The Good Ol' Idiot Box

Tuesday is TV day here at Barrelhouse (yes, we know, again with the alliteration. We're like a bad radio morning show around here, with Two-For Tuesdays and Wacky Wednesdays). Anyway, I know I'm not exactly climbing out on a limb by saying this, but if you're not watching the new episodes of Family Guy, you really should be.

As excited as I was when they decided to put this show back on the air, I was also a little apprehensive. After all, it had been a while. Would the old writers have moved on? Would the show have lost some of its irreverent energy? Well, let me tell you: it's still thirty straight minutes of awesomeness. If anything – and a couple months ago, I wouldn't have thought this possible – it's even better than it was before.

The downside to Family Guy's brilliance is that it makes The Simpsons, which comes on just before it, look a bit tarnished and stale by comparison. I suppose The Simpsons, much like Saturday Night Live, may have, by its success, precipitated its own demise. Obviously The Simpsons paved the way for other cartoon shows for adults, like Family Guy and South Park, but now those newer shows have kind of left the torchbearer in the dust. It also doesn't help that The Simpsons is constantly competing against its own back catalog. With the show's syndicated episodes in heavy rotation, it's hard not to compare and contrast.

Although it's probably unfair to compare The Simpsons to SNL. Despite hardcore Simpsons fans' nearly constant chorus of "Worst episode ever!" even on its lamest day the show makes me laugh, at least a little. Which is more than I can say for about 80% of what's on TV these days. And it's definitely more than I can say for the latest incarnation of SNL, which makes me wish they'd just cancel the show already and be done with it. One of my favorite SNL skits of all time was the one in which Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor go toe to toe with racial epithets. Can you imagine SNL having the balls to air that sketch today?

Instead we get sketch after sketch lamely parodying other TV shows (Take that, America's Next Top Model!). Or attempt after attempt to create the kind of "winning character" that will score the writer and the actor a movie deal (and who can blame them? What thespian wouldn't want to follow in the footsteps of Night at the Roxbury?)

The best barometer for SNL might be election season. The show was created, after all, in the great Lampoon tradition of taking potshots at authority. During the last couple election cycles, though, it's become painfully obvious how far the once-mighty has fallen. Is the best Bush joke you can come up with the one about how he don't talk so good? Is the most cutting-edge Kerry humor the stuff about being a flip-flopper? Here's a good litmus test: if the jokes you're making on SNL are the same ones my mom forwards me via email, then you've gone down the wrong path.

Luckily, every time an old standard falls by the wayside, some new young buck is standing by to carry the torch. So maybe SNL sucks now, but The Daily Show is pure comedy gold. Maybe The Simpsons no longer seems so daring, but every Sunday at nine we can watch a talking dog sip martinis and make passes at his owner's underage daughter, a baby with a British accent touch a black man's hair to see what it feels like, and a big fat man get kicked in the nuts. God bless America!


dave said...

Worst. Show. Ever. I think the lowest point ever on Saturday Night Live was the skit in which the punch line is that Tom Brady -- ohmygod, Tom Brady, Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady -- can't throw a football through the hole at the carnival. Goddamit he wants that stuffed animal, but he JUST CAN'T DO IT.

I know that's comedy gold right there, but wait, there's more -- here's the kicker: everybody else can! Handicapped people and teenage girls and even little babies can all throw the ball through the hole but Tom Brady JUST CAN'T DO IT.

Yep, that was the skit. The whole skit.

I have to say, I really hope this one becomes a movie, because it's got some serious staying power. This is like It's Pat all over again. Can you imagine the hilarity that will ensue when Trishelle and the Olsen Twins and Stevie Wonder can all throw the ball through the hole but Tom Brady STILL CAN'T DO IT!

It's time for SNL to go out with some dignity. Let's Kevorkian this thing while we all still have fond memories and before Lorne Michaels is directing the whole thing from a rascal scooter in Florida. This iteration of SNL makes Saved By the Bell look cutting edge. Oh my god, Zack can't throw the ball through the hole BUT SCREECH CAN!

It's gold, Jerry. Gold!

Mike said...

You know what? I take back my claim that I haven't laughed at SNL in years. When Ashlee Simpsons got busted lip-synching, I laughed and laughed and laughed.

And then, the next week, when Tina Fey made some softball joke about the mishap ("See America, we're still hip and cool! We know Ashlee Simpson sucks even though we booked her on our very own show!") I laughed some more.

You know what sketch they should make a movie out of? Schmitz Gay. Man, that was hilarious. Or Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.