star Wars (to the point of dressing up as Princess Leia to get out of jury duty, which works in Chicago but, sadly, not in New York)

Why We Love Her: Old Liz Lemon represents a new kind of modern woman- the woman who throws herself completely behind her career, wakes up and realizes she’s now thirty-five and most likely missed her window to marry a cute boy and have lots of babies (“I’m going to buy the dress, have a baby and then I’m going to die and meet a super cute guy in heaven.”) Instead of handling this all gracefully, Liz is kind of a mess- grappling with the stress and daily crazy of her nonstop work life by inhaling greasy sandwiches, fastening her bra together with tape, forgetting to go to the dentist until her tooth falls out during a meeting, and then somehow pulling herself up and vowing, once more, that this will in fact be her year.

She’s also purely lovable for her outward geekiness- her Star Wars and Sims references, her awkward clothing choices (“Those shoes are definitely bicurious”), her habit of being caught in humiliating circumstances in front of a room of men, getting lettuce stuck in her hair, enjoying a bird museum in Germany, studying Theater Tech etc etc.

Favorite Moments: I honestly don’t think I can pick just one. Liz loping down the hall just like the muppet version of herself, her reaction to everyone watching her phone sex commercial (“I’m lizzing! I’m LIZZING!”), her hiss and recoil when ex-boyfriend Floyd makes an unexpected appearance at her door in the morning (“CRONE!”), her strange robot-dancing for Dr. Spacemen.

Check Tina Out In: For some reason, E! sometimes plays Saturday Night Live episodes but only the same six SNL episodes. So be sure to check out some of Tina’s Weekend Update work on the Steve Martin, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Olsen Twins, Ashton Kutcher or Christina Aguilera episodes on E!. Mean Girls is also a classic- definitely a notch above when it comes to standard teen entertainment fare. And if you haven’t seen Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, well. Welcome back to planet Earth, friend. I’m sure you’ll enoy what you see.

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