Friday, December 01, 2006

The Best Show on TV, Part 5

The Best Show on TV

"The Office" (NBC) -- 2/9/2006 - 4/2/2006
"Huff" (Showtime) -- 4/2/2006 - 8/26/2006
"Big Brother" (CBS) -- 8/26/2006 - 10/4/2006
"South Park" (Comedy Central) -- 10/4/2006 - 11/30/06
"The Office" (NBC) -- 11/30/06 - present

I should start by saying that "The Office" didn't regain its exalted status as The Best Show on TV due to the strength of the November 30th episode as much as on the season so far as a whole. I liked the episode but I thought some parts were a bit silly. Nevertheless, "The Office" has managed to fix a show that wasn't broken, to reinvigorate a series that was bursting with vigor to begin with. I can only presume that the infusion of new castmates was a preemptive strike by the show's creative team against the series growing stale in Season 3, a move that could have gone very wrong. Instead, it went very right. The only danger may be that Rashida Jones's Karen could end up being so great that we root for Jim to choose her over Pam. Then again, maybe that's where they're going with it.

Every time I'm surprised at how good "The Office" is, especially considering that it did the once-unthinkable and didn't embarrass itself following in the footsteps of the brilliant British original, I catch myself, and I think, "Oh, right; who ever could have dreamed that a show about dealing with the everyday absurdities of coworkers and romantic frustration would have a universal appeal?"

On a somewhat related note, I would highly recommend You're Lucky You're Funny, a book by Phil Rosenthal, creator and showrunner of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (a show that, had this list been in existence during the late-90s and early-00s, may well have the record for longest title reign and/or most title reigns). If you aspire to work as a television writer, this book is as essential to you as putting enough food into your body to keep you alive. If you liked "Raymond," it would make for a fun read; and if you respond to stories about people who did it their way when prevailing wisdom dictated it be done another, then you'd probably get something out of it whether or not you've ever even seen a television set. I don't want to oversell it; in reading it it's clear why Rosenthal chose to focus on writing television shows instead of books (which sounds harsher than I mean it; his book is ten times better than a TV show written by a book writer would be), but if elegant prose isn't his thing, communicating with the reader in a clear, fun manner and providing everything you want to know about "Raymond" and the current state of TV in general is.

Plus, it's really funny. There's a bit about a somewhat nutso comedy writer who was really afraid of ever having Alzheimer's, so his solution was that he's going to bake a poison pie and keep it in his fridge. So, then, the day he forgets that he baked a poison pie is the day he sees a delicious pie in his fridge and eats it, and the problem takes care of itself.

Anyway. Great book. Absolutely inspiring, if you aspire to the kind of life Phil Rosenthal has had. Probably pretty entertaining even if you don't.

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