Since the last television recommendation I made, for that of Life on Mars, came right before the show was canceled, I'm almost reluctant to make this entry for fear of more carnage. However, we are in summer now, and I know people are craving something new to watch. So, my recommendations, some of which are old shows you can watch on YouTube...
- Home Movies, O'Grady or Dick and Paula. All three are animated shows by Soup2Nuts, who's art style is pretty distinctive. By “distinctive,” I mean that it looks like crap. However, the same voice actors – Brandon Small (now on Metalocalypse), Melissa Bardin Galsky and the always incredible H. Jon Benjamin – are often shared between them, which really helps the humor come across.
Home Movies is the best of the three, as it relies the most on Benjamin. His super-gruff, super-low voice would never make you think that he's some skinny white dude. He plays Coach McGuirk, who I constantly link to in my away messages, and who dispenses great advice to the little kids on the show, like why you shouldn't swear and how to survive a tornado and how to handle losing. (My only regret is that YouTube doesn't include his stand-up spots, which are the greatest thing ever. I might have to make my YouTube debut with that.)
I've just recently gotten into O'Grady, on the recommendation of Danielle Membrino, a.k.a. the girl who loves South Park and leaves comments all the time. Keeping in mind that I've only seen a couple episodes, it seems like a combination of Home Movies and Eerie, Indiana (or The Twilight Zone, if you're not hip to 1990s TV).
Dick and Paula is the ancestor of all of these shows, and while it's crudely animated even by Soup2Nuts standards, it is cleverer in certain respects. It is a spoof of shows like Regis and Kelly and The Today Show, as it uses historical figures and made-up celebrities to be funny.
- The Soup on E!, new episodes on Friday, re-runs throughout the week. I think a lot of people are already turned on to the spiritual successor of Talk Soup (the good versions, with John Henson, Roger Lodge and Greg Kinnear, not the shitty one with Aisha Tyler). At its best, the show was funny on two levels: first from the absurdity of its clips, and second from the host's reactions and skits.
But the new host, Joel McHale, has the best chops of all of them. The show is consistently funnier than the old incarnation, and at times it has a sort of zaniness that reminds me of early Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. While I think just about anybody can point out the pathetic humor in the VH1 reality shows and Entertainment Tonight-type fare, McHale and his staff also get great bits out of mundane shows. The best examples would be I Love Toy Trains, a show I didn't even know existed but one I now wish I had access to, and hyping up Spaghetti Cat and then using him in non-sequitur bits.
My only complaint would be that McHale is appearing at the Newport Yachting Center this weekend, but tickets are $45 each. Holy hell, Joel! Give me a break, plz? I know you got babies to feed, but seeing as I'm practically unemployed and what not, help a brother out. Still, if I did have some money banked (or if I could have wrangled a press credential from someone), I definitely would have seen him in person.
- MXC on Spike and the Internetz, and Ninja Warrior on G4. If you like ABC's Wipeout, then you should be watching these shows instead, from which Wipeout just ripped their idea off and made it more PG. I realize it is hard to rip off a concept originally popularized by the Three Stooges, but ABC did it so transparently that I was curious how they never got rapped for it. Instead, I've mostly heard raves about how funny the show is, proving that if it happened on cable it never really happened. I imagine ABC's next show will have puppets making prank phone calls.
Anyway, if you went to college at any point between 2002 and 2007, like I did, then you've probably seen MXC while you were drunk, thus you don't remember the name. Whenever various roommates and I would come home from the bar or a party, a flip through the channels would reveal it was on, and we would end up watching weird Japanese people smash their faces in while a humorous, English dub was laid on top of it. The best events would always be when they had to jump across rocks or walk across the huge roller things, because the wipeouts would always be spectacular.
The original show that MXC gets its footage from, Takeshi's Castle, apparently led their TV ratings at one point, and it was supposed to simulate a sort of real-life video game competition, which seems like an absolutely insane concept to me. They have a crummy show like this on the Sci-Fi Channel or USA Network right now, and it stinks because they always do first-person shooters. Hey, if I wanted to see that, I would just watch Rambo, you asshats! You should instead be trying to do a modern version of Takeshi's Castle, with super-bright colors, floating platforms and moving, Roomba-like robots that you have to jump on top of to kill. I want to see World 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers, not Call of Duty 4.
While the humor of MXC is obvious, Ninja Warrior is better to me because it is played so seriously. It is like the Airplane! or Naked Gun of the genre. Almost all the characters take this deathly serious, and the over-dramatic announcing and subtitles just push the show over the top. And when a contestant falls in the water, the (male) announcer lets out such a shriek each time that I can't help but laugh.