The Funniest Thing On TV

The old idiot box. It may be in color now crafted in ultra hi def (at least not in India) beamed to us from the heavens with more channels than there are countries in the world. But even after an hour of channel surfing and aching fingers from that remote pushing I still can't find anything worthwhile to watch. I'm in some mood for comedy. So in this maze of mindlessness what do I find funny? Its not the news channels that make breaking news out of a woman slapping her unfaithful husband. Its not a hapless Somnath Chatterjee trying to calm a few hundred angered politicians who seemed to be fueled by Red Bull and half a gallon of caffeine for no apparent reason. Its not the wardrobe "malfunctions" at the India Fashion Week. Neither is it Rauf Lala who makes grotesque and inappropriate jokes on national television and gets away with it (and the tag of Laughter Champion). Its not the millionth rerun of an episode of Friends which I have by-hearted. Its a little sitcom called Arrested Development which has me holding the sides of my stomach because it hurts so much while laughing.

The plot is simple. One twisted rich family with a big business loses it all as the head of the family and the business is jailed for financial wrongdoings and its all up to the good son in the family to keep them all together. Sounds interesting? Well the story isn't even half the appeal of the show. Its how the story is told which forms the icing for this very fine cake. Unlike its contemporaries, this one is not shot in a studio and does not have the standard background laughter to get you to laugh as well. This is one genuinely funny show. The cinema verite style justs adds that extra bit of class. And the cherry on the cake is the narrator. Lot of sitcoms have narrators but the narration is usually done by the main character of the show or the future self of the main character. In arrested development, the narrator is just that, a narrator. He is not a character on the show and neither is he related to anyone on the show. Voiced by the legendary Ron Howard in a matter-of-fact and to-the-point manner, the narrator is the funniest part of the show by not being funny.

A great show cannot be great if it has no memorable characters. All the characters in AD are so colourfully crafted that they make the six F.R.I.E.N.D.S seem one dimensional and black and white in comparison. Whether its the eldest brother Gob whose trademark "I've made a huge mistake" is a sign of impending doom or the grandson George Michael's growing inappropriate crush on his cousin Maebe there is something outrageously wrong (and funny) with every person on screen. Few shows use double entendres and word plays as intelligently as this one. Sample this, the brother-in-law Tobias Fumke wants to start a practice combining an analyst and a therapist. What does he call his new venture? An analrapist!! Its brilliant and outrageous at the same time and neatly sidesteps the landmines of being grotesque and crude. Most sitcoms also try to be emotional and meaningful at times where an episode ends on a sad note or leaves a meaningful message before ending. But not here. Yes, sometimes there is a message of family before all else but then right after the message is conveyed there is some outrageous betrayal by a member of the family which totally obliterates the message. The message actually helps accentuate the outrageousness and no show on earth can do this.

The show just ran for 3 seasons out of which the last season had a run of only 13 episodes. Falling viewership and the presence of boneheads at Fox's headquarters meant the show had to be axed. I guess it was too intelligent and outrageous for the Americans. The Americans had shown world that they too could make an intelligent and adult comedy which was at par and better than British shows like Coupling. I just wish that it was the British who had made this show in the first place because in that case the show would still be running.

I consider Arrested Development to be iconic and a coming of age (or at least an attempt) of American television. It is best I have seen on the TV for a long while even though, ironically, every episode I watched by downloading off the internet. I do wish someone would bring it back.


neat blogging..Rant on!:)

September 22, 2007 at 7:40 AM  


October 21, 2007 at 2:37 PM  

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