Ok. I was a doubter. I worried about the future of the funniest show on television. Then this last Sunday’s episode came on. Hell yes. What I should have realized is that the one before this was a Brian episode. They tend to be, like his personality, more serious and somewhat romantic, ever since Season One’s Brian in Love.
This last episode, titled Believe it or not, Joe’s walking on air is the sort of episode that tends to have the widest appeal, and surely leaves me in helpless fits of laughter. The use of self-referential/deprecating humor was conspicuous in this episode, with the writers poking fun at criticisms leveled against them by South Park, among others. Once could view these responses either as acts of self-consciousness or as humorous means of transcendence. I tend to be optimistic about it. I was laughing my ass off, so I approve.
In other humor news. I have always been a fan of slapstick movies, unrealistic comedies such as Airplane, Naked Gun, even the Hot Shots movies made me laugh. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but the newest movie to emerge from the genre, The Comebacks, just looks awful. It could be because I’m just generally not a sports fan, but come on, one scene shows referees with dark glasses and canes. Oh! I get it they’re blind! A-he he… It could be just my growing older, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the Scary Movie series, I just generally think the two young Wayans brothers are about as funny as a tube of Metemucil. No, actually Metemucil at times can be quite hilarious. I actually think David Koechner was pretty funny in SNL, Anchorman, and The Office, but I will sit this one out.
I don’t really know what to make of the new season of The Family Guy. The season premier (the Star Wars parody was really good, but I noticed several scenes where the momentum seemed to die, and the insane, ever-present punchlines just didn’t come. In the last episode from Sunday, titled Movin out (Brian’s Song) (a characteristic FG triple-entendre), this was much more striking. I’m a huge fan, I consider it one of my top shows along with Lost, BSG, and It’s Always Sunny. I have defended its humor whenever I get a chance – they don’t need to rely on plot like South Park and The Simpsons. It is slapstick. Plot didn’t really matter in the comedy classic Airplane and it needn’t in FG.
But something very different is going on and I think it is intentional. This episode had several scenes that ended without punchlines, not with failed punchlines (every episode has a couple, I accept it), but literally the scenes just ended. Some were meant to be sad, some meant to be awkward (I think…), but some just… ended. Very strange.
Notably, there were the extended scenes with Carl, played by H. Jon Benjamin from Home Movies and Dr. Katz (as well as numerous cameos on almost every Adult Swim cartoon). Those scenes in particular seemed to draw inspiration from the bone-dry humor in those shows. I like that humor, in Home Movies particularly, but that has never really been FG’s selling point. I relish those mundane, realist conversations that flavor and temper the off-the-wall humor in FG, but trying to build a show on that sort of banter is fundamentally changing the show. I dug those awkward movie conversations between Chris and Carl, but you need the fast-paced slapstick humor and offensive one-liners to give those mundane scenes any sort of weight. In a well-balanced episode, those scenes prove to be more tense than the ones that end up causing controversy.
I’m not ready to admit that FG has gone astray yet, I mean I tolerated the Nikki and Paolo episodes in the third season of Lost, but they need to get their balance back. In almost every episode, season 3 and after, I have had at least a couple moments where I could not control my laughter. I don’t think I had one audible after viewing this episode.
And I sure as hell cherish my laughing time.