Tuesday, March 20, 2018

TV: Talk talk talk

Cheap talk
Deep talk 
Talk talk talk around the clock
-- "Tax Free," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album DOG EAT DOG

And that's often all it is: "talk around the clock."

Even so, there's an art to doing it.

a new illst

That point's not lost on Joel McHale.  Coming off COMMUNITY and THE GREAT INDOORS, McHale's back to TALK SOUP terrain in his new NETFLIX program THE JOEL MCHALE SHOW WITH JOEL MCHALE.

The title?

Yeah, we know.


It's actually NETFLIX's best talk show thus far.   Chelsea Handler's CHELSEA had great promise but the host became consumed with politics and it didn't fit with the notion for a general topic talk show that NETFLIX had in mind.  Even so, Chelsea delivered many episodes of CHELSEA that are still worth streaming.  Which is much more than can be said about MY NEXT GUEST NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION WITH DAVID LETTERMAN.  Thus far, Dave's return to TV is unimpressive and will leave those who never caught NBC's LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN or CBS' LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN wondering why anyone ever tuned in for Dave?  They won't get that he was actually funny -- both with a monologue and behind the desk -- or that his show featured comic bits and skits that you talked about not just the next day but for months and years after.  Now he's just a lethargic gnome with a weird looking beard.  And there's nothing worth streaming in the three episodes of the show that aired.  The show as costly for NETFLIX but all the dollars appear to have lined Dave's pocket and nothing went towards actual production values.

Chelsea didn't want to transfer her E! show over to NETFLIX but Joel's pretty much done that.  No shame in that.  Jackie Gleason took his sketches of THE HONEYMOONERS from THE DUPONT NETWORK over to CBS.  And it's funny.

Joel gets to rif on various reality TV shows and media moments and it's hilarious.  He also features guest spots.  Some are not all that funny.  Seth Green as a bully?  Shorty goes up against six-feet-plus of Joel and we're supposed to think Seth is a bully?  Even mouthing dialogue of Eddie from IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG, Seth's reminding everyone that he flopped in FOUR KINGS and DAD and that, when it comes to TV comedy, he's better as a voice only performer.  Some are good sports (Kristen Bell and Jason Priestly).  Some are hilarious -- chief among those, Eric Bana doing a deadpan send up of . . . Eric Bana.  It was wickedly funny even before he began plugging Eric Bana's Banana Badana Cabana.

This is a 13 episode program and, if NETFLIX was smart, they'd extend the order immediately.  If Joel could do 40 or 50 weekly episodes of this, they'd have a program worth paying for.  It has mass appeal -- not a common factor in many programs these days.

Take Samantha Bee.

Oh, how we miss Chelsea.  Chelsea with her sardonic wit as opposed to screaming Samantha Bee.  Don Rickles and Phyllis Diller combined didn't get this loud.  Watching FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTA BEE (TBS) requires not just ear plugs but also Dramamine.  And we're always amazed that this woman could have landed Jason Jones who's not just four years younger than her but also attractive, apparently laid back and rational.

Jones stars in THE DETOUR (TBS) with Natalie Zea (who's already left indelible impressions on JUSTIFIED and THE FOLLOWING).  The two have chemistry and click as a comedic team as well. In the third season, the show has really hit its stride.  And we're often amazed at the humor on the show because it's so even-handed -- "even-handed" being the last term anyone would ever use to describe Samantha Bee's humor.

When Jones and Zea have to deal with their daughter's new boyfriend -- a social justice warrior poser -- Zea got some of her best lines and got them off repeatedly.  And they're lines that you wish Samantha Bee would do because they were political and funny.  They were also advanced.

Samantha Bee serves up a pre-K child's idea of funny: talk faster and faster and louder and louder and maybe work in a dirty word.  It's not illuminating anything, it's a sermon masquerading as comedy.

It's one-sided and puerile.

So how is that Bee created THE DETOUR with her husband and that she's written and co-written a few episodes?

Because, it turns out, that annoying, braying Bee is not Samantha Bee.  She's actually a rational person.  "Samantha Bee" is a variation of the character she created on THE DAILY SHOW.  It makes us wish that she'd either acknowledge that in FULL FRONTAL or else drop the character and be herself -- she's so much smarter and funnier than "Samantha Bee."

In THE DETOUR, Natalie Zea's character Robin's dropped many masks as the show's gone along.  She wasn't what Nate (Jason Jones) ever thought she was.  And it's allowed Zea to give one of her most complex performances yet.  Who knows what dropping a mask might do for Samantha Bee?

In the meantime, make a point to enjoy the humor served up by THE DETOUR and THE JOEL MCHALE SHOW WITH JOEL MCHALE -- comedy that reminds you comedy's at its best when its not playing favorites.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }