Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What I'm Not Watching: The Birthday Boys

Man, I was really excited for this one. The Birthday Boys is a sketch comedy troupe that's been getting critical acclaim in LA, and the show is exec produced by Bob Odenkirk (of Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad fame). And it's now on Fridays on IFC.

I've watched one full episode and all the individual sketches that I can find. And I really really wanted to laugh. But no dice, and I'm still not sure why. The people are funny, the premises are funny, many of the lines are funny - but the execution falls flat. The sketches are drawn out, and a touch too subtle, and just kind of... boring.

Maybe my expectations were overblown. AV Club likes it so maybe its me? I had a fantasy that it would bring me back to 90s era sketch like The State and Mr Show (where Bob Odenkirk made his name - and if you haven't seen either of those series, get thee to Netflix). Making sketch work on cable is notoriously difficult. I hope it picks up and improves as the season goes on. With Portlandia, Key & Peele and Inside Amy Schumer still kicking, there are some good sketch shows to choose from that aren't named SNL.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Yay or Nay: Fall comedy pilots

It's two weeks into the Networks' pilot season, and the verdict is in for the comedies: they're mostly stinkers. I watched more than my usual share hoping to make some fun discoveries, like when 30 Rock or New Girl or Community came out of nowhere. But I was disappointed on almost every front.

Here's a quick wrap up in an effort to spare you the dull, humorless (and in some cases, slightly offensive) hours I'll never get back.

Category 1: Shame on me for even bothering
Dads - WTF are Seth Green & Giovanni Ribisi doing?
- Welcome to the Family - After his genuinely tear-inducing performances on Glee, I was hoping Mike O'Malley would get better offers. Guess not. 
- We Are Men - Two Words: already canceled. 

Category 2: Decent potential, poor execution -- aka, legitimately funny stars slumming it
• Mom - Anna Faris and Allison Janney deserve better. 
Super Fun Night  - Rebel Wilson should know better.
The Millers - Will Arnett should definitely know better. 

Category 3: Meh, too sitcom-y for my taste but they'll find their audiences -- I just wish they'd taken things up a notch and done something more innovative with all the talent they've assembled
• The Michael J Fox Show - it's MJ Fox, Marie from Breaking Bad and Bunk from The Wire. And it's all very cute and touching and a little schmaltz.
• Trophy Wife - It's the underrated Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford (Josh!) playing zany with the lovely Marcia Gay Harden as the straight (wo)man. It's all just so...predictable.
• Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Apparently there is such a thing as too much Andy Samberg.
• Sean Saves the World - Sean Hayes and Megan Hilty (the real Marilyn on Smash) are great together, but the one liners and set-ups are dreadful. 

Category 4: Worthy of a second date
• Hello Ladies  (ok it's HBO so not technically a network) - this is the brain child of Stephen Merchant, the lesser known collaborator behind the British version of The Office and most other vehicles Ricky Gervais gets all the credit for. His stand up show of the same name is great, but the series is fairly one note so far.  
• The Crazy Ones - professional crazy person Robin Williams is just the right level of nuts and professional handsome person James Wolk, whom you might know as Bob Benson on Mad Men, is just the right amount of charming cad. Plus the ad industry always makes fun tv. But Sarah Michelle Gellar is annoying, and the plots are dumb. The ad-libbed sexy song about McDonald's with Kelly Clarkson hints at promise. 

Category 5: Already earned a season pass on the DVR
• The Goldbergs - a tad salty and a lot sweet, it's like The Wonder Years meets Malcolm in the Middle. With loads and loads of delicious '80s nostalgia. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I'm Watching: Key & Peele, Season 3

If you're not watching Key & Peele, get on it. Nobody tackles modern culture and race/gender/life issues with humor and silliness and ingenuity like these guys.

Comedy Central just ran a "Best of" Seasons 1 & 2 episode, and it seems like Hulu might be airing it for free (for the time being). Here's a starter video to ease you in:

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I'm Watching: Derek

So. Ricky Gervais has a new mockumentary series. In which he plays a (possibly) mentally-handicapped/developmentally-disabled character. Without any sense of irony. Set in a nursing home. It's not a comedy (though there is plenty of humor). And while the trailer makes it seem eccentric and poignant, many of the episodes revolve around death, aging and disappointment.

Let that sink in for a minute, because casual Ricky G fans will probably stop reading now and never look back. If you only know him from The Office (British version), hosting The Golden Globes or maybe Extras, then you never saw this show coming. But if you've seen all the other random series he's experimented with (Flanimals, his stand up routine on Noah's Ark, Life's Too Short, etc.), you might get how this could work.

This show is odd, in the sense that it's very hard to place within a traditional tv show genre or structure. Gervais's keen insight into life and people is what drives it forward, and Karl Pilkington's brilliant caretaker character carries it home. But it's fairly uneven... Witty, touching and downright revelatory at times — and then at other times it swings back around and smacks you in the face with its sappiness and predictable "lessons." I cried sentimentally and cathartically as much as I strained my eyes from the rolling. And don't even get me started about the amount of Coldplay used. The fact that the final scene of the season finale is set to "Fix You" should give you a good sense of the level of emotional manipulation we're dealing with.

That said... it was strangely compelling, and I blew through all 7 episodes of season 1 in an evening. Make no mistake: this is the Gervais deep cuts. Not everyone will like it, but I really think those brave souls willing to set aside judgment and just watch with an open mind will be glad they did.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yay or Nay? Duck Dynasty

I need help on this one. Supposedly it's really funny. I mean, this picture alone should have had me streaming in a hot minute:

But for some reason I just...can't. Yay or nay from the peanut gallery?

What I'm Not Watching: The Newsroom

Love the premise, hate the characters. And the sermonizing. And the hysterical, insecure women. It's everything that's so supremely annoying about Aaron Sorkin without any of charming wit and fresh insight that makes you give him a pass.
In other words, needs more CJ.

What I'm Watching: September 2013

The Tivo has been a little bare of late. Fall premieres can't get here soon enough.

*Project Runway (Lifetime) - This season is pretty entertaining, probably because they gave Tim Gunn a bigger role.

*Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central) - Uneven but worth it. Delightfully raunchy. She's so much funnier and less annoying than Sarah Silverman.

*Drunk History (Comedy Central) - A deft adaptation of the web series. These people are really, really drunk (like vomit, roll on the floor, slurred speech drunk) and that's just comedy gold.

*Breaking Bad (AMC) - I hate when people say they're "obsessed" with things but it's kind of true for me in this case. Best show on tv... ever? (Hmmm, ok, maybe not ever but top 10 for sure)

*Luther (BBC America) - Such fun, especially with Idris (i.e. Stringer Bell) being so British and all.

*Maron (IFC) - Technically aired a few months ago but IFC has been stingy with streaming. For those that like Louie but want more sad sack.