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June 24, 2010 4:16 PM   Subscribe

The consensus godawful Brad Garrett sitcom Til' Death apparently turned into a surrealist masterpiece in its final season.

Characters realizing they're living a sitcom, arbitrary musical numbers, general mass insanity.
posted by eugenen (66 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I miss cop rock.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:23 PM on June 24, 2010


Man, that whole article reads as
"DON'T CLICK THIS LINK... NO REALLY IT IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBING"
to me.
Now, I must watch it. damn.
posted by elleyebeebeewhy at 4:29 PM on June 24, 2010


Sounds like a small-scale version of what Tom Green did with Freddy Got Fingered.
posted by mullacc at 4:34 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It supposedly takes place in Cheltenham Twp, where I live. They never got that part right, either.
posted by fixedgear at 4:35 PM on June 24, 2010


Wow, Timm Sharp looks just like cortex. FIFTH WALL.
posted by mintcake! at 4:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Why Do People Laugh After I Do Something Funny?"
by Ralph Malph

posted by Rhaomi at 4:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I always wanted a show to end like this, I guess I have my wish now.
posted by hellojed at 4:37 PM on June 24, 2010


This sounds absolutely fascinating, although the clips in that linked article show a weird show piercing the fourth wall explicitly and interestingly... but still not terribly funny.

The description of it reads awesomely though, of some bizarre ping-ponging nonsense show on network TV which still had millions of people watching it, like Twin Peaks with a laugh track. I wonder if the audience was entirely stoners who were totally on that wavelength, no matter how bizarre it got.
posted by hincandenza at 4:39 PM on June 24, 2010


I've never seen or even heard of this show, but I kind of want to see it now. Of course, it seems the weirdness wasn't just caused by the changes in the show itself, but also the decisions Fox made in airing it mixed with rejected episodes from earlier seasons, so characters would be married, then get engaged, characters would be played by different actors randomly, and other stuff would just wildly swing around stylistically. I don't think you could get that experience from TVTorrents.

But I still like the idea. Someone should do this on purpose. Like hincandenza said, Twin Peaks with a laugh track.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:44 PM on June 24, 2010


I mean, the bit about a sitcom character realizing he couldn't swear or have sex, could have been twistedly brilliant (drawing comedy from the tragedy of a man trapped in a G-rated Truman Show hell), but it sounds like they didn't really go there quite enough. From the comments, too, it's odd we only get to hear about this now, when the fun would have been watching in real-time and having Lost-like threads regarding the bizarre Slaughterhouse Five twists in non-linear plot. Hell, they could have been really subversive and made the episodes out of order on purpose (thus making them in order), and have that character be aware of this insanity and trying to cope with it.

Or what hellojed said: I've always wanted a show that was guaranteed contractual air time but as a lame duck show to just go completely off the bend, and it sounds like it might have done just that.
posted by hincandenza at 4:44 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


The wiki page for 'Til Death lists a number of shows which were paired with this one, all of which died quiet deaths, and I recognize none of them. And now I realize that even though I had cable for those years, I never ventured into the realms of unknown sitcoms.

When I was a kid it seemed like I knew what was on every basic cable channel, even though little of it appealed to me. Thanks to the bounties of the internet, I can wander as I please, whenever I please, TV holds less interest for me. Yet I still feel like I should at least recognize these pop TV shows, even if it is to write them off as uninteresting. As it is, I feel like the TV has become a doddering old friend, one who wastes his day in ways I can't imagine. I'll sit down and say "What have you done with yourself today? What stories have you told?" In reply, I will get a glassy stare, while the TV looks towards the ceiling, trying to recall the last 8 hours of the day. "I, I'm not sure. I think there was something about a bickering family, maybe something set in a diner or a coffee shop. I don't remember." I'll ask "Was it better than last year?" In reply, "I can't recall. What did I do last year?"
posted by filthy light thief at 4:45 PM on June 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


> I miss cop rock.

Did someone say Cop Rock?
posted by mrzarquon at 4:52 PM on June 24, 2010


Don't believe the hype. I sometimes catch episodes of this while I'm waiting for the Sunday night animation block on Fox, and it is fucking terrible. I've only ever seen these supposedly "surreal masterpiece" episodes, and they aren't really funny. Trying very hard to be wacky? Yes. Funny? No. I will never understand Fox's logic for the shows they cancel and the shows they try to keep. Sons of Tucson which wasn't great but was amusing and had a certain charm, got canceled after 4 eps, and I can't imagine its ratings were terrible, given its placement between Simpsons and Family Guy. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had better ratings but only lasted for 2 seasons and 30 something episodes. And the fucking amazingly brilliant Arrested Development had similar ratings plus critical praise out the wazoo and a super vocal fan community (which I seriously doubt Til Death has) and they struggled to even get to finish out their criminally shortened 3rd season. Makes me wonder if Brad Garrett has pictures of Rupert Murdoch blowing a goat or something.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:54 PM on June 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Plus, Fox aired the episodes all out of order.
Why, Fox, WHY do you do this?? Do you not know what order the episodes are in? Do the labels fall off the tapes? Why, dammit?

/still upset about Firefly.
posted by jeoc at 4:57 PM on June 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


"Roseanne" did a thing toward the end where they brought back the "other Becky" and kind of winked at the camera about it. And some other weird stuff too. So I don't think this is THAT uncommon with shows in their dotage. And of course the proverbial "Simpsons did it!" is very applicable here.

But maybe no one has taken it to this extreme. And "Roseanne" at least had a history of damn good television to play off of. I guess this is kind of different in that no one really ever had any investment in the world of "To Death" anyway. I'm not sure if that makes it more or less edgy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:57 PM on June 24, 2010


Trying very hard to be wacky? Yes. Funny? No.

That's pretty much the exact conclusion The Onion writer comes to.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:59 PM on June 24, 2010


ARGH! I wasn't even thinking about how upset I am about Arrested Development until Saxon Kane mentioned it.

The excremental Family Guy goes on forever, though. Yay.
posted by jeoc at 5:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


drjimmy11: Yeah, but I don't even find it that interesting. Granted, I didn't know all the stuff that the Onion writer mentions, and maybe had I watched the whole season it would have been more interesting, but still -- meh. Maybe one weekend I'll take a bunch of Adderall and watch all 81 episodes on Hulu (complete w/ out of order season 3 eps thrown in) just for the experience. I kind of feel like I should, even though I don't like Brad Garrett and find the show excruciating.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:02 PM on June 24, 2010


ARGH! I wasn't even thinking about how upset I am about Arrested Development...

Funny enough I can't hear Brad Garrett's name without hearing the "it was a wonderful performance, Dad. You're a regular Brad Garrett" line.
posted by griphus at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2010


Xena kind of did this to, towards the last season. They had some fun with fandom, as i remember.
posted by dethb0y at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2010


Wow, he really does look a fair bit like cortex. I didn't notice it until the Dr. Bialik clip, when he makes a totally cortexian expression.

By they way, this is IMPRESSIVE shit. I'll be sure to catch this show's last season if not the whole run. I love shows off the rails.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:15 PM on June 24, 2010


I can't help but think that the stultifying dramatic conventions of mainstream tv shows themselves, being the standard of comparison, are the only reason that something so inconsequentially transgressive would be described as an, OMG crazy trippy surrealist mindfuck.
posted by clockzero at 5:16 PM on June 24, 2010


> like Twin Peaks with a laugh track.

Like On The Air?

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I don't think this is THAT uncommon with shows in their dotage.

I'm reminded of how Dinosaurs ended with the implicit death of the entire cast.
posted by Iridic at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


> stultifying dramatic conventions of mainstream tv shows themselves

Oh, clever. Probably being ad supported has more direct bearing upon this. New dramatic conventions are created often, but fail.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2010


News Radio's final season is another case of unhingement.
posted by mwhybark at 5:26 PM on June 24, 2010


Has anyone ever seen cortex and Timm Sharp in the same room?
posted by mwhybark at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2010


Likewise, the last season of The Drew Carey Show.
posted by Opposite George at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2010


Don Reo worked on The John Larroquette Show, which I seem to recall, in the deep, dark recesses of my mind, was more than a little self-referential. As was Blossom, at times.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 5:33 PM on June 24, 2010


Just because they attempt to be wacky and self-referential doesn't make it a surrealist mind-fuck. It has to actually be interesting for it to count.

I remember reading somewhere that on the Golden Girls the actresses that played the Girls' grown children changed frequently, as did their backstories and their childrens' lives. This was then described as an enactment of the Girls' memories and mental faculties becoming untrustworthy as they got older.
posted by amethysts at 5:41 PM on June 24, 2010


I was about to mention the Drew Carey show as well. The catch there was, as I've heard, their whole last season was contractually obligated but never actually aired. Thus total derangement. I wish I could see it.
posted by fungible at 5:42 PM on June 24, 2010


Wow, he really does look a fair bit like cortex.

Agreed. I was thinking, were have I seen that guy, until mintcake! pointed that out.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:57 PM on June 24, 2010


OK. What the fuck ABC. That shit is on the air for four years? And Better Off Ted only gets two?

You stuck it after Scrubs. As much as I spooge after the show who in their right mind besides idiot hardcore fans like me would still actually be watching it? If you had stuck it on Wednesday nights at 8 with the rest of your "decent" comedy block against the crap-o-rama that is "New Adventures of Old Christine" instead of putting a brand new comedy head to head with NCIS and Biggest Loser it would have rated better than a 1.0.
posted by Talez at 6:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's remarkable, watching that Hulu compilation, is how profoundly unhappy the actresses are in the interview segments. When Garrett's talking, watch Joely Fischer sit there frowning. But the best is the actress who plays Timm Sharp's girlfriend. When he's talking, she sits there dead-eyed, staring into the void for the entire clip. Chilling.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:02 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ambrosia: Um... I MUST HAVE ON THE AIR! GIVE ME IT NOW!!!!
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2010


I'm surprised no one's mentioned the last few episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, where the show goes from Robot Battle Anime to dadaist abstract in the span of a few episodes.
posted by hellojed at 6:16 PM on June 24, 2010


> Oh, clever. Probably being ad supported has more direct bearing upon this. New dramatic conventions are created often, but fail.

I'm not sure if you were being sarcastic, AV. You're right, of course, that the ad-supported condition of television puts demands and limitations on dramatic structure and content that don't necessarily make for good stories. I was speaking about tv very generally, and I do think that most tv shows are designed to be very easy to enjoy. Some are more sophisticated, like those that maybe pioneer those new dramatic conventions you mentioned and don't fail. I may have come across as a snob, and I guess I might be snobbish, but I do actually like quality tv as much as anyone. I just think that in the Onion AV article, one gets the sense that the writer's standards for amazement are pretty low, and that he's obviously not comparing the end of Til Death with, say, contemporary stage drama or thoughtful films or, more to the point, with shows like Arrested Development. What do you think are some interesting dramatic conventions that didn't make it?
posted by clockzero at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2010


X-files final season-Mulder is dead, buried for 6 months and is then dug up and brought back to life...all in one episode?!
posted by 445supermag at 6:35 PM on June 24, 2010


Ambrosia: Was On The Air actually worth watching? David Foster Wallace, who was a big Lynch fan, seemed to genuinely loathe it, so I figured it was a misfire on his part.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2010


I watched this for the first two seasons and that was only because Joely Fisher's cleavage was always on display and I thought Kat Foster's character was fun.

After JB Smoove became a regular and Joely started dressing more conservatively, the magic was gone.
posted by reenum at 7:08 PM on June 24, 2010


Sometimes life imitates art; likewise sometimes the AV club imitates The Onion. Why am I reminded of this?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:27 PM on June 24, 2010


Joakim Ziegler: "I've never seen or even heard of this show, but I kind of want to see it now."

I long ago gave "Til Death" my "Yes, Dear" award of sitcom quality.

And I'm sorry if this is heretical and a derail, but I just watched Arrested Development all the way through after not ever seeing most of it. It's stays good in an ADHD way (occasional lines and bits and Franklin), but as a series it started falling apart halfway through the second season.
posted by rhizome at 7:52 PM on June 24, 2010


I think Brad Garrett's best role was as a green M&M. Or maybe the M&M was impersonating Brad Garrett. Either way, that dang M&M looks just like Brad Garrett!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:09 PM on June 24, 2010


Ambrosia: I had my On the Air link all queued up and ready to fire when I read your comment. Too slow, I am too slow. If only I had Blinky-Vision...

Rory: I would say it's an acquired taste, but it didn't last long enough for anyone to acquire one. I remember watching the first episode, and my wife turning to me at the end and saying "What the fuck did we just watch? Did they make that on purpose?"

Saxon: It is out there if you search around. I picked up a home-burned DVD with all the episodes last year in a fit of nostalgia. I showed the first episode to a friend who insisted I burn her a copy on the spot.
posted by mkhall at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2010


On The Air on Youtube
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:21 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The excremental Family Guy goes on forever, though. Yay.

I prefer "execrable". Which it truly is.

Sure, even the The Simpsons these days is awful too, but at least it actually started out well, until 1997 or so. Family Guy? Might as well be a show by Tyler Perry. DOA.
posted by intermod at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2010


I'm surprised no one's mentioned the last few episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, where the show goes from Robot Battle Anime to dadaist abstract in the span of a few episodes

Heh, because we're not big anime geeks like you, you nerd.

(Anyway, the real otaku know that the real headfuck was the movie, which was seen by some as a "screw you" to the fans who had demanded some wrap-up to the series.)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2010


For those of you coming to this thread, expecting that this show actually did turn into some sort of surrealistic classic, and thinking that perhaps it would be a good idea to check out the episodes of this show that are available on Hulu...

Don't. Don't do it.

It's just a bad sitcom, a really, really, really bad sitcom. There's no "go for broke" there. There's no "what were they thinking?" there. There's no "how did they get away with this?" there. It's all just procedural, bland, unfunny sitcom drudgery.

The concept of an unloved show that becomes unintentionally great and increasingly chaotic as its makers abandon conventional sitcom structure is a really great concept. That's not what this is.

My recommendation if you're looking for an actual surrealistic masterpiece disguised as a Fox sitcom would be to check out Get a Life. But Til' Death? Don't believe it.
posted by eschatfische at 8:31 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh. I saw a clip from this show at tonight's Weird Al Concert. Perhaps the only genuinely funny line the series ever produced, and it was only funny because of the fact that it referenced Weird Al, and was being shown at one of his concerts. :P
posted by zarq at 8:51 PM on June 24, 2010


I watched 'Til Death solely for Eddie Kaye Thomas. Hell, I'd watch him do anything, and have, obviously.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:01 PM on June 24, 2010


This show was beyond awful . You want a show that was cut down from Fox for apparently no reason? Try Titus. I think that still remains the highest rated show to be canceled by Fox.

If there was any real justice for sitcoms that were canceled, they would bring back Herman's Head instead of running this show for endless seasons.
posted by inthe80s at 9:15 PM on June 24, 2010


People...I downloaded the whole fourth season, and you know what...life's just too short to sit through this much shit for a few nuggets of weirdness.

I mean, yeah, once in a while there's a moment that rises to the level of a pretty good absurdist sitcom, but why go through the intervening tedium when you could just be, you know, watching a pretty good absurdist sitcom?

The only way I can see tolerating this is watching it while extremely high. And even then.

Seriously. Don't believe the hype. There is way too much actual awesome stuff out there to waste your time with "intermittently interesting."
posted by Pants McCracky at 9:51 PM on June 24, 2010


Or try to find "The John Larroquette Show" (not on DVD as far as I know, but maybe out there somewhere). Also with Don Reo, but actually good instead of...bad.
posted by Pants McCracky at 9:59 PM on June 24, 2010


O hai. I left to win at pub trivia. No smart phones allowed, you know.

For myself, the jury's out on On The Air. I have what I consider to be a unique take on Lynch and can't understand what most people claim to appreciate about him. I like it fine.

> It has to actually be interesting for it to count.

Subjective poppycock. Most people don't find Le Coquille et Le Clergyman very interesting, I would wager, but it's surrealist as can be, just the same. CAN a television program be truly surreal? I remain dubious, but Wonder Showzen did a lot of good work there.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:54 PM on June 24, 2010


For a surreal show -- one I'm not even sure I like -- try Xavier Renegade Angel. I have no idea what the fuck is up with that show.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:21 PM on June 24, 2010


I saw 5 minutes of this show. Someone was having a baby. They were in the waiting room of the hospital. Brad's character said something along the lines of "can't get any service because I am not here illegally"

I changed the channel. Fuck that noise. I had no idea that fox was doing with its sitcoms what it does with its news.
posted by M Edward at 11:32 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory Marinich: "On The Air on Youtube"

rubber raft


I thank you!
posted by mwhybark at 11:55 PM on June 24, 2010


Curse you, Betty Hudson!
posted by Wolof at 1:03 AM on June 25, 2010


Oh wow, I remember "On the Air"! I only saw the first two episodes, but I remember howling in laughter, like asphyxia type of laughing! Thanks for the link, perhaps I'll give that youtube link a whirl and see if it held up over time.
posted by hincandenza at 1:47 AM on June 25, 2010


It's Gary Shandling's Show did a lot of what the article states about breaking the fourth wall, meta-acting, and in-character self realization as a sitcom character. The whole show was an exploration/deconstruction of sitcoms in particular, narrative in general. I haven't seen it in years, but I bet that show was one of those "defining" pieces of art that affected the way I think.
posted by imneuromancer at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2010


And Better Off Ted only gets two?

Everyone involved in the decision to cancel this show should be forced to sit and watch every episode of dreck programing like Til' Death back to back. Just so that they can learn the difference between a good show that should stay on the air, and a bad show that should be killed with fire.

Hell, Better Off Ted's Veridian Dynamics commercials alone were some of the best TV out there.
posted by quin at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's Gary Shandling's Show did a lot of what the article states about breaking the fourth wall, meta-acting, and in-character self realization as a sitcom character. The whole show was an exploration/deconstruction of sitcoms in particular, narrative in general.

This was IGSS's central conceit, though. It would be really interesting to see a well-done show that starts off with no hint of suberting the form slowly turn itself inside out.

I get that this is not the case here (emphasis: "well-done") and thank you all for stressing that point.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:07 AM on June 25, 2010


It would be really interesting to see a well-done show that starts off with no hint of suberting the form slowly turn itself inside out.

The Prisoner (1967) is generally considered to be just that.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 11:13 AM on June 25, 2010


Ack! How did I forget the wonderfully fourth-wall breaking Garry Shandling Show (which also was quite funny, and I think finally came out on DVD recently).

So yeah, I guess the conclusion is
a) This sort of thing has been done before, sometimes from the outset
b) It's been done a lot better, on shows that were much more watchable
c) It's not even the first show to go "weird" in its lame duck season and
d) The show itself? Apparently not remotely funny, even with this weirdness added
posted by hincandenza at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2010


Since we're talking about Garry Shandling, when the fuck is the full run of the Larry Sanders Show going to get released? Season 1 and a Greatest Hits compilation do not cut it for me.

Also: Max Headroom, pretty please?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:00 PM on June 25, 2010


Also: Max Headroom, pretty please?

August 10th.
posted by eschatfische at 6:59 PM on June 25, 2010


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