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Balancing the Cosmos: Good Stuff This Week

September 24, 2009

You know, we don’t like to hate. We really don’t. We don’t like tearing down. We want to build up as well. So to atone for our frequent crankiness, we thought it might help our karma a bit to share the things we’re actually liking right now. Because — believe it or not — there’s some great stuff going on in this world too. Things like:

Ricky Gervais…in anything: The Brit comic, presumably because his new film The Invention of Lying opens on Friday, has popped up in the past week on the Emmy Awards, where he self-deprecatingly mocked his own looks and those of his peers, and on The Tonight Show, where he shared a rather cheeky new game he plays in his pajamas. No amount of Gervais could be too much Gervais, and it’s still mindboggling that he’s still not truly a household name here in the states, given his almost godlike royalty status in the UK.

Grizzly Bear with Michael McDonald: Brother Caleb wrote about this a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating that indie darling Grizzly Bear’s B-side collaboration with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald remains the perfect way to bridge the generational gap between your supercute record store girlfriend and your 54 year-old uncle who still drives a Toronado.

Hannibal Buress: The on-the-rise comic is adored by his stand-up peers and was just tapped to join the writing cast of Saturday Night Live. So why haven’t you heard of him yet? Well, now you have

Living Colour is back! Vernon Reid and the gang have bounced back with a new album, The Chair in the Doorway, that’s receiving great reviews (Rolling Stone calls it their “most focused” since debut Vivid), and they’re starting to pop up on television again, like this past week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. That’s enough to make us get our Body Glove gear back down from the attic.

NBC Thursday: While we still are being made to wait for 30 Rock, the NBC must-see TV block returned strong last Thursday with a strong Office premiere and the solid return of Parks and Recreation, the latter being one we liked but were slightly iffy on last season. Looks like it’s going to be alright. Pair that with a primetime incarnation of SNL Weekend Update, which was slightly rocky but featured an opening political sketch as good as any the show aired last year, and the new Joel McHale/Chevy Chase show Community, which is overhyped but definitely funny. It’s still a great night of television.Let’s hear it for the end of summer reruns.

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: Say what you will about the mismatched pair, but there’s something surreally hilarious about watching them take the stage during the ten o’clock hour of the Today Show and slowly begin to unravel any credibility Lauer and Viera may have struggled to bring to the morning show in the few hours prior. Add to the fact that they’re drinking constantly and unabashedly, at ten o’clock in the morning, and you have a real-life situation that’s even more off-the-rails funny than the SNL sketches that mock it. It’s head-shaking television, and there’s something kind of fun about that.

The Where the Wild Things Are Trailer: Spike Jonze, the visionary director and frequent Charlie Kaufman collaborator behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, is back behind the lens after a long absence with the upcoming adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. The film has supposedly gone through many different iterations with Jonze on its way to the big screen, but the visage of the book’s monsters in the film’s trailer, paired with the music of The Arcade Fire, looks intoxicating. And apparently, Sendak fully endorses the film. That’s good enough for me.

An Hour of Cheers every night: The Hallmark Channel has never held much of anything interesting to me, with its shmaltzy TV movies and Touched by an Angel marathons. But you’re denying yourself the good things in life if you dont’ have your TiVo set to tape an hour of Cheers every night as you sleep through the wee hours. The two-ep block, which airs from 2:00 to 3:00 am each morning, will remind you why Cheers is, in this writer’s opinion at least, the greatest television show ever. The past few weeks have seen aired both the “Cliff on Jeopardy” episode and the perfect farce of the “Woody’s wedding” episode. There’s two reasons right there. Trust me, there are hundreds more.

The interviews of And Here’s the Kicker: If you’re any sort of student of comedy, have any interest in what’s funny or what makes things funny, or just find yourself fascinated by the creative process, you should have Mike Sacks’ book And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on your bedside table. From Bob Odenkirk’s dissection of Mr. Show and Buck Henry’s alternate ending to The Graduate to Harold Ramis’ ruminations on Caddyshack and Stephen Merchant extolling why each name in the original Office was specifically chosen, the book’s an entertaining look into the motivations of the funniest currently living writers.

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