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The Pop Charts Get Apatowed

Whether you could care less or more about Judd Apatow's admittedly peculiar rise to Hollywood comedy kingdom, the fact remains: the gem that kickstarted his career, Freaks & Geeks, is at once both the best single season show in the history of television and the saddest example of great programming getting quickly strangled by the same studio that gave it a chance in the first place (at least Arrested Development got three seasons) - okay, tied with My So-Called Life. By that token, in addition to the severe dearth of even slightly worthwhile mainstream comedies in the years before his catapult to fame, I am perfectly content with his prolificity in the past couple years. That being said, he's dipped his producer's pen in some severe clunkers (Step Brothers, I hate to disagree with you Doktor, was unwatchable) and every film centers around manboys, which can get old. However, almost every movie that doesn't involve Will Ferrell manages to still have brazenly broken yet likeable protagonists that make me feel like at least on some level, I'm watching more than a superficial comedy. The Apatow Factory has been discussed to death on the Internet and in the homes of most nuclear families, but I feel it important to bring up again now because he (well not really him, but his friends) has finally put out his first great movie. So let's rank 'em all now that we have a high point of reference. Should I keep that terrible pun in there? Too late...

"In The Ayer" by Flo Rida and Will.i.am
is to current Top 40 radio as Pineapple Express is to the Apatow filmography. Like neither Flo nor Will are particularly good at rapping or composing music, Seth Rogen isn't really a notable actor or writer, but according to his recent AV Club interview, he's just trying to make movies that aren't pieces of shit. He has succeeded thus far. Truth is, like the vacuous song and its scribes that I'm using to force an analogy around to blog about two things at once, Rogen knows how to have fun. And he's obviously seen a crapload of fun movies. Doing the meta-homage thing pretty perfectly while also feeling at times very grounded in a real friendship between two (sometimes three) loveable goofs, the Huey Lewis & the New original theme song that graced the credits after a coda that was actually welcome was just the icing to 107 minutes (hey, he learned how to let the editor do his job!) of solid enjoyment and touching male bonding, just like...

"Disturbia" by Rihanna is to current Top 40 radio as Superbad is to the Apatow filmography. Speaking of theme songs, I surely wouldn't like this song as much if it had anything to do with the movie Disturbia. Damn that Rihanna alternating between making awesome songs and bland ones...kinda like a more extreme version of Apatow with movies. Luckily, after the pregnancy hoopla (see below), this more genuine and personal effort came rolling through, years after Rogen co-wrote it during his formative years. Strike out some of the obvious gross-out gags and alter the ending slightly (editor!) and you've got an actually really sweet and enjoyable movie about two best friends dealing with having to give each other up at the end of high school.

"Fall for You" by Secondhand Serenade is to current Top 40 radio as Forgetting Sarah Marshall is to the Apatow filmography. Sickly sweet emo that depending on your mood could come off foul as eff (Jerksica and I thought this was a joke when played live on Conan) or heartbreaking (listening to the pitch-controlled slickly produced version along on the couch as the sun shimmers through the window panes). Same goes for Freaks co-star Jason Segel's foray into screenwriting and leading man status, aka his research study "How do I get to touch Kristen Bell without getting arrested?" There's glimpses of that relationship authenticity mixed with absurd and effective antics in there (the Dracula musical is aces) and he's actually better at writing supporting characters than Rogen (Paul Rudd, Russell Brand totally own the parts too), but ultimately, the constant self-pitying (while at times funny) mostly keeps the movie from becoming truly three-dimensional.

The rest are still ranked in order of mention, but are lumped together due to the extreme lack of enthusiasm I have for them anymore (if I ever had any). "Closer" by Ne-Yo is to current Top 40 radio as The 40-Year-Old Virgin is to the Apatow filmography. I began to see the potential of a new, charming and offbeat kind of comedy with this, just like Ne-Yo's once more valiant attempt at bringing romance into male-driven mainstream hip-hop/R&B, but in the end, it falls flat and is rendered inert. I wouldn't scoff or groan if someone put either of these on, but I wouldn't get overly excited either. "Leavin'" by Jesse McCartney is to current Top 40 radio as Knocked Up is to the Apatow filmography. I really liked the blockbuster romantic comedy when I saw it opening weekend, even if it did feel like it was seven years long (129 minutes!). Not groundbreaking, but diverting and quirky without the indie "cutesy" factor - plus a great Eric Bana joke. Then I saw it a second time, waited desperately for the Eric Bana joke, then turned it off after what felt like seven years. Just couldn't do it. I really grooved to "Leavin'" too, with its subtle glitch tendencies, until I found out it was by Jesse McCartney and realized that aside from that clicky keyboard effect, it's completely forgettable. "Dangerous" by Kardinal Offishall and Akon is to current Top 40 radio as Walk Hard probably is to the Apatow filmography. Never saw the eyeroll-inducing music biopic parody and never really want to. Never kept the radio on long enough to hear the entire Kardinal/Akon collab (that chorus sounds about as tired as Hollywood trying to revive the parody genre) and never really want to.

P.S. Stay tuned for a special guest writer's weekend contribution here on The Blogulator!

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  1. Blogger Sean | 3:31 AM |  

    is this post about judd apatow or pop music?? i'm confused.

  2. Blogger DoktorPeace | 8:58 AM |  

    Is the guest writer Wisconsin-native Heather Graham?

    Also, my vote for best short-lived show goes to Wanderlust, a Comedy Central travel program satire of sorts.

  3. Blogger chris | 9:58 AM |  

    It's mostly about existentialism.

    Never saw Wanderlust; I remember you raving about it though. On DVD?

  4. Blogger DoktorPeace | 11:29 AM |  

    No DVD. You might be able to view the episodes on Comedy Central's site via the link below, but otherwise the network pretty much abandoned we, the fans.


  5. Blogger qualler | 11:47 AM |  

    What happened to the guy with the kinda squishy face who was friends with the young geeks? I think I always see him in the Date Movie type movies. What else is he up to?

    From what I remember, ABC promoted the crap out of My So-Called Life, and MTV did as well, but it didn't get renewed because Claire Danes wasn't into it. At least it seemed like while it was on, more than just critics bemoaned it, whereas wasn't Freaks & Geeks on on Saturday night? And I seem to remember only critics going gaga over it and not much of an outcry when it was cancelled. For shame, NBC.

  6. Anonymous The Apple Capital Rumble | 11:33 AM |  

    Freaks and Geeks was on Saturday nights. Everything I've read said NBC wasn't entirely behind it from the beginning. It was a mid season addition to the lineup, and they marketed it to teenagers, but what teenager is going to stick at home Saturday's at 7 to watch it (of which is exactly what I did).

    It was a mid season addition, and made it only through about half of the second season. It's a shame. Had it been a regular night, I think it would have done really well.

    Apatow seemed to give a fuck you to NBC since Undeclared was on Fox, but Fox never entirely got all the way behind that project either, and it didn't last long, which is also a shame because it was good, too.

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