The Happytime Murders (2018)

I was super excited about this. It’s a puppet movie aimed at adults made by the Henson company. I will go on record as saying that “Muppets Christmas Carol” is one of my favourite films ever made. The trailer was hysterical and looked like nothing else released this year, so yeah, hopes were high. Sadly it did not meet them. I expected to sing this film’s praises. To talk about how funny it was and how I can’t wait to see it again when I buy it immediately on DVD the day it’s released. After seeing this I can say with absolute certainty that I’m not going to be buying it on release day, or at all. I don’t need to buy it, I don’t even need to see it again. When it was funny, it was funny, but outside of the puppets it was incredibly mediocre. It relied on the puppets waaaaay too much. There was a period in the 90’s where films thought they hit a formula:

Old person + swearing/drug/sex references=COMEDY

Replace “old person” with “puppet” and you have at least 50% of the jokes in this film. It thinks that just making them swear and make sexual references count as jokes. The actual jokes often aren’t much better, it’s the only film I’ve seen in like forever which does the “amoronsayswhat?” joke sincerely, twice. The last one I can remember doing that is Waynes World. That’s the biggest issue with a lot of the jokes in this; they’re too easy. They’re “we need a joke, this will do” level. They’re the first jokes you’d think of, no actual thought seemed to go into it. It’s like they didn’t care about the quality of the jokes, they just wanted to put jokes in, it goes for quantity over quality, but the quantity isn’t even that high. This wouldn’t be as unforgivable if the story was compelling. But it’s not, not really. There’s two big reveals in this, one is revealed in the poster, and one is incredibly obvious to anybody who has seen a film before. There’s no compelling mystery to keep you emotionally invested in the story. There’s no exciting twists and turns, or clever plot developments.

It does have some funny moments though. And the fact that the puppets use sugar as drugs is great, as is the subtle parallels to racial tension and discrimination. The bad thing about it? Both of those have been done before, and done A LOT better in the short-lived series The Fuzz. And that show had Rachel Bloom of Crazy-Ex Girlfriend fame. Does this? Does it bollocks.

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The Five Best Sitcom Romances

Valentine’s Day is this week, which means we’re only a few days away from the best day of the year; 15th February, otherwise known as “Reduced Chocolate Day”. So with that in mind here’s my five favourite romances from sitcoms (you probably could have guessed that from the title).

5. Titus and Erin – Titus

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Holy hell some of this was hard to watch, not in a “this is awkward”, or “this is terrible” way, but in a “this is so brutal and honest”. It’s a relationship on screen where one of the first defining moments is them cheating on each other, the two of them realised that they are both so screwed up, so full of neurosis and anger, that they are perfect for each other. Based on the relationship of the lead writer/actor Christopher Titus, he’s not ashamed to put everything out there, to say that during relationships you’re going to hate each other at times, but it will all work out in the end.

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Except that’s not the case. I mean, it is in the show, but not in real life. In real life his wife cheated on him, lied to the courts and said that he beat her and their children in an attempt to get custody of their children, then divorced him, leaving him more messed up than he already was. That knowledge makes it REALLY hard to watch this show at times, you know that every time the character (and by extension, the writer) is gushing about how fantastic she is, and how much he loves her, you now how it ends. It’s heartbreaking and emotionally devastating,

4.Darryl and White Josh – Crazy Ex Girlfriend

This  blog originally ended with “finally did something I never thought possible. I went an entire sitcom-based blog without once mentioning Crazy Ex Girlfriend.” then I would put a picture of a quote from it, then “damn”. But whilst looking for a quote I found this:

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How could I forget this? It’s not the main relationship of the show, but it’s definitely the best in terms of how happy it makes the characters. The way this started was a masterclass in how to set up a relationship in sitcom. There was one or two small moments between the two characters, and the moments were very very small, like “could easily be ignored or never referenced again as it was a one-off joke” thing. There was then nothing for a few episodes. In that time the audience started writing fan fiction about the two characters, and making comments on youtube videos saying how cute a couple they’d make. Then eventually Darryl admitted to himself that he was bisexual, and they’ve been together ever since, and because of the way it was built up the fandom rejoiced as it seemed like they had made it happen. They’re supportive of each other, different enough so that they retain their own personalities/provide balance, and it’s not one sided at all, you can see why both of them are into each other. They’re just so adorable together, it’s perfect.

3. Gavin And Stacey – Gavin And Stacey

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A sitcom that admitted from the outset that it was about a romance, which was kind of risky as if the central relationship didn’t work, then the entire sitcom would fail. Luckily the couple worked, and we got to chart the entire course of the relationship through the show. One of the best things about this show is also kind of annoying; it’s only three series. I do wish there was more, but I realise that new series would be a bit pointless, the story has been told. It’s like they had a definite end point and the entire series was building towards that, so adding any extra would feel less essential, unless they had a story they were desperate to tell.

2. Marshall and Lily – How I Met Your Mother

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A very very honest relationship. Despite being one of the most perfect couples in television from the last few years, these two do argue, a lot, and not just silly arguments. They are angry, hate-filled and deeply personal arguments. Yet apart from a few moments, you never feel they’re going to split. You somehow know deep down that no matter what they do, they’ll stay strong and will stay together.

1. Pam and Jim – The Office

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So adorable and perfect for each other. Even a bitter cynic such as myself can’t help but feel slightly warm inside at the way these two interact. The key to this relationship; John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer. The actors behind the characters do so much to make it work. There’s subtle nuances to the things they do, little looks they give each other etc mean that they don’t look like two actors playing a couple, they look like a genuine couple, the two share an innate warmness that radiates from them and is a testament to sitcom romances. There are some people who believe that once they got together their relationship suffered and they became insufferable, these people are wrong. Jim and Pam for life!

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So there’s that done. And happy chocolate day everyone.

 

How We Got Through…January 2017

Let’s face it, this year has not got off to a good start. Not even a month in and we’ve already lost John Hurt, our governments have been so devastated by that news that in tribute they’ve decided to turn the world into a fully interactive version of 1984 running 24/7  . In times of crisis we have two options; we can either 1) Help solve the problem. 2) Ignore the problem and lose ourselves in film, television, video games and music. Obviously we did number two. So here’s how we got through the first month of this year

Film

A Monster Calls

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This is not an easy film to watch on an emotional level, one of the few films I’ve seen lately that seeks to emotionally blackmail the watcher. Definitely the best looking film I’ve seen at the cinema this year (note: it’s the only film I’ve seen at the cinema this year). One of the few downsides is Sigourney Weaver’s English accent, which is slightly uneven throughout. Reminiscent of a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and a Neil Gaiman book, can be best described as a modern day fairy tale. Bayona did a fantastic job of directing this, whilst the Liam Neeson tree is telling stories (it’s an odd film) the film switches visual styles so it almost becomes a living watercolour painting, it’s awe-inspiring and genuinely new, never seen anything that was done like this (the closest is when Hermione was telling the stories of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the style switched to a weird animated one). The only previous film I’ve seen of his was The Impossible, and that was in 2012 so can’t remember too much about it, but I can remember being really impressed with the way he directed certain moments in it and was really good at creating visual tension, which is a good sign for his next film; the Jurassic World sequel.

Tyrannosaur

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Whilst A Monster Calls is bleak, it cannot hold a candle to this. A film which begins with someone kicking a dog to death, gets progressively bleaker, and then culminates in the lead character decapitating a dog and sitting there with it’s head in his lap, with tales of domestic abuse and rape in the middle. If you know someone who is annoyingly optimistic and happy, show them this film, you will break them. Still a major disappointment that Olivia Colman didn’t win a BAFTA for this, didn’t even get nominated which is a shame as I truly believe she’s one of the best British Actresses around at the moment, nobody can wring emotion from a story like she can.

The Lego Movie

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This was mainly to recover from Tyrannosaur. Brought for £5 from Morrisons and I feel like I cheated them somehow by getting it so cheap. The film equivalent of a rainbow emanating from a bowl of skittles and raining sunshine and joy onto people below. One of the few films this year which has made me genuinely laugh out loud multiple times, which takes some doing as I’m a miserable bastard.

Books

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Slightly too anvilicious in it’s environmental message, but otherwise it’s fantastic literature. Brilliant characterisation as well, the series is basically about somebody becoming a hero over the course of 8 books, and he was very evil in the first book so it was a long journey. A tale of growing up, a tale of greed, and a tale of humanity. One of the the best children’s book series I’ve ever read, it’s basically Die Hard with fairies, if the lead character was Light from Death Note. A film adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh is hopefully on the way, and he’s a director who I feel can really do it justice.

TV Shows

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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I know, I go on about this all the time, but there’s a reason for that; because I love it so much. Funny, heartbreaking and with songs so catchy it’s almost suspicious.

Insert Name Here

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An odd panel show on BBC (previous episodes available on iPlayer) about people. Basically they answer questions about historical figures and celebrities who all share the same name. Each episode focuses on a different name, so, for example, the episode this week was based on Charlie, so you had the teams answer questions about famous people called Charlie. Hosted by Sue Perkins, with Josh Widdicombe and Richard Osman From Pointless (to give him his full name) as team captains. A show which I can’t imagine working on any other channel than the BBC, and which wouldn’t be made by any other country than this one. Very very funny, and you learn a lot too.

 

 

Music

Lonely Daze – Kate Tempest

Completely different from what I imagined Kate Tempest would sound like, but oh so good. A wonderful piece of lyrical storytelling that you can just put on and lose yourself to.

Stars – Nina Simone

I first heard it in Bojack Horseman, and it has stuck with me ever since. Beautifully emotional, like proper tears and angry shaking emotion. The kind of song you’d drink yourself to death to.

 

So that’s how we got through this month, what did you use?

Why We Love…Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

1. The Songs

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.

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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:

  1. Serial killers/sociopaths.
  2. 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””

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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.

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This will be me this weekend

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.

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.