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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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with John Altschuler (“The Goode Family,” “King of the Hill”)

Hey, kids, remember “The Goode Family”? You don’t…? Boy, that’s funny. You’d think you’d remember an animated series created under the watchful eye of Mike Judge, the man behind “Beavis & Butthead” and “King of the Hill,” not to mention such cult-classic films as “Office Space,” “Idiocracy,” and “Extract.”

Oh, wait, I know why you don’t remember it: because it only ran for 13 episodes in the summer of 2009 before ABC axed it.

Thankfully, however, the fine folks at Shout Factory have come through for “Goode Family” fans in the same way they’ve come through for fans of so many other too-quickly-canceled series over the years, offering up a complete-series set which features all of the episodes, including audio commentary from executive producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky on several of them, as well as deleted scenes and premises for unproduced episodes. Even better, the aforementioned Mr. Altschuler was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with Bullz-Eye to discuss the series, not to mention some of the other projects he’s worked on over the course of his career.

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John Altschuler: So, Will, what can I do you for?

Bullz-Eye: Well, sir, I do this TV column for Bullz-Eye, I’ve more or less got carte blanche to cover what I want, and, dammit, I want to cover the DVD release of The Goode Family: The Complete Series.

JA: [Laughs.] Well, great…I hope!

BE: It is absolutely great. I was a fan for the all-too-few episodes that aired, so it’s been nice not only to revisit the series as a whole but also to listen to the commentaries that you and Dave recorded for the set.

JA: Excellent, excellent. Well, I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, personally, but I hope it wasn’t too bad for you.

BE: No, no, not painful at all.

JA: Well, good!

BE: So to begin at the beginning, as it were, you and Dave actually knew each other well before you first met up with Mike Judge on “King of the Hill.”

JA: That’s right. Dave Krinsky and I go back to…we went to the University of North Carolina together and moved out to L.A…wow, back in ’87! And we just did movies and TV for, y’know, forever, and got hired on “King of the Hill” in its first season, and that’s how we met Mike Judge.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Beavis and Butthead are Back!

Yes, kids, your dreams have come true: starting on Oct. 27, your favorite animated dumbasses, Beavis and Butthead, are returning to MTV with their first new episodes since 1997.

First of all, if you’re worried that they might have smartened up some over the course of the past 14 years, let me assure you that, based on the advance trailer for their new season, there is little doubt that they’re as dumb as ever. Secondly, since I know you’re wondering, yes, the Great Cornholio does still need T.P. for his bunghole.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge during this summer’s TCA tour, and we talked about his decision to bring the boys back, what’s changed in their absence, and which recurring characters we can expect to see during the course of these upcoming episodes.

Bullz-Eye: So why bring back Beavis and Butthead – with the caveat that I’m very, very excited that you’re doing so – rather than move forward with a new, original property?

Mike Judge: Well, you know, actually, if you put it that way… [Laughs.] Look, I still like experimenting around and trying different characters, which I’ve done without ever showing it to people, but I’ve also been involved with development on new animated shows, some that never saw the light of day or that people are talking about. I always kind of look at all this stuff, and I’ll think of why it’s not working and what does work, and in the back of my mind, I’m always going, “You know, I actually had a great couple of characters that were working pretty good that I think would still be fun to do.” And I think they’re still fairly unique. I’d like to think so, anyway, just in the way they look and sound. But, I mean, the bottom line is that I really like doing it. And King of the Hill was done, I’d just done a live-action movie and didn’t want to do that again anytime soon, and…it just seemed like it would be fun.

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