Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Glory days

For the last couple of years, I've spent my summer writing about a sitcom that was never a big hit (and hung on for a couple of years at the bottom of its network, ratings-wise). Episode by episode, season by season, I have been working my way through NewsRadio, a NBC comedy that aired from 1995-1999. If you weren't a television aficionado, a Saturday Night Live fan, or a Kids In The Hall follower at that time, you might have no memory of it.

But for my money (and I'm not the only one), it's one of the pinnacles of the half-hour situation comedy genre. Now, granted, that's a genre I think is well worth paying attention to -- a format in which great art is genuinely possible. Not everyone would agree. Particularly in the twenty-first century, when laugh tracks seem to be on their way out among the cognoscenti.

Week after week I find it immeasurably gratifying that a loyal cadre of readers gathers to comment on my write-ups and offer their own observations about the quality of the episodes discussed. It's one of the defining primordial Internet experiences, one that we might find ourselves forgetting as we move farther way from the birth of the web: Strike out alone, and find a community. All of us were watching back in the nineties, or someone helped us out with tapes between then and now, or we've caught up on DVD or online in recent years. And we all find this semi-obscure show worth talking about and thinking about.

The season I'm writing about this summer is Season 4, the consensus best season of what we would contend is one of the best shows the network system has ever somehow fortuitously allowed on the air. If you remember the show dimly or fondly, tune in to the coverage. If you've never been initiated into the club, find yourself a box set or Hulu. We're having an amazing time celebrating TV comedy that approaches perfection more often than any of us have a right to expect. And we'd love to have you join us.

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