Saturday, November 6, 2010

Episode 512

I have been having some blogger's block and it got me thinking how it's possible that TV writers can come up with so much material week to week (and never repeat anything, with a few exceptions, as we'll see below). I then realized that -- in addition to being complete geniuses -- they have teams of writers, making this job a bit easier. Even if each person only has one or two quick jokes, it can come together to form an episode when the lead writer takes over to put it all together. So I figured, why not just throw together a few observations I've had over the past couple of weeks, and maybe I, too, will have a full episode. Here goes:

1) Sad news in the world of game shows. Charlie O'Donnell, the voice of Wheel of Fortune, passed away earlier this week. Not since the death of Rod Roddy have I been so saddened by the loss of person whose face I had never really even seen. I don't know which is more depressing -- the death of this legendary (in my mind) announcer, or the fact that Vanna White is in her mid-50s.

2) It turns out academia has its saving graces. Greg Daniels, Paul Lieberstein, and Carrie Kemper will be coming to Stanford to talk about The Office under the guise of a symposium for the American Studies program. American Studies doctorate, here I come. I knew I choose the wrong discipline.

3) I DVRed Portia de Rossi's appearance on Ellen, looking forward to hearing her Australian accent, but was sorely disappointed when she sounded like she had just stepped out of a limo from Orange County. She sounds just like Lindsay Bluth. I find it fascinating to hear foreign actors who play American characters speak with their actual accents - Chuck Bass and Charles Miner are British? Truly bizarre.

4) As I mentioned above, it is amazing that writers have so much material that they never repeat themselves. In shows like Arrested Development or 30 Rock, where every line, sometimes even every word, deserves a laugh, how is it possible that they are able to come up with a continuous stream of jokes and bits? Other than certain catch phrases that just flow right off the tongue -- that's what she said -- most jokes are used once, for a two-second laugh, and then have to be discarded forever. Daunting. Well, I recently caught two exceptions to this rule (and I'm sure there are many more):

  • In the third episode of the first season of Friends, the gang is discussing ways to cushion the blow of a break-up and Chandler compares it to parents telling their kids that their dog, who has died, just went to live on a farm. Ross - already the naive one - counters that his parents actually sent his dog to a farm...hilarity ensues. Then, in the series finale, this same joke is repeated, but at Joey's expense, when Joey thinks that the Chick and the Duck had been taken to a farm. The only difference: Joey never realizes the truth.

  • The cold open for last week's episode of The Office had the characters testing how far into absurdity they could go without Stanley noticing (Pam with a mustache? No problem. A donkey in the office? Doesn't blink an eye). Despite the fact that this scene had me in stitches, it can't go unnoticed that they already used this bit, though briefly, with another character: when March Madness fever came over the office in Season 3, a few of the co-workers placed bets on whether Creed would notice if they switched his apple out for a potato. And just like Stanley not noticing Kevin in drag, Creed didn't have a clue.

So those are my observations: not too keen, certainly not too humorous. But I bet if B.J. Novak or Mindy Kaling came along, they could turn it into something. I guess I'll just have to wait until the symposium and ask Greg Daniels if they're available for freelance work.

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