Sitcoms are Hard

Ken Levine strikes again – and brilliantly so:

Miranda

The daring duo in TVWriter™’s current favorite TV sitcom, MIRANDA, on BBC

by Ken Levine

There seems to be a new trend in sitcoms – the knockoff Romy & Michele’s. Two single ditzy twentysomethings who sort of blunder through life. The difference is that the characters of Romy & Michele were carefully developed, well crafted, and there was a definite story.

BROAD CITY on Comedy Central, GARFUNKEL & OATS on IFC, and PLAYING HOUSE on USA are all very similar. Two comediennes who have worked together either as an act or a musical comedy team write and perform their own sitcoms. They’re all single-camera with a very loose format. Most of the dialogue sounds improvised, and occasionally they say some very funny things. But for the most part it’s just vamping. You’re listening to two people grope around in search of something genuinely funny.

So at times it’s forced and other times it’s vulgar for the sake of being edgy.

Now it can be argued that these new R&M-lite sitcoms are fresh because they don’t follow established rhythms, and the fact that the performers are somewhat amateurish is the great appeal. And that’s fine for five-minute webisodes.

But for my money, if I’m going to devote a full half hour I would prefer a great comic actress like Julia-Louis Dreyfus who has acting chops delivering lines from seasoned comedy writers who really know how to create stories, get the most bang for their buck out of comic situations, and can provide funny lines on a consistent not sporadic basis.

All three of these comedy teams are talented. I am a huge fan of Garfunkel & Oats’ songs. They’re funny, razor sharp, and inspired. But every word is clearly tailored. They didn’t just start riffing.

Abbi and Ilana from BROAD CITY are fresh faces, and it feels like they’re trying to do a funny GIRLS, but again, it’s so uneven.  Agreeing to clean someone’s apartment half naked for $200 and then learning the guy can’t pay, thinks he’s an actual baby, wears a diaper, and has an accident is an example of their hilarity.    “Bad job.  Really bad job.

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