If you are a regular reader of the blog, it should come as no surprise that I consider myself a fan of comedy. I go to see stand-up comics as often as I can and watch more than my fair share of comedies on the small screen (though, to be fair, I watch more than my fair share of just about everything). I tend more toward the quirky or innovative end of the spectrum when it comes to what makes me laugh; while there is an audience for shows like Two and a Half Men and Two Broke Girls, I’m just not it. Traditional sitcoms don’t do very much for me, which is why I tend to be more critical of Modern Family than most people I know. I like my comedy to be weird, dark or creative and I don’t mind if it’s a little dirty as well. If a show has a laugh track, chances are I’m not a huge fan. It’s just how I’m wired.
In my search for offbeat and smart comedy, I’ve found that Cartoon Network is quietly doing some pretty incredible things. While during the day the network focuses on showing more kid-friendly fare, their late-night block of programming (referred to as “Adult Swim”) has some hilarious shows. An added perk is that these shows for the most part are all 15 minutes, so it isn’t much of a time investment on the viewer’s part (a bonus for me) and because they are so short, the shows tend to be sleeker and heavier on the laughs. With a shorter run time, the writers and actors have to be economical with what they do, so there aren’t a lot of wasted scenes or moments. It’s basically concentrated hilarity. The Adult Swim shows also tend to take chances that shows on other networks wouldn’t. These programs are on the fringe and they kind of revel in their outsider status. These shows aren’t for everyone, nor do they try to be. They are also heavy on parody, which is a particular favorite of mine. Childrens Hospital was a web series born out of the Writer’s Strike in 2007-2008 and is a spoof of medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy. NTSF:SD:SUV:: is Childrens Hospital’s companion show that focuses on the poking fun at the genre of cop shows like Law and Order and CSI (and those programs’ overreliance on semicolons). Robot Chicken comes from the mind of Seth Green and uses stop action animation in mini-vignettes to make fun of all aspects of pop culture, with a special emphasis on Star Wars.
All of these shows are consistently very funny and the actors involved seem to be having a great time. The people involved with Adult Swim’s programs have a solid comedy pedigree – cast regulars include Meghan Mullaly, Rod Corddry, Henry Winkler, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, Paul Scheer, Rebecca Romijn and Breckin Meyer. Because the time commitment is so minor for these shows – they have very little in way of recurring storylines or continuity from episode to episode – they also have an abundance of big names drop by for an episode or two. Nick Offerman, Nick Kroll, Jason Sudeikis, Lizzy Caplan, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarland, Michael Cera, Neil Patrick Harris and blog favorite Jon Hamm have all popped up at various times on the Adult Swim programs.
Speaking of Hamm, he was part of a special event that aired on Adult Swim last Thursday. There was a lot of mystery surrounding the program, dubbed The Greatest Event in Television History. Not much was known about it, other than it featured Hamm (sporting a mustache) and Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott. Adult Swim ran a countdown to the event throughout all its other programming. It really could have been just about anything and my interest was definitely peaked. Hamm’s comedic chops are underrated in my opinion; while he is best known for his portrayal of Don Draper on Mad Men, he has put together a very good resume in comedy. He was a recurring character in the final season of IFC’s quirky show The Increasingly Poor Decision of Todd Margaret (starring Arrested Development alums David Cross and Will Arnett) and is always solid in his appearances on 30 Rock and SNL. And of course, there was his supporting role in one of the funnier movies of the last few years, Bridesmaids. He generally seems game for anything and partnered with his real life pal Adam Scott, I knew this was going to be something that didn’t disappoint.
I finally got the chance to check out The Greatest Event in Television History after my whirlwind baseball weekend (more on that coming up this week) and I have to say that it was all that I hoped for and more . The “special event” that was The Greatest Event in Television History lived up to the hyperbole and made fun of all the television specials that take themselves too seriously. The first ten minutes of the show, hosted by Survivor’s Jeff Probst, is a behind the scenes look at the making of the special project that Hamm and Scott teamed up for with a very special “director.”
And what, pray tell, is the special project that they are collaborating on that has garnered such hyperbole? What could bring these two Hollywood heavy weights together on basic cable?
A shot by shot recreation of the title sequence of the 80s television show Simon and Simon.
And it’s fabulous.
It’s really something that you need to experience for yourself. So if you missed it, watch the video below and revel in its awesomeness. It is so ridiculous and fantastic all at the same time and is a perfect satire of the gravitas and in-depth introspection of so many projects. Hamm even makes that mustache work and I am definitely not a mustache kind of girl. If I didn’t already love Hamm and Scott, this would seal the deal.
The Greatest Event in Television History is well worth the 15 minute investment. If you like this, consider checking out the rest of Cartoon Network’s original programming. It may be off the beaten track, but these shows definitely deserve to be sought out.
Robot Chicken airs Sundays at midnight; on Thursdays catch Childrens Hospital at midnight, followed by NTSF:SD:SUV:: at 12:15 am.