A Look at the Television Season Thus far (Comedy Edition)

Having sufficiently recovered from the tour de force that was The Shield series finale, Rev offers up some thoughts on some lighter fare:

How I Met Your Mother:
So last season ended with Ted and Stella getting engaged. This season has moved forward with the question ‘Is Stella the mother?’ and it’s no spoiler to say that she isn’t (thankfully). HIMYM ran some wonderful fakeouts both in episode and via the internet (in particular leaked pictures of Ted and Stella getting married really sent people looking the wrong way). It’s also given us the brilliant not a father’s day after Barney’s pregnancy scare.

The show has had a worse than average episodes this season but when it’s been on target it’s been just superb. Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stillson remains the number one reason to watch the show but the entire cast have stepped up their game, even Josh Radnor – who’s stuck in the role of straight man for most episodes – has managed to make Ted a bit less boring. If you haven’t seen this show yet, shame on you, it’s one of the better comedy shows out there right now.

My Name is Earl:

Last season of My Name is Earl attempted to switch up the format by changing Earl’s circumstances. The first part, affectionately refereed to as ‘Prison (Break) Earl’ had Earl performing tasks for the Warden to earn time off vouchers. Completely ridiculous in concept but it made for highly entertaining television. The later part had Earl in a sit-coma while Randy took over Earl’s list and then had Earl dealing with Billie Cunningham. This season on the other hand stripped the show back to basics, going with the lessons of karma and fixing Earl’s list. In all honesty My Name is Earl has become pretty much the essence of formulaic sitcom distilled, but it has managed to put out a few great episodes that stood out this season. ‘Nature’s Game Show’, which had tornadoes switching situations about for everyone and ‘We’ve Got Spirit’ which lampooned cheerleader feel good movies are the best of the bunch so far.

My Name is Earl is fun, but not clever and in some ways I preferred the previous season mixing things up more than this return to formula. But it’s still a fun way to spend an hour and Ethan Suplee’s portrayal of Randy Hickey is enough of a reason to watch the show in itself.

30 Rock:

30 Rock started late this season, delayed at least in part by Tina Fey’s most excellent Sarah Palin impressions, so we’ve only had four episodes of the show so far. 30 Rock won several Emmys for it’s previous season so it has a lot to live up to. And on the whole it’s done itself proud so far, the first episode ‘Do-Over’ did exactly what it says on the tin by resetting a lot of the show and getting it back to what works. While it’s fine for a comedy show to evolve as time passes it’s also important for them to return to their core concepts, the things that make them funny. The second episode ‘Believe in the Stars’ is probably the best episode of the season so far, featuring a wonderfully underplayed cameo from Oprah as herself, a great tale of friction between Tracy and Jenna and Jack realizing that he wants to look good in Kenneth’s eyes. The next two episodes also followed suit where guest stars are concerned ‘The One with the Cast of Night Court’ featured Jennifer Aniston in a dominating guest slot (and of course some of the cast of Night Court)

and ‘Gavin Volure’ featured Steve Martin in the titular role. It’s important for 30 Rock to avoid getting to dependent on star guest stunt casting, but so far it’s handled these guests well and avoided getting too out of control for the most part. Plus I’m always happy to see more Jennifer Aniston.