Short, But Sweet

By cjohnson | August 5, 2005 9:10 am

Via Apostropher, I learned that the (often extremely funny) Chapelle’s Show is not coming back ( Here’s an MTV news link, of all things.) Now, due to lack of time, I’ve only ever seen about three episodes of this show, but thought that it was a truly creative, good-natured and ground-breaking piece of work. It also did a great job of looking at issues of race in the USA without turning it into a long whine or lecture. You laugh loudly and shake your head in dismay at the same time. It looks like a mess at first glance, and then it sucks you in. I guess I’m swimming with the mainstream here because apparently the DVD of the first series was the all-time biggest-selling ever for a TV show.

Now people in the USA will be wringing their hands and lamenting the early loss of the show, as it only ran for two seasons, but I am not too upset. Why? Because it is often the case that the best and most truly original comedy shows don’t run for very long. Then they become part of the canon, and reshape the genre.

This is well known in the UK. Everybody seems to be able to quote from “Fawlty Towers”, and everybody else has seen the sketch they’re quoting from. The same is happening with “The Office”. (Of course, I will now get people from the UK telling me they’ve never seen them, or that thought they were singularly unfunny.)

For those shows, every single episode is loved and cherished. Why is this? They were short and sweet: Fawwlty Towers: 12 episodes, The Office: 12+2 episodes. So maybe it is not so bad to have Chappelle’s Show go out early (27+6? episodes) if it is as truly good as its popularity suggests.

It is not a hard and fast rule, of course. Note that “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, which is also well-known and loved, had 45+2 episodes, which by UK standards is quite long for a classic.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Arts, Entertainment, Humor
  • KenL

    I suspect that Monty Python’s Flying Circus *does* provide empirical support to your rule. By and large, the later episodes don’t match up to the first year or two.

  • Jonathan Dursi

    It always struck me as amazing that Comedy Central had the best and smartest shows in the country for news analysis in the Daily Show and race relations in Chappelle’s Show. Truth through humour, I suppose.

  • janet

    Here in the US we like to stretch out series until they’ve been squeezed dry. What am I saying — until long after they’ve been squeezed dry!

  • Mrs. Coulter

    I agree with KenL: the later eps of Monty Python’s Flying Circus are not as good. Most of the sketches that people can quote from memory are from the first two seasons. The later eps are much more surreal and odd, and sometimes, just not funny.

  • Matt McIrvin

    And then there’s Doctor Who…

  • Clifford

    Right. Exactly. 😉 -cvj


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