Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"I'm an octoroon!": Everybody Hates Chris

Maybe something was in the comedy writing water a few weeks ago, because this was the funniest Chris in quite a while, to go along with the very funny HIMYM in the same timeslot. The show's basic formula (elucidated here a few weeks ago -- click on the tags, people! the tags!) got a shake-up, giving Julius his own storyline (at the DMV), pairing Rochelle off with Drew and Tanya and sending Chris and Greg off to see Ghostbusters, where they bumped into their so-kind-she-doesn't-know-she's-racist teacher. While I didn't like that character at first, she's really grown on me. Giving her a black boyfriend was a bit too easy, but the scene was played so low-key that I couldn't really fault the show for doing so.

One of the things I've always liked about Chris is the way it repurposes old movie footage in different ways. Tonight, of course, we got to see a variety of car chases from assorted movies, showing us how Julius drives (poorly), but we also got a great Ghostbusters clip (though how did the teacher not spot Chris and Greg until so late into the movie?) as well as Tyler James Williams offering some pretty solid impressions of a variety of '80s movie stars. I also liked that Chris and Greg went out of their way to have the perfect plan to skip school. It was just Prison Break-y enough to be really funny.

The Rochelle storyline gave Tichina Arnold a chance to do what she does best -- yell amusing things at people. While there wasn't a lot more to it than Rochelle inserting herself into other people's business (which, frankly, happens every episode), it was just nice to see Rochelle defined by something other than her kids or husband.

I think the Julius storyline was my favorite though. Terry Crews is always best when his patience is being tried, when you sense that at any moment, he'll blow his top. Sending him to the DMV and making it exactly the hell everyone insists it is (honestly, I've never had that much of a problem at the DMV, and I live in California) was just the sort of thing that played well with his character, especially as he had a fun actress to bounce his frustrations off of.

And, hey, something structural that I noticed for the first time (and feel kind of stupid for missing previously): Every episode of this show (or most every episode) begins or ends (and usually both) with a family dinner scene. I realize that the family is the heart of the show, and this is a nice, subtle way to drive that home.

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