I’ve got a problem – many of them, actually. But this one pertains to television: I feel like I’m missing out.
Let me explain.
Last week, seeking a brief distraction before going to bed, I turned on the TV, flipped through the channels. That’s right – no destination, just looking for something random to watch. I can’t tell you the last time I was able to do that.
Eventually, I stumbled upon Arrested Development – the phenomenal defunct sitcom, not the band. Score. So pumped. That was the first of two wonderful surprises, the second being the discovery of an entire network. International Film Channel – that’s who was airing Arrested Development. I had never even heard of it before, another indictment of my lack of cool. Turns out IFC, as it’s called, also shows The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, another spectacular and ridiculous sitcom that (to my knowledge) initially aired in the U.K. despite staring American actors. (Season 2 starts in January. You’re welcome.)
That night, I fell asleep a happy man.
Smash cut to later in the week and a second surfing session. (My wife had two days off this week; that’s why I had some free time. Not extra free time, some free time.) I came across two more comedies that had all but disappeared from my memory: The League and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The former is centered on a group of fantasy football friends, the latter on a group of beer-drinking friends with a dash of demented Danny DeVito.
Are these shows smart or stupid? I’m not entirely sure and go back and forth on that question, but they’re both funny, welcome mindless diversions at the end of a day of kids and chores and deadlines and bills and anxiety.
Anyway, so I’ve come to a realization – there’s some good stuff out there. Maybe too much. Not too much as in they should close down production, especially not with Hollywood so smitten with sequels and comic books, but too much to be able to keep up. For example, there’s no need to settle for Home Improvement or the Cosby Show or any other “comedy” from my childhood that wasn’t actually funny or even original.
Quick aside: I realize comparing these modern cable shows to primetime network productions from the 80s and 90s is apples to oranges that have been hollowed out and used as bongs. That is, there are very few words you can’t say on a station like FX. And this has opened the door for the creation of an entirely new generation of comedies. No longer do they have to fit into the family viewing mold – nor could they. A show like It’s Always Sunny would never work in a PG format. Because of that, it’ll never do the kind of ratings that Cosby did, but it’s nice to have semi-vulgar and cutting options.
Getting back on topic, I don’t have time to watch all this goodness live and I don’t have the time to check out The Tapes. (You remember, the background on that, right?) Plus, my 7-year-old daughter monopolizes the DVR, stuffing it with Disney Channel repeats she’s seen 17 times and leaving me just enough room for the weekly ESPN film (my sports and reality fix) and Boardwalk Empire (the requisite critically acclaimed, edgy drama).
I suppose I could buy episodes from iTunes, but $2.99 a crack seems a little steep considering I’m already paying for cable. Maybe I need to dig deeper into the on-demand options?
Regardless, I feel as if I’m missing out, like my TV viewing life – which, along with a few podcasts, is the extent of my entertainment and pop-culture intake these days – is not all that it could be, it’s development arrested. (See what I did there?) As a writer, I like to support projects that bring me enjoyment and/or inspire me, and it sure seems like the aforementioned shows are capable of doing both if in a largely trivial way.
These new-era adult/sophomoric comedies are sort of like a viewable version of beer – takes the edge off without empty calories. It’s a great concept.
If only I had the time to really drink them in.