John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

“Check It Out,” “Tim & Eric:” Intentionally bad TV is still bad

June 7th, 2010

The good news is that Tim & Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job! has finally run its course and played the finale of its last season. The bad news is that they’ve inspired a spin-off starring the slightly funnier John C. Reiley: Check It Out.

Now, I’m usually a fan of AdultSwim and I can look passed the typically low production values and even the low-brow “least common denominator” type of humor. I confess: campy can be funny at times.

Its one thing to have a good idea for a show and go ahead any way despite the silliness of it or the low quality of the content production, but its a whole other problem when “bad TV” becomes the concept behind the low-budget show. And bad TV is exactly what this franchise is all about: Whether they’re “parodying” late night infomercials or cheesy local newscasts, the reproduction of bad TV is just too accurate to be that funny.

Unfortunately, Pitchfork decided to rate Tim & Eric as one of the best TV shows of the decade, so that means an entire generation of culturally dead hipsters know that its the best thing ever even if they can’t describe why beyond saying “its ironic.” Really, what is ironic about finding informercial-like TV on at 12:30 and 4:30 AM? That’s not ironic at all – its exactly what you’d expect to see. Someone told me it was hilarious to see Fred Willard spoofing his own commercials & infomercials, but twenty years ago they ran that joke on Married with Children when he played a Florida swampland timeshare salesman – so don’t tell me Tim & eric is avant garde for re-running a decades’ old gag.

“Ahh, but the joke is the awkward social interaction!” I’ve been told. Great. This is the same reason people like “The Office.”

I’ll tell you what. If you’re really entertained by awkward social interactions, why don’t you just go to the mall and talk to random strangers? Why not go get a job in some random office building? You can have 9 hours a day of awkward socializing and you can even get paid for it, too!

What might be worst of all is that Tim & Eric seem to have some decent comedic tastes – but they only recognize it in other peoples’ work. The guest stars really are the best part of the program, but they’re never written in to any funny roles or situations. Its a glimmer of potential that literally gets drowned out in a sea of poop jokes.

Speaking of Cultural Decline and Rebirth

There’s still an up side to this whole cultural moment – and that is that we’re probably past the worst of the cultural decline. There’s good reason to believe that society repeats itself in approximately 80 year cycles, so we’re currently about 40 years from Woodstock and just about at the bottom point of social output in music, art, and television. If the summer of 1969 has an “opposite” social moment, it would be the thin and plastic mass-media culture that currently dominates through reality TV, spoofs with deadpan accuracy, and auto-tuned “singing” over slow-tempo three-chord riffs.

We’ve come a long way since Jimmi Hendrix, Country Joe McDonald, and Creedence Clearwater Revival shared a stage – and there aren’t a whole lot of people who would say artistic expression is better these days, no matter what age they’re at. For the first time in a while though, its starting to become acceptable for us to demand more – to criticize low standards and insist on some sort of deeper meaning and effort.  So maybe we’re not headed in to a new golden age of jazz and rock & roll.. but things can’t get much worse than Tim & Eric… can they?

tl;dr (for the hipsters):

Tim & Eric isn’t funny.  Everything they did has been done before, and by people with a better sense of humor & timing.  The only original joke here is the one they are playing on their fans, and the punchline hits every time a fan speaks up to defend the shows that are a perfect symbol for the low-point in society’s cultural output.

Sorry, I guess that tl;dr required a whole 30 seconds of attention span.




Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *