1.16.2006

68 Pineapples-in-Waiting

I had planned to write a little ditty today about my rising anticipation for Love Monkey, the new sitcom that looks like a compressed, procedural form of High Fidelity, with Tom Cavanaugh playing John Cusack. I'm loving this new trend of Sex in the City goes bachelor. Not just because I like to look at Big 3 network character development, but because I like to look at 5 retired fratboys in a bar kabibbling about women; Fun/Hot. But then my head got stuck in po mo gear, unable to drop anchor on any thought-in-specifica, and I've decided to give V-Woolf a longhorn salute and ride the consciousness jetstream for all it's worth. I'll try my best to make it Love-Monkey-centric.

So here's the thing (because you know there's always a thing)...

The Love Monkey execs are touting it as "random," "unsafe," "different." Okay- but what brand of unsafe? Unsafe in a clever way (I'm thinking Simpson's, Family Guy, even Seinfeld)? Or unsafe in a (for lack of a better word) shittyass way (that would be you, Roseanne)? The tipping point between clever-unsafe and shittyass-unsafe seems to be the successful (or not) treatment of "playing against type." Roseanne, as a character, is a "different, sure" type of persona than we are accustomed to... according the the trad-fam-sitcom formula; however, the fleshed-out version of her "type" is no more than just that: a type, a...umm... trailorpark/mullet/most-of-my-compound-words-involve-the-word-"crap" type. She's fat and trashy and has a vulgar mouth and an erring, inelegant way of carrying herself, speaking, and treating others. So? Where's the allure? Give her an affinity for wearing baby pink pumps and a tiara with her overalls, and we have a (very minor) start. Or jesus, give the bitch a British accent... something. Without that "something's-off-but-what?" factor, we get bored, if only because the characters become nearly transparent in their stereotypical fulfillment of themselves.

We've all met people like that. And promptly forgotten about them. Without trying.

Why does Seinfeld work? Because, as a comedian, Jerry should be funny and confident and outgoing, not brooding and idiosyncratic. Pair that with a love of neatly-arranged breakfast cereals and Superman, and we have a clever use of playing-against-type. Simple, but effective enough to allow Elaine/Kramer/George to fill their supplementary roles using the same formulas, sui generis. It's done cleanly, so cleanly that we don't even notice it; we just continue to tune in. Seduction can be formulaic, but only if it's hanging its barefeet outta the car window.

68 anticipatory pineapples for cheeky-keen Love Monkey characters that I can enjoy for more reasons than that I am mentally making-out with them in the bar bathroom.

5 Comments:

Anonymous E said...

plus - jason priestly - can i get a holla?

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god. I haven't read further than this in your post for today, but I am so excited! I love Tom Cavanaugh. My mother, grandmother, and I were avid Ed fans. He's so cute.

That being said, I'm going to go read the rest of what you said.

5:32 PM  
Blogger kate.d. said...

ok, yes, tom cavanaugh. i am with everyone here.

but jayne, i have to veer off the critical fluff road when it comes to roseanne. now it wasn't a perfect show, by any means, and if it had only been on for 2 seasons, maybe 3, that would've been enough. but those first couple of seasons were such an awesome cultural kick-in-the-balls - i think the show was actually served by having such easily identifiable characters. at least in the beginning.

i could write much more about this. maybe i will. then you can print a point by point pomo rebuttal of my arguments, and our friendship can dengenerate into petty sniping and wounded egos.

doesn't that sound fun? :)

11:36 PM  
Blogger jayniek said...

That sounds wonderful. I'm totally in.

Always calling me out, aren't ya? Dang it-- that's why I like you.

I definitely agree that the characters on Roseanne are approachable and identifiable, but I also think that, as a result, they also walk the line of being construed as pedestrian. Sure, this is a hazard for any mass-audience program-- drawing in viewers and then, obviously, maintaining viewers. I just feel like Roseanne had a perfect lure, but the follow-through was simply more-of-the-same. I'm not arguing that they weren't relatable, but more that they were TOO representational-- like a cleanly-trimmed pork chop with no fat left on for flavor. Too much fat and you get bogged down with trying to be all weird n' alternative n' shit, but not enough just leaves it bland. I think there was a lot of character potential there that just needed a subtle shift in representational treatment. They were shocking and "real", sure, but that doesn't necessarily make them interesting; but it certainly gives them the raw potential to be-- and maybe that's why it pains me. If anything, it was the plotlines and not the characters that kept them on-air for as long as they were. Maybe that's why I called on Seinfeld as a counterpoint, because that's probably the most apparent (and successful) use of characters-as-plot... the essential guidebook for writing a fabulous show about blahblahblah.

But then again, maybe I just hate Roseanne Barr anyway, so I am projecting my judgement on too broad of a canvas.

Shocker, I know... but I've been known to over-judge.

10:06 AM  
Blogger kate.d. said...

you certainly have a point about a lack of longevity for the show. it was on too long, and they really started to reach, and it got kinda painful. so i guess we are actually in sorta-agreement.

i guess it all depends on one's personal definition of shittyass-ness :) you fairly judge in terms of overall success, not just initial success. i end up cutting the lack of overall success some slack because of what i see as phenomenal initial success.

i might still write a whole post on why that show actually kicked ass in the beginning. i feel that the appreciation for its groundbreaking nature is waning - quite sad. we'll see........

11:36 AM  

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