For Thanksgiving I will depart from my usual book reviews. The last two or three books I started turned out to be flops, so I didn’t read enough of them to do a review. Instead I’m going to mention three television comedies that I’ve discovered. Okay, I’ve discovered along with a few million others, probably, but I don’t see or hear anything about these in the press or social media, so I think they are somewhat under the radar. I can put two of these in the guilty pleasure category as they are things that sound like they are (because they actually are) in the weird to tacky range. Here they are in order of overall quality.
Life in Pieces This CBS screwball comedy is so well-written it’s amazing it ever made it to the screen. The first big plus: there’s no laugh track. A laugh track is a sign of a failed comedy. I will never watch any show with a laugh track; a live audience is okay, though. LIP is a family comedy much along the lines of Modern Family. The scene shifts from the patriarchal family unit to the children’s, but that’s where the similarities end. The half-hour show is split into four vignettes, each focused on one family unit. In essence, it’s a series of skits. This is its second season, which says something about about its quality right there, since few comedies make it past season 1. The acting all good, too, but the absolute best in my opinion is Zoe Lister-Jones who plays the wife of Collin Hanks’ character. Her comic timing and deadpan one-liners are spot on.
Son of Zorn The first guilty pleasure is this off-the-wall live person-animation hybrid from Fox. Zorn is the Hulk-sized muscle-bound animated sword-wielding fantasy hero whose live action ex-wife (played by Cheryl Hines) is now engaged to a mild-mannered doctor. Zorn’s teenage son (Johnny Pemberton) has his father’s animated legs, which he attempts to conceal in gym class. Zorn has returned from the kingdom of Zephyria where he slayed dragons and whatnot to reconnect with his son who lives in suburban Orange County. Zorn takes a job working in a call center and thinks his female boss is a man because, well, bosses are always men. Zorn’s natural proclivity toward violence and magic spells keeps him in constant trouble. The premise is completely wacky but somehow it works, once again due to top-notch writing. Pemberton is terrific as the beleaguered Alan and Jason Sudeikis does a superb job voicing Zorn.
People of Earth The even guiltier pleasure is POE. I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this, so it could go south on me, but it’s clever enough to interest my wife and me. It centers on a support group for alien abductees. The main character, played by Wyatt Cenac, is a journalist who was doing a story on this obviously crazy group when he himself is abducted. It has been compared to (inspired by?) the “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” novel series, written by Douglas Adams. The absence of a laugh track and the low-key performance by Cenac are enough to keep it on our series record list, but the other characters seem rather like one-dimensional stereotypes. Ultimately the writing will make or break this series.