Burns and Allen v. Whitney

As I mentioned, I’ve been recording episodes of the sitcom Whitney because I think Whitney is cute. So I’ve given it two episodes, and Meh.

VHS coverIt didn’t help Whitney‘s case at all that I watched four episodes of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on VHS in between the pilot and the second episode I watched (“Two Broke-Up Guys”, actually the sixth episode, which indicates I did not set my DVR to record all of the episodes) of the more modern sitcom. The differences are startling.

The modern comedy, including the Seinfeld seasons I previously reviewed, starts with a situational premise. The two Whitney episodes deal with 1)A wedding leads Whitney to try to spice up her relationship with her longterm live-in boyfriend, and 6)A friend of Whitney’s boyfriend ends their friendship because he thinks Whitney has influenced the boyfriend too much.

With those overarching situations, we then get to individual scenes that rely on the characters’ caricatured behavior and the other characters reactions to it. Also, the humor is pretty sexual in nature, as Whitney spices up her relationship by dressing as a naughty nurse and sending her boyfriend to the hospital, et cetera.

By contrast, the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show starts out with a situation–a card game, a visit from a friend or relative with some active children who stymie George as he tries to write a speech. Then we get individual scenes that rely on Gracie saying silly things and the other characters react to it. Then, in the middle, the pitchman comes into the scene and tells the characters present about Carnation Evaporated Milk.

You know, the structure isn’t that much different. I guess the difference really lies in the humor. The old Burns and Allen show places a lot of stock in wordplay and the occasional straight-up gag as Burns addresses the audience. Burns and Allen got their starts in vaudeville, early movies, and radio, so they have to be staccato.

Or maybe it’s that’ I’m an old man, even older than I was when I watched the first two seasons of Seinfeld last year, and comedy set in a city (Chicago, of all places) with young, unmarried people doesn’t speak to me. An older married couple (in their middle 50s in the 1950s, no less) who love each other and live in the suburbs, I like.

So I think I’ll dustbin the rest of the Whitney and find more grainy, clever comedy that makes my wife laugh.

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