Get a Life – Beth used to watch this when it was on TV, and we started on the DVD set a few years back, but didn’t finish with it until last night. That’s pretty normal for us, really. The show stars former David Letterman writer Chris Elliott as Chris Peterson, a thirty-year-old childishly naive idiot who lives in his parents’ garage and works as a paperboy. David Mirkin, who would later be show runner for The Simpsons, was the executive producer; and Bob Odenkirk was a writer. I wrote a bit about Chris’s performance when I saw his movie Cabin Boy, where he plays basically the same character except for the fact that he’s rich. He has a good delivery of his lines, which are utterly absurd and full of non-sequiturs. He’s treated as dumb and obnoxious in-universe and can be creepy, especially with women he’s attracted to, but also has a goofy charm. As with some other absurd shows, it’s not always consistent in terms of its reality. Sometimes it’s just Chris being crazy in a world that’s pretty normal (at least for television), and other times the whole universe is ridiculous. I want to say it became crazier in the later episodes, but it was pretty early on that Chris competed against a paper delivery robot that went berserk and visited an anachronistic Big City where he became a hero when he thought his wallet was stolen, so maybe that’s not entirely true. I believe there was an 8-Bit Theater comic where someone said Black Belt, who could get lost going in a straight line, was so stupid he warped reality, and there are characters who routinely do impossible things because they don’t realize they can’t. Of course, in this show, these things pretty much always turn out badly for Chris, with several episodes ending with him dying in some over-the-top way.
Chris’s dad is played by Elliott’s actual father, and the first season has other recurring characters in Chris’s best friend Larry who’s pretty normal but likes Chris’s carefree attitude, and his wife Sharon who absolutely hates Chris. For the second season, the network apparently insisted the character should be more independent, which sounds like a joke in and of itself, as that’s hardly the biggest thing wrong with him. I’ve also read that this wasn’t true at all, and that it was more that the show was taking a toll on Bob Elliott, so they came up with a way to have him appear less often. But anyway, he moves out of his parents’ place and into the garage of a surly ex-cop named Gus, played by Brian Doyle-Murray in his second role on the show, who plays against Chris’s clueless cheerfulness with an often equally ridiculous cynicism. Larry is written out early in the season, but Sharon remains, and she becomes totally psychotic toward Chris. It appears that the second season was made on a lower budget, and so tended to have fewer people in each episode; but they sort of compensated for that with even more surreal plots. From what I’ve heard, Fox was pretty accommodating with the show, but ultimately found it too dark, and it was canceled after the shortened second season. But then, Fox seems to have a habit of picking up shows, not promoting them, and then canceling them, which makes me wonder why it wouldn’t be more cost-effective to just not pick them up in the first place. I’m glad I could see this, though, even if it was well after it aired. I don’t think I was even aware of it back then. Beth says it greatly influenced her sense of humor, and I can definitely see that.