TV Comedy Is 'Back'? Ha!

Modern comedies badly rehash old ideas: Times critic
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2011 3:53 PM CST
Modern Sitcoms Rehash Old Ideas, Aren't Funny: Review
In this image released by CBS, Kat Dennings, left, and Beth Behrs are shown in a scene from the comedy series "2 broke Girls," premiering Sept. 19, 2011 on CBS.   (AP Photo/CBS, Richard Cartwright)

If this is the comeback season for the sitcom, at least one critic wants to go wayyyy back: to Seinfeld, Mary Tyler Moore, and Leave It to Beaver. "Certainly no series introduced this fall is breaking new ground," writes Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times. He concludes that "all television jokes going back to those first flickering black-and-white images fall into one of five categories," which were executed brilliantly in the old days. Today, not so much:

  • "Guess What? We Have Genitals": An episode of Seinfeld handled the subject of, uh, self-pleasuring without ever identifying it by name. "That's part of its brilliance," writes Genzlinger. Today, shows like 2 Broke Girls and New Girl throw around "penis" and "vagina" in a "ham-handed, a clumsy celebration" of the fact that prime time censors "have apparently all died."
  • "Technology Exists to Make Us Look Stupid": Remember Lucy and Ethel battling a candy conveyor belt in 1952? Compare that to Tim Allen's new show, Last Man Standing, which turns a would-be dilemma into a throwaway line: "Vlog? Is that slang for something bad?" Allen's character says. Grumbles Genzlinger: "And then he turns the word into—wait for it—a penis joke."
  • "Parents Plus Kids=War": On Leave It to Beaver, June employs psychological tricks in an attempt to manipulate Beav into being less messy. In return, he hilariously pits his parents against each other. On today's Reed Between the Lines, it's again just a toss-off line. "Television’s parent-child war, once full of intricate battle plans and troop movements, has degenerated into a snarky guerrilla contest made of quick, largely mirthless strike," sighs Genzlinger.
Is he dead on, or just a grump? Read his last two categories in the Times article. (More sitcoms stories.)

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