The Whedonverse

Joss Whedon is a hack and is awful.

*scrape* *scrape* *scrape*

Hear that? That’s the sound of all the Whedon fans that are sharpening their pitchforks and stakes to come murder me.

Whedon is actually amazing and I count myself a fan. This man has transcended nerd culture to become a god to the awkward masses. He appeals to all sectors with his feminist views, is great with a story, and even Hollywood loves him because he uses the least expensive methods while still delivering on spectacle.

Firefly, Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and now he’s pulling Marvel’s strings. That’s a huge accomplishment for a man that, admittedly, started off awesome with an Oscar for writing the script for Toy Story, one of the most popular film series of all time. Whedon combines humor, heart, and occasionally tragedy in his works, instead of going for the easy formulaic answer everyone craves but bitches about when they get.

I’m sure you saw the Avengers, because you know, you’re a human person. The Avengers is a big budget action flick, with characters that fans have loved for decades, and god forbid anyone screw them up. Whedon did one better and made the team a household name. How? Yeah, they’re all super powered bad assess, but they have heart. Holy hell, did Bruce Banner just admit he tried to kill himself and it didn’t even work? Cap’n America is all depressed and mopey because he’s doesn’t fit into our new world? Oh and Phil Coulson. He goddamn killed Coulson. Naturally it didn’t stick, but it still hurt.

Whedon isn’t our God but he is like our Moses. He came down from on high and parted the seas of banality so we could go frolic in nerd nirvana.

Ugh, maybe I’M the hack…

Buzzfeed Wannabe 30 Rock Edition

5 Ways Kenneth is Amazing (Because an Immortal Hillbilly Is Never Not Funny)

Oh 30 Rock, you got cancelled too…wait, no it didn’t! It lasted seven long years. That’s a lifetime compared to what some shows get and rightly deserve (Joey from Friends never needed his own show). What makes 30 rock great? Great characters, great writing, tender yet awkward moments, and Kenneth. Yes, Kenneth Ellen Parcell is the grinning glue that holds the show together through his unfaltering cheer, optimism, and immortality. You read that right, Kenneth is immortal. No one’s quite sure WHAT he is, whether he’s just a great Lost reference or he’s some kind of benevolent Lovecraftian God, all I know is I can’t get enough of him.

1. I am not a person

Let’s get the easy one out of the way right now. In “Govenor Dunstan” Kenneth’s Mother, Pearline (Catherine O’hara of Beetlejuice) and his step-dad Ron (Brian Cranston, you know, from Godzilla?) come to visit him at work. It is quickly revealed that Ron has never purposefully mistreated Kenneth, despite Kenneth constantly implying he did, and more importantly his mother reveals the first time she laid eyes on him after he was born.

2. Muppets!

Kenneth seems very naive and childlike at times. He respects everyone (except gynecologists) and the world really is wonderful through his eyes. Maybe because he and everyone else is a muppet. A MUPPET! How could you not be happy and cheerful around the clock when everything seems so bright, singsong, and made of felt? Yes, Kenneth, the world would be a better place if we were all muppets.

I wouldn’t mind someone’s hand up my backside for that kind of happiness…

…moving on.

3. Maybe he’s not happy…

Maybe the cracks are actually starting to show? Kenneth is the personification of happiness and hope but maybe he’s just been lying to himself and us the whole time! In this episode Jack thinks he’s about to get a pep talk from the unshakably happy Kenneth, but what he actually gets is a dose of awful reality. I love that at the end you can physically see Kenneth put his happy face back on and it looks like it hurts.

4. Doin the Microwave

This episode is gold. Will Arnett as Devon Banks, an amazing quote every other second (“Liz Lemon, you boogaface, i’ma kill you with a bazooka!”), and a quick but interesting look at more of Kenneth’s extensive history. Briefly at the beginning Jack talks about the America’s waning interest in the microwave. Flashbacks ensue and you see a 50’s band playing a song called “Do the Microwave”, and you can briefly see Kenneth himself dancing away (which would make him around 90). Also this episode is a great critique on the American Auto industry.

5. The End

VINDICATION! Here is the final proof that Kenneth’s long running gag was perfectly plotted for this moment. After the series is wrapped up, we get to see Liz Lemon’s great grandaughter pitching THE EXACT PLOT of 30 Rock to the current president of NBC. Of course it’s Kenneth. It’s even better that earlier in the episode he shot down Liz’s idea for the show when she proposed the same, stating that NBC wasn’t looking for anything that had to do with “shows about shows”, “immortal characters”, and “Quality”. It’s nice to know that he changed his mind…after a 100 years or so.

I leave you with my favorite image of Kenneth wearing his gender neutralizing hood that he wore to his Abstinence Rally on Valentines Day.

Why? Because it’s goddamn hilarious.

Our Generation’s TV

Arrested Development. Lost. 30 Rock. All critically acclaimed shows that started the Golden Age of Television and that, in my opinion, is leading into the Platnium Age (platnium’s better than gold right?).

These shows owe much to their forebearer’s of course. Arrested Development was a pioneer show that bucked the trend of laugh tracks, audiences, and multiple cameras. They opted for a single hand camera and followed the exploits of the dysfunctional Bluth family who make even the Kardashians look human by comparison, except nowhere near as funny.

Arrested Development is even sprinkled with references to Ron Howard’s time on the Andy Griffith show and Happy Days. Hell, Barry Zuckerkorn is basically the Fonz, albeit now a lawyer and a sexual deviant.

Lost was another great show in the vein of Twin Peaks and even the Twilight Zone, but with far more emphasis on drama and interconnected character development. I admittedly never finished Lost, as the ending was ruined for me by douchebags at work.

After watching several seasons I still think the first season is my favorite. When it was revealed that John Locke had been in a wheelchair prior to the island but could now walk and had spent so much time being told of what he could not do, I teared up. The Island became his Elysium, he became the survivors spiritual and physical warrior. He had purpose again.

30 Rock? Don’t get me started on 30 Rock. It’s an homage, critique, and parody to television itself, all in one. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, all played exaggerated or inverted versions of themselves. The writing and comedy was subtle at times, outlandish the next, and even had jokes that slipped by the Nazi censors.

The problem with some of these shows? Us. The American audience did not give some of these shows the attention they deserved and they sometimes suffered from it. It didn’t matter how many awards they won or how critically acclaimed they were; we were content watching garbage like According to Jim and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Simpsons

Alright, I know we didn’t get a chance to watch The Simpsons, but I have to write about it anyway. It was MY 90’s experience, it’s what I grew up on, hell, it’s what I still watch to this day.

Simpsons started in 1989 and had shorts featured on the Tracy Ulman show. The shorts and very early episodes were…not good. The animation was crude, Homer sounded like a bad Walter Matthau, and they focused attention on Bart and being a family show (you know, morals and shit).

Thank God they changed that format going into the third season and beyond. The show became even more popular, incredibly hilarious, and themes still relevant today. I’ll never forget when Sideshow Bob explained why he rigged the election to become mayor;

” Because you need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may move you to vote Democratic, but deep down you long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this, to save you from yourselves! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to run.”

That spoke to me then as it does now! I don’t agree with that outlandish/hilarious statement but it made me really consider politics from both angles.

There are tons of other lessons, both heartwarming and crude that I was taught, but Simpsons really defined comedy for me. Subtle store messages, stock photos, and other things shaped how I look at the world, no joke. If I meet someone or some girl, even if she’s hot, if they don’t like early Simpsons, we can’t be friends/date. Not kidding. I don’t care if she was my perfect match, if we can’t sing the Monorail song, we won’t truly be happy.

Also, this intro. No joke, when I saw this the first time, I threw up in my mouth from laughing so hard.

Cosby Ties

The Cosby Show and Family Ties both seem to be the epitome of the 80’s: diverse yet familiar, ridiculous hair, and Michael J. Fox. This era, dubbed Progeny in Tube of Plenty, is aptly named. These shows ARE the offspring from shows of previous decades but they have evolved and changed, largely for the better.

The Cosby Show featured hilarious stand-up comedian Bill Cosby and his nuclear family. Unlike Sanford and Son, the Huxtables were quite well to do; Cliff is a doctor and his wife Claire is a lawyer, thats a big difference from a junkyard owner. However, they fell into the standard Plastic Television mold very easily; once Bill got home he fell into usual patriarchal patterns while his wife fretted about and cooked. I was actually very surprised by the Cosby pilot, I had never seen the show and expected it to be cheesy and sappy, but it was actually very funny and heartfelt.

Family Ties DID meet my expectations of cheesy and sappy, but it was still enjoyable. This was largely due to Tom Hanks being…Tom Hanks. He’s gold no matter what he does (that man got me to cry over a volley ball…A VOLLEY BALL!). The accurate depiction of alcoholism and abuse was pretty shocking, again, i’m always surprised when they show themes like this before the 90’s.

The 80’s were a good year for TV and it seemed like these shows gave future shows like Family Matters and Full House the proper footing. However, I’m just hiding out in the bushes for The Simpsons.

M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H lasted 11 seasons on network TV. That’s quite a long time for a show about war, death, politics, and other seemingly unpopular topics for television. Yet it garnered a huge audience and its final two part episode left such a huge viewer mark that it eclipsed all else for 27 years.

How did it do this? Snappy writing, acting, and stories that still resonated with the times. As stated in Tube of Plenty, M*A*S*H followed a workplace setting where the workers had become a large quasi-family. The show followed various relationships between characters, bonds that were formed and lasted for years.

I never really watched M*A*S*H but I knew who Hawkeye, B.J., and the rest were, thanks to popular culture. These are characters with tremendous amounts of character and pathos, and I realized how deep they went after watching the ending.

After a trail of bread crumbs finally revealed that Hawkeye snapped because he witnessed a civilian (accidentally or on purpose, not sure if I want to know) smother her infant child, that seems like a landmark event for TV. That’s dark stuff even for today, and they showed it in 1983.

M*A*S*H isn’t exactly my cup of tea but I admit it was a powerful show. At least it gave us Jack Donaghy’s ironically hippie pacifist father on 30 Rock.

Mork from Ork

Mork and Mindy and Sanford and Son were two shows that, to me, really started to lay the groundwork for network television. Admittedly, I had never really seen either until recently but I found both funny and Sanford and Son to be more dramatic then I expected.

Mork and Mindy followed the exploits of Mork from Ork, and his interactions with Mindy, her family, and for some reason, the Fonz.  Robin Williams was basically playing himself with an alien background. Williams spastic, improvisational tactics proved popular and during the shows 4 year run, vaulted him to super stardom and numerous movie roles.

Much of the humor came, not from the rapid fire impersonations and crazy scenarios, but the subtle, more adult comedy that Williams slipped in. It was similar to how Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers did things, innocuous sounding jokes that were actually quite mature, but moved too quickly.

Sanford and Son blended humor and heart during it’s run. Fred and Lamont Sandford would periodically switch the father and son dynamic, blurring the line depicting who was more mature. It was funny, true to the times (unlike the shows that preceded it) and seemed like a progenitor to the shows of today that manage to combine drama and comedy.

Tube of Plenty called this time the Elder Era and it’s easy to see why. Shows were growing up, depicting more adult, racially diverse, and taboo themes that are the norm for today.

Hippies Everywhere!

The 60’s and 70’s were a time of radical upheaval…or at least, a handful of shows attempted this. The Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In were two variety sketch shows that were making fun of life and the country as it was, not the way that the media had typically been portraying it.

Laugh-In was a psychedelic forerunner to Saturday Night Live, and even some absurd, manic shows today (Tim and Eric comes to mind). Filled with very gasp inducing humor (he said he had relations with HER?!), the show fires too quickly for many people and, i’m assuming, censors, to pick up on what is inappropriate. The show clearly has a legacy, and I cannot find an adequate link, it was excellently parodied on 30 Rock’s Live from Studio 6H  (called the Gruber Brother and Nipsey Show, it’s about more than halfway through if you have Netflix).

The Smothers Brothers took a much more subtle effect but still took far more heat for their criticisms of Nixon and the war in Vietnam. They tried to hide it well under the guise of a homey variety TV show and soft spoken hosts, but the topics they used for satire were just too sensitive and CBS let them go. At least they all got Emmy’s!

Tube Of Plenty called this the Elder era of Television, which is fitting because youth inevitably stands up to challenge the elders preconceptions.

The Ed Sullivan Show

The Ed Sullivan Show premiered in 1948 and was a landmark variety hour that propelled many acts to superstardom and some to controversy. Richard Pryor, Elvis Presley, Joan Rivers, and countless others got their start or at least grew in popularity after appearing on the show.

Ed Sullivan’s endorsements helped many artists tremendously. Half the country (and Forrest Gump’s mom) did not approve of Elvis Presley’s oh so sexual pelvic sorcery, but Sullivan told America that Elvis was a “very nice person” and that helped those more conservative off the fence.

However, Sullivan could also hold quite the grudge. A few performers and comedians drew his ire when they did not want to conform to the Network and Sullivan’s family friendly views. Jackie Mason allegedly gave Sullvian the finger and an angry Sullivan banned Mason from ever returning, effectively denying him millions in potential contract deals. All over something Sullivan could have easily misinterpreted.

Many of these “inappropriate” lyrics and or acts are laughable by today’s standards but have these conservative views really gone away? Side boob used to be deemed risky but ok for media but throw in the shadow of a nipple? Nope, not having it. 

Andy Griffith Show

Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) was Sheriff of Mayberry from 1955 to 1968 and not once did he deal with draft dodgers, African Americans, or anything else the writers of the show deemed inappropriate for their quaint little town. The Andy Griffith Show was extremely popular during its run but could it be successful today? No.

Mayberry, much like the newly constructed (and fake) Disneyland at the time, was a dream locale where any good white southern Baptists would want to settle down. Clearly there is no crime because the Sheriff doesn’t even carry a gun! He’s even got time to run the local paper.

The writers of the show didn’t want to deal with anything that would distract from those good ole memories of how great it used to be. They didn’t want to portray the ongoing violence, political strife, or the racism that was casually ignored and sometimes approved of in the deep south.

The problem is, those that made the show and those that enjoyed it conveniently forgot that these problems have always existed and will always exist.

If you’ve ever seen No Country for Old Men by the Coen Brothers, you can see Tommy Lee Jones character wishing much the same thing. Throughout the film (set in 1980) he laments of times long past where people were decent and the local sheriff didn’t need to carry a gun either. He is later reminded that things will always be hard, not because times are changing, but because they always have been.

As mentioned in Tube of Plenty, plastic television was all the rage in the 50’s, and The Andy Griffith Show was no different from all the other fake products that came out of the molding.