Why We Love….Bojack Horseman

1. It’s Fresh

It’s an animated series about anthropomorphised animals, it’s easy to say that there’s not many other shows which are like this. You can never describe it as cliche and obvious. It was kind of a risky move for netflix to do this, but luckily they pulled it off. It was Aaron Paul’s first major release after Breaking Bad so a lot of people were watching for that reason, and it was up to the show to make sure it’s not remembered as “an Aaron Paul show”, and it manages to avoid that.

2. It’s Funny

Considering it stars Will Arnett from Arrested Development, Alison Brie from Community, alongside Kristen Schaal, Stanley Tucci, Olivia Wilde, and (briefly), Rachael Bloom, it’s no surprise that this is very very funny. The concept itself kind of lends itself very easily to comedy; a washed up star from an 90’s sitcom is now a drug-fuelled mess who lives with a freeloading room-mate. Using this as a springboard to satirise celebrity culture and the entire hollywood industry.

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3. It’s (Genuinely) Heartwarming

Oh my god the feels! Maybe it’s just me but the difference between good sitcoms, and amazing sitcoms is the amount of depth they have. It’s why I prefer American Dad to Family Guy, I feel it has more heart so it holds up better to repeat viewings. Eventually jokes stop becoming funny once you’ve seen them so many times, but emotional moments always hold up for a longer period. And believe me this show almost drowns you in emotion. Whether it’s subtly referencing with the Bill Cosby allegations with:

“when we know what we know about a monster like that and we still put him on tv every week we’re teaching a generation of young boys and girls that a man’s reputation is more important than the lives of the women he’s ruined”

Or Bojack dealing with problems in a somewhat unique way:

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A really depressing quote which will probably me the most insightful thing you’ll ever ee an owl say:

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This show also ended it’s second season with one of my favourite quotes from anything:

“Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier”

If that quote doesn’t seem like the kind of quote you want to put on your wall then either your life is perfect, you’re delusional and think your life is perfect, or you’re homeless and don’t have walls.

4. It’s Bingeworthy

Netflix is the only way to watch this show, and it’s the best way it can possibly be done. This is one of those shows where you don’t really watch an episode every so often, occasionally dipping back into it. Or even once a week like a standard sitcom. This is a binge-worthy show. This is a show you need to watch in one long block of viewing, you don’t watch this show, you consume it, and that’s rare for a sitcom. Usually shows like that are serious dramas: Breaking Bad, House Of Cards, Orange Is The New Black etc. Somehow this show stands among them, and deserves it’s place alongside them.

5. It’s Out Today

I was going to do a blog about Crazy Ex Girlfriend to celebrate it’s award nominations, will probably do that next week now (although that’s on netflix now so you should all watch it, it’s hilarious). But then I saw this a third series of Bojack was added today, so now it’s all about that Bojack, that will pretty much take up my weekend, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Watch If You Like/Also Check Out

  • Archer. For some reason I’ve always associated the two, probably because of the fact they’re both adult orientated animated sitcoms starring Arrested Development alumni.

The 5 Best HBO Shows

The American television industry had shockwaves running through it this week as president Michael Lombardo left after 33 years at the network, 9 of them as network head. Lombardo has spearheaded some of the networks most loved programming, notably he was responsible for guiding Game Of Thrones into development. The future for the network is now somewhat uncertain, not in a “they’re going out of business” way, but in a “wonder what’s happening next” way. Longtime collaborator Terence Winter quit halfway through development of the second series of Vinyl, Westworld had production halted when it was decided it needed retooling, and Game Of Thrones is suffering from rumours that it will end after another two seasons (or in other words; the time it takes George R.R. Martin to decide on a verb). So let’s celebrate the network with this, a look at the best work they’ve produced. This isn’t ranked by order of popularity, or critical success, just personal preference, so statistically nobody will agree with this, if that’s the case, comment and tell us where I went wrong.

5. Sopranos

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One of THE shows of the 2000’s. It was almost like they saw Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and said “Awww, Britain thinks they can make gangster related media, how adorable” and reclaimed America as the centrepiece for gangster films and television shows. I said “almost like”, the pilot was actually ordered in 1997, so it’s just a coincidence. But meh, still an awesome show. The effect it had on television cannot be understated, it could easily be argued that it was this, not Breaking Bad that legitimised television as an artform, not as a stepping stone on the way to film. If it wasn’t for this there wouldn’t be Six Feet Under, there wouldn’t be The Shield. It was this, more than anything, that legitimised HBO as a network that provides high concept dramas, a network that will produce content you wouldn’t get anywhere else. This was a show that could only really be done on this network, it was too brutal, too uncommercial to be made by anyone else.

4. Game Of Thrones

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A show so good it deserves its place here despite me having never seen an episode. A show once described (not by a critic, or anybody important, but by a woman behind me on the bus) as like “Merlin with muff”. Everyone knows roughly when Harry Potter was published, and it’s the same with a lot of book adaptations, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to discover the first book was published in 1996, yet most people weren’t aware of it until the TV series (the series didn’t really pick up until A Feast Of Crows in 2005). Without the show the book series would be highly regarded, but with it? It’s become a cultural phenomenon, and shown that you can do not just high concept, but high budget adaptations too. If the show was made sooner then the chances of Harry Potter being a TV series instead of film would be much higher, and we might have got Rik Mayall as Peeves, AS WE DESERVE!

3. Veep

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A show so good that it’s replaced The Office as evidence that American adaptations of British sitcoms can occasionally work out. Is this better than The Thick Of It? Not quite, but is it worthy enough to be discussed on its own? Definitely. It wasn’t really the easiest show to adapt, ABC attempted it in 2007 with Michael McKean (of Spinal Tap and Better Call Saul fame) and Oliver Platt in the leads. They made the pilot, and by all accounts it was pretty awful, they turned it into a conventionally shot sitcom, removed all improvisation and swearing, and then were surprised when it didn’t work. It would be like if you remade Transformers and took out all references to any robots, removed baking from Great British Bake Off, or added jokes to Joey. So when a second adaptation was announced, people were kind of worried. Then it was announced that Armando Iannucci would be directly involved and people were excited again. Then it was announced that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the lead and I became very excited as I was a massive Seinfeld fan. I was slightly concerned how an American version of this would be, but it’s just as sweary and brilliant as the original. The original was good, but it didn’t have the line “That’s like trying to use a croissant as a fucking dildo, it doesn’t do the job, and it makes a fucking mess”. It’s probably helped not just by Iannucci as showrunner (at least until the 5th season when David Mandel took over almost seamlessly), there’s other talent behind the camera too. The list of director’s is like a who’s who of British television comedy: Chris Morris, Chris Addison, Tristam Shapeero etc. This show is a mesh of British and American talent, and is all the better for it. Long may it continue (still needs Peter Capaldi though)

2. Curb Your Enthusiasm

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Seinfeld is undoubtedly one of the biggest American sitcoms of all time (sadly, one which has never really got the love it deserves over here) so it was always going to difficult for the creator, Larry David to pull off that greatness again. Yet he managed it, this show not just matches his previous show, at many times it beats it. Seinfeld had a weak period, the last two seasons in particular are nowhere near as good as the earlier seasons, but Curb hasn’t suffered that problem. The first season is a little off as the show is still finding its feet, but the second one is just all kinds of brilliant and details the character attempting to make a show after the success of Seinfeld, so lots of meta-comments and the media, lots of in-jokes, and a season long story arc. Basically, all the pretentious stuff that film students love. Oh yeah, the cameos. Because Larry David plays himself, and he konws famous people, there’s a lot of celebrity cameos; Ricky Gervais, John McEnroe, Mel Brooks all send themselves up beautifully. The Ricky Gervais one is important because he also made a cameo-heavy sitcom: Extras. There’s one major difference between the way the cameos are handled thought: Extras is defined by the cameos, episodes can almost be titled after them. People think “oh, that’s the Samuel L Jackson episode”, or “that’s the Orlando Bloom episode” and that’s how they’re defined, in Curb, the story comes first, and it’s all the better for it. The best one is probably Michael J. Fox, where he uses his Parkinsons as an excuse to be a bit of a dick in one of the best “I shouldn’t be laughing at this” moments, of which the show has plenty (a highlight is the episode where a holocaust survivor has dinner with someone from the TV series Survivor, and they argue over which one is the true survivor).

1. Last Week Tonight

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An odd choice for number one, I know. Not the funniest, not the best made, but definitely the most important. Like a surprisingly high amount of American political comedy, this owes its existence to The Daily Show. When Jon Stewart took a break from the show in 2013 to make Rosewater, he handed the show over to John Oliver, who filled the role admirably. That’s not an easy role to fill, as anybody who has been on the comments section of the facebook page of the show since Trevor Noah took over can attest (for the record, I think he’s doing an excellent job). John Oliver’s stint was so successful HBO offered him a series. Unlike the Daily Show this only has one episode a week, so isn’t really suited for extremely topical stuff. But what this does mean is the areas they do focus on, they REALLY focus on, aiming for them like US Military planes aim for terrorist training camps, only unlike the military, this show usually hits what it’s aiming for. Whether he’s creating Jeff The Diseased Lung in a segment on tobacco companies, or starting Our Lady Of Perpetual Exemption to show how televangelists should by all rights be told to go f*ck themselves with that knife-penis from Seven, this show constantly creates amazing segments which are perfect for sharing on social media. His reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris last year was particularly fantastic, basically telling ISIS “if you gigantic arseholes are hoping to win a war of culture with France, good fucking luck”. To me, a personal highlight will alway be his war of words with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, which led to the corrupt former executive to respond, calling him a “comedian fool” in a really badly made video. It’s weird, you’d think a guy who (allegedly) diverted relief funds from a Haiti earthquake appeal, and illegally sold black market tickets (not allegedly, this definitely happened, and he was punished for this million dollar making fraud by being made to pay back $250,000) would have enough money to make sure his videos were of a better production quality.

2015 In TV

2015 was a weird time for television. Channels were still attempting to figure out how to adapt to a new digital commercial model. But despite people proclaiming that television is (or will soon be) dead, it seems like a new dawn of television is coming. Thanks to netflix (specifically Breaking Bad and its ilk) people are taking episodic dramas more seriously.

But going to start with political comedy. Two major shifts happened in the American political comedy landscape this year. After The Colbert Report ended last year, Comedy Central needed a new show to fill the gap and partner The Daily Show, and it happened with The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. Something very different from both Colbert and Daily Show . It had an odd start but soon defined itself as something truly funny. It was oddly helped by something truly awful: Bill Cosby.

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Later on in the year something bigger happened: Jon Stewart left The Daily Show after 16 and a half years. The new host of this had a hell of a job forced upon them, so the fact it went to an almost unknown Trevor Noah says a lot about how highly Stewart held Noah. And Noah’s doing well, despite needing an almost all-new news team. Since he started he’s had to do stories about terrorism, mass shootings, and Donald Trump. And he’s done well. His interview techniques aren’t quite Stewart yet, but he shows great potential.

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Empire turned out to be the first major drama of the year, with the highest rated debut on Fox in three years with ratings steadily climbing since, culminating in the highest ratings for a debut seasons season finale since Grey’s Anatomy in 2005.

Netflix brought the style this year: Better Call Saul, Scream, Sense8, Daredevil and Jessica Jones were well received dramas whilst Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was one of the finest new comedies of the year, featuring adorable Erin (which is now her official name) from The Office.

In other comedy news, a remake of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry launched this year. Anybody know that? That should tell you how well it was received.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend debuted late in the year on The CW. This should be awful based on the title alone but it’s actually quite good. It’s a musical sitcom, which should get your attention if nothing else does. The songs are actually really good too. They range from the annoyingly catchy (I Have Friends), the very inappropriate (Sex With A Stranger) to the annoyingly catchy and inappropriate (Feeling Kinda Naughty). Luckily it’s not just me, critics agree. Which is a relief as it decreases the chances of it being cancelled. Also showed the weirdness of TV censorship. “Anal doesn’t hurt at all” is a big no no, but “butt stuff doesn’t hurt at all” is fine, despite being exactly the same.

Community took a risk this year, forgoing the usual network television root, and having it’s new series take place on Yahoo! A risk which early indicators seem to indicate paid off.

Glee ended this year, to the angry cries of about 80% less people who would have cried if it ended 5 years ago. No, that’s not me being needlessly bitchy, that’s the actual difference in viewing figures. If it was anything less than 60% less viewers I would’ve gone with “”Glee ended this year, provoking cries of “wait, that’s still on?””. But 2.3 million viewers, down from 12.45 isn’t something that can go without being mentioned. Especially since it’s actually lower than its debut season. It’s a warning tale not to let series go on too long. Glee really fell, and fell hard, and not all of it can be down to viewers changing how they watch. It fell comparatively to other shows as well. It was the 15th most watched show when it debuted, this year it ranked 148th.

With those figures, you’d think Glee mainstay Lea Michele would be worried that her career could be tainted by it. Luckily for her she was cast in Scream Queens. Which is, well, kind of amazing. A well-crafted murder based comedy. It’s dark, it’s twisted and it’s genuinely laugh out loud funny in parts. I feel this show should be commended for it’s use of music which has been amazing. From Beware Of Young Girls through to Forever Young the music on this show has been top class.

Gotham seems to be finding its feet this season by having one series-long arc to focus on which has an actual end point. And by having more Penguin, who’s been an amazing character. On the downside: Bruce Wayne himself is still a really boring character. Part of it is because the story is based around a plot on his life, yet we know he won’t die so it doesn’t really work. The death of the guy we assumed to be the Joker was marvellous though, we didn’t think they’d dare to kill off a guy who was that damn good.

It wasn’t just Glee that ended this year, Hannibal ended this year. To the utter dismay of the entire internet. This was a show which both audiences and critics loved but for some reason never scored high viewer numbers which sadly means the end of it.

As usual American HandEgg ruled the televisions in America this year with viewing figures of don’t care and an audience share of who gives a fuck?

The most watched show in Britain this year? Would it be a christmas special? The Queen concert at new years? A major sporting event? Nope, the most watched television episode of 2015 in Britain:

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Could it get more British than that? More people watched this show than voted in the last elections. And the right person won, and everybody agrees with that except the Daily Mail, who are being cunts about the fact she’s not white.

Thunderbirds was rebooted this year, but on ITV so nobody cared.

 

And that’s the year in TV.

 

Why We Love….Breaking Bad

Well where do you start? There’s just so much about this show that works. It didn’t outstay it’s welcome is an important one. I don’t think there’s many fans of the show who think “well it started good, but it went a bit downhill in the later seasons”. This might be because it only had 5 seasons, but American dramas have gone downhill in less.

Just leaving this picture here with no comment
Just leaving this picture here with no comment

In fact it could be said that the final season was one it’s best. It certainly contained one of the best episodes in Ozymandias. Usually the best episode in a final season is the final episode as that’s the culmination of everything, but in this case the third from final episode is one of the greatest, not just of the season, not just of the show, but of any series. People say the calm before the storm is the best narrative place to be, but in this case it’s the storm before the calm. The moment where the entire episode is basically soundtracked by someone next to you going “oh shit, holy shit! Holy mother of!” until you send them off to make tea.

Then they come back and you try to explain this
Then they come back and you try to explain this

The narrative for the show made sense. There weren’t any (that I recall) moments where you felt someone acted out of character or inconsistent with earlier characterisation. Everything people did made sense, ok, maybe it didn’t make logical sense because a lot of the decisions were stupid, but they made narrative sense, you can see why everyone did everything they did.

This is actually more creepy in the show
This is actually more creepy in the show

There’s something else about this show that I love, Walter White Jr. He’s a character with cerebral palsy, but it’s never really mentioned. It would have been so easy to make it a big deal, to discuss it and make it a big part of the father’s motivation. Or even to make him holier than thou, the kind of weirdly condescending attitude a lot of television has towards disabled people, where it makes them oddly overnice and friendly. Here, he’s occasionally a dick, because he’s a teenager, and teenagers are usually dicks.

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Dicks who eat a lot of breakfast

Finally: the performances, it’s been said before that Bryan Cranston gave the performance of a lifetime, but it deserves to be said again: he’s damn good in this. He gave one of the best performances I’ve seen in a drama. He’s matched by the supporting cast too, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Giancarlo Esposito (thank you google) et all create a fantastic ensemble cast, great performances and great chemistry, there’s barely a weak link between them. I think I have to bring up the performance of Cranston again though, before this he was mostly known for the role of the dad in Malcolm In The Middle. For British audiences, this would be like Jay from The Inbetweeners next role being the lead in Threads.

Or this guy being the lead in an intense medical drama
Or this guy being the lead in an intense medical drama

I think that might be a small part of why people love this, it’s a genuine surprise. Nobody saw this coming. The brilliance of it kind of sneaked up and surprised everyone, so if you caught on early enough you felt like you were in some kind of secret club. By the time it caught on it became so well known that anybody starting to watch it would have surely felt the slight bit of doubt that it could be overrated. So yes, that’s why we love Breaking Bad, and you should at least give it a try, you owe it that much, and I doubt you’ll regret it.

Oh, and watch Threads, but have something comforting to watch after
Oh, and watch Threads, but have something comforting to watch after

Like it if you like:

  • The Wire
  • House Of Cards
  • Hannibal