Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The War At Home Bad - Arrested Development Good

Most of the reviews I've done have been positive, but here's a negative one for you. Sundays on Fox at 8:30 there is a show called The War At Home. It is not a great show. It is not a good show. Well, it's good at being offensive and insulting to anyone who actually watches it.

What's it about? Well if you've seen more than three sitcoms, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say it's a Stupid Dad show. Dad is some kind of knucklehead lucky to have found a woman who'll put up with him. See, we've got the dad and mom, we'll just call them Jason and Maggie, and three kids we could call Mike and Carol and Ben. No, wait . . . I refuse to slander a show I actually enjoyed in my youth by comparing this current piece of crap to it.

But at least the script is original. See, cause the dad had an IM with some total stranger lady from another state, discussing some sex type stuff of the cyber sort, and the mom has been carrying on an email correspondence with an ex-boyfriend discussing not sex issues but emotional issues. They never had IM's or emails on Growing Pains! See how original? Yeah, like no one's ever seen a sitcom with some mistaken notion about one or the other person having the affair but the other person is up to something shady too and isn't it nice how it all works out in the end? I mean, Ross got screwed, literally, and figuratively, when he and Rachel were on a break; he was innocent of any wrongdoing, but it was still a long time before he got any Rachel poonanny again. But everything works out perfectly for mom and dad.

They've also been running with the son presumed gay schtick, a typical wacky misunderstanding situation. The boy dressed in mom's clothes so he could get away with taking her car for a joyride. See, people would think he was his mom. Pretty clever, right? Except for the parents thinking he must be gay. Even when he tells them the truth (honesty is the best policy, he is advised by his obvious to us but hidden form anyone on the show itself gay buddy), they give him the old it's ok we still love you even if you're gay bit. It's not until the traffic cam sends them a ticket in which they can see the son driving in mom's dress that they actually believe him. And of course dad is, you guessed it, relieved! His son is no sissy. But you see, it's all original cause they threw in a traffic cam!

Look, someone might have said something about how there are no new stories to be told, that everything is going to be something you've seen somewhere, in some form. There might have even been a South Park episode that was all about how the Simpsons had already done every idea. But at least you can do it good. They say a good actor can read the phone book and make it compelling. Maybe good writers could make these retread plots funny.

It's not just the modern tech references that make this show so insulting. They also do one of those concept things. You know, a character appears on an all white set and talks directly to the audience. I mean please. What's next, is the guy from the Wonder Years going to start doing voice-overs? I call them the "you're too stupid to understand, so we're going to stop all action on the show and explain it to you nice and slow, and we'll do it on a blank empty set so you won't even be distracted by the couch or the family photos on the wall of the stairway just like you've seen in every other show since the beginning of television" take. Yeah, I'm still working on a way to shorten that down.

I don't even know if Woody Allen could make this show work. But speaking of Woody:

Do you realize how immoral this all is?

Max, I've got a hit series.

Yeah, I know; but you're adding fake

You all probably know that's from Annie Hall, in a scene where Woody Allen is watching a laugh track being added to an unfunny show. I could take or leave Annie Hall. It's ok, has funny moments, but for me not a classic. And yet, this movie could wipe its ass with The War At Home, except that would be an insult to actual toilet paper.

The insult to the audience is that this show has a laugh track. The injury this show adds is that even the laugh track sucks. Shouldn't they be trying to make the laughs at least sound like they might have come from an actual audience? Actually watching this show? It always sounds like a bad dub. I could probably take a simple tape recorder, record off the TV the canned laughs they use on The War At Home, and add them to an actual funny show with no laugh track and no audience, like say Arrested Development, and make it sound better than some guy with actual training who is getting paid to do it.

Do yourself a favor. Never watch The War At Home. In that half hour between Simpsons and Family Guy, I catch up on Fellowship of the Ring so I'm up to speed for the next chapter discussion at Tolkien Geek. And for a high quality comedy, you should check out Arrested Development at its new time, 8:00pm Mondays on Fox.
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