Sunday, December 17, 2006

TV News

I don't watch a lot of television these days now that I've got my DVD player, but there are one or two shows a week that I'll go out of my way to catch if I can. "The Office" is, obviously, one (and there'll be more on that later). I'll usually try to catch the CBS Monday comedy block, too, if I'm around. And I watch SNL as often as I can.

Now I'm there with you on all the complaints: SNL is dead, the writings a mess these days, it's gotten way too topical, there's no real stars on the show anymore. But the truth is we were saying those things five years ago, too, when Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, Tracy Morgan, etc., were still on the show. We said it five years before that, too, and five years before that. No one ever compares to the comics who "were just there." We're gonna be saying that five years from now about Andy Samberg.

To get back on topic, despite SNL's deficiencies, it's fun to see what happens with its various hosts. It's a hit-and-miss game. Take this season: some people are pretty good serious actors and don't do that well in sketch comedy (Matthew Fox). Some people are pretty good comedic actors and don't do that well in sketch comedy (Hugh Laurie). Some people aren't particularly great actors but know how to sell a sketch for a laugh (Alec Baldwin, who is changing my opinion on him more each day). And then, last night, there was Justin Timberlake.

I gotta be honest, I don't really like JT or find him to be a tremendous musical genius. But he just might have been the best host on SNL this whole season. Plus, both of his songs were pretty rocking. True story.

Getting back to "The Office," I watched the big Christmas episode on Thursday and became convinced that it was directed by Paul Feig, because there was a clear throwback to his cult classic "Freaks and Geeks," and I knew that he directed "The Office" from time to time. Then I remembered that it was Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day) directing the episode, since they'd been hyping that fact for a while now. Then I kicked myself for being so geeky that I was paying attention to the direction of a TV show while simultaneously being so inept that I couldn't get my geek facts right. Swing and a miss.

I finished off the night with watching the special extra episodes that the British version of "The Office" put out two years after the end of the show. I had no idea that these episodes existed.

I'll refer you back to this post, where I break down the differences between the two shows (and I stand by that post). But let me tell you this quick story (and beware spoilers if you haven't seen the British show and would like to at some point), which sways me more towards the British show: when the final episode plays, right at the end of the hour - or 43 minutes in during a DVD version - Tim and Dawn have still failed to get together, and she rides off in a taxi cab with her fiance to leave the country again. And as the taillights of the car fade off into the distance, you think that it's really going to end like that. Even though the episode keeps going, you don't think that she'll ever be coming back so that the two leads will ever get together. And when she does come back in, it's a complete surprise.

Listen: Only the British version of "The Office" could ever have pulled that off. The viewer really, truly thinks that the creators were fully willing to leave them apart forever. In the history of television, that was the only comedy with the balls to be able to really pull something like that off. And I include the American version in that statement.

If that doesn't appease those very vocal critics about my unwillingness to rate the British version over the American one, then I give up.


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