September TV

September was a busy month for TV, with several shows vying for time to distract me from writing.First and foremost, there’s a new season of ‘Rick and Morty’ on Adult Swim. This might be might favorite show, period. It’s a cartoon, a family comedy, and a sci-fi adventure with enough mind-blowing ideas to make Doctor Who jealous. This season has featured some more introspective themes. What makes Rick tick? How is his megalomania affecting his family? Most of the episodes are self-contained, so you can jump aboard with just about any episode you want and get a complete, understandable story.

Earlier this month, Big Brother ended it’s polarizing, predictable 19th season with a polarizing, un-predictable finale. Personally, I was ‘Team Paul.’ Sure, he was maybe a little more manipulative than he needed to be (although this is Big Brother we’re talking about), but how can you not give props to a guy who, through separate plots, convinced every player to purposely lose a racing competition, so that a woman with a broken foot could end up winning it?

After Big Brother ended, Ozark (on Netflix) entered my life with a blistering first episode. Yikes! It’s fascinating to see Jason Bateman’s character be the financial planner/money launderer using his nerdy bookkeeping skills to hold off hitmen and thugs and drug dealers, episode after episode. The writers of Ozark definitely seem to be asking, ‘How can we add another problem to make this show even more dramatic?’ I was a little over halfway through the season when all the problems piled up had started to make me feel too stressed. So I’m taking a break from the show right now.

Also binged the first season of the Good Place. A very witty show. In between, I watched as many episodes of 30 Rock as I could. (It left Netflix on Septmber 30th). I enjoyed the first ep of American Horror Story: Cult, so I will probably watch more of that. Although a lot of times I don’t end up making it all the way through the AHS seasons.

How about you? What shows are you watching or looking forward to watching now that the summer TV season has ended and the fall season is starting up?

Favorite funny shows of 2015

In the last five years or so, I’ve heard people bemoan the state of comedy series on television. The days of mega-comedies like Seinfeld and Friends are long gone. The Office, 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother are off the air. The Simpsons and South Park are both (debatably) past their prime. And no new comedy has established itself as being that widely popular show that you wouldn’t feel slightly embarrassed to admit you watch.

But to anyone who says that comedy is dead, I say, ‘Look harder!’ There’s some very funny stuff out there, based on premises or perspectives that never would have seen the light of day before TV’s age of segmentation. Here’s five of my favorites:

rickandmorty_crop Rick and Morty (on Adult Swim)
Imagine ‘Doctor Who’ cut down to a pithy 22 minutes—with higher production values, and a zanier feel to smooth over some of the implausibilities in the plot. How do you do all this? By turning it into a cartoon! In this case Rick Sanchez is the irrepressible, dimension-hopping genius—but tinted with streaks of nihilism, misanthropy, and alcohol abuse.

This show, co-produced by Community’s Dan Harmon, offers some sharp new angles on some classic sci-fi tropes: alternate timelines, mind control, false memories, and lots of other mind-benders that would make our favorite Time-Master (or the Twilight Zone) proud. Rick and Morty was the most fun show I watched all year, and more than one episode hit me with a thought-provoking jab that stuck with me for days afterward. Oh yeah, and I still have ‘Get Schwifty’ stuck in my head.

whas_crop2Silicon Valley (on HBO)
Mike Judge… is there anybody better at finding what’s funny and fascinating about the most mundane parts of life? Add to that a great, geekly joie de vivre, and also what feels like a very authentic look at a segment of our economy where bros working out of garages can fight toe-to-toe with mega-corporations for their own piece of the American Dream. How great is this show? It mixed a penis joke with programming jargon and compression algorithms—and it earned an Emmy nomination for it.

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Nathan For You (on Comedy Central)
Now on it’s third season, I still don’t understand how this show isn’t more of a cultural phenomenon. Nathan Fielder (who graduated business school with ‘really good grades’) travels the country (well mostly southern California) ‘helping’ real business owners with his unique brand of ‘helpful’ ideas. Granted, this reality spoof/prank show isn’t quite as hilariously funny as it was in its first season (even Da Ali G Show only ran for 2 seasons), but it definitely serves up some moments that will have you cracking up—and cringing.

whas_cropWet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (on Netflix)
J.J. Abrams isn’t the only writer/director who resucitated a decade-old property with a golden balance of nostalgia and newness. Michael Showalter and David Wain revived their 2001 cult hit movie by giving us a 8-episode prequel that perfectly brought back the schlocky humor of the original while adding some new wrinkles (pun intended) to create a fresher, deeper storyline.

anotherperiod_cropAnother Period (on Comedy Central)
How did this show ever get green-lighted? I’m guessing the pitch mentioned two enigmatically successful pop-culture phenomenons: Downton Abbey and Keeping Up With the Kardashians. That’s basically what we’ve got here. A group of filthy-rich aristocrats in 1910s Rhode Island, behaving obnoxiously, interspersed with jokes about women’s suffrage, Spanish Flu, and the Lindberg baby (too soon?). How DID this show ever get green-lighted? I don’t know, but I’m glad it did.