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October 10, 2015

What Nick is thankful for

by Nick Zaino, posted Nov 24th 2009 6:30PM
Modern Family on ABCA lot of us here at TV Squad have been listing that for which we are thankful. Like many of the others, I feel I have to start with my wife and family, and my friends. And I'd also add the comedy community in Boston, where I work, and beyond, for giving me something worth writing about and following day after day, year after year.

But this is a TV site, so the big part of this list is the things I am thankful I can see on the rundown TV in my office that makes a horrible cranking sound when I try to play DVDs, ot downstairs when I'm not bothering anyone by trying to catch up on thirteen discs of the Steve Coogan Collection.

My Local Library

Don't laugh. I have a rule that I won't watch an episodic TV series unless I've started it from the beginning, which means I wind up missing a lot of shows everyone else is screaming praises for.

Thanks to the public library in Lynn, Massachusetts and its video collection, I finally just saw season one of The Wire, which was every bit as fantastic as everyone has said it was, and season two is on its way from another library. I also have, sitting on top of my DVD player right now, season one of Heroes, which I am told is all I really need of the series (the library also has season two, so we'll see).

BBC America

I've been reviewing a lot of British television lately, and have yet to really watch something and scowl in disgust. I've gotten reacquainted with Dr. Who (although I am a huge fan of David Tennant, and will be sorry to see him go soon). I've gotten hooked on Torchwood, and I'm hoping something can be made for a fourth season. I've watched full series runs of Blackadder, Fawtly Towers, and The Mighty Boosh. And a friend recently introduced me to a great zombie miniseries called Dead Set, which I will eventually have to seek out on DVD, as well.

New Comedies

It's been a while since I've enjoyed more than one new sitcom in a season, but I love Modern Family, Community, and Glee (some may squabble it's not a pure comedy, but anything with the wonderful Jane Lynch in it usually qualifies in my book). All three make me laugh, and there have been some great, real moments in Modern Family and Glee. When Kurt "came out" to his father, I founding it touching. Modern Family is that rare show that makes the cliché of the misfit family work. And Community is pure goofiness and light, and I thank the show's creators for pairing Joel McHale and Chevy Chase, and for creating the character of Abed, who inhabits his own perfect little universe.

South Park

South Park seems South Park on Comedy Centrallike a bit of a forgotten show, but it makes me laugh more consistently now than it ever has. Evil Mickey controlling the Jonas Brothers? Kanye beheading Carlos Mencia over a "fishsticks" joke? The giant wheel at the Treasury? Most every episode of the new season is as strong as anything I've seen. Trey Parker and Matt Stone can go just about anywhere with the show, satirize anything, and they take full advantage of that.


There have been a few twists and turns I didn't quite enjoy this season, but the positive far outweighs the negative so far. There's more depth to House's character this year, and the scenes between Andre Braugher and Hugh Laurie in the premiere were series-defining stuff. I also enjoy Robert Sean Leonard as Wilson more with each passing season, as he actually wins a few battles with House, and the cast is strong overall.

Monty Python

I can't pretend that Monty Python's 40th anniversary was the reason I have watched so much Python this year, although it did help a bit. Python will always be a wellspring of ideas and an inspiration. It's also the reason I didn't make the National Honors Society in high school. I was told by my guidance counselor that I had a "too Monty Pythonish sense of humor that detracted from the learning experience for the other students." I was actually called into a meeting to tell me that's what my teachers thought of me. My revenge was being able to tell Eric Idle that story in an interview, to which he responded, "wear it as a badge of honor." Thank you, Eric and company, for the endless inspiration.

One Hour Stand-up Specials

This is still one of the most compelling formats for entertainment for me. I have shelves full of favorRichard Pryor Live & Smokin' ites to which I often return. Louis CK's Chewed Up. Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill. Richard Pryor's Live & Smokin'. There are 14 different George Carlin specials, all of which have made me laugh in one way or another. It's a large list - Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, Patton Oswalt, Paula Poundstone, Bill Hicks, Billy Connolly - and I find as I write this I'm having trouble cutting myself off. (Some of them are a bit more than an hour - "extended stand-up specials," then, if you like). And there are few things quite as thrilling to me as seeing someone like John Oliver or Bill Burr step up and nail the format. Can't wait to see the new ones from CK, Izzard, and Lewis Black. One person and a microphone, one imagination and one point of view.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

I recently reviewed David Bianculli's upcoming book, Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" for Paste Magazine, which should be out in January sometime. I had already gone back and watched some of season three, the last season of the show, for an interview with Tommy Smothers last year. But I went back and watched more, and dug up more clips on YouTube. Season two was just released on DVD (they're releasing them in reverse order), and if you're at all curious about this truly groundbreaking show, you have more opportunity to see it now than ever before.

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Love your list - so far, it's the closest overall to what I'd pick myself.

We spend a lot of time watching BBCA and a wide variety of comedy specials here too. In fact, one of the reasons we have Dish instead of DirecTV is because the former has HBOComedy and the latter doesn't. And as lollygags says, thanks for the Bill Hicks mention.

If you're into the Smothers Brothers, you might want to see if your library has "Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" - it's a documentary of what happened and why it was canned in the words of those who were there, with archival footage and current (2002) interviews with those involved.

November 24 2009 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glad to see Bill Hicks mentioned. He's one of the funniest most overlooked comedians and seeing his mother on the David Letterman show was bittersweet.

November 24 2009 at 8:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jon Carpenter

It's a shame, you won't find Dead Set on DVD here. It's currently only a Region 2 dvd release. I highly doubt it'll be brought here sadly. It was a great miniseries last year around Halloween.

November 24 2009 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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