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On January 22, 2003, Comedy Central premiered a new sketch comedy series by a funny, yet relatively unknown comic named Dave Chappelle. Named simply Chappelle’s Show, it was a modest little production that aired on a Tuesday and, suffice it to say, one of the most important moments in television began. I remember watching the first episode in my room with the sound low, because my parents did not allow me and my sisters to watch TV during the school week. I remember that very funny (and now incredibly dated) opening sketch and I remember that great blooper of that first sketch that followed it. Then, of course, there was the final sketch of the night: the black white supremacist frontline sketch; I was still relatively young at this point but even then I knew how ridiculous this idea was and but I was still too young to fully grasp just how daring of a sketch it was. With it, Chappelle’s Show had already cemented its legacy in the first episode.

Ten years later, it’s hard to watch the show without thinking of it in some sort of pseudo-psychological way. You look for the cracks within the show that led to Chappelle quitting: the symbolism in the sketches, the hints of animosity, hell even Paul Mooney seems prophetic in retrospect. It’s hard to remember how you felt when you first watched the show all those years ago. For that first season, I remember loving it instantly (I also remember being one of the few of my fellow classmates watching) and I remember planning out ways that I could watch it each week without my parents catching me. The second season was even better—in fact,  it’s one of the best seasons of any television series—and suddenly everyone in my school knew every line of every sketch. I knew how great the show was then but, having been a television obsessive at that point (and just being an all-around pessimist), I never felt good about the show’s third season. At the time it was mostly a fear that it just wouldn’t be as funny or as good as those first two seasons but, as we all soon would find out, there was a lot more to it than that. By now we all know the story (and if you don’t, start here), the show was a machine and it no longer felt comfortable so Dave bolted. That’s not what matters believe it or not; despite the controversial ending of the entire series, Chappelle’s show was too good a series and too important a moment to have that overshadow it.

We could argue all day whether Dave should’ve left or not. Was the show getting too big to handle? Maybe, was it dangerously close to moving away from responsible yet extreme social commentary to just plain masked racism? Possibly, did he make the right call by turning down the money and leaving at the peak? It depends on what vantage point you look at the situation. What I do know is that for two years Dave Chappelle captured the world’s attention by putting on one of the most brilliant, important and funny programs to ever air on television. Yes there were the lost episodes that make season 3, and while it had some great moments, it just didn’t cut it—it’s basically The Godfather 3 of the series. Chappelle’s show was a phenomenon and a force; when you think of lil Jon, you’ll think of Dave first (same goes for Rick James, Prince, Wayne Brady and R. Kelly). I still say “game, blouses” and “this ain’t trading places nigga, this is real fucking life! Protect ya got damn neck!” on weekly basis. Charlie Murphy will always be the guy who got UNITY jabbed into his forehead, Donnell Rawlins will always be “Ashy Larry, Marcy projects… Marcy son, what!” Wayne Brady will always be the guy the scariest black actor ever and when a rapper says “turn my head phones up” or some variation on a track, I will forever laugh. When I remember Making The Band, all I’ll really remember is Chappelle’s parody of it; if I actually heard a white person scream “white power” in public, I would laugh because of Chappelle too. Tyrone Biggums, Tron, ridiculous comedy special tropes, Mos Def making bird calls and Dave running out of a press conference when questioned about oil are some of the best things ever, and no matter what Rashida Jones does she’s never more perfect than when she tells her friend all about “some pads that’ll make your flow mothafuckin’ tizight.” At the end of season 2, Dave’s last words were, “we shook up the world!” That you did Dave… that you did.

I find Girls to be a pretty enjoyable show. The idea that it’s such a polarizing program is mostly laughable. There’s nothing really “offensive” about it–the lives of over-privileged white girls slumming it because their parents won’t give them more money, that’s a pretty damn safe premise.  Most of the vitriol (and praise) it is just a tad unnecessary.

Calling it one of the best new shows on television doesn’t really say much (I mean it’s closest competition is probably Veep) and calling it a “great” show seems a bit much. As I stated before, it’s enjoyable–it even has moments of greatness–but it always struck me a show just shy of being a favorite of mine. Something about the construction of the show doesn’t click with me enough–and it isn’t because I don’t relate to it, I don’t give a shit about that–I think I just find it hard to care about Lena Dunham’s “Hanna” character.

The detractors of the show, while making some valid points, go just as overboard. If you don’t like a show that’s fine; entertainment is subjective and people have opinions. The idea that this show deserves some sort of special hatred pedestal is ridiculous. As far as the whole “no ethnic people” issue, well here’s the thing: the criticism is deserved but let’s not forget that this is a show about over-privileged white girls written by an over-privileged white girl. She’s writing what she knows, and while she herself admits that there is a level of responsibility to reflect reality, it seems to me that the New York of Girls is just another reflection of a life she’s led. That’s not to say she doesn’t know any black people, that’s just to imply that it’s probably a limited experience.

With that being said, much like with The Walking Dead, I will be tuned in to the new season. Hoping that this likable show becomes lovable and that the characterizations get a little better than they were in season 1. Here’s hoping.

(this post contains spoilers for last night’s How I Met Your Mother. Reader beware.)

Last night, as I sat through another episode of a mostly lackluster HIMYM season, I tried my best not to let my irritation with Barney’s pointless relationship with Patrice and Ted’s pointless feelings for Robin ruin what was a pretty decent episode. Then it happened. An ending  that, despite the fact that I kinda saw it coming near the end of the episode, still overwhelmed me emotionally to the point of giddiness. Barney and Robin were together again–engaged even!–and suddenly everything about what made this show a good one in the first place began to show its face again. Yeah, the all too familiar tropes were there–dramatic presentation, flashbacks, a theatrical indie-rock soundtrack–yet I reacted to it like it was all new.

Then I calmed down and started to hate myself. You see I thought I couldn’t bring myself to care about “will-they or won’t-they” anymore. We knew Barney and Robin would get together (even if it wasn’t revealed within the show already), so it wasn’t a surprise. Yes, the investment we as viewers have put into these characters play a large part in our reactions to what happens to them, but I think most people can agree that stretching the ultimate ending for these two out as long as possible got pretty annoying. In fact, that’s the problem with all the “will they or won’t they” couples on TV… it overstays its welcome.

Friends was the first abuser. Ross and Rachael were America’s favorite couple that weren’t… well, they were for one season, but that was it. The biggest issue with this one was that the two of them weren’t a couple for so long that you almost forgot about the whole thing. I remember watching the final episode and thinking “ehhh, I forgot all about that”. The U.S. edition of The Office sought to grip its viewers with Jim and Pam they same way the original U.K. series did with Tim and Dawn, and it worked… for 3 years. Rather than drag it out year after year, they brought the saga to a close with Jim asking Pam on a date in the season 3 finale and P am saying yes, it was the cutest damn shit ever and if that had been the end of the series I would’ve been fine with it. Instead the show went on–for years past its prime–and Jim and Pam became the boring couple that everyone remembers used to be cool.

But nobody was a worse perpetrator than J.D. and Elliott from Scrubs. Insufferable doesn’t even begin to describe it. It started great (as it always does), J.D. seems to like Elliott, Elliott seems to like J.D., so will they or won’t they? Then they did, for one–well 2 I guess–episodes. It was an interesting concept, following the initial honeymoon period of a relationship only to find that life, ego and personal insecurities get in the way of what you thought you wanted. Maybe it would’ve been perfect if it had stayed that way, maybe it would’ve still worked if they had worked through it (even if it was later down the road), but it didn’t work because they over did it. They broke up, got together, broke up, hooked up again, stopped, etc. By the time they back together (again) and J.D. realizes 2 seconds later that he doesn’t want her, I was officially done with those two.

As far as getting it right, that’s a little trickier. Maybe it’s because most TV shows last too long, but it’s rare that people strike the right balance. The Office U.K. got as close to perfect as you can get. Spaced was great because it was an open-ended story that worked best that way. Both Community and Parks And Recreation get points for playing around with the trope by having damn near every character hook up with each other at one point. Maybe it is just an outdated trope representing an old fashioned way of entertainment; but, as last night showed me, there’s still some magic left in that old bag of tricks.

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