Monday, March 5, 2012

Sitcom Throwdown Part 2

It’s time, dear readers, we revisit NYC and Sacred Heart.  In today’s installment, we will look at each show’s popularity and story-telling ability as each has its own unique style and following.  First, though, a disclaimer:  I am not a television expert.  I am an avid viewer of each series and have watched many of the episodes 2, 3, or even more times.  

Now, then, on with the show!

Popularity-  In my mind, the two shows were both fairly popular.  However, they were both popular in different ways.  I haven’t studied it or seen the numbers, but my impression is that Scrubs really didn’t get popular until after its third or fourth season.  It was overlooked at first because of another show on NBC.  A megahit that this particular writer despises.  FRIENDS.  
Friends was ending, an era was ending, and Scrubs was starting.  Many of the best episodes of Scrubs went overlooked because everyone was so focused on the end of Friends.  This still makes me angry because Friends was...well, now is not the time to eviscerate Friends.  The point is, Scrubs didn’t get very popular until after Friends ended.  It was well into its third season before the Scrubs train gathered any sort of real following.  Even then, however, it never had many passengers.  Even in syndication, when, if one knew the channels and times, a person could watch approximately three hours of Scrubs a day, the show never had a huge following.  A large one?  Sure, but not huge.
HIMYM on the other hand is a behemoth.  It, too, started small.  During the first couple seasons, the show was not terribly popular.  However, around season 3 or 4, the show got a large following.  Big even.  By season 6, I dare say that HIMYM is and was huge.  Season 7 is currently on the tubes, (being cheap I don’t have them) and I see articles semi-regularly that discuss HIMYM.  Basically, I’m saying that HIMYM is waaay more popular than Scrubs ever got.  I haven’t looked up DVD sales numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my gut feeling is supported there as well.  Or maybe not considering the shift in the viewing market to a streaming format.  

It could be because of the star power on the show.  Jason Segal, Neil Patrick Harris, and Alyson Hanningan are all known actors in their own right.  Cobie Smulders has been on the screen as other characters too, although not as many as the other three.  Finally, Josh Radnor, the seeming unknown on the show, is an accomplished director. Granted, I've not seen any of his work as it is "good" i.e. entered into festivals and whatnot.  Scrubs could not compete with that.  
To my generation, John C McGinley is Dr. Cox...maybe.  He might also be the dude from Platoon or The Rock, but he doesn’t have THAT role like Hannigan does from the American Pie series.  Sarah Chalke?  Who’s that?  Oh, you mean Stella from HIMYM?  Yeah, I know her.  Judy Reyes?  Ken Jenkins?  Zach Braff and Donald Faison are both in a few other shows, as is the darling Neil Flynn and Christa Miller, but even combined they can’t compete with Dougie Howser or that chubby musical dude from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
All I can say is that the cast of HIMYM is both more known and more popular than Scrubs is and was.  Therefore, popularity goes to HIMYM...hands down.

Story-telling-  Story-telling is an important aspect in any sort of theatre (which television is part of, however far removed) even one where the primary focus is making the audience laugh.  With that in mind please read the next sentence carefully.  I believe that Scrubs told the better story, but HIMYM told the story better.  Lemme ‘splain.
Scrubs introduced stories with feeling and passion to my sitcom world.  Friends, Seinfeld, and whatever else I watched before Scrubs had very few stories that tugged at the heartstrings.  Now I’m bordering very close to another category, so I’m not going much further down this road, but the point is that the stories Scrubs told were good.  Very good, some were even great.  By comparison, the stories HIMYM told and tells seem trite and recycled.  Boy likes girl. Boy gets girl.  Boy loses girl.  Boy bemoans girl.  Hilarity happens at every step.  I realize that is a very simplified version of the way HIMYM’s story line goes, but it’s essentially true.  Scrubs tells the better story.  
As I mentioned in the last post, the characters in Scrubs are real and vivid.  Their problems are your problems.  They struggle with student loans and postpartum depression.  They aren’t twenty and thirty somethings that, even though they have no job, can still afford to go drinking every night and live in a spacious apartment.
The better story telling, though, is done by HIMYM.  The entire show is a series of flashbacks.  They often shoot forward or backward along the timeline to showcase how a seemingly insignificant event at Point A influenced or was influenced by something that happened at Point B.  Additionally, their flashbacks are, as far as I can tell, always true to the original.  Each time the story is told about when Barney and Ted met for the first time, the characters look the same, the same booth is used, the setting is pretty much exactly the same each time.  There’s no real lack of consistency between the flashbacks.  
One of the best episodes that shows how fluidly the show can switch between flashbacks and the present story is called The Platinum Rule.  The premise of the episode is Ted is preparing for a date while Barney explains what a colossally bad idea it is.  Robin agrees and flashes back a year previous, while the Eriksens tell a story (flashback another year), and Barney caps off with a flashback to a year previous to that.  1 episode.  4 separate stories going on at 4 different periods of time.  Audience understanding: 100%.  Even with a quarter-dozen flashbacks going on, the writers still manage to get the story across in a clear and distinct way.  They may have inferior stories, but the telling of those stories is superior to that of Scrubs.
Storytelling ability, I have to give to HIMYM.  I like the flashbacks, they’re distinctive and unique.  There you have it folks, two more categories this time and each a victory for HIMYM.  That puts the score at 2-1 with HIMYM in the lead.  2 categories left, Cultural Influence and Emotional Response.

That’s it for this post folks, tune in next time for the last two categories and the ultimate winner.