Recently I finished my umpteenth re-watch of the misadventures of the waffle-loving, mini-horse worshipping civil servants that make up the cast of Parks & Recreation. The more I think it over, the more certain I am that Parks & Rec mastermind Michael Schur (who now brings us the equally brilliant The Good Place) created the best sitcom of the last decade. Parks & Rec started off as a spiritual spin-off of The Office, borrowing that show’s fake documentary format and, like The Office, the first season is short and underwhelming. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve urged to try Parks & Rec who have flamed out after a few episodes, so if you want to start (and you should), start with season two when the show found its own voice and the brilliant ensemble began to run at full tilt.
In the times in which we currently live, there’s something unbelievably cathartic about a show heralding the positive impact the government can make in the lives of citizens. Even if you should loathe the government, the show provides the greatest comedic Libertarian ever forged in the mustachioed Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). The show is earnest and heartfelt; self-aware and smart, and nearly always hysterically goofy. I’ve written before about the show’s third season (peerless) which contains my favorite moment in the series in the brilliant “Ron’s Swivel Desk”. I have to revisit that season because it also contains my favorite running absurdity of the series: Pawnee’s rabid celeb crush on local mini-horse: Lil’ Sebastian. I can’t decide which moment in the episode is better: the tiny equine’s introduction and Adam Scott’s utter bafflement at his co-worker’s excitement or Chris Pratt’s “5,000 Candles in the Wind” tribute at the Harvest Festival so I am including both. In the dead of winter, if you need a laugh to warm your heart, you can’t go wrong revisiting Parks & Recreation.
The best comedies can usually be summarized in a single sentence that captures there absurdity. For example, Groundhog Day is about a weatherman who wakes up every day on February 2nd caught in an eternal loop. Tag is about a group of friends who have been playing the same game of tag for over 30 years. It’s a great set-up for a comedy. It’s made even greater by the fact that it is based on a true story (you can click here to read The Daily Mail’s write-up of the true life game). I was lucky enough to be able to attend an advance screening of Tag (which opens wide on June 15th) and a great ensemble cast delivers the year’s second awesome comedy (rent Game Night immediately if you missed it). Continue reading Movie Review: Tag (2018) *A Game 30 Years in the Making*→
The Office was a phenomenon, first in the UK, and then again in the US, because it tapped into the modern workplace’s almost Orwellian kindergarten atmosphere and just blew it up into an absurdity to which everyone could relate. The first season of the show was a six-episode experiment, and it wasn’t really until season two that it firmly found its legs and took off as one of the decade’s best sitcoms. One of the elements that was established right from the pilot, and remained my favorite part of The Office, was Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) torturing Dwight (Rainn Wilson).
Encasing Dwight’s office supplies in Jell-O in the pilot was good, but the brilliance of the prank war Jim and Pam would wage on Dwight’s paranoia first took off in the series fourth episode: “The Alliance”. When rumors of downsizing hit the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Dwight approaches Jim to form “an alliance”. Jim has no idea what this means, but immediately seizes on it as possibly the greatest gift anyone could have ever given him. It’s not as good as when Jim arranges for Dwight to receive daily cryptic faxes from his future self, but without the alliance, there could be no “Future Dwight”.
After the awesomeness earlier this year that was Game Night, is it too much to dream we may have another comedy on the way? The premise for Tag, which is reputedly a true story (which I would love to know more about), is that it’s a game of tag among five friends that has now gone on for 30 years and has turned their lives into an absolute frenzy of opportunistic mayhem. It has a great cast with Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm (who is so much more funny than he is even a great dramatic actor), Ed Helms, Isla Fisher, and Rashida Jones among others. The trailer really made me laugh, and if they can sustain that kind of absurdity through a whole film-always the trick with comedies even those with a great premise-then this should be a fun addition to an already packed June schedule. Tag is scheduled for a June 15, 2018 release. YOU’RE IT!
Jason Bateman has had more success at making a career out of being hilariously deadpan since anyone since Bob Newhart. Bateman was a child star, first appearing way back in 1981 in Little House in the Prairie before, more famously, in Silver Spoons from 1982-1984, and in Valerie from 1986-1991, growing up on the small screen. Bateman was a journeyman, but quality TV actor until the cult-turned-mainstream success of the wonderfully subversive Arrested Development made him a huge star and also made him in-demand for film roles as well. He’s had some great comedies, most lately the awesome Game Night, as well as surprising by showing dramatic range in films like Juno, Up in the Air, and The Gift. As his career nears 40 years already, Bateman has become extremely good at picking projects that showcase his type of laconic humor and expect him to continue to be a fixture on TV and film as long as he wants to act. Continue reading Jason Bateman’s 10 Best Movies→