Monday, May 16, 2022

TV: THE KIDS IN THE HALL try to return

Watching KIDS IN THE HALL's new season on AMAZON, we were left with more questions than laughs. Something was off.

It's not that the returning cast isn't funny, but something is off.


We thought of Melissa McCarthy and how too many of her comedies were off. BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT, IDENTIFY THEFT, THUNDER FORCE, THE BOSS? Those are among the many films that work. Then there are films more like LIFE OF THE PARTY and GHOSTBUSTERS that just don't work. Is Melissa not funny in those movies?

Melissa's funny in everything. But in a film like GHOSTBUSTERS or LIFE OF THE PARTY, her character is also kind of pathetic.

Lily Tomlin probably put her finger on the problem years ago when she spoke of the characters she liked to play and noted, "I want them to be strong. I never like to be anybody who's defeated. The person I love most of all is somebody who conventionally looks out of of place and who thinks she's wonderful."

And that's so true. Melissa works best when her character believes in herself. When she's playing a weak and waffling character, it usually don't work. SPY, some would argue, features such a character but, actually, it doesn't. She does believe she can rescue Jude Law's character and that's what fuels the film.

KIDS IN THE HALL, for those who don't know, is a sketch comedy show that ran from for five seasons -- 1989 to 1995 -- and is one of the few Lorne Michaels' produced shows you can say ran for multiple seasons. Yes, there is SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE but, as was long ago demonstrated, SNL survives without Lorne. In fact, Lorne had just returned in the fall of 1985 (after leaving in the spring of 1980) and KIDS IN THE HALL was among many new properties he was attempting. THE NEW SHOW lasted one season. SUNDAY NIGHT lasted two seasons. There were others. KIDS IN THE HALL was the only one -- outside of a talk show -- that found any real success until 2006 when his 30 ROCK began airing. There would be many more failures -- UP ALL NIGHT, THE AWESOMES, MULANEY, MAYA & MARTY, SHRILL DETORITERS and AP BIO. There would also be two hits: PORTLANDIA and DOCUMENTARY NOW!

His track record as a show runner is not that impressive compared to Shonda Rhimes or David E. Kelley or Norman Lear or Ryan Murphy or Jenji Kohan or . . .

So it would be really good for him if KIDS IN THE HALL's reboot airing on AMAZON was a success.

For those of us who have loved KIDS IN THE HALL, it would also be a good thing if the show worked.

Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson all returned. To state the obvious, they aren't KIDS anymore. GRACE AND FRANKIE earned praise for a show that demonstrated women over 70 were interesting and lively and funny. KIDS IN THE HALL on AMAZON doesn't feel they need to prove any of those things. Maybe they should?

Might make for a better revival.

Instead, we get Dave Foley doing full frontal long after anyone could have wanted to see it.

Let's stay with Dave who is the best preserved of the group. Watching, you will be reminded yet again that only Dave had any real post-KIDS career (WILL & GRACE, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE, A BUG'S LIFE, HOT IN CLEVELAND, THE MIDDLE, THE ODD COUPLE and many more. Kevin McDonald did not have the same success. He did two episodes on ELLEN where he was a co-worker who kept coming on to her (this was after Ellen the actress and the character) had come out. As he squeals repeatedly in one sketch after another, you grasp why he really found no further accalim after KIDS IN THE HALL. It is irritating and his voice has not aged well. There's also something very pathetic about it -- for the character he's playing. It doesn't matter whether he's squealing because he's been cucked or because his wife is leaving him or whatever. It's just very, very annoying.

Bruce McCulloch seems lost as well. Yes, Gavin shows up once. That's really it. Where's the big Tammy sketch, for example. And when he and Scott Thompson bring back the Cathy and Kathie they played so well during the show's original run, the women are defeated. They don't pick on a temp or anything. They mourn that fax machines are being phased out. They're as weak as the fax machine.

Again, humor is best when the character in question thinks they're wonderful even if they aren't. Basil Fawlty was never as wonderful as he thought he was. Grace Adler couldn't sing and couldn't take a hint when everyone around her tried to clue her in. She just broke out in song with supreme confidence and it was funny.

When the characters are pathetic and don't believe in themselves, where's the humor coming from

We're no longer laughing with them, we're now just laughing at them.

It made the whole thing a big let down.

It's not like the five seasons of the series that ran originally. It's more like the 2010 sixth season (or mini-series) THE KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN which was an eight episode let down.

A lot of people gripe about BRAIN CANDY, the film THE KIDS IN THE HALL made. It is an acquired taste. It is also funny.

Too often, KIDS IN THE HALL isn't funny in the new eight episode season on AMAZON.

That is especially true of the 'guest stars.'

Apparently, they did not want to bring back the red-headed female who would always say, "It's a fact" (Jessica Shifman).

Instead, they are bringing on celebrities to pose as real people and apparently to be funny. Pete Davidson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Armisen and even Samantha Bee are funny. Others are surprisingly not.

Hit or miss. Scattershot. An episode of THE KIDS IN THE HALL in its original run could be that. But you got that they were going for something. So an otherwise throw away line like, "We were just talking about Cher!" lasts in your memory for years. This go round? The energy is lower and it appears a lot less thought went into humor. They frame this season as AMAZON's bringing KIDS IN THE HALL BACK and that device doesn't really work. If that device had to be used, it should be used, meaning make jokes about what AMAZON thinks of how the revival is going. But that really doesn't happen and instead an underling get ordered around in a manner that might have played better in the 90s but in the 20s just seems out of date.

Scott Thompson is the all star for the revival with Dave a close second but, honestly, it often seems like two (Bruce and Kevin weren't really trying). Mark is somewhere in between the two groups.

No, we're not raving over this season. But it's better than most of what AMAZON has offered for original comedy and we'd like to see a more focused second season on AMAZON, one that appreciated the zany and the off beat and found humor in it -- as opposed to ridiculing a bunch of sad sack characters.

Let's stay with what we want for a moment. We've been so used to AMAZON that we got a surprise on YOUTUBE TV last week. We were looking for a Lily Tomlin episode of SNL on PEACOCK and it was a nightmare. You can't browse on PEACOCK. What can you do with that streamer? Not much at all. It should not be a problem to search for an actor or a director. It reminded us of the RIAA because it was so ineffective. The RIAA claims you can search their database for gold and platinum albums and 45s. And? Sometimes you can. But try searching for Cher and you'll see a huge problem.

Cher's been an artist for seven decades now -- 60s through 20s. So you'd think the RIAA would have figured out how to account for this artist always known professionally as Cher -- and only Cher.

Try to search Cher and you end up with way too many artists -- anyone who has ":cher" in their name, as part of their name, as part of an album title.

Want to narrow it down? When we complained to RIAA about it, we were told that shouldn't happen but we could narrow it down by putting in her label.

Her label?

In seven decades she's been on multiple labels including ATCO, KAPP, IMPERIAL, MCA, WARNER BROTHERS, WARNER BROS. (yes, you have to spell it that way including the period, for it to search that), CASBLANCA and more. And searching "Cher" and label "CASABLANCA" doesn't even turn up TAKE ME HOME or "Take Me Home" -- Cher's gold album and gold 45 single. You have to search that by title.

That's what it feels like when you search on PEACOCK, like an idiot took a check and pretended to do a job but didn't actually do the job and those over the hiring were too stupid to check the work before cutting the final check.

When you pull up a movie on AMAZON to see the synopsis or stream the trailer, the cast is shown below. If you click on their photo? You get a sentence or two about them. We're not interested in their bios. We should be able to click on the photo and immediately be taken to the other videos AMAZON has featuring them.

We've griped about that for years -- including here.

Last week, we were looking through TCM's upcoming films. We put the ones we like in our cloud and don't always have time to watch them 'live' on TCM. As we were going to add them to our queue,. we stopped to click on the photo of a director. And? YOUTUBE TV immediately displayed a list of all the other movies that director had done -- ones we had in our queue already, ones that were upcoming and ones that we could rent or purchase.

We've been told that what we were expecting too much from AMAZON. We didn't think so. We assumed that a website that, even now, makes most of its money from selling episodes of TV shows and films would make it easier for customers to find these potential purchases. With KIDS IN THE HALL, you can say we expected too much from the latest season (we don't think we did) but with what AMAZON provides in terms of searchables? No, we weren't expecting too much and, yes, AMAZON is offering way too little.
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