City With A ViewHow funny TV can save your life

We’ve been through a lot in this city. Hell, I moved here a little under three years ago, and I’ve already witnessed my fair share of tabloid-worthy shenanigans and soul-crushing defeats, and that’s nothing compared to what the stalwart individuals who’ve been living here for decades have endured. Good thing I like my cities the way I like my people, eccentric and flawed. Perfect is boring. Nevertheless, each buffoonish criminal of a mayor or music festival corpse takes its toll, and there’s only so much a populace can take. Well, citizens and denizens of our fair ‘Ham, they say that laughing at your trauma is one of the first signs that you are recovering from it, and I’ve got just the thing.

City With A View

Take a licking and keep on ticking: View of the City host Chris Davis portrays former Birmingham mayor and pitchman supreme Larry Langford.

If cynical disinterest in Birmingham is your disease then View of the City, a new locally produced television comedy, is an easy remedy to swallow. I should know. I suffer from it myself sometimes. Case in point: when I first heard that someone was trying to make a show similar to The Daily Show, but about Birmingham, I assumed immediately that it would be mediocre at best. I am happy to say that I’m a grumpy bastard who deserves to be wrong. This show stands up with Alabama Public Television’s We Have Signal as one of the city’s best local TV shows. Sure, there are jokes and sketches that fall flat, timing mishaps and a bit of roughness showing around the edges of this otherwise slickly produced and good-looking show, but the overall product is very appealing and very funny.

View of the City pulls a lot of its good qualities from a talented stable of local creatives. “One of the things that’s interesting about our show is that we have people from such diverse areas of entertainment,” says VOTC director Stephen French. “We have people with an improv background, we have people who have film and television backgrounds, we have people who have standup backgrounds and we have people who have theatrical backgrounds. It can be nice, because you’re going to get a little bit of everything with the show, some of the best funniness in Birmingham.”

He’s not kidding. Many of these bits aren’t just funny, they’re the kind of biting satire that can make you bark out your laughter unexpectedly. From a sketch involving Larry Langford hawking the rest of his belongings to one that enumerates the benefits Alabama would receive if it only allowed gay marriage, the show manages to walk a fine line between comedy and commentary. “We’re not looking to rake anybody over the coals,” says VOTC host Chris Davis. “We’re here to entertain, and to have fun. We love this city, and there’s a lot to have fun with in this city. There are a lot of things to make fun of also, but we try to balance it out. Just like any city, there’s always room for improvement and Birmingham’s no different. There’s no reason not to bring that to light and have some fun with it too. Also, when it’s something really important, and people really need to know about it and really need to do something about it, we’ll make a joke about it, why not? If it gets somebody thinking that’s cool, but if it entertains, that’s our goal. It doesn’t hurt to inform somebody as well.”

Speaking of informing people, let’s get to the details. You can catch View of the City on Charter Cable Channel 21 on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. Prime dinner-time viewing, kiddies! If you are not a Charter customer, or you just prefer to do your viewing in bed with a laptop like yours truly, the show is also available at in glorious HD. Also available on the website are some extra video clips, bios of the cast and various hilarious descriptions of what the show is or isn’t like. Oh yeah, and a killer Apple Brown Betty Recipe. Why don’t you whip yourself up a batch, nestle back into the welcoming folds of the couch and watch a little View of the City. Take two episodes and call me in the morning. I guarantee you’ll feel better about your city.

Sam George writes about popular music and other topics for Birmingham Weekly. He is also an editor at music web site Send your comments to

Originally printed in Birm­ing­ham Weekly on May 6, 2010.

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