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October 24, 2014

The Five: Adam's fall picks

by Adam Finley, posted Aug 7th 2006 8:05AM

homer simpsonOkay gang, here's what I'm looking forward to in the new fall season. Slip on your reading socks and enjoy:

1. The return of South Park: Many shows have a tendency of starting off strong and then entering a slow decline if they stay on for too long. South Park is one series that I think has actually improved with every season, and last season's episodes, most notably the two-part "Cartoon Wars," contained some of the most hysterical and vicious jabs at every religion, political affiliation and societal norm you could think of. As Stan so rightly points out, either everything is okay to make fun of, or nothing is. That mantra is what makes South Park still one of the best shows on television, even as it enters its tenth year.

2 and 3. New Adult Swim shows from the creators of Home Movies and Sealab 2021: Brendon Small created one of my favorite shows of all time, Home Movies. His new Metalocalypse, which he created with Tommy Blacha (a writer for Conan and TV Funhouse) won't have the same poignancy of Home Movies, but that's just fine with me. Also, the crew behind Sealab 2021, an Adult Swim "classic" if it's not too early to use such a term, are also returning with Frisky Dingo, the tale of a super hero named Awesome-X whose secret identity is that of Xander Crews, a billionaire who makes money from the toys based on his alter ego. He battles Killface, an evil mastermind who wants to plunge the Earth into the sun, but only if he doesn't lose interest in his plan. I'm anxious to see how both of these shows fare.

4. More Simpsons: Complaining that the Simpsons has never been able to duplicate what it was in its early years has become a kind of knee jerk Pavlovian reaction on the part of anyone with access to a blog or messageboard. What a lot of these opinions lack, however, is any kind of information to back them up. That isn't to say there aren't thoughtful people out there who can point to specifics, but the bromide of "The Simpsons was once good and now it sucks" has been repeated so many times it's become a kind of Truth that to many requires no explanation. Any show that has been on for almost twenty years is going to lose a little bit of its flavor, but I think that's due more to familiarity than a decline in quality. At this stage, I think of The Simpsons and its relationship with its audience as a love affair that has evolved into a marriage. You can never repeat the thrill and excitement of those first few seasons when the show was fresh and unlike anything else on television, but Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have become like family to those of us who have been following them since they began on The Tracey Ullman Show, and while their familiarity makes us pine for something that once made us feel the way we did when the show first swept us off our feet in the early nineties, there hasn't been a cartoon that has come along since The Simpsons that so poignantly and irreverently taps into the way we humans stumble along through life. Some may argue that South Park has picked up that particular torch, and I think some legitimate arguments could be made in that respect, but I see them as two complete different shows. South Park picks a target and attacks it relentlessly, but The Simpsons has always had a wider, and more substantive, satirical scope. South Park more or less excluded, a lot of primetime animated shows claim inspiration from The Simpsons, but emulation is not enough without a profound understanding as to why The Simpsons' approach has worked so well and maintained for so long.

5. A second season of Everybody Hates Chris: It's a personal preference to be sure, but I don't care much for sitcoms. I think even those sitcoms that are lauded by critics and audiences as being above the fold are at best just slightly above average. It's not that there aren't different levels of quality within the realm of sitcoms, because there undoubtedly is, but the basic sitcom model is something I find tiresome no matter how it's dressed up. Everybody Hates Chris, however, is the exception that proves my personal rule, because it exists very much within a sitcom framework: a problem is introduced, the protagonist faces the odds, and a conclusion, satisfying or not, is reached by the end of the episode. However, creator Chris Rock and everyone involved with the series understands a very important aspect of comedy: pain is always funny. I'll compare it to The Cosby Show not because both centered around a black family, but because one focused on a wealthy family while another focused on a family always struggling to keep their heads above water. Race and racism is certainly a factor in Everybody Hates Chris, but it's really just a show about people who do what they need to do to get by. Bill Cosby wanted to create a series that showed blacks can be affluent people, too, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but I can actually relate to Everybody Hates Chris and the idea of growing up in an environment where one must live from paycheck to paycheck and hard work isn't merely its own reward, but a necessity.

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Etnad85

I agree with everybody statement on the relevant with The Simpsons. I love the classic Simpsons episodes than current one. I still like the show and watch the Simpsons for time to time, but it is not as joyous things to do, more as a chore.

I am psyched for the new seasons of Everybody Hates Chris and South Park.

August 08 2006 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ladi

Thanks for speaking well of the Simpsons. I still love that show. Sure it's not like it used to be - nothing is, but it is still one of the best shows on TV.

August 07 2006 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Zach

The simpsons is still good, it's just different and reflects television sitcoms as a whole. when it first came out it was something different than the cosby show and the like, it showed a more realistic family. In the early days the show still had heart though and that is what i miss most about the older episodes. Now there are no wholesome family shows that anybody cares about. They are all dark and filled with smart ass kids and cynical parents. The writers couldn't revert and make the family all lovey-dovey so they made it even darker and more cynical with occasional flashes of brilliance. I agree with douglin also because i know familiarity with the characters allows for so many possibilities as far as stories go

August 07 2006 at 2:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luke

The simpsons has greatly improved in the last couple seasons. Each new episode gets a little better.

August 07 2006 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

I don't watch the Simpsons much anymore, and it has nothing to do with familiarity but with disappointment. In the early years, as a glance at any entry in "The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family" will show, each episode was jam-packed with obscure cultural references and sight-gag allusions that might have gone past your eyes too quick even to notice. Now, while there may be amusing lines in the stories, there simply isn't enough of that auxiliary humor which is what made the show so compelling to me.

August 07 2006 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas

The Simpsons is not good anymore, I can watch old episodes and laugh out loud at them, both from jokes I remember and those I don't. The Simpsons used to be funny visually and intellectually, there used to be jokes on all levels. Nowadays it's just full of guest stars and stupidity. Homer has always been stupid but the jokes were written in a very clever way, now it's just like watching Jackass except you don't have the novelty of seeing idiots get what they deserve by injuring themselves. The Simpsons always had celeb guests but they used to be part of the story, nowadays it's having people come on for the sake of it, personally I couldn't care less what celebs they have on - if they're not given funny material it's terrible.

August 07 2006 at 10:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dvddesign

"Pygmalion" isn't a pilot worthy plotline for anything anywhere. You picked a stupid idea to exploit your point. The Pygmalion plotline requires (at least in a 30 minute format) a bit of familiarity with the characters. If you don't know/care about the characters, you can't have them change. Stewie did the same thing in Family Guy a few years back. This story is usually done on many shows.

Heck they even made a movie about it. And the rambling length of My Fair Lady allows it the time that the TV show doesn't have. You're expected to know Willie and his character to watch this episode.

And for the record, I still like the Simpsons. I'd take a season of the worst episodes of the Simpsons in place of any episode of Trading Spouses, Nanny 911, Temptation Island, Stacked, or American Idol.

August 07 2006 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
corbett

Two words: Battlestar Galactica

August 07 2006 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Douglin

You think that familiarity is the reason people think the simpsons isn't good anymore?

I think the familiarity is the only thing keeping people watching it. People know the characters so well that their happy just to spend time watching them do anything. I bet if one of the plots from the last season, like the willie/my fair lady one, had been taken and animated in a different style, with different voices and different looking characters and names and presented as a pilot for a new show, it wouldn't have gotten made into a series. The only thing that made it watchable was the familiarity with the characters.

Plus the writers need to stop getting Marge and Homer to nearly break-up, we know their not gonna breakup so it just makes the episode tiresome, especially when they do it 5 times! in one season(last year)

August 07 2006 at 9:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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