It’s laughs aplenty this week on The Shelf, with three of the best television comedies and a truly hilarious film parodying a whole genre of predictable schmaltz. Also on deck, a divisive entry in the robots turning into stuff oeuvre and a D-grade sci-fi movie worth talking about for one paragraph.
Romantic comedies, by and large, are my least favorite genre of movie. While there are outliers in every data set, I generally find them to be incredibly formulaic and trite and generally hokum for no reason. The scenarios stretch even the flimsiest of realities and the conflicts seem more forced than Shia LaBeouf attempting to not come across as douchey (it’s not gonna happen). Evidently, writers David Wain and Michael Showalter feel the same way about them and have decided to skewer every single trope in the history of the rom-com in what is probably the funniest film I’ve seen in who knows how long.
Though David Wain has directed a couple more mainstream comedies in the last few years like Role Models and Wanderlust, not to mention all his great work with Children’s Hospital, his masterpiece still seems to be 2001′s Wet Hot American Summer, which he also co-wrote with his The State and Stella cohort Michael Showalter. They Came Together feels like a continuation of that type of movie-making, with broad parody and absurd humor running the entire 83-minute length. It’s a very packed 83 minutes, though; I don’t think I stopped laughing for more than 45 seconds at a time.
New Girl Season 3
After a first season that took a little while to find the proper adorkable quotient, Fox’s New Girl really came into its own in the second season, eventually culminating in the answer to the Will They/Won’t They quandary with Zooey Deschanel’s titular Jess and Jake Johnson’s Nick much earlier than anyone expected. That answer: they will. This led to a third season which was all about re-establishing norms, with Schmidt (Max Greenfield) proving what a douche he can actually be and the return of the pilot episode’s Coach (Damon Wayans Jr). Winston (Lamorne Morris) became weirder and weirder as the year went on as the writers decided to just make him basically the most quirky and ridiculous of any of the characters, while with Cece (Hannah Simone), they went the other way and didn’t do anything with her, which is a shame. Still, anytime you get Johnson and/or Greenfield in a scene, I’m probably going to laugh and this season had no shortage of that nonsense.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 9
It’s so insane, and it makes me feel incredibly old, to think that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been on for almost a decade. That is nutso. For its ninth season, the gang gets up to ten episodes worth of depraved hilarity and takes on subjects like gun control, depression, religious persecution, and, as usual, getting high, as only they can, which is to say in a shockingly dark fashion. This season is especially notable for having a whole episode be a Flowers for Algernon parody with a scientist doing an experiment on Charlie to make him smart. This was written by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Just the funniest.
The League Season 5
Also hard to believe The League has been on for five years, but the travails of a fantasy football league and their disparate members still makes with the funny. Standout episodes this season include “Rafi and Dirty Randy,” written by Jason Mantzoukas and Seth Rogen and focused entirely on their characters going to Los Angeles to avenge the death of their friend and to get into the world of profession (legitimate) pornography, as well as another similar idea as Sunny, “Flowers for Taco,” where Taco becomes immediately smarter once he stops being high for a little while. Both super weird and both quite funny.
Transformers: Beast Machines The Complete Series
The Transformers saga went organic in the mid-90s with the premiere of the divisive (but ultimately, I think, super awesome) Beast Wars which had the Autobots and Decepticons’ descendants, the Maximals and Predacons, leaving Cybertron, crashing into pre-humanity Earth, and picking animal forms to continue their war. The show used some awesome (for the time) CG animation and the storytelling was actually quite good, especially later on in the series. The success of this led to a follow-up series, developed by Marv Wolfman and moved from syndication to the Fox Network’s Saturday morning lineup. This show was Beast Machines, which became even more divisive among fans for its somber tone, serialized format, and heavy spiritual themes.
After apparently winning the Beast Wars, the Maximals wake up back on Cybertron, only to find that Megatron has somehow taken over and all other individual sparks (or souls) are gone. The Maximals have little to no memory of anything that happened and slowly find out that it may have been their fault Megatron has become the supreme deity. They also find out they’re down two team members and don’t know why. Megatron employs Vehicons, pretty much just a return to Decepticon-style baddies, as his generals and Optimus Primal has to thwart his nemesis’ machine-only extremism by becoming more balanced between nature and technology. So, Buddhism basically. While not everyone’s cup of tea at all, I think Beast Machines is a fitting, if melancholy, follow-up to Beast Wars.
I’m including this here simply because it’s a sci-fi movie made for little kids and was one of the last of the Roger Corman-produced Star Wars rip-offs. What’s particularly notable is that all of the space effects shots and the entire score (by James Cameron and James Horner, respectively) were taken from the earlier, and infinitely better, Battle Beyond the Stars. Just used in their entirety. It’s hilarious, especially because it’s only three years after that movie came out. Makes me laugh.