The Light from the TV Shows: TGS: 30 Great Shows (That Don’t Actually Exist)

With “30 Rock” departing the airwaves after a not-unrespectable seven seasons – a particularly incredible achievement when you consider what an incredibly off-the-wall, insider-y sort of sitcom it was throughout its run – it seemed only appropriate to offer up some sort of tribute to the show in this week’s column. Unfortunately, since everyone else seems to have swiped all of the good angles that are 100% show-specific (indeed, I actually wrote a piece on the 30 best “30 Rock” guest stars for the “Today” blog, The Clicker), I had to think a little bit outside the box, but since a key aspect of the series was its show within a show, “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” it seemed like a perfectly reasonable concept to spotlight 30 of TV’s great fictional TV series. Lord knows these aren’t all of them, of course. Hell, even limiting myself to a one-fake-TV-series-per-real-TV-series rule…with the only exception being “30 Rock,” which seemed only fair, given the reason for the list in the first place…there are still thousands of omissions, so feel free to offer up your personal favorites that didn’t make the cut, “Family Guy” fans. (There’ve been so many on that show, I didn’t even know where to start.)

1. TGS with Tracy Jordan (“30 Rock”)

For those who can remember back to the pilot of “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) was originally in charge of a not-terribly-great sketch comedy series called “The Girlie Show,” but when GE’s new Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, Jack Donaghy made an executive decision to add the completely unpredictable Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to the show, the comedian’s ego necessitated a change in the show’s title to feature his name more prominently. 136 episodes later, we’ve scarcely seen a single “TGS” sketch in its entirety, and what bits we have seen have rarely been funny (at least not intentionally), but the shenanigans surrounding the series have been consistently hysterical.

2. The Alan Brady Show (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”)

Dick Van Dyke has discussed on many occasions how many TV writers have come up to him over the years and told him that the biggest reasons they decided to break into the business in the first place was because Rob Petrie and his cronies on Alan Brady’s variety show made it look like one of the most entertaining occupations in the world. Strangely, he hasn’t spoken nearly as much about how many of those writers finished their comments by yelling, “Thanks for nothing, you big liar!” I’m betting it’s about 50/50.

By the way, although “The Alan Brady Show” wasn’t real, the folks at MeTV talked Carl Reiner into doing a promo for the addition of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to their line-up where he reprised the character. Funny stuff.

3. Invitation to Love (“Twin Peaks”)

If you’re not a David Lynch obsessive, you may not remember this soap opera, but those with keen eyes will recall that it turned up at least once in each of the first seven episodes of “Twin Peaks.” It’s also worth noting that “Invitation to Love” pointedly features identical-twin characters played by the same actress, which – in no way coincidentally – was more or less what Sheryl Lee did as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson.

4. The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (“Spongebob Squarepants”)

The best bit about this cartoon-with-a-cartoon was the fact that the “Spongebob” show runners reunited former “McHale’s Navy” co-stars Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway to prove the characters’ respective voices. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

5. The Terrence and Phillip Show (“South Park”)

Disproving a longstanding theory that Canadians can’t be funny while cementing the not-really-in-question suspicion that farts are always funny, it need only be said that Terrence and Phillip are a stone-cold gas. Sadly, this clip is from their movie, “Asses of Fire,” rather than their series, but it’s basically the same thing. Y’know, except filthier. Much, much filthier.

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New home sales surge in September

The news keeps getting better on the housing front, and that should have a big impact on consumer choices in the short term and in the next couple of years. The economic collapse of 2008 has seen the U.S. economy slowly rebounding to per-recession levels, but the housing market has been stubbornly sluggish. Of course this affects the job market, particularly in construction, and also consumer choices. Many more people are renting these days, even with historically low mortgage rates and depressed home prices.

Now we may be seeing a real rebound, and smart consumers will react to these developments. For example, new home sales jumped in September to a 2.5 year high.

Home builders received more good news Wednesday morning as sales of new single-family homes in September surged to their highest level in 2 1/2 years, the Census Bureau said.

New home sales grew 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 389,000 last month. The growth was a significant rebound after new home sales fell off in August to a revised rate of 368,000. That followed a two-year high of 374,000 in July — more indications that the new home market is recovering in fits and starts.

Sales were up 27.1 percent from September 2011.

The median sales price of a new home sold in September was $242,000, down from $256,900 in August. There were 145,000 new homes for sale at the end of September, up from 141,000 in August.

Many prospective home buyers have stayed away from the market as they didn’t want to buy before it hit bottom. We’ll, the bottom seems to have arrived in many parts of the country, so it may be a great time to go home shopping while interest rates remain this low. As we see more activity and increased home values, we’ll also continue to see more home refinancings as another way to take advantage of the low rates. With that we’ll probably see many home improvements as well, from new kitchens for the wife to new man caves for the guys, along with larger maintenance projects like garage doors, roofs and back patios.

The decision to rent or buy is a difficult one for many people, regardless of whether they’re married or single, and sometimes people get too worried about price. The lifestyle issues frankly are more important. But in terms of timing it’s always best to buy when a market is coming out of a bottom, so it’s a great time to start paying more attention.

  

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