Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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…because it’s Easter weekend.


Frank Zappa, “Watermelon in Easter Hay”
Joe’s Garage, 1979


Phish, “Light”
Joy, 2008

The AV Club has recently reported that a full series DVD set of Get a Life is finally in the works. This is fantastic news for me, and it should be for you as well.

I remember Get a Life better than I should probably be proud of. For two years in the early 90s it was a Fox Sunday night staple, which means every week I could look forward to seeing it along side The Simpsons and Married…With Children, both of which were in their prime. And as much as I loved both of those shows, I think I looked forward to Get a Life the most.

Something about it appealed to me in ways that so many other shows didn’t. It’s commonplace now, but Get a Life was the largest-scale, balls-out genre subversion I had experienced at the time, and it probably did more to shape my personal sense of humor than anything else before or since. It was dark, sardonic and periodically psychotic…but everything was painted over with the veneer and style of a non-threatening 1950s sitcom. It had a laugh track that deliberately went wild over the most terrible things, and feel eerily silent when, suddenly, the mood would change from light comedy to bizarre, cruel chaos.

It was the continuing story of a dimwitted 30 year old paperboy who lives with his parents, ambling through life, endangering innocent people, and often getting killed horribly along the way. Its pilot featured Chris and his best friend stuck upside down in a roller coaster for the entire episode, and it only got stranger from there.

Much, much, much, much stranger.

And it was fantastic. It was clever, it was perfectly acted, and it was expertly handled. Writer David Mirkin went on to join The Simpsons after Get a Life ended, where he was able to weave his masterful sense of gently destructive parody seamlessly into that show, and Chris Elliott…well, Chris Elliott never really found another outlet for doing what he did best. Lately he appears in Adult Swim’s Eagleheart, which is absolutely a spiritual successor to this show, but Get a Life got there first.

I have a lot more to say about it, but I’m deliberately holding back. I think I feel a Noiseless Chatter Spotlight coming on…

I did have the good fortune of seeing the show in its entirety again during my late high school years, and at that time I definitely felt it had weathered the test of time. Now, with our tolerance for parody filed down to the nub by Family Guy and its ilk, I’m not sure if Get a Life won’t feel a little too quaint. But, then again, considering its own nature, that quaintness might just give it another layer of verisimilitude.

I’m hoping music rights issues don’t force us to hear sound-alikes during the show’s many montages, but otherwise I really don’t have any fears about this release at all. It’s a relic from a bygone time when genre subversion and extended film parodies and sociopathic tendencies didn’t belong in our comedy. There’s a reason this was cancelled, and that’s because audiences were terrified that this might be the future of television.

It was.

The 30 year old paperboy is dead. Long live the 30 year old paperboy.

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