It ain't pretty being easy... (soopageek) wrote,
It ain't pretty being easy...

just a stranger on the bus

In addition to trying to get through the rest of my Best Picture list, I've been watching a lot of old television, too. Recently I finished the entire 8 seasons of Newhart. The problem with watching long-running shows in their entirety, especially sitcoms, is that somewhere around season 5 or 6 I start to get burned-out. This was definitely the case with Newhart. It wasn't that there was a drop in quality, it just gets tedious after watching 7-8 episodes per day. I realize television isn't meant to be viewed in this manner, rather sitcoms are intended to be a weekly burst of funny with characters you enjoy.

I've always been a big fan of Bob Newhart. His stammering delivery is very unique in terms of comedic timing. He became famous in the 1960s for his standup comedy which was also very unique: he presented sketches based on the premise of hearing one side of a conversation. He usually did this as a telephone converastion, like you were sitting in a room with him listening to him talk on the phone. Occasionally he would do them as if he was talking to an invisible person in an imaginary location. Whatever the setup, the result was always the same... many of the punch-lines occurred in the collective mind of the audience rather than spoken aloud. It was a gag he used on Newhart quite a bit as well when he would talk on the phone. I'm not sure if I've ever seen an episode of his 70s era show The Bob Newhart Show but intend to get to that one of these days, too. He had another sitcom in the 90s called Bob which I've never seen, but I don't think it even lasted a full season. He once quipped that if he ever made another TV show it was going to be called "B" (buh).

In case you're unfamiliar with Bob's phone bit, here's his classic Sir Walter Raleigh skit:

One of the fun things about watching old television is seeing actors in bit roles who have since become more famous for something else. For instance, in Miami Vice Terry O'Quinn (aka John Locke from Lost) appears as a sleazy lawyer and Helena Bonham Carter shows-up as one of Don Johnson's girlfriends. On Newhart there were a slew of them. Jason Alexander was in an episode, as was Bill Mahr. Frances Conroy, who played the chronically repressed mother on Six Feet Under, was on-screen for a total of maybe 20 seconds with a couple of lines in one show.

After doing a long show I usually go through a phase of short-lived shows. Next on my plate are 3, two-season shows: Eastbound and Down, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Joan of Arcadia - which I'm in the middle of the second season. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's about a 16 year-old girl who talks to God. The writing is fair, the acting is great, and the story lines are compelling which overall makes for an enjoyable show, even if it's a bit cliche at times. But, it has a quality that has always annoyed me about most teen centered drama, both on television and in film - and it can basically be traced back to The Breakfast Club. The teens are presented as being confused and trying to discover themselves - basically fumbling their way through that awkward phase of life where you're still a kid but you're not really a kid. That's where the drama lies. At the same time though, they're all incredibly self-aware in other ways, and aren't timid about being confrontational. They're all really witty and insightful, too... and there's always one who wears a sheen of cynicism about the world like a 30 year old. I don't know about any of you, but I didn't know any teenagers like that. I'll grant you that teens are more savvy in a lot of ways than when I was a kid, but I have a hard time believing they're more together than most of the adults I know. Of course, teen comedies tend to go to the other extreme. Freaks and Geeks was probably one of the few teen TV shows that had a good balance.

Joan Of Arcadia was on the air less than 10 years ago and only for two seasons, so there's no plethora of people who have become famous in the interim. Though, Zachary Quinto (aka Sylar from Heroes) did show-up in one episode as God. There was one interesting combination of folks who played God in the show though. Curtis Armstrong played God in an episode in Season 1. He's been in LOTS of things, mostly bit roles on TV shows. He played the character "Booger" in the Revenge Of the Nerds movies. More recently he was in Ray as Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. Anyway, he used to have a recurring role on Moonlighting as Bert, a guy who worked at the Blue Moon Detective Agency and sometimes romantic interest of rhyming receptionist Agnes DiPesto, played by Allyce Beasley. Beasley played God in an episode of Season 2.
Tags: tv

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