Things That Annoy Snotsnit Issue 4: Things Which Aren’t The Critic
Granted, the title isn’t necessarily true, but I’m using this as a chance to write about The Critic. Oh, by the way, welcome to another edition of “Things That Annoy Snotsnit”, which now that I think about it probably should be called “Things Which Annoy Snotsnit” but I RUN THIS SHOW SO LIVE WITH IT.
So many of you reading this probably know that my favorite show of ALL TIME is The Critic. If any of you reading this have never heard of The Critic, go to YouTube and just look up clips from the show, and then go impale yourself on a rusty nail.
Harsh, I know, but hey, it’s like murder, you’re not gonna just get 20 hours of community service for killing 8 people. The point is, the punishment is justified. But seriously, for those of you wondering just what The Critic is, you’ve come to the right place.
The Critic was created by two archangels of writing: Al Jean and Mike Reiss. If these names sound familiar it’s because they were both writers on The Simpsons during its golden years. Also it was produced by James L. Brooks who produces The Simpsons. Another contributing writer was some two-bit, underachieving, super sexy stud, nobody named Judd Apatow (who writes every comedy these days).
The talent on the show was stupendous. Voicing the main character, Jay Sherman, was Jon Lovitz. Voicing his son is Christine Cavanaugh (who you may recognize as Chuckie Finster and Dexter). Voicing Jay’s sister (and other characters) is Nancy Cartwright who voices Bart Simpson. The character of Doris is voiced by Doris Grau who also voiced Lunchlady Doris on The Simpsons. The Godlike Maurice LaMarche voices about 80 billion characters on the show. Voicing many various characters is Kath Soucie who has done waaaay too many things to list. The late action film star Charles Napier (WHO THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES DECIDED TO EXCLUDE FROM THEIR IN MEMORIAM SEGMENT THIS YEAR THOSE BASTARDS) voices the very memorable boss of Jay Sherman: Duke Phillips. Also voicing many characters is Tress MacNeille (just look her up on wikipedia).
What have we learned from that last paragraph my friends? THIS SHOW HAS A WHOLE LOT OF FREAKING TALENT.
The premise of the show is that Jay Sherman is an unlikable film critic. He has to review all sorts of really crappy films, which they show you clips of in the show. Jay is divorced and has to deal with his ex-wife, who hates his guts, and his son (who he loves the heck out of). His boss is a bit of egomaniacal powerhouse. He also has to deal with his family who are all sorts of weird, I won’t spoil it for you…who am I kidding, of course I will. Look at this compilation of clips of Jay’s father:
In each episode, Jay gets into some sort of “hijinks ensue” (not actual hijinks, hijinks being my filler word for “television happens”). There isn’t really an overarching plot to the show other than the fact that nobody likes Jay Sherman and he gets no respect, so you can feasibly pick up any episode and enjoy it without being confused by what is happening.
The real genius of the show is the writing (what else would it really be?). The writers are able to make high and low humor jokes. Some of the humor might go over your head, and it’s intended to. Some of the jokes are directed at the high brow socialite New Yorker who reads every author under the sun. Then again, some of the humor is fart humor. Most of it lies in between at a level witty enough to appeal to all groups and make them laugh at the same time. That is the genius of the show: the wit. If one were to remove the wit from The Critic all they would have is a funny 30 Rock (not really, that’s just my dig at 30 Rock).
That’s not to say the show didn’t have its low points. Granted, a low point for The Critic is equal to a high point in many comedies today. The problem is though that some points in the show could be mistaken for low points. Unfortunately the semi-high brow humor the show loved to wag in front of viewers faces turned off some viewers (what a surprise). The variety of humor probably threw people off too. The humor can go from Ed Koch (former mayor of New York City) jokes to a joke about a truckers comparing which historical woman’s rights activists they have on the flaps on the back of their trucks.
Another issue was that it became hard to believe in the show’s central point: that Jay Sherman is unlikable. The more we see Jay Sherman the more we begin to like him. Soon the thought crosses our minds “wait…why is he unlikable again?” The show provides us with reasons like his sometimes snooty attitude, his steadfast love for French cinema, and the numerous characters’ general disdain for him. Here’s the problem, beyond the snooty attitude, none of these things do anything to prove to US (the viewers at home) that he’s unlikable, we’re just supposed to accept their word for it as fact.
Now you might be wondering, “so what if he’s likable, isn’t that a good thing?” Well for a normal show it would be; however, this is The Critic and it ain’t your normal show. The character of Jay Sherman in Season 1 RELIES on you not liking him for his character to work. It explains why his love life is non-existent, it explains why he has very few friends, it explains why his ex-wife left him, it explains the gags in the intros to every episode, it explains why he’s a film critic, it explains why his job doesn’t seem to have the most positive work environment, it explains why his family is so rude to him, it explains why he’s an orphan, it explains his weird cough (okay not really that one) it really does explain practically everything. Once we get to season 2, all of a sudden Jay is supposed to become likable though due to the introduction of a love interest. The networks thought that Jay wasn’t likeable enough and decided that a love interest would improve his image. THOSE STUPID NETWORK EXECUTIVES! While the the characters they introduced to make Jay more likeable were in fact great characters, they were unnecessary. Basically they were saying they didn’t like the show itself. The thing is, the way show introduces the love interest, it makes it seem as if this woman was able to see past all of his flaws and love this unlikable film critic. That’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t make sense if you find Jay Sherman likable in the first place. It just doesn’t make any sense!
This issue doesn’t seem to affect most viewers; it affects me a bit. Oddly I like a show with flaws, it allows me to take the show and imagine how it could be improved if I was doing it. The flaws actually make me like the show more and improve it in my eyes. Maybe I’m just a bit weird like that.
Unfortunately this show was marred by a huge problem. After Season 1, the show was cancelled by ABC. Luckily the show was picked up for its second season by FOX. However, there was another problem. One of the higher ups at FOX seemed not to like the humor of the show which doomed it from day 1. The show was cancelled after its second season. A “third season” of very short webisodes was made to satiate the starving fan. Though when you watch them they seem more like pot roasts being fed to someone who just a 3 T-bone steaks: unsatisfying. They get rid of the (by now) likeable love interest of Jay who somehow is now just perpetually likable because he hooks up with a different girl (again defeating the purpose of the show). Most fans try to pretend that these webisodes don’t exist.
This show did not last as long as it should have and that is truly a shame. The Critic was in its time, one of the greatest animated shows ever made and one of the funniest shows period on television. If you’re looking to watch a new TV show in near future, watch The Critic (I BEG OF YOU).