Page 1 of 3
Shanachie / 780 Minutes / 1961-1962 / Unrated / Street Date: April 12, 2011
A true appreciation of dumb-ass comedy is as nuanced as, say, a wine tasting. There are cinephiles out there who bolt at the mere concept of inane tomfoolery on screen, but for those of us who don't just stomach it but embrace it fully, there is a lot of attention to detail that comes with a true and full analysis of idiotic on-screen shenanigans.
Look at Car 54, Where Are You?. This iconic comedy series - right up there with Sgt. Bilko as one of the more identifiable comedies of the early 1960s - starts at a breakneck dumb-ass pace and doesn't let up. Within seconds of meeting Gunther (Joe E. Ross) and Francis (Fred Gwynn), we know what we're in for: Deliciously yuk-yuk pratfalls and broad-stroked humor.
One is skinny and smart, the other pudgy and irascible - the very visual dynamism between the two of them is enough to merit a chuckle.
But to dismiss Car 54 as claptrap featuring two idiots is to underappreciate the comic timing and intensity of creator Nat Hiken, one of the big-time comedy writers of the day. I mean, there's a lot of 'ha ha - fatty fell down!' banality to Car 54, but that's part of its charm. The show only aired two seasons, but its reputation as being a monolith of comedy TV of the age remains intact. Poo-poo Car 54, Where Are You? as tripe at your own peril: Buffoons may undertake a lot of buffoonery here, but it's done in a very effective (and funny) way.