Monday, April 30, 2007

"I liked it better when you worked clean.": Everybody Hates Chris

One of the threads I've liked best about this season of Chris is the gradual evolution of Chris from nerdy junior high kid to stand-up comedian. Granted, this has progressed very slowly, but it's been thrilling to see Chris realize that he could get out of bad situations by telling jokes and that he was really good at it too. The most obvious example of this was in the season's second episode, when he won his class presidency by giving a really funny speech, but tonight's episode returned to the story as Chris listened to some "blue" material and then began passing it around to friends at school. Of course, once one kid had heard the dirty jokes, everyone had, to say nothing of George Carlin's "7 Words You Can't Say on Television" routine.

The deployment of the Carlin routine was the best part of the episode, as it allowed the characters to skirt the inherent problem in any episode involving swearing (the characters can't literally swear on the air without violating broadcast standards). Namely, everyone said the number of the swear word in question instead of the swear word they meant. It was actually a clever solution to the problem, and anything that leads to Chris Rock (someone who's not averse to a well-placed curse word or two) screaming "THREEEEEEEEEEEEE" is well worth the trouble needed to set up the joke.

The other plot in the episode -- Rochelle looked for a new guy for her mother -- wasn't as solid, largely because it felt like an afterthought. While the montage set to "It's Raining Men" with Rochelle looking at the neighborhood guys and rejecting them as unworthy of her mother was sporadically funny, the rest of the plot felt perfunctory. It doesn't help that I always think of Loretta Devine (who played the mother) as far younger than she must be (I mean, she's ONLY 57!), which makes her playing "the old woman" in things always a bit anachronistic (c'mon, TV! she was born the same year as my mom!).

But that was no matter when the A-plot was as strong as this one was. It was fun to see Chris discovering his voice (as we were promised the series would be about from day one), and hearing only the punchlines of dirty jokes somehow made them dirtier and more palatable (how many did you get?). It more than made up for the weak B-plot and the ending where Chris' parents lectured him on the proper time and place to listen to dirty jokes. Normally, I don't like a lecture at the end of my smut, but I didn't mind here.

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