Tag Archives: comedy

NINE NINE


So Brooklyn 99 got canceled. And the internet threw a spontaneous collective hissy fit.

And then, in virtually no time at all, it got picked up again, on a different network. And the internet rejoiced.

But why the outcry over a relatively mundane comedy? And why the rapturous happiness at its immediate renewal? And why, for that matter, did NBC scoop it up so immediately, when Fox was ready to cut it loose? People feel strongly about the show. Exceptionally strong. Why? (And yeah, in the Internet of Things, all kinds of people love all kinds of things and everybody gets rabid about the things they love, so outspoken fans are not exactly unique. But fans of Brooklyn 99 seem more rabid than most.)

I don’t think it’s the humor, though the show is very funny; it blends deadpan snark with brick-to-the-face slapstick and the simple, tried-and-true formula of putting ridiculous characters in ridiculous situations for maximum comic effect. But B99 is not the only show doing this.

More likely, it’s the show’s subtle message of inclusion, its all-are-welcome and all-play-by-the-same-rules ethos that you really don’t find on other shows right now. Consider:

Captain Holt is the leader of the precinct. He’s black, and gay, and super-intimidating and exceedingly protocol-driven. But he’s also overtly willing to learn from his subordinates, and becomes more father figure than boss to most of them. He also has frequent moments of badass and hilarity.

Sergeant Jeffords is the second-in-command. He’s black, and ridiculously muscular, but rather than making him the “heavy” or the “bruiser”, he’s first and foremost a family man. Always driven by his wife and kids, he often ends up dropping wisdom on the others in the show. He also has frequent moments of badass and hilarity.

Rosa Diaz is Latina and bisexual, and she’s also the most feared person in the precinct. Not because of her differences, but just because her entire demeanor is terrifying. Of course, under that demeanor, she’s got a gooey center, but she’ll still throttle you for pointing it out. She also has frequent moments of badass and hilarity.

Then there’s Hitchcock and Scully, the stereotypical donut-chomping desk jockeys, usually played for laughs but still given the occasional moment of badassery. Amy Santiago is insufferable and brown-nosing, but still gets regular moments of badassery. Charles Boyle and Jake Peralta are the awkward cop buddies who seem to subvert every cop buddy trope, but they still feature in the show’s moments of badassery.

The show is an equal-opportunity feature machine, in other words, giving every character — regardless of what you may think you know about what makes them who they are — a chance to show out and, ultimately, just be a cop. Everybody gets to save the day. Everybody has others depending on them and actually follows through.

And that, I think, is what makes the show work so well. The character differences serve the comedy — yes, of course — but they also tell you only so much about the characters: what really tells you about the characters is watching how they cover for each other, how they get each other’s backs, and how little they care about their differences. What makes the show work with all its diversity* is the fact that the diversity is basically never addressed, and it’s never played for cheap laughs.

Point is, B99 isn’t all in-your-face with its inclusion — the inclusion is just part of the fabric of the show, which means you basically don’t even notice it.

Which I think is why people lost their minds when it got canceled. (And likewise rejoiced when it was saved.) It’s nice to have stories where people who are different don’t just have to talk about their differences all the time. The cops on B99 are cops first, human co-workers second, and, somewhere way down the line, they’re also ethnically diverse.

And let’s be honest: the show is funny as hell, too. That doesn’t hurt.

Nine Nine

Image is owned by Fox. For now.

*note that a show that includes a non-white individual or two just for the sake of having a diverse cast kind of misses the point. Have them, yes, by all means. But make them part of the storyline, and better yet, make the stories about them without making the stories about their differences.

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The Unholy Sands


Chuck’s challenge this week: the Random Title Challenge. Always fun when it rolls around.

This challenge finds me just back from vacation at the beach, and it was a little hard to shake that from my mind, so rather than fight it, I used the image that stuck in my mind when I drew my title as the central gag in the story. Maybe it works.

The Unholy Sands

“I’m just not sure I see the need.”

Larry didn’t even hesitate, but launched into the next tier of his pitch. “See, that’s the thing. You don’t see the need, nobody sees the need. Your average vampire can overmatch a human without breaking a sweat, let alone a fine specimen such as yourself. Which is why this is the perfect weapon.” He pushed the bullet-sized glass vial into the vampire’s hand.

The vampire stared at the vial as if it were full of elk piss. “What does it do, exactly?”

“Good question. Fair question. So. The humans, right? Sure, some of them are accepting of your kind, some of them will even offer you a little of their blood if they’re really friendly. I know a few people like that, and I’m sure you do, too. I’ve even shared a bit of my own from time to time.” It was a lie, but not the biggest one he had in his bag.

Despite himself, the vampire found himself nodding along with Larry.

“But those are the good ones. Now, I don’t need to tell you that there are more than a handful of humans out there who would just as soon stake somebody like you as look at you, am I right? And these people,” he let his mouth curl around the word for disdain, and inwardly ticked a box on his mental list as he saw the vampire’s lips curl up likewise, “they have basements full of every tool they can possibly use in the fight against your kind. Closets full of wooden stakes. An armoire full of crosses. Boxes and boxes of silver bullets. I heard about a guy who became ordained on the internet so that he could bless all the water that came into the house, right there at the water main. Can you imagine? Invited a vampire over, had his wife spill some barbecue sauce on the guy’s face, offered to let him wash up, and blammo. Undead soup all over the bathroom floor.” It was a story spruced up from the truth through a hundred retellings, and it had the desired effect.

The vampire couldn’t help himself. “Ugh.”

“You’re damned right, ugh. Now, I could show you an arsenal of anti-human weaponry, and trust me, I’ve got some things in here that would make your cold heart skip a few beats.” Larry patted his sharkskin wheeled travel bag for emphasis, disguising the subtle click from within. “But there’s no need, because that right there, in your hand, is the crown jewel. May I?” He held out his hand to the vampire, watching for the sign of hesitation that would tell him the vampire was interested. It was tough to spot with vampires, but there it was, a flicker of doubt as he pressed the vial back into Larry’s hand. “Notice how it refracts the light from even the most meager of sources.” Larry held the vial aloft against the backdrop of the vampire’s moth-dingy porch light, and stepped back for full effect.

The shadow that Larry cast onto the front lawn stretched and expanded as you might expect from a solitary light source, but swirling around his shadow’s hand — the hand holding the vial — was an aura of swirling, contorting, faintly whispering blackness, blacker than the night or Larry’s shadow or the insides of the vampire’s eyelids. A hushed storm raging in the air about his hand.

The vampire blinked in shock, glancing from Larry’s hand, which grasped a seemingly harmless glass vial, to Larry’s shadow, which seemed to hold a pulsating orb of living darkness. “What is it?”

“Humans have their holy water,” Larry said. “Vamps have the Unholy Sands of Kelep’Met.” Larry held his breath for a moment. His last sale had been thwarted when his target had turned out to be something of an enthusiast in Egyptian lore, pointing out that Larry had mispronounced the word. He’d been lucky to escape with his life. This vampire, however, possessed no such knowledge, and simply gaped in accepting wonder.

Larry pressed on, edging closer to the vampire, though every instinct in him told him to keep his distance. Vamps might have been in the open, and most thought (rightly) that they had nothing to fear from humans, so they didn’t bother hurting people. But that didn’t mean you could trust them, and the illusion wouldn’t last long. “Far back, before recorded histories, before the dawn of the undead, great and terrible gods roamed the earth. One of them, Kelep’Met, drew the ire of his brothers for his devotion to the dark side of mankind, his demands for human sacrifice, his depraved games in which he would slaughter men in droves just to sate his evil lust for blood. His brothers met him in the darkest recesses of the earth and slew him, and there his blood seeped into the earth and mingled with it. This sand,” and here Larry held the vial out once more for the vampire to take, “is imbued with the darkest forces of evil that the world has ever known.”

The vampire’s eyes were locked on the little glittering capsule, icy orbs in an expressionless face. When he accepted the vial this time, he cradled it in his fingers, as if it might explode if turned the wrong way. Without warning, those cold globes snapped to Larry and he felt the frozen daggers of the vampire’s stare slice into his mind. “Tell me what it does.” The voice echoed in Larry’s head as if the night had parted and God himself had whispered in his ear.

Every pore opened, every hair stood on end, and he even felt a little tingle between his legs. Larry’s blood had been replaced with lava. The vampire’s spell would draw from him the truth, and the gig would be up. Already he could feel his mind spilling his secrets like an uncorked whiskey barrel, the thoughts cascading over one another in their rush toward his lips.

Worst it will do is annoy them, like sand at the beach. Get it down their shorts if you really want to give them a hard time. Or throw it in their eyes.

Kelep’Met is just some name I made up ‘cause I thought it sounded crazy and ominous.

Don’t look in my briefcase, it’s empty except for some silver bullets, some stakes, and the projector that makes the crazy shadows that fool saps like you into thinking this bullshit is legit.

But just as the damning truth began to rattle the air in his throat, the heart rate monitor in his ear registered the effects of the glamour and fired an eardrum-piercing shriek in his head, shattering the effect of the spell. He wanted to scream from the sound but kept his face slack, empty, a good little hypnotized monkey.

“Just let a few grains touch them, and it’ll feel like acid is burning away their skin, then their muscles, then their skeleton, like a bad acid trip they can’t wake up from. I’ve seen people tear their own flesh to ribbons trying to rid themselves of the curse. The ones that survive suffer in pain for the rest of their lives.”

Those seeking eyes flashed across his face once more, and then the vampire smiled, a horrible mask of fangs and handsome death. “How much?”

Larry licked his lips. “Twenty grand.”

The vampire smirked and then flickered — that damn moving-faster-than-the-eye-can-see thing they do — appearing now with a fat wad of bills in his hand. “I assume one such as yourself would prefer to deal in cash.”

It was Larry’s turn to grin. “Cash is great.”

Larry tucked his newly-acquired stacks of hundreds into his sport coat, then reached out for the vampire’s hand. The lifeless, chilling grasp — like shaking hands with a statue — never failed to turn his stomach, but he swallowed back the bile and smiled his winningest smile. It was easy enough, imagining the vampire’s shock and subsequent rage when he tried to inflict untold suffering on a human only to discover that Larry had taken him for a ride and vanished in the wind. He almost laughed. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” the vampire grinned, his dazzling eyes flashing in the night.

Larry turned and shuffled off. The morning would dawn in a few hours, and there were a hot handful of vampires in this neighborhood. Just a few more sales and he’d have the scratch to buy his way to Borra Borra, where the less politically correct natives still did the proper thing and staked any filthy bloodsucker on sight.


Anchorman? More Like Stankorman, Am I Right?


Apparently, even though I’m going to be writing about a movie that hit theaters months ago, I should still write SPOILER ALERT because I’ll be talking about a film that some of you out there may not yet have seen and may yet be planning to see, so that I do not ruin your cinematic experience.  So here you are: in the following post, I will be writing about Anchorman 2, and I mention some things that happen in it.  If this damages your enjoyment in any way, I assure you, it will only be in that I kept the film from disappointing you in its own right.

I should say outright that with only a few exceptions, I do not get mired in brands when it comes to celebrities.  Meaning, I have very little loyalty to one star or another.  Movie stars, larger than life though they may be, are at the end of the day simple human beings like the rest of us, and are therefore prone to making the same errors in judgment that the rest of us make.  What I do have is movie star brand disloyalty, which makes me avoid certain personalities like the plague (I’m looking at you, Seth Rogen.  Do you ever play a role that is in any way unlike every other role you have ever played ever?  Are they even roles?  Fie!).  That, however, is another blarg for another day.

So, no brand loyalty with a few notable exceptions.  I tend to be willing to try out anything featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.  (He’s just so dreamy.)  Sandra Bullock I find to be another safe bet.  See, I think this, and then I start to write about it, and then I start to actually analyze it, and I realize that these are stars which tend toward drama.  Comedy is a fickle beesting (more gouda there, use your imagination).  I don’t have any comedy loyalties.  I WISH I DID.  I really do.  I read a great quote a few years back from my Spirit Guide, Douglas Adams, about how comedy used to be like a delightful spring rainshower – rare, refreshing, and awesome – but recently it’s just everywhere, pooling in muddy puddles and just generally making you damp.  I mangled the words but I think I preserved the feeling.  Everybody does comedy now.  Even I am trying to do comedy of a sort here at the blarg.  You can find it anywhere, which means it’s no longer surprising, which takes away one of the critical elements of comedy.  If you expect something to be funny, you dramatically decrease the chance that it actually will be.

One of the reasons I specifically try to avoid Movie Star Brand Loyalty (MSBL) is that it leads to Crappy Sequels You Didn’t Really Need (CSYDRNs).   Hey, we made this movie featuring this movie star and it was hugely successful, let’s make another one to capitalize on it, HEY for that to work we need the original movie star back again, even if that doesn’t make terrific sense for the world of the story, but who cares because MONEY.

Which brings me to the point.  Wife and I saw Anchorman 2 this weekend past.

Allow me to clarify that I like (but do not love) the original Anchorman.  It’s absurd, satirical, nonsensical and, often, funny, but above all else it’s telling a story that’s worth telling.  You’ve got the idiotic Ron Burgundy, whose character flaws get him first into trouble, then fired, and his journey to atone for his mistakes drives the story forward until at the end he’s on top of the world again.  A nice, neat little Rags-to-Riches ride.  It’s got its bizarre moments – I’m thinking back to the scene where Ron and Veronica (?) hallucinate and go riding around on cartoon unicorns – but they are sprinkled in like raisins in a good raisin bread.  You don’t get one in every bite, so you appreciate it when you do get one (what a horrible simile; I mean, who likes raisin bread?  EW.).  The story holds the film together, and the absurd bits add flavor.  Not a great film, but a good one.  It works.  It meets commercial success.

So they make another one.

In this one, the co-star (and now, wife) gets promoted and Ron gets fired (again).  He breaks up with her over it (again).  He rounds up his crew and comes up with an all new way of doing the news (again).  There’s a brawl in a public park with rival news crews (again.  Granted, this bit is still funny, but only because of the sheer scope of actors they got to cameo in it).  There is absolutely nothing new in the story, which is the first stroke of the hammer.

Then, the absurdist moments that added flavor and texture to the first film are the backbone of this film, which is to say that the film moves from one nonsensical moment to the next without giving the audience time to catch its breath or figure out how (or in many cases if) the events they just saw connect to the whole.  Spoiler alert: they don’t.  Ron racially and sexually harasses the new black lady boss?  Nothing comes of it.  She gets mad and the story goes on.  Ron and his friends forget who’s driving the car and wreck it on the way across country?  Yep, next scene, there they are at work, no further mention of the car accident, no ill effects for any of the characters.  Ron loses his sight in a freak ice-skating accident (no, he didn’t put his eye out, he’s just magically blind now) and, while blind and in exile, rescues and raises a shark to maturity.  Do you think the shark ends up saving his life or playing any role in the story?  Perhaps saving him from a rampaging murderous squid-demon?  Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t.

Anyway, we watched this travesty of a film and then looked at each other and sighed a mutual disappointed sigh.  I honestly wonder if the film was made, not as a money-making venture (though it certainly made money, apparently it’s pulled in over $110 million now, per Forbes, which is significantly more than the original), but as a sociological experiment.  The premise of this experiment would be: How Bad Can We Make This Movie And Still Have People Come To See It?

The story writing is atrocious.  The character development and growth is nonexistent.  The humor is tepid.  (The funniest moment in the film, the cameo-laden park brawl, is freeze-dried and repackaged from the first with fancier celebrities — how they got Will Smith in there is beyond me.)  There’s a bit in there that’s almost clever wherein the film lampoons 24-hour news networks, but it’s over before it gets rolling.  It is, in short, a terrible movie on virtually every level that movies should be concerned with.

And it still made money.  Like, a lot of money.

I am of two minds about this.

First of all, Hollywood doesn’t give a steaming sharknado about its audience’s intelligence.  They will make what sells, which means pander to MSBL and make a movie we already recognize and don’t, DON’T, push the boundaries.  (How many Fast & Furious movies are there now?  Eighteen, right?  And aren’t we on Saw Forty-Seven?)

The second mind, however, is hopeful.

Because if a pile of fetid donkey turds like Anchorman 2 can be commercially successful, then maybe there’s hope for a schlub like me.


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