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Enough With Prestige TV. Give Me the Bloopers!

by ballyhooglobal.com
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Sometimes I watch this stuff while I’m writing. For each paragraph (or sentence) I grind out, I reward myself by returning (briefly!) to the split pants, the juicy plums, the copious giggling. This is not an especially noble impulse: Bloopers distract me, revert me to the childlike state that is my preferred adult mode.

But often my love for such tomfoolery is more complicated, more emotionally fraught, more, dare I say, sophisticated. Because it turns out that sometimes grimly prestigious TV shows have blooper reels too, and I find these bloopers to be both delightful and bizarrely soothing. Look: I hate conflict, stylized cruelty, cross-examination, grittiness, bleakness, middle- to highbrow tragedy. Regrettably, the best (or at least biggest) shows on TV are often full of all that. I watched every episode of “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” and “The Americans” but didn’t really enjoy myself at all; I enjoy all those shows’ respective blooper reels very much, though. I hate watching people being mean to one another, and I love it when one of those people biffs a line and ruins the take and everyone dissolves into giggles. See? They’re actually friends! Everyone’s having a good time! The world is a fundamentally friendly and goofy and joyful place! Bleakness and cruelty are entirely fictional constructs!

The bleaker the source material, the more comforting — the more necessary — these screw-ups become. I will personally pay you $500, right now, for a five-minute “Succession” blooper reel; I will pay you $5,000 if you never make me watch “Succession” again. I have absorbed so much poorly lit human misery, so much operatic anxiety, so much gleeful and yet humorless gore, so much soul-destroying viciousness disguised as cleverness, all in the guise of entertainment, all ostensibly my break from the real world. Blooper reels are my vacation from that vacation.

Bill Hader turned bloopers into live television on “Saturday Night Live” when he played Stefon, a Weekend Update character who struggled to keep his composure while defining, for example, the term “human Roombas.” But then he jumped to HBO and cooked up the pitch-black, alleged comedy series “Barry,” which lasted four increasingly grim seasons. It also generated my current favorite blooper reel. Hader giggles uncontrollably through the whole thing. Henry Winkler drops an entire platter of raw meat. A mean guy in a car says a mean thing and then tries to drive away but accidentally leaves the car in neutral, and everyone laughs, and it turns out the mean guy is really a nice, silly guy. I derive solace from all this — the very solace that shows like “Barry” have stolen from me. I’ve got enough bleak stuff to watch, enough real-world conflict and cruelty to contend with. What I need, desperately, are more chucklebutts.

Rob Harvilla is a senior staff writer at The Ringer, host of the podcast “60 Songs That Explain the ’90s” and author of the book of the same name (Twelve, 2023).

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