All the way back on November 3, I wrote the first of what was supposed to be three quick-fire articles about TV shows. For whatever reason, I just didn’t get round to doing it and I’m sure someone somewhere has been clicking refresh on the homepage now for more than two months.
Well wait no more, because Part Two is here.
This article will focus on American comedy shows. Now, none of these shows are considered poor, but the sense of Under-appreciation comes the way they are either not on TV in the UK on any major TV station or have fallen foul of the dreaded ratings system in the USA.
As anyone who follows American TV knows, quality comes in at a distant second to ratings and even if it’s one of the best shows on TV and has a strong ‘cult’ following, if it has been put in the wrong timeslot or just doesn’t have the backing of its network, then it just won’t succeed. And the first entry of this article may be one of the most famous examples of that there is.
Arrested Development (US TV, 2003-2006)
Some of you will be reading this and thinking ‘Arrested Development shouldn’t be on this list! I love it and so do my friends’.
Well maybe you’re right, but there are still a load of people I know who haven’t heard of it, have heard of it but haven’t seen it, or have seen it but only in an isolated episode out of sequence and haven’t seen ”what the fuss is all about”.
If you fall into any of these categories, if you haven’t bothered to give the odd sounding show a chance in its graveyard time slot on BBC2 or if you are an American reader who never bothered to watch it when it was on there, then you should.
Why? Because it’s probably the cleverest comedy of all time.
Superbly written and – just as importantly – wonderfully performed, this comedy is the vehicle that properly launched the careers of guys like Jason Bateman and Michael Cera, who you’ll have seen in every second comedy film to come out of Hollywood in the last 5 years.
To quote Wikipedia, the show’s storyline centers on the Bluth family, a formerly wealthy, habitually dysfunctional family, and is presented in a continuous format, incorporating hand-held camera work, narration, archival photos, and historical footage.
The key there is the continuous format.
If you’ve only seen one random episode then you probably didn’t get into it that much because you weren’t up on what was going on (which may well be why the show failed when it was on TV).
To truly appreciate Arrested Development you have to watch it from the very start and in order. Only then will you appreciate its greatness. Only then will the phrase ‘No touching’ mean something to you. Only then will you correct people that they aren’t magic tricks, but rather illusions. And only then will you crack up the moment you hear Europe’s The Final Countdown.
Community (US TV, 2009 – Present)
Currently being ‘rested’ in the US TV schedules, Community is another comedy that is sadly falling victim to the same problems that befell Arrested Development. It has been shunted in place of a more popular but – in my opinion at least – greatly inferior comedy. In the UK, the show is or was shown on Viva, whatever that is.
Set in a Californian Community College, the show is about the various misadventures of a diverse college Study Group made up of seven wildly different people from varying walks of life.
But the key to Community’s greatness is in how self-aware it is as a comedy. It plays up and references every sitcom stereotype going and borrowing from genres as diverse as Glee tribute episodes to zombie infestations. It even managed to do an episode where everyone was turned into clay and still worked. The character of Abed, a man who has trouble distinguishing between real life and TV is a stroke of genius as it helps to make the whole thing possible.
It also has a great theme tune.
I can imagine that Community might be too ‘meta’ for some. It’s the type of thing you’ll either love or hate. Then again though, if everyone appreciated it then it wouldn’t be on this list.
Like all American TV shows, you really have to give it a few episodes to settle in, but it’s worth the investment.
And once you’ve seen it, you can then join in the fight to save Community from the axe.
Parks & Recreation (2009-Present)
Parks & Recreation doesn’t even get shown on a minor channel in the UK – it’s never been broadcast over here at all.
And that’s a pity because not only is it a great show but it’s also doing pretty well across the pond.
Imagine a show like The Office, but set in the Parks & Recreation Department of a local council in a small US town and you have an idea of what this is about.
The show has some well-rounded, likeable characters and always provides a good laugh. As the lead, Amy Poehler is a worthy comic actress in her role as Leslie Knoppe and she is ably assisted by a stellar supporting cast.
A word of warning though; should you decide to give this show a try, you have to put up with an absolutely lousy (but thankfully short) first series. It tried to be exactly like the Office, down to Leslie Knoppe’s character being like a lite version of Steve Carrell’s office manager, but it failed miserably. There’s not a laugh in it. But the show survived to be commissioned for a second season, by which time it was played almost completely differently and become…well…funny.
Bearing that in mind, it’s a great show and you should give it a chance.
Not so much a straight up comedy, but rather a comedy drama about a man who works in the American equivalent of Currys and doubles up as a Secret Agent thanks to an accident leaving the entire CIA and NSA database in his brain.
Chuck has done what Arrested Development failed to do and survived on US Network television for years thanks to vociferous fan support. It manages to be humorous (if at times a bit silly) and yet also brings the excitement of a spy show. This week the show comes to its end in the US (in the UK it is shown on – of all channels – Living TV) and it’s fair to say that it is bowing out at the right time.
It’s another show with a good cast, and also notably a very strong guest cast ranging from the likes of Timothy Dalton and Scott Bakula to Rachel Bilson and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
Always entertaining, Chuck is a show that isn’t well-known in the UK but is worth your time.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005-Present)
Another show that isn’t shown in the UK (though it has apparently been shown on Virgin On Demand), Always Sunny differs from many other comedies in that the cast strive to be as unlikable as possible. Only on It’s Always Sunny would you have an actor deliberately put on weight between series in protest of the fact that generally people start to look far more polished and ‘Hollywood’ the longer a successful series goes.
Make no mistake, the small cast of It’s Always Sunny are not supposed to be likeable people, and yet because of that, they are – Mac especially,
A bit like Parks & Rec, this series only truly gets going from Season 2 when Danny DeVito joins the cast, but from then on it generally goes from strength to strength.
Yes, there are flaws like an over-reliance on the same guest cast (in my opinion) and a dreadful episode in the most recent season, but the show is almost up to 100 episodes, and by that point, other – more popular – comedies like Family Guy had lost the ability to make us laugh at all.
On the final instalment of the 15 Under-Appreciated TV Shows You Need To Watch I bring my focus back to the UK for one of the all time classic television dramas that is largely unknown to my generation, two dramas from the pen of the same man, an unlikely choice and a show that you may have difficulty remembering was even on TV.