It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season 11

Always Sunny

This was a weird season. Almost every episode was either something completely out of the ordinary or 20 minutes of fan service. There were a lot of callbacks. Yeah, Sunny has always been a show that gleefully builds on its history, like Rickety Cricket’s season-to-season degradation, but it was a little much this time around. I realize episodes like “Frank Falls Out the Window” were supposed to be funny in how much they retreaded. However, I would have preferred something original. And not “The Gang Hits the Slopes” original, either. While that episode was certainly a great spoof of 80s teen movies, the characters didn’t feel like themselves. I mean, Dennis, Dee, and Mac are good at skiing now? And Charlie’s not afraid to sleep with a woman who isn’t the waitress? It just felt off. I also really didn’t like the POV Frank episode, either. That was so nauseating…

Maybe we can consider Season 11 the experimental one. I guess 11 years in, TV creators are allowed to do that, though let’s not forget that Always Sunny has shorter seasons than most sitcoms. If the episodes were merged into standard 20+ chunks, it’d be like Season 5 that’s starting to crumble and run out of ideas. But I’m not saying the show’s done. I’m not ready to see Sunny die in the same way I wanted The League to finally be put down. The Gang is still funny and can still deliver a great episode here and there. “Charlie Catches a Leprechaun,” for instance, felt like classic material that highlighted the characters’ awfulness in new ways. And the two-part cruise ship storyline at the end helped redeem some of the things that didn’t feel right earlier in the season. Ultimately, there were more misses than hits, but I’ll take those few hits over what most other shows can offer.

iZombie – Season 1

iZombie

There are two previous shows that iZombie heavily reminds me of: Psych and Heroes. But don’t worry, iZombie is better than both of those. It features a woman pretending to be a psychic as she aids the local police, only the catch is that she’s really a zombie who’s been eating the brains of the victims to stay alive. The fact that the brains give her new memories and personality quirks was a cool idea, until I realized we’d seen this before in the form of Sylar from Heroes. Regardless, Liv is a fun character, and it’s entertaining to see what the “brain of the week” does to her. It’s just strange how some brains affect her more than others, according to the whims of the writers.

In fact, the writing can be pretty clunky overall as it strives to squeeze in as many zingers as possible. Why does everyone need to have a witty comeback for everything? That said, it should come as no surprise this is a somewhat lighthearted show. At least, the first half of Season 1 is. Things get a little darker near the end as the overarching plot becomes more relevant. It’s weird, then, how the show continues to shoehorn in the weekly murder case when the stakes are so high. I started to get a little annoyed with the character Liv in the same way I was annoyed with Jessica Jones; her selfish reluctance to do anything about the big bad guy just gets more people killed.

Which brings me to the finale, something that was both a good and bad kind of frustrating. It left a lot to look forward to in Season 2 but didn’t deliver a very satisfying payoff with the antagonist. And, by the way, the bad guy’s whole operation teetered on ridiculous. He, too, is a zombie who deliberately infects rich people so he can sell them brains at a high price. How is this a sustainable business model, though?! In the end, you realize there are just way too many zombies in Seattle, and that detracts from Liv’s uniqueness. But I hesitate to keep calling them zombies, anyway, since they act and look more like vampires. Whatever you think of them as, the characters and the detective aspect of the show are enjoyable, and I’ll definitely check out Season 2 when I have the chance.

F is for Family – Season 1

F is for Family

I’ll admit, the only reason I gave this show a chance was due to my love for Netflix’s other animated original, Bojack Horseman. But F is for Family is no Bojack. It’s much crasser, darker, and down to earth. If you were expecting something like Family Guy, you’ll be disappointed. It’ll probably remind you more of Married With Children (minus the laugh track). The father figure here, Frank, is yelly and belligerent, and his grievances are so relatable it hurts. This is a guy that feels like he’s barely holding it together, and Bill Burr does a great job voicing the character’s frustrations. The funniest moments come from the remarks he makes to his kids, like when Kevin ungratefully asks what’s for dinner, and Frank replies, “More free food. What are you bitching about?”

Being a sitcom of sorts, though, we do have to deal with the kids… a lot. This means suffering through boring and sometimes pointless B stories where the characters just aren’t that interesting. The majority of the cast—including the kids, their friends, and Frank’s co-workers—comes across as a little weak. I know we’re supposed to care about the family as a whole, but the show only worked for me when everyone was in the same household together. The union drama at Frank’s work was so forgettable, my mind actually started tuning it out. Not that the show has to be funny at all times. It’s not, even when the family is together. This is a more realistic approach to animated sitcoms, after all. Think King of the Hill with more anger and less propane. Have I name-dropped enough shows yet? The point is, F is for Family isn’t necessarily unique, but it’s good enough that I hope Netflix gives it a second season.

Z Nation – Season 2

Z Nation

The first season of Z Nation took me by surprise. The show really had no right to be good, and on a technical level, it wasn’t. But it was fun in a silly, campy way and wasn’t afraid to take risks with the zombie genre that the competition (The Walking Dead) has been afraid of in recent years. That’s still true for Z Nation’s second season, but the show, unfortunately, has doubled down on the ridiculousness to the point where I’m not sure if I’ll tune in next time. In a universe where zombies are real, I guess I should be more open to things like Murphy’s ability to mind-control the dead and the fact that his blood and bite have supernatural properties. It can go overboard at times, though, and fluctuates between being unique and just being outright dumb.

But what’s strange about this show is that when it wants to hit an emotional beat, it hits it hard. This is what I like about Z Nation over The Walking Dead. Major character deaths are actually sad. They’re not cheap shots; characters die for believable reasons. And some of the situations they’re put in, like being forced to steal medicine from a peaceful community, are a somber reminder of what a real apocalypse could be like. Season 2 doesn’t have as many great ideas as Season 1 did, though. The only standout episode was number 6, “The Collector,” where Murphy stumbles across a crazy loner hellbent on documenting zombie culture. While the group did cover a lot of ground this season, most of the other storylines were either them dealing with one-off communities or running away from bounty hunters.

That said, there were some decent action sequences, but most of them had to do with humans fighting humans. Yeah, in a zombie apocalypse, it’s probably true that other people would be your main concern. Still, as a zombie show, I was expecting more… well, zombies. Maybe the money they saved on zombie make-up went towards everything else. Season 2 does feel like a slightly bigger and better production overall. Don’t take that to mean Season 2 is leaps and bounds above Season 1, though. It’s not. This show still has a long ways to go if it’s ever going to be taken seriously. Granted, the show doesn’t take itself seriously, which is kind of the point, but it could benefit from fewer zombie babies and mad scientists without sacrificing the humor.

Real Rob – Season 1

Real Rob

This kind of felt like Curb Your Enthusiasm but with Rob Schneider, and… well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how it ultimately turned out. After the first episode, I was still optimistic he’d pull this off, though. Schneider is a good actor. He just needs someone to write better material for him. But if Real Rob is as “real” as it suggests, then Schneider just comes across as a rich asshole. He quickly devolves into an unlikable character on the show, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Real Rob was merely a chance for him to trot out his family. It stars his real life wife and daughter, the latter getting her name in the opening credits despite not being able to talk (and not appearing in every episode). His wife’s performance wasn’t very convincing, either. It was obvious this was her first time on screen. Yet I can almost hear Schneider saying, “You may not find me funny, but at least my wife is hot.”

Real Rob doesn’t paint a flattering picture of Schneider’s personal life. Granted, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm could be a jerk, too, but it felt more justified there and was actually funny. I stopped laughing at Real Rob in Episode 2. That’s when they busted out the cliched vasectomy storyline. I mean, seriously… if you’re already doing a vasectomy story in the second episode, your show’s never going to last. And the delivery is so scattered. Episodes are randomly interrupted by scenes of Schneider doing stand-up. Is he still performing stand-up in real life? The show doesn’t ever acknowledge this. It feels out of place. But not as out of place as the cutaway talking head interviews. Then suddenly, it’s like we’re watching a reality TV show. But nothing else about the presentation suggests it’s supposed to be taken that way.

Don’t worry, if those segments bother you, the show abandons them near the end, anyway. But that late in the game, Real Rob has already resorted to cringe-worthy impressions and scenes of having diarrhea on the toilet, so who knows what they were going for. Any sympathy the show may have tried to convey in the beginning is completely lost, and what we’re left with is basically an Adam Sandler movie without the Sandler. What’s funny is that one of Real Rob’s storylines is about Schneider getting upset over the changes a TV network wants to make to a show he wrote. But if Real Rob is what happens when Schneider gets his way, then he should really go back to listening to the network.

The League – Season 7

The League

I’m ashamed to admit that The League was once one of my favorite shows. Season 4 in particular was great, when they actually started surpassing It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as far as mean-spirited comedies are concerned. But then Season 5 happened, and the show has sucked ever since. Like, so much suck. At this point, I’m just glad the series is finally dead. I stopped liking most of these characters a long time ago. Pete had become an insufferable douchebag, and Taco’s EBDB shtick was relentlessly obnoxious. Season 7 also brought another set of Ruxin-less episodes and didn’t use Rafi that much, either. Those two were pretty much carrying the show lately, so leaving them both out kind of stung.

Ah, but then there’s the obligatory “Rafi and Dirty Randy episode,” and Season 7’s was, by far, the worst they’ve ever done. It actually started out promising with Sophia’s death and the possibility that Ruxin made it all up, but then we got a terrible animated short that confirmed Sophia was, in fact, dead, and that chupacabras are real, and that Rafi only works as a real person in a real world and not as an over-the-top cartoon. It’s like the The League completely forgot how to use Rafi’s character correctly. At least Season 7 had the balls to finally knock Pete down a few pegs and give Andre a few wins. Having Andre (happily) date Pete’s ex-wife made for some nice comeuppance.

Of course, this being The League and all, and considering how much the writers have been in love with Pete, he still came out on top in the end. Which really irked me, because the season/series finale was doing so many other things right. I laughed more times during the finale than I laughed over the course of the rest of the season. We got to see Ruxin’s hilarious son again, and I’m glad Shiva came back one last time, but it was Larry David’s cameo that really brought a smile to my face. Seeing him on The League made me wish this show had stayed good. But Season 7 (like the two seasons before it) felt like nobody cared anymore. The stories were lazy, the jokes unoriginal, and the characters grating. So good riddance, I guess, and rest in peace.