Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sit-Coms? Shit-Coms!!

Almost over half way through my mammoth work week of 15+ hours every day…my boss at (one of) the bars I work at is away and I’m covering day shifts then booting across town in an hour and start a night shift as a kitchen porter--cheers for the lift today 'L'. The logical thing after all that getting covered in gank would be to just go to bed, but when has ‘just going to bed’ ever been in the nature of the Jimmny?. Besides, I’m seething with rage as I have spent the last 20 minutes of work scooping tiny bits of food out of a huge sink while a manager keeps coming in and asking if I’m finished…like I’m taking this long doing this because I really enjoy doing it? Like I would wash everything and then do it again just for kicks, because I really like the sound of clanking glass and cutlery? Despite being exhausted from work I still can’t sleep, so might as well keep my nocturnal appointment with the increasingly bitter-a-rama that is the Life and Times of Jimmny Homunculus. Things will get better soon, it’s the whole ‘week in arrears’ pay thing, it feels like working for free until Friday, when I will exchange some of that coinage into the only currency that Jimmny really recognises…geeky cultural products, the imiment wishlist:

1. Vic Reeves Big Night Out on DVD ohh, can't wait..lady in HMV said Sept 26 release but Amazon says Sept 12, seriously I cannot overemphasize how looking forward to this I am....beware anyone in the UK or Republic of Ireland...I could well turn up with lots of booze and this DVD and force you to watch all 350 minutes of if...ain't no lie anyone who was subjected to repeated showings of Big Train and the Adam and Joe Show DVD will attest.
2. Alexis Sayles Stuff on DVD-again can't wait was another favorite of mine but was always getting postponed on BBC2 Northern Ireland for some shite 'home grown' comedy like 'Provo McChuckees Dancing and Spud-eatin' Variety ShinDig.
3. Vice Do’s and Don’ts Book. looked at it many times in a book shop and must own it.
4. Suicide Girls Book the only surprise is that I haven't acquired this tome already!

By contrast, the day part of work is really quiet and I have spent most of this afternoon catching up on forgotten sitcoms.

I always feel sorry for sitcom characters, they have maybe three places they go to every day and that’s it, sure they talk about exciting scrapes like being on a runaway ship but they are clearly standing behind a stationary railing in a sou'wester as someone throws a bucket of water at them.

Paramount shows all the classics, Soap, Ink, Becker (will the Ted Danson character (what's his name?..oh yeah!, Becker) ever get to smoke that cigarette he waves around in painful sitcom shorthand for ‘I’m a cynical doctor who ironically smokes’), Mork and Mindy (my adult brain watches this and thinks…Mindy is really taking advantage of a mentally retarded guy and just tells everyone he’s ‘an alien’ that’s why he acts strange..yeah right). The Wonder Years…I caught an episode of this with with Dustin Diamond in it. What is this? some sort of parallel universe clash with Saved by the Bell, not only travelling dimensions but barriers of time and quality? that's the problem, I apply sci-fi and comics logic to sitcoms and soaps, like when Mork was introduced in Happy Days, are they all in parallel dimensions? what do the citizens of Coronation Street watch instead of Coronation Street?

Oh yeah and Bravo is showing Automan (‘sure, your secret magic friend that lives in your office computer solved the case?). So, basically I’m in sad geek heaven (do I ever leave?). The main guilty pleasure is Ned and Stacy. I have a soft spot for Thomas Haden Church because he is amazing in one of my favourite films, The Specials, seek it out! As the Mighty Strobe. It is refreshing to see a sitcom built on venom and hatred, one could not even pitch it these days…how do they even pitch sitcoms these days..I wonder.... mmmm(cue blurry shot of me stroking my chin)

Friends the pitch:
"err…it’s about six friends that are …err…. friends and all hang out together and that…oh yeah! They are all totally different apart from them all being white and middle-class…and all the same….Ross sometimes goes out with black girls though…em...…lots of weddings…can we have millions of dollars? emmm…goodbye.”
Studio execs: do any of these 'friends' ever have sex?
Pitcher: 'oh god no, they talk about it a lot but then spazz out if ever they come into contact with anyone who might actaully like sex or any contact with any bodily fluid of any sort.
Studio execs: okay then here's your millions of dollars...just play down the actually could you play up the gayness just enougth to get viewers but not enough for any gayness to actually occur?...
Pitchers: no worries boss...

Darma and Greg the pitch:
‘yeah well, emm there’s this girl who is like ‘kooky’ and ‘hippyish’ but with no discernable politics or anything and there’s this guy who’s like ‘a suit’ but is like nice and that and they’re married but like they’re totally mismatched…apart from both being quite similar and white and middle class…em….it’s not …Ned and Stacy…see, they've got different names and everything …

Will and Grace, the pitch:
‘yeah well, emm there’s this girl who is like ‘kooky’ and ‘hippyish’ but with no discernable politics or anything and she knows, like is actually friends with, a gay guy, but here’s the twist! They were like in love or something and now they share a flat and she knows a kooky woman and he knows and even gayer guy and like they’re so mismatched and kooky despite all being white and middle class…I mean..sparks will fly…it’s not Ned and Stacy or Darma and Greg…see…different names.
Studio execs: ‘Will these gay guys actually have sex?”
Pitcher: oh…em…oh god no, they’ll talk about it a lot and buy clothes and go to ‘gay bars’ but cock action fact they will spazz out when any actual sex is on the cards...can we have millions of dollars please?…goodbye.
Studio execs: okay then here's your millions of dollars

Thinking of some criteria for describing such shit-coms…I have come up with the following terms it's a Big Banister Show (The Cosby Show, Diff'rent Strokes) it’s a Coffee Shoper(Becker, Friends), oh! it’s a Workplacer (Ink, Spin City) it’s a Metro-Mismatcher (Will and Grace, Ned and Stacey) it’s a “ Pile of Shit but there might be some swearing or nudity” (Married with Children, Rude Awakening).

Missing in repeat action so far…ALF, Out of this World (sure, you’re dad’s gone away to his home planet, and he talks to you through your jewellery box!'…), The Misfits of Science….Perfect StrangersA Different WorldMr Belvedere.

You see, now you know why I have to do Film and Television studies…I can only function while constantly spouting media-based trivia and somehow connecting it to the real world. A dear friend of mine back in the day called Aidan picked up on this trend while I used to come out with comparisons between mundane aspects of real-life like, I don’t know, cleaning out an oven and I’d go…"this is like Hell-Raiser!” or walking down a back street and I’d say this is like the opening sequence of Coronation Street!..and he would look at me and say,

‘It’s not like anything,…it just like real life!”


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Kev said...

Dear Jimmny,

Kev here from the Nott. conference. I've been reading your rantings and here's an actual post, although if you want to buy a gift basket I may be interested... Seeing as how you seem to be quite the expert on cheesy sitcoms I was hoping you could help me remember the title of a programme that's been driving me insane for years now. I have very little info but therein lies the challenge! It was American, but shown in the UK about the same time as Married with Children in the late 80s/early 90s. It was definitely made in the 80's and was similar to the Alf setup except the family tried to hide the fact that someone was a witch (I think it was the mother-in-law). I will be in eternal awe of your TV prowess if you can come up with the identity of this one and the geek credentials will shoot off the scale.


Karl said...

Jimmny - those spam robots only seem to post on the blogger comments pages - try installing Haloscan ( to combat it/ One proble - you seem to lose your old comments when you install the new comment thang. Sitcoms: do your remember Nightingales on C4 around the star of the 90s? Ran for 2 series: Robert Lindsay, James Ellis and David Threlfall fron Shameless. About three night watchmen and their incresingly surreal experiences.

Caddy Powers Jr said...

I remember Nightingales a tiny bit. Think I saw the first two episodes so I don't really remember the extra surreal moments.

I wonder when pitching shows like Spaced are they ultra honest and admit the amount of cult knowledge they are going to put it in? Or do they just sort of smuge the truth and claim that it's just about a couple living in a flat pretending to be a couple even though there not but they have a pretty obvious sexual tension and their wacky friends?

Anyway, I have the opposite geek problem and loose stations just when something good starts. Arrested Development looked interesting but I guess I'll never know at this rate ...

Caddy Powers Jr said...

Probably should have put in commas and extra full stops in that last post for it to make sense ... but I always felt they were optional

Lorcy said...

to kev, must find that 'we're hindign a witch-in-law with hilarious conseqeunces' sitcom but can't find it! it's almost like a sub genre with Harry and Hendersons and Small Wonder

Lorcy said...

spoke to soon.. the witch thing was called Free Spirit
"Winny Goodwin is an immortal witch (a la "Bewitched") reluctantly sent Earthward to do pro-bono work with a mortal American family"

Kev said...

heh heh, brilliant work! and with Alyson Hannigan no less. these 'hiding things' sitcoms are sinister - all a metaphor for hiding bruises on their daughter's legs etc. I always want to see the concepts followed through though - like if Willy came home one day to find Alf tucking into the dismembered cat. That would teach the bastards the danger of harbouring aliens.

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