How original is 'Malcolm'? Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Adventures of Pete & Pete
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Thread: How original is 'Malcolm'? Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Adventures of Pete & Pete

  1. #1
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    Default How original is 'Malcolm'? Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Adventures of Pete & Pete




    Parker Lewis Can't Lose, a Fox (!) teen comedy from 1990-93:



    My God, they literally copied all the 'fridge from behind' shots in MITM from this series (which I thought must be totally original), and there's also the first-person narration, no laugh track, the exaggeration of characters, weird sound effects, skewed shots, digitized transitions, speeded-up footage, doctored videotape. Tribute, plagiarism or coincidence? Aaaargh!

    Note that this was heavily influenced by the teen movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", by the late John Hughes, which also frequently broke the fourth wall by talking to the audience!

    Youtube users commented on the similarity:

    AJxn3 (9 months ago)
    lol wow....

    Parker Lewis is like a crossbreed between Kevin Arnold (The Wonder Years) and Ferris Bueller (Day Off).
    I never really noticed that back then...

    Nkkicute (7 months ago)

    This show actually reminds me more of
    Malcolm in the Middle, because he narrates
    the show too.
    Another remarkably astute quote from site dvdverdict.com:
    Looking back nearly twenty years (!) later, there's almost no way Parker Lewis Can't Lose could have succeeded in the long run. It was too far ahead of its time: a single-camera sitcom, devoid of a laugh track, reveling in absurd humor and incredibly inventive camera work. When the show debuted in 1990, America was still watching ALF. You can tell where our tastes were at.

    But Parker Lewis (as it would later be called, and which I'm going to call it because I'm too lazy to keep typing two more words) is a very entertaining show, and well deserving of the cult it's developed since it was canceled after three seasons on the air. It's the kind of show that would likely only ever be appreciated by a certain group of people, anyway; it was almost designed to be a cult show.

    The cast is cartoonish, yes, but so is the show—it's all "whooshing" sound effects and shattering glass and wild, Raising Arizona-era Coen-brothers photography.
    So they even had the whooshing-sound!

    Frequent MITM director Jeff Melman directed two episodes of this series!

    The Adventures of Pete and Pete (Nickelodeon, 1993-95)



    Again, more so than in Parker Lewis, first-person narration looking at the audience, no laugh track, this time an intro written by an indie pop group (in this case Polaris, plus guest appearances by cool rock stars Debbie Harry (Blondie), Michael Stipe (REM), David Johansen (New York Dolls/Buster Poindexter), LL Cool J, Luscious Jackson, Kate Pierson (B-52's), Syd Straw etc.), loony characters, surreal situations, very smart writing!

    (In the segment shown, the girl with the black braids holding the blue popsicle is Heather Matarazzo, of later 'Welcome To The Dollhouse', 'The Princess Diaries' and 'Now And Again' fame. Kate Pierson is blind Mrs. Van Devere. If you watch the last part of this episode, you'll see Michael Stipe doing a weirdly brilliant bit as an icecream vendor!)

    Quote from site tvdvdreviews.com
    The Adventures of Pete & Pete is one of the hippest kids' shows ever produced. It manages to jointly appeal to young audiences (in this case, preteens and up) and adults. The series combines the sentiment of The Wonder Years with the irreverent humor of Malcolm in the Middle (without Malcolm's harder edge) in a way that is simultaneously sweet and outrageously funny.
    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Feb 13, 2012 at 12:36 PM.


    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Beiß mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

  2. #2
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    But, 'Malcolm' practiclly reinvented the sitcom:no laugh track, single camera, shot on video, specialized camera angles, the list goes on and on. Give them credit for that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deweyinthemiddle View Post
    But, 'Malcolm' practiclly reinvented the sitcom:no laugh track, single camera, shot on video, specialized camera angles, the list goes on and on. Give them credit for that.
    I guess you mean shot on film...

    Did you watch the clips I posted?

    Let me be the devil's advocate: all these series I came across from the Eighties and Nineties (i.e. way before MITM): The Wonder Years, Bailey Kipper's P.O.V., Parker Lewis Can't Lose and The Adventures of Pete & Pete had first-person narration by a teen main character, no laugh track, single camera shots, weird camera angles, surreal transitions and inserts. Bailey Kipper, Parker Lewis and Pete also talked directly to the audience.

    Clarissa Explains It All did have a laugh track, was shot like a standard sitcom as the basic set-up, but yet talked a lot to the audience, had crazy fantasy scenes and used a lot of computerized sound and image manipulation.

    How 'bout that?!

    And now that John Hughes has just died, I really should watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Okay, it's a movie, but there's a lot of audience interaction too.

    Rich

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    yes, i meant to say film. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is hilarious!

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    I'm thinking of making an Alternative MITM Family Tree timeline :

    Code:
    1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
           |
           V
    1988: The Wonder Years
           |
           V
    1990: Parker Lewis Can't Lose
           |
           V
    1991: Eerie, Indiana
           |                             1991: Clarissa Explains It All
           V                                            |
    1993: The Adventures of Pete & Pete                 |
           |                             1996: Bailey Kipper's P.O.V.
           V                                            |
    2000: Malcolm in the Middle <-----------------------|
           |                                                             
           V                                                             
    2003: Oliver Beene/The Pitts
           |
           V
    2005: Everybody Hates Chris
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Aug 12, 2009 at 07:16 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Seminal 'Pete & Pete' shorts

    I've been watching a lot of Pete & Pete lately, and I must say that the one-minute shorts that preceded the so-called specials and first season, which are from the late Eighties to early Nineties, work a lot like the Malcolm in the Middle cold opens.

    It has the same sort of twisted realistic, surreal tone, first-person narration (also to the camera) and imaginative cinematography. To me, it's a real, and very worthy precursor.

    Mom's Plate:


    Freeze Tag:


    What Would You Do For A Dollar?:


    Route 34:


    It also had an ultra-cool, oddball indie tune as a theme song, of course, by Mark Mulcahy's former band Polaris:


    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Nov 4, 2010 at 07:27 PM.
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Beiß mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

  7. #7

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    I am definitely seeing the striking similarities between both older shows and MitM - very uncanny!

    However, I think we can all agree that MitM's use of similar kooky antics, etc was done in a much more nuanced way. Instead of ham-handed, blatant memes of teenagerdom, MitM incorperated them with an adult perspective and sometimes a keen eye for subtlety. In this way, I feel that Malcolm can still be credited for adventing a new kind of television in taking the general feel of these earlier shows and using it in a way that was inextricably more sophisticated. Lewis and Pete, being teen/kid-centric sitcoms when the genre was very much a new player in the market, are for me pervaded by a sort of "experimental" feeling that is very different from MitM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachman93 View Post
    I am definitely seeing the striking similarities between both older shows and MitM - very uncanny!

    However, I think we can all agree that MitM's use of similar kooky antics, etc was done in a much more nuanced way. Instead of ham-handed, blatant memes of teenagerdom, MitM incorperated them with an adult perspective and sometimes a keen eye for subtlety. In this way, I feel that Malcolm can still be credited for adventing a new kind of television in taking the general feel of these earlier shows and using it in a way that was inextricably more sophisticated. Lewis and Pete, being teen/kid-centric sitcoms when the genre was very much a new player in the market, are for me pervaded by a sort of "experimental" feeling that is very different from MitM.
    Very well said (as always), Zachman! MITM is not a series geared to either preteen kids or so-called 'cool' teenagers, and spends a lot of time interweaving various plots from the points of view of young kids, teenagers, young grown-ups and married couples. Other series would never dwell on pregnancies and childbirth, faith in marriage or dealing with job drudgery for such a long run of episodes.

    It's just that I always like to put things in perspective, and have a feeling we're invariably standing on the shoulders of giants. I'm very conscious of influences, not to belittle current efforts, but because I want to give credit where credit is due. It always starts with someone willing to experiment and take risks. I'm extremely wary by nature of the easily attached 'totally new and original' label, and at the same time feel that the instant Hollywood pitch of "It's like CSI mixed with the X-Files" in its countless permutations is making short shrift of real talent and creativity.

    I just can't help currently watching all of Pete & Pete back to back with Breaking Bad and Mad Men. For me, P&P is the perfect dessert, or rather nightcap, and has replaced MITM for the moment, but that's because I'd never heard of the series before. I really love the atmosphere and its soundtrack. If you want to stick with easily applied tags, "The Wonder Years On Weed" or "David Lynch Lite" I think perfectly captures the mood. On the other hand, I'm conscious that if you mix the storytelling, camera work and first-person narration of The Wonder Years with Eerie Indiana (both of which were shown on TV before P&P), you get something wich is pretty close in spirit and execution to P&P. Which is exactly what I mean!

    Rich
    Last edited by Richiepiep; Jul 25, 2010 at 09:44 AM.
    All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in.
    I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin.


    Beiß mein' Schorf, Blasenloch!

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