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An Idiot Abroad
Karl Pilkington, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
(The Science Channel)
An Idiot Abroad
The Science Channel
Executive producers and show creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had very different stated goals for their travelogue An Idiot Abroad. Merchant wanted their friend and series’ star Karl Pilkington, a notoriously uninformed homebody, to experience other cultures and open his mind a bit. Gervais, on the other hand, expressly went into the show hoping that Karl had as terrible a time as possible, thinking it would make for great tv. The end result was something in between. Pilkington traveled to each of the Seven Wonders of the World and was mostly unimpressed by them. But the bulk of the episodes were filled with the sorts of uncomfortable situations that are Gervais and Merchant’s stock in trade. It became like a reality tv version of The Office with Pilkington as the butt of the jokes. A couple of episodes of watching Pilkington suffer on a bus full of burping, farting Chinese people or stuck in a noisy hostel crowded with college kids in Rio during Carnival was enough to make me feel guilty about watching the show at all. Gervais and Merchant seemed to want us to laugh at Karl’s miserable travails, but I found myself hoping that the guy would start to enjoy the trips, at least a little bit. Chris Conaton
Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, Nicole Scherzinger
A cappella music is, at most, a guilty pleasure in itself. In a TV landscape dominated by reality singing competitions, throwing your lot in with the one that focuses on a cappella is downright square. But it’s not actually the vocal percussionists and soaring harmonies that are the big draw to The Sing-Off—it’s the judges. Unlike on those other shows, Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman, and, to a lesser extent, Sara Bareilles actually talk about the way the music is arranged—and they crack each other up, too, which is always good for a cheesy chuckle. Marisa LaScala
American Horror Story
Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange
American Horror Story
I give creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk lots of credit for this twisted invention of delectable entertainment. No, American Horror Story isn’t groundbreaking in its themes. Instead, Murphy and Falchuk paired the brave decision of making a horror television series with the safe hook of melodramatic intrigue. American Horror Story is basically a mashup of entertainment staples: frights and sex. Yes, the latter can be somewhat disturbing, but the soap opera-esque twists are made unique by the leeway provided from the former.
“Ben’s mistress is pregnant!”… Seen it before.
“The creepy neighbor killer her!”… Wait. What?
“SHE CAME BACK AS A GHOST TO HAUNT BEN AND HIS WIFE!”… WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS SHOW?!?
Hence the pleasure attained from the devilishly diverting AHS. Ben Travers
Despite its spots of brilliance, FX’s misanthropic comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has waned in terms of quality over its later seasons. (Then again, it is hard to top The Nightman Cometh). Fortunately, those looking for a show with fantastic improvisation, witty banter, and all-out crazy situations, The League fills that niche perfectly. The premise of a show centered on fantasy football may put off those who don’t participate in the highly competitive game, but the show is not really about fantasy football. Instead, it’s about the lives of people so engrossed in fantasy football that their lives reflect their obsessive lunacy. The show features a consistent set of hilarious performances, but two stand out: the lovable idiot Taco (watching him in a children’s TV show character costume holding a gun doubling as a bong is one of the third season’s best moments) and the deranged Rafi, whose plans invariably involve killing someone. For edgy, intelligent, and outright hilarious comedy, FX has established itself as the forebear, and The League is the star player on its lineup. Brice Ezell
Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry
Though lacking in the sharp wit and clever writing of South Park, Family Guy shares one similarity with the long-running Comedy Central series: as long as the ever-burgeoning American culture keeps spitting out things to lampoon, the show will likely stay on the air. The show’s standby sources of humor are still constantly present: Peter’s garish Boston accent, his inevitable lapses in logic (in one episode, his attempt to get off his addiction to Redbull involves him substituting said drink with kerosene), Stewie’s weird homophobia, and the frequent cut-scene jokes. Some might say that the show’s hallmark comedic gags have worn over nine seasons, but in truth the show has never lost its pace. Some new plot devices don’t work as well: the show’s attempts to take episodes into dark turns (such as one involving Quagmire exacting bloody revenge on his sister’s boyfriend) usually don’t stick, but its off-the-wall humor usually does. Ten seasons in, and this zany family from Quahog still haven’t lost the ability to remind us that we all can be just as stupid as Peter Griffin, even if we don’t realize it. Brice Ezell