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Looking at the Dark and Absurd Sci-Fi Comedy of 'Space Station 76'

The Jack Plotnick-directed Space Station 76 takes place in a 1970s vision of the future. You might ask what exactly that means, but it’s a fairly straightforward description: imagine the 1970s. Now imagine them in space. That’s what Space Station 76 looks like, with beautifully cold space station sets, throwback '70s costuming, and robots resembling R2D2. The second most-discussed film at South by Southwest, it’s flown relatively under-the-radar since, but as it comes out on VOD, DVD, and digital download next week, this quietly funny movie is worth your attention.

It’s tempting to view Space Station 76 as a straight sci-fi parody, an homage to the likes of Space:1999. [...]

In 'Poking a Dead Frog', Comedians' Advice, Stories, and Neuroses Shine

Nerding out on comedy just got a lot easier with Mike Sacks’ new Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers. In his follow up to 2009’s excellent And Here’s the Kicker, Sacks has compiled an impressively diverse list of writers working within the humor genre, from both sitcom and feature writers to directors to cartoonists to radio writers, like The Best Show on WFMU’s Tom Sharpling and 97-year-old Peg Lynch, writer of the 1940s Ethel and Albert. Whether you’re a comedian or a fan, there’s something here to interest you and that’s no doubt by design. The table of contents alone is intimidatingly long in the best possible way.

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'Veep' Season 3 Carves Out New Territory Along the Campaign Trail

Seasons one and two of Armando Iannucci’s political satire Veep depicted the vice presidency as whimsically inconsequential: a politician and her extremely driven staff stuck wasting their intelligence and penchant for insults on carefully-calculated interactions with the press and “normals” while the actually important POTUS eluded all his underling’s phone calls. A change seemed imminent, though, at the end of season two when the president announced he would not be running for re-election. This news set the stage for an excellent third season in which VP Selina Meyer and her cohorts left the comfort of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, home for the past two years to some [...]

'SNL' Review: Andy Samberg, with a Little Help From His Friends

SNL transforms when a former cast member returns to host. The regular format is stretched to make room for a massive SNL reunion, with classic bits and endless cameos by other past stars of the show. Usually this homecoming makes for an exciting night of television, with Lorne Michaels trotting out one of his prized horses to remind us of the joy this show has brought us over the years.

In this case, it reminded us how atypical of a cast member Andy Samberg was. His monologue joke that he appeared in "100 digital shorts and six live sketches" had a ring of truth: unlike all-star alums Will Ferrell [...]

'SNL' Review: Andrew Garfield Couldn't Save the Day

When I started reviewing SNL three years ago, I was proud to consider myself a defender of the show. Of course, not that the mainstream pop culture institution needed any defending. My frustration was with the show's cynical viewers — online critics, comedy nerds, pretty much everyone in my hometown — who had jumped on the hip bandwagon of dismissing SNL as "not as funny as it used to be." It didn't matter to them that the show is broadcasted live, with each episode written and produced in less than six days. Even if SNL managed to pull off a handful of good sketches week after week, that wasn't good [...]

How FX's 'You’re the Worst' Has Quietly Become the Best New Comedy on Television

The summer television season used to be reserved for the ignoble combination of network miscalculations and obligatory burn offs as the Big Four reserved their more acclaimed pilots for the prestigious fall season. Luckily, the television landscape is slowly evolving. While the upcoming spate of new network sitcoms suggest that the low end of the dial may be clinging to the cozy confines of the familiar, FX’s freshman series You’re the Worst has embraced the allure of the unknown and, in the process, has quietly delivered the most entertaining comedy of the year.

Described as a "dark twist on the romantic comedy genre,” You’re the Worst follows the budding relationship [...]

'Playing House's Balance of Humor and Heart Makes It One of the Best New Comedies of the Year

Comedic duos are thriving right now (as we recently highlighted), bringing everything from absurdist sketch to buddy movies to a new level. No comedy pair, however, represents true friendship both on and off screen like Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. They've long been reliable sources of laughter during joint podcast appearances and in the six episodes of their 2012 sitcom Best Friends Forever that aired before NBC pulled the plug, proving that they could hold their own during a half-hour sitcom. Now in USA's Playing House, their second chance to bring their friendship to the masses, they've created a perfect combination of solid jokes and genuine heart that will, God [...]

Breaking Down 'Silicon Valley's Flawed Characters and Promising Debut Season

Silicon Valley’s fourth episode, “Fiduciary Duties,” ends with Richard and Erlich as they leave Peter Gregory’s office, where they spy an old photo of Gregory with Pied Piper rival, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson. In the image, they’re about the same age as Richard and Erlich, who turn back to Gregory. “Is that you and Gavin Belson? Were you guys friends?” And the always-brief Gregory simply replies, “I thought so.”

When the show debuted at South by Southwest, creator Mike Judge described it as being about how in the tech world, "the most successful people are the ones least prepared to handle it." The show must be viewed through [...]

'SNL' Review: Ladies Night with Charlize Theron

Well, that was quite a turnaround.

To everyone who commented on last week's tirade against Andrew Garfield's lackluster episode that it was about time I gave up on SNL: this episode right here is why I still love this show, and why I will never give up on it. The 90 minutes was about as solid as it gets, with a low-expectations host Charlize Theron blending in seamlessly with the cast, the writers performing on overdrive, and even a few head-turning live-TV moments. We haven't seen this level of consistency since Kerry Washington hosted in November — an episode with which this one shared a few interesting [...]

Fred and Carrie Go Big and Broad in Season 4 of 'Portlandia'

"I'm tired! My dogs are barking, my calves are mooing, can't you hear them?"

2014 has so far been a particularly explosive year for sketch shows, with Inside Amy Schumer delivering up consistently fantastic takes on feminism and double standards while Broad City came on the scene and threw down a nearly perfect debut season with great writing and physical humor. To say the least, it's left Portlandia with a lot of competition as far as nailing the troubled quirky youthful indie heart of modern urban life, but Fred and Carrie aren't the same ThunderAnt-fresh underdogs they were in 2011 — the show's a hit, and IFC [...]

An Updated 'Live From New York' Goes Inside the Last 12 Years of 'SNL' History

If the update of Live from New York from journalist James Andrew Miller and TV critic Tom Shales succeeds in one thing, it’s disproving the perennial, cliched criticism that Saturday Night Live is no longer funny or relevant. The additional 200 pages added to this already-hefty volume are a revealing reminder that the most recent years of SNL have been just as memorable as the eras long past.

Covering the period from 2002 to the present, the update takes on the show’s engagement with recent politics, the rise of Lonely Island, and the internet’s effect on both the players and the general reception of the show. It features interviews from [...]

Louis C.K.'s Season of Mini-Movies

"I want season four to go somewhere new," Louis C.K. said when he announced he'd be taking an extra year to complete the latest season of his FX series Louie, which wrapped up last night. What resulted was a season of Louie made up almost-entirely of multi-part episodes, with C.K. using the complete creative control FX gives him to make three movies, spread across multiple episodes, instead of creating 14 individual, self-contained episodes. Past seasons have seen C.K. straying away from vignettes and toying with multi-part episodes (like with season three's two-part episode "Daddy's Girlfriend," following Louie's adventurous first date with a mercurial woman played by Parker [...]

How 'Bob's Burgers' Fully Hit Its Stride in Season Four

Bob’s Burgers has reached its prime. Like Seinfeld and The Simpsons before it, the fourth season can be seen as the moment when Bob’s Burgers really hit its stride, featuring episodes filled with creativity and experimentation that perfected what works about the show while pushing it forward. Fox’s oddball comedy celebrates society’s weirdos and finds humanity at the heart of every laugh, making it one of the most original, awkward, and heartwarming shows on TV. Creator Loren Bouchard has built a safe space for comedians and animators to indulge in their own quirks, which continues to pay off. Episode after episode, Bob’s Burgers reveals itself to be about more than [...]

'Louie' Returns from a Long Hiatus with Two Solid Episodes

Louie returned to FX last night after a year and a half hiatus, with two new episodes, and if you're worried the show would lose its touch during its time away, you can set those fears to rest. The premiere episodes of season four, “Back” and “Model,” while being vastly different from each other in style and tone, are both perfect examples of what makes Louie so great.

“Back” ultimately focuses on Louie’s back problems, but the episode’s name correctly states that he and his show have returned. The episode loosely winds from scene to scene, in a style much like the early seasons of Louie. Also like classic [...]