Thank The Stars The 2010-11 TV Season Is Over. No, Really, Thank The Stars. We Insist. (Micro-Spoiler Alert)

By popGeezer | March 24, 2016

Originally published in 2011, this recap of the 2010-11 TV season also includes your popGeezer’s “TV Sit-Com 101″ class. That prominently features a rant on the importance of “The Larry Sanders Show.”

With news today of Garry Shandling’s untimely death, allow us to pay tribute again to his most influential and important work.

Original post:

I don’t know how you feel, but I’m exhausted.

I’m in such bad shape, Lauren’s “Momma” song on American Idol reduced me to blubbering jelly.  I’m in such a state that Hines Ward’s DWTS victory required me to grab a terrible towel (okay, a hankie), and Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry’s Wicked duet on the last Glee required nose-blowing and an eyeglass squeegie.  Don’t even try and ask about the last four minutes of this season’s How I Met Your Mother. I’m still a mess.  (Oh, Lilypad. [sniff])

The 2010-11 TV season was, frankly, just too darn exhausting.  But now that Scotty McDreary has won Idol, it’s finally over.  And with that, it’s time for a recap of the trends, the joys, the train-wrecks and the perplexing moments that broadcast network TV brought us this season.  Take a breath, and let’s begin…

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Good Lord, GLEE.  Make Up Your Mind!

Perhaps the most bipolar scripted show on TV exhibited even more schizophrenic symptoms this season.  When this show hits its groove – evidenced by episodes like “Funeral”, “Born This Way”, ”Never Been Kissed”, and much of finale “New York” - you get to enjoy solid performances, sensitive writing, and lovely covers of hit pop tunes.  When Glee goes off the rails – in episodes like “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle”, “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”, “Prom Queen”, “Grilled Cheesus”, “Sexy” or some parts of “New York” – you get more laughs (usually supplied by Jane Lynch), a more diverse set of offbeat cover tunes, and mostly you get to experience what Time Magazine’s TV writer James Poniewozik so perfectly calls “Glee’s elastic relationship to reality”.

Here’s what we have to accept.  Glee is a TV version of a classic musical comedy.  There are conventions of that musical form which the show exploits, often to wonderful results.  However, as we’ve pointed out here before, Glee started life in its first season appearing to reject those conventions – most obviously by forcing the on-screen music to have an organic, reality-based and visible source – but by 44th episode “New York”, those organic music sources have vanished.  The aforementioned Berry/Hummel duet on Wicked’s “For Good” broke my heart with an imaginary full orchestra.  The kids took to the streets of the Big Apple to delightfully re-imagine the fantasy of the iconic On The Town.

Here’s a simple way to illustrate that Glee makes us crazy by acting crazy.  How is the Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) who prayed to a grilled cheese sandwich the very same kid who organized a breathtaking funeral for Sue Sylvester’s sister Jean?  How can Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) have gone through an unplanned pregnancy, even surrendering the child to adoption, and then snap back to being the privileged brat she was at the outsetof the series?  Even with the ret-con madness of the secret ”fat Quinn”, who saw this prom queen obsession coming?  She went back to the Cheerios squad, after Sue Sylvester discarded her, then quit the squad in moving solidarity with the glee club.  Despite that, she was ready to take steps to sink the club’s competition in NYC, until her other ex-cheerleader pals convinced her to behave after a two-minute conversation.  And was I tripping, or did Sue actually join the glee club this year and sing My ChemicalRomance with them?  Really?

While Finn and Quinn get the worst scripting whiplash of all the regular cast, both Monteith and Agron do a solid job of carrying out these dreadful assignments.  And while they getsavaged with “who are we this week” from writers/co-creators  Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennen, this trio gives Lea Michele’s Berry and Chris Colfer’s Hummel characters the most consistency and a progressive emotional development that is guaranteed Emmy-bait.  (The exception being Kurt’s season one journey to Cheerios-land.)  In addition, what they have provided for Heather Morris‘ Britney S. Pierce, has taken her from a cute dumb-bunny punchline to the most valuable player of the second-line cast.  More than almost any other cast member, the last six episodes of the second season were just simply hers.  Having been responsible for the writing of every episode so far, these three guys are obviously capable of something more effective than what they’ve produced in Glee’s second season.

Contrasting first season finale “Journey To Regionals” with season two closer “New York” is further evidence that something simply has to change here.  Both are written and directed by co-creator Falchuk, who has absolutely shown he should be the series director of record.  The act from “Regionals”, which is rivalgroup Vocal Adrenaline’s performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” intercut withthe birthof Quinn’s baby, was the best directed five minutes of TV in the 2009-10 season.  The last act, featuring the club’s two-hankie performance of “To Sir With Love”, Morrison’s of the Israel Kamakawiwoʻole version of “Over The Rainbow”, and Sue and Shue’s new understanding scene, was an emotionally spot-on button of the first season.  Season two’s “New York” ended with the cast in the choir room just looking at their tiny trophy, as the camera moved into the darkness of a wall.  There was also no music in this “coda” of a final act.  That’s a rock-solid metaphor for a show (or hopefully just a season) that’s run out of gas.

In two seasons, Glee has generated 11 albums or EPs, put some 148 tracks into the Billboard Hot 100 – setting an insane record that no other act will likely match or top – and stacks of DVDs.  The second annual live tour just launched in Vegas, and that tour will become the Glee Live! In 3D movie to be released on August 12th.  The magnitude of this cash-cow phenomenon is on a Simpsons-level, but in a post-modern era of maximum digital exploitation.  Sony Music and FOX are not going to let this thing whither on the vine.  How do you potentially right the ship – the TV show at the heart of this industry?

Well, for one thing, Glee’s writing staff is moving from trio to quartet.  The first new hire is theatrical (and comic-book) veteran Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who wrote the book for the 2010 revised version of musical It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, and who was called upon to rework the book of the soon-to-be greatest Broadway flop of all time - Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Also of key consideration, this experienced scriptwriter is gay, as is co-creator Murphy, which is a major issue given the show’s emphasis on the challenges faced by openly-gay teen Kurt Hummelin the overwhelmingly stereotypical McKinley High.  Also rumored for season three is a relocation of Blaine (Darren Criss) from his private academy to the public school the main cast calls home.

And before we totally leave Glee, let me attempt to say two unqualified, kind things about season two.

Thank y0u, Darren Criss.  Thank you for being so charismatic, so talented, such a terrific performer.  You lit this show up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  And, though I do like Cory Monteith, you not getting the role of Finn was a boneheaded decision on someone’s part.

And thank you, Chris Colfer.  Though you are one of the youngest cast members of the show, with almost no professional experience before landing the role of Kurt Hummel, you are the heart and soul of this series.  When Kurt fled the school for Dalton Academy, after being bullied and threatened, the split-school narrative resulted in episodes without you and/or Darren.  We learned quickly that there’s no Glee without Kurt.  And we think you have a darn good shot at the Comedy Supporting Actor Emmy, though your best work this year was far from funny.  If anyone can watch you perform “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and not fall apart, they have no soul.

Which takes us to our final point, and possibly the biggest one.  Glee got a two-season renewal after its first year.  Co-executive producer Ryan Murphy has made it clear that we’re following real-time school years.  In this week’s “New York” episode, Rachel, Kurt and Finn plainly pointed out that the coming year is their SENIOR year.  Rachel, Kurt and Blaine all have an exodus to NYC after graduation planned.  What would a fourth season of Glee portend?  Option one – a mainly new cast continues like at McKinley High in Lima, Ohio?  Option two – do we follow the kids we know and love – who maybe stay together in a big pack – to new adventures in NYC?  (Did you see Saved By The Bell: The College Years?)  Option three – a split narrative that tries to encompass both?

The bottom line here, if Glee cannot start to produce a more creatively consistent and satisfying product, it cannot survive a scenario where Michele, Colfer, Criss, Montieth, Agron, Morris… hell, et. al. departs the show after three seasons.

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Driving Into A House on HOUSE?  Really?

Another issue for FOX is the loss of House after next season.  If we take this year’s seventh season as a whole, we’d say they should have gotten out this year while the show had a smidgen of its old spark.  The renewal of House for season eight was such a nail-biter that this year’s finale had to hedge its bets, hence the “tropicalisland” closing.  A nasty little war erupted between FOX (the network) and Universal (the producer and show owner) over the renewal.  Rumors circulated that the post-Comcast Universal, who also owns NBC, would not have been sad to see the show leave FOX and go somewhere more synergistic.  However, additionalrumors in late April and early May said that a tiny bit of language in the most recent license for the show looked to prohibit moving the show to NBC upon a FOX cancellation or agreement expiration.  So, FOX and Universalmade their deal, leaving House having to dealwith a signficantly reduced budget for the last round-up.  Star Hugh Laurie and co-star Olivia Wilde were already locked in for year eight, so the folks getting to bear the brunt of the costs for this looked to be Omar Epps (Foreman), Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson) and/or Lisa Edelstein (Cuddy).  One of the these folks decided to… pass on that generous offer.

So, anyways, we get an eighth season of House, when season seven didn’t get me in a really fuzzy mood for that.  If nothing else, the overwhelming sense of formula that shrouded season seven took the bloom off of the rose.  We literally could start to call the point when Dr. Gregory House would come into the patient-of-the-week’s room (usually between 29:00 to 32:41 each week).  The mechanics of the traditional episode plotting got so loud, you’d have to turn on your closed captions to follow the dialogue.  But on the plus side, the less routine episodes still had something to offer.  “Two Stories“, though cursed with a horribly obvious title, featured the fun of House let loose on elementary school students.  “The Dig” brought back Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen (thankfully), put House and Thirteen on the road, featured an insane Damon Lindelof cameo, gave euthanasia a pretty reasoned hearing, and revealed House’s previously unkownpotato-based rivalry with a teenaged boy.  And “After Hours”, capping off the left-field arc of House’s experimental drug self-testing, featured some of the most unpleasently intense footage surrounding House’s equally insane self-surgery on tumors in his already-damaged leg.

Which brings us to the finale, another effective outside-the-box episode titled “Moving On“, easily the high-water mark of this weaker season.  The case of the week, featuring Shohreh Aghdashloo (24) as a dying performace artist turning House’s race to diagnose her into her last project, created the most House/patient interaction since last season’s formula-busting “Lockdown“.  Making the case the most direct (or, obvious) metaphor for House’s current work/personal/psychological situation helps force House into confronting tons of supressed emotions – most specifically his real pain at having lost Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) after years of obnoxious pursuit.  And while driving a car into Cuddy’s house is not the healthiest way of expressing this pain, at least it’s a direct expression of anger.  Executive producer David Shore says the dramatic finish was not originally intended as the capper to send Cuddy into the sunset.  But Edelstein’s decision to not return for season eight at a discounted rate has turned it into just that.  Shore says House will come home to Princeton Plainsboro, but, for me, the island bit would have been a reasonably acceptable finish if season seven had been it.  The order for a new finale is much taller, given the vents of sesaon seven and the more generic “case of the week” episodes.

But, before we forget…  Thank you, Hugh Laurie, for playing the most unrepentant rat ba*tard on network TV.  We may have Tony Soprano to blame for you, but at least he had a wife and kids.

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Hard-Core Sci-Fi Is Dead on Network TV, Or Is It?

People just don’t watch hard sci-fi on network TV.  As Fringe dove deeply into the theoretical physics pool this year, ratings plummeted from their modest season two levels, and the show was booted from Thursday to the legendary FOX fantasy/sci-fi ghetto of Friday nights… having to follow the least popular of Gordon Ramsay’s three FOX food-based reality shows.  NBC’s The Event… wasn’t one.  And ABC’s V, though vastly improved from its truncated first season, got its episode order cut back again- to ten from thirteen – and slowly leaked ratings weekly on Tuesday nights in early 2011.  The new age of fantasy/sci-fi ushered in by Smallville, Lost and Supernatural is over, with only Supernatural still to be airing in Fall 2011, and a laundry list of semi-successful to failed shows stacked up like cord-wood – Firefly, Heroes, Dollhouse, Terminator:SDCC or The Cape have all come and gone.

The CW still has a solid commitment to the otherworldy genres.  Smallville got ten seasons, becoming the longest running super-hero and sci-fi series in broadcast network TV history.  Vampire Diaries and Supernatural are both major anchors for the CW schedule, but they’re fantasy, not true hard-core sci-fi.

But back to FOX – wow they’ve turned into the theme of this post, huh?  The broadcast network which has shown the most enthusiasm for sci-fi has also cancelled a bunch of geek TV.  For arguments sake, here’s FOX’s semi-complete sci-fi curriculum vitae, from TV.com:

  • Alcatraz (2011)
  • Adventures of Brisco Country, Jr.
  • Alien Nation (1989)
  • Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction
  • Buffy the Animated Series (pilot)
  • Dark Angel
  • Darkside (pilot)
  • Doctor Who (1996) (co-production w/BBC, pilot)
  • Dollhouse
  • Firefly
  • Fringe
  • John Doe
  • Kindred: The Embraced
  • Locke & Key (2011 – pilot)
  • M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • Millennium
  • New Amsterdam
  • Sightings
  • Sliders
  • Smokers (pilot)
  • Sole Survivor (mini-series, backdoor pilot?)
  • Space: Above and Beyond
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Terra Nova (2011)
  • The X-Files
  • Ultraviolet (US) (pilot)
  • Virtuality (pilot)
  • So either a) FOX doesn’t know when to quit, or b) somebody out there thinks this genre has a hit waiting to happen.  In terms of the latter, Terra Nova could be that hit.  But, as we detailed a bit ago, finding out won’t come cheap.

    And what of, at least in terms of the 2010-11 season, that last man standing?  Whither Fringe?  Deciding to totally go for broke, in creative terms, executive producers Bryan Burk and Jeff Pinkner (pick a Bad Robot show for their credits) and Oscar-winning consulting producer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Batman And Robin, Batman Forever) threw alternate realities, giant universe-eating machines, a computer-animated WTF, and a red-wigged sex bomb of an Anna Torv at us this season.  Noted Twitter-dude the Masked Scheduler (@maskedscheduler), a reallive person inside the FOX TV machine, communicated with me after this season’s episode “Lysergic Acid Diethylamidethat the epectation at Fringe all season long was cancellation.  So, with no expectations, nothing to lose, and getting abandoned on Fridays, Fringe’s decision to go bonkers and as hard-core sci-fi as any serious network show ever did, led them to a creative peak by indulging in unrestrained imagination.

    But, in a genuine surprise, FOX renewed the ratings-starved show for a fourth year, despite the third season finale being the lowest-rated episode of the series ever.  And after a mind-bending cliffhanger, where two universes were linked inside one building on Liberty Island and Joshua Jackson’s Peter Bishop winked out of existence, we are chomping at the bit for the show’s return.

    Thank you, Anna Torv, for showing us that putting on a wig can make you hotter than anyone ever imagined.  And thank you, John Noble, for doing Emmy caliber work on a sci-fi show, which means you’ll never even getnominated for one.  And, hey, thank you Australia, for the both of these fine people.  And a belated thank you to TV’s Pacey for getting his girlfriend Diane Krugerto play an unbilled victim of the week on Fringe in season two.

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    Who’s Laughing Now, And At What?

    Network situation comedies break down into two big, basic formats.  A single-camera sitcom is shot like a movie, scene by scene, and there is no audience.  A multi-camera sitcom is shot by – usually – four cameras at once, and is performed more or less like a play in front of a studio audience.  When there are problems or glitches, scenes are reshot, and most of these shows employ a scene by scene shooting breakdown anyway.  After these two operationaldifferences, the actual show styles get a bit more complicated.  Let’s break down the comedy sub-genres into four detailed flavors:

    1. The mock-documentary format is most easily represented by The Office, but is also the format of Modern Family and Parks And Recreation.  These are obviously cinematic, single-camera shows.  The major bonus of doing a show this way is that you get to use pretend interviews, where a character or characters address the camera (and supposedly an interviewer) directly.  If you regularly watch any of these three comedies, think about how many laughs and how much character information is presented in these fake interviews?  And consider how much mileage John Krasinski (Jim) gets out of doing takes directly into the camera.  But guess what all those takes don’t do for Kasinski?  Earn him an Emmy nomination.  Star Steve Carell (5 nominations) and Rainn Wilson (3 nominations) are the only two Dunder-Mifflin employees to get noticed by by the Academy.  Prior to 2010, this type of sitcom did not generate the amount of Emmy buzz one would expect from this very exploitable sitcom format.  However, Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguason and Ty Burrellall were nominated in 2010, with Stonestreet winning.  What’s the trick?  Well, performace and material matter a lot, but keep in mind that Modern Family is a post-modern approach to the family sitcom.  And the extended family of this series is absolutely lovable.  Does that sound like Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute?  In terms of the overall series itself, Modern Family and The Office have each one for Comedy Series.

    2. The classic four-camera wisecracker sitcom is about a family, or friends who are as close as a family, or co-workers who are like a family, or a gay man and straight woman living together who are bascially family, but it’s always about some kind of family.  It often stars a stand-up comic who either pretends to be a doctor, a ex-tool salesman turned TV host, a working-class mom, or a thin, neat stand-up comic from New York.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  The jokes come fast, are snappily delivered, and sometimes there is hugging.  Think Mary Tyler Moore, Cheers, Cosby Show, Roseanne and even Seinfeld.  Even though Larry David’s “The Contest”, from Seinfeld, is shocking and ground-breaking in its subject matter, it is above all a perfectly written four-camera sitcom episode.  Today, the masters of this format are usually on CBS, and come from Chuck Lorre’s stable of shows – i.e. Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.  The form and format is traditional, while the language, subject matter and execution is contemporary.  Now they’re more about “special huggging” than traditional hugging.  As the amount of network TV situation comedies have, in the main, moved away from this format in the past eleven years, it’s interesting to see how this format has done at the Emmys.  With only three significant examples of their format, these mockumentaries have gone two for eleven in Comedy Series since 2000.  The four-camera classicists have gone four for eleven – Everybody Loves Raymond (2), Will And Grace and Friends – from a much larger representation of the format actually on-air.  In terms of all the acting categories, four-camera show castmates have won twenty-two out of forty-four possible statues.  Though that fifty percent hit rate looks good on paper, only one of those winners – Jon Cryer – won for a show that is still on the air.  And eight of these wins (18%) are for the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond.  So the majority of the classic family four-camera wins came in the first five years of the 2000’s.

    3. The cinematic single-camera show moves at much slower pace than the classic four camera sitcom, or the irregular rhythm of the fake documentary.  The best examples of this genre in recent times are Entourage, Sex And The City, Nurse Jackie or Weeds.  Notice the trend?  The half-hour versions of these shows aren’t on broadcast network TV.  They’re the children of premium cable TV.  If you have to find network examples, you have to expand to an hour – Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewivesare, as far as the Emmys are concerned, the broadcast examples.  If you go back into history, shows as different as Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, M*A*S*H, The Partridge Family, I Remember Mama and Hogan’s Heroes count in this category.  Structurally, even Gilligan’s Island and Get Smartactually belong here.  But we’ll come back to them in the next section thanks to their approach to their material.  The modern examples can push at the boundary of “family” sitcoms, but the most well-recevied of them still value or revolve around some kind of family unit.  Even Vince, when he’s not snorting coke and schtuppingporn stars, hangs with his brother and two childhood friends on Entourage.  This is also the kind of show that is much more at home on basic cable.  While these shows, and their stars, can gettheir share of acclaim, they don’t really dominate during awards season.  In terms of the Emmy, actors win more often than the actual series do.   This is where Tony Shaloub won three consecutive Emmys for Monk.  If we do the overall math, performers have gone five for forty-four (Shalhoub’s three, Sarah Jessica Parker and Edie Falco’s one each).  Only Sex And The City has won one series Emmy.  So, if we’re counting awards, where can the single-camera sitcom really compete against the classic four-camera show..?

    4. The “crazy make ‘em up” anything goes single camera comedy is, at its heart, free from sticking to the rules of any of these other formats.  As we said, in terms of the “hellzapoppin’” approach to the scripts and performances, Get Smart and Gilligan’s Island might be among the pioneers of the form.  But the (post-)modern mold was created in 1992, aired on HBO, and goes by the title The Larry Sanders Show.  Shot with a lot of handheld camera, having the real world appear on film and the “TV world” appear on videotape, painting the tone of the TV sitcom deadly black, and gleefully evacuating itself on the spirit of “family”, Gary Shandling’s satire on late-night TV and the soulessness of Hollywood is the alpha and the omega of this revolutionary/radical/cranky form of sitcom.  Here’s Wikipedia’s take:

    The Larry Sanders Show is a satirical television sitcom that aired from August 1992 to May 1998 on the HBO cable television network in the United States.[1] It starred stand-up comedian Garry Shandling as vain, neurotic talk show host Larry Sanders, and centered on the running of his TV show, and the many people behind the scenes. It is notable for featuring celebrities playing exaggerated, self-parodying versions of themselves, and for its character-based humor. Other series which subsequently aired on HBO, such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, and Entourage, shared these traits.

    The series, in which Shandling used his experience as a guest host on The Tonight Show, is ranked by various critics and fans as one of the best TV comedies of the 1990s.[4] The series ranked #38 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, the only HBO comedy to make the list.[5] It was also included in Time magazine’s list of the “100 Best TV Shows of All Time.”[6]

    The show won 24 awards, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, five CableACE Awards four American Comedy Awards, two British Comedy Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Satellite Award. It also received 86 nominations, including 56 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, five Directors’ Guild of America nominations, six Writers’ Guild of America nominations, six American Comedy Awards nominations, three Golden Globe nominations, three Satellite Awards nominations and a GLAAD Award nomination.[3]

    Take particular note of that Emmy count.  Three for fifty-six.  Five percent R.O.I.  Quoting Geroge S. Kaufman, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.”

    Todd Holland won for direction in 1998, while creating the visual blueprint of how this kind of sitcom looks.  Shandling and Peter Tolan won for writing in 1998.  And Rip Torn – while creating as indelible a character and doing work for the ages – won in 1996 for playing Larry Sanders’ executive producer Artie [no surname ever given].  Torn may be troubled by his demons, but this was epic, time-capsule work.

    In general, this kind of sitcom cannot make use of the benefit of the “interview” gift of the mocumentary format – unless we are satarizing mocku- or documentaries – but otherwise, all bets are off.  Integration of fantasy elements, using every gimmick arrow in the quiver of filmmaking, and generally having a bad attitude in the service of satire all combine to make this the most vital and contemporary of the sitcom forms.  Our finest active examples come from network, cable and premium cable – 30 Rock, Glee, Community, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Cougar Town, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and South Park and Family Guy and Archer and Robot Chicken[animated division, cable exemption granted].  Other past classics of the form include Arrested Devlopment (surely the best since Sanders), Extras (Ricky Gervais’ follow-up to The Office), My Name Is Earl, Scrubs (which introduced an insanely fast-pace as well as the almost sketch-like approach to overall narrative) and The Monkees (pioneering for its integration of music and a 1967 Emmy award winner).

    In terms of overall Emmy success, you see the academy granting a kind of begrudging respect to the form until the 2000’s.  Arrested Development did win a series Emmy, but when 30 Rock arrived the genre could not be denied.  Stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldinw won three, as did the series itself.  The 2011 Emmy nominations will be a brand-new litmus test.  Consider that the three mockumentary shows had particularly strong seasons, that Community spent their second season foucsing the satirical essence of this format on a brilliant deconstruction of TV comedy itself, that there are so many possible acting nominees that the cut-downs will be heartbreaking, and the best acting work on Gleethis year was either dramatic or in performance fo a song (i.e. Chris Colfer’s already praised “As If We Never Said Goodbye” or “Mama’s Turn” from Gypsy.

    One has to stop just short of calling this a new golden age of TVcomedy, but things are looking pretty funny from here.  And we have the second season of rapidly improving comer Happy Endings, a resurgence of the multi-camera format on NBC, and a third season of Community all to look forward to.  And if we have to, Parks And Recreation was this season’s funniest, Community was the most ambitious, The Big Bang Theory was both the best multi-camera show and the show with best cast additions (a.k.a. TV’s Blossom is still a killer), and The Office had the single finest moment with the absurd and heart-rending version of “Seasons Of Love” in episode seventeen.

    Thank you, Mindy Kaling, for imagining that moment in your script. Thank you, Steve Carell, for seven seasons of finding the sweetness at the heart of Michael Scott’s idiocy.

    Thank you, Tina Fey.  Still the best.  Thank you, Dan Harmon, you’re a genius with an apparent dual PhD in TV Comedy Anthropology and Biology.

    Thank you, F/X, for Archer.  You’re not a broadcast network, but you have a naughty cartoon show that’s good enough to be on one.

    Thank you, ABC Wednesday sitcoms, you make me laugh so much.  Oh, sorry The Middle, I forgot you were on Wednesdays too.  You don’t get any candy.

    And thank you Eliza Coupe for just being you… a really filthy Twitterer.

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    The Surprises, Trends, and My Still-Loaded DVR

    The less genre-specific procedural dramas/dramedies had a trend of the big shock ending this year – at least on the few I actually watch.  Shocking gunfire ended the season on Castle and The Mentalist.  Both of these closing sequences were surely WTF-ers, with The Mentalist being the most potentially game-changing… if we really saw what we thought we sawHawaii Five-0, whose greatest strength lay in the constant bickering of the best (unintentionally) gay married couple of the season, literally blew up the central premise of the show while telling you everything you knew was wrong.

    Many of our favorite – and not-so-favorite – shows dropped regulars this year.  TV Guide gives the significant ones a pleasant curtain call.

    Some shows that many critics perceived as average, at least on first viewing, actually weren’t.  The ones that come to mind are Happy Endings (which got better every week), Perfect Couples (which wasn’t ever as bad as we were told), and even Outsourced, which was well-intentioned while clearly questionable in terms of racially troubling jokes.

    And some shows were as bad as promised, if not worse.  Yes, I’m talking about you Paul Reiser, Matthew Perry, Bill Shatner, Forrest Whitaker and Will Arnett.  I mean, honestly, what were you thinking?!?

    But the biggest trend of the 2010-11 season is more operational than creative.  The DVR is now a ubiquitous home entertainment device, and your set-top box not only has one of those, it likely links to some kind of “On Demand” server.  Even a family that consumes as much TV as mine doesn’t have time to squeeze it all in.  Between the DirecTV box and two cable DVR’s, Mrs. popGeezer and I have yet to completely clear the 2010-11 runs of Hawaii Five-0, Castle (though we jumped ahead to that finale), Chuck (no comment on quality here, as season four was TIGHT, yo!), Gossip Girl, Body Of Proof, Parks And Recreation, and a bushel of basic cable series.  This technological trend has had such an impact on us that we avoid real-time viewing on most scripted shows.  We just don’t have the time to wait/suffer through commercial breaks.  Technology has also forced shows to integrate more product placement and virtual commercials into the show.  I, for one, enjoy this, as most of the obvious ones are truly hysterical to see.  Chuck has made comedic hay with Subway, the Sleep Sheep and carmakers a-plenty.  And the early response to HBO’s HBO-Go, which offers practically the entire HBO series library to qualified PC, iPad and mobile tech users, could be the next monstrous game-changer by putting critical-path TV “on the cloud”.  As an example, this is how I’ve watched Lady Gaga: Monster Ball NYC, part of Scott Pilgrim, and even some Game Of Thrones.

    The future is here, geezoids.

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