Posted by mouse | Filed under The Mouse
When you’re a show which holds up to repeat viewings, constantly elicits shouts of “Brilliant” from its fans and remains generally regarded as the best sitcom from the last 20 years, you can afford to have a few dud jokes. These bad bits would have sunk a lesser show. Still, I have to write about something.
Here now, in no particular order, are my nitpicks against one of my favorite shows:
1.) The Loose Wolf (“Burning Love,” Season 2). Follow me here: we start out learning about a wolf who escaped from the zoo, then Lindsay gets a date with a gun-nut actor (TV’s “Wrench”) while wearing a fur coat. Tobias, wanting to prove what a strong man he is, gets a hunting rifle to shoot the wolf and ends up shooting his wife with (I guess) a tranquilizer dart, because he mistook her for the wolf. That’s a loooooooooooooooong way to travel for something that feels like B-level humor. And it’s not worth it.
2.) Starla loves Quincy Jones (thread from Season 2). Something “AD” did better than absolutely any other show was base its humor on character wants and needs rather than just random bits. The bit about former-model-turned-Bluth-Company-Secretary having a past with prominent music producer Quincy Jones always felt like such a mouthful (and a typing-ful; look at that sentence) that we all assumed it would lead to something bigger. To paraphrase Ron Howard’s narration, “It didn’t.”
3.) The Role-Playing Marriage Therapist (“Visiting Ours,” Season 1). I’m always a little underwhelmed by Tobias when they play his joke a bit too straight, no pun intended. The whole notion of a man not knowing he’s gay has been done a lot (Christopher Guest seems to focus exclusively on it), and to be fair, “AD” delivered some of the best jokes of those kind. But that still doesn’t make this bit of “surprise surprise” twist work any better. When Lindsay and Tobias go into therapy and the therapist (played by Bob Odenkirk) suggests role play therapy, did anyone NOT except the therapist himself to get involved? When you’re watching a comedy, your guard is up for standard jokes, and my alarm went wild when this scene began.
4.) Little London, Mr. F, and the Whole “She’s Mentally Handicapped” Thing (Early Season 3). Where do you start when you have to find the most annoying bit here? Perhaps it’s “Little London,” which feels like a rejected spec script idea that couldn’t possibly lead to any more humor beyond the Mary Poppins puppet (because, as you know, in any real Chinatown, they have displays of appropriated movie characters flying around — that’s what makes it authentic). Or maybe it’s the mentally handicapped beautiful girl who Michael can’t see is actually mentally handicapped (almost the only thing “30 Rock” did better than “AD”). But for my money, when you wanna talk really annoying, it’s the Mr. F thread. And that’s mostly because of the music. I almost put “The Joke Music” on this list, but that would mean making exceptions for “Mother Boy” and the few others that are good. The joke music on “AD” always felt stale to me, but never more stale than the James-Bond-esque cues of the “Mr. F” storyline. What’s most irritating about them is that they feel shoehorned into the story for no reason beyond showing off their existence. “Mistah F!” will just pop up when someone says “Mr. F,” as if the Bluths were thinking of a song cue that doesn’t exist in real life. And let’s not forget the episode “For British Eyes Only” which featured a song cue of “For British Eyes Only.” It’s like they just wanted people to better know the titles of these episodes.
6.) Lindsay Stripper-Dances In the “Protest Area” (“Whistler’s Mother,” Season 1). Perhaps 20 years down the line, this slice of light “hard satire” may proves as a useful time capsule. We can all reminisce about how we all liked to believe freedom of speech was stifled. But taken at face value, this bit always felt a bit embarrassing to me. Embarrassing that at the go-nowhere trajectory of the humor, embarrassing that it feels like superficially “important” social satire, embarrassing that deus ex machina’s its way into making Lindsay pole dance, and embarrassing that (I’m sure) people found it clever. It shouldn’t even register on the chart for this show, and fortunately, it doesn’t.
7.) Maeby Poses as a Sick Girl Suffering From “BS” (“Justice is Blind,” Season 1). It’s just so forgettable, which is a descriptive term you don’t often use when discussing “AD.” So many of their bits hit beyond normal expectations, that when you get one like this — especially considering what a good episode this was — that they really stand out as so-so. This is probably the best bit of the seven, but by comparison it feels much worse. It’s kind of like just listening to “Her Majesty” on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” On its own, it might be considered OK, but compared to the surrounding material, it feels so much worse.