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Archive for the ‘The Office’ Category

On a personal note, this is a very difficult topic for me. Not because of the whole “oh, it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m single, everyone has love but me” (said in whiny Ricky Gervais voice) nonsense but because when I was twelve I had a little whiteboard and one day I spent hours devising lists upon lists of my very favorite TV couples. For real. Thank god blogs didn’t exist when I was a pre-teen or I would’ve had to name it “SHAME.”

5. Happy Days (1974 – 1984) Joanie and Chachi

The Soap Opera Effect

This is a legit thing. It’s practically scientific. The reason why your grandmother is obsessed with Days of Our Lives, Young & The Restless, General Hospital etc? Sure, there’s sex and drama and corny moments galore. But there’s also a very real, very visceral reaction to watching someone for years and years, especially when that someone started out as a child. You invest in that person without realizing it, you watch and watch and one day you realize they’ve grown up, right before your eyes. It makes you somewhat emotional, dammit, when they celebrate their Sweet Sixteen, learn to drive, get their hearts broken for the first time, graduate high school… and especially when they, in this case  Joanie “Shortcake” Cunningham, fall in love with the once goofy, gawky cousin of the super cool guy who lives above your parents’ garage. This video proves it. We love Joanie with Chachi mostly because we love Joanie AND Chachi. We watched them grow up, get together, break up, make up, get married. We saw it all, over the course of the show’s ten year run. (Also, it’s Scott Baio for God’s sake. That guy is ’70s, ’80s magic. That part’s not exactly rocket science.)

4. Dawson’s Creek (1998 – 2003) Pacey and Joey

The Perfect Triangle

I just actually watched those clips and want to die a little. What were they thinking when they wrote this show’s dialogue? Why is Pacey calling Joey a “woman”? She is SIXTEEN. I don’t even call myself a woman now, for God’s sake. Anyway. Step aside from Dawson’s obvious shortcomings and focus on the show’s biggest surprise. Clearly, Dawson Leery was supposed to end up with little Joey Potter (tomboy, a modern day Jo March, literally the girl-next-door). The first season literally threw Joey at his feet as she climbed through the window of his room, after a year of angst that only a bunch of 15 year olds can muster. So then what happens? Dawson’s best friend falls in love with her too. And when that best friend (you can hear the call PACEY! over the blogosphere whenever Joshua Jackson makes an appearance in real life) is pretty much the Lloyd Dobbler of Capeside? Poor Cerealbox Head doesn’t stand a chance. 

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003) Buffy and Angel

The Beauty and the Beast

Well, so of COURSE the love of vampire slayer Buffy Summers’ life is a vampire. Of COURSE it is. Years before teenaged girls got sucked into the Twilight rabbit hole, before HBO had even heard of True Blood, sixteen-year-old Buffy developed the hots (it’s a ’90s expression, it works, leave me alone) for a 300 year old vampire with a soul. The show, in its smartest years, used Buffy and Angel’s relationship as a metaphor for the overpowering effect of first love (in maybe the most powerful example, Buffy decides to sleep with her boyfriend, for the first time, on her birthday, not knowing that the Gypsy curse of Angel’s human soul would be removed the moment he experienced a glimpse of pure happiness. So, yeah. Buffy wakes up the next day, all happy and in love… and her boyfriend has turned into a total monster. And you thought only Mormons could provide a subtle hint about the trouble sex can bring. Silly rabbit.)

2. The Office ( 2001 – 2003 / 2005 – Present) Tim and Dawn / Jim and Pam

The Kindred Spirits

Before there was Jim and Pam, there was Tim and Dawn. The settings may be slightly different but the stories started out the same- everyman Tim/Jim fall for their best office-mate, receptionist Dawn/Pam. Trouble is, she’s engaged to someone else. The beauty of how The Office plays what could’ve been a typical office romance is the dynamic between the two couples. Tim (it’s easier to stick with the first and greatest) is the Voice of Reason in this mad, mad world. He’s the one rolling his eyes along with us and wondering if everyone’s taken their crazy pills. S0, naturally he’s drawn toward pretty Dawn. She gets it. She knows everyone’s crazy. They speak the same language and in a world where you often feel like the last sane person on earth, this is crucial. It’s a lifeline. It doesn’t hurt when both of you are cute, funny, snarky and you let us all in on the joke. Of COURSE we’re rooting for you.

(Warning: this video will kill you)

(And the happy ending we needed)

1. The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992) Clair and Cliff Huxtable

The Perfect Couple

The following clip is ABSURD. Someone for Cliff Huxtable other than Clair? Please. TV has never gotten a pair more right than Brooklyn’s favorite Doctor/Lawyer duo. They’re smart, they’re playful, they fit each other like a forbidden hoagie with a bag of potato chips. There was no other way for The Cosby Show to end its eight year run than for Cliff and Clair to dance their way out of the studio. No other way.

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That’s right- “Christmas.” Not “season”, not “holiday.” “CHRISTMAS.” We’re such bad-asses.

5. The OC– “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” (2003)

I was completely, wholeheartedly into the first season of The OC (did that show last more than a year? No? Didn’t think so). I’m pretty sure that, had you asked me to in 2003, I wouldn’t have hesitated to take someone down for a chance to just be NEAR Seth Cohen (Adam Brody, who has since disappeared. An apology for that Meg Ryan movie nobody saw?). And the whole notion of “Chrismukkah”, a result of the Cohen family being half-Jewish, is Seth at his greatest. From the Santa-yarmulkes (not sacriligious at all) to his demand for “8 days of presents, followed by one day of MANY presents” and that the whole family, now including his adopted-troublemaker brother Ryan, all be together to celebrate, it’s all so adorable that you just want to vomit dradles and jingle bells all over the place.

And, to top it all off, a tension-filled holiday party, squishy family moments and a lot of awkward swaying to Stevie Wonder. It really is the “Best Chrismukkah Party Ever.” Or it would be if Kristen was completely smashed on vodka.

4. Bones– “Santa in the Slush” (2007)

Ah, the good old days when Bones FOLLOWED THROUGH ON ITS PROMISES.

We were, you might remember, led to believe that Bones and Booth would kiss in the ’07 holiday episode and we got our wish. A Christmas miracle, indeed. And, yes, ok, it was because Bones owed Carolyn a favor for swinging a little visitation party with her dad who was in prison for murder and, because Carolyn was feeling impish, she decided Bones could repay her by laying a kiss on her FBI partner. Whatever, we’ll take it. The whole exchange is just sweet and awkward and weird enough to be believable and the chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz (they should open a perfume store or something) good enough to make it a truly squeal-worthy moment. Plus, the rest of the episode is AWESOME. They find a dead santa whose real name is actually Kris Kringle, he lives above a toy store, he was the best store santa in history and both scenes where the duo question a department store locker room FILLED with crappy Santas (And Carl Winslow too!) are hilarious. Add Bones’ extremely cool ex-con dad (played by Ryan O’Neil before he accidentally hit on his own daughter) and an appearance from her brother Russ “Mumford” Brennan and even little moppet-headed Parker and, it really is, the most wonderful time of the year. (Yes, I plan on ending EVERY entry with that.)

3. The Simpsons– “Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire” (1989)

Even reading the description of this “Christmas Special” made my cold little heart bloom with joy. Remember how GOOD The Simpsons used to be?  Bart asks for a tattoo and starts to get “Mother” on his arm but gets caught by Marge and is left with “Moth.” They then have to spend their Christmas money getting it lasered off (he should’ve kept it. I mean, if little Pete could keep Petunia…), Homer doesn’t get his bonus, Barney is a drunk santa at the mall, they go to the track and blow $13 on a little dog named Santa’s Little Helper (who comes in dead last) but the pup follows them home. Yay, puppies and Christmas!

Where would The Simpsons be without Santa’s Little Helper? And where would be without old episodes of The Simpsons? I shudder to think…

2. The Office– “Christmas Party” (2005)

Michael Scott with the Dreaded Oven Mitt

Season 2’s Christmas episode at good old Dundler Mifflin was highlighted by the office’s Secret Santa exchange. Michael picks Ryan the Temp, for whom he has a serious man-crush on, and completely overshoots the dollar limit to buy him an iPod but then gets insulted by HIS gift, a homemade oven mitt from poor Phyllis who has the best sad-sack face in the universe, and quickly decides to turn the Secret Santa into a Yankee Swap instead. Just so he can get a not-so-crappy gift. This is all fine, except for Jim who is panicking. In one of the sweetest examples of Jim’s still-unspoken love for receptionist Pam, he picked her name out of the hat and got her an adorable tea pot filled with adorable notes just for her. The party just goes downhill from there so Michael, in a desperate attempt to pick things up, renegs on the office’s no-alcohol policy and gets everyone wasted. Which means drunk Meredith. Which means happy Judi.

Michael Scott: [checking out at a liquor store] Hey, you’re the expert; Is this enough to get twenty people plastered?
Clerk: [Seriously considers] Fifteen bottles of vodka?… Yeah, that should do it.

1. West Wing– “Noel” (2000)

Beal has her “episode that will make you cry uncontrollably” and this one is mine. It’s Christmas at the White House and months after the shooting in Rosalyn. Yo Yo Ma is set to play for the President and all seems jolly and bright. Except Josh is a mess and he doesn’t know why. He cut his hand and doesn’t remember how, he breaks out into a sweat during the concert and he’s biting people’s heads off left and right. A visit with a White House appointed shrink, played memorably by Chicago Hope‘s Adam Arkin, and a few really brutal scenes later, Josh is shaken to discover that he’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and while everyone is enjoying the holidays, he’s been reliving that time he almost died and, now, has to face the fact that he’s suffering from its aftermath and could very well lose his job (thanks a lot WHITE SUPREMACISTS. God). Until he gets a pep talk from Leo. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch a bunch of old clips of John Spencer and cry softly into my lunch.

BONUS: This didn’t make the list but did you know there’s a Beverly Hills 90210 Christmas episode called “It’s a Totally Happening Life”? Best. Title. Ever. I almost choked on my salad when I read it (and when I say “salad”, I mean “chocolate croissant.” Don’t judge me.)


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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

30-rock

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

its-always-sunny_080827

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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Unseen footage from when the Michaels tried out for "Party of Five"

Rare snapshot from when the Michaels apparently auditioned for "Party of Five"

 

I can’t wait for Michael and Michael Have Issues and, finally, this new business of tying in a series with blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. is actually working to my advantage because it’s all actually, miraculously doing its job- ie making me very excited for the show instead of wanting to blow my brains out.

The fact that Michael (Showalter) and Michael (Ian Black) are actually funny MIGHT have something to do with it.

A recent blog posting from Michael and Michael Have Issues

Me Vs. Regular People

My compliments to Stephie Grob for posting so many terrific photos from the set of “MMHI.” If I were somebody who watched television, I would definitely check out the show based purely on the photographic evidence of excellence. Because I do not watch television, however, I will most likely stick with great works of Russian literature from the 19th and 20th centuries.

That probably sounds like I’m bragging. Like, “Oh Michael Ian Black thinks he’s go great because he has a doctorate in Russian literature.” No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying that because of my extensive background in studying the great Russian literary masters of the 19th and 20th centuries, I don’t enjoy watching television as much as “regular people.”

Which is NOT a put-down of people who aren’t as smart as me. It’ s just that we have different interests. Regular people watch TV whereas I prefer doing in depth literary criticism of books such as Gogol’s “Dead Souls” and Lermontov’s “A Hero For Our Times.” One activity is not better than the other. They’re just different, as different as Pushkin and Tolstoy.

Which is just a roundabout way of saying I hope you enjoy the part on our show where we kill bunnies.

Another great find- Ryan and Kelly from The Office arguing over their relationship status on Twitter. I can’t get enough.

by Judi

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