Great Scott: Legends of the Fall

Scott Towler’s screeds can normally be found here, or outside the Silverlake Gelson’s, where he berates innocent by-standers for buying too much soap. This fall marks television’s...
By    October 30, 2008

Scott Towler’s screeds can normally be found here, or outside the Silverlake Gelson’s, where he berates innocent by-standers for buying too much soap.

This fall marks television’s return following last years’ ill-conceived writers strike, and while I initially thought the slate might be the ideal jump-start to coax audiences to return to the tube, thus far it’s been a fairly mixed bag. The few glimmers of hope are below.

Gary Unmarried (CBS, Wednesdays)

The most traditional of the new batch is “Gary Unmarried,” CBS’s (no, CBS? get out of here, you sexy senior citizen, you) multi-cam attempt at recreating the 1950s in “Gary Unmarried.” Jay Mohr stars as a divorcee who owns a house painting business, and get this- doesn’t get along with his ex wife! Didn’t see that one coming. Most ex-wives have so much going for them. Rather predictably, they squabble over their children, his ex-wife’s recent engagement to their former marriage counselor (played flawlessly by Ed Begley Jr.), and their money/possessions. Quite trodden territory, yet still timeless in it’s own way. And maybe that’s why I keep tuning in: waiting for that time when Gary finally says, “One of these days, Alice- pow, right in the kisser.” The modern twist that would spike the ratings? He’d then actually hit her in the face.

Worst Week (CBS, Mondays)

On the opposite end of that spectrum, CBS also debuted “Worst Week” this fall, a show more in tune with NBC’s recent development moves than CBS’s traditional schedule. The show, a single-cam British import, follows the life of Sam Briggs who, with nothing but good intentions, ends up having the worst week of his life. Think of it as a well cast TV version of Meet the Parents. Everything that can possibly happen to this character does. From the outset, we find him helping a drunk co-worker get home, only to have her throw up on him. Faced with a tough decision, Sam must either wear the puke-covered clothes, or borrow some of his drunk co-worker’s gear. He opts for the latter, only to have her wake up to his stark naked body standing in front of her. She immediately throws him out, and he’s forced to take an $80 cab ride to his in-laws home in a make-shift diaper. The show continues in this pattern, but many wonder how long it can last. After all, it’s predecessor operated in real time (hence, a season of “Worst Week” in England was 7 episodes, one for each day of said worst week). To be honest, I’m less enthused about the show itself, as I am in the fact that CBS is actually branching out from their traditional boring patterns. They took a chance here, and whether it ends up lasting or not, it’s already received substantial critical acclaim and has improved with every episode.

Kath & Kim (NBC, Thursdays)

The most hyped (and advertised) new comedy of the fall also happened to be NBC’s only new half-hour this year. Though “new” may be the wrong word to assign here, as “Kath and Kim” is adapted from a hit Australian program. The show follows Kath, played by Molly Shannon, and Kim, played by Selma Blair, through the course of their mall-going, retail-therapy filled lives. Both deliver masterfully in their performances, and the show fills a female-driven gap that NBC has experienced since the conclusion of “Will & Grace.” Arguably, the real story here is the outstanding performances from Christopher Guest-alum, John Michael Higgins, and breakout new-comer Mikey Day. While the show remains very female driven, there’s still plenty to like for the men; in fact, half of the show’s cleverness is rooted in its ability to take the most crass subjects and phrase them intelligently.

Life and Times of Tim (HBO, Sundays)

Last on the list of this fall’s finest is HBO’s “The Life and Times of Tim,” created by and starring Steve Dildarian. This show might be the funniest of the, crossing every known line imaginable. From shitting on the floor at work trying to save your bosses dog to objecting to your future sister-in-laws wedding just for the laughs. The best part? Tim loses every time (like the Clippers), keeping him redeemable and human. Moreover, Dildarian’s dead pan stoicism only heightens the hilarity of each situation thrust upon him. In an almost Seinfeldian way, Tim comments on his own life with keen and perspicacious observations. keeps you in stitches every week. The only new animated show of the fall, its King of the Hill-like realism means that its got no logical reason to be animated, other than the fact that it makes these everything that much more surreal. Just like Entourage, except that this actually makes you want your HBO subscription.

MP3: Wilco-“Kicking Television”
MP3: Talking Heads-“Television Man”

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