It stands for "Special Person Entering the World... Egg Yolks"
August 20, 2015 11:45 AM   Subscribe

In 1990, the Fox network was looking for a sitcom to become the next Cosby Show. So initially, David Mirkin, Adam Resnick and Chris Elliott pitched Get A Life as "What would Dennis the Menace be like, at age 30?": a show starring Elliott as a likeable, wisecracking 30 year old bachelor who lives with his parents, has a job as a paperboy and is beating the system by refusing to grow up. But once they had a green light....

...the show that aired took a darker, decidedly more surreal turn. As the first season progressed, Elliott's character remained friendly but become more delusion-prone and even a little psychotic. As a result, Get A Life became one of the first shows on television to deliberately upend a variety of sitcom tropes while paying homage to the genre. Chris Elliott's character was even killed off in 12 episodes. Vulture notes the show "set equal marks for prime-time inventiveness and viewer bewilderment." Grantland: It "blazed a trail for Arrested Development and Community and all the other freaky, convention-flouting TV comedies."

"Rather than relying on traditional sitcom plots, each episode found Elliott involved in a different adventure, such as building a working submarine in his home, taking care of a haunted house, or fighting a newspaper-delivering super-robot."

His father "Fred" on the show was played by his real-life Dad, Bob Elliott. Elliott's mom was played by Elinor Donahue, best known as Betty "Princess" Anderson on Father Knows Best.

Season One (1990-91)
1) Terror on the Hell Loop 2000
2) The Prettiest Week of My Life
3) Dadicus
4) A Family Affair
5) Pile of Death
6) Paperboy 2000
7) Drivers License
8) The Sitting
9) Bored Straight
10) Zoo Animals On Wheels (Chris joins the cast of an Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque play)
11) Roots
12) The Counterfeit Watch Story
13) Chris Vs. Donald
14) Chris Wins a Celebrity (Guest star: Martin Mull)
15) Houseboy 2000
16) Married
17) Camping 2000
18) The Construction Worker Show
19) The Big City
20) Neptune 2000
21) The One Where Chris and Larry Switch Lives
22) Psychic 2000

At the end of its first season, Get A Life was the highest-rated new show on Fox. It actually beat The Simpsons in the ratings, with an "11 rating and a 16 share, which is probably, these days, that’s the rating that The Big Bang Theory gets."

So of course, Fox cancelled it.

And then, almost immediately re-instated it to their Fall production schedule for half a season.

Season Two (1991-92)
1) Chris Moves Out
2) Larry on the Loose
3) Meat Locker 2000
4) Health Inspector 2000
5) Chris Gets His Tonsils Out
6) Prisoner of Love (Guest star: Nora Dunn)
7) Chris Becomes a Male Escort
8) Girlfriend 2000 (Guest star: Emma Samms)
9) Chris' Brain Starts Working
10) Bad Fish
11) SPEWEY and Me (Chris encounters the most disgusting space alien in the world, in a feral, savage parody of E.T and Mac And Me.)
Co-creator David Mirkin: "...when [Fox executives] saw it, they went into shock, basically. And when they called me, for the first time ever they said, 'We can’t air this episode. This is the first episode we can’t actually put on the air. It’s too disturbing.' And I was like, 'Wow.' This was a big deal. We’ve already spent $650,000, $700,000 or so. That’s a big eat. It’s going to be a big problem; it’s going to be a big fight. Very, very luckily, I had the episode sent up to the top of the network to Peter Chernin, and he came back and said, 'That’s the funniest episode you’ve ever done.'"

12) 1977 2000
13) Clip Show


Further Reading
* A/V Club: "Co-creator David Mirkin walks us through cult classic Get A Life": Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.
Mirkin: "This is a matter of easing someone into the vat of boiling acid over a longer period. So the pilot is the happiest, sunniest version of Chris. There are indications of his mental illness in it, but it’s the most lucid he is, it’s the quickest his mind works. You can absolutely track his deterioration through the series, so it makes sense that the pilot is sort of the pinnacle of what you’re going to see him operate at, his level of intelligence and lucidity. Yeah, it was consciously created to ease people into this instead of splash it all over them."

* Vulture: "Five Things You Never Knew About Get A Life"
* TV Tropes
* Chris Elliott, Cabin Man: Rolling Stone's 2008 Feature "Elliott went from NBC gofer to semi-fame as a juvenile oddball on 'Letterman,' but never tasted true Hollywood glory. Why the former 'Get a Life' star may be his generation's most underappreciated comic genius."
posted by zarq (52 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite
 
Alleycat earworm: commence!
posted by ocschwar at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I loved this show. But I could never get anyone to watch it with me. The one where Chris builds a submarine in his bathtub made me laugh so hard I hurt myself.
posted by Mchelly at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mchelly, there's a note in the Rolling Stone article...
Elliott says he and Resnick were determined that "no moments" of gooey earnestness would creep into their show. There were no redeeming characters in Get a Life — not only was Chris Peterson a moron, but everyone else, including his parents, were mercenary, if not downright nasty — and when the network suits demanded the inclusion of a heartwarming moment, as they did from time to time, Elliott and Resnick made sure it was torpedoed by an adjacent scene or line. When, for instance, the network insisted that Peterson and his father hug during a scene that involved a malfunctioning mini-submarine taking on water in Chris' shower, the elder Peterson prefaced the cheesy act with a warning: "Watch your hands."

posted by zarq at 11:55 AM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, this is the next few hours (or days) sorted. Thank you for this. I loved that show!
posted by shibori at 12:08 PM on August 20, 2015


I couldn't stand that show.
posted by oddman at 12:11 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved that show, and thought its humor was really sharp and smart. Also, it seems that I was eleven years old at the time. This should be an interesting re-watch.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:13 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


It also inspired a rap album, So...How's Your Girl by Handsome Boy Modeling School, which sampled from the show, and contains some really excellent tracks.
posted by A dead Quaker at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2015 [13 favorites]


I remember that episode where he moves out and his parents fill his room with concrete immediately. That slayed me.
posted by zzazazz at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really enjoy the feature on the Get a Life DVDs that allows you to turn off the laugh track. Mediocre jokes and sitcom tropes that would have normally resulted in peals of laughter from the mechanized audience land in eerie silence, heightening the otherwise dark mood of the show, but when something really works, you still hear the camera operators and production staff uncontrollably crack up.
posted by eschatfische at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2015 [25 favorites]


An amazingly divisive program. I know people who agree on nearly everything else in popular culture who fight like cats and dogs over whether this show is genius or the worst thing ever made.
posted by MrJM at 12:32 PM on August 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whoa no working link for episode 2?? That's the one where Chris attends the aforementioned Handsome Boy Modeling School!
posted by infinitewindow at 12:35 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought it was just a dream I had...
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:36 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry about that. I screwed up the html code. This is season one, episode 2: The Prettiest Week of My Life
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on August 20, 2015


Also, Chris Elliot is the son of Bob Elliot, Bob of the inimitable Bob and Ray.
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:38 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Until Arrested Development came along, Get a Life represented the last moment that I really, deeply cared about network TV. I lost a little respect for Letterman when Elliot came on in the wake of the failure of both Get a Life and Cabin Boy and Dave asked him, "So Chris, are you even still in show business?" I remember slamming my beer down on the coffee table and yelling, "he's a genius you smarmy fuck!"
posted by ryanshepard at 12:41 PM on August 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Adam Resnick was recently interviewed by Get a Life fan Mike Pesca on The Gist (warning: autoplay).
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:43 PM on August 20, 2015


Mod note: Fixed link, carry on.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:46 PM on August 20, 2015


Thank you, LM! You're awesome! :)
posted by zarq at 12:48 PM on August 20, 2015


No close captioning. Bummer.
posted by Beholder at 12:49 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


As hinted at upthread, after many years of legal wrangling, the full series is now available on DVD.
posted by Anoplura at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


maggiemaggie: "Also, Chris Elliot is the son of Bob Elliot"

And the father of fellow SNL veteran Abby Elliott.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:54 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nobody here watched Eagleheart? That's OK, I only got through two episodes.
posted by pashdown at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Adam Resnick was recently interviewed by Get a Life fan Mike Pesca on The Gist (warning: autoplay).

And also on the Best Show, whose creator Tom Scharpling and comedy partner Jon Wurster bonded over "Get A Life" and mine it for constant inspiration.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I lost a little respect for Letterman when Elliot came on in the wake of the failure of both Get a Life and Cabin Boy and Dave asked him, "So Chris, are you even still in show business?"

Considering that Elliott got his start on Letterman, and Dave's cameo in Cabin Boy, I'm sure that they were on good enough terms professionally to be able to trade jibes like that without drawing blood.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:04 PM on August 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Considering that Elliott got his start on Letterman, and Dave's cameo in Cabin Boy, I'm sure that they were on good enough terms professionally to be able to trade jibes like that without drawing blood.

Chris looked a little hurt - but, to be fair, the "coffee table" was more of a "beer table" that night, so I might have gotten a little carried away.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just want to say Cabin Boy is great, and I never settle for that flank steak bullshit!
posted by TedW at 1:22 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was tickled to discover that Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) even wrote a couple episodes of this show, specifically Prisoner of Love and 1977 2000 (with executive story editor Bob Odenkirk, no less!).
posted by dialetheia at 1:23 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd missed this show back in the 90s, and a while back ignignokt tried to get me to watch it. I lasted one episode, maybe two. It doesn't seem to have aged well.

Since I quit early on, I had no idea that the show took a dark turn. I'm not sure it it's worth trying again from the beginning, or if I should try a later episode. I probably would have forgotten about it altogether if it weren't for this post, so thanks!
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:43 PM on August 20, 2015


[this is so, so good]
posted by Busithoth at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2015


I've got two nieces and a nephew who owe their existence to my sister and brother-in-law bonding over their love for this show.
posted by whuppy at 2:15 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Best show ever! Great post!
posted by Nevin at 2:27 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Stand
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:44 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem to have aged well

You! You shut ... I mean, ack, you shut your .... GRAR!

*cough*

*choke* (wipes forehead)
posted by aramaic at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2015


I'm kinda afraid to,go back and watch these…
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:08 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem to have aged well.

Yeah, no, it came off like that in the '90s, too.
posted by eschatfische at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the laff track works, since anyone who is watching the show will listen to it ironically.
posted by Nevin at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody here watched Eagleheart? That's OK, I only got through two episodes.

Then you missed out on season 3, one of the weirdest, most deranged, yet well written and artfully directed series of "comedy show" episodes ever to air on US TV. The final episode, in particular (whose last sequence is a bizarre extended parody of Bob Fosse's All That Jazz), is worth seeking out.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:42 PM on August 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a really good post and now I have "Stand" earworming in my head right now.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:14 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda afraid to,go back and watch these…

Me too. :/ At the time it was subversive and pretty funny ISTR. You have to watch it in context - what was on TV at the time was pretty dire.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:17 PM on August 20, 2015


There was also It's Garry Shandling's Show, which did sort of the same thing (but, dare I say, better?)

It's weird to think that we're in a post-post-modernism era.
posted by Nevin at 5:33 PM on August 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ah, back in the days when "you're 30 years old and you still live with your parents!" was a pointed insult, instead of just describing a generation.
posted by teponaztli at 6:31 PM on August 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


(Saying this as someone who lived with his parents until a few years ago)
posted by teponaztli at 6:32 PM on August 20, 2015


zarq: “So of course, Fox cancelled it. ”
It's really astounding how bad they were at running a television network.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then you missed out on season 3, one of the weirdest, most deranged, yet well written and artfully directed series of "comedy show" episodes ever to air on US TV. The final episode, in particular (whose last sequence is a bizarre extended parody of Bob Fosse's All That Jazz), is worth seeking out.

You have convinced me to give this show another go! Top to bottom. Thank you!
posted by wyndham at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2015


This was my younger brother's favorite show.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:45 PM on August 20, 2015


If you don't like this show you are literally in ISIS, real talk.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:02 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I couldn't stand that show.

Dad?!
posted by Drastic at 8:35 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's really astounding how bad they were at running a television network.

There seems to be a mistake. Andy Richter Controls The Universe is not anywhere on that list, let alone its rightful place at number one.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oops, but yes, this is one of those shows that I'd rather just not know if you don't like it.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:53 PM on August 20, 2015


" I would never betray the muted beauty of the buttocks region!!"
posted by Mr.Me at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, back in the days when "you're 30 years old and you still live with your parents!" was a pointed insult, instead of just describing a generation.

His friend's wife acts and sounds like... I don't know what age, but not 30.
posted by limeonaire at 9:21 PM on August 20, 2015


The "Spewey" episode is still the funniest thing that has ever happened on television, under any circumstances, ever.
posted by wormwood23 at 9:25 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


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