Five Comedies That Need Your Attention
Yes everybody knows about Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory etc. But there are plenty more quality television shows out there that deserve your attention. For this article, I’m focusing on comedy.
Nathan For You
Have you ever seen one of those shows where a struggling business has an “expert” visit and try and turn their profits around by making changes to the way the business operates and markets itself? Nathan For You is like that except the new ideas are a lot more outlandish. If you heard them you would never expect them to work but somehow…they do seem to. An example from the first episode sees a struggling ice cream vendor try to create more buzz around the shop by serving a new flavour of ice cream: poo flavour.
At the head of this show is Nathan Fielder, a Canadian comedian who has created an alter ego that reeks of awkwardness. But this could be the reason why the subjects of each episode are so willing to go along with Nathan’s ridiculous business ideas no matter how farfetched they seem. Nathan is the star of the show but the real joys in the programme come from the various people that Nathan encounters in his business schemes. Some are thrown off by his awkwardness and counter with anger/ Some are more willing to open up to Nathan and create unexpected human emotional moments (the gas station segment is the most obvious example, I believe it’s available on Youtube). Fielder has created a programme that is fantastic in it’s humour and it’s affection.
Best Episode: ‘Gas Station/Caricature Artist’
Where to see it: Nathan For You has just begun it’s second season on Comedy Central in the US. In the UK it is also shown on Comedy Central but I think it’s mostly lost in the schedule amongst the countless reruns of Rules of Engagement….
If you’ve ever seen Girls, you may know it as Lena Dunham’s comedy/drama about four single girls living in Brooklyn that’s been described by some critics as the anti Sex and The City. Broad City takes that even further. It’s a sitcom that follows two 20 something women in Brooklyn, Abbi and Ilana, who work dead end jobs, try and hook up with guys and have as much fun together as possible. But these girls are a long way away from Samantha etc in Sex and the City and even Girls. Rather than exchange men stories over expensive coffee, shop in designer stores or pursue literary careers, Abbi and Ilana prefer to get high, shop at Ikea or chat to each other via webcam while having sex.
These girls are brash, dirty and find much more comfort in the company of each other than let their lives be dictated by men as in the other NYC shows I’ve mentioned. Plots revolve around small things such as scrounging money for tickets to a gig, hunting for apartments or hiding weed in their vaginas (no seriously). Created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the show is executive produced by Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) who knows a thing or two about sitcoms and has apparently helped make sure that Jacobson and Glazer have been allowed to stay true to their creative vision.
Best Episode: Destination: Wedding
Where to see it: The first season of Broad City aired earlier this year on Comedy Central in the US. A second season has been commissioned and will air next year. As far as I’m aware, there is no broadcaster for it in the UK so you’ll have to use alternative means to watch it. The web series that the show is based upon is available in it’s entirety on Youtube if you wish to watch that as well.
Rick and Morty
One of the best ways to describe Rick and Morty is to describe it as a messed up version of Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back To The Future or The Doctor and his companion from Doctor Who. Rick is an alcoholic scientist who is actually really good at what he does. He has mastered inter-dimensional travel among other great scientific feats leading him on adventures with his (sometimes unwilling) companion and grandson, Morty. A socially awkward teenager. The Doctor has always exhibited a slightly unhinged side to his personality in Doctor Who and Rick takes this up to eleven. There isn’t much continuity between episodes so co-creators Justin Roiland and Dan ‘Community‘ Harmon try and fit in as much carnage and craziness into each episode.
The B-storys of each episode tend to revolve around the rest of Morty’s family, his parents and older sister. His dad Jerry is the standout of these characters, often giving a normal person’s perspective on the aftermath of Rick and Morty’s shenanigans and there is a good argument for Jerry being the best character, he’s at least Rick and Morty‘s secret weapon. What started as a curious oddity of a show has grown into a legitimately fantastic animation programme and the co-creators have begun adding layers of depth to their characters. All of this within one season is impressive and it’s interesting to see where the show goes from here.
Best Episode: Rixty Minutes
Where to see it: Rick and Morty ‘s first season ended earlier this year on adult swim. The second season should be due at the end of this year or early 2015. As far as I’m aware, there is no broadcaster for this in the UK so alternative means are needed.
Let me describe Childrens Hospital for you. It is a series following the doctors, nurses and patients at the fictional ‘Childrens Hospital’ in Brazil. It is a hospital that exclusively treats children but that’s not the reason the hospital is called ‘Childrens Hospital’. It was actually founded by a man named Arthur Childrens. Some of the doctors there include Dr Blake Downs, a clown adorned in face paint who believes in the healing power of laughter…even for brain surgery. There’s Dr Valerie Flame, a Swedish doctor who is actually the secret identity of Derek Childrens, Arthur Childrens’ son. There’s Dr Cat Black who used to date a six year old boy and died…but then came back to life and finally there’s The Chief. The head of the hospital staff, she is crippled and gets around with a walker but she’s deemed the most attractive member of staff by most of the men in the show. On top of that, it’s revealed in one episode that ‘Childrens Hospital’ is actually a soap opera that’s been running since the seventies and that all the actors are actually playing actors…who are playing the characters on the show. Confused? Don’t be.
Childrens Hospital is a show that loves to play with the codes of conventions of television while parodying the medical sitcom/drama genre (think Greys Anatomy and Scrubs). But Childrens Hospital doesn’t always constrict itself to that genre. Some episodes can take on a completely different genre or staple of television such as the “Live” episode, the legal procedural, the mobster movie or the ‘flashback episode’. There’s even an episode that takes the idea of the ‘show within a show’ and reveals that ‘Childrens Hospital’ was remade in Britain for a British audience, presenting an entire episode with a British cast and cultural references. Each episode is ten minutes long so the gimmicks that the show takes on never feel like they wear out their welcome.
Best Episode: Wisedocs
Where can I see it?: Guess what? No British broadcaster has picked this up. So once again alternative means are needed. In the US, Childrens Hospital finished it’s fifth season last year and the next is due out in 2015.
Venture Bros. follows the adventures of Dr Venture: a world renowned scientist, his brutal bodyguard Brock and Venture’s two sons, Hank and Dean. The titular brothers who are certainly not what you would expect from the spawn of a famous scientist. Despite the show being named after them, the Venture brothers are certainly not the main characters, in fact the whole show has an expansive cast and the shows creators have tried to add layer upon layer of depth and intrigue to all of them. That in my opinion is where the genius in Venture Bros lies. It’s set in a world where Super Heroes and Super Villains exist and both groups are governed by a bureaucratic organisation that ensures each super villain is given one super hero to ‘arch’ or rival. Because of Dr Venture’s advanced scientific knowledge he is given The Monarch as his villain. A man whose whole super villain gimmick is that of a Monarch Butterfly.
See, the super heroes and super villains in Venture Bros are a bit…crap. Either that or they have some kind of problem with them such as the boy loving Captain Sunshine (a playful riff on the Batman-Robin dynamic) or there’s Truckules: half Truck, half Hercules. But with these various characters, Venture Bros. has it’s own deep mythology full of various characters that keeps getting added to with each season that goes by. Each of these characters is flawed but the beauty comes from how these characters deal with the flaws. One of the best examples is with Dr Venture himself who is the son of a master of science who has left a legacy behind that Dr Venture tries to live up to but ultimately fails. That failure weighs upon Dr Venture throughout the series. Also did I mention that David Bowie was in this?
Best Episode: ¡Viva Los Muertos!
Where to see it: In the US, this is shown on adult swim. In the UK, this was once shown on FX UK but I think it’s very rare you would see it on there now. However the DVD releases are available from various entertainment sellers.