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Last Comic Standing 4 in Review: Where Do We Go From Here?by Dale Sherman -- 08/15/2006
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The fourth season of Last Comic Standing has come to a close, with Josh Blue as the winner of the series and NBC the winner of a ratings gamble that has paid off very well for them. With our ability now to review the entire season, we can point out what worked, what didn’t, how the comics performed over time, and what improvements are possible for Season Five.
What Worked This Year:
Online Comic/“Last Comic Downloaded” – The idea of throwing the viewers, especially those that complain the most on the internet over who made the Final Twelve, a bone by giving them a chance to vote for those comics was a great idea. Or, rather, it seemed like a great idea (see “What Didn’t Work This Year” below).
The Challenges – The challenges this year made more sense than some from past seasons (entertaining children in costumes, anyone?). Having to deal with hecklers? Demanding material off the cuff within little preparation? Writing and performing for a roast? All things that comics do run into in their careers, which is what the challenges really should be about. I would have preferred to not have seen another roast rehash, however.
The Comics – Okay, we’ll save the praise and bashing for further on in the column here, but overall I liked these comics. I certainly laughed more at these people than some in the second season, even though that season had some strong hitters in their group (namely Bodden, Pescatelli, and Heffron). Yes, there were a couple of clunkers in this group, but overall I wouldn’t have a problem seeing a majority of Season Four’s comics at a club. Which is what is important to convey in the show really, more than even finding a winner.
The Final Weeks – I thought the final weeks of the program were nicely organized and kept to a simple, understandable procedure: You have five comics, they did their sets and with each week as one goes away, you bring in someone else to do five minutes to replace that time. Kind of a mesh between the first two seasons and Season Three there, really. I would prefer to see comics from earlier seasons come back to perform instead of comics not necessarily connected with the program, but that’s a minor complaint. At least Caroline Rhea was a judge, so that was okay, but Paul Rodriguez? I like him, but he really didn’t belong on the show.
What Didn’t Work This Year:
Online Comic/”Last Comic Downloaded” – Certain bugs in the system fouled up this interesting idea. First, it was one thing to have some comics from the tryouts be in the first online competition, since the semi-finals had not occurred yet in the series. However, after that, the remaining twenty-eight comics that didn’t make the Final Twelve should have each had a chance to appear in the Online Comics competition. As it was, only twenty were given such a chance.
Second, the next-to-last online competition saw the producers bring back five comics that they wanted in the final competition instead of giving some of the others that were never seen a chance. Force-feeding such “favorites” to the voters was hardly in the best interest of the program or the comics involved. Nothing like looking like a teacher’s pet to make a comic’s career (or better yet, “Hey, you’re the guy who lost Last Comic Standing THREE times!”).
Third, the voting seemed to fall into the typical ballot-stuffing that online votes run into. So much talent available and yet it was Theo Von and Josh Wolf that made it to the show to perform very weak and repeated sets, just was very disheartening. It’s no wonder that the show treated the reveal of the winner like someone wiping something off their shoes.
The House (or Ship, rather) – Okay, we’re at the Queen Mary. Why? My first guess was that there was a comedy club onboard and thus would make it an ideal setting for the comics over the span of time they were there. After all, one of the main complaints comics from earlier seasons (and this season as well, it turns out) had was that they felt they were losing their touch and timing because of being away from performing in front of people. Now we had a place where just down the hall they could perform for audience every night if they wished. Plus, what better setup for NBC than to advertise the comics performing nightly on the Queen Mary while they compete in the competition? It would have been promotional gold. Yet, it was all for naught. Instead, they used the club once for the heckling challenge and nothing more. Besides what probably was just the Queen Mary paying for the promotion of the ship on the program, there was no reason for the place to be used. They could have played Crotchball anywhere. Missed opportunity.
Comics Living Together – Well, that just didn’t work at all this year. Season One had the good fortune of finding people that actually meshed together as a unit, working and playing together. The clashes that did come where normal run-of-the-mill things, but that’s exactly why it worked so well there. The comics in Season One weren’t trying to avoid each other or kill each other for competition’s sake; they just wanted to put on a good show. That was missing from Season Two, and replaced instead with just straight out-and-out snide and unfunny rudeness. Unfortunately, the producers tried to go for such drama again this season and it turned out to be a dead-end. Stella was gone before she could drum up much drama, and none of the others seemed interested in going that route.
Oddly enough, we did find out in the final episodes that the comics DID spend time together on the ship. Evidently the comics having fun together wasn’t exciting enough to show on the program and that’s a shame. Then again, if such segments were as dull as the séance segment seen in the finale, then perhaps it really was for the best.
The Head-to-Heads – To get to the most important thing first, the whole “I know I’m funnier than …” thing just sucks the chrome off a fender. The vote itself isn’t that bad of an idea, but the way the editing stretches it out to over ten minutes of air-time is just coma-inducing. Okay, we know each goes to an insulated room and says who they would be willing to go up again. We get it. We don’t have to see them do it twice every episode. Just show them in the room together after the voting and then play the videos of who they voted for. Use that time gained for something more constructive and make the editing a little cleaner in the process. Saying that—
Comics Cheating on the Voting – Gabriel’s “I’m pulling a name out of a hat” gimmick should become a complete no-no in the rules of the show from this point on. It defeated the whole purpose of the vote, which is a comic having to possibly put his money where his mouth is if he says he is funnier than someone else. Gabriel’s method turned the thing into just random chance; meaning that a spin of a giant wheel with the comics’ names on it would have been just as effective. Now that we’ve seen it wreck a part of the show, let’s avoid it happening again. Further –1 2 3 4 5 Next-->
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