Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I have ranked the top 68 television shows of the '00s, and will be presenting them, one-by-one, starting with 68 and working down. The rankings are more or less based on the show's popularity, it's cult status, it's critical acclaim, and my personal liking of it, with a heavy dose of arbitrariness added in. If a show was a big enough phenomena, I'll keep it on the list - but if I don't like it, I may drop it some spots. One other caveat - these are primetime shows (I apologize if I put a cable show that wasn't, I thought they were all primetime shows - the main point of this is just that no talk shows, no Colbert and Daily show that would be on otherwise).

25: Chappelle's Show

Hard as I might try, it's impossible to exaggerate the absolute sensation Chappelle's Show was during the relatively short airing of its two seasons in 2003 and 2004 and just after when the DVDs came out. In 2005, soon after it came out the first season DVD sales were the best of ALL TIME for a TV series. Now, I understand DVD was still a relatively recent medium and there were only so many shows on DVD, but still compared to all the other shows which had drawn far bigger ratings, it's an extraordinary accomplishment.

There were some all time great sketches - the racial draft - where each race was allowed to draft to take people who were of mixed race and assign them to one race for once and all -
There were phrases that became part of the language on places like college campuses (at least mine) - the Charlie Murphy True Hollywood Stories Prince and Rick James sketches in particular - "I'm Rick James, Bitch", "Cocaine is a Hall of a Drug," "Game, Blouses" among them.

His Lil Jon sketch in particular was huge, and perhaps a product that could only come out of exactly that time - Lil Jon's brief reign in american pop music came at the same time Chappelle's Show lasted - my friend wondered if college students today would even know enough about Lil Jon to have the sketch make any sense.

The Samuel Jackson beer ads (based on a Sam Adams that was iconic enough that anyone at the time would recognize it but not iconic enough that too many people would probably remember it now), in which Chappelle appears as Jackson, looking like his Pulp Fiction character, aggressively and with foul languages attempts to persuade the viewers to try his beer ("It'll get you drunk!).

Oh, and I couldn't finish the entry without mentioning the Wayne Brady sketch - after being insulted by a bit in which character Negordamus claimed that white people liked Wayne Brady because he made Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X - Brady was asked to come on and do a sketch - basically the idea was a parody of his squeaky clean images, in which Brady does drugs, terrorizes Chappelle and recites memorable quotable lines such as "I'm Wayne Brady, bitch," and the immortal, "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?"

As I'm writing, I just think about more notable sketches, but these were more or less the absolute biggest, and I'm honestly just reminiscing and recapping to anyone who has seen the show. But really it was because as I remember them now to myself, they were both good, and they were big, and if you haven't seen them, you should see them, if not for their quality than for the massive pop culture phenomenon they represented. Like every sketch show, it had its share of flops, but for just two seasons there was a remarkable number of successes, especially consider the number of total sketches was cut by the appearance of musical acts and the seemingly interminable amount of commercials.

With a success like this, the show should have gone on forever, or at least until popularity gradually faded away. It was not to be though, as Chappelle, and I don't know a better way to explain this, and I apologize if it's technically incorrect - freaked out over some combination of the stress of making the show and its impact on his stand up career and his life and who knows what else and that was it, the show was over - but maybe it's better off anyway, that what existed of the show remains, as a moment in time.

No comments: