Why We Love…Airplane

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:

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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.

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She also looks almost exactly the same over 35 years later. Must be magic

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”

How We Got Through….May 2017

Films

Snatched

Not bad, just disappointing. Very bland, the kind of film you see and then immediately forget. Shame as it has some very good moments in it, but some of the jokes fall flat and land not with raucous laughter, but with silence. Same with directing too, a lot of the visual and editing decisions are kind of strange. All in all it seems like every part of it was a first draft, every shot closing not with “perfect, one more for safety” but “that will do for now”. Same with the script, entire scenes seem like bits which should have been taken out in a second draft.

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Joan Cusack is really good in the small amount of scenes she’s in though

Colossal

One of the best films I’ve seen all year. Oh it’s flawed as hell (particularly in terms of time and establishing exactly “when” certain scenes take place in relation to each other) but all those flaws do is take it from a 10/10 to a solid 8. Anne Hathaway gives a performance which equals Rachel Getting Married (which if you haven’t seen, you really should, it’s superb), and Jason Sudeikis is creepier than I ever thought he could be, the kind of performance which makes you think he could easily move into more dramatic roles, or play a serial killer. So well written too, so much so that I immediately looked into the writer and made a note to watch everything he’s done. It’s also extremely unique, I can’t think of a film to compare it too, stands alone in a genre of one, and I can’t see anybody doing it better.

The Promise

A 2 hour film about the Armenian genocide, no, wait, come back, it’s actually REALLY good. Brutal without being exploitative, which is the risk you take when doing a film like this. If you don’t do it right it can come off like you’re exploiting the reality for the sake of drama, you have to stay grounded enough, and honest enough, for the film to work. It also REALLY annoyed a certain group of people, who flooded IMDB with negative reviews of it, calling it propaganda and lies without a hint of truth, saying that the genocide never happed. Most of these “reviews” were posted before the film was even released, so you know they’re definitely trustworthy. Oscar Isaac is REALLY good in this by the way, believable throughout, but special mention has to go to Marwan Kenzari, who plays his character with such conviction, and does such wonderful facial work throughout that it’s one of the most genuine performances of the year. I would highly recommend seeing this, and not just because it annoys genocide deniers (which is always fun)

Sleepless

I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as f*cking tedious as this was. You’d think a 90 minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen are because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There’s some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shakey cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shakey Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shakey Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time, yet considering everybody in the cinema stood up the very second the credits started, I don’t think it’s going to be looked forward to that much. Maybe I’m spoiled by John Wick, which set my standards unbelievably high, but still, not a great film, it’s not even a good one. In fact, probably one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

Suburban Gothic

See, now this is dumb fun. Very very fun. I can’t remember who told me to watch this, but whoever it was; thank you very much. Best watched whilst drunk and with other people. It’s on netflix now so if you’ve got that, watch it, and if you don’t, get netflix, watch it, then cancel after the free month.

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TV Shows

The Office (US)

A US remake that is without a doubt superior to the original. I have a major issue with the UK version; the main character starts off disliked, then ends up with all the characters embracing him, without changing anything about his personality. His character does not deserve his happy ending, all he’s done is bitch and moan and be bitter and spiteful, he should not be the good guy and it feels like it’s done mainly because he was played by the writer. The US one handles it differently, because it has more episodes it allows the main character to have more depth and be a fully developed person, so he comes off a lot more likeable. This show is also helped by the fact that Jim and Pam are one of the best relationships I’ve ever seen in television, so often everything about them is said just with a look, or with body language, you could watch it in silence and get a sense of how they respond to each other.

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It also provided me with a lot of good Cover Photos for facebook

Books

1000 Years Of Annoying The French

A book that’s pretty self explanatory, a look at complex history of anglo-french relations. Definitely has an English bias, but never really comes off as hateful and angry. Fascinating read which goes in depth into a lot of historical fallacies, and tries to examine why the two countries occasionally seem like one of those couples who constantly argue and cheat on each other, yet still stay together for some reason.

Cash

Really interesting, but I don’t think you need to read it more than once. Very honest about his own flaws, yet seems to hold back when discussing others. So it’s interesting but kind of frustrating, yet it makes sense, a biography shouldn’t be entirely about settling old scores, and I’ve read many biographies which have been ruined by hot angry and bitter the person has seemed.

The Damned United

Almost exactly as good as the film, and the film was amazing. Possibly the only sports story where the hero comes from ahead and loses.

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Also a reminder of how quotable Brian Clough could be

Death Note

One of the best (read: the only) manga series I’ve read. Fantastic character work, it can be difficult to write genius’s as sometimes writers just research a lot of information and have the characters repeat what they’ve researched, so it comes off kind of sterile and bland. The two main characters in this are obviously incredibly intelligent, but this isn’t shown through facts and figures, it’s shown through logic. They come to nonsensical conclusions, and then explain how it’s not only logical, but the only possible thought you should have (much like the Sherlock series often did). Kind of an intellectual cold war between the two characters, they both KNOW whom the other one is, but need to try to get the other one to drop their guard and reveal more information.

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This quote is life

 

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.

 

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.