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.

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…Fahrenheit 451

I picked this book up from a shop in Portsmouth a few years ago and it was on my christmas reading list; then I changed my mind and decided to read Garfield and Horrible Histories instead (don’t judge me) and finally got round to reading it about a year later. I remember I started it at 9pm Thursday night and finished it 7am Friday morning. Now it’s not unusual for me to stay up through the night; but it’s never to finish a book (it’s usually for noodles or to try and figure out what went wrong at various stages of my life).

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“May 15th, 2005, turned down a free burger”

For those unfamiliar with this book the plot is this: in the not-to-distant future books have been made illegal and fireman go around burning them and arresting anybody who possesses them. No matter how bleak this book got though it couldn’t make me feel worse than it did in the first few chapters. You’re introduced to this character called Clarise who is just simply awesome. She reminded me so much of this girl I used to go to college with. So I was sitting there getting used to this simply adorable character, then she dies. Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury? No, Fuck you!

But maybe the fact I thought that was a good thing. It showed the emotional depth the book had; it stopped you thinking of these people as characters and it seemed more like a journal; the events were actually happening and everything had consequences (as opposed to poorly written books where you’re constantly aware that they are books, so the characters don’t effect you that much as you don’t see them as people; more cliche’s of people).

This book also is related to some brilliant mistakes. First off; the title. It’s called Fahrenheit 451 as that’s the temperature which books burn at. Well it’s supposed to be; but it’s not. The temperature at which paper combusts is actually 450 Celsius. The other mistake was not one made by the author but by the audience. For years people said it was about censorship, but it’s actually about interest in books dwindling because of television. It’s got to the point now where people go up to the author and tell him he’s wrong about his own book and it really is about censorship. Proving that just because you can read a book doesn’t make you intelligent; in fact it can make you think you’re smarter which actually makes you dumber as you can’t be taught.

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On the subject of dumb people thinking they’re smart….

Anyway I’m rambling; so yeah in summary a rather awesome book which contained one of my favourite lines in a book:

“why waste your final hours running around your cage denying you’re a squirrel?”

Seems so boosh-like. Oh, and I also LOVE this paragraph;

“Go home and think of your first husband divorced and your second husband blowing his brains out, go home and think of the dozen abortions you’re had, go home and think of that and your damn Caesarian sections, too, and your children who hate your guts! Go home and think how it all happened and what did you ever do to stop it?”

One of the harshest sentences I’ve ever read; yet also one of the most beautiful