Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Saturday, October 2, 2010

We're better than this

This weekend I find myself in a strange position. I am angry. Really angry. Why? Because I can never look at the sitcom the same way again.

I love a good sitcom. I rediscovered that fact this weekend. Why? Because there are very few left and there is only really one traditional family sitcom (not counting its spin off) holding the line. And, it is God awful.

I am talking about Tyler Perry's House of Payne. It ticks me off for a few reasons

We are better than this!

Right now I can name only about ten shows on the air that could call themselves sitcoms and that's stretching it. And most of them are not the traditional domesticated comedies. You know dad wife kids ect. Right now House of Payne is by default the best of the bunch. Let me say that again because you can't see my face right now.Right now House of Payne is the best live action domestic comedy on U.S .television by default.

Note: I forgot about Two and a Half Men when I wrote this but honestly I don't like it much better.

What happened to shows like Malcolm in the Middle?

There is a grand sitcom tradition out there.

Really we're better than this!

Whenever I go to a review or a forum where someone talks about how much the show sucks I always hear the same response. "Quit trying to bring the black man down." Again the show sucks I will get to why in a moment but right now, let's get dirty with the history. Black sitcoms have been around for a while and a lot of them are great. Just because it's one of the few predominately black shows on the air is no reason for it to suck. Just look at The Wire.

The Wire shows Hollywood what black actors can really do. But enough of me gushing about The Wire, my point is that it's wrong to let the show off easy just because it's black. There have been tons of really great black sitcoms.

The point of all of that was to prove simply that just because a sitcom is black is no excuse for it to be bad. All those shows made me laugh. And they all now make me think how did we go from that to House of Payne.

It gets worse
Like I said I love sitcoms. However, now I can't look at a really good one like The Big Bang Theory without it making me think, "See. This is how it's done" then getting pissed off because a show like House of Payne is going to be put in my top ten sitcoms of the year list by default.

How far we've fallen
Sitcoms have evolved. When I look at most of the sitcoms I like I see how they borrowed what was good from older sitcoms and adapted it to the current culture and technology.

Both the Everyone Hates Chris builds on The Wonder Year's narrator idea.

Unhappily Ever After
takes Al Bundy to his logical extreme.

At the end of the day one of the main problems I have with House of Payne is that it takes all of that progress and throws it all out the window. Everything in it is badly done and every time I look at it I can name a sitcom that did it better. Heck almost every sitcom I can think of, and there are a lot, had better writing, better acting, better shooting, and better editing. Again I look at them and think how far we have fallen. Part of me wants to say its production values but heck, even that's no excuse.

Why It makes me mad.
By their very nature sitcoms have to flirt with the fourth wall, but despite this almost every sitcom I watch feels organic. The characters may do ridiculous things but they do them because it's their nature.

(This is one of the reasons Malcolm in the Middle is so funny .There are several episodes where the characters are aware that their nature is detrimental to their well being yet they can't change it such as Reese in the "The Bully" or Malcolm in "Malcolm holds his Tongue")

House of Payne does not feel organic. The characters are ill defined at best. They do what they do not because its in their nature, but because the writers feel its what's needed to garner appropriate audience reaction,which by the way it doesn't. When I watched I feel annoyed not amused.

Whats worse is that people are championing this as great black television despite the fact that all the characters are one dimensional. I am not one of those positive portrayal nuts. A character is a character and not all characters are nice,but society has made real headway over the last 20 years in creating complex black characters and House of Payne shoots that all to hell.

Why it makes me sad.

Ultimately House of Payne is a symbol for how far American Television has fallen.

When I was a kid I had the TV on 24/7. There was almost always some thing on that I wanted to watch. Now I turn on my Tv may be only once or twice a week. Part of that is the lack of sitcoms on television right now. A lot of the really great TV writers out there think that it doesn't take skill to write funny but they are wrong.

The way it used to work is a show would be on the national networks or on premium channels and the cable networks would syndicate it, but now it seems they are syndicating few and fewer shows. If you don't like Family Guy or Law and Order you are out of luck.
So overall there is less variety.

There was a time when they had the time and money to not only syndicate shows but put a lot of effort into creating quality original programing, but their budgets are shrinking and House of Payne shows it.

I remember the days of The Famous Jett Jackson

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