The subtle trick Showtime's "Penny Dreadful is that it is far less about the blood, gore and the specter of gruesome death than the sharp pain and exhilarating pleasure of living, and the terror of feeling alone even in close company. Read our review in the May Picks section.
Larry Gelbart is one of the few, authentic geniuses ever to toil in the rag and bone shop of American mass entertainment. From the literate whimsy of "Duffy's Tavern" to the excoriating outrage of "M*A*S*H"; from co-authoring, with the late Burt Shevelove, the funniest musical comedy script ever written ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum") to writing alone what may be the second funniest ("City of Angels"); from the ridiculously sublime (Sid Ceasar) to the sublimely ridiculous ("Oh, God!," "Tootsie," "Movie Movie"); from the most screamingly hilarious theatrical farce of the 1970s ("Sly Fox") to the dizzyingly word-playful "Mastergate"; from the riotous, rueful hilarity of "Barbarians at the Gate" to the deeply disturbing black comedy of "Power Failure" and "Weapons of Mass Distraction." Few screenwriters since the heady days of Billy Wilder, Samson Raphaelson, and Preston Sturges have had Gelbart's literacy or sure comic touch. Whenever you hear a cliche beautifully malapropped, mangled, or port-manteaued in the mouth of a comic character, chances are Larry Gelbart wrote it. He's non pariel. This splendid tribute will help explain why.
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