Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Les Eclats De Rire Est Mort! Vivre Les Eclats De Rire!

Ratings for Arrested Development, universally agreed upon as the best show ever, the contrarianism of a few douchebag holdouts for some overrated HBO filth aside, are in the fucking crapper. Monday’s episode garnered a 2.7 rating equaling about 3.9 million viewers, finishing in fifth place in its timeslot behind some show called Seventh Heaven. The premiere attracted a disappointing 4.5 million viewers, much less than the 6 million averages it held during seasons 1 and 2.

How can such a phenomenal show have such low ratings? That’s an easy one. Americans are stupid. More pressing is the reality that Arrested D has been barely able to survive with their former ratings. As such, this drop in ratings is a dire threat. A dire dire threat to our supply of comedic material. And I don’t know what to do about it. I feel so helpless. So impotent. What can one man do? I can’t be 1.5 million viewers.

I’ve felt this sadness before. About 15 years ago, FOX had a funny little show called Get a Life starring Chris Elliot. Originally conceived as a grown-up Dennis the Menace, it was about a 30 year old paper boy who lived with his parents, and … did funny stuff. A combination of gross physical humor and a certain wittiness, influenced by the British comedy the Young Ones, made it the exemplar of cutting edge comedy in a popular format of its time. It lasted a scant two seasons, if I recall correctly, abruptly cancelled due to low ratings in its Sunday time slot. That style of humor would live on however in shows like The Simpsons, back when it was still funny (You have to be of a certain age to remember when the Simpsons was funny). Looking back on it, Get a Life doesn’t seem as funny as it did in its original context, just as even the old Simpsons don’t seem all that funny any more either, and even old Seinfeld episodes don’t seem so hot either.

Comedy changes quickly. What was once cutting-edge eventually becomes commonplace, and eventually stale. That’s probably the primary reason why comedies with a strong narrative inclination age better than those without. Ten years later the gags seem predictable and unfunny, and so the story is called upon to bear a greater burden of the entertainment value. It might be hard to fathom now, but ten years from now, Arrested D won’t be that funny. Or at best, it’ll be funny the way a show like – what’s that show with the fat guy and the hot wife whose dad is played by Jerry Stiller? Anyway that one.

Despite this inexorable fate, or perhaps even because of it, we must cherish this time we have with our beloved Arrested D. I know not how much longer it is for this world. Whether its death is to be premature at the cold ruthless hands of a cynical and calculating FOX exec; or if in its struggle, it survives and thrives and grows gracefully, blooming to full maturity, and then gracefully exiting in its twilight with a soft and reverent breath with all due glory and tribute. With hope and a bit of luck we might be fortunate enough to witness the latter, but if not, I’ll be ever grateful for the moments we have and will have shared. Just as I treasure the laughter emitted during the halcyon days of the Simpsons, Seinfeld, Mr. Show, Roseanne, the Wonder Years, Married With Children, and etc etc. Those laughs are gone. Never to be brought back. Such a fleeting, almost sad, joy that comedy is. But today we have Arrested D. And no need to worry from where tomorrow’s laughs shall come.