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March 13th, 2003

Comedies in the Past

Wow. Sorry for being late today.

I’ve noticed that I enjoy “nostalgia” shows… shows that take place in the past and whose identity is defined by the decade. The Wonder Years, Freaks and Geeks, and even That 70’s Show have all done admirable jobs at setting their characters firmly in the past in a believable fashion. Anachronisms are rare, which really helps the quality of a show of this type.

However, when a show’s only gimmick is that it’s set in the past, it fails miserably. That 70’s Show succeeds because while it takes place in the 70s and is believable as such, they don’t pound you over the head ever five minutes by throwing out a 70s pop culture reference. Rather, they build strong storylines that happen to take place 25 years in the past. Where That 80’s Show failed, and failed miserably, was that everything was so forced, so… 80s… that watching it was a chore beyond chores.

FOX’s “new breed of comedy,” Oliver Beene has quickly fallen into the That 80s Show trap. In this new show, which debuted last Sunday after The Simpsons, a slightly dysfunctional 60s family goes through the motions and acts in ways that are supposed to make us laugh. Unfortunately, the marketing hype surrounding the show and the heavy handed writing made the premiere episode nothing short of a disaster. Aside from the Oliver Beene himself, every character is poorly cast and poorly played. The script dripped with forced humor and the cinematography tried too hard to be fast and “clippy,” which was just jarring. It’s honestly one of the worst sitcoms I’ve seen in quite a long time. It’s that bad.

What are your favorite comedies set in the past (or future, for that matter)?

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

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