Monday, October 17th, 2011

Is HBO Trying Too Hard To Be Edgy Instead of Funny?

When was the last time you saw people blogging really excitedly about Bored to Death? Hung? Other than Curb Your Enthusiasm, does HBO have any great comedies right now? And why not, if dramas like Boardwalk Empire and True Blood get people so jazzed?

This article makes the argument that HBO's "It's not TV" attitude actually works to its detriment when it comes to comedy. By trying to emphasize what's different about HBO, the network misses out on tried-and-true comedy formulas. Take Enlightened: the show is "nuanced and muted" on HBO, but "on Showtime, it would star Elizabeth Banks as a lovable psychopath who escapes from a mental institution only to wind up running it. And she'd be a nymphomaniac." It's hard to say whether that Showtime version would be funnier, but it's almost certain that more people would watch it.

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  • http://mattpayton.tumblr.com/ Charles Bogle

    Eastbound & Down definitely fits in the great HBO comedy category.

    • http://www.twitter.com/pablogoldstein Pablo Goldstein

      @Charles Bogle E&D is the best, but it's not as in-house as the others. It's more of a Funny or Die production than HBO.

  • loentrikerofheapocalypse

    Bored to Death is hilarious from week-to-week, IMO.

    • TuchmanMarsh


      Yeah, I think it is unfair to lump Bored to Death in with Hung, etc, as it is actually really, really funny. Those three guys as an ensemble have really come into their own with each new season.

  • Joe Bastian

    I've always liked HBO's unique sense of comedy. I mean, are there any other shows that are quite like Curb, Entourage, and Bored to Death? Even Lucky Louie is pretty out there. Then again The Wire and Six Feet Under are also masterpieces, so HBO should try and find a proper balance.

  • Swedish Detective

    HBO certainly does edgy, but since when is edgy not funny and engaging? There are certainly less "jokes" in an HBO show, but the comedy is often a lot slower, building to fewer larger laughs rather than several smaller laughs. The exception being Curb, which is able to do both with ease.

    I would also argue that this formula is not merely and HBO thing, but that it exists on several channels. Louie on FX, for example, tends to fall on the slower side, building to much larger laughs instead of constant jokes throughout.

  • Pulse

    I personally love Bored to Death… I can't not watch when it comes on and go out of my way to watch it. I love HBO's charachter development, but HBO's always been more about "dramedy" than actual comedy.