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You Should Be Watching: 'Get a Life'

If you love slapstick and seek surreal sitcom fun, then binge-watch Get a Life. Starring Chris Elliott as a psychotic paperboy, Get a Life reaches comic heights—or should I say depths?—that few shows have attained.

Title: Get a Life

Year it began: 1990

Where it can be seen: Amazon; DVD

Who’s in it: Chris Elliott; Robin Riker; Bob Elliott; Elinor Donoghue; Sam Robards; Brian Doyle-Murray

Typical episode length: 30 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 35

Brief plot description: Thirty-year old Chris Peterson, a paperboy living above his parent’s garage, causes chaos while pursuing his dreams in suburban Greenville. Chris later moves his base of comic operations into a retired policeman’s garage.

Why it’s worth watching: Get a Life is comedy gold — a consistently hilarious and deeply weird show featuring the maniacally cheerful anti-hero Chris Peterson. From the opening episode, in which Chris’s heartfelt wisdom about enjoying free time leads his best friend to nearly lose both life and job on a malfunctioning roller-coaster, destruction follows Chris wherever he goes. The proverbial child in a man’s body, Chris walks the fine line between being charmingly happy-go-lucky and frighteningly mentally unbalanced (he has an unhealthy obsession with Darryl Hannah, for example, and makes almost everyone around him extremely nervous). Aided by excellent writing and edgy special effects, Elliott shows amazing comedic skills as the sublimely stupid and vain Chris: watching Chris dance to “Alley Cat” or walk the runway as a male model is slapstick heaven. Playing Chris’s nearly always pajama-clad parents, Bob Elliott and Donoghue deliver perfectly deadpan wisecracks about their oafish son, while Riker is fantastic as Chris’s nemesis, the high-strung and censorious Sharon Potter. Get a Life is avant-garde in its surreal take on sitcom clichés: whether it’s mocking tough-love narratives by having a bullied Chris teach etiquette to a ridiculous local street gang, or having father and son bond by violently winning a friendly competition, the show spoofs standard television’s tidy resolution of life’s problems. The most extreme subversion of sitcom complacency is the show’s frequent presentation of its protagonist’s death: whether it’s from a random boulder or a violent beheading performed by friends who realize he took advantage of their shellfish-induced amnesiac state, Chris tends to die a horrible death—a most delicious irony in this hilarious show about getting a life.


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