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

playing houseComedic 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 willing, keep them on the air for seasons to come.

Starting off with a similar concept to the short-lived BFFs, Emma (St. Clair) finds herself moving in with Maggie (Parham), but this time Parham's character has found herself nearly nine months pregnant with a cheating husband and no one to help raise her baby. Enter Emma, who quits her high-powered job to return to the small town they were raised in to help out Maggie while confronting a host of characters from her past. From the very start, it seems as if we're just watching Parham and St. Clair in real life; their natural chemistry and ability to riff off each other feels unscripted in the best ways possible. And that includes the more emotional moments. What would in a normal series feel as deep as an after school special sitcom trope feels completely genuine in the hands of this real life pair of best friends. They truly love each other, making the sweet moments unusually bearable. READ MORE


Dan St. Germain on His Start in Standup and the Power of Self-Deprecation

Dan St. GermainDan St. Germain has made his mark in the comedy world with his energetic on stage persona, his podcast (My Dumb Friends), and a Comedy Central web series (In Security). In his standup, he doesn't shy away from the dark truths of life, weaving his own issues with depression and alcoholism in with his jokes. Now, he's ready to bring those truths to everyone with his debut album, Bad At the Good Times, from A Special Thing Records.

I recently chatted with St. Germain to talk about the album, his start in comedy, and being the "I'll take it" guy. READ MORE


Season Six of 'Parks and Recreation' Was a Love Letter to Pawnee

Leslie Knope has been through a lot since we first met her at Pawnee's Parks and Recreation office back in 2009. She's cycled through jobs, relationships, and personal challenges, always coming out with a hyper-optimism that is rarely displayed in modern sitcom characters. This season we watched her hit her highest highs and lowest lows, and, if the final minutes of last night's season finale are any indication, her struggles over the last six seasons were totally worth it. READ MORE


'Archer's Fifth Season Went Delightfully Off Track with 'Archer: Vice'

When Archer got an early renewal for not one, but two more seasons last month, I felt conflicted. Yes, it is currently one of the best comedies on television and more episodes are deserved. But the worrier in me immediately panicked. Two more seasons? How can the show possibly keep being as good? How can the writers keep thinking up new scenarios and, more importantly, new jokes? What if this renewal is just an entry into a slow death rattle? However, now that I've had the time to reflect on the entirety of season five, I'm no longer worried.

Archer: Vice was a huge turning point for the series, beyond even the name and plot mix-ups. Never before has the show rooted itself so firmly in the ensemble and never before has the serialized arc come into play so prominently. Last night's season finale was a huge reminder of this. Throughout the season, each character has embarked on their own separate adventure: Cyril has become president of San Marco, Krieger discovered his army of clones, Cheryl/Carol/Charleen became a country music sensation, and Pam, in what is still my favorite development this season, became addicted to cocaine. Left to their own devices, we learn more about why each of these characters are the way the are, and it's easier to see their importance to ISIS as a whole, a development that is rare in any television show, let alone a comedy, and an animated comedy at that. READ MORE


'Brooklyn Nine-Nine's First Season Lives Up to Its Hype

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
premiered with an entertaining-enough premise, a cast that seemed to have a natural chemistry, and some established cred behind the camera in co-creator Mike Schur. When the show and its star won Golden Globes in February, a shift could be felt in the televerse. This was no longer a TV show featuring the work of comedy darlings whose main fan base is readers of a site like this, but now a critically-acclaimed, mainstream, award-winning sitcom. Tack onto that an early season two pickup, and the game had completely changed.

What Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always had to its advantage is an ensemble of talented actors who seamlessly fit into their roles. Each character was quickly defined and fleshed out, and the writers have found the space to give the show's seven central characters a solid, even if small, storyline in each episode. And the golden pairings are the over-the-top goofy with the cartoonishly serious: Andy Samberg's Jake Peralta with Andre Braugher's Captain Holt; Joe Lo Truglio's Detective Boyle with Stephanie Beatriz's Detective Diaz; Chelsea Peretti's Gina with Melissa Fumero's Detective Santiago. The most normal of the bunch is Sergeant Jeffords (Terry Crews), and even he becomes a caricature when confronted with his fear of guns and a playful affection for his twin daughters. With this group together, each interaction and joke, no matter how ridiculous, feels natural and is rooted in reality by the fact that despite the silliness, each of these people is good at their job. READ MORE


Halfway Through Season 5, 'Community' Is Back to Its Old, Wonderful Self

Coming into this season of Community, there was a lot to contend with.  Dan Harmon returned to run the show, a less than satisfactory season 4 had to be addressed, the departures of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover had to be dealt with, all this added to the typical series lull that comes with a fifth season of a sitcom. With the Olympics taking over our regularly scheduled programming for the next couple weeks, we have some time to really think about how Community is doing this season.

The first six episodes of this 13-episode season have highlighted all of the show’s strengths. Quickly brushing season 4's missteps under the rug, the characters emotional arcs, rather than plot, became the show’s focus. This is made most clear in the two of this seasons episodes that stand as contenders as my favorite ever, "Cooperative Polygraphy" and "Geothermal Escapism". While they couldn’t be more different structurally — one is a contained, dialogue-reliant narrative while the other is referential and action-packed — they both prove that the show is at its best when the characters’ humanity is on display as we dig deeper into who they really are. This is the biggest improvement from last season when major developments were scarce and surface-level. READ MORE


'Chozen' Doesn't Do Its Voice Talent Justice

When Chozen first came on our radar, it was announced to be the first original piece of programming from FX’s all-comedy-all-the-time network, FXX. Despite initial plans, Chozen debuted last night on FX, creating even more confusion surrounding the actual purpose of FXX. Though based on the first few episodes, perhaps the network didn’t want to hedge their bets and their reputation for original programming on this mediocre animated show.

The first creation from Grant Dekernion — whose most notable credit is writer's assistant on Eastbound & Down — follows a gay, white rapper, fresh out of prison on his journey to becoming a hip-hop superstar. After being framed by his former group member Phantasm (voiced by Method Man) and spending a decade in jail, Chozen (Bobby Moynihan) returns to find redemption with his old crew, all from the comfort of his younger sister’s college dorm room. READ MORE


'Archer' Season 5 Ditches Espionage for the Better

The best thing about Archer being an animated show is that anything is possible. We've seen the ISIS gang travel across the world, fight pirates in space, and adventure beneath the sea. It makes sense, then, that for the new season Adam Reed would create a premise in which he could continue being outrageous and stretch the limits of his illustrated imaginations.

After four seasons of spy hijinks, the writers "got bored" and created drastic change for their characters. The once respected super-spies have been operating without the consent of the government (and betrayed the government, but hey, as Sterling Archer says, "Potato, patreason") and are turning to drug dealing to make up the financial difference. In what I can only imagine came from an actual writer’s room pitch, the new ISIS is “the A-Team meets Scarface.READ MORE


'Community' (and Dan Harmon) Returns with a Vengeance in Season 5

After being fired from Community in 2012, creator Dan Harmon used his live-show-turned-podcast, Harmontown, to build a cult of devoted followers. It became the platform for him to air his grievances about basically everything in his life from problems with Sony to his family to negative comments on the internet and provide a hyper intensive glimpse into the madness of his creativity. It was on Harmontown where he first announced that he would be back on Community and then proceeded to tear apart season 4 to much public backlash. He’s gone through his process coming back to the show, let secrets for season 5 slip, and used his weekly presence to build even more anticipation for the season of his return.

Season 4 of Community was a fine season of television. But that’s all it was, fine. Still better than most of the terrible sitcoms being put to air but completely forgettable all the same, a shallow recreation of a once genius show. Before even getting to the first episodes of season 5, I re-watched season 4 because, likely to Harmon’s delight, I could simply not remember a thing that happened.

Watching it again, the lack of emotional depth and creative structure that came to define the first three seasons was painfully clear. Knowing that Harmon had nothing to do with he penultimate Jeff Winger’s dad episode was devastating. It was hard to see how everything was going to get back on track.

The obvious Harmonian solution was to create an entirely new track. READ MORE