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18 January 2015 @ 09:19 pm
Who Killed the Romantic Comedy?  
I should probably have a secondary tag "it's hard out there for a comedy," but oh well. An article from February 2014 that was linked in a recent Slate piece about the dominance of men's and boys' stories in movies:
http://www.laweekly.com/news/who-killed-the-romantic-comedy-4464884

I'm thinking about this slightly more than usual because I did two related things recently: I finished watching all of the episodes of Selfie that ABC put up on Hulu after canceling the show; and then, having felt the pangs of Karen Gillan-romcom withdrawal, rented Not Another Happy Ending on iTunes. Only one of these was really worth doing: I thought John Cho and Karen were delightful together on Selfie, and watching them develop a funny friendship was lovely. Not Another Happy Ending, on the other hand, was a romantic comedy in which the leads almost never shared scenes: there were two major scenes that should have been about interaction between them, to show us why we ought to root for them to get together at all, and the first one was a montage set to peppy pop music, while the second was drowned out by a pop ballad. In both scenes, instead of being able to hear anything of how they interacted - especially odd because the conceit of the film was that the male lead was supposed to "get" Karen's author character and provide her with excellent notes on her writing - all we could hear was someone else singing about something, as though the filmmakers didn't trust their own script, or the actors, enough to believe that their interactions would come across as convincing. Of course, not having any interaction at all in those scenes (at least not any audible ones) was even more unconvincing…

I know that romantic comedy relies heavily on a sort of alchemy between the material and the leads, and that mysterious thing known as chemistry - but why would you shoot yourself in the foot before you even had a chance by making decisions like that one?

(There was so much about this film that would have been so much better if they'd bothered to tell us anything about anything! Karen's character - Jane - has a broken relationship with her father because he abandoned her, and I guess she wrote about this in her first novel; then her father shows up at one of her book signings and they just…hug it out, like, "I haven't seen you in years, Dad, but that's fine"? I could have understood a story where Jane was so afraid that he might leave again that she wasn't willing to say anything, but they didn't really tell that story, or any other story, beyond a couple of part-for-the-whole anecdotes that didn't really work. Then Jane spends most of the movie hallucinating Darsie, the heroine of the new novel she's writing…which I guess is supposed to have some connection to Jane's life or something, but since no one ever tells us what this novel is about, or what kind of character Darsie is, that subplot goes absolutely nowhere. It's the strangest thing. Why would you expect any of this to have meaning if you left out any of the actual details and character development?)
 
 
 
chelseagirlchelseagirl on January 19th, 2015 01:38 pm (UTC)
I quite liked Selfie; I was sorry they pulled the plug so quickly as I thought that they had amazing chemistry. Not sure how they could have kept it going long term -- will they/won't they dragging out for seasons might not have worked, but maybe they could have moved into Odd (and in this case literal) Couple territory after awhile.

Honestly, if it hadn't been for the double motivation of Karen Gillan and John Cho, I probably never would have given it a chance, though, and I suspect much of the potential audience has still never heard of her, at least, though he's been around long enough he deserves a substantial following.

Edited at 2015-01-19 01:38 pm (UTC)
tempestsarekind: a sort of fairytaletempestsarekind on January 19th, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is where I think the US television model presents difficulties for certain kinds of stories (even without the issue of premature cancellation): I don't think seasons' worth of will they/won't they would have been at all a good idea, but a more flexible model - where some shows run for many seasons but some are allowed to tell contained stories over two or three seasons - would have given the show more options. (I often wish I could see a bit of "what comes after" when I'm watching a romantic comedy; TV could theoretically be good at that, especially if you could plan for an ending instead of coming up with dumb reasons to break the couple up because you have to keep the show on the air for four more seasons!)

I think I would have heard about Selfie via Linda Holmes on the NPR MonkeySee blog - she likes romantic comedies, so she reviewed several of the romcom sitcoms this season - but the Karen Gillan and John Cho factor was definitely the reason I made sure to watch it over the others! So that must have made it hard to build up an audience; I think the most well-known actor in the whole bunch of romcom sitcoms this season was Cristin Miliotti, and that was only because she'd gotten so much recent, glowing press for the last season of How I Met Your Mother.