Monday, 29 December 2008

Favourite TV Shows 2008 - #09 Arrested Development/30 Rock

Alright I'm sort of cheating here in two respects. One in that one of the two chosen shows was canceled two and a half years ago and the second being that I picked two shows. This was the reason that I decided to shorten my list by one number because I just thought that these shows are both too similar to be listed as separate items. Although at the same time they are both completely different entities.

Both of them are from that new breed of comedy that America seems to be experiencing at the moment. Really they are the most perfect examples of it as well. The Office is based on a British idea so doesn't count, How I Met Your Mother is very much a normal American sitcom with some interesting time altering storyline. Then nearly every other comedy TV show in America is actually quite bad (I'm not going to name the remaining ones I do like, but I will say that Scrubs is one of the few, even if it isn't as good anymore). This new breed is sort of a quirky self referential humour. In fact both shows have a very similar joke about product placement within their shows. You stuff like in Quantum of Solace every single piece of computing merchandise is Sony, in Arrested Development and 30 Rock both shows take the piss of it. 30 Rock for example spends about five minutes talking about one product and how amazing it is and then the main character turns to the camera and asks "can we have our money?" It's hilariously funny and something similar is used in Arrested Development when one of the characters is sat in Burger King and the entire scene plays around product placement of various meals and offers before the character proclaims "it's a wonderful restaurant" and the narrator chimes in with "it sure is!". Similar concept but equally as funny.

Both shows are written superbly and the only reason that they don't fall higher on the list is that this sort of comedy isn't my favourite sort of comedy. If it were both of these shows could have ended up in my top three but as it stands I prefer drama shows and little sly geeky references in my comedy (hence why The Office and How I Met Your Mother fall higher). However I implore anyone reading this to at least check out Arrested Development and 30 Rock. The thing is both shows reward being watched in little chunks, Arrested Development more so. Arrested Development is chock full of little sly references to other episodes. Characters will allude to previous episodes or jokes in obscure ways that only constant viewers will get. Arrested Development also plays with a very funny "punch line before the actual joke" concept. In one memorable episode one of the characters comments on there being a pigeon in the fridge, we then flashback a little while later to security camera footage of the purchasing of the pigeon and the reason it is in the fridge (I won't spoil it for you). 30 Rock doesn't exactly rely on the same methods but it is something of a spiritual successor. The show has some incredibly great moments, one of the characters proclaiming "I'm voting for Osama" and a memorable therapy session in which Alec Baldwin portrays something like six characters. In fact that exact scene is in the clip below.

I'm going to take a moment to talk about the actors. 30 Rock really has two standouts, Tina Fey who if you were following the election at all will realise is the person behind the incredibly funny Sarah Palin impression, she portrays Liz Lemon in the show and whilst not being the funniest characters has a fair share of great lines. However the heart and soul of 30 Rock is Alec Baldwin or for Team America fans "the greatest actor ever" and really if you watch 30 Rock you may end up agreeing with it, the guy is just fucking amazing. That therapy scene above is just one of many awesome scenes that Alec Baldwin is give throughout the show.

As for Arrested Development actors you're bound to recognise at least some of them. My favourite character G.O.B. is portrayed by Will Arnett who you may have seen in movies such as RV or Blades of Glory. How about Michael Cera in Juno or Superbad? Jason Bateman in Hanncock or Juno? Tony Hale who is currently guest staring in Chuck or David Cross in Men in Black and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (that by the way is an amazing film). So many of the actors are instantly recognisable but so many people are surprised to hear that they were in a TV show together, let alone one that ran for three amazing years. All the characters are some of the most detestable characters that you'll ever meet and yet that all plays to their charm.

Both shows also have amazing guest stars departments. Arrested Development managed to get actors like Ben Stiller, Zach Braff, Liza Minnelli, Charlize Theron and Alan Tudyk. As for 30 Rock they got Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Carrie Fisher, Edie Falco and Rip Torn. Both of these are just the tip of the iceberg but you'd be surprised the amount of times that you can just point at the screen in either show and go "oh my god I didn't know that he could be funny!"

I would love to rant and rave about how amazing these shows are but all I can give is my recommendation, watch just a few episodes of either show (both preferably from the beginning, but give 30 Rock a while because the first few episodes aren't as strong), and you'll get hooked along for the ride. By the time you get to the Goregasm game in 30 Rock or the Mole vs. Man with Jetpack fight in Arrested Development and be fully along for the ride. Finally some great news for both shows, whilst Arrested Development was canceled a few years ago a movie version should be coming back next year (if Michael Cera signs on) and as for 30 Rock, that's still going strong with both Salma Hayek and John Hamm (he's in Mad Men) doing guest arcs.

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