Archives For comedy

Image credit: FX

Once you know Baskets (FX/Fox TV) is about clowns, you know it’s going to be sad. Similarly, anything co-created by Louis CK is going to tend towards bleakness. Indeed, the story of Chip Baskets, aspiring bouffon cum rodeo clown, has many themes in common with CK’s abandoned Louie: the universal hostility of strangers, the evil of beautiful women, the pointlessness of art – if we can call clowning, and thus comedy, art – and the public’s disregard for it. Continue Reading…

Image credit: Showtime

Image credit: Showtime

‘Are you threatening me?’ – ‘You’re fucking right I am.’

This is an example of the sumptuously awful dialogue that Billions (Showtime/Sky Atlantic) has offered up for the delight and derision of audiences everywhere. In this exchange the threatenee is a widow, the threatener is Lara Axelrod, wife of billionaire Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, played by Malin Åkerman as a sort of trailer-trash Claire Underwood. And this being a programme about ‘alpha’ hedge-fund gangsters, there’s a lot of macho swearing – and in fairness, some of it is quite creative, but you can’t help thinking you’ve heard it all before. What you might not have heard before is a cascade of legal and financial jargon which, like a sci-fi film, usefully pads the script out to make up for the absence of plot. Continue Reading…

Love in Actuality?

March 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

***Contains mild spoilers for Love***

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix

Image credit: Suzanne Hanover/Netflix

Calling a relationship comedy ‘Love’ is so on the nose that it had better be ready to woo us with some pretty profound insight into the third-most consuming concept known to humanity. (Without doing any research, I wager money and sex are ahead – perhaps even food.) Judd Apatow and Paul Rust’s new Netflix series of that very name isn’t profound, but then it doesn’t even attempt a sniff in that direction. Instead, we are given a tender story about minor misfits with a surprising lack of cliché. Reader, it’s a treat.  Continue Reading…

Ordinary Television

April 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Not even Channel 4’s own announcer sounded convinced when she was forced to describe the last episode of Indian Summers as the ‘gripping finale to our hit series’. This was a risible, ham-fisted attempt to lash together the hazy colonial nostalgia of a Somerset Maugham story with modern sensibilities. It failed. Continue Reading…

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

What a good and generous thing it is for Netflix to offer a month’s free trial. But then, also, how devious. You think you’ll be in and out like a seasoned bank robber, binge-watch your series of choice and ride off into a blank screen. Not so. For once you’ve watched your series of choice – House of Cards – there’s another series – Better Call Saul that’s released weekly; then there are all those others – Lillehammer, Orange is the New Black – that you’ve never had chance to see and had better stick around to see what the twit-crits having been raving about; and, finally, there are the future enticements, such as Marvel’s upcoming Daredevil.

It’s a racket, all right. Continue Reading…

Cromwellian: Wolf Hall

January 24, 2015 — Leave a comment
Image credit: BBC

Image credit: BBC

Condensing Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies into six hours of television must have been a challenge that required a severe hand as well as a deft one and, after the first episode, we can conclude that Peter Straughan has produced an admirable script. One that marries well with the BBC’s seven million pound budget; both of which, one assumes, were attractive to its commanding cast. Continue Reading…

Image Credit: Amazon Studios

Image Credit: Amazon Studios

We have found the show of the year: Transparent. Available on Amazon Prime, and produced by Amazon Studios, I binge-watched its ten episodes in three satisfying sessions – the only reason I didn’t consume it in two being that I didn’t want it to end. Continue Reading…

Forgive me, but when I first heard the premise – if we can call it that – of BBC One’s new Saturday-night filler Tumble, all I hoped was that Ashley Roberts might be found cavorting in leotard. Alas, she is not and no one’s doing anything as entertaining as cavorting in this utterly charmless programme. Continue Reading…

The Joy of Louie

May 20, 2014 — Leave a comment
Image credit: FX

Image credit: FX

I’m not sure if it’s a good sign that FX has decided to squish the fourth season Louis C.K.’s Louie into seven back-to-back instalments, but, as a gluttonous fan of the show, I am grateful for the opportunity to binge on the surrealist satire-come-farce.

Some might say a glutton for punishment, given that Louie is often dismissed as ‘depressing’. True, some of it is bleak, but humour and despair are an ancient double act. Shakespeare’s comedies are leant all the more pathos because they are closer to life as it is than tragedy; The Winter’s Tale is still, I think, the most terrifying play ever written.

We may cringe whilst Louie is upbraided by a fat girl for denying her size or when, this week, he struggles, through an intermediary, to ask a woman who doesn’t speak English out for a dinner, before being promptly told that she’s leaving the country. But if you persist – and don’t look away – Louie often rewards you with a tenderness that is rare this side of nineties-sitcom schmaltz. Most episodes traverse every emotion, which is not to say that it isn’t primarily hilarious – simply, that that’s not the only thing it can be.

Veep (HBO), however, can only be hilarious because it is populated by people without souls and it succeeds with malice aforethought. This is of course familiar territory for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who probably doesn’t need to be prefixed with ‘Seinfeld’s’ anymore) who, as Vice President Selina Meyer, fresh off last week’s incident with a Finnish politician, continues to have as many problems with europeans, in London, as she does with her own team of bumbling backstabbers. As usual, the gong for most fabulously feckless goes to director of communications Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) for brazenly insisting upon a fraudulent knowledge of German, even in the face of someone who clearly did possess the language. Such dedication to ineptitude and artifice has a pathos of its own.

Finally, a brief word about Mad Men (AMC/Sky Atlantic) – a programme that is only ever a vodka shot away from turning into car-crash television: three cheers to Matthew Weiner for making Don the centre of the show again, after being the man-who-wasn’t-there for much of the previous season. More on this after next week’s mid-season finale – and what can be done about these year-long breaks?