I admit I watch How I Met Your Mother despite the ridiculous overacting and nauseating cheesiness. I’m not sure why I watch it, actually. Just because there’s shit else on TV on Monday nights, I guess. (Though I am getting into The Sing-Off.) And every week I wonder how the show gets such great ratings when it’s so damn campy. Do more people really watch it (and Two And A Half Men and Home Improve-oops, I mean that crappy new Tim Allen show) than Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock?
Then I watched a couple reruns of Friends on TBS (thank goodness for syndicated television), episodes I loved at the time they first aired, and noticed something I hadn’t observed the first time around: Friends was suuuuuuper cheesy. And silly and predictable and all those other nasty adjectives I use to describe shows like HIMYM. So it occurred to me that it must be inevitable. The things we think are funny and clever become, some years later, cheestastic. Comedy is topical and fluid and changes with each generation, with politics, current events, ever-evolving social norms, and so on and so on.
The thing is, though, that as I watch shows like HIMYM or Two And A Half Men, now while they’re currently airing, I already think they’re more cheesy than funny, too absurd to laugh at, one cheap setup-and-payoff after another, far from anything clever or genuinely smart. On the other hand, I’m falling more and more in love with Happy Endings, a show that’s also cheesy and predictable. So what’s the difference?
The difference, I believe, is chemistry. Whether the characters are in and of themselves likable AND if the group of actors who play them have charismatic on-screen banter. This is where the magic lies. Are they believable as friends/lovers/family, whatever the case may be? Are they fun/interesting/compatible with each other? Or do you think that if they were real people, they would despise the very sight of one another? Honestly, I think that in the real world, Lily & Marshall would find other married couples interested in starting a family to hang out with, rather than two whiny singletons and a sleazy womanizer. And none of them would like Ted. He is decidedly unlikable. Obnoxious, if you will. And no one could possibly truly like the characters of Two And A Half Men. They don’t even like each other, which provided some mild entertainment for the first season or two but has long since become played-out. (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen any of the current Ashton Kutcher-ful season.)
Shows like Will & Grace, Scrubs and That ’70s Show (and now, Happy Endings and Parks & Recreation) were also silly and over-acted but the characters simultaneously cracked you up and made you wish you were part of their crowd. I can’t honestly say I’d like to be among the Dunder Mifflin employees of The Office or the lunacy of 30 Rock, but the writing there is so smart, it more than makes up for that. Besides, while many of the characters of those two beloved series aren’t exactly likable, they are hilarious and have fantastic chemistry.
Which qualities matter the most to you?