S1E11: Here’s what happens when I watch $#*! My Dad Says. I sit, usually in my desk chair, and watch. The show goes on, telling bad joke after bad joke. And with each bad joke, I think to myself, “Wow, that wasn’t funny,” over and over. But it doesn’t stop. The jokes, they just keep coming and coming. And I’m like, “Wait, is this happening? Is this for real?” And the show is like, “Yes, we’re serious with these jokes.” And then I’m like, “But why, this is so stupid!” And then the show is like, “Yeah, sorry, it’s just the way it is. And guess what? On top of these stupid jokes, we’re going to shove canned laughter down your throat!” So then I’m like, “No! Please! Stop! I don’t want you to do these horrible things anymore!” And the show is like, “Tough. We don’t care.” Then I’m like, “Damn it. Life sucks.” And so by the end of the half hour, my mood has gradually changed from the typically, happy-go-lucky type of person I am to someone ready to jump off a six story building. That’s what SMDS does to me. It makes me want to kill myself.
Because, here’s the thing about multi-camera sitcoms. There is no middle ground. If your jokes or gags don’t work, they REALLY don’t work. The reason? Canned laughter. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one who hates everything and anything about canned laughter (I love The Big Bang Theory, Seinfeld, or numerous other multi-camera sitcoms). But, there’s something that happens when a show makes a bad joke, but yet for some reason, the “studio audience” is dying of laughter. It makes the joke seem even worse than it actually was.
And that’s what SMDS on a weekly basis. It’s not really a show. It’s a half hour trying to convince us that it’s a show. With each bad joke, I feel like the show, using the laughter as its argument, is saying, “Please! We are funny! Trust us! Laugh with us!” But it’s not funny. So when SMDS forces the canned laughter down our throats, it makes the bad comedy even worse.
So let’s look at what happened in this week’s episode, entitled “Family Dinner for Schmucks.” As you can imagine, there was a dinner involved, but Ed didn’t like the idea, so he yells at Bonnie. That makes Bonnie mad, so then, of course, Ed is sorry and “learn something.” And also, guess what? Ed called Henry a schmuck because he has “manners.” But then, Ed suddenly learns that having “manners” is “okay” and they all make up and have another dinner. And that’s, well, it. Yay for television on CBS!
One of my main problems with this show is that nothing is ever earned. The characters are completely one dimensional, and they’re never put through any challenges so they can experience growth. Sorry, scratch that. They are put through challenges, but they’re the exact type of challenges you would imagine they go through. Look at Ed and the hotshot doctor he admires this week. As soon as we’re introduced to this guy and he expresses his love for Ed, we immediately assume that there’s probably something wrong with him. He’s just too perfect. And what do you know? We’re right. He ends up cutting corners with his patients, and Ed suddenly learns that he takes his son for granted, and that Henry has way more character than this doctor guy. And, okay? Not to say this isn’t a plot line that couldn’t work, but when it happens with characters that don’t have any layers, we pretty much know everything that’s going to happen. This doctor guy was SO PERFECT that we knew there would be something wrong with him. So when Ed realizes it, there’s no big reveal. His reaction is exactly how we would expect him to react. There’s no surprise. Nothing. And what’s the fun in watching a show that’s predictable?
Some may argue that’s an okay approach for a multi-camera sitcom because the shows aren’t necessarily about the story or characters, but instead, they’re about creating funny jokes and gags. Okay, fine, I can get that argument. I mean, that’s what I say about The Big Bang Theory nearly every week. But the difference between SMDS and TBBT is that TBBT is actually funny (well, at least it used to be). SMDS isn’t. All the jokes on SMDS feel calculated, predictable, and boring. In the same sense that the story line is predictable, so are the jokes. So again, what’s the fun in watching a show where you can see nearly every gag or joke that they’re going to do coming from a mile away?
Maybe I’m just a jaded TV critic who expects too much out of television shows, but I just don’t get the appeal of SMDS. I don’t understand why so many people watch it. I don’t understand where the humor is. I just don’t “get” it. And frankly, I don’t think I ever will.