Reviews of latest TV and streaming comedy produced in the UK and US
Index of Reviews
A Change for the better
The Change Review: There’s a great temptation to binge watch Bridget Christie’s brilliant new sitcom The Change. Don’t.
This fast-paced comedy is best savoured in small doses. Written, created by and starring Christie,The Change follows the central character, Linda as she copes with the menopause and re-examines her life choices. Taking a break from being little more than a domestic slave to husband (Omid Djalili) and two morose teenage offspring, Linda dons her biker leathers (which still fit perfectly) and heads for the hills in search of a ‘time capsule’ she left in a tree when a child.
Her journey takes her to the remote Eel Cafe “Proudly serving eels and mash to men since 1850” run by loopy sisters Carmel (Monica Dolan) and Agnes (Susan Lynch). Existing somehow in in the middle of nowhere and frequented by the local backwoodsmen, the café has survived the death of the sister’s father. We can be thankful that Christie and director Al Campbell resisted the temptation to insert the Duelling Banjos soundtrack during these scenes.
Linda takes up residence in a derelict caravan owned by the gruesome twosome. She soon finds that being a woman alone brings her into contact with a number of oddball characters such as would be lothario Tony (Paul Whitehouse), local DJ, Verderer (Jim Howick) and Pig Man (Jerome Flynn) who has a secret revealed in episode two. Linda is guided through the eccentricities of the village folk by Joy (Tanya Moodie) at a similar stage of life as Linda.
Linda is frequently badgered by her sister Siobhain (Lisa Tarbuck) to get a grip and return to her family because they need looking after and that is a woman’s role in life.
Whether Linda’s journey to self-fulfilment succeeds we will find out during the six episodes, I for one look forward to taking the journey alongside her.
Wednesdays 10pm and streaming now on Channel 4
The Change Review 22.06.2023
Colin From Accounts
It’s great fun and a joy to watch.
If the trailer for Australian sitcom Colin from Accounts leaves you with any misgivings get past them.
Created, written by, and starring real life married couple, Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, it’s full of life, vibrant and funny to boot.
Their characters are thrown together through unfortunate circumstances initiated by uninhibited 29- year-old medical student Ashley (Dyer) who causes the driver of a car to have a collision. The driver is not, as you will soon discover, Colin from accounts but Gordon (Brammall), the 40 something owner of a micro-brewery.
Whilst they attempt to deal with the collateral damage of the collision, their relationship develops, going through an engaging rollercoaster of emotions and comic situations in the process.
The straight-talking Aussie humour is infectious throughout. Every character is relatable. Past relationships come in to the picture with exes and family members causing friction but it’s the kind of friction that ordinary people go through and so we have empathy their situation. Ashley is a normal millennial in the kind of position that apparently exists in Oz as it does in the UK. Scarcity of living accommodation, rising rents and financial pressures.
Gordon’s fledgling business is struggling especially with customers not paying bills on time (when do they ever?) His two business colleagues Chiara (Genevieve Hegney) and Brett (Michael Logo) help where they can but it’s ‘Colin’ that succeeds where others have failed.
There’s a lot going on in this brilliant sitcom. To relate some of it would spoil your enjoyment of discovery. You’ll find it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid binging the whole series over a couple of nights but as it’s on BBC and iPlayer you can rewatch and pick up on the lines you missed first time around.
Dreamland More Drama Than Comedy
The opening scene of Mel (Lily Allen) arriving by coach amid a hen party serves no other purpose than leaving the viewer under no doubt that Dreamland is set in the seaside town of Margate. Mel is returning home, unexpectedly to the family home to be with her three disparate sisters.
Shortly after we are treated to a scene in which Spence (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) administers perineum oil to his wife Trish’s (Freema Agyeman) vagina.
Is the scene necessary? No.
Is it funny? No.
It seems to be the trend for too many new British sitcoms/comedy dramas to substitute well- constructed funny dialogue with unnecessary candid scenes that are neither drama nor comedy. There’s a scene with the matriarch Cheryl (Francis Barber) and her new friend Diane (Martina Laird) in a bathing hut which is frankly, gratuitous.
We are also treated to a tired joke when Mel buys a sandwich meal deal in a supermarket before she implausibly gets legless on a four pack in the time it takes her to walk from the store to her home. Although there are plenty of well-worn sitcom clichés and predictable characters in the opening episode, there are also some good lines, the best of which probably comes from the estate agent.
The show has a sunny disposition; the cast is excellent, not a weak link and, once we get past the ‘set up’, the scripts improve and develop. However this is not comedy drama. It is drama with the odd humorous line of banter.
But, stick with it: don’t let some of the silliness and pointless subplot fillers put you off.
Funny Woman Is Exactly That
There are some new British sitcoms around that besmirch the good name of Britain’s sitcom heritage. That’s because many that purport to be sitcoms are really dramas with the odd humorous line. Nothing wrong with a good comedy drama but some are delusional in thinking they are sitcoms.
Funny Woman, on the other hand, makes no such pretence. It’s clearly a comedy drama not a sitcom, however, it is funny. Funnier than many so called current sitcoms. It’s a comedy drama that makes good viewing, delivers a reasonable laugh count, and leaves you wanting more. Which is exactly the purpose of the finale which is surely going to become the springboard for season 2.
This TV adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel could easily have been entitled The Marvellous Miss Parker such is the obvious quality comparison with Mrs Maisel. But Hornby wrote the book before Mrs Maisel was a glint in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s eye and Morwenna Bank’s excellent script is very British.
Gemma Arterton stars as Barbara Parker who journeys from hand rolling seaside rock in her father’s factory, in Blackpool, to comedy superstar. It’s the height of the swinging 60s and Barbara, a Lucille Ball wannabe, has just been crowned Miss Blackpool – but surely there’s got to be more to life than being a beauty queen and settling down with the local butcher in a seaside town. She wants to be… someone. The bright lights of London are calling, and our determined heroine sets off to find out who that someone is.
However, after a series of setbacks Barbara finds herself in unfamiliar territory – an audition for a TV comedy show. Barbara’s uncompromising northern wit proves to be the X factor that the show has been missing. Overcoming resistance from the establishment she gets the part and becomes part of a ground-breaking new sitcom, Jim and Barbara.
Being a woman in a largely male environment has its challenges, but Barbara re-defines the prevailing attitude to funny women and in the process, reinvents herself.
Jim and Barbara, leaning heavily on the US sitcom, I Love Lucy, becomes a huge hit with the viewing public, reflecting, as it does, the humour of the time.
Gemma Arterton is brilliant: a shoe-in for a BAFTA nomination for best actress in a comedy as Barbara Parker. The character though is something of a chameleon. Fluctuating from naïve ‘Northern lass’ one minute to being seduced by the trappings of success the next. Her journey is one of self- discovery, feminism, and survival against a backdrop of growing racism.
Kelly Valentine Hendry should be congratulated on putting together a superb cast all of whom deliver on the money under Oliver Parker’s direction, including Rupert Everett, channelling an amalgam of Hugh Griffiths and Alastair Sim as the somewhat seedy theatrical agent, Brian Debenham.
You can binge all six episodes but preferably take your time, savour them like a six-course gourmet meal. Funny Woman is excellent television.
Funny Woman is on Sky Max and Now
Review: Funny Woman. Comedy News 09.02.22
Shrinking Grows On You
Shrinking Review : Apple TV+’s new series Shrinking, created by Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence and Jason Segal who also stars, is starting out on a promising path. The characters are all likable and funny, and hook you pretty much from the outset. Jason Segel leads the cast as Jimmy, a cognitive behavioural therapist who is struggling to cope with his own life after the recent death of his wife. Harrison Ford co-stars as Paul Rhoades, Jimmy’s colleague/boss with Lukita Maxwell as Jimmy’s daughter, Alice.
The main storyline in the opening two episodes, screened so far, is the strained relationship between Alice and her dad, Jimmy who has been self-centred in dealing with his grief whilst ignoring her pain. In dealing with his own feelings he has allowed next door neighbour, Liz (Christa Miller) to become a surrogate mother and confidant to Alice, which has become an inter-dependant relationship.
Wallowing in self-pity has taken over Jimmy’s life but he has an epiphany. Much to the dismay of Paul he begins to treat his patients in an unorthodox manner helping them to change their lives and helping himself in the process.
Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence have created well drawn, believable characters with which it is possible to have empathy whilst being amused by their situations.
Another major talking point in the show seems to be whether Harrison Ford actually has Parkinson’s Disease or whether his character does: either way the actor is portraying the symptoms of the illness very well.
With a weekly roll out of episodes we will have to wait to see how their lives and those of the patients evolve. It promises to be well worth waiting for.
Extraordinary Certainly Is
Yep, Extraordinary (Disney+) is exactly what it sets out to be: extraordinary.
In a world where everyone gets a power with some degree of usefulness, when turning eighteen years of age, our central character Jen (Máiréad Tyers) has missed out. Whilst those around her can fly, shapeshift, turnback brief periods of time, channel the dead or even generate volcanic orgasms with a mere touch, she at the age of twenty-five, can do none of that. And so, in a desperate attempt to acquire a power, any power, she attempts to stimulate her body into developing one.
Jen is helped in her quest by long time friend and flatmate Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) and Carrie’s jobless boyfriend, Kash (Bilal Hasna). Believing that stress could trigger the desired reaction in Jen, her flatmates attempt to put her in stressful situations. One of which is her being abducted by Kash and locked in the boot of a car. As you watch, use your own powers to identify the reason this scene should have progressed.
When all else fails Jen has to raise £9500 to pay for special treatment at a private clinic.
From the outset the scripts, from creator and writer Emma Moran, have a good gag rate, pretty much all of which land smoothly. The opening scene is a job interview during which we learn that the interviewer’s thing (power) is getting candidates to tell the truth. The CGI is excellent throughout as is the lip syncing from Carrie. Part of the visual fascination is watching what powers (super or otherwise) are being exposed in the background as Jen goes about her life. Jen currently works at a party shop run by Ange (Darcey Porter-Cassidy), a sixty-year-old woman who acts her age but has the appearance of not having yet reached puberty (whether that qualifies as a power, super or otherwise, is debateable).
A subtext is the sibling rivalry between Jen and her sister who gets her power (super strength) bang on cue at her 18th birthday party whilst doting mother Siobhán McSweeney whose power is the ability to control technology, or not as it turns out, keeps the peace between her two daughters. The sisters have different fathers for reasons which come to light as the series progresses.
Extraordinary is a fresh, fast paced, whacky, fun filled, irreverent series. Whether the idea can sustain a second series or beyond will depend on creator and writer Emma Moran’s ability to develop fresh storylines once the novelty has worn off. Let’s hope there’s more: Moran and the superb cast deserve all the success that is sure to come their way.
Oh, and try turning the music down a notch.
Extraordinary Review Comedy News 16.01.23
Everyone Else Burns
Everyone Else Burns; Review. There’s comedy. There’s ‘dramedy’ and then there’s Everyone Else Burns. Strangely enough it is watchable but the script by Dillon Mapletoft and Oliver Taylor is not really funny enough for you to feel that you’ve watched a comedy.
Having seen Simon Bird in three previous comedies (Inbetweeners, FND and Sandylands), shall we say he doesn’t have the widest acting range. He is always Simon Bird. His mannerisms and speech vary little even if his hairstyle does. In later life he will be happy to have had such a youthful appearance that has allowed him to play teenagers in his thirties but unfortunately he in no way looks or acts old enough to have teenage children himself. Bird has gone on record as saying that he now prefers to be behind the camera than in front of it. Wise words if this is the best script he’s been offered.
As the patriarch of the Lewis family, Simon, sorry I mean David, is a religious zealot who rules over his family much like an ayatollah. A devout member of the Order of The Divine Rod which believes that God will destroy mankind any day now he makes the family practice their escape from Sodom and Gomorrah on a weekly basis. He is an unlikeable character. Fiona (Kate O’Flynn) his wife of 17 years, obeys him and his wishes as do their two children Rachel (Amy James-Kelly) and Aaron (Harry Connor) although as sex seems to be a mortal sin, how they had the children is a mystery, as physical contact, apart from hugging an Elder, seems to be taboo in the sect.
Then within the space of two episodes Fiona becomes an online entrepreneur, Rachel becomes a normal(ish) seventeen year-old and Aaron, who at about 11 or 12 years of age (going on 40) has more artistic talent than Michelangelo, loses faith in his father. By episode six (if you get that far) we have David trying and failing to be more romantic: Fiona and Rachel boomerang from their brief freedom from the sect to being back into the fold and young Aaron looking increasingly like he is destined to become the leader of the cult.
The problem with Everyone Else Burns is not the basic idea; it’s not the cast, they each play their given roles well. The problem lies with the script. It’s clever but just not funny enough. It’s vaguely amusing in very small doses. As is often the case Lolly Adefobe delivers the best lines closely followed by Morgana Robinson.
There are one or two good lines but so few and far between that revealing them would be spoiling the few opportunities to laugh.
There are also too many anomalies. For instance, authoritarian David bans television from the house yet Fiona has a laptop on which she creates an online shop within hours; Rachel has never been allowed to own nor use a mobile phone yet when given a spare by her wannabe boyfriend operates it without a moment’s hesitation; David manages to destroy a £5000 designer glass top coffee table by putting a bone-china antique teacup on it (so predictable that it’s not a spoiler). And why oh why do writers create scenes in which actors smoke when they are clearly non-smokers.
The series has been left with the thread for a second series. The bones are there but it will need a lot tighter writing to add the flesh that turns this from an amusing watch to a true comedy.
Everyone Else Burns; Review. Comedy News 23.01.23
The Family Pile Crumbles
The Family Pile Crumbles: With a slight change of emphasis this would be a poor soap. The problem is that it’s billed as a comedy but it has nothing at which to laugh. So it fails on both fronts, which is a great shame because there’s plenty of talent amongst the ensemble cast.
The logline is that four sisters have to decide what to do with the family home after their parents’ deaths. The siblings – Nichole (Amanda Abbington), Yvette (Clare Calbraith), Ursula (Claire Keelan) and Gaynor (Alexandra Mardell) are torn between selling up and hanging on to the property for various selfish reasons.
Amanda Abbington shines as the older sister, although exasperated by the way the others expect her to take on all the responsibilities, nevertheless she unilaterally puts the house on the market, much to the chagrin of the other three, who are either stereotypically flighty or self-interested.
Although set in Liverpool this family, created by writer Brian Dooley, is trying very hard to have the comedic appeal of the Boswell’s or the sisterly bond of Apple+ TV’s, Bad Sisters. It has neither. But worst of all it’s simply not funny. A prerequisite for a sitcom.
All episodes are available in ITVX but if I were you, I wouldn’t bother.
The Family Pile Crumbles Comedy News 18.01.23
Christmas Carole – a brilliant retelling of the Christmas classic
A quite brilliant retelling of the Charles Dickens classic – this contemporary take starring the superb Surranne Jones as Carole Mackay who, in building a retail empire selling Christmas tat, has developed a Scroogelike obsession with wealth, will become one of your go-to festive favourites. Christmas Carole is so well conceived and written by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto that it passes by all too quickly deserving to be watched again and again. Of course at this time of year you will find one or two old chestnuts in it.
Suranne Jones is brilliant, who knew she could dance? The rest of the cast is excellent too with a stand out performance by Jonty Stephens as Eric Morecambe.
Don’t miss it!
Motherland Christmas Special Review
‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly Until Murphy’s Law Takes Hold
Sitcom Christmas Specials seldom live up to expectations for comedy content but, somehow, it’s comforting to see those characters in whose company you have come to feel comforted, coming together to enjoy the festivities.
Motherland: Last Christmas is no exception. A sitcom that should figure on anyone’s top ten list didn’t quite hit the mark this time but, nevertheless, had some great moments for regular fans.
The best laid plans of mice and men and Liz (Diane Morgan) of course go awry thanks to her fallible ex; Amanda (Lucy Punch) tries to deal with the ignominy of lunch with her ex-husband, new partner and her own acerbically critical mother (Joanna Lumley) who has been invited to his home to see the grandchildren. Amanda gets some unpalatable news causing her to storm out of the house and take to the road.
The hapless Kevin (Paul Ready), resigned to spend the day in the company of other divorced dads at a hotel, is instead invited to the ever-pressed Julia’s (Anna Maxwell Martin) family gathering provided he relieves her of the cooking duties. With Julia’s self-obsessed husband, his self-centered parents and her mother also sharing the crowded house, Murphy’s Law takes hold.
Across the road, Meg (Tanya Moore) and husband Bill (Tony Head), who have the only relatively stable marriage in the whole group, have bought each other expensive gifts for which they secretly hope they have each kept the receipts. Tanya, having recovered from cancer in the previous episodes copes by swigging a whole bottle of Irish cream liqueur.
Inevitably things go from bad to worse at Julia’s as Kevin struggles with the cooking; the in-laws become more flatulent; her husband stays in the garden testing his self-built cryogenic pool and Liz turns up with her two kids to add to the chaos.
Amanda returns to her ex’s house to collect the children and makes a joyous assertive stand before later turning up at Anne’s (Philippa Dunn) crowded family gathering.
A real turn of events brings Motherland Last Christmas to a close but we hope not the series.
Nothing Woeful About This Wednesday’s Child
When Netflix commissioned Wednesday I asked the question ” does the world need another Addams Family adaptation”. But this is no ordinary Addams family adaptation. By just centering on the daughter Netflix has created a superb stand alone show.
“Don’t make her angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.” Although not scripted it would nevertheless be a useful warning for the bullies of Nancy Reagan High School when they bully Wednesday’s brother Pugsey (Isaac Ordonez). A big mistake – known as dropping a bollock.
As punishment for avenging her brother, Wednesday, at the behest of her parents, is sent to Nevermore Academy the alma mater of Morticia Addams (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The school is a place of confinement for every manifestation of weirdo and outcast you can imagine. The ice cold Wednesday by comparison is almost outwardly normal. With the emphasis on ‘outwardly’.
Her attempts to escape the confines of the academy are thwarted by the ever vigilant Principal, Larissa Weems, played by the towering Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth in GoT).
The menacing Wednesday, superbly portrayed by Jenna Ortega, attempts to master her emerging psychic abilities as she becomes witness to a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town of Jericho and surrounding area.
Turning detective Wednesday sets out to solve the supernatural mystery as well as the murder which the local policeman Sheriff Galpin believes her father, Gomez (Louis Guzmán), was involved in 25 years prior.
Wednesday is a very slick production with Tim Burton’s directorial talent and influence shining through. The story intertwines several plotlines mingling the earthly and the supernatural. Whilst it has Lurch and Thing it is not the jokey Addams family with which you may be familiar, nevertheless it has comic moments in a delightfully watchable series.
Showrunners / Executive Producers / Writers: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Director / Executive Producer: Tim Burton
Executive Producers: Steve Stark, Andrew Mittman (1.21 Entertainment), Kevin Miserocchi (Tee and Charles Addams Foundation), Kayla Alpert, Jonathan Glickman (Glickmania), Gail Berman, Tommy Harper, Kevin Lafferty
Cast: Jenna Ortega (Wednesday Addams), Gwendoline Christie (Principal Larissa Weems), Jamie McShane (Sheriff Galpin), Percy Hynes White (Xavier Thorpe), Hunter Doohan (Tyler Galpin), Emma Myers (Enid Sinclair), Joy Sunday (Bianca Barclay), Naomi J Ogawa (Yoko Tanaka), Moosa Mostafa (Eugene Ottinger), Georgie Farmer (Ajax Petropolus), Riki Lindhome (Dr. Valerie Kinbott), with Christina Ricci (Marilyn Thornhill)
Additional Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia Addams), Luis Guzmán (Gomez Addams) and Isaac Ordonez (Pugsley Addams)
Sometimes when a character leaves a sitcom it rings the death knoll but not in the case of Cathy, the overbearing alcoholic neighbour, superbly played by Doon Mackichan, in Two Doors Down. She has gone off to pastures new and in so doing has opened up a rich new seam of comedy for writers Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp.
Series 6 opens with the aftermath of the desertion by Cathy and the effect on the life of her cuckolded husband, Colin. In this situation the socially intrusive neighbour, Christine (Elaine C Smith), the epicentre of the humour in the show, comes into her own with her blunt inquisition into Colin’s new found circumstances.
Put upon neighbours, Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) deal with Colin’s loss with empathy and care whilst Christine oblivious to his feelings starts the ball rolling as the friends, now joined by son Ian (Jamie Quinn and his boyfriend Gordon (Kieran Hodgson) begin their character assassination of the departed Cathy.
The cast is excellent, the script is sharp with just the odd expletive for effect but equally effective are the facial expressions and knowing looks of the gathering.
With so much comedy output now relying on comedians in too many tired game/panel shows, good sitcoms are few and far between. Two Doors Down is good. Very good.
Weddings Are Murder
Murder They Hope S2 returned to our screens on Gold on Monday with the same unique chemistry as the previous two series. It is silly but good clean fun and an enjoyable hour’s viewing.
Sian Gibson and Johnny Vegas reprise their roles as, now, hapless sleuths Gemma and Terry. On their way to tying the knot they encounter a series of murders which, as previously, they solve more by luck than judgement. Meanwhile the killer they helped put away in series two is plotting revenge from his prison cell.
With returning performances from Sarah Hadland, Lee Mack, Jason Manford and Shobna Gulati (woefully underused in the first two episodes). They appear alongside Sherrie Hewson, Tamzin Outhwaite, Hugh Dennis, Vicki Pepperdine, Claire Skinner, Isy Suttie, Sally Phillips and Sandi Toksvig to name but a few of the cast of dozens.
Writer Jason Cook, who created the series, keeps his script as sharp and inventive as ever, including, in episode two, a homage to the Grady twins in The Shining.
The 3 part series concludes on Wednesday 26th
Murder They Hope S3 : Review series 3 26.10.22
Getting It’s Ducks In A Row
Such is the size of modern cruise ships that they are more like floating cities than pleasure boats.
Certainly the mammoth Sacrementum is.
Drug dealers, murderers, sex parties, modern day slavery and a complete cross section of sexual orientation – and that’s just the crew! But surprisingly no sign of Steven Segal hiding in the heating ducts.
Ryan J Brown’s Wreck (BBC Three), set on board the huge floating metropolis, is a youthful, more sophisticated and blood soaked version of Gold’s, Murder On The …. series. The plot is simple (no spoilers): Cormac/Jamie (Oscar Kennedy) who has recently come out as gay, finds employment on the Sacrementum in order to find out what happened to his sister Pippa (Jodie Tyack), who, while working on the ship, was reported as having jumped overboard, presumed drowned.
There is however at least one killer on board, a cross between a maniacal Orville the Duck lookalike and Chucky, who sets out on a killing spree. The cruise-line owners do all they can to keep the events from the passengers and the crew. Cormac does all he can to keep his intentions from everyone except Vivian (Thaddea Graham) another new joiner and lesbian with whom he forms a bond.
The cast is excellent with standout performances from Kennedy, Graham and Harriet Webb (Karen). Ryan J Brown’s script is sharp and fresh, and Chris Baugh’s direction is bang on the money.
There are several sub plots across the 6 episodes, quite a few shocks, lots of colourful characters and more twists than an auger. Wreck is warm, holds the interest and raises the odd smile but it’s not a comedy, dark or otherwise. You would need a bizarre sense of humour to find the horror funny.
Wreck is sure to find it’s way to a wider audience than BBC Three and deservedly so. It is clearly set up for at least a second series, which would be no bad thing.
I Hate You
Is Robert Popper’s new vehicle heading for the scrapyard?
Robert Popper had to find a new vehicle after FND was cancelled following the untimely death of Paul Ritter. Unfortunately this vehicle, his new sitcom I HATE YOU (C4), has a broken starter motor.
Popper wrote BAFTA nominated Friday Night Dinner which on the whole was pretty good. FND had two competitive millennial brothers who delighted in pranking each other throughout every episode. I Hate You is completely different. It has two competitive female flat sharing Gen Z’s who take delight in pranking each other throughout every episode.
Male millennial pranksters vs Gen Z female pranksters. See, completely different.
Now whether a 54 year old man is best placed to write dialogue for females in their twenties, you can decide. But with brilliant female writers like Nida Manzoor (We Are Lady Parts), Lucy Beaumont, Caroline Moran and Anne Marie O’Connor (Hullraisers) , Sophie Willan (Alma’s Not Normal), Aisling Bea (This Way Up) Rose Matafeo (Starstruck) and several others, then women writing comedy for female leads is probably the best idea.
Nevertheless, I Hate You has its moments of amusing put-downs and repostes exchanged between the flatmates but why the need for surreal pantomime characters and fantasy situations.
The two stars, Tanya Reynolds and Melissa Saint, are excellent.
Charlie (Tanya Reynolds) works for Bob Oxygen, (shades of Toast of London/Hollywood), well when I say ‘works for’ I mean sits at the same desk as her boss doing nothing while he sleeps. A running gag which is just not funny.
Becca (Melissa Saint) works in a curtain shop called – wait for it – Curtains by A Plant – so the owner Mrs Ann Plant has to explain how to phonetically pronounce that she is not a plant. Again, too contrived, juvenile and not funny.
In the first two episodes the girls get competitive about dating gentlemen pensioners, Charlie deflects Becca from lusting after her own stepbrother and they visit a demented seller of an autograph with a predictable calamitous outcome.
There have been worse sitcoms on TV, not many but such is the demand for output that this poor effort could yet get a second series.
Comedy News; Review: I Hate You
Sir David Attenborough watch out there’s a Cunk about
Philomena Cunk is back with a mockumentary series that takes a comic eye look at the very basics of life on earth from cave dwellers to pyramids builders: from the Great Wall to the great philosophical issues of the day. It’s so well written and so well delivered by the deadpan mastery of the inimitable Diane Morgan, that it’s worth savouring one episode at a time rather than binging on iPlayer (although all six episode are available now if you can’t wait).
The real life experts from whom she seeks answers to ludicrous questions play their part by maintaining their dignity in front of camera – however the outtake reel must surely warrant a episode of its own.
Writing credits go to Charlie Brooker, Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris for a continuous string of gags that have all the authority of a genuine documentary but with an almost imperceptible tongue-in-cheek air. If you had just emerged from an alien craft and watched Cunk’s to camera pieces you would believe everything she delivers.
We’ve had to wait two or three years for another series from Morgan’s alter ego but the wait has been worthwhile.
It’s very funny. Don’t miss it.
Surviving as an immigrant just takes a Mo
Mo straddles the line between two cultures, three languages and a ton of bullshit as a Palestinian refugee constantly living one step away from asylum on the path to U.S. citizenship. His family — including his resilient and spiritual mother, sister and older brother — flee to Houston, Texas. Laughing the pain away, Mo learns to adapt to his new world though getting ahead in life comes with several setbacks.
Mo is a natural-born salesman who uses his abundant charm and quick wits to grab every opportunity that comes his way.
It is in part a touching, empathy generating depiction of the survival of marginalise communities in the US, yet funny. Very funny on occasion.
It was created by stand-up comedian Mo Amer and fellow comedian Ramy Youssef, who worked together on Ramy – a comedy about a millennial Egyptian American on a spiritual journey, caught between the two cultures of his politically divided New Jersey neighbourhood (All4)
In Mo, Amer leads a strong cast of actors who are well known in Arab-language media together with emerging Arab American stars taking us downstream through the cultural, emotional, and indeed political maelstrom experienced by immigrants.
Mohammed (Mo) Amer, is a well known as a standup in the US, who has two Netflix comedy specials under his belt (Mo Amer: The Vagabond and Mohammed in Texas) – and, as one third of the comedy trio Allah Made Me Funny
Review: Man vs Bee
Review: Man vs Bee, a story of unrequited love. The love of an insect for a man. The bee is infatuated with the man, never leaving him alone. Blindly following him everywhere, brushing aside the man’s unwavering rejection and blatant attempts at annihilation.
A ludicrous scenario but no more ludicrous than the storyline of this overlong sketch. It is of course Rowan Atkinson doing what he does best: acting the bumbling, accident prone inadequate. And very well he does it too. From Mr Bean to Johnny English the incompetence of the characters is never in doubt. In Man vs Bee, Mr Bean (oops) sorry Trevor is placed into a situation that affords the maximum opportunity to display his ineptness. And display it he does – for far too long.
Trevor, a divorced father of one daughter, on his first day in a job as a ‘professional’ house-sitter, is left to safeguard the ultrahigh tech house of a mega-rich couple whilst they go on vacation. This couple do not shop on the high street. Their possessions include at least one Mondrian, an ancient manuscript (worth £millions) and the first E-Type Jaguar ever built now worth two million pounds. For sure, nothing in this sprawling modernist architect designed dwelling came from Ikea.
Every appliance in the house is electronically automated and doors passworded. Having given Trevor a two-minute briefing the couple depart, content that all relevant information and instructions are contained in a weighty manual.
Furthermore, he has to look after the couple’s boisterous young Bearded Collie dog. What could possibly go wrong?
Plenty, that’s what.
Each catastrophe is clearly signalled. Some encourage you to laugh, others make you cringe. No cognisant adult places a book (in this case the manual) on a gas hob. When Trevor does, you know what’s going to happen next and naturally it does.
Man vs Bee is really a 90 minute feature film which has been chopped into 9 continuous episodes. Maybe because viewers need the occasional break from the ‘hilarity.’ Or maybe because it begins to wear thin after a while as we lurch from one cringeworthy blunder to the next. Just like the bee this series is too busy. So small doses is what the doctor ordered.
Fans of Rowan Atkinson’s characters will love this latest manifestation. Apiarist will love the bee, superbly animated, with a MENSA rated IQ and an unhealthy obsession with Trevor.
Review: Man vs Bee 25th June 2022
The Outlaws have served their time brilliantly
Having dug themselves into a deep hole in the first series our group of disparate wrongdoers are in danger of someone else digging holes for them in series 2 of Stephen Merchant’s comedy drama, The Outlaws.
This second six-episode series takes a more forensic look into the personalities of each of the seven lead offenders and that of the inimitable wannabe Police Officer, Community Support Worker, Diane. Needless to say the not so magnificent seven continue their nefarious activities although with far more intensity as they come under pressure from a London based crime boss.
Rani and Christian’s relationship moves to the next level; John’s (Darren Boyd) relationship with his dad/boss worsens; Myrna (Clare Perkins) comes to the aid of the Collective; Frank (Christopher Walken) re-assesses his relationship with his family; Lady Gabriella (Gabby) Penrose-Howe (Eleanor Tomlinson) adjusts to life without her father’s financial support and Greg (Stephen Merchant) provides legal/illegal advice and support to the group whilst developing a more assertive nature.
This is set against a background of continuous police investigation into drug lord ‘The Dean’ by DS Haines (Grace Calder) and DS Selforth (Kojo Kamara) who put pressure on jailed county line runner Malaki (Charles Babalola).
As the series reaches its climax it evolves into Carry On meets Hustle with Diane (Jessica Gunning) providing most of the comedy, and funny it is too.
In the final episode, loose ends are tied up with all the character’s stories completed whilst cleverly leaving enough wiggle room for further developments.
Although this has been a very enjoyable couple of series they have served their time as a group and deserve to live their very separate lives. Maybe one or two could develop as pure drama characters and Diane could certainly be developed into a genuine stand-alone sitcom character.
A third series would I fear require Stephen Merchant to take an ungainly giant leap over Jaws.
The Outlaws Series 2 BBC1 Sundays and BBC iPlayer
Avoidance: the moulding of a manchild
Leaving aside his stand-up, Avoidance is the best scripted production that Romesh Ranganathan has done.
Avoidance, created by him and Benjamin Green, Ranganathan who plays, Jonathan, a non-confrontational inadequate manchild, has you wincing at his inability to accept that his relationship with partner Claire (Jessica Knappett) is over yet feeling somewhat sorry for him having been cast adrift to fend for himself in the big wide world.
“It’s over”, Claire tells him firmly but the lack of acceptance and understanding in Jonathan’s eyes signals that he doesn’t get it. “It. Is. Over”, she emphasises. He feigns acceptance and they agree to tell their young son Spencer, that evening. Convincing himself that he is protecting his son from imagined emotional damage but really to avoid the discussion he ‘absconds’ with the boy while his wife is at work and moves in with his sister Danielle (Mandeep Dhillon) and her wife, Courtney (Lisa McGrillis) Much of the memorable early humour stems from Courtney’s undisguised loathing of Jonathan and his imposition in her life.
One thing you cannot avoid noticing is that neither family appear to have had any problem climbing the property ladder.
Having watched the first three episodes (all episodes are on BBC iPlayer) we are partly in familiar sitcom land with Jonathan being the architect of minor disasters as he tries to protect his son from imaginary horrors seeded by his own childhood and propagated in his fertile imagination. And partly in a gentle sweet play as the three women in Jonathan’s life try to help and encourage him to come to terms with his life whilst gently nurturing and protecting young Spencer.
The cast is faultless and we’ll no doubt be seeing a lot more of Kieran Logendra who plays Spencer.
Hullraisers should hook you from episode one
Generally speaking, the first page of a novel needs to grab the reader and move them on through the first chapter without them realising: so it is with the first episode of a TV series. Thankfully the opening episode of ‘Hullraisers’ was more than enough to get you to continue with the following chapters of the series.
An excellent cast delivering some funny lines in a fast-paced script should prove to be a winner.
Set in Hull, the home city of Lucy Beaumont, who wrote the pilot (see interview here) Hullraisers primarily deals with three friends, all in different life situations: Rana (Taj Atwal) a promiscuous single police officer, Toni (Leah Brotherhead) an unemployed ‘actress’ and mum of two seeking to recapture her misspent single years and Paula (Sinead Matthews), an established stay-at-home mum with a rebellious teenage daughter and a penchant for vaping ‘meat pie’ flavoured vapes.
Along with Beaumont we now need to see how writers Caroline Moran, who, with her sister Caitlin, wrote the underrated Raised By Wolves (not the Netflix series of the same name) and Anne Marie O’Connor (Trollied) develop the characters and storylines. With the pedigree of those three we should be in for a treat. But we don’t have to wait, the whole series is available to watch on All4 now. Do so.
The Bubble. Over all an entertaining couple of hours
Review: The Bubble Netflix. The Bubble is set in a palatial hotel in the English countryside which appears to have all the facilities of a major film studio. The cast and crew have been assembled during Covid to shoot a hundred-million-dollar fantasy-action sequel film, the sixth in the fictitious Jurassic style “Cliff Beasts” series. Much of the action revolving around green screen sequences with and without CGI.
Being set during lockdown, it is essential that everyone takes extreme anti-covid precautions, hence forming a bubble from where the title comes.
The Bubble is directed by Judd Apatow (Funny People, This Is 40, Knocked Up). The film within the film, Cliff Flyers 6, is directed by the hot indie director Darren Eigen (Fred Armisen), a relative newcomer with a swollen ego who shot his previous film on a smart phone. The cast, all but two of whom appeared in the previous five films, includes Lauren (Leslie Mann) and Dustin (David Duchovny), who are newly divorced from each other having recently adopted a belligerent 16 year old; Sean (Keegan-Michael Key), who in between films has launched his own quasi-religion; the debauched Dieter (Pedro Pascal); Carol (Karen Gillan), who, having refused to sign up for number five, making a failed ‘political’ movie instead, is now desperate to revive her career and reputation with her co-stars; new to the franchise, Krystal (Iris Apatow), a teenage Tik-Tok influencer with no acting experience but a hundred and twenty million followers and last but by no means least the manic Howie (Guz Khan).
Attempting to keep the bubble intact are Gunther (Harry Trevaldwyn) and Bola (Samson Kayo), under the draconian guidance of producer Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz). Gavin is frequently interrupted by video calls from studio boss Paula (Kate McKinnon), checking on progress from the many luxurious ‘covid-free’ locations where she’s seeing out the pandemic.
In an interview with The Denver 7 Channel, Judd Apatow said, “I think everyone was just trying to figure out how do we keep our lives moving, how do we live, how we work, how do we raise our kids. I thought this bunch of actors trying to complete a flying dinosaur movie was a fun, exaggerated way of showing the nervous breakdown we all had from being isolated.”
That “nervous breakdown” experienced by most during lockdowns is at the hub of the movie. The physical and emotional effects on cast and crew of firstly isolating then living in a bubble are all too painfully recognisable.
“Cliff Beasts”is not the greatest film franchise, in fact Dieter considers his movies “shit,” and his philosophy is: “You just wipe, you flush, and you move on.”
The Bubble itself doesn’t quite fit within that philosophy but at 126 minutes, it is a little too long, with some scenes stretched for no real benefit. There are a few really funny moments but a lot of near misses.
Over all it’s enough of an enjoyable and entertaining watch not to think you’ve wasted 2 hours of your life watching.
Review: The Bubble, Netflix
Deep Heat no holds barred
Reviewing this whilst remembering the sort of adage that “if you can’t say anything good about somebody/something, don’t say anything”: so
Deep Heat Monday ITV and ITV Hub
Helen Bauer rocks it as Kate in Small Doses
Helen Bauer’s full on character Kate is an uncontainable stream of bubbling effervescence. She fills every moment of this all too brief pilot sitcom short with a manic persona.
The show written by Helen and Rose Heiney sees Kate returning from Germany under a cloud, having worked as a family au-pair for eight years or so. Returning to the family home in Fleet the ‘very boring, non-descript town’ she grew up in, flat broke with limited prospects. Kate has total lack of self-awareness, bursting into the lives of her family and friends like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
Conflicts with her divorced mother Julie (Julia Deakin), forcing her way back into the lives of old friends, like Emma James Khan (Olivia D’Lima) and Laura (Rosa Robson) paves the way for a series development. The arrival of Emma G (Rose Johnson) on the scene with an equally uncontainable personality may just be a clash of ids too far but we’ll have to wait for this series to be commissioned before we have the answer to that. And hopefully Small Doses will be commissioned. We need to see more of Helen’s Kate.
A lot more.
Small Doses is available on https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0btb9cp/small-doses
From Helen’s web site:
Known for being a comedy powerhouse with an electric stage presence, Helen is one of the UK’s most exciting rising stand up stars.
After leaving college with an E in Economics and an allergy to the education system, Helen Bauer moved to London to share a bed with her cousin and work in Accessorize on Oxford Street. She lived in London until she was 23, making sketches, waitressing and drinking. She then moved to Berlin to do the same there, and discovered stand up. Helen honed her comedy skills performing in Germany. You can now find Helen’s creative writing, charming attitude on stage and special love of pop music all over Britain.
TV appearances include Live At The Apollo (BBC2), Stand Up For Live Comedy: BBC Presents (BBC 1 & 3), Edinburgh Nights (BBC 2), Period Dramas (BBC 3), CelebAbility, The Stand Up Sketch Show, The Emily Attack Show and Hey Tracey (ITV2), The Dog Ate My Homework (CBBC), Pep Talk, Fat Chat and Comedy Central’s Digital Fringe (Comedy Central), CALM Gala and Hypothetical (Dave).
Radio appearances include Unexpected Fluids, Wheel Of Misfortune and Scarlett Moffat Wants To Believe (BBC Radio 1), Radio 4’s Comedy Club and Newsjack Unplugged (BBC Radio 4).
In August 2019, her debut show at the Edinburgh Festival beat out 700 other shows to be nominated for the Best Newcomer Award. In February 2020 she performed the show at the prestigious Soho Theatre in London.
Helen co-hosts the podcast Trusty Hogs with fellow comedian Catherine Bohart as well as co-hosting the hit podcast Daddy Look At Me (with Rosie Jones) – The Guardian’s Recommend podcast.
Hacks is the antithesis of Newark Newark in setting
Hacks has all the glamour of Vegas (Las not Johnny) and Jean Smart is at home in the luxurious surroundings. Smart plays Deborah Vance, an established Diva, with a capital D, of the stand-up comedy scene who lives and performs in Las Vegas “the international entertainment capital of the world”. Vance is headlining nights at the Palmetto Casino whilst presenting on a shopping channel and doing corporate paid gigs. Maintaining a glamorous public persona but going home alone to rattle around her sumptuous mansion with her pampered dogs. Deborah has put her career first above everything else in her personal life including her recalcitrant daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson).
Vance’s star attraction is dwindling, fans are becoming fewer: the owner of the Palmetto, Marty (Christopher McDonald), although a friend, wants to give her Friday and Saturday slots over to a rising star who is ‘big box office’. In an attempt to rekindle Vances’s career, her manager Jimmy (Paul W Downs) sends a young TV comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) to help her freshen up her act with more relevant material.
Ava has been unemployed since writing a joke about a closeted senator and his gay son although by the standards of some of today’s real life comedic gaffs it was pretty tame as we later find out.
After a yin and yang start to their working relationship, the pair accept the situation and the rest of the series sees their generational relationship develop from professional toleration to a mutual understanding and friendship. Both Deborah and Ava are confident, even defensive, of their individual comic talent but come to the understanding that they are both in need of each other’s strengths and experience to survive, not just in the challenging world of stand-up but in life in general.
Hacks is an excellent watch and Jean Smart more than deserves the numerous awards she has received for playing Vance.
A much anticipated series/season 2 is on the way
Hacks is now streaming on Prime Video in the UK
Newark Newark is showing on Gold
Newark Newark. Fresh. Funny. Four star comedy
This is a good sitcom that deserves a bigger audience than it will initially get on Gold. There are just two niggly points: Terry (Mathew Horne) is incongruously hirsute to have been married to Maxine (Morgana Robinson), and her assistant, Claire’s (Saskia Chana) pseudo patois speech is out of place.
Those niggles apart, the whole cast is excellent with standout performances from Robinson and relative newcomer Jai Hollis as her son, Leslie.
Episode one of the sitcom, created and written by Nathan Foad, revolving around the 40th birthday party of, George’s Plaice fish & chip shop manager, Maxine, established all the characters in a whirlwind episode. Episode two settles down and gives the characters and the viewers time to breathe.
Maxine is frustrated with her life, yet trapped within it. Now middle aged and finally divorced from the hapless Terry, who longs to regain his lost love, she is the glue that holds the family together. Hollis as the son is superb as he attempts to come out to the family. Although he is as soft as slice of halloumi on a barbecue, he can’t help speaking his mind despite clashing with the local bullies. His best, and only, friend, Amber (Jessie Mae Alonzo) sticks by him, joining in the fun as the party finished with everyone dancing in the kitchen despite Leslie’s grand coming out announcement, which was greeted with little surprise by his gran.
Among those ‘enjoying’ the party, despite the rain, a lack of salad cream and the unwanted presence of Tex-Mex dips, were Maxine’s sharp-tongued mother, Pauline (Beverley Callard), her sofa surfing grandson Rudy (Vahid Gold), the aforementioned ex-husband Terry accompanied by an itinerant musician Dariusz (Bo Poraj) and Claire.
Gold have some excellent original comedy programmes.This is one to watch. Fresh. Funny. Four stars.
Kate and Koji is a brilliant pastiche of 70s sitcoms
Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have pulled off a brilliant pastiche of 70s sitcoms with KATE AND KOJI, whether it was meant to be is another matter. The second episode of the second series aired last night on ITV 9pm.
The series, set in Joan’s Café, a run-down seaside café, stars Brenda Blethyn as cafe owner Kate (who took over from her mother Joan) and Okorie Chukwu as asylum-seeking doctor Koji. How the café stays in business is a miracle given that only four regulars ever eat there: Medium Dan (Blake Harrison) Kate’s nephew, who sometimes works for the local council. Why he is called Medium Dan was probably explained in the first series but passed me by; Mr Mullholland (Victor McGuire) who has eaten far too many of Kate’s fry-ups since his days in Goodnight Sweetheart; Kris (Nick Sadler) a muscular non-intellectual to put it politely and Iris (Rosalind Ayres) a batty spinster stereotype. It would help if ITV could stretch the budget a smidgeon to have one or two extras having a cup of tea, just to add a touch of atmosphere. Occasionally Kate’s nemesis, Councillor Lavinia Bone (Barbara Flynn) pops in to renew hostilities.
Last night’s episode saw Kate with her leg in a cast, allowing Koji to run her cafe while nephew Medium Dan wanted feedback on a fantasy novel he had penned. The jokes are somewhat corny and signposted miles in advance but nevertheless the show has a kind of nostalgic warmth that is kindled by the strength of Brenda Blethyn.
It’s a sitcom that has split opinion but, as always, no one is forced to tune in. “Doctor it hurts when I poke my eye with a stick”: don’t poke your eye then. There is room for all kinds of comedy, we can’t all like the same things, so if Kate and Koji is not your cup of tea, fine, don’t watch it. Vote with your channel changer. However over 5 million did watch the very first episode and 2.6 million returned to watch episode one of this series on the night – figures will no doubt increase on catch-up,
‘Holding’ on with warmth & wit
Conleth Hill plays local police officer Sergeant PJ Collins, a gentle man who hides from people and fills his days with comfort food and half-hearted police work. He is one of life’s outsiders, lovable, but lonely and a bit rubbish at his job. When the body of long-lost local legend Tommy Burke is discovered, PJ is called upon to solve a serious crime for the first time in his career. Unearthing long buried secrets amongst the villagers, PJ finally connects with the village he has tried so hard to avoid.
Directed by the inimitable Kathy Burke, the cast, Siobhán McSweeney and Brenda Fricker among them, deliver characters with genuine charm and wit. Not so much a dramedy but a light drama filled with gentle smiles that will infuse a warmth to the soul in these dark days.
The Witchfinder – Comedy? Dramedy? No, tragedy.
The much heralded The Witchfinder is not a comedy nor a dramedy but a tragedy. A tragedy because although the production by Baby Cow Productions is excellent, as is the cast led by Tim Key, Daisy May Cooper and Jessica Hynes, they are let down by a puerile script, devoid of comedic lines, jokes and even visual gags. That is the most disappointing aspect of this show – writers Neil and Rob Gibbons have a pretty good pedigree (numerous Alan Partridge shows and an episode of Veep) but this script isn’t worthy of the production budget.
It is 1645 in rural England. Gideon Bannister(Tim Key) is an incompetent wannabe Witchfinder, an occupation that should be easy enough given that just about any woman can be accused of being a witch. There is a sort of running gag that nobdy knows who he is, to which he reacts by channelling Ricky Gervais/David Brent.
John Stearne, the Witchfinder General’s right-hand man, visits Gideon’s village to uncover a coven of witches. He is found murdered, why and by whom we know not, or perhaps, as Old Myers (Hynes) kind of proffers, he could have “got drunk, fallen on the straw and impaled himself on that metal thingy” which is sticking out of his chest and, visually at least, disembowelled himself. This happenstance, which is taken no further, allows Gideon to set off, with Thomasine Gooch (Daisy May Cooper), who he has already falsly found guilty of witchcraft, to engineer a ‘chance meeting’ with the WG in the hope of taking Stearne’s place.
He takes Thomasine along so that he has a ’witch’ as proof of his imagined prowess. What little humour there is in this poor script comes from Cooper’s deadpan delivery of putdowns and asides to Gideon.
The show has a 10pm time slot because of the gratuitous use of the F word and a C bomb thrown in for no good reason whatsoever – Tim Key even looks embarrassed delivering it. A simple deletion of those words, which add no comedic value, and this would be a fine programme for children, except that Horrible Histories does it all so much better.
Future episodes have some stellar cameos which may raise the game, that’s if you can be bothered to watch any more. With so much good comedy, drama and documentaries available, The Witchfinder is unlikely to be top of your must see list.
Sarah Kendall’s Frayed – brilliant second series shines
The first series, written by and starring the very talented Sarah Kendall, was superb: the second series, if anything, is superber (sic). As we watch, widowed, Sam and her family live with their reduced circumstances we can sit back and enjoy the humour: sometimes black, sometimes dry and sometimes slapstick but always, always funny.
If you still haven’t seen the first series it doesn’t matter too much as there are enough flashbacks in the opening episode of series 2 to bring you up to speed. Sam/Simone Cooper (Sarah Kendall) is back in London in an attempt to both reclaim her property ‘stolen’ from her by unscrupulous family lawyer (Robert Webb) and equally to avoid any difficult questions from the police back in Oz.
She and the children, Lenny (Frazer Hadfield) and Tess (Maggie Ireland-Jones), are living in a squalid, rat infested flat for which the rent is overdue. She has a job in ‘automotive management’ – an office job in an exhaust fitting centre and does what she can to ensure the family’s survival. The children having at first hated the interruption to their comfortable lives when forced to move to Australia, are now longing to go back down under: where Diane Morgan as Fiona is still down under (in more ways than one).
Episode one leaves us, and Sam, with optimism that their recovery could be on the horizon after a hint of good news from her harassed pro bono lawyer, Hannah (Gemma Whelan).
The big dilemma is whether to find out by binging all six-hour episodes (46mins without the ad breaks) in one or two sittings or to savour them individually over a few days. In fact, Sarah Kendall’s creation is worth watching more than once. It really is that good.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is back with a vengence
There’s no argument that Midge Maisel is back with a bang: there are however plenty of arguments in the opening episode of season four. Everyone seems to be shouting at everyone else – making Eastenders seem like a love-in – fortunately the shouting subsides before the onslaught of a monumental headache sets in.
If you haven’t seen the first three seasons, you missed a compelling show. If you did, then you’ll know that Midge Maisel was heading for the stars when her routine naively outing singing superstar, Shy Baldwin, gets her thrown off his world tour and knocked back down to earth, with a thud.
But that’s good for viewers because Midge, or Miriam, as she seems to be called most often in this series, is back where she started: making her way in smoky drinking clubs and strip joints. It’s the environment in which she feels most at home and performs at her best.
The magnificent cast has also returned in great form with sub-plots continuing their journeys through life’s trials and tribulations. Standout performances from Alex Borstein as Susie and Tony Shalhoub as Abe Weissman lead the way but there isn’t a weak link anywhere.
It is however, Rachel Brosnahan, as Mrs Maisel, who sets the screen alight delivering another impeccable performance as she has done from the start: never more so than when performing stand-up on small stages to intimate audiences. Although she yearns for the trappings and financial stability of success she feels more at home in smaller intimate venues. The glamour and glitz of the big tours, the arena performances, the razzamatazz does not set the inner Midge free. And she is only free when she is performing, spontaneously from the heart. It is both her strength and, as she has found out the hard way, her weakness.
So back at rock bottom, broke and fighting against entrenched male chauvinism of the 1960s comedy scene, will she claw her way back from the brink? Well, we’ll have to wait and see. Amazon are only releasing two episodes a week on Prime Video so we are yet to see what she and her manager, Susie, can do to restore her frozen career. I for one can’t wait for the thaw.
Starstruck series 2 every bit as good as series 1
In case, for some reason, you didn’t get around to watching the first series, a quick recap: Jessie (Rose Matafeo), is a free-spirited New Zealander living in London.
On a night out, she meets Tom (Nikesh Patel) in a bar. They hook up and the following morning she discovers that he is a well-known movie star, something that fascinates her friends more than it does her: yet, the couple have a magnetic attraction to each other. They have an on-off infatuation. Jessie decides to go home to New Zealand at the same time as Tom has to go to Ireland for a film shoot. The series ends with them on a bus together going to Heathrow. (See review here)
This second series, written by Matafeo, Alice Snedden and Nic Sampson, and produced by Avalon, which launched last night, picks up where the first finished – with them on the bus on their way to the airport. Needless to say, they both miss their flights – intentionally.
The usually impulsive, self-confident Jessie is apparently confused by her feelings for Tom and tries to keep a cushioned distance between them. She moves back in with her old housemate Kate (Emma Sidi). Tom, who despite his fame and fortune is surprisingly insecure, is summoned to Ireland by his demanding agent Cath (Minnie Driver).
So where do they go from here? Well, one thing of which you can be sure is that the rest of the series will loosely follow the same scenario as series one, with Jessie and Tom drawn together by a chemistry that leaves both of them unsatisfied. Jessie flounders in Tom’s showbusiness world and he in her’s. We’ll see what happens when a couple who could be compatible keep messing up.
You could binge the whole six-part series on iPlayer or, as Rose herself tweeted, “watch it at 10pm every Monday on BBC Three because it takes ages to make and there’s only six episodes so maybe take it slow baby”. Whatever you decide to do it is a superbly written and produced show with plenty of warm and funny moments.
Sorry Rose, I can’t wait, I’m going to have to binge the other five episodes right now.