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September 17th, 2010 | File Under fruitbats, TV | No comments yet

My prediction: there will never actually be an “Arrested Development” movie, but there will be a TV movie made about the making of the series. Starring Jerry O’Connell as “Jason Bateman,” Patrick Wilson as “Will Arnett,” Drea De Metteo as “Portia di Rossi,” Jesse Eisenburg as “Michael Cera,” Shawn Rabideau as “Tony Hale,” Katie Lowes as “Alia Shawkat,” Dr Phil as “Jeffrey Tambor,” Damon Lindeloff as “David Cross,” Mike Judge as “Ron Howard,” and Henry Winkler as “Mitchell Hurwitz.” Judge will direct.

US Presidents and American Idols

May 24th, 2006 | File Under Nate, TV | Only one comment so far

Even as I write this, cellular traffic is slowing to a crawl all across the country as otherwise normal people throw time and SMS fees into voting for this season’s American Idol winner.

There are quite a few American Idols these days, enough that a few weeks ago someone posed the following question:

When will there be more American Idols than there are US Presidents?

Looking into it, I have the results, and I am happy to say that we are safe for a while.  According to my calculations, the number of American Idols will exceed the number of US Presidents on September 8, 2052, at 9:36 AM.

This is based on simple linear regression, which by my eye seems to fit the data best.  On average, there is a new US President every 1841.21 days, but a new American Idol every 271.6 days.

Naturally, this is due to the fact that American Idol (the show) airs in just one long season each year.

But if you think that the aforementioned number bodes well for our survival as a species and a culture, don’t beathe a sigh of relief just yet. Think about this: even though Amercian Idol is only on once a year (I know, it feels like more), Survivor is on three times a year — spring, summer and fall.

Three times per year.  Three times a year, some unwashed moron gets handed a bag filled with a million dollars just for sitting in the sun and being an idiot for 30 days in a row.  Think about what that means for future generations.  Say what you will about American Idol (see Keith Olbermann if you’re behind on the facts), but at least it’s some form of merit-based rewards program.

I say all that to warn you.  The number of American Survivor winners (I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to refer to them as “winners” — let me start over).  The number of American Survivors will exceed the number of US Presidents on December 1, 2024, at 10:04 AM.

That’s not that far away.  That’s nearly thirty years sooner than the Idol Apocalypse.  *If* things continue on their current trend lines.  I shudder to think what we’d come up with if we counted all the variants in other countries.  All I can say is, at least we’ll have an extra half-hour on that fateful morning to get ourselves mentally prepared.

I hope your family is ready.


PS – I’ve uploaded a spreadsheet with the data and calculations used in this post, in case anyone wants to check for mistakes or try some other type of curve fitting.  Download it here.

Not That Funny

May 13th, 2006 | File Under Ha, TV | No comments yet

The Katz CubeTuesday brought us the DVD release of season one of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, the greatest television show of all time.

Historians were quick to note that at numerous points in the past, I have described Arrested Development as the funniest television show of all time.

Both statements are true. Arrested Development is funnier; the thing that makes Dr. Katz great is that it is exactly the opposite. Jonathan Katz and the other creative types crafted this show to — at every turn — shoot for the least funny option (line, joke, or gag).

Not the most un-funny thing, mind you, the least funny thing. That’s a big distinction. Even as a stand-up comic, Katz always aimed to make the audience continually never quite sure whether he was being serious or making a joke. There are other comics who seem to enjoy keeping the audience off-balance, as it were, though most of them tend to do it through shock value.

The example I like to give for novices is from a scene where Ben and John are eating cereal, debating the merits of the different meals. At one point Katz attempts to sum up his position with the proclamation “Breakfast: it’s not the most important meal of the day — but it’s not bad.”

That’s just barely even a joke. But that’s not easy to do. Try it yourself; try to come up with something only a tiny, tiny bit off-kilter. Just subtle enough to make the hearer stop and re-think. The NSF and the scientific journals would probably describe phenomena like this as quantum comedy. Or, in the vernacular, quamedy.

For the show, Katz teamed up with H. Jon Benjamin, like-minded comic who in interviews has expressed his lifelong desire as a performer to play away from the funny:

“I’ve never had the desire to tell jokes. I’ve always been more interested in not making people laugh, but people seem to laugh at that. So actual jokes have always been the antithesis of what I’ve wanted to do. I started doing comedy with a lot of people who were great at telling jokes so I just wanted to not do what they did.”

The result is precision comedy, like a balancing act; hovering just barely over the threshhold of humor.

There were other great elements to the show — the weird animation style, the fact that the entire half-hour of each episode was improvised — that contribute to its greatness. But at the core, the key is still that unique focus on being so dry that you have to pay attention in order to spot the joke.

In so many ways, it’s easy to go for the big laugh. What I admire about Jonathan Katz is his ability to go for the small laugh, and to hit it every time, repeatedly, for six years.