Roald Dahl may have hated almost every film that was made of one of his books, but to me, they usually work pretty well. Willy Wonka will always have a special place in my heart (mainly because of Gene Wilder), and The BFG last year was so good it was described as
“fairy lights and sunshine on celluloid”
by someone incredibly important and intelligent (yeah, it was me). Am I missing any out?
Oh yeah, that one. So whilst Dahl hates them, films of his work are generally loved by people. That’s down to the worlds he creates, the fact he writes FANTASTIC child characters, and of course, the stories. With a lot of children’s books, you look at them as “books for children”, books which are fine if you’re young, but lose their magic as you get older. And the ones that don’t suffer from another problem; you can easily see their influences. You can read them and think “oh, the author obviously has read x before”. These don’t, they’re unique stories, wonderfully told, that’s why the films work.
2. It’s quite dark.
Well, I saw “quite”, it features a scene where the main villain changes a small child into a mouse. It’s not instantaneous, it’s like you can feel it happening to you, you can tell it’s not painless. It also features a scene where the villain tries to push a baby off a cliff. I love kids films like this, ones which you watch them as an adult and think “why did we let kids watch this?”. It’s kind of basically a kids horror movie (much like Goosebumps, which I still recommend everyone go see). I mean, the opening features a child being cursed so they disappear into a painting. That’s not a kids movie, that’s a fucking Twilight Zone episode.
3. Ensemble Cast
Okay, the kids acting isn’t exactly good, but the adults are. Jane Horrocks is lovely and her silent disgust is evident throughout, Rowan Atkinson is good with the small amount he’s given. My favourite though is Mai Zetterling. This was one of her final films and she really shines, it makes me sad she wasn’t in more things. She’d have been perfect as Aunt May in a John Hughes made Spiderman movie in the 80’s (what a good idea for a blog that would be, that’s foreshadowing).
4. Anjelica Huston
This film is hers. She doesn’t so much chew the scenery, as cut it into small manageable pieces and delicately nibble on it. She plays such an evil character with so much poise and sophistication (so much so that she doesn’t seem to walk, but glide) that she almost becomes likeable. I think she may be one of my favourite actresses, when she’s good she’s REALLY good. There’s this, The Addams Family, and 50/50, and I’m sure there are many others which I’ve yet to watch. She’s one of the few actresses I’d really love to be able to meet and just talk about her films with her.
5. Possible remake
Usually, I’d be set against this, but apparently, if it gets made it will be done by Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, with Jennifer Lopez as the main witch. I want that so much. And now I’ll end this the same way I end every day; with casual attempted infanticide.
I first got into Nick Hornby the same way I imagine a lot of people did; through his films. I watched High Fidelity and loved it so I read the book, and then read more of his books. Whilst it’s not hard to argue that he has somewhat lost his way in his later books (he can not write a book with a teenage main character; it always seems like an old person writing as a young person; which it is) there’s no denying that his early books are in a class of their own. He perfectly captures the insecurities and intricacies of the masculine psyche. It attacks masculine frailties with such finesse and skill that you feel like it’s about you personally. It’s like a really good song in that way, despite the fact it was written by someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to, in a town you couldn’t recognise on a map, when you hear it you feel like the lyrics are torn out of your own brain and put to a melody, it feels personal. It’s also incredibly funny, the humour very British (for obvious reasons).
Now a lot of people will be turned off by this book because they have no interest in football. My suggestion is this; even if you don’t like football it would be a good idea to read this book. You don’t need an expansive knowledge of football to understand and enjoy this book, it pretty much explains the important things for you. This book isn’t even really about football at all; it’s a tale of obsession and life, it’s almost like a philosophy book, albeit an introductory one, disguised as a biography. He discusses his life in relation to important football events, and vice versa, which is natural. When we discuss huge events of historical importance, it always feels more real if we discuss ourselves within the context. It’s why people always talk about where they were when things happened, how they found out, how they reacted etc. They personalise the impersonal to make sense and form an emotional connection. Your viewpoint on an event will be different depending on how you first heard about it and who you were at that point in your life; if you were a young child your view will be different than if you were an adult. My viewpoint on the death of Diana, for example, is probably shaped by who I was when it happened. I had just turned 11 years old and was starting to pay a lot more attention to the outside world, as well as starting to become the cynical asshole that I am today. As such when I think of that event I just feel the reaction to it was all a bit silly, a bit over the top. 9/11 happened when I was 15 whilst I was at school, so my main memory of that is fear. Whereas by the time 7/7 happened I had started to become more interested in statistical analysis and the application of probability, so despite the fact it happened a lot closer (and I was actually supposed to go to London that day as well), I wasn’t fearful. As such my mind views the event itself differently.
It works the other way round too. I distinctly remember the year my nan died Liverpool were set to win the Premier League. She was a Liverpool fan all her life so when it looked like they were going to win it felt good, it was like they were doing it in tribute to her. As such when they slipped up and lost it, it felt like a personal attack, like they had let her down somewhat. I was actually annoyed at them for doing that. I know logically I had no reason to, her death and their football were never linked in reality, but in terms of emotion and my life, they will be forever intertwined. And that’s the beauty of life.
So in summary; a fantastic book, and the film is one of the greatest sports films I’ve ever seen (Not quite as good as The Damned United though, but few films are). A story about how invested people can get in something they have no control over, just simply wonderful. But you still need to read High Fidelity as well.
Wait, seriously? We’ve never done this? But it’s brilliant. One of the best pure comedies you’ll ever see. Comedy, as a genre, seems to suffer from some kind of self-esteem issue. Since it very rarely gets nominated for big awards, and usually aren’t huge blockbusters on the Wonder Woman or Avatar level, it seems to dislike itself. It’s like it’s almost shameful to be a comedy, like jokes are porn, yes they’re enjoyed, but to be spoken of in hushed tones and averted gazes. It’s why a lot of comedy films think they have to have a purpose or a message. Basically, comedy has got too serious. I realise I’m the last person who should say this as I have said many times that the difference between a good sitcom and an amazing sitcom is the amount of depth they have. But film is different from sitcoms, even a sitcom that only lasts one six-episode series needs at least 2 hours of material (3 if on BBC). Most sitcoms want to last longer than that, they want to last long enough to be syndicated, so you have shows like The Office which have enough episodes to bingewatch for over 4 days (if you don’t sleep). Once you get to that level you need depth. But a 90 minute film? Just jokes will be fine. And this film has jokes, really, really good ones. Yes, there’s the lines which EVERYBODY knows, you could ask 20 people what their favourite line is, and you’ll get 20 different answers, the script is full of quotable dialogue, my personal favourite being this one:
Ok, remember that weird really out of place rant I went into about how comedy is too serious? Remember how long and pointless that was? It was literally minutes ago how could you forget? Well here’s the inevitable “but” to that. The film is not serious, but the characters treat it as such. This is why it works so well. Despite it just being a comedy you are fully invested into the plot because of how the characters treat it. If the characters were going around laughing and telling jokes you wouldn’t really care what’s happening, you’d probably even say the 8 words you should never say when watching a film:
I don’t care what’s happening to these people
But because of how seriously the characters treat the situation, the story works better. Hell, watch the actors performances, they’re not doing “comedic” performances, they’re all dead serious, and that’s REALLY funny. This film basically changed the careers of Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges, turning them from dramatic actors to comedy giants. Not mentioned as much is Julie Hagerty, who delivers what I believe to be the best performance of the movie, adding a vocal vulnerability to her character that a lot of people wouldn’t bother with.
So why do we love this? Because you can play it any time and you’re going to laugh. It’s the perfect “watch in case of emergency” film. Going to end this with a quote from someone else, from this, which sums it up a lot better than I ever could.
“David and Jerry Zucker’s pant-pissingly funny disaster spoof Airplane! is the standard for comedy as far as I’m concerned, and that’s a mere 88 minutes long. If you think you’re funnier than Airplane!, then not only are you wrong, but by Lemmy you’d better be able to fit a near-equal amount of gags into that amount of time. Good ones. Mel Brooks’ racism-punching western parody Blazing Saddles is 95 minutes long, and there’s about eight seconds of it that aren’t so funny you’ll rupture your spleen”
I’ll admit straight up that this isn’t going to be entirely objective. A lot of my love for this is personal. This is the Mario game I grew up with, the one where I learnt the basics and mastered the complex parts, the one which (and this isn’t an exaggeration) defined gaming for me. Every platform game I played after this was compared to it, and let’s be honest, very few even come close (off the top of my head: Space Station Silicon Valley, Donkey Kong Country, other Mario games). That kind of sucks actually that the first game I played couldn’t be matched, it would be like if the first punk album you heard was London Calling. Ideally your first game should be like your favourite film as a child, objectively kind of bad but you have nostalgic love for it (For me, Short Circuit, which watched as an adult is so mildly racist).
So yeah, this was the first Mario game I loved, yet was the third Mario game I ever played (after two Game Boy games, Super Mario Land, and the obviously titled sequel Super Mario Land 2). Yet it was only about five years ago that I completed it. The difficulty level of this game is just right, there’s no “and this is where it starts to get really hard” level. It’s a slide from “if you die on this level, how?” to “you only lost twenty lives this level, nicely done” that is so gradual you don’t really notice it until you go back to the earlier levels and realise you can probably do them with your eyes shut. Not that you should keep your eyes shut, as that means missing on the visuals. Now I’m not going to lie and say “the graphics for this still hold up to modern games”, as that’s a lie. But that says more about modern graphics than the graphics of the game itself. I think 2D platform graphics peaked at this, there was no “well it looks okay, except for….”, everything looks lush and gorgeous. The clouds look so fluffy they’re practically candy floss.
But now it’s time for the ultimate question; is this game “good for its time” or just “good”. There are many games I loved growing up that have not aged well. Primarily it is 3D games, as graphics were so blocky then and are so smooth now that it can be hard to believe what was considered life-like. Games like Tomb Raider for example, once held up as graphical perfection, looks plain ugly now. It’s not just graphics, gameplay has moved on leaps and bounds, mostly in sports games and FPS. I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a Fifa game from before 1998, here’s my advice; don’t. As a genre it’s moved on so much that it’s impossible to play older ones without thinking “this is missing something”. Same with FPS, because so many of the things it innovated are now commonplace, even Goldeneye is kind of terrible by today’s standards.
This game, though? It never feels lacking. There’s no moments where you find yourself attempting to do something from a later game on reflex. Want to know how well this game still holds up? Look at the reviews on gamefaqs.com. The lowest one is 2.5/5. That’s the lowest. Nobody on the internet actively hates this game, and that’s the internet, they hate everything. Even the low review seems to be done mainly so he can have the lowest score on it. There are reviews from this year which declare it near perfection. There are people still playing it today. This game came out almost 25 YEARS AGO in Europe, and there are people still playing it. That to me is the mark of a good game. It’s not about sales, it’s about retention, about being so good that people don’t want to get rid of it. Back In Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time yet I have never seen it in a second-hand shop or a boot fair, because almost everyone who owns it loves it and wants to keep it. Almost everything is iconic, the music, the look, the level design, oh my god the level design. You know how when you’re playing old Tony Hawk’s games (never THPS5, nobody plays that), and almost everything in the game is laid out to perform perfect lines? That’s what this game is like. Everything’s laid out so you can get through it with the right rhythm etc. There’s also the sense of exploration. You can just go through the game as it looks and complete it. But you can also explore the levels, take different routes, and you’re rewarded for that.
I suppose the true brilliance of this game is when you beat it you don’t want to move through to another game, you want to play it again. It really kicked off the “100% completist” attitude to console gaming which Rare later perfected (or exploited, depending on your attitude). When you spoke about it, it wasn’t just “have you beaten the boss?” it was “did you find this level?”. I didn’t know until two years ago there’s a secret level in the second world which is basically the platform equivalent of a motorway service station, with weapons and extra life in there. Now that’s it about Super Mario World, let’s hope Odyssey can match it. Join us next week when we’ll be (hopefully) talking about Airplane. If you have any thoughts on that, this, or anything else, let us know on the facebook or in the comments section below. Until then, if you need awesome looking shirts, cushions, or bags, check out Let Lou’s here and check out what they’ve got, some amazing designs available.
It’s election season! Which, just like the football season, is something where the losing team get to claim it’s a close result if they lost by 40 points, and the winners get to claim “nobody can question us” when they win by 4. They both run far too long, consist of people straddling the poverty line claiming “they’re just like us” about millionaires who wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire, and are likely to dominate the news for months on end. Unless you’re The Sun of course, who decided, in the middle of election season, that THIS was the most important bit of news in the world:
Due to the standard of political reporting by newspapers these days (which basically consists of “insult the party that our owner doesn’t support) is it any surprise that people are disengaged with politics? Almost every election now, no matter who wins the results are the same; the largest section of the results belong to non-voters. This is particularly weird when you look at some of the most dominant TV shows of this millennium; The Thick Of It, Veep, The Daily Show are some of the most well-regarded comedies ever made. It’s the same with drama too, particularly in America where The West Wing and House Of Cards are so well liked that if you say you don’t like them you’re likely to get thrown out of whatever room/building/spaceship you’re in. This shows that it’s not politics that people don’t like, it’s the state of politics. It’s like how if you refuse to eat rancid food, it’s not because you don’t like food, you just hate the option offered.
So, this film in particular. A spin-off from the aforementioned The Thick Of It, featuring just four of the same characters, yet most of the same cast. This film gives a wonderful yet bleak view of what it actually means to be a modern politician; often thrown out of your depth, being put into no-win situations by other people, going from debating going to war whilst in Washington one week, to discussing someone’s garden wall falling down the next. This isn’t glamorous, it’s not sexy, it’s certainly not aspirational.
Adapting a TV series to a feature length film is never easy, the path to successes like The Naked Gun and 21 Jump Street is littered with the corpses of Guest House Paradiso, Magic Roundabout, and countless Saturday Night Live films. This film works though, and I think part of that is because it uses different characters but the same actors. So you have actors who know the best way to play their roles, but new viewers don’t have episodes worth of character development and history that they need to know to enjoy the film, everyone starts on equal footing. The returning cast are in an odd position, people like Chris Addison now have to act alongside established acting behemoths like James Gandolfini, and the British cast more than hold their own. It also helps that it’s REALLY well done, the plot of this is extremely intricate and well developed. I spoke a short while ago about how you can have Friends on in the background and still get the gist of what’s going on, you definitely cannot do that with this. In fact, to be honest I’d recommend not even sneezing lest you risk missing someone’s facial reaction which then sets up the next plot development. If you don’t pay attention to this, you will be confused, actually even if you are paying attention it could still confuse you, but in a good way. Not in a “the screenwriters have no idea what they’re doing” way, in a “there is so much subtext in every line that I think I misread someone’s intentions”. It’s also REALLY funny, endlessly quotable, not just the political lines, there’s one line in particular I’ve always loved and will probably adapt to a facebook status at one point:
“Have you ever seen a film where the hero is a builder? No, because they never fucking turn up in the nick of time.”
The political stuff also works really well; where you have American and British politicians deciding whether to go to war based on dubious intelligence (good thing THAT’s not still an issue right? Right?). This film is actually quite rare in that it doesn’t present politicians either as evil, or as crusaders against evil. They’re just people who are put into situations they don’t understand by their bosses, which is something everyone can sympathise with. This somehow does the impossible, it makes politicians human. For that alone it deserves accolades, and for everything else, it deserves adoration.
Oh yeah, it’s also kind of sweary, but never in a way that comes off as crass and infantile, which is a really fucking hard thing to pull off.
I think it’s best summed up by a sentence I heard which compared this and Big Bang Theory: one is a dumb comedy about smart people, one is a smart comedy about dumb people. This is probably one of the smartest sitcoms that’s existed, if not “the” smartest. It’s not a show you can watch in the background. I remember many hours playing Football Manager in the early 2000’s (actually I think it might have been Championship Manager, but that’s not important right now), and I’d always have Friends on in the background, because that show is the epitome of background noise, you don’t need to pay to much attention to it, you can just have it on in the background and tune in and out, not really missing much (in fact I’d say you can probably start watching any episode halfway through and immediately figure out what’s happening). That’s definitely not the case here, you have to pay attention to it, it’s pretty much the only sitcom I can think of which feels like it a written test at the end of the episode to test how much you remember.
Related to that point; thank God for netflix. This is a binge-watching show. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like watching this one episode a week, there’s so many call-backs and running jokes running throughout the series that I feel unless you watch them in quick succession you’re at risk of forgetting certain things; you’ll still find it funny, but not as much as you could. It could be because I’ve binge watched it that I, personally, find it difficult to remember specific episodes. The episodes are so interlinked and connected that it can be difficult to differentiate between them (with the exception of the fourth series where each episode focused on a different person). Although this itself turns out to be a good thing as it means when you want to watch a certain moment you usually have to watch two or three episodes to get to it, by which point the show has pulled you back in and you have to watch every episode again. That’s not to say it doesn’t have great standalone moments. Do you have access to the internet? Then congratulations, you’ve almost definitely seen a gif or screencap from this show. Including two which everybody should have stored up so they can post them as reactions to certain news items:
80% of news items are made funnier by those reactions (the other 20% are mainly football scores). You may have noticed this blog has been a bit different to the ones I normally do about this kind of thing, it’s more rambling, less coherent, a bit more like it’s been drunkenly written at 1am. That’s because it’s really hard to get across how great this show is, it almost transcends sitcom and stands alone as it’s own thing. It’s achieved a cult status and devotion that many shows would love to have (only sitcoms I can think of in the last few years to have achieved something similar are It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Community). So you want to know why you should watch this show? Go up to a fan of it, and ask about it, see the excitement and genuine excitement in their eyes as they talk about their favourite moments, the passion they talk about this show with. Or, just watch the damn show in preparation for the new series.
Today is 10th April 2017, three years to the day that Sue Townsend passed away at the age of 68. While she did write other books, (The Queen And I in particular is brilliant) it’s Adrian Mole that she’ll be forever associated with. `They’re the books that basically got me into reading. That and Horrible Histories are the books I can remember from my childhood that I still keep today (well I say childhood, I was about 10 when I started reading them). And it turns out I’m not alone in that (well, the Adrian Mole books anyway, sadly not enough people read Horrible Histories). I remember when she died, i spent the day browsing the comments section of websites and searching on Twitter, finding many people who had a similar experience: they read the books as children, liked them and had it kick of an appreciation of literature, read them again as adults, loved them.
What started as just one book a family member told me to read has no spread out into a love of literature for which I am glad. I have read books that made me laugh, books that made me cry, and books that changed the way I view the world, and it’s all because of a fictional pretentious teenager from the Midlands. It was the first time I saw a main character who didn’t have the characteristics of a main character. He wasn’t popular, he didn’t have any skills, and (despite what he may have thought) he wasn’t very clever either. This wasn’t the story of something amazing, it was the story of something very ordinary, and that in of itself was amazing.
The books weren’t outright political but simply made a personalised record of politics at the time, which made them political, and this was a theme that spread throughout the series. From the later books where the character writes to Tony Blair to get him to provide evidence that WMD’s could hit Cyprus so he could get money back on a cancelled holiday, to the early books where he frantically searches for the Falklands on a map after hearing of the invasion, only for his Mother to come in and find them under a wayward crumb of cake. It was a weird time in British history, a unpopular female Conservative Prime Minister was thinking of declaring war on a foreign country over the ownership of a small useless island we didn’t need anymore, just to make herself more popular with the tabloid press which started using jingoistic and racial slurs daily.
What makes the books truly resonate among people is the accuracy of them. We read them and see a small piece of ourselves, and then hope we weren’t that bad, but truthfully a small part of us knows that we were. His poetry was hilariously awful, and his logic a little bit strange
“my skin is dead good. I think it must be a combination of being in love, and lucozade”
but for that we loved him, and cringed at the every mistake and misconception (of which their were many). It’s an odd series to binge-read as you read basically his entire life; from a confused adolescent, through to a confused single father with prostate cancer. You see the character grow before your very eyes, and see how not only the character develops, but how the world develops too. We see him recall the Iraq War, royal weddings, royal deaths, and his own personal tragedies which everyone goes through; divorces, family deaths and break ups.
I still remember when the author died, and sadly it was only after hearing that she died that I found out more about Sue Townsend, and it made for sad reading. She had TB peritonitis at 23, a heart attack in her 30’s, charcot joint degenerative arthritis, suffered from diabetes, registered blind in 2001, suffered kidney failure in 2007, and had a stroke in 2013. I read that and immediately felt awful for her, the fact that she continued to write such funny material is a huge testament to both her character and her talent. And whilst I am glad she’s not suffering in anyway right now, a small selfish part of me is disappointed that Adrian will no longer update his diary.
To put it simply; it’s very very funny. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that even by the end of the year I’ll still consider it one of the funniest films of 2017. That’s kind of a weird thing to say really, I mean, if you had told me five years ago that one of the funniest films of 2017 will be The Lego Batman movie I’d have thought you were insane (I’d also wonder why you travelled back in time just to tell me about The Lego Batman movie instead of telling me something useful). I remember when The Lego Movie was first announced and everybody was cynical, saying it will be a stupid merchandise-driven film that will lack originality and wit. Then it was released, and all those fears were smashed into oblivion, it was funny, heartfelt, and had genuine warmth. Safe to say, expectations were high for The Lego Batman movie, and thankfully this matches, and exceeds them. From the opening narration:
“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music. Edgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos. Really long and dramatic logos. DC. The house that Batman built. Yeah, what Superman? Come at me bro. I’m your kryptonite”
That sets up exactly what type of film you’re about to watch; a film that’s very silly, and gloriously so. It then gets sillier, there’s an odd faux-mance between Batman and the Joker which culminates in Joker teaming up with Voldemort, Sauron, Godzilla and King Kong.
Yes, this film is silly, but it also has so more nods and winks than a flirtatious mute. If there’s a reference to previous Batman films to be made, this film will make it. You can tell that whilst the film-makers are making jokes about Batman and the mythos, they do have a genuine love for the character and his world, they’ve clearly done their research. References to not only previous films, but also very very obscure villains (who’d have thought that Condiment Man would finally make an appearance?).
The story is really good too. There’s a tendency in comedy films to think the story isn’t important, this is very very wrong. Perfect example of this is Airplane, that film only works because of the story, yes the jokes are funny, but they’re funny within the context of a serious situation, the story itself isn’t comedic, but it has comedic situations in it. My rule of thumb for determining whether a comedy films story is good is this: would the plot also as a serious film? I think this one would work, it’s a story about a lonesome superhero dealing with his isolation whilst also maintaining a mutually destructive rivalry with the Joker (which is also one of the themes from the seminal piece The Killing Joke).
Since I saw it I’ve been trying to think how to sum it up in one sentence, and I think I’ve finally found it. The sentence which best describes everything about this film, so here it is: this film is basically Deadpool for children. And we all know how great Deadpool was.
I’ll freely admit, despite being a massive Queen fan, this is the only actual Queen album I own. The rest are live albums or greatest hits. I think they have a weird issue when it comes to their songs in that they’ve got so many well known ones. As such when you buy a greatest hits from them it’s got so many songs on it that you kind of forget that they have others because, well, there’s three albums of songs here and you know every one, it’s not like a lot of greatest hits albums where there’s a few you don’t know or don’t like. There’s very few bands/singers who are like that, the only ones that come to mind are Elvis, The Beatles, and possibly Bob Dylan. This album though is the best example of this though as it kicks off with the best unknown Queen song; Death On Two Legs. Anybody who has spoken to me about Queen albums knows how much I love this song and I DESPERATELY want My Chemical Romance to cover this song to bring it to a wider audience. It’s bombastic, it’s musically brilliant, and the lyrics are unbelievably harsh, people tend to think of Queen as a band you can show to everybody, forgetting how damn sexual this band could be at times, and that they sing lyrics (as they do in this) like:
“Do you feel like suicide? I think you should”
This songs lyrics were so harsh that the person it was about (their early manager Norman Sheffield), sued the band for defamation. He won and received an out of court settlement, with the downside of confirming that this song is actually about him. People love other songs, but to me this is Mercury’s finest hour as a songwriter.
It’s not just him though, whilst John Deacon only writes one song this album, it’s one hell of a song. You’re My Best Friend is a very sweet and lovely song, despite sounding nothing like a lot of Queen songs, it still sounds like a Queen song somehow. It’s not many bands who can go from bombastic rock through to a slow melodic acoustic number on the same album, and have it not sound like “ok this is our obligatory acoustic song”. Special mention should also go to ’39, a science fiction song that deals with time dilation and Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which for some reason is not that popular a subject among most songwriters, can’t imagine Rihanna doing a song about Fermat’s Last Theorem, although I think Ke$ha could pull it off.
So yeah, this album has such a wide variety of songs that it’s almost like a compilation album, and that is why to me whilst it’s not quite perfection, it’s pretty darn close. Oh, it also features a song called Bohemian Rhapsody which I’d recommend listening to, I can imagine it becoming really popular.
Start off with obvious here; the songs in this show are really good, and not just “good for comedy music” good, I mean “you will end up with at least one of them stuck in your head for weeks afterwards”. They range from the incredibly catchy, the deeply inappropriate, and the incredibly catchy yet also deeply inappropriate. The songs mean it’s different from almost every other sitcom around. It’s also GENIUS from a marketing point of view. You can post all the adverts you want, yet what is likely to get people to watch sitcoms is word of mouth and personal recommendations. With sitcoms that can be hard to do as you need to find the clip on youtube and send it over (if the show hasn’t taken legal action and got the clip taken down off youtube for breaking copyright. If it was the entire episode I’d understand, but a scene? You’re killing a chance for new people to discover your show), or force someone to watch an entire episode. With this you can go “hey, I’m watching a new sitcom called Crazy Ex Girlfriend, you should watch it” “I don’t know man, what’s it like” “I’ll just send you a song. A quick 3 minute clip that I feel is funny and encapsulates the show yet also showcases the characters in a quick, easily digestible and easily shareable manner”. I’ve got people into this show through my almost constant posting of songs from it.
2. The Characters
In sitcoms you usually have your typical cliche characters within the core group; you have the ditz, the sexually active idiot, the “couple” etc. This doesn’t really do that, the characters are all snarky, bitter, and messed up. Not just that but holy crap the diversity is astounding. The male romantic lead can best be described as an “Asian Frat Bro”. Also, one of the story arcs of the first seasons is one of the characters coming to terms with his bisexuality. That may not seem like a big deal but there are very few bisexual characters (especially male ones) in television, and the ones there are tend to be either:
People who use their sexuality for power.
So just having bi visibility in this show is something that’s incredibly progressive, and the fact that’s the case is deeply disappointing and says a lot about the state of current television. That story arc also gives us one of my favourite lines of the show:
“you’re gay? Then why do they call you White Josh not Gay Josh?”
“”They don’t call other Josh “Straight Josh””
3. The Actors.
Yes, this is definitely Rachel Bloom’s showcase, she’s the lead actress, executive producer, co-creator, and writer, but the show belongs to everybody else just as much. Despite her character being the main character, she’s not afraid to let the other cast members shine, this is more than a vanity vehicle and comes off more like “look what we can do”. Santino Fontana will probably be recognised more for this than being the male lead in Frozen (and I’m glad I still haven’t watched Frozen as hearing a Disney character sing a song about UTI’s would either be weird or brilliant, I’m not sure which). Donna Lynne Champlin gives her character an air of what can best be described as “powerful vulnerability”, whilst Gabrielle Ruiz is thrown into the role of “sympathetic not-quite villain”, and carries it off beautifully, being an ultimately sympathetic character (from her point of view the series is about her downfall), yet one you still can’t like too much.
4. It’s Really Funny
It’s not just the songs that make this show funny, the script is hilarious. Whilst it’s the songs that draw you in initially, it will be the jokes that keep you invested. I was completely sold on this series before the first song (actually within the opening few minutes). Quick background about how I got into this show. I knew absolutely nothing going in, I didn’t know what it was about, what style it was, almost nothing. All I knew was Rachel Bloom was in the poster and I was bored. I got into her after hearing Fuck Me Ray Bradbury in Mitch Benn’s Podcast, two years ago. Since that I’d only really seen her in the deeply under appreciated puppet cop sitcom The Fuzz, but she wasn’t in that as much as she should have been. Then I saw the poster for this and noticed her in it, thought I’d give it a go. Within the opening we see her have a slight mental breakdown at work at the prospect of promotion, run outside and then pray whilst saying “dear God, I don’t pray to you because I believe in science”, which for an American show is a majorly risky firing shot, but hits the target easily. Although I suppose what makes this show more than just a standard sitcom (besides the music, obviously), is the emotion it portrays. Everyone who read my Bojack Horseman review (or has spoken to me for longer than 21 seconds) knows I like funny, but I LOVE emotion in sitcoms. Jokes can wear thin after the third time you’ve heard them, yet good emotional stories will stick with you. I identify with some of the characters here in ways that’s probably emotionally unhealthy (seriously, this song I feel is practically my theme music, but this also comes close). As one person I know said “[this show is] the best musical sitcom about a woman having a nervous breakdown I’ve ever seen”. And that sums it up wonderfully.
5. Season Two Is Out This Weekend (with a new theme song)
Or today if you’re in America (you lucky people). I watched the first season of this on Hulu, but I had to abandon that website when they started charging (you can have either adverts, or you can charge, having both is just greedy and highly user-unfriendly, especially with the amount of problems the website has with shows suddenly skipping back to the beginning and making you watch all the adverts again. It’s a good service for free, but a diabolical service if you pay for it). As such I was unsure of how I was going to watch the second one, would I have to resort to illegally finding it (which is something I have issue with. Although if the show is not shown in the country at all, is that still ethically dubious? Because you’re not taking viewing figures away from them as you have no way to participate to those numbers anyway). But then joy of joys, they announced it will be shown here on netflix, which makes sense as I think it was that which got the show over with people in here, they put the entire first season on a few months ago and people just fell in love with it. Best part is, UK fans won’t have to wait long, the episodes are shown in America on the Friday, then over here on the Sunday (which is actually less waiting time than Hulu, where you’d have to wait a week after airing). So yeah, this Sunday, it starts again, and I begin the process of getting songs stuck in my head on a weekly basis, I can’t wait to handle this in a solemn and dignified manner.