Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rulebook Casefile: Using Objects to Make the Theme Quieter

Taking care of someone else’s kids is always a strong comedic premise, so much so that “Louie” has used it three times, so it’s natural to start this show by following in those illustrious shoes.

But this show is a little more traditional than “Louie”, because Aziz Ansari’s comedy is more mainstream than Louie C.K’s. This will be a less abrasive show. In other words, it will have more learning and growing. But that’s tricky: How do you avoid the “Modern Family” problem, in which the characters end the sitcom by sitting down and telling us explicitly what this week’s theme was and what they’ve learned? How do you show that our hero has thought about everything he’s seen and learned a little bit about himself, without spelling it out ?

This show has a brilliant ending that quietly and humorously accomplishes this:
  • Dev has dropped the kids back off with their mom when another friend brings over gourmet sandwiches. Just as they’re about to dig in, the kids come in the room: They’ve made their own sandwiches for everyone (peanut butter, lettuce and ketchup) and eagerly want everyone to eat them. Their loving mom announces that she’s going to eat their sandwich instead. Dev is clearly moved by the kids’ gesture of love, but decides to eat the gourmet sandwich instead, then tries to eat the mom’s gourmet sandwich as well, if she’s not going to touch it. Cut to credits.
This works for many reasons:
  • It’s funny.
  • It’s something most of us have experienced, but for whatever reason we haven’t seen a lot of onscreen before. These are the sorts of moment you desperately need to find. It reminded me of real situations I’ve been in with both my own and other people’s kids, rather than other sitcom situations.
  • It’s a genuinely painful dilemma! On the one hand, how could he say no to those adorable open-hearted kids, on the other hand, how could he eat that disgusting sandwich instead of the delicious-looking one?
So we have learning and growing (or maybe shrinking) with no hugging or heartfelt declarations. Using the power of objects, kids are transmuted into sandwiches, allowing him to reject one by rejecting the other, and delivering an ending that’s funny and light instead of serious and leaden.

1 comment:

The Prufeshanul said...

Hey Matt - great site!

There are tons of moments like these in the Curb Your Enthusiasm series. Anyone looking for inspiration should think of a similar "WTF Larry?" moment in there.