Archive for comedy central

Sense of Schumer

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Reality TV, TV Acting, TV advertising, TV channels with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2015 by Tom Steward

If you have to get sick of seeing someone’s face on TV, make it Amy Schumer’s. Why? Well, firstly because being sick of seeing Schumer’s face seems to be part of her schtick. Every sketch on her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer is preceded and followed by a close-up of Schumer’s face quick-scanning the streets of New York before the camera CSI zooms into her eye. Her face is the lifeblood of every sketch, and even the (mandatory) Twelve Angry Men parody episode in which she did not feature begins with her face dominating the screen. It’s also because Amy Schumer’s face is interesting to watch. Eschewing the hyperreal expressionism of her peers (not that there’s anything wrong with that – Key & Peele are as cartoonish as they come), Schumer’s face is a flickering deadpan, oscillating between irony and approval of the characters she plays and those she interviews.

Facial Schumer!

Facial Schumer!

Which is good news because Amy Schumer is everywhere. In fact, it would be perfectly possible to watch nothing but Amy Schumer on TV these days. There’s her weekly Comedy Central show which seemingly plays throughout the night (uncensored) on the network, her guest appearances on every late-night talk show around, her work on The Bachelorette (which ABC executives want to expand into a regular thing), and trailer-length promos for her upcoming movie vehicle Trainwreck in the ad breaks. We’ve seen this kind of momentary ubiquity before, of course, but rarely with a performer of such substance. That may be because Schumer is able to do provocative and powerful material while making it sound like a bunch of harmless Seinfeldisms. She even makes light of the issue-based thrust of her comedy, passing off most sketches as a PSA-gone-wrong, while underlining just how culturally urgent her intervention into modern life is.

Last night, Schumer confronted the alleged crimes of Bill Cosby. The heavily corroborated sexual assault allegations against the veteran comic seem fair game for comedians now and indeed it may be easier for a white female comic to talk about this topic than, say, the black male one who broke the story. It was the level of discussion that was remarkable. Refusing to debate the existence of the crimes (for, as she points out, there is no debate to speak of, despite all legal disclaimers), the court-based sketch was instead a more sophisticated exploration of how nostalgia and cultural comfort food (both real and symbolic, since this was the man who advertised Jell-O pudding pops) interfere with our sense of justice and gender equality. This is really what we struggle to reconcile, not crime and perpetrator. But this isn’t the first time Schumer has put her finger on the problem.

She coolly and pleasantly took on perceptions of women ageing with Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette celebrating Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ ‘last fuckable day’ as decided by the media. She did an almost Sesame Street-esque scatological number on pop culture’s fetish for women’s sticky-out asses with a hip-hop music video set to the rhyme ‘milk, milk, lemonade, round the corner fudge is made’. Schumer was there to pinpoint the pathetic paradoxes of middle-class women pole dancing while condescending to women who work as strippers as well as female employees being obliged to be ‘cool with’ whatever their male counterparts want to do while being paid half the salary. Bravely she slayed a sacred cow of American comedy, the borderline-rapist late-night talk show host, and perversely she’s seemed to increase her appearances on these kinds of programmes as a result. She’s so popular that even her targets want to be seen with her.

Amy Schumer's parody of late-night...oh wait, that's just her on Letterman!

Amy Schumer’s parody of late-night…oh wait, that’s just her on Letterman!

It would be too easy to say that Amy Schumer’s success is down to the sugar-coating she puts on her social criticism, but it’s hard to deny that her self-aware baby-face mannerisms (see, the face again!) makes what she does much more palatable. But it’s not the cutesy-girl disguise that comedians like Sarah Silverman have used to deflect attention from their obscenity and controversy. It’s more direct than that, like having a conversation with someone who seems perfectly nice and you realise hours late they completely destroyed you. That’s what translates into mainstream entertainment so well. On The Bachelorette, she exposed the egregious insecurities of a male contestant without ever saying a cross word to him. She’s also not afraid of plumbing the lowest depths of entertainment, like dirty jokes and toilet humour, to get what she wants. The time of overkill will come, so enjoy her just killing it.

Bumping The Shark

Posted in American TV (General), American TV Shows, Reality TV, Reviews, TV channels, TV Culture, TV History, TV News, Watching TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Tom Steward

Last week was Shark Week, Discovery’s incredulously popular annual event consisting of 7 days of continuous shark-themed programming, sandwiched neatly inbetween the network’s other 358 days of continuous shark-themed programming. Now in its 27th year, the ripple effect of Shark Week across TV is staggering, with a shoal of cable networks attempting to take a bite out of Discovery’s ratings with concurrent themed programming alternatives created under the fin of Shark Week. While some satirise the inflated phenomenon of Shark Week, others are brazenly capitalising on its currency. Here’s some of the counter-attacks, and a few suggestions for next year:

Jaws Week:

Steven Seagal movie marathon and quality TV gamut-running network AMC showed a Jaws movie every night, a prospect that got increasingly less attractive as the week went on. The appeal of the original movie passes me by, even though I think Spielberg is a great cinematic illusionist (in that he’s tricked people into thinking he’s a good director), but it and its no-frills sequel are both perfectly serviceable potboilers. Jaws 3-D would be a condescend-a-minute romp through the annals of hilariously dated visual gimmicks were it not now the desired look for all of Hollywood’s blockbusters. Jaws: The Revenge is a movie so contrived that even the info button on my cable box couldn’t help but have a pop at its hopeless storyline.

The ghost of Roger Ebert haunts my info button!

The ghost of Roger Ebert haunts my info button!

Snark Week:

Quantitative data-led camp reality and comedy network WEtv spent a week filleting its programming – I’ll stop the sea puns eventualgae – for the snarkiest (‘bitchiest’ in old and perfectly legal tender) cuts to assemble a ‘snark-a-thon’. Re-runs of Roseanne and Will and Grace were predictable but apparently the sunglass-deflected verbal garbage spewed by douchetective Horatio Kane in cold opens of CSI: Miami has been reclaimed as snark. Making use of its rolling reality repertory, the network launched (seemingly in a word document with an unstandardized font) David Tutera’s CELEBrations where the celebrity event planner plans events…for celebrities. Snark is obviously also reality-speak for ‘palindrome’. All this was accompanied by an onscreen ‘snark-o-meter’ because you know how reality TV fans love their maths.

Shart Week:

Comedy Central, a network dedicated to the lifetime incarceration of Jon Stewart, took a break from its correctional duties last week to show some shit, or at least more shit than usual. In one of the more anarchic responses to Shark Week, the network drained its sewer system (also known as Comedy Central before noon) to find the most scatological episodes of its many and clearly-not-that-varied programmes. Not only did they manage to find enough programming to last 7 days from noon to midnight, there were entire episodes on the subject, like South Park’s ‘Mr Hanky, the Christmas Poo’. A great way to dump on Discovery, I maintain that if this isn’t a sign there’s too many men on a network, nothing is.

Jumping the Shart

Jumping the Shart

Sharknado Week:

Probably the closest rival to Shark Week since it primarily airs fictional programming about sharks with no basis in science whatsoever; spelling-free telefantasy network Sy-Fy premiered Sharknado: The Second One, the sequel to its bottom-feeding 2013 original TV movie, and filled out the airwaves with movies of similar or worse quality about sharks and one other thing. It could also have been dubbed ‘Son of Shark Week’ as it’s hard to imagine this monstrosity (and that’s the closest you’ll get to a compliment from me) existing without 25 years of dumb stuff being said about sharks softening up the American public for these pixel-thin piss-takes. As spoof-proof television, it’ll give your sarcasm glands a much-needed rest after a day of Shark Week ‘documentaries’.

Shark Week Alternatives 2015:

TV Land should launch Jump-The-Shark Week where the network only shows re-runs of episodes broadcast after it became impossible to take a show seriously. This would include all the post-lottery win episodes of Roseanne and any Dallas after 1986 starring the ghost of Bobby Ewing. FX can do Stark Week where primetime consists of airings of the Iron Man movies – actually the FX execs can just let nature take its course on this one. The Food Network could run Chard Week featuring all the best appearances of the vegetable in the mystery box on Chopped, including the time someone drizzled it with a gummiworm-infused vinaigrette. The Biography Channel should host Narc Week in which all the interviews with blacked-out faces and altered voices of cops who’ve squealed on the Mafia are edited together and begin to resemble one endless Peter Frampton concert in the dark.

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