There was this sense that it wasn’t going to last, so the network wasn’t really going to try to fix it. I’m not sure you could get away with those things on a show that isn’t about to be canceled.
An oral history of “Freaks and Geeks”? Sure, I guess. I mean, there’s an audience for everything, so maybe that’s the kind of thing that will interest a few people? (And yes, it’s just as delightful as you might hope.)
When they came in and [pitched the show], you could feel the room shudder. “What kind of show would be in a bar? How do we handle all the alcohol?” But the Charles brothers very clearly said, “This isn’t about the place. This is about a family; it just happens not to be a group of brothers and sisters.”
I have mentioned before how I really enjoy oral histories. They’re great! Just the best. So obviously I enjoyed GQ‘s oral history of “Cheers,” considered by many to be one of the four greatest sitcoms in television history (the list also includes “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and, yes, “Arrested Development,” and I realize the problems inherent in focusing on shows from the last three decades, and I also realize the issue of “Arrested Development” running for just three seasons, and I candidly admit that both “All in the Family” and “I Love Lucy” should be judged relative to the eras in which they aired, but — but! — these things are all subjective).
Also! I believe the version GQposted online is actually longer than the one that appeared in the print edition, which means it has lots of additional material, which is quite nice.
These guys were so competitive. You couldn’t play for an hour and a half with them frothing at the mouth, because they’d kill each other. A regular NBA team, if you’re lucky, has one or two of these guys. We had twelve. They don’t want to lose a drill, don’t want to lose a shooting game, don’t want to lose anything.
— Because I love oral histories, and because (as an NBA fan) I have a great interest in the Dream Team, and because GQ published an oral history of the Dream Team, obviously I have to link to it right away. The entire thing is fantastic, just chock full of delightful quotes and morsels. (Also: “You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey?” It’s a really great read.)
“The Dana Carvey Show” aired just eight episodes in 1996 before being abruptly yanked off the airwaves. The primetime sketch comedy series infamously began with President Clinton breast-feeding puppies, so you can probably imagine why ABC wound up canning it. (To see the rest of what ABC found so objectionable, check out the entire series on Hulu.) The surreal, oddball show’s renown has skyrocketed over the years, largely because of the unbelievable talent working on the series: Louis C.K., Charlie Kaufman, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Robert Smigel, Spike Feresten and Robert Carlock were on the staff, among others.
GQ, which apparently specializes in must-read oral histories nowadays, has done the world another great service and assembled an oral history of “The Dana Carvey Show.” It is terrific and you should read it.
I really enjoyed James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’s oral history of “Saturday Night Live,” so I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their ESPN oral history, “Those Guys Have All the Fun.” The book’s release is looming, so expect to hear a lot about it over the next week. GQ has printed an excerpt focused on Keith Olbermann, and it might come as a surprise to learn that he was somewhat difficult in his time there. The book drops May 24.
You don’t need a reason to enjoy an oral history of the Beastie Boys. Still, this year marks the 25th anniversary of “License to Ill” as well as the release of “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” (it officially drops May 3), so it seems as good a time as any to delve into their backstory:
That’s been the M.O. since the band first formed, in the early eighties, as high-school kids playing hardcore music—the rawer, faster subset of punk rock that was just developing. It would be another new genre, of course, that would make them legendary: By mid-decade, with the release of Licensed to Ill, their 1986 debut on Def Jam Records, and its massive success, the Beasties were unlikely hip-hop superstars.
There’s a very grim, but very interesting, story about marriage in the new Times magazine. Well, it’s actually about failed marriages more than anything else. Dana Adam Shapiro, who directed “Murderball,” has a new movie out called “Monogamy.” It stars Rashida Jones and is about an engaged couple and, you know, monogamous relationships. The movie stems from a project Shapiro embarked upon in 2008. He had been hearing about a lot of divorces, so he started interviewing people (friends, and eventually other folks, resulting in about 50 interviews) about it.
Seriously, the story won’t fill you with any optimism if you are feeling uncertain about ever meeting That Special Someone or something. But it’s really, really interesting. The excerpts of his interviews with the divorcees are brutal looks at the aftermath of a marriage, and it’s a pretty jarring look at how people view something so personal. You want to feel bad for these people, for these couples, even though each of the people quoted in the three published excerpts are candid about their errors and faults (albeit with some defensiveness).
If that sounds like something you want to read, here you go. If not, here’s a puppy confused by an ice cube!
Here’s another oral history of “Party Down,” Rob Thomas’s short-lived Starz series that seems to exemplify the expediency at the core of our modern technological existence. The final episode of the show aired in June 2010. But despite low ratings and the fact that the show was (and is) unknown to a large share of Americans, the thing has already rocketed past the “Gone Too Soon” label and right into the “Cult Comedy That Was Ahead Of Its Time” cocoon. It took people years to canonize “The Ben Stiller Show” and the like. It took a matter of minutes for this show.
In 2011 or 2012, there will be some hit comedy and people will say, “Man, that thing is just like ‘Party Down,’ so why couldn’t that get higher ratings?” And by 2014 and 2015, when the people involved in “Party Down” are even bigger stars, you’ll hear them discuss how fun it would be to make a movie, if only everybody could get their schedules aligned, and really, they’re all interested. By 2017, you’ll start hearing the weariness when former cast members are interviewed, the sort of resigned, “You know, I’ve done other things” tone Michael Cera adopted by 2008. And by 2019, when it’s time for those “a decade later” remembrances, these oral histories will already be ready and prepared by the time the show reaches even more people thanks to big comic stars citing it as an influence. So that’s nice. (Also, I never, ever get tired of reading oral histories.)