At the culmination of every professional sports season, columnists like to hand out their end of year awards. They name their personal MVP’s, Rookies of the Year, etc, then explain their picks. These are among my favorite columns to read. Like all good writing, they lend themselves to debate and discussion. But why stop at sports? Other forms of entertainment have seasons too. The network television season just ended. Let’s hand out some awards for that. I’m going to focus on sitcoms, because I like them better.
MVP: Parks and Recreation. Parks and Rec manages to seem completely real and absolutely genuine despite being populated almost exclusively by crazy people. Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, Tom Haverford, April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer all have the potential to become super exaggerated and dominate the action, but they never do. The writers and producers have turned restraint into an art form.
Rookie of the Year: Happy Endings. You probably don’t even know this show exists. It only aired for a few weeks and not until 10pm, which is not a traditional sitcom slot. And, at first glance, it looks like it should be terrible. It’s the story of 6 young friends dealing with the pitfalls of young adulthood. Just like every other sitcom since “Friends,” except this one has an interracial couple and a gay dude. But the writing on this show is great. The conversations sound like real conversations. Yes, the gay dude is a stereotypical character. But, it’s not the stereotypical gay character. He’s the stereotypical irresponsible guy character, who has no plates and never cleans up the chinese food that spilled on the floor. At one point this year, he talked about adding someone to his spank bank. It didn’t even bother me that much that he was talking about another dude. Also, Damon Wayans, Jr. is in it.
LVP (least valuable): The Big Bang Theory. Let’s be clear. It’s not the worst sitcom on TV (That’s the one with Nick Swisher’s wife that got cancelled by CBS.) Big Bang theory was the most disappointing sitcom this year. It took a major step backwards. The comedy became too broad. They turned it into slapstick. And the hot chick banged the Indian dude who doesn’t talk. Where do you go from there? I’m clearly in the minority in holding this opinion. Today I read that Big Bang Theory had surpassed “Two and A Half Men” as the highest rated comedy on TV.
All-TV First Team:
Parks and Rec: I already told you why
Modern Family: Luke has passed Manny as the show’s best character.
The Office: The show reached an emotional peak when Michael Scott left. They should have stopped there, because Will Ferrell was an abortion.
Cougar Town: I’m as surprised as you are. But a show that started as “Older lady bangs teenagers” show has now turned into a funny relationship show with a weird collection of funny characters. Just like Scrubs. Which makes sense, because it’s from the same people that did Scrubs.
Community: It somehow manages to take ridiculous fantasy episodes and make them fit into the narrative. Shirley got pregnant while Greendale was being overrun by zombies. But, I bought it.
All-TV Second Team:
How I Met Your Mother: It’s a bit over emotional, but still really funny. This is because the main character is a whiny pussy. Less Ted, more Marshall and Barney
Big Bang Theory: It should be so much better
30 Rock: This season was about as good as the show’s second season. Unfortunately, the 1st year was when this show peaked.
Family Guy: Have you noticed that they’ve started doing more long jokes? A couple of weeks ago, they showed an entire music video during the episode. Some may say it’s Scott McFarlane turning traditional sitcoms on their ear. I think the writers are just too lazy to write a full 22 minute episode
Raising Hope: I will admit, I am including this show because I needed a fifth show for the 2nd team. It’s pretty funny though. I don’t watch it every week. But, it’s better than the rest of the shit that’s out there.
In the week after mankind faced the possibility of an actual apocalypse, this week’s “Sign of the Apocalypse” isn’t all that apocryphal.
A federal judge ordered the U.S. Polo Association to stop producing merchandise with a logo featuring two silhouetted horsemen and the word polo because, he said, it confused customers of the Ralph Lauren Polo line.
I’ve actually fallen for this. I walked into a store called US Polo Association and bought a shirt. It wasn’t till I got home later that day that I realized it wasn’t a Ralph Lauren Polo… uh… polo.
Bullying The Bulls by Ian Thomsen
What happens if the Heat win the championship? Ever since “The Decision,” everyone has said the Heat would be a failure if they came up short in their title quest. But what happens if they don’t come up short? Do we all just say, “Well, I guess they did the right thing. It worked.” That seems like it should happen. More likely, though, we will all say,”Anyone can win one title. Let’s see them do it again.”
The Beginning of A Beautiful Rivalry by Phil Taylor
This entire article is oxymoronic. How can it be the beginning of a rivalry if one team is old and making one last run at a title while the other is young and positioning itself to contend for the next several years. It’s about two teams headed in different directions, who happened to have met in the middle this year. How can that make for a long term rivalry. I also have issues with the way the article addresses Russell Westbrook. It opens by saying he’s not as good a point guard as Jason Kidd, an argument that has never been made by anyone in the world up till this point. Then, it makes excuses for why Westbrook isn’t as good as Jason Kidd. Phil Taylor is arguing with himself why the rest of us sit helplessly and watch.
Leading From The Front by Tim Layden
Charles Shackleford was a forward who starred at NC State in the late 80’s, but is most famous for being brought back from a career in Europe to replace Charles Barkley in the 76’ers starting lineup for the 92-93 season. He is also notable for the fact that our friend Beltway Buddy insisted on referring to Shackleford as Shack, even after Shaquille O’Neal became the biggest star in the NBA.
I did not read this article.
Tiki Barber Gets Real by L. Jon Wertheim
I spent a good portion of the day Thursday on the phone with Tiki Barber’s agent, Mark Lepselter. He was trying to put out the fire caused by this comment:
Barber and Johnson went into hiding in the attic of Lepselter’s house in New Jersey. “Lep’s Jewish,” says Barber, “and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”
Lepselter kept hammering home one point to me, over and over. In 2006, Prime Minister Shimon Peres personally invited Tiki Barber to Israel. He even called me back, twice, after our initial conversation to remind me. It seems neither Barber nor his agent get the point. No one is accusing Barber of being an anti-semite. They’re accusing him of being an insensitive schmuck. The fact that he’s been to Israel, a nation that was founded to give displaced holocaust victims a home, makes Barber’s comments 100 times worse. He knows the history and still chooses to make the statement. It’s disgusting. To his credit, L. Jon Wertheim immediately follows the Barber quote with this parenthetical aside:
(Here is Barber writ small: He has the wit and smarts to make an Anne Frank allusion and the artlessness to liken himself—an adulterer trying to elude gossip columnists—to a Holocaust victim.)
The rest of the article doesn’t paint a much prettier picture. The failure of his TV career was the network’s fault (even though he referred to the country of Hungaria and said cunt during live olympic coverage.) Chris Snee likes me and understands my jokes (even though I’m trying to include Snee as I publicly disparage the man who’s both his boss and his father-in-law.) And oh yeah, I cheated on my pregnant wife. SO SUE ME! Tiki Barber is a dick and the fact that he doesn’t know it is his dickiest trait.
100 Years of The Indy 500 by Charles Leerhsen
(This may be the first time an issue of SI has had two articles I have no interest in reading. Luckily, they make up for it by jamming this week’s issue full of stuff.)
Keep Both Eyes on The Puck by Brian Cazeneuve
As I write this, I’m watching game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Bruins and the Lightning, and what grabs me most is the pure emotion of it all. Players flying from end to end. The crowd sitting on the edge of their seats. Mike Emrick’s voice ebbing and flowing in perfect time with the action. That’s why I find this article so oddly timed. This is not the time to take a clinical approach to hockey. This piece, about trying to quantify puck possession, would be perfect for an NHL season preview issue or even a midseason review. But not during the playoffs, where statistics take a back seat to passion.
Fred Wilpon Pays The Price by Tom Verducci
This is the single best chronicle of Wilpon’s involvement with Bernie Madoff that I have ever read. For the first time, I feel like I truly have a grasp on the financial problems plaguing the Mets. It’s odd though, that this week’s Wilpon article in Sports Illustrated focused on the financial, while the Wilpon article in the New Yorker is the one that focused on baseball.
POINT AFTER by Joe Posnanski
Does the average sports fan actually care about Dick Ebersol? Or is this a case of Posnanski mixing up his own interest in sports media, and that of his colleagues, with what the public is actually interested in? I’m not sure I know the answer to that.