Not So Much With the Spoilers This Time

This week I wanted to talk about some new comedies that I have been enjoying. I'm just praying that they haven't been canceled between me writing and publishing this column. They're all shows with lots of lady characters, which is really nice after hearing so much jibber jabber about how women aren't and can't be funny. (Which is especially hilarious given that Carol Burnett just won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.)

I'll start with a program that has three male leads, one of them who has also kept American laughing for decades, and two female. The Crazy Ones stars Robin Williams as Simon, the patriarch of a very successful ad agency. Sarah Michelle Geller plays his slightly uptight daughter Sydney. Supporting cast includes Amanda Setton as someone Lauren, James Wolk as Zach, and Hamish Linklater as Andrew. Zach and Andrew are coworkers with a sibling rivalry type of relationship. Robin Williams is in prime form as a barely in control super creative person. This show endeared me within the first few minutes of the pilot when Andrew told Robin Williams' character that he felt as though Zach was being given preferential treatment. For instance, the gift of a leather jacket after a photo shoot. When Robin William's character hears this he immediately apologizes and tries to make it right. In this case that means giving Andrew a a whole passel of ducklings to raise, which isn't really comparable to getting a leather jacket, but it is really nice to see a character who can see that he’s wrong and then fixes things, instead of getting defensive and obnoxious. Be sure to watch this show straight to the end as they run outtakes in the last minute or so. Those are particularly interesting because they are often doing very different things than what ends up on the screen.

Trophy Wife is another show that has kind of a terrible title that belies the content. It definitely would have put me off if I hadn't see previews that intrigued me. I think it's meant to be ironic as the third wife Kate (played by Malin Akerman), who is blond, young and beautiful, and married to Pete, (played by Bradly Whitford) does look like your classic trophy wife stereotype but her life is pretty complicated. Her husband's two ex-wives and three children keep her hopping, especially since the two exes feel perfectly comfortable behaving as though they still live in the family home.

Ex-wife number one, Diane (played by Marcia Gay Harden) is a doctor with a domineering personality. She has a strong desire for control and treats Kate like a child. Jackie, ex-wife number two (Played by Michaela Watkins) is on the spacey side. She has trouble with boundaries, is a little flighty, has started numerous businesses, which I believe have not been terribly successful. I'm sure her most obvious personality traits make ex-wife number one feel that her control of the family is absolutely necessary.
Oldest daughter Hilary (Bailee Madison) is pretty grounded, although in the pilot (I think it was the pilot) she sneaks vodka to school (I think it was school) in a water bottle, which the trophy wife has to drink to keep ex-wife number one from finding out her daughter is drinking. This does not help trophy wife's reputation.

Warren, (Ryan Lee), the older son is a little clueless, halfway between childhood and being a teen. In a recent episode he and his little brother Burt (Albert Tsai) fight over a teddy bear that he has donated to Burt, later regretting his generosity. This results in dad acting as a judge, holding a trial a la Solomon and the baby, to determine who gets custody. The humor in this show rises from characterization, as it does in virtually all good comedy. With so many divergent personalities trying to mesh, while members of the family try to break stereotypical molds, there is plenty of opportunity for laughs.

Super Fun Night stars Rebel Wilson as an attorney (another attorney!) who gets together with her two best friends and vows to go out every week and have some fun. In the first episode I saw they put lots in a hat to decide on their destination, which turned out to be a piano bar. Rebel's character, Kimmie Boubier, has terrible stage fright, but as an attorney she is going to be need to be able to get up in front of a crowd, so she decides to go through with it. Unfortunately for her a new coworker who is super competitive decides to come to the event and show her up. Not only does poor Rebel have to get up and sing but she has to to do it in the same manner which gave her a phobia in the first place; singing directly after someone who is gorgeous and kills it.

Do I even need to say Rebel Wilson is terrific in this? Her character is much more upbeat than in some of her recent roles such as in Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids. Of course her character is going to have problems but her attitude is infectious and cheerful. In a recent episode she literally could not stop smiling, as she told the viewers of her video blog. My only real nitpick with this show is the incredibly annoying assumption that we the audience are going to find it hilarious when she loses her clothing. In the previews I think I saw her clothes falling off or giving her trouble several times, including catching her clothing in the elevator and her skirt being torn from her body. Also I really wish they would ditch the girdle or spanx or whatever it is they show her trying to struggle into. Who the heck wants to be uncomfortable all day at work or not have any room to breath at the piano bar? I got tired of fat jokes back in the seventies.

So now I'm out of space again, so maybe next week we'll talk about even more TV? Or maybe we'll talk about a book I just finished that I loved. Or maybe both? It's so hard to predict the future.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is very different from the usual fare. It's an essay from Sam Kriss called Book of Lamentations. It's a review of the new DSM-5, the book of mental illness diagnoses. But instead of reviewing it as a piece of medical information he reviews it as though it is a dystopian novel, which is both hilarious and heartbreaking. After a brief description of the sheer size of the "novel" the essay describes the manual saying "Not that this [the large size] should deter anyone; within is a brilliantly realized satire, at turns luridly absurd, chillingly perceptive, and profoundly disturbing."