Over the past couple decades or so, I have really soured on episodic television. I don’t know whether it’s just that I don’t have the patience to sit through a drama, or whether the level of what’s considered comedy on TV comedies has become 30 minutes wasted in my world, but it’s gotten to the point that, as I mentioned in the title, the only TV I watch these days is professional football.
Something has changed that, however, and that’s streaming video. If there is one thing about being married for what will be 13 years next year, it’s that my wife has introduced me to a lot of technological advances that have opened up options in my life. Being the technological dinosaur that I am, I tend to dismiss and grumble about it at first, implement the new concept introduced by my spouse for a while, and warm up to it. That’s what’s happened with me and grilled food, dark chocolate, red wine, Facebook, the iPhone, and now Netflix and Hulu, among other things.
The two streaming video services I mentioned, Netflix and Hulu, have been a gateway to viewing television that I really like, and it fits a schedule when me and my wife can sit and watch it. If not for Netflix or Hulu (or, for that matter iTunes on our Apple TV box), I would have never sat, watched and enjoyed series that I never saw in first run, “3rd Rock From The Sun”. I would have never seen the complete “Mad Men” series and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also enjoyed HBO’s “House Of Cards” on Netflix (though, after last season, hoping that it doesn’t return for another because I believe the show has run its course). Hulu allowed me to view the entire run of “The Sopranos”, and I understand why some people call it a TV pinnacle. Having these resources to see good TV when we want to see good TV (and sample TV we think might be good, but decide against in the end) is a wonderful blessing for our entertainment appetite.
These days, there are three sitcoms that we’ve been watching that have made me do something that I seldom do when watching sitcoms these days: in text language, LOL.
- “The Muppets”–I was somewhat skeptical when ABC (owned by Disney, owner of the Muppets now) announced that they were bringing back the Muppets for a weekly TV series. Out of curiosity, I checked out the pilot of the series on Hulu. After watching the first few episodes, I am a big fan. The show does a great job of spoofing show business with the late night talk show plot line, though it seems like a number of the many famous Muppets over the 50+ years of the act are awkwardly put in roles on the program to simply have them in the program. Overlooking that, the writing is sharp and very funny…which is what Jim Henson was after in the first place when he created the Muppets. He wanted to take puppetry out of the kids’ entertainment realm and move it into entertainment for big people (I was going to say moving puppets from kids’ entertainment to adult entertainment, but the term “adult entertainment” has a whole different meaning these days). A good example of his trying to reach an older audience with his Muppets and his humor was that weekly bit that what was then still “NBC’s Saturday Night” (now “Saturday Night Live”) tried with the Muppets in this goth world waiting to talk to “The Mighty Phavog”. (You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Land_of_Gorch ). It failed on camera and behind the scenes, and went away after one “SNL” season. But this Muppets series on ABC works, and you can tell that the Muppets have succeeded in moving into more adult humor with the ranking in the upper left hand corner of the screen of TV-PG. Well worth the watch.
- “The Jim Gaffigan Show”–After hearing plenty about how good a stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan was, we watched one of his HBO stand-up specials on Netflix. I swear, I laughed so hard at his act that it hurt to watch it because I was having such difficulty breathing due to all the hard laughing I was doing; the show we were watching was called “Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe”, BTW, if you want to laugh a lot and have respiratory problems as well. We sought out a few other Jim Gaffigan HBO specials, and they were good, too…but no breathing difficulties during them. Then, later, we found on the Hulu menu “The Jim Gaffigan Show”. We had to see what it was all about. Jim Gaffigan has finished his first season of a TV Land sitcom, and the results have been enjoyable viewing. It’s kind of like “Seinfeld” if Jerry were married with five kids…and being married with five kids has been the backbone of Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up work. Fewer friends than Jerry, though…which happens with a wife and five kids, I guess, ’cause there’s less time for it. But the show circulates around what Jim Gaffigan talks about in his stand-up routine: His family life, his love of food, his fatness (and my fatness, BTW, may have caused my breathing difficulty when watching his HBO special), his pasty complexion and ordinary looks, among other things. In fact, I would suggest that if you haven’t watched Jim Gaffigan’s HBO specials prior to watching this series, do so. A few things are mentioned in the program about Jim (e.g., Hot Pockets) that you might need to know to fully understand the “Jim Gaffigan Show” experience. One thing that does make me uncomfortable about the series, however, as a Catholic, is Jim’s irreverence toward his wife’s Catholic faith. It’s not bashing in any way, but it does make me a little squirmy. Outside of that, well worth the watch.
- “Miranda”–Last night, my lovely bride and I watched the Melissa McCarthy movie “Spy”. The reason we “rented” it was because we saw that Miranda Hart was a cast member in the film. Melissa McCarthy was very good in the film (though she has a very, very filthy mouth in her dialogue, which shocked even me), but this movie was a great vehicle for the stellar British comedienne, Miranda Hart. Most people in America may know Miranda Hart as playing the nurse known as Chummy on the BBC drama that was rebroadcast on public TV here, “Call The Midwife”. But Miranda Hart came to prominence in the UK on a sitcom she created, wrote and starred in called “Miranda”. I use the past tense in describing the series because the BBC cancelled the series in 2014. After learning more about Miranda Hart’s past work during the “Call The Midwife” airings (which we caught on Netflix, not public TV), we were curious to see the “Miranda” sitcom, but the only place we could locate it was in clips on YouTube. Recently on Hulu, we found “Miranda” on the menu and began watching it. It truly is one of the funniest television series I have ever seen. Miranda Hart (or her character on the series) is best described as tall, awkward, plain looking, and desperate for a match with a man. She is also very funny. Miranda Hart also excels at physical comedy, and her takes at the camera as she breaks the fourth wall (addresses the viewing audience) are stunningly fresh and funny. At first, I called this show “I Love Lucy With A Brain” because the writing is very clever and sharp…like much of the best of British comedy. After further review, I’ll call “Miranda” a hybrid of “I Love Lucy”, “Seinfeld”, and the innovative comedy of the ’80’s, “The Young Ones”. Of all three of the shows that I’ve written about, I most highly recommend this one. Of course, we’re only into season two of what became a five-season show (or five-series programme, as they’d call it in Britain), but we’ve already seen season/series one, and it’s been an absolute hoot. My wife parallels Miranda Hart with Carol Burnett during her variety show days. Whatever the case, Miranda Hart has put together one of the best TV shows I’ve ever seen. Yes, well worth the watch.