Category Archives: Reviews

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: SIX HILARIOUS MONUMENTS FROM PSYCHOVILLE

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: SIX HILARIOUS MONUMENTS FROM PSYCHOVILLE

Following the third season and movie version of the League of Gentlemen, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson would find a cornucopia of acting and writing work on radio, film, TV and the theatre. In fact, their respective talents would make them very much in demand as they appeared or wrote for work such as: Doctor Who, Sherlock, Whitechapel, Marple, Benidorm, Poirot, Happy Valley, Ghost Stories (stage), Spaced, A Field in England (2013), The Widower, The World’s End (2013), High Rise (2015) and many, many more.

On top of that Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith collaborated on a fraternal relation to the League of Gentlemen called Psychoville. Here they committed another gruesome set of original characters each with their own mysterious past. They brought together, over the crooked path of two seasons and a Halloween special,  programmes involving all manner of murder, comedy, telekinesis, mental illness, mistaken identity and disgusting deeds.

If you haven’t seen it then I urge you to do so as it is insanely clever and darkly funny. Here are SIX clips which highlight the genius of the show. You can still catch all the episodes on Netflix, if you have the stomach for it.

**THESE CLIPS CONTAIN SPOILERS**
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SEASON 1 – MURDER MYSTERY SCENE

David takes the Murder Mystery evening a tad too far!

 

SEASON 1 – “ROPE” PARODY

This is an insanely clever and silly homage to Alf Hitchcock’s masterful “one-take” thriller.

 

SEASON 2 – CREEPY LIBRARIAN

Reece Shearsmith plays an obsessional librarian perfectly!

 

SEASON 2 – TINA TURNER KARAOKE

Probably one of the funniest and bizaare impressions of Tina Turner ever!

 

SEASON 1 – THE JOY OF BIRTH

Unhinged midwife Joy speaks very honestly about the “glory” of birth.

 

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL – MR JELLY ORDERS A PROSTITUTE

Bitter clown Mr Jelly calls a lady of the night who does “specials”!

 

 

 

 

 

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: TWELVETY MEMORABLE SKETCHES FROM THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN

CLASSIC COMEDY REVIEW: TWELVETY MEMORABLE SKETCHES FROM THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN

Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson are utter geniuses! Having won the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1994 they successfully took their surreal and grotesque character comedy from the radio to the TV. Thus, in 1999 they brought an array of wonderfully drawn comedic characters, both funny and horrific in equal measures, to the small screen.

The show ran for three brilliant seasons and here are some the best moments I could find on YouTube. If you’ve never seen the show then you should as it retains its ability to shock, horrify and more than anything else make you piss yourself laughing.

Please note: these are the best sketches I could find online and there many more throughout the show, so do catch up with it on Netflix if you’ve never seen it. Once you start watching the inhabitants of Royston Vasey – YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE!

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“YOU’RE MY WIFE NOW, DAVE!”

The circus comes to town with strange occurences!

JED HUNTER’S COMMERCIAL AUDITION

An audition doesn’t quite go according to plan!

ATTACHMENTS DATING AGENCY

A dating agency with a less than tactful interviewer.

GO JOHNNY GO GO GO

The weirdest card games known to humanity.

LES MCQUEEN

“It’s a shit business!” Poor Les just can’t get a break!

IRIS AND MRS LEVINSON DO “BATTLE”

The duelling cleaner and “boss” continue their bickering!

“I WON THE MUMS”

Jeff gives the worst “best-man” speech ever!

KES PARODY

Mr Chinnery releases a Kestrel into the wild!

“THEY’VE GOT PENS!”

Pauline meets a vicious nemesis!

“WE’LL HAVE NO TROUBLE HERE!”

Tubbs “cracks” under questioning!

HELL IS. . .!

Bernadette’s damning sermon!

“SEEN! SEEN! SEEN!”

Morons at the local video store!

“WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID?”

A very awkward confrontation!

 

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. – PREMIER LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FOOTBALL CLUB LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

“Alright, I know I’m gonna lose here. But I’ll be the best second you’ve ever seen.”

From the film McVicar (1980)

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KICK OFF

I love football. I love Spurs football club! I have followed and supported them for over 35 years and have tasted glory and despair; well mainly despair. However, of late, with the current squad and manager we have been really quite good. So, here’s my view on the latest 2016/2017 season.

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THE NEARLY TEAM

Well, let’s address the elephant in the room first!  Tottenham Hotspur FC did not win any trophies during the last football season. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s team were one of the most exhilarating performers, coming closest of all the teams to catch the Chelsea machine managed by effervescent Italian Antonio Conte. Manchester United, under the guidance of dour millionaire whinger Jose Mourinho, professionally ground out respective wins in the Europa League Cup and English League Cup; while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal found some form to beat an on-the-beach Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Yet, while Spurs finished trophyless for another season there were a great many wins for the team and I remain very optimistic for the future.

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SCORES ON THE DOORS

We had a cracking season overall despite not winning anything.  Here are some statistics and finishing positions for the season

  • 2016/17 Premier League season as runners-up.
  • 2nd place finish was the clubs’ highest league position since 1962/1963
  • 86 points was highest total Spurs gained since 3 point introduced for a win.
  • Unbeaten at home in the League for the first time in over 50 years.
  • 86 goals was the highest scored by any team in 2016/2017 season.
  • 25 goals conceded was the lowest number by any team in season.
  • +60 was highest goal difference for any team in season.
  • Harry Kane won the Golden Boot – 29 goals in 2016/17 season.
  • Christian Eriksen with 15 assists was 2nd in the 2016/2017 season.
  • 7-1 win against Hull FC was a record away win in the League.
  • 85,512 – Highest attendance ever (at Wembley) against Bayer Leverkusen.
  • FA Cup: Semi-finals
  • EFL Cup: Fourth round
  • Champions League: Group stage
  • Europa League: Round of 32
  • Finished above Arsenal for first time in 22 years!

Despite the abject displays generally in the Champions’ League and Europa League the young team I believe will learn from this experience and hopefully we will give a better show next season. In the Premier League we were on fire, however, with sterling victories over the likes of Champions’ Chelsea, scumbags Arsenal, Guardiola’s show ponies’ Manchester City and boring Manchester United confirmed us a team of the highest quality in regard to results against the top teams. Klopp’s Liverpool were the ones who gave us the toughest matches, beating us at Anfield and drawing at the Lane 1-1 earlier in the season.

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Spurs confidently swatted aside most of the lower teams in the division both home and away and lost only four games to Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham and the aforementioned Scousers. Obviously, the losses were disappointing, but if anything it was the 8 draws which cost us most of all really as we found Chelsea 7 points too good by the end of the season.

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THE PLAYERS

How do you choose a player of the season when we’ve had so many consistent performers? Hugo Lloris was once again, a couple of rash out-of-the-box situations aside, formidable between the sticks. The fluidity of the three/four at the back system found Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker providing a solid white wall in defence. Even when Rose and Walker were injured Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier deputized with some aplomb. In midfield Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama were both powerful and athletic beasts, stomping and controlling games, especially at White Hart Lane.

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Adding silk to their steel was the mercurial Dane, Christian Eriksen, who continues to impress with his passing range and incisive crossing. In the forward positions Heung Min Son added a serious amount of goals to his pace and skill scoring 21 goals in all competitions. Then the dynamic headline-stealer Dele Alli, who at the age of twenty, won the young PFA player of the year and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. I really hope we can hang onto him as he is just an incredible talent as his 22-goal season testifies. Two headers against Chelsea were superb and his goal against Watford from outside the box was a beauty amidst a stream of wonderful goals.

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Finally, with 29 goals in the Premier League alone Harry Kane was once again phenomenal!  His strength, movement, skill and dead-eye shooting skills in front of the goal means he was arguably our player of the season. Wanyama, Eriksen, Alderweireld and Alli were equally valuable in a fine team effort, but without Kane’s goals we would have been lower in the league. Two separate injuries during the season prevented even more goals being scored and his injury in October 2016 coincided with those draws which possible cost us the title. Nonetheless, what a player Kane was for us, leading the line with sheer genius.

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THE MANAGER

What can you say about Mauricio Pochettino that has not been said? Perhaps inexperience in European competition caused a slight blight on his 2016/2017 managerial season overall, but that is being very critical. Because overall his Spurs team in the Premier League were just exhilarating. It’s one thing creating a steely and measly defence but to then craft a structure to allow the team to bolt forward and destroy teams the way we did throughout the season was incredible. We hunted and crushed teams with sheer energy and force of will. Of course there were defeats but we bounced back with strength and determination and finished unbeaten at home going on an amazing nine game winning run which got us close to Chelsea.

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More than any player Tottenham Hotspur need to hang onto Pochettino as I think he is destined to be a managerial great as his ability to structure, coach and motivate players is second-to-none. Given our wage structure and lower net transfer spend, compared to other Premier League clubs, Spurs are punching well above their weight and for me Pochettino is performing a minor miracle at White Hart Lane. Long may it continue too!!  Here’s a musical tribute to Mauricio!

 

THE FUTURE

White Hart Lane is gone! Long live the new White Hart Lane!  The Chief Executive Daniel Levy has overseen a resurgence of Spurs on and off the field. For the 2017/2018 season Tottenham Hotspur FC will be playing all home games at Wembley Stadium and while our record hasn’t been great there recently I’m hoping we can make it a formidable place to come next year.

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It was a wonderful day to witness Spurs beat Manchester United 2-0 on the last game to be played at the old White Hart Lane and the future looks very bright for the new state-of-the-art stadium currently being built. The tribute to past players and games was tremendous and so many memories came to light. My blog item from a year or so ago echoed many of the sentiments of the day. Check it out here:

Also there was a fine tribute video narrated by Kenneth Branagh no less.

In terms of the playing staff for next season I think we, most importantly, need to hang on to the players who have done us proud this year. Some will inevitably leave as surplus to requirements, while others will possibly be the subject of bids from other clubs. Indeed, Kyle Walker, our dynamic right-back is being looked at by Manchester City I believe. However, I’m confident we should hang on to most of our players and if we do get bids clubs will have to negotiate with Daniel Levy; a man who drives a very hard bargain.

In terms of purchases our modus operandi is usually to buy hungry, younger players rather than make huge purchases. Our record signings are the currently injured Erik Lamela and disappointing Moussa Sissoko. If both of those players were to find top form it would worth keeping them. These are big IFs though. I would like to see us get another striker to back up Harry Kane, however, if Vincent Janssen develops positively that may not be necessary.

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The 2016/2017 season was a tremendous one for Tottenham Hotspur FC on the pitch and I really hope we can push for more glory next season and perhaps even win a cup or incredibly win the Premier League. As usual for a Spurs fan hope springs eternal!

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

MOVIE REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins 

WRITERS: Created by: William Moulton Marston,
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg
Story: Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs, Zach Snyder

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen

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**CONTAINS MINIMAL SPOILERS**

The need for super women and men to rise and protect us against the foes of everyday existence has never been more requisite. Governments, politicians, military commanders, corporate greed, religious leaders and humanity’s capacity for evil and destructive behaviour means people are under threat from violence and death on a daily basis. It’s the world we live in and one we have always lived in. Life is a gift which we continue to throw away because of a difference in beliefs, thoughts, race, gender and language. It is insane but I doubt it will ever stop. So, one must except it and be grateful for all the good people and for every day one is alive. But how do you escape from this terror that lurks in the world and the fear that comes with it? Well, we have the fantasies on film and TV screens and in comic books that convince us we can be saved; that the bad people in league with the devil can be put to the sword of justice. This month we have the Amazonian powerhouse that is Wonder Woman!!

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The DC comic-book-cinema-world has taken a critical pasting and much of this can be put at the door of the attention-deficit-director Zach Snyder and of course the studios themselves who have, in my humble opinion, ignored the basics of storytelling and genre in a bombastic attempt to out-do Marvel’s slick and productive Universe. Indeed, there were great films somewhere in the over-stuffed crusts of Man of Steel (2013), Suicide Squad (2016) and the incomprehensible Batman v. Superman (2016); brilliant characters, actors, special effects, action, set-pieces, music in all of them. However, they were ultimately let down by the structure and storytelling. Not so with Wonder Woman, which goes back to basics and takes its time to establish our heroine’s origins and, unlike the other DC films, builds character and empathy prior to launching into a feast of amped-up-to-eleven fight sequences and wondrous leaps of derring-do.

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At the centre of all the action is the athletic Gal Gadot as Diana, Princess of Themyscira, who as a girl, desires to join her Aunt Antiope (scene-stealing Robin Wright) as a great warrior, but is forbidden by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen.) The first act is full of powerful mythology, imagery and characters and to be honest I could have watched a film about their lives on the beautiful secret island. Yet when their peace is unsettled by the appearance of Chris Pine’s American spy and the German Navy pursuing him we get an almighty beach battle between the modern-day Teutonic troops and the Amazonian warriors. This sets the tone of the mythological past juxtaposing with the modern era (albeit circa 1914-1918) and this theme remains one of the strengths of the film.

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With the introduction of the charismatic and handsome Steve Trevor (Pine), Diana is galvanized to fight for the Allies in World War One, and thus truly begins the heroine’s journey. The pace and turns in the narrative are handled extremely well by director Patty Jenkins. She gives as much importance to the scenes between Diana and Steve, notably the witty exchanges on the boat and during Diana’s first encounter with the big city. This ensures we are committed to their relationship and the romance had echoes of Indiana Jones and Marian Ravenwood’s from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Conversely, everyone’s favourite baddies, the Germans, provide a solid nemesis which to root against as Danny Huston’s General and his more interesting assistant, Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya), develop a heinous gas with which to defeat the Allies.

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I think I liked the film so much mainly because it was simple in structure, well directed, and yet retained much of the magical fantasy and mythology of the comic books. Moreover, it contained some kick-ass slow-motion action sequences and the sight of a warrior Princess using a mighty sword and golden rope while taking out Germans and huge tanks was nothing less than breath-taking. The cast, especially Gadot and Pine commit wonderfully to their characters and the story. Minor criticisms are the slightly over-long running time and the cardboard cut-out nature of the secondary German characters. Nonetheless, as superhero films go Wonder Woman is right up there with some of Marvel’s best movies.

Essentially a traditional origins story, Wonder Woman may follow the well-worn formula of establishing our heroine, her strengths and her commitment to peace through powerful means, but it does it with verve, heart and compassion. I cared about these characters and while it may be a simple notion that love can conquer all, it is a universal emotion that I can definitely get behind. Because there is a lot of hatred on Earth and it needs all the heroes and heroines it can find; even if they are merely fantasy.

(Mark: 9 out of 11)

  

 

MOVIE REVIEW: COLOSSAL (2016)

MOVIE REVIEW: COLOSSAL (2016)

**CONTAINS MINIMAL SPOILERS**

Having watched Alien: Covenant (2017) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017) in the last few weeks at the cinema, it’s been a bit of an alien-monster-sci-fi month so far. Both of those films were very entertaining genre/franchise movies with loads of action, suspense and decent enough performances and set-pieces to make them well worth the admission fee. Of course, they also used established formulas and known properties to propel their narratives and the movie Colossal (2016) too draws upon Japanese movies or ‘Kaiju’ subgenre; which in itself was influenced by the atomic age and Hollywood monster movies of yesteryear. Colossal, however, transcends the monster genre to become something surprisingly more human altogether.

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The filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo wrote and directed one of my favourite time-travel films ever called TimeCrimes (2007). In that an ordinary guy gets caught in a paradoxical nightmarish loop of murder and temporal intrigue, delivering a film rich in devious plotting, mind-bending structure and also strong thematic subtext. Similarly, Colossal is equally ambitious employing intelligence and powerful concepts as Anne Hathaway’s lost-in-life-thirty-something finds her consciousness somehow connected to a Godzilla like beast wreaking havoc in South Korea. If you’re thinking that’s a bit weird isn’t it – then you are correct! However, Vigalondo has crafted one of the most original cinema experiences I have had all year.

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Safe to say this has one of those fantastical-let’s-go-with-it plot turns in the first act which establishes the films’ quirkiness very quickly and runs with it superbly. Anne Hathaway provides the films’ emotional heart with a terrific performance as an alcoholic-unemployed-party-girl who seeks to escape the hedonistic night and day life which is slowly destroying her. On top of her addictions she is kicked out by her cloying and controlling boyfriend, portrayed with overloaded smug by Dan Stevens.
Heading back home to the place she grew up in is seen as a way of escaping and gaining control. Indeed the move from the city to a small town is a staple of many lo-fi indie comedies and dramas but when a monster attacks Seoul, the film suddenly mashes up the genres to fascinating dramatic and comedic impact.

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Admitting defeat in life, Gloria has nothing but an empty place to reside and very little to cling onto emotionally. That is until Jason Sudeikis’ Oscar, a childhood friend, gives her a job and furniture and most importantly, an ear to listen to. Sudeikis is amazing in his role as the complex Oscar as he sees, in Gloria, a chance to rekindle a past unrequited love. However, while the two connect the story goes in an unexpected direction and his motivation really pushes the narrative to surprising places. But what about the monsters I hear you ask?  Well, without giving too much away the human story of Gloria and Oscar is cleverly reflected by the destruction in Seoul as Vigalondo pushes both emotional and cerebral buttons very successfully.

Lastly, thematically speaking this film is a very rich. The subtext is all about human beings gaining control over the external forces, internal weaknesses and those people who bully you and try to mould your existence.   While it may be tonally uneven in the latter half of the film, as it veers from comedy to high drama, this merely adds to the overall charm and unconventionality. In a summer which will bring us blockbusters galore they will have to go some way to match Vigalondo’s lower-budgeted Colossal for originality, humour, heart and Seoul (sorry!) (Mark: 9 out of 11)

12 REASONS WHY ‘IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA’ IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST SITCOMS EVER!

12 REASONS WHY IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST SITCOMS EVER!

With the new season now up on Netflix I thought it advisable to revisit my awe and admiration for the clever, crazy and scurrilous comedy show that is: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  I have reviewed it in the past here, but rather than simply do another glowing evaluation of Season 12 – which I loved by the way – I thought why not consider its disgusting genius as a whole. So, here you go! 12 reasons why the crazy gang from Paddy’s Pub completely rock!

**CONTAINS SPOILERS BITCHES**

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1. CHARACTERS

Any successful comedy and drama show lives and dies by the characters who inhabit the storylines and world. In the show we have a rich differentiation of people collectively known as ‘The Gang’; who all work collectively within the comedy as a highly dysfunctional family. Charlie is the idiot youngest child; Dennis and Mac are the insane older brothers; Dee is the incompetent and much maligned sister; while Frank is the wayward father and the mother is, well, there is no precise mother but a random set of insane surrogates. What they have in common is that they are all deluded-self-serving-narcissistic-insane-lunatics all seeking to undermine each other in turn. Thus resulting in some incredibly hilarious episodes and seasons.

2. FEARLESSNESS

To me political correctness is a fair way to behave and make judgements within everyday life, but sometimes it can go too far and is used as a weapon to demonize behaviour meant as humour. Moreover, in life the unwritten and written laws of society deem it necessary – for upstanding citizens that is – to abide by a certain set of rules. Those same rules don’t apply to the characters in this show. Indeed, behaviour such as: doing drugs, blacking up, stalking, pretending to be gay, arson, selling fake cola, luring women into bed under false pretences, black market surrogacy, faking own deaths, blowing up cars and generally attacking and verbally abusing people around them, should get them locked up. However, the punkish and illegal shenanigans allow the viewer to both live out vicariously such bad behaviour; not so much shock for shock sake but as an attempt to drive the humour down very dark avenues for comedic impact.

3. DARKNESS

The characters inhabit a world where it’s dog-eats-man-eats-woman-eats-dog; and in some ways this reflects the darker aspects of society.  I mean we have become a selfie-taking-blogging-wait-until-you-finish-talking-culture only interested in getting one-up on each other. While of course there is much humanity and charity too in life, It’s Always Sunny is not a cosy or safe world where everything ends up great at the end. No!  Dead dogs fall out of children’s coffins; tramps have anal sex under the New Jersey boardwalk; Frank exploits Vietnamese people in sweatshops; people pretend to have cancer; the long-suffering Cricket had his face and existence burnt off; characters laugh when others fall flat on their face or try to kill themselves etc. Today, and quite rightly, we should strive to respect each other so the show is a terrible role model for life and lurks in a world far away from and the warm hearts of other benign TV shows.

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4. FORMAL BRILLIANCE

Throughout every season of It’s Always Sunny there is always an attempt to present episodes in an imaginative form and structure.  For example, in Who Pooped The Bed we get a Rashomon-style-split-perspective murder investigation into who crapped in Charlie’s bed.  While in The Gang Go On Family Fight, the humour is structured around the gang appearing on a classic gameshow. In addition to the hilarious historically anachronistic flashbacks in The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell, in Season 11’s Being Frank the whole episode was shot from Frank’s POV. In the current superb 12th season one episode is presented from a supporting characters dream perspective; while the most impressively detailed form presentation is in Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy. In this Dennis sets up a series of CCTV cameras in Mac and Charlie’s Mum’s abode and becomes a god-like TV director; editing their everyday lives into a bizarre but hilarious reality show/situation comedy. This intelligence and thought keeps the show fresh and funny in presentation and delivery.

5. WRITING

As well as the impressive formal structuring all twelve seasons of It’s Always Sunny the plots are always pretty tight and logical in a twisted way. Of course some of the storylines can become quite convoluted for humorous purposes but the writers use pace and a plethora of plot twists to great impact. I especially loved the episode The Gang Breaks Dee which finds Dee finally hitting it big as a stand-up comedian only to find it was the Gang who set her up with a massively elaborate practical joke. Dee again was at the centre of a big mystery in Season 6 where she gets pregnant and tries to make money out of surrogacy. This plot became a classic arc for the season and the episode Who Got Dee Pregnant is brilliant twisted as each of the Gang debate as to whether it was them or not; including even Frank and Dennis!  So essentially rather than being just a litany of abusive characters being horrible many of the narratives are tighter than a wrestler’s nut-sack in Speedos.

6. RUNNING GAGS

Throughout all the episodes there are a plethora of running gags such as:

  • Charlie is a perpetual glue or paint sniffer.
  • Charlie ‘loves’ and stalks the Waitress.
  • Frank and Charlie are garbage scavengers.
  • Frank always tries some underhanded money-making scheme.
  • Dee is a terrible stand-up comedian.
  • Dee has terrible taste in men who all suffer at her hands.
  • Dee is mocked for being a bird.
  • Cricket’s life and body is destroyed by the Gang.
  • The McPoyle family are the Gang’s sworn enemies.
  • Dennis thinks he’s the most intelligent but is just as dumb as the rest.
  • Mac thinks he’s a brilliant bodyguard with great fighting moves but isn’t.
  • Everyone thinks Mac is gay but he doesn’t know or admit it!
  • The Gang ALWAYS destroy Dee’s cars.
  • Dennis is a committed “lady-killer” with sociopathic tendencies.
  • Charlie does all the dirty work!
  • The Gang will promote ridiculous products such as: Kitten Mittens, Wolf Cola and Fight-Milk!
  • The Gang ALWAYS dumbfound and conflict with figures of authority including: Police; Lawyers; Health & Safety; Doctors; Therapists etc.

These and many more provide the spine for the show and give it a depth and wealth of humour throughout.

7. SATIRE

Similar to South Park many people who haven’t seen the show may think that It’s Always Sunny is just a gross and base comedy show. However, many of the episodes show the Gang attempting to resolve a national or international capitalist crisis. Usually led by Frank’s desire to screw someone over or simply because they prefer ill thought out and hair-brained schemes to actual proper work these episodes successfully satirise the world today. My particular favourites include: The Gang Runs for Office, The Gang Solve the Gas Crisis, The Great Recession and The Gang Recycles Their Trash  all demonstrate a finger-on-the-pulse of political and social satire; albeit from a completely ridiculous angle.

8. DIALOGUE

In some respect the dialogue is some of the most disgusting words ever committed to TV. In fact I’m amazed there isn’t more controversy for some of the episodes. However, like the characters it remains on the fringe of the TV schedules remaining cult viewing. Here are just a few of their classic quotes:

“Hey-o! What’s up, bitches!”                                                 Mac

“Wildcard, bitches! Yee-haw!”                                              Charlie

“I browned out that evening.”                                               Mac

“You keep using this word “jabroni. It’s awesome!”          Charlie

“If you’re in my room, you’re always being filmed.”          Dennis

“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”                                       Fat Mac

“Your mom doesn’t know dick! She’s a dumb, fat cow!”    
Sweet Dee

“Fight Milk! The first alcoholic protein drink for bodyguards!” Mac

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9. CAMEOS

In the latest season there is a wonderful cameo from Scott Bakula where his 1980s character Sam Beckett is shown to have jumped into the body of an old black man. Bakula features throughout with a wonderful hang-dog desperation as to how he ended up in such a crazy situation. Other cameos include: filmmaker Guillermo Del Doro and Games of Thrones writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss who have actually written the Flowers for Charlie episode and guest-starred in one two. Other guest stars include: Josh Groban, Sinbad, Puff Daddy, Dax Shephard, Tom Sizemore and my personal favourite Sean William Scott as Country Mac. I think the appearance of said celebrities is not enough to get the laughs, but the writers often use them parodically and the actors really get into the craziness of the show.

10. PARODIES

Like many great contemporary comedies including South Park, Father Ted and The Simpsons many of the shows episodes are clearly influenced by the makers love of music, movies, TV and radio. Episodes parodying musicals, 1980s ski/sex comedies, gangsters, Reality makeover shows, animated kids programmes, horror films, detective and cop shows and many more. In Season 11 they parodied Oscar winning Birdman (2014) by filming the show in one-take to a jazz score and in Season 12 But the show doesn’t just mention or take plots from certain genres it mocks but it pays tributes to specific films too. For example in Season 9 they even made Lethal Weapon 6 with hilarious results.

11. SONGS

Believe it or not the rag-tag-weirdo-idiot-boy Charlie (Charlie Day) is a songwriter of some ill-repute. The best examples of his music can be found in the legendary episode The Nightman Cometh where he gets the Gang to stage a musical for no apparent reason. It is complete and utter insanity but somehow actually works and the songs are pretty catchy too. Season 12 also finds the Gang stuck in The Wiz and having to sing their lines involuntarily. This is absolutely hilarious too as they attempt to find the rules of the parallel world they are trapped in.

12. LOW BUDGET

Incredibly the very first pilot episode was shot for $200 and ever since that the Gang and creators have stuck to the lower budget ideals of the debut season. In fact that is the strength of the show as they must use their writing and acting abilities to come up with ideas which do not need massive budgets or special effects. Indeed, the lo-fi charm of the show remains as it is from the first season. Okay, the Gang have got older and Mac got fatter and gayer but the same theme tune and credits play out in the current season as they did in the first; and that is very comforting to me, BITCHES!

SCREENWASH – AMERICAN TV DRAMA REVIEWS, INCLUDING: BILLIONS, BIG LITTLE LIES & WALKING DEAD

SCREENWASH – AMERICAN TV DRAMA REVIEWS

Following on from my recent reviews of ITV drama shows I have also recently watched, many U.S. programmes over the last few months.  So, here are some more bite-size reviews with marks out of eleven. Hope you enjoy.

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

BATES MOTEL (2014) – SEASON 1 – NETFLIX

So, Norman Bates gets a paradoxical contemporary prequel which while chronologically set before Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho (1960), exists in the now of mobile phones, crooked cops, Chinese sex slaves, cystic fibrosis and huge cannabis forests that drive the towns’ industry.  Freddie Highmore as young psycho Norman and Vera Farmiga as his domineering, yet sexy, mother are absolutely brilliant in this absurdly plotted but nifty little horror-crime-thriller-mish-mash. I especially enjoyed Highmore’s subtle delivery as he fights with the demons in his head, amidst hormonal teenage desires. Plus, more often than not he echoes Anthony Perkins classic performance as the original Master Bates. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

BIG LITTLE LIES (2017) – SEASON 1 – SKY ATLANTIC

One of the most difficult things a screenwriter and director have to do, in my view, is to make rootable those wealthy, spoilt and first-world characters that drive your story. One way to do it is to make their conflict human and relatable, plus casting brilliant actors in the lead roles helps greatly too. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Alexander Skarsgard and Shailene Woodley are all on top acting form portraying various personas within the affluent Monterey upper middle classes. Jean-Marc Vallee directs David Kelley’s superb script with aplomb and the editing is some of the best you will see in a television show all year. The interweaving stories concerning an unknown murder victim; school bullying; warring parents; extra-marital affairs; and the abusive relationships, is expertly played out over seven compelling episodes. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

BILLIONS (2017) – SEASON 2 – SKY ATLANTIC

Again, how do you make rich people empathetic and rootable? Well in Billions the writers don’t!  They have created a superbly written series around some of the most selfish, self-centred, vicious and vindictive characters in hedge-fund shark Bobby Axelrod and unscrupulous Attorney General Chuck Rhodes; and pitted them against each other over ten compelling episodes. Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti are on fantastic form as “Masters of the Universe” leads that will stop at nothing to destroy each other’s lives. Maggie Siff and Malin Akerman as their respective wives also at the sharp end of the legal, financial and psychological one-upmanship drama, along with a terrific ensemble cast including: David Constable, David Strathairn, Eric Bogosian, Toby Leonard Moore and the very gifted Asia Kate Dillon. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

HOMELAND (2014) – SEASON 3 – NETFLIX

After the explosive end to Season 2, which wiped out many of the major supporting players, Season 3 found Carrie Matheson and Nicholas Brody find themselves separated and in deep trouble. Matheson is cast as the scapegoat for the destruction of the CIA and failure in protocols while Brody is in Columbia lurching from one violent episode to another. The strength of the first two seasons came from the dynamic plotting, heart-racing suspense and the chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. Season 3 suffers from the two’s separation slightly but there was enough dramatic moments throughout to make it well worth a watch. Danes was especially impressive as Matheson who is forever taking chances because of her determination to protect her country, plus her love for Brody. The show doesn’t present easy answers and the ending was particularly bleak as we come to realise that no one wins in these political and international wars. Have to say that Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson and Rupert Friend gave great support and the show ultimately remains compelling, even if at times it slightly tested believability.  (Mark: 8 out of 11)

SONS OF ANARCHY (2015) – SEASONS 6 & 7 – NETFLIX

My lord this show is SO brutal; in fact I think it is arguably the most violent TV show I have ever seen because many of the deaths are cold and hot-blooded savagery. In Seasons 6 and 7, Jax (Charlie Hunnam) desperately tried to become a better person and take the club down a more legitimate route, however, once an outlaw – always an outlaw. Thus battles with cops, IRA, gang-bangers, Mayans, Aryan Brotherhood, and more culminated in two seasons of the usual carnage and bloodshed. Also, Jax had the horror of dealing with the death of loved ones borne out of terrible lies and decisions by those close to him. The main strength of the show is the terrific ensemble cast of which Jimmy Smits, Charlie Hunnam, Tommy Flanagan and Katey Sagal really stood out. Also, the action and serpentine plot twists kept the dramatic irony and suspense at pulsating levels. Only the indulgent montages, over-the-top “I love you, brother” dialogue and overlong episodes wrenched a little but overall an exciting end to a gruesome but entertaining TV show.  (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

THE WALKING DEAD (2017) – SEASON 7 – FOX

The Walking Dead is very much like an elderly grandparent in as much as it has provided happy past memories; has a lot to offer in terms of historical experience; yet sits in their armchair only occasionally sparking into life for our entertainment. However, I must say, Season 7 was way more entertaining than Season 6, which overall really stalled in terms of storylines and fast-paced action. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his Alexandrian crew and family came under pressure, not just from the zombie hordes but also Jeffery Dean Morgan’s delightful uber-villain, Negan. Massacring two of the leading characters at the beginning of the season created a real sense of suspense throughout and, aside from a few filler episodes; I thought the writing and the introduction of other clans gave the show some dramatic impetus. I still think sixteen episodes are too many but the war against the Saviours was gripping and overall there was enough bloody zombie deaths to entertain this horror fan. (Mark: 8 out of 11)