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April 22, 2024, 06:48:38 AM

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Sitcoms that take while to find their groove

Started by dead-ced-dead, January 29, 2024, 04:05:58 PM

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dead-ced-dead

I tend to re-watch Happy Endings and it spurred this thought off.

It spends most of the first season, maybe even a couple of episodes into season two, being a run-of-the-mill hangout sitcom. Not a bad one by any stretch, but fairly standard.

At some time around this point the creators/writing team could clearly tell the show was lacking an identity, so they lean into the characters being quite mean and perhaps narcissistic. Rather than excusing their behaviour it leans a bit more into that being the point.

Just thought it be a good topic for other shows that maybe didn't find their footing until some time into their runtime. 

Seinfeld takes about four seasons before it starts getting good.

bobloblaw

Seinfeld gets *funny* from season 2 and just keeps building. Many of my favourite episodes are from season 3. It's just notably tighter and more confident by season 4.

Utter Shit

#3
I'd say most shows have a bedding in period, at least to some extent.

Some start off pretty ropey - off the top of my head Men Behaving Badly really only gets going once Neil Morrissey replaced Harry Enfield at the start of series 2 - whereas others (Only Fools and Horses, Red Dwarf) are good from the start but nowhere near their peak.

Turning the question around a bit, I've always found the idea that the US Office started slowly to be slightly wide of the mark. The pilot is outright bad but with mitigation (it's basically a shot-for-shot remake of the UK version and exists mainly as proof of concept, which seems weird for a show that already had an entire original series to point to, but whatever), but the rest of the first season ranges from good to great. It's definitely nowhere near its peak, but it's a good show right from episode 2, and there are a couple of classics early on.

Then you have shows like Blackadder and Peep Show where there is a marked shift in tone where it's less a case of 'finding its groove' than 'being a very different show', and your enjoyment could be less about quality and more about the style of show you enjoy.

neveragain

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 04:44:59 PMThen you have shows like Blackadder and Peep Show where there is a marked shift in tone where it's less a case of 'finding its groove' than 'being a very different show', and your enjoyment could be less about quality and more about the style of show you enjoy.

Funny you should put Peep Show in with Blackadder. I feel Peep became more accessible in later series but lost some of what made it great.

dead-ced-dead

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 04:44:59 PMThe pilot is outright bad but with mitigation (it's basically a shot-for-shot remake of the UK version and exists mainly as proof of concept, which seems weird for a show that already had an entire original series to point to, but whatever), but the rest of the first season ranges from good to great.

I really like (overall, at least) the first season of The Office.

Utter Shit

Quote from: neveragain on January 29, 2024, 04:55:42 PMFunny you should put Peep Show in with Blackadder. I feel Peep became more accessible in later series but lost some of what made it great.
I've never even watched the first series of Blackadder, it just looks like a different show and I've never really heard anything good said about it. With Peep Show, I completely agree - I know this is a very lazy thing to say, but I've always felt like the tone shift mirrored the change in theme tune. That slightly odd, understated theme of the first two series perfectly fit the show at that time, then it went all high-energy and attention-grabbing and I think the tone did as well to some extent. It was still a fantastic show (until it wasn't), but I preferred that grey, washed-out feel of the first two series.

badaids

Red Dwarf doesn't so much find its groove, but totally change by Series 3.

I would argue that it finds its groove straight away, from the opening credits perfectly catching the boredom and isolation it wants to. I remember watching it first time round in 1987 or whenever and and being blown away by it (even today the fact that it has TWO black actors as leads and it is never mentioned or referred to blew my mind on a rewatch last year),

Series 3, it does get funnier and tighter but it also gets FINALLY WE HAVE SOME MONEY with the toe snapping opening credits and on location shooting, posh uniforms, and loads of sfx.

So again, not so much finding its groove but having a complete heart and brain transplant, which it did have to really having exhausted the bored in space hell is other people thing.

neveragain

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 05:05:41 PMI preferred that grey, washed-out feel of the first two series.

Same here.

Also, there are some nice location shots and good performances in The Black Adder (Jim Broadbent & Miriam Margolyes in one episode and Brian Blessed throughout) but yeah I'll forgive you for giving it a miss.

dontpaintyourteeth

Parks and Rec doesn't get good until that really boring guy fucks off

It's Always Sunny was pretty good at the start, but got much better when Danny Devito joined

Jerzy Bondov

I was sure this was going to be about Parks and Recreation and I was so happy to see it was actually about Happy Endings. I love Happy Endings. You can tell it's getting better as Alex and Dave stop being the romantic leads and start being weirdos like the others. 

Lapsedcat

Obvious one I suppose but it took The Simpsons three seasons before everything fully clicked into place. Then you had a run of maybe five subsequent seasons with barely a dud episode, followed by the gradual laziness creeping in and the slow, agonising decline...


Twilkes

Quote from: badaids on January 29, 2024, 05:11:00 PM(even today the fact that it has TWO black actors as leads and it is never mentioned or referred to blew my mind on a rewatch last year)

I think, in all seriousness, that the ethnic background of the leads was never really a big thing because it was placed in the background by the more noticeable traits that A) one of them spoke with a Scouse accent, and B) one of them was playing A FUCKING CAT.

Not a sitcom but if you go back and watch series 1 of The Apprentice it's very grim and gritty and there's bits of swearing going on, a far cry from the cartoon idiots that inhabited its mid to later years. Also Benidorm, I loved the first series, but it got more and more broad as it went on.

badaids

Quote from: Twilkes on January 29, 2024, 08:35:09 PMI think, in all seriousness, that the ethnic background of the leads was never really a big thing because it was placed in the background by the more noticeable traits that A) one of them spoke with a Scouse accent, and B) one of them was playing A FUCKING CAT.


True that, but it in 1987 it was radical thing to do full stop.  The ethnicity of the leads was never a big thing because it wasn't relevant to the programme.  A bit like in Alien (which lends its truckers in space vibe of course), the script makes no allusion as to whether the cast are male or female.

I mean radical in terms of both progression and slang for cool.

On rewatching this year it only occured to me that The Cat is a parody of James Brown, and then only after my 11 year old daughter pointed it out to me.

Utter Shit

Quote from: badaids on January 29, 2024, 05:11:00 PMSeries 3, it does get funnier and tighter but it also gets FINALLY WE HAVE SOME MONEY with the toe snapping opening credits and on location shooting, posh uniforms, and loads of sfx.

I'm reading the Red Dwarf Behind the Scenes book by Jane Killick at the moment, and she goes into a bit of detail about this. The constrictions on spending for the first couple of season are mad, it's incredible they managed to get it made at all. Great book as well.

badaids

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 08:49:19 PMI'm reading the Red Dwarf Behind the Scenes book by Jane Killick at the moment, and she goes into a bit of detail about this. The constrictions on spending for the first couple of season are mad, it's incredible they managed to get it made at all. Great book as well.

I need to get this book - I didnt know there was one!  I think it was originally a BBC North Wales production and the first series every episode is a bottle episode clearly made on a pittance.  It looks amazing in the main but there are occasions where you can see the seams. 

It proves Taylor Parkes theory that great creations come BECAUSE of the limitations of what the creators are working with, not IN SPITE OF.

Utter Shit

Quote from: badaids on January 29, 2024, 08:54:12 PMI need to get this book - I didnt know there was one!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stasis-Leaked-Complete-Unofficial-Behind/dp/1908340061

As you can probably see from the front cover it's been made on the cheap (perhaps deliberately, as satire) but it has plenty of detail on each episode. If you're a completist you might not find out much new information from it, but as a big fan of the show who has never really looked into the background it's very interesting.

badaids

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 08:59:53 PMhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Stasis-Leaked-Complete-Unofficial-Behind/dp/1908340061

As you can probably see from the front cover it's been made on the cheap (perhaps deliberately, as satire) but it has plenty of detail on each episode. If you're a completist you might not find out much new information from it, but as a big fan of the show who has never really looked into the background it's very interesting.

I'm very far from completist. I've just enjoyed rewatching with my daughter after seeing the series 37 odd years ago and found myself unexpectedly fascinated by the background as you say so thanks for the timely rec squire.

lauraxsynthesis

Someone told me that US sitcoms often don't start being good until s2. They specifically were suggesting I start Parks and Recreation at s2 which I did and liked it. Never have had a look at s1 as it happens.

I reckon M*A*S*H didn't meet its full potential until B.J. arrived which was s4. The chemistry of all the characters and the tone of all the relationships was perfect in the eps with both B.J. and Frank Burns still around. Looks like that's a show that's never had it's own thread here?!

 


dissolute ocelot

Cheers took a little while, with the appearance of Frasier and Lilith in season 3. but (sorry it's harsh) maybe reached imperial phase when Nicholas Colasanto died and was replaced by Woody Harrelson in season 4. Maybe just because that made it less sports-related.

daf

#20
Quote from: Lapsedcat on January 29, 2024, 08:19:38 PMObvious one I suppose but it took The Simpsons three seasons before everything fully clicked into place. Then you had a run of maybe five subsequent seasons with barely a dud episode, followed by the gradual laziness creeping in and the slow, agonising decline...

100% agree - though I also remember also reading the opinion in a few places that series 1 was the best one ever and it was never as good after that ... which seems crazy to me!

However, I do remember seeing a few episodes from series 1 on the big screen at the Animation festival in Cardiff in 1992 (seems a bit late, but I don't think it was on TV here at the time, so was a big deal). It was an absolute smash hit with the crowd - and myself. Bart the General was one, and another where they have a picnic with a bear (unless that's the same one?)

A few years later, seeing the same episodes on DVD, I was amazed how ropey it looked. Even by series 2, the improvement was startling - not just the animation, but the voices also seem off in the first series.

Lapsedcat


ajsmith2

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 29, 2024, 05:05:41 PMWith Peep Show, I completely agree - I know this is a very lazy thing to say, but I've always felt like the tone shift mirrored the change in theme tune. That slightly odd, understated theme of the first two series perfectly fit the show at that time, then it went all high-energy and attention-grabbing and I think the tone did as well to some extent. It was still a fantastic show (until it wasn't), but I preferred that grey, washed-out feel of the first two series.

Believe it or not, it's only series 1 that has the original instrumental theme tunes: Flagpole Sitta is present and correct by as early as series 2. But it always felt like series 2 'should' have still had the original theme as it's fucking perfect and you associate the in the face-ness of the later theme with mad All4 hi jinks and the shine coming off the show in later series.

Utter Shit

Blimey, is that true? I have a really distinct memory of catching up on the first two series just before the third came out, and then finding the theme music really jarring when the third series started!

The American Inbetweeners manages to find its feet about halfway through the series and is firing on all cylinders by the end, to the point where I think it's probably better than the original.

Alas, cancelled and binned, to the glee of the UK tabloids.

ajsmith2

Quote from: Utter Shit on January 30, 2024, 09:44:28 AMBlimey, is that true? I have a really distinct memory of catching up on the first two series just before the third came out, and then finding the theme music really jarring when the third series started!

Aye, 5th paragraph under 'production' on the wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peep_Show_(British_TV_series)

'The theme tune for the first series was an original composition by Daniel Pemberton and is featured on his TVPOPMUZIK album.[25] From the second series onwards, the theme music is the song "Flagpole Sitta" by the American band Harvey Danger[23] (although the original first series composition was still heard briefly during scene changes). '



chutnut

Arrested Development didn't start getting really funny until the 2nd series, same with Venture Bros

Twilkes

Quote from: chutnut on January 30, 2024, 10:21:07 AMArrested Development didn't start getting really funny until the 2nd series, same with Venture Bros

I'd disagree with that for AD - on initial watch and both rewatches it was funny right out of the gate and maintained it at least to the end of S2 - not sure we've made the end of S3 more than that first time though. The plots and ideas may be more extravagant in S2 but I'd say the humour was always there throughout.

Old Nehamkin

For me the first fully-realised Red Dwarf episode is Me2, the series 1 finale. There's plenty of good stuff before that but I think it's the first episode where Grant and Naylor really cracked the Lister/Rimmer dynamic and established those characters as a truly co-dependent yin and yang to each other rather than just a one-note bickering odd couple.

madhair60

Quote from: mechanical blood goat on January 29, 2024, 04:09:56 PMSeinfeld takes about four seasons before it starts getting good.

total bollocks I am afraid