Alternative and surreal comedy has flourished in recent years due to the opportunities presented by a changing media paradigm. While its narrative-driven incarnation has only just found a proper niche over the past decade, it first entered the mainstream in the 1990s with comedy sketch series such as Mr. Show and soon risen The children in the room. However, it’s MTV’s almost forgotten foray into form, the state, that inadvertently paved the way for a transition to the now familiar situation comedy format. Following the conclusion of The states three seasons in 1995, founding troupe members Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain began performing as the perpetually clad trio “Stella” in 1997. With a set that included live material and pre-recorded segments , Stella continued even as her members’ career blossomed. After a 2004 episode of Comedy Central Presents presented their number, a pilot for Stella the series was commissioned by the network and a 10-episode season launched in the summer of 2005.
A mix of esotericism, non-sequences, and the occasional fourth wall peek (and wave) on camera, Black, Showalter, and Wain played exaggerated versions of themselves. The back of the series DVD collection notably cites a Hollywood journalist description of the three as “The Marx Brothers on acid”. Intended to be more mainstream and accessible than their previous (and less graphic) comedy, it was ultimately for nothing because Stella was not renewed for a second season, a combination of high budget and low ratings. Nonetheless, Stella opened the door to live-action absurdism to enter the stilted sitcom format, a direction that spread to many other series in the years to come.
by Stella the episodes featured concise and descriptive titles (“Camping”, “Vegetables”, and “Roman”, to name a few) and are mostly what they seem, minus a few odd turns along the way. road. In the episode “Paper Boys”, Michael, Michael, and David have become paperboys. That is, after accidentally hitting and hospitalizing a child with his car. In “Meeting Girls”, they go to a New York bar to meet women. Once the Michaels find partners, a picnic the next day leads to the whole group living in the trio’s apartment the next day, with Black taking on the role of father to his girlfriend (future hunger games star Elizabeth Banks) the children and Showalter are thrust into a dysfunctional and abusive “Lifetime” style relationship. When they try to make amends with David, he – and the apartment – have been completely renovated with two new roommates already moved in. And of course, the episode ends with a last-minute rush to an airport to stop David from boarding. a plane to Italy.
Banks, who co-starred with the trio in Wain’s feature directorial debut Hot and humid American summer, was just one of many notable guest stars set to star in the Stella Sandbox. Others included a colleague Wet Hot co-stars Paul Rudd and Janeane Garofalo, Sam Rockwell, Alan Ruck (later to collaborate with Showalter on stall)Edward Norton and Josh Charles, as well as former State his castmates Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino. Rudd and Lo Truglio appeared as the cruel coworkers of Amy, a neighbor of the trio, who humiliate Michael, Michael, and David at Amy’s office party (in an episode aptly titled “Office Party”). A redemption solution presents itself when they decide to sneak into the company picnic and beat Rudd and Lo Truglio in the competitions. To avoid recognition, they acquire fake mustaches from sleazy Rockwell mustache dealer Gary Meadows, whose supply is kept in a hidden compartment of his house (with many faint fake mustaches bearing strangers spotted everywhere) .
Stella aired at a defining moment for Comedy Central. Long-lasting series South Park and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had become critical and ratings darlings, known for their razor-sharp social and political commentary. Modest successes like Renew 911! (created by and featuring many The state co-stars) supported programming bolstered by Dave Chappelle’s groundbreaking comedy series Chappelle show. Unfortunately, just like the third season of Chappelle show should start like by Stella Frontman, star and creator Dave Chappelle found himself in need of a break from the network. The added pressure on Comedy Central and Stella, coupled with a higher price per episode and a less accessible comedic bent than other series airing at that time (such as the first Spirit of Mencia), means that by Stella the dice were cast after the season finale in August 2005. Despite the official announcement of the cancellation, when the series was released on DVD in the fall of 2006, it still bore the “Stella: Season 1.“This DVD remains the most reliable way to view the series, which has only rarely been available for streaming in the years since.
While by Stella brand on television was minor, the impact it left in its wake, intentional or not, is massive. It paved the way for similar series such as Flight of the Conchords, The Sarah Silverman Program, Workaholic and Big city — not to mention a myriad of FX and Adult Swim series, including Wain’s own co-creation children’s hospital – to create similar bizarre worldscapes glimpsed from the perspective of altered, surreal versions of their creators. With the Stella the trio’s subsequent output, including such disparate works as an upcoming feature film Bob’s Burgers, another period, or the Oscar-winning film directed by Showalter Tammy Faye’s eyestheir little-seen show is a work worth reappraising and seeking for fans of the alternative comedy live-action cartoon and Stella themselves.
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