From Robots to Bear-Fighting: Sitcoms Sure Do Love Their Bad Ass Santas

Sitcoms really only have four ways of handling Christmas: it can either be the Sentimental Episode, the Parody Episode (like all seven billion It’s a Wonderful Life lampoons), the Christmas Doesn’t Exist Episode, or, my favorite, INSANE CHRISTMAS. That’s the one that usually features a lot of blood and violence and reindeer frothing at the mouth, and it’s almost always because of the actions of Saint Nick himself. I love Bad Ass Santa because there’s only so much you can do with Christmas, plot-wise, and any story with Father Christmas brandishing a machine gun or baseball bat feels fresh and exciting. And on TV, it’s almost exclusive to sitcoms; [...]

When Did Great Sitcoms Have Their First Great Episode?

Yesterday, not long after Splitsider published an article by Samer Kalaf about the long-term health of network sitcoms with long-term arcs, Hallie Cantor followed up with a post, via The Hollywood Reporter, on how viewers and networks are giving up on shows if they’re not immediately great sooner than ever. That’s a terrifying thought, because unless your show has a pilot as strong as Cheers’ or Freaks and Geeks’, both of which Bradford and I covered in our list of the Ten Best Comedy Pilots in TV History, it means that you have less time than ever to make a strong impression on your audience, before [...]

Looking Back at the Edits Made in TV Comedies After 9/11

Usually with “Checking In,” I look back at a show or movie or Off-Broadway musical and tell you know what the cast and creators (and wonder hamsters) are doing today. Not this week, though. This Friday, let’s go with “Looking Back.” As you might have heard, Sunday is September 11, 2011, and that means not only has it been a decade since “Love and Theft,” The Blueprint, and Nickelback’s debut were released, it’s also been 10 years since this. In the aftermath of that terrible day, many TV comedies either revised soon-to-air scenes featuring the Towers, or took previous episodes and clips showing the buildings out of syndication. [...]

Checking In…with the Mix CDs I Made for Myself as a Teen, Which Included Jimmy Fallon’s “Idiot Boyfriend”

Back in the summer of 2002, when Jimmy Fallon released his first and only album The Bathroom Wall, I was at the peak of mix CD-making phase. The albums weren’t for my friends or girlfriend (ha), but rather, for me, myself, and Josh. Mp3 players were still a few years away from becoming ubiquitous, so if I wanted to listen to multiple songs by a variety of artists, and not carry around my cumbersome, carefully alphabetized booklet of CDs, I had to make a mix for the 20-minute bus ride to school, and for the 40 it took to get back. (Don’t ask.) Rather than include anything cool, like [...]

Checking In…with the Writers of South Park Not Named Matt or Trey

When we think of South Park, which concludes its 15th season next Wednesday (please catch up on Lindsey Bahr's excellent recaps if you're behind), we think of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They do nearly all of the voices, direct almost every episode (Trey, in particular), and write virtually every episode. Or do they? *Record scratch* Well, yes, they do, but they DO have help, from "staff writers" or "staff consultants," something that's not often mentioned. Below are only but a few of the fantastic writers who have helped shape South Park's vision over the years, and what they're up to these days.

Six Recent Examples of "Breaking the Fourth Wall" Trope Subversion

When I learned the meaning of the expression “breaking the fourth wall” (which Urban Dictionary surprisingly accurately describes as when “a character [acknowledges] the fact that they are fictional”), all those many years ago, I was ecstatic — “Hey, I know a smart movie and TV term…” — and extremely obnoxious — “…and I’m going to say it ALL THE TIME now.” And I probably did, because it’s something impossible not to notice when it’s happening, and it was nice finally having a term to peg to it.

Then you start noticing it everywhere, in every movie and on every sitcom. It’s what people call a “trope” (another [...]

Checking In…with the Breakout Stars of Eddie Murphy Films

Eddie Murphy was once the biggest name in comedy. In the 1980s, because of his four-season stint on Saturday Night Live and films like 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America, he was the householdiest of household names, the man with the Golden Laugh (I want it as my ringtone) and the quickest wit. He made an all-red leather suit cool and brought Buckwheat back to the public lexicon, 40 years after he made his last Little Rascals appearance.

Now, however, and to a whole new generation, Murphy is known as Donkey, or Pluto Nash, or Norbit, or Dr. Doolittle, or Meet Dave, or [...]