Welcome to the Blade blog Culture Shock, a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings here, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.
As far as memorably funny episodes go, last night's The Office was a let down. No doubt the hourlong ep featuring the long-awaited marriage of Jim and Pam will be a ratings grabber, but I found it to be uneven. There were the expected funny-awkward moments, followed by some awkwardly not-so-funny ones.
It's been that way for the NBC sitcom since the season opener. With the introduction of a marriage between main characters, and the upcoming addition of Jim and Pam's baby — each fabled sitcom killers on their own, and in tandem a League of Doom for half-hours — you wonder how much longer until The Office writers run out of clever, original material and the show devolves into yet another reliably unfunny network sitcom.
I hope it never comes down to that for The Office, but I'd be lying if I said I thought that scenario won't happen. Classic half-hours like All in the Family, Happy Days, M*A*S*H, and Roseanne taught me that great sitcoms don't get yanked from the air because of an expiration date, they are slowly, painfully stretched out years past their prime by network execs who cannot let go of a once good thing. How else can you explain Archie Bunker's Place?
A notable exception to this network rule also happens to be one of the great sitcoms — certainly the best from the previous decade — Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld and Co. had the sense to know when to end their show: while it was at the top. Fans and network brass loved Seinfeld, so when Seinfeld announced he was finished with his show, there was a great deal of disappointment. Everyone wanted more. Which is the point.
And now Curb Your Enthusiasm* is brilliantly tapping into that desire as the major story line of this season, as David, the real-life Seinfeld co-creator, works furiously to bring back the Seinfeld cast for a reunion. It's an inspired idea that gives Seinfeld fans what they want, and gives Curb Your Enthusiasm a sizable ratings boost.
Perhaps The Office writers can be so inspired as well. Maybe even a plot that involves a reunion of the cast from the original British version of The Office. But if not, perhaps the writers, as well as The Office producers and cast, will have the courtesy to end their show before it's too late; before NBC gives us Dwight Schrute's Place.
* [EDITOR'S NOTE: It was just pointed out to me that I published the incorrect title to Larry David's HBO show as The Larry David Show in today's Culture Shock. The name of the series is Curb Your Enthusiasm. I made the correction in the blog.
FOR THE RECORD: I watch Curb weekly when it's a new episode, and have several seasons of the series on DVD. Chalk up my mistake to a very late-night, bleary-eyed posting. Your pop culture pal, Kirk]
I'll be reviewing the Jeff Dunham performance for Saturday's Blade. I'm looking forward to the event, especially the opportunity to check out the new arena with a packed audience. **
If anyone is going to the show, e-mail, text or tweet me and lemme know what you think of it and the new arena.
**In another update, I will NOT be reviewing Dunham. Instead, the paper wants me to chat with attendees to tonight's performance and get their take on the new venue. So, don't be surprised if a reporter from The Blade stops you as you're waiting in a concession line or after you exit the bathroom to get your thoughts on the Lucas County Arena. Feel free to send me your comments, too, via e-mail or tweets.
Oh, if I have the time, I may blog a small review of the Dunham performance, since I'll be at the show anyway.
So, Friday night I'll be at the arena for Jeff Dunham. Saturday and Sunday I'll be at the Valentine Theatre for The Black Swamp International Film Festival. There looks to be some great indie films — feature length, short, foreign, animated — so check it out if you can. This is your chance to help prove Toledo deserves a film festival. I think it does.
For a list of films and schedules, ticket prices, and contact information, visit the festival's Web site.
Also, look for a Saturday and Sunday blog with mini reviews of the movies and my general impressions of the event, followed by a complete wrap-up of the festival in Monday's Blade. I'll be tweeting the festival, too. Yes, for those who are following me on Twitter, I'm finally going to get active with my tweets. This time, I mean it. I promise. No, really.
Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-724-6734.
LINK: For all of Kirk Baird's Culture Shock riffs