Once again, I ‘Get a Life’

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spewey get a life
Chris Elliot and Brian Doyle-Murray as seen in the “Get a Life,” “Spewey and Me” episode. Screenshot

grazianoSince its final episode aired on March 8, 1992, I’ve spent the subsequent three decades on a quiet quixotic quest to find the complete two-season set of the short-lived Fox sitcom “Get a Life.”

A relative Luddite, I’ve faced off with numerous technological windmills in my search, trying Amazon and eBay, as well as some deeper searches, but I always fell, defeated. At one point, I purchased a VHS tape with two episodes from Season 1—“The Prettiest Week of My Life” and “Bored Straight”—but the complete two-season oeuvre continued to elude me. 

This recently changed when I discovered I could stream all the episodes of “Get a Life” for free—albeit at a poor visual and sound quality—on this newfangled thing called YouTube. 

Now, I am happier than Sparkles Peterson on the runway [1].

For the uninitiated, scratching and/or shaking their heads right now, confounded, wondering what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to explain.

In the mid-80s, the Fox Network started airing sitcoms, such as “The Garry Shandling Show” and “Married with Children” that were iconoclastic, edgier and stranger than neutered depictions of the American family found on other network sitcoms at the time. 

Created by “Late Night with David Letterman” writers Chris Elliot (“There’s Something About Mary” and “Groundhog Day”) and David Mirkin with Adam Resnick, “Get a Life” was developed as a dark satirical send-up of the sitcoms of the 1960s and 70s [2].  

The show follows the escapades of Chris Peterson (Elliot), a 30-year-old dim-witted and psychotic man-child, who works as a paperboy and lives “in an incredibly cool bachelor pad that just happens to be above [his] parents’ garage.” The show celebrates the absurd and the surreal with a picante blend of slapstick and gallows humor—Chris actually dies in 12 of the episodes.  

So it goes without saying that “Get a Life” was not everyone’s cup of Spewey juice [3] but it aligns perfectly with my own warped, crass and sardonic sense of humor.

For example, in “Zoo Animals on Wheels” (Season 1: Episode 10) Chris lands the lead role as a wildebeest on rollerskates in a community theater’s production of Andrew Todd Keller’s “Zoo Animals on Wheels” (an obvious parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”). At one point, Chris’s father—played by his real-life dad, the actor Bob Elliot—asks his wife while watching his son from the audience if “it’s medically possible to die of embarrassment.” 

In “Chris’ Brain Starts Working” (Season 2: Episode 9) an exposure to toxic waste turns Chris into an international Spelling Bee champion. Prior to the toxic waste exposure, Chris would always place a silent-K in front of the word “pants”[4]

Upon rewatching these gems from my adolescence, I’ve realized they have aged much better than one might think. In 2023, society seems to now possess the collective palate for this type of smart-ass comedy that combines the taboo with the absurd. And in this way, the show was truly ahead of its time.   

And for me, personally, my discovery has helped me discover my own inner-30-year-old paperboy, a fact that thrills my wife as well.   

__________

[1] I am alluding to the aforementioned “The Prettiest Week of My Life” (Season 1: Episode 2) where Chris attends Handsome Boy Modeling School and then discovers the sordid side of the modeling industry after graduating.

[2] Writer Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich”) and the actor Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad”) worked on teleplays for “Get a Life”.

[3] The episode “Spewey and Me” (Season 2: Episode 11) satirizes Speilberg’s “E.T.” The alien’s name, Spewey, is an acronym for “Special Person Entering the World Egg Yoke.”

[4] As a high school English teacher, I see the “kpants” more than one might imagine. Spell-check, people.


 

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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com