Culturology #82 - Funny, Not Funny, Funny Again

In the spirit of Nick posting Time Log many hours late yesterday, I'd like to go ahead and sneak a Culturology out, here, ten minutes before the end of the work day (having just managed to hit an important deadline in my non-Audioshocker work). So... one thing that seems worth mentioning is that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which was America's funniest television show back during its third season, but then drooped mightily in seasons four and five, really picked it up again this year with episodes packed wall-to-wall with crack-me-ups. The show is mean-spirited enough that it laps back around to just being funny without me feeling concerned about its mean-spiritedness (like I think it did in seasons 4 and 5; had me concerned, that is).

It's nice when a TV show that used to be funny and then stopped being funny gets funny again. So it has me thinking of other times when that's happened. I'd say South Park pulled off a similar trick, since it was quite funny when it first came out, but then got pretty old pretty fast--by the middle of the second season, in terms of the whole foul-mouthed 3rd-graders things. But then, in season five, the Towelie episode came out, which was hilarious, and got me to watch South Park again for a while, until it got old again. But since the Towelie episode, the show has consistently had some great episodes every season, and plenty of chunky ones. The last great peak, though, was across seasons nine and ten, between the "Trapped in the Closet" episode and "Cartoon Wars" (the latter of which finally and ultimately won me over to the South Park cause).

Sadly, The Simpsons never had a similar surge. I realize that some people have thought that The Simpsons are funny during the past decade of seasons, but the show has never returned to the heights of its 3rd-7th Seasons. There was some talk of a resurgence a couple of years ago, but that seemed, again, more like a decision made by over-zealous fans that are over-educated and don't like it when TV points out how mindless and lazy they are as middle-class consumers, who then decided that, damn it, The Simpsons was funny again. So that they could feel better about watching The Simpsons instead of, I don't know, voting.

What I've been wishing for a while now is that somehow those direct-to-dvd American Pie spin-off movies would suddenly become hilarious. I mean, it was a long time ago that American Pie came out, but I remember it being pretty genuinely funny. And it always seems like direct-to-dvd should have the kind of culture in the States that it has in Japan (or, more correctly, that I presume that it has in Japan, based on watching, like, three direct-to-DVD movies from Japan).

I'm still hoping there's more examples of shows that went from good to bad and then back to good again (maybe SNL counts, when one of its cast gets funny for a couple shows before sucking again?), but I'm guessing they're mostly going to come from the ranks of basic cable networks, since mostly, once I think gets old, it gets put out to pasture. On the DVD commentary track to the Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob follows the Simpson/Thompson family to Cape Fear (or whatever it was called, is that what it was called?), the commentators point out that in that joke where Bob steps on the rakes for such a long time, there's this balance where the gag is funny for a couple takes, then stops being funny, but then, once it goes on for way too long, becomes extremely hilarious. And so maybe that's really the phenomenon here: these shows are still just hitting the same beats, and have managed to stick around long enough that the repetition of the same shit over and over again has gotten funny again.

1 Response to “Culturology #82 - Funny, Not Funny, Funny Again”


  1. 1 nick marino

    I think SNL has definitely had that resurgence before. According to who you talk to, the resurgences are probably up for debate (according to me, the first true resurgence would be when Dana Cary showed up (maybe MAYBE even earlier when Eddie got famous), and then again when they actually started letting Tim Meadows take the lead in sketches... and the recent Palin sketches were good but not necessarily resurgence material).

    I think the Simpsons had a slight return, but not a full resurgence. Hmmmmm let's see... maybe Married with Children got better again in the later years?

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