I know, it sounds strange that I'm heralding a format that seems to be fading away. But I just love these two shows:
GARY UNMARRIED (Wednesdays @ 830 on CBS) - It's a simple premise: How you're supposed to get along with your ex after you're divorced. And sure, maybe we've seen it before. But here's the thing...it's funny. I don't care how clever or high concept your show is, if it's a comedy, it'd better be funny. Also, Jay Mohr and Paula Marshall are perfect in these roles. But I think what really works about the show for me is that it's ABOUT something, like I theorized before. There is always a moment near the end of every episode where we get to the heart of something serious, something grounded. In episode three it is when Gary and Allison kiss to prove to Gary he's over Allison. There's an intense liplock, then Gary cheers! Yay! Totally not into my ex. But then we see Allison, and the realization washing over her that maybe she still does have feelings for Gary. In episode four it is when the fight over a shared pool table finally ends with the realization that they both wanted the table for what it represented: the good memories they shared together. And all of this comes down to the fact that divorce is messy: you can't just erase 15 years of your life, you can't give your kids dating advice when you're terrible at it yourself, you can't live with that person, but maybe you can't live without them, either.
And like I said...it's funny.
THE BIG BANG THEORY (Mondays @ 8 on CBS) - Again, I think a big component of my love for this show is that it's hilarious. For me it's a combination of the actors and the fact that all the jokes come from character. These are people who live and breathe science and other nerdy subjects, but still in their own ways. Sheldon scoffs at the historical inaaccuracies of a Renaissance Fair but loves video games and Star Wars. Leonard is more easygoing, but totally thrown off by Leslie's desire to have casual sex. And all these great character details inform their decisions and their dialogue. I think my favorite joke from the last episode was when a professor adressed all of our main cast and scoffed at the one who was a Mister and not a Doctor. Someone said, "He has a masters degree!" and the professor said "Psh, who doesn't?" The world and its people are incredibly specific, and it makes the jokes much funnier.
Coming soon: a post that doesn't make it seem like I'm being paid by CBS.