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News: Solid Ratings For Can Of Worms Episode 2

Following on from my mostly positive review of episode two of Can of Worms, it seems the rest of Australia thought the same thing. In Can of Worms’ second outing, it actually built on its pretty good ratings from episode 1 of 930,000, to post a very solid 980,000.

This means more than a couple of things about the show, here they are;

Andrew Denton’s good track-record was enough to overcome a very uneven premiere, which opened up cans of worms than it probably wouldn’t like.

The show was advertised as being from the makers behind “The Gruen Transfer” and “Enough Rope”. If it was from any other producer, the premiere would almost be enough to turn everyone off- especially judging from the negative Twitter reception.

The show was actually markedly better, and is winning positive reviews from some very noteworthy reviewers.

Reviews from respected people such as David Knox at TV Tonight not only provide an authoritative view, but lets viewers know they are onto a good thing.

The fact that it built on its previous week’s episode shows that any publicity is good publicity, or at least, it didn’t damage the brand irreperably.

Though I disliked the inclusion of Jason Akermanis and his comments about suicide (he labelled it “selfish”), it is clear he was regarded as an aberration.

 

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Review: Can of Worms Episode 2

The best thing I can say about this weeks “Worms” is that it definitely smoothed out the rough edges this week.

There was less jolting tone shifts, and while it is far from a “winner”, in terms of quality, it is sure finding its footing.

One of the only problems I have with the show lies right at the core of it- which is worrying-in the “worms” themselves.

First of all, how is the question about “burqas” opening a “Can of Worms”- surely that is one Can that has never been closed in recent memory.

So, doesn’t that actually preclude it from being an actual Can of Worms??

The only way I could excuse it is that it hasn’t actually been in the media for a couple of weeks- but then what does that say about the show? It’s got its finger horribly off the public pulse? What about something about the Carbon Tax, or would that be too current? Remember this show is only filmed one day before it airs, not two weeks.

So basically, if it’s going to use “current” issues as catalysts for debate, why not use current ones?

In the “Moral minefield” segment, there were also questions such as “Have You Ever Used a Disabled Toilet”… Yes, not “Is Using a Disabled Toilet Wrong”… If you get the distinction.

Meshel Laurie’s role in the show still puzzles me. She sits on the end, and sometimes explains how a game works, and sometimes doesn’t. And when she does, it is still something that could be largely covered by Dicko.

However, she really comes into her own when she is allowed to act as a kind of moderator who reacts to things said in the debate- which she started to become largely in the last “swearing” debate.

And the guests? Well, they were a vast improvement on last week’s as I predicted. They were all able to showcase their strong personalities as well as bring up examples from their lives to add to the debate. And the fact that there was only one comedian really worked- having two or more can really put pressure on the guests to make the show funny, when the focus should be on the debate.

And the “comedian” Tom Ballard tried very, very hard indeed. He made, by my count three callbacks- these included saying or was OK to use a disabled toilet because he was a “poofter” (this related to an earlier question asking whether it was acceptable to call someone a “poofter”). However, overall, he came off as intelligent and eloquent, and actually very opinionated.

Jessica Rowe was, well, nice. She isn’t really the type of person that goes out to upset anyone, but isn’t afraid to take a strong point of view. She also spent most of the show being outraged, or offended at comments made on either side of her. Hence, she was symbolically placed in the middle. But while Jessica was pretty good, surely the show can find a woman (or two) who might actually outrage or offend people (I’m talking people like Em Rusciano, Mia Freedman- NOT people like Catherine Deveny here).

Don Burke sat in the “controversial loud-mouth” seat, but strangely, he wasn’t nowhere near as irritating as Jason Akermanis was the week before. Sure, he was a bit cranky, a bit “Grumpy Old Man”, a bit deranged ex-TV personality… He was still an interesting spectacle to behold. Though he did go a bit overboard in some parts- staring at Jessica Rowe’s breasts, dropping F-bombs (because there was a worm about swearing, see)… He is probably the ideal type of guest for the show; unpredictable, uninhibited and slightly unstable. And though you may disagree with some things he says, at least he is never completely unreasonable- an important factor in a show like this; even when views are put forth that you don’t agree with, at least they could make you consider their point of view.

Most importantly, though, the guests actually interacted with each other, and actually debated.

This was also an aspect that was applied to other aspects of the show, with more audience interaction, and actual live tweets- what a novel idea…

Dicko was also better, and the few moments where he actually went off-the-cuff were some of his best moments on the show. But, until he appears more natural on the auto-cue, they need to cut the “witty” throws to ad-breaks and introductions to new worms. Seeing him pause awkwardly as he reads not only devalues a decent show, but stifles Dicko’s personality further (he already has to remain semi-impartial as a host).

Overall, a considerable improvement on the first episode, and at least it shows that producers are listening to viewer feedback. It focused the show on debating issues, and made for a less cluttered product. It still needs to focus its worms a bit more, but with some more good guest selection should more than make up for it.

Review: Wilfred Episode 2

Source: sidereel.com

This week we opened with the theme of loyalty, and it reared its head nicely when Ryan agreed to trick Wilfred into going to the vet.

Before this, we were treated to a charming montage of Wilfred bonding with Ryan set to Peggy Lee’s “It’s a Good Day”, which only built up the tension heading to the vet.

Wilfred then

It was quite amusing to see Wilfred describe being micro-chipped as having a “tracking-device”, and pleading not to have the vet “take his balls”.

This is one of the many upsides of the show; seeing things from a dog’s point of view.

We also learnt this week that while Wilfred was not only an acerbic pun-slinger, he was also racist. When presented with an Indian vet, he said “I need a Doctor, not tech support”.

The side-story of Wilfred telling Ryan that Jenna “has a dick” was seemed fairly stupid at first, and seeing Ryan trying to look up her skirt while she chewed with her mouth open and watched the football and drink beer seemed like a bizzaro-world sitcom plot… which I guess is what the show is.

But, then again, it did open up the nefarious, manipulative side of Wilfred, especially when he accidentally called her “he”, only fuelling Ryan’s paranoia.

But then when Jenna opened the door to reveal a tall, muscular boyfriend, who of course, is played by Chris Klein (who has possibly given up snaring another network comedy leading role). It turns out that Wilfred meant that Jenna “has a dick for a boyfriend”, which was a nice little reveal, though it was not an entirely unexpected twist. It also simultaneously set up the tried and true trope; girl has idiot for a boyfriend, making us root for the protagonist.

On top of that, it sets up yet another hurdle for Ryan to overcome in his quest for Jenna; the first is Wilfred, the second is his paranoia and “awkwardness”, now the third is the chiseled Klein.

And now Wilfred and Ryan are “even”, after Ryan tricked Wilfred into going to the vet- and it will be interesting to see if the series continues with this dynamic of one-upmanship, or whether they begin to unite to fight against a common enemy in Jenna’s “dick” of a boyfriend.

The show even attempted to give Wilfred some semblance of a backstory- he was thrown into a river in a sack as a pup. Time will tell whether this is meant to lay any bearing on his ruthless actions, or was just a throwaway line.

So the show is clearly still laying the ground-work for the characters and plot-lines, which is to be expected, however, it will definitely provide for some interesting stories.

(And just on a side note: speaking of plot-lines and characters, the next-door neighbour played by Ethan Suplee was nowhere to be seen in this episode, which would normally be fine in only a second episode, but remember when Wilfred placed Ryan’s wallet near the scene of the crime last week? I know that the show will not forget about this crucial point, but to not have some sort of consequence in the next episode is puzzling- even if the neighbour doesn’t coming bursting through into his house, surely Ryan could at least pass comment about his wallet being missing?)

Whether the show will become really funny because of this is hard to tell, but it’s not all that funny at the moment, save for more than a few amusing moments.

For example, take this Wilfred quote; “Everything I need to know about someone, I can glean from their asshole.” Yes, it’s amusing for its shock value, but it just relies too much on the notion of Wilfred being a man in a dog’s body. There’s no subtext or subtlety; it just tells us, “He’s a dog, he sniffs assholes”- now laugh at the word “asshole”, and the fact that a dog said it, and the fact that he used the word “glean” to more eloquently express something, and you wouldn’t imagine a dog to be that eloquent if he could talk.

But anyway, I’m nit-picking here, and the show is still earning a lot of well-deserved buzz.

Review: Can of Worms

Firstly, what the hell is this show?

I mean, there’s creating a new format for a show, then there’s just cooking up a giant mishmash of genres.

Coming in to the show, I imagined the show as being made up of long-form debates which drew upon various moral and ethical dilemmas… but that only turned out to be a small part of the show.

I was also hoping the show would adopt a serious edge to approaching these issues.

Instead, when I turned on, I saw people talking in a game-show/chat-show hybrid format featuring a whole range of issues.

***

So where can I start with the format? It was just awful, awful, awful.

First of all, there was the “Wrong-O-Meter”, which only managed to trivialise a whole range of issues by making little buttons out of them (Kennett’s Golliwogs, anyone?), while also giving the show a certain tacky cheapness which can only be passed off as kitschy on one show and one show only: Spicks and Specks.

And pardon me if I’m missing something, but isn’t one of the briefs of the show not to sit on the fence? And isn’t the “Wrong-O-Meter” asking for a specific shade of grey? Sorry, when does “A Bit Wrong” not constitute sitting on the fence?

Then there was the first “worm” (sorry to nitpick, but shouldn’t it be the first “Can”? Nevermind…), “Is it Offensive to Call Someone a Bogan?”. And while it may seem to be a decent-enough question, it’s hardly the most pressing question facing our nation, is it? And even if you take that as read, who even cares all that much about the word “bogan” to argue either way?

Guests were thrown question after question after question, drawing on all manner of topics from “relationships”, “sex” (there goes the “family friendly” appeal) and “gender” in the “Moral Minefield” segment.

Then there was another segment (I didn’t catch its name… because I didn’t care), but it involved a board and some words. In this case it was whether some young people terms were “Danger Danger” or “Fine by Me” when it came to kids’ activity online. But the problem was, the terms ranged from the bizarre in “Smut Mining” and “Brick Juicing” to the bleedingly obvious “Backdooring” and “Grooming”.

And after they were all sorted into their groups (not at all seriously, I might add- “Backdooring” was placed in “Fine by Me…”), the results were revealed by Dicko. But everyone had stopped caring long ago about the show, including the guests.

***

And speaking of the guests… what can you say, really? Yes, they were all probably crapping themselves before they came onto set, given that it’s a new show and all, but none of them said anything that was all that memorable, or anything that made the show in its first week.

Craig Reucassel was probably the best value, and was good when it came to the funny bits, but his instinct is to be funny all the time, not debate semi-serious issues. And he cracked some great gags, the type you’d expect to see on the Chaser’s War on Everything. And speaking of that show, I couldn’t help but think Ten would be better off just giving the Chaser their own show (surely they’d all be up for it now, especially since they’ve all appeared on commercial TV shows).

George McEncroe got the role of “only female guest” (if you exclude Meshel Laurie’s regular gig), and was OK- she’s intelligent but looked unsure of how to roll with the format. This was evident at the end of the show when Dicko asked what they’ve learned from the show… yet another pointless element to the show, not to mention a useless excercise- George offered up a weak line; “I wish I was being raised in Craig’s joint…”, then looked immediately at Aker for his answer- a classic sign that someone is uncomfortable.

Meshel Laurie, while not a “guest” as such, was one of the better parts of the show, and will hopefully get even better. However, she needs to have a better defined role- is she a co-host or a Wheel of Fortune letter girl?

But who knows what the guests were told before they walked on set- be funny, or be honest? Because we all know it’s pretty hard to do both, unless you’re as gifted a comedian as, say Louis CK, to draw on a particularly random example*.

And unfortunately for the two guest comedians, they ain’t no Louis CK, so the show’s shifting tone – or lack thereof- left them uncomfortable. This was also a problem that The 7PM Project encountered in its embryonic stages- comedians such as Dave Hughes were suddenly forced to pass serious opinions on serious topics on live TV- leaving Dave Hughes, and more significantly the viewer, squirming.

Unlike Good News Week, this show doesn’t afford comedians the liberty of being able to crack dick jokes every opportunity they can, so there’s no safety blanket.

So, for the sake of all involved, the show needs to settle on its tone.

***

I knew that “Aker” would be a problem, but I guess that it’s a compliment to say that he wasn’t the worst part of the show, nor was he worse than I thought he would be.

But then again, he was pretty damn shocking- not funny, but not at all eloquent and just bordering on pathetically earnest.

When he was presented with the term “Brick-juicing”.

He said; “(something indecipherable) juice a brick? I’m not gonna drink that shit!”

He also said “I’ve got two (daughters), that’s fine by me”… when he was presented with the term “backdooring”. First of all… WHAT?! Second of all… WHAT?!

I don’t know if there is any point picking it apart… because it’s just so, so wrong on so many levels, but why stop now? First of all, both of his daughters are under 18, so there’s that. Secondly, he’s saying that because they’re girls, that “backdooring” is OK? As in, it wouldn’t be permissible if they were male? As in… well, you know the rest.

Just. Get. Off. My. Screen.

***

OK, so that may be a little harsh. And when it came to the next segment it was clear that the show could be worthwile… but it was just executed so strangely. For example, Aker was asked about when he was bullied at school. And it allowed the guests to talk about the issue of teen suicide. However, when Aker opens up by saying suicide is “selfish”… it just made me cringe in all the wrong ways.

I mean, I get where he’s coming from, and I’m guessing this is the exact thing that Denton got him on the show for, and though I’m not a psychologist, I’m guessing the last thing someone who is being teased at school and being called negative words, the last thing they want to hear is that on top of all that, they’re “selfish” for contemplating something so horrible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong here!)

But even if the discussion about suicide was valid (and most of the time it is- the more we talk about such issues, the more we can understand it, usually), it was in stark contrast to most other aspects of the show.

Only a segment before, they were having a knee-slapping laff-fest over words such as “poke”. OHOHO, “poke” can also mean sex! See you after the break, where we’ll talk about bullying and suicide.

***

And now for the all-important host… Dicko. His autocue reading was not as wooden as, say, Andrew Bolt, but it wasn’t anywhere near natural enough to convince me he could carry this show past week one.

Then there were all manner of unnecessary parts, but where to start… again?

Throughout the show, the audience gave their opinion as to whether they agreed with the guests or not, making the guests seem like they were just debating for the approval of the audience. It also shifted the focus of the show from “What do you think about this issue- be honest, now” to “Does the rest of Australia agree with your opinion? You better hope they bloody do…”

Then there was a Chaser-style segment with Dan Ilic, who went out on the street armed with a clip-board and asked people if they wanted to monitor their child’s internet activity… or something to that effect. Presumably it was meant to prove some sort of point, but to me it just seemed to be an awkward effort to shoe-horn Ilic into the show. Why not just have him as one of the guests and cut out the segment altogether?

Many have also likened the “Can of Worms National Poll” graphics to Hungry Beast’s flashy graphics. I don’t really have a problem with that segment as such, but, as on Hungry Beast, it just seems to be a desperate, “show-boaty” time-filler.

At the end of the show, Dicko also has to crown, or award one of the guests with a shitty little medal (and not an ironically crappy one, like on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, but a real, last-minute, “Hey, let’s make this show EVEN BETTER by saying someone debated better than other people!!” medal).

And it was indicative of the show’s bad start that it gave the award to “Aker”… and just for “opening up”- surely that’s the bare minimum for a show like this.

***

I know that it’s not the point of the show, but wouldn’t you find it far more interesting if the guests were asked “curly” questions which actually pertained to their own careers or lives?

For example, why not ask a question about gay footballers, and use it as an opportunity to grill Aker on why he has the views that he does. At least then there could be some interaction between the guests and some bloody debate. If they wanted to, they could even open it up to the broader theme of “coming out” in today’s society.

Why not ask Craig Reucassel about whether the Chaser’s APEC stunt was horribly dangerous, or a necessary prank to expose security flaws/hypocrisy/whatever they were trying to prove. Yes, it would be dredging up old news, but it would be a darn-sight more interesting that the inconsequential crap we were presented with tonight. And again, open that up as a broader topic; “Can jokes go too far?” “Is there a ‘line’ when it comes to comedy?” Hell, isn’t that the very thing they promised in the ads, what with the whole wearing a “Hitler outfit” to a party? Surely that would at least relate better to the Chaser’s style of comedy that anything else they asked tonight. I’m sure even Andrew Hansen dressed up as Hitler for a prank… So what they hell were the people behind this show thinking?

And isn’t that what Andrew Denton spent all of “Enough Rope” trying to tell us? “Everyone has a story?” This seems the exact antithesis to that; who cares what you’ve done in your life, just bloody open your mouth and blabber about “rasterbating”.

***

The show is in desperate trouble of becoming a massive flop. At the moment it’s all over the place, with an awkward host, squirming guests and shamefully irrelevant segments.

It also needs to sort out its focus – the worst thing a new show can be is cluttered and unsure of itself. To have a show range from dirty humour to the morbidly serious to game-show wackiness is just plain confusing to new viewers… which is everyone, at this stage. Maybe if the show goes on, they can branch out and try new segments, but for now, they need to narrow their focus and their aspirations.

But in saying all that, it’s got potential; let’s hope it can smarten up quickly…

What did you think of the show? Did you see it as just a fun show, or did you find it too chaotic to make head or tail of anything?

*Louis CK would just a perfect candidate for the show- controversial, yet intelligent and screamingly funny. He also cares about stuff– and believes in what he says. Does Australia even have one of those? Any suggestions?

Review: Wilfred (US): Episode One

Wilfred recently premiered in Australia on Ten’s digital channel Eleven. It premiered in America last week on FX.

First of all, putting aside for a minute whether it was funny or not, or whether it “worked”, the fact that the US has gone and plucked a concept for a comedy from the lowest rating network in Australia, that most Australians have never heard of, let alone watched is symbolic of one of two things;

One: US comedy is reaching a crescendo, in an age of left-of-centre comedies such as Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Community not only breaking the mould but experimenting with new styles of comedy.

Or Two: US comedy has reached its nadir: shows like Outsourced are being commissioned (to no success whatsoever) while until Charlie Sheen’s demise, Two and a Half Men was the most popular comedy on TV. With such a dearth of new ideas, creativity and wit, it has turned to comedies in Australia.

But enough theorizing: it’s just fantastic to see a show which is just so bizarre and refreshingly different, in terms of its central conceit, at least.

In many ways, however, it plays out like a typical pilot; it is intent on getting every single story strand and obvious joke out on the table.  So, it runs through all the different doggy activities if you will, in order to wring every possibly comedic moment out of the show’s concept possible.

We saw leg-humping (including a stuffed toy getting rogered), face licking/kissing, belly scratching, urination, excretion, hole digging, protectiveness, ball-throwing, walking- you name it, it was all shoved into the very first episode in case at any point we missed the fact that Wilfred was a dog.

We also get to meet the supporting cast: there’s the controlling sister Kristen (Dorian Brown), who likely won’t be the source of many comedic moments, the requisite “hot” neighbour Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann), who likely won’t have her character developed much more than that, and the angry neighbour, played by Ethan Suplee (and for anyone who has ever watched a decent amount of My Name is Earl, he will always be Randy).

It all comes across as a bit high-concept, which is fine, however in terms of longevity it will struggle after it hits the third or fourth season mark (assuming it gets that far of course!).

But, after all that, does it work as a comedy?

Well, it won’t have you laughing out loud, that’s for sure. But it will take you by surprise, and it is amusing, in a very bizzare way. Maybe I was just smirking at the combination of Frodo trying to grow a half-beard and Jason Gann, presumably the least likely of Australia’s sizeable acting troupe to make it in America- let’s face it, his presence on Mark Loves Sharon and The Wedge didn’t exactly scream “destined for stardom”.

But back to this show. While Jason Gann’s dry, monotonous delivery seemed in keeping with the slow-burning tone of the Australian series, it serves a decidedly different purpose in this one.

He serves as a chilled, yet conniving sage, the antithesis to the hopped-up and paranoid, yet straight-laced lawyer.

Of course, I could get into all the psychological debate about Wilfred and whether he is a manifestation of Wood’s deranged mind or anything else… But I won’t. If you start analyzing it, you will find that nothing makes sense in the show. And when has that ever stopped… oh, I don’t know, every other show on TV? This show just presents a slightly more warped version of reality.

This seems to be one of those shows where you aren’t looking for a laugh a minute (like many were in Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys), and it doesn’t suffer for that fact – because it looks great, and is totally different to most other comedies you’ll see on the box.

The jokes in this episode aren’t structure in a sitcommy way, yet are set up as various stand-alone pieces- Wilfred rubs his face in a woman’s breasts, for example. It isn’t necessarily funny on paper, but it works in the way that you would never expect to see that imagery on TV, let alone in society. It also provides an hilarious commentary on the social norms allocated to animals, and those to humans. Ridiculous? Yes. Implausible? Yes. But funny.

While it’s not riotously funny, it’s not boring nor is it stupid (well, only briefly is it stupid- they do poo in a boot). It is sure to be an interesting ride, if nothing else.

Wilfred airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm on Eleven.

Angry Boys Episode Four Review: An Improvement, But Where To From Here?

I was reluctant to review another episode of Angry Boys.

First of all because it meant that I would have to sit through another episode, and I’m sorry, but so far the series hasn’t really done anything for me.

Secondly, from what I had seen in the “next week on Angry Boys” preview, it seemed like things weren’t going to get much better; we were told that Nathan likes to look at his mum in the shower (enjoy, families watching!) and the fact that he likes to “wank” a lot… and presumably there was some delightful link to be found there.

And thirdly, I don’t really enjoy spraying my particular form of invective out into the blogosphere (if that’s still a thing), as “hating on” any show is not fun, especially when it’s Australian. Not that Australian shows should be judged less harshly, but when Angry Boys has been the only scripted comedy on screens in 2011, we shouldn’t be too quick to shoot it down, and maybe hope for something that’s a bit, well, funnier.

But I went into this week’s instalment with the same positive mindset as there was yet another character being introduced; that of Japanese mother Jen Okazaki. She is basically a fusion of the stereotype of Asian parents combined with the showbiz-parent character.

Now, the more cynical might say that we’ve seen it all before with Ricky Wong in We Can Be Heroes (his parents wanted him to work at the CSIRO, but he wanted to be a performer).

But I gave him Lilley the benefit of the doubt in that we are presented with the pushy parent’s perspective.

And this time, the parent is pushing her son into being a gay skateboarder.

Oh, did I mention the GAY part? Because the rest of the background information doesn’t really matter as long as you know that.

And the character itself is probably fairly original in the context of the series. She’s a strong female character, with an intimidating presence similar to Gran. But while Gran takes out her anger in a brash, physical way, Jen uses a searing form of quiet discipline.

It has been said that Lilley’s female characters are more impressive than his male ones, and it’s hard to disagree, especially after tonight’s episode.

And while the character of the mother is typically cold, there is a bit of fun to be had.

Read the rest of this entry

#AngryBoys on Twitter: What does everybody else think?

I started to worry that I was among the minority that were criticising Angry Boys for not being funny… at all.

I mean, not worried in the sense that “Oh, no-one’s going to like me because I don’t like the same thing they do…” I mean “worried” in the sense that I was missing some crucial element in the show that made it screamingly hilarious. However, after turning to Twitter, it turns out I’m not. Tonight’s reaction has been, well, overwhelmingly negative… or perhaps even worse: indifferent. As in, normally with Lilley, if people don’t like his show, it is usually because of the swearing/general offensiveness, which generates more publicity and drives people to watch the show. However, if people simply don’t care about the show, well, that’s where problems can start.

And I’m sad in a way, because most people were really looking forward to having great belly laughs at Angry Boys (and it seems that it can’t raise more than a chuckle out of most; in another way, I’m also glad that people are willing to be honest if they didn’t like they show, rather that forcing themselves to laugh just because it’s Chris Lilley.

Take a look at a cross-section of tweets:

And for fairness’ sake, I have tried my best to find some positive tweets, and in particular those that mention something in particular that they like about the show. This was the type of thing that I found:

So at least some people are liking it, which is a good thing. There weren’t, however, people saying how much they laughed at one of “Gran’s Gotchas”, for example. If you can’t pinpoint at least one thing that is funny, then maybe the show isn’t really that funny at all.

However, if I was to sum up the attitude towards the show of everyone else, it would be “disappointed”. Many people have also been bemoaning the lack of Gran in this week’s episode; she has been somewhat of a highlight the past two weeks.

Angry Boys Review Episode 3: More of the Same… Unfortunately

Another week, another episode of Angry Boys. And following the trend, there’s an exposition of another major character.

We’re up to Episode 3 now and so far, the show has received praise for Lilley’s acting ability, as well as for his new character Gran, who has proved to be a perfect mix of funny (“Gran’s Gotchas”) and tough love.

Apart from that however, it has been expressions of disappointment for Lilley’s caricaturist and plain unfunny portrayal of s.Mouse, a down in the dumps rapper, in which Lilley has donned a blackface get-up – not that that was why it wasn’t funny.

The existing characters of Daniel and Nathan Sims fit somewhere in the middle. The main shtick there is their rude behaviour and language, which admittedly was funny at first, but after a while, it seemed like the same old stuff we had seen in We Can Be Heroes, and to an extent, Summer Heights High in the form of Jonah.

But I just want to make clear the fact that it is not a bad show, by any means. There is a clear attempt at humour, and let’s face it, there isn’t much of that (well, none of it) on Australian TV at the moment and it is clear the direction Lilley is trying to take the show.

However, the problem is, is that the “funny” came in dicky, sweary bursts by dumb or self-obsessed characters, and Lilley seems intent on shoe-horning in moments of pathos, which does not always gel with the tone of the episode, and obviously comes at the expense of laughs.

However, I was still open to have my mind changed by Episode 3 and the introduction of surfer Blake Oakfield. In fact I was quite excited.

The conceit of a surfer who lost a testicle in a shooting incident didn’t exactly excite me, as it seemed in the vein of the same “dick balls poo f*ck” comedy he had been running with the past couple of episodes, so… Was it?

The opening scene was all about setting up the overarching plot of Nathan’s deaf-school party, drawing together all the various celebrities (as well as Gran Sims).

Then we got introduced to Blake Oakfield and we find out what type of character he is. He is “in love with himself” as well as being a “bit of a dickhead”.

He is a member of the “Mucca Mad Boys”. And we also learn that it is one of two rival gangs in the town, which has been a source of violence (we are treated to a re-enactment of a scuffle).

Blake is under the impression that he is protecting the town.

So, Blake is an idiot with a hero complex. Which I guess is kind of funny, in that it plays on the destructive nature of gang mentality, as well as the male tendency to protect your territory.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many jokes at all in that plotline.

Instead, we were treated to re-enactment on top of re-enactment as an establishing tool. Unfortunately, it was in graphic, unfunny detail; we got to see a gory picture of presumably, some bloody male genitals. Why? Blake has lost his testicles.

And it would be easy to critique the joke of people kicking Blake in the balls- or lack of- repeatedly, as it could be seen as immature, etc. But I’m not going to, for the moment. I will just remind you of a certain show called the Ronnie Johns Half Hour, which featured a recurring sketch of two people kicking each other in the balls. And that was a heavily criticised show, for those who bothered to watch it at least.

SMouse is under house-arrest, and so we get a mini-tour of his mansion. He shows us his plasma, etc. We also get to meet his girlfriend, so of course, we get to hear a different range of vocab: yup, there are some “sluts” some “bitches” and some “suck a dicks” in there.

She tells us: “After a fight, we get it on”. And that’s all we hear from her, because she apparently dumps him.

So there we go, that’s the plot. And overall it was OK; but not at all funny, I’m sorry. If I’m missing something, let me know. But if I keep being expected to laugh at “balls balls BALLS bitch bitch f*ck!!!”… well, I can’t really be expected to watch anymore. Can you?

A Quick Word on Community Season 2

Source: daemonstv.com

There’s a slightly amusing interview from Zap2it with Gillian Jacobs who plays Britta on Community which got me thinking about Season 2 as a whole, and the (only slight) problems I had with it.

She takes slight offence (albeit somewhat mockingly) to the Britta being referred to as “strident”… she prefers “opinionated”. I would have thought it was a fairly accurate description though. Not that that’s a bad thing though, her character certainly adds a great deal to the show, unlike Chevy Chase’s Pierce.

For anyone who’s seen Season 2, they’d know that it was almost single-handedly ruined by the presence of Pierce. Now, I’m not coming at this from a show fanboy perspective, as in, “I hate Roy being on the show because he’s keeping Jim and Pam from getting together”, to use an old, The Office example. I’m talking about the way that he has become more of an antagonist than ever, creating unnecessary, annoying subplots to episodes which would have been fine as they were. Take the “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” episode, in which a perfectly fine idea of an imaginary game of D&D was played out to boost the self-esteem of fellow student Neil (it makes more sense if you watch it), was ruined by way of Pierce’s sniping. Again, in the “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” episode, he was manipulative and conniving. Now again, I don’t mind so much the idea of him playing an antagonist of sorts, like he was in the first season (where he was pretty much just a bumbling, politically incorrect old man, who didn’t know any better), but for mine, he has shifted the focus of the show and he seems to constantly derail plot-lines. It has created a problem for both the characters on the show (should the keep in the study group or not?) and the writers (should they make him more docile and forget all this character “development” or play up his role as villain?) which hopefully is resolved in Season 3.

I found it interesting that at the beginning of the season, Chang was pegged at being a potential problem for the show (he no longer was a teacher, so he lost all of his power, and consequentially, any kind of gravitas or importance on-screen). It seemed he would become an annoying, insane presence on the show, who constantly wanted to join the study group. And it was quite admirable how the writers handled it, they introduced the Shirley baby-plot to make him appear more human, and his other appearances were inserted sparingly.

 

She also states; “I don’t know what’s left”, in terms of weird plot-lines for the show (they’ve done zombies, space, etc.), and that might indeed be a good thing. While the big, flashy episodes may garner a small amount of publicity, it relies too heavily on them and would appear gimmicky to newcomers. A return to Season 1’s more understated “big” episodes would be welcome (“Contemporary American Poultry”, for example).

And a word on the finale; yes it was good, but it could never top “Modern Warfare”, no matter how many big-name guest stars (Josh Holloway, Busy Phillips, Dan Byrd) were shoved into it, no matter how long and overblown it was (a two-parter stretched across two weeks, no less), no matter how many shows it tried to reference (Star Wars, spaghetti Westerns, etc.), no matter how many “surprise” kisses were thrown in (I won’t spoil it), no matter how high the stakes were… It just couldn’t. But I reiterate, it was good, it was great even, but it couldn’t top the first, and it seemed endemic of the writer’s desire to top Season 1 by recreating the “best” parts of Season 1 and multiplying it by a billion. The best part about Season 1 was that it seemed different to everything else on the box at the time (and as it turned out, it was), Season 2 should have seemed different to Season 1, is all.

[And just a word on the Josh Holloway, Busy Phillips and Dan Byrd appearances.  I know the show is supposed to be meta, or meta on top of meta on top of meta, or whatever, but the fact that Abed referenced Lost in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”, then one of the central stars happens to show up on campus the next year… seems kind of strange. At least, if everyone assumes that he is a Holloway lookalike, there could at least be a sly mention of it. I’m happy to let the Cougar Town stars’ appearances slide, as even though Abed spoke incessantly about it in “Critical Film Studies”, he may not have seen these two celebs who have made their way into the crowd. Nit-picky? Narrh…]

Angry Boys Episode 2 Review: Not-so-Mighty S.mouse

Source: abc.net.au

This isn’t to say that the first episode was terrible, it just didn’t live up to the hype generated by his previous track record. It also didn’t feature a great deal of laughs.

However, I was holding out for the second, and maybe the third to make any more sweeping judgements. And let me get this clear- I really want to like this series, as I’m sure everyone else does, however, you have to continually judge it as a standalone show, not in the manner of “How good is Lilley’s latest masterpiece?”

For starters, the character s.Mouse is possibly one of the worst creations in the history of Australian comedy. And not “worst” as in, “Oh, isn’t J’amie terrible!” kind of way. I don’t like saying it, believe me, but the idea of an African American rapper  who needs to get his career back on track isn’t remotely appealing to me, nor do I think it would be to any other Australian. If it is, feel free to prove me wrong.

Once again, I feel it helps to reiterate what was so great about the previous two series; he managed to capture a unique style of humour, a distinctly Australian one with Australian characters. Even J’amie, who many might say was a Mean Girls-type clone, had a uniquely Australian flavour.

The reason for s.Mouse’s inclusion in the series seems to be primarily to appeal to American audiences (by sheer virtue of the fact that he is an African American)… and of course, it is yet another excuse for Lilley to go nuts and fill up the swear-jar ten times over. But it’s not just swearing, we get some “poos”, some “bitches” and whatever else you can think of.

And I better just qualify something again; I don’t take issue with the sheer volume of swearing a scatological references- “Puck you, miss”, while not necessarily a swear-word, is one of the genuinely funny parts of Summer Heights High. I take issue with the fact that Lilley seems to just be hammering these words from week to week (first with the Sims brothers, now with s.Mouse).

So, am I missing something here? Is there another layer to the character that would make him seem all that more hilarious?

The ultimate test would be, to imagine the s.Mouse character as a sketch performed on Ben Elton’s Live From Planet Earth, a short-lived show that endured an absolute bollocking in every medium known to man. Once everyone had made their minds up; that this was an old has-been trotting out clichéd stereotypes, people delighted in savaging every part of the show (for the record, I disliked it, barring a few OK elements).

Now, imagine Ben Elton running out on stage (this is a Channel Nine show, mind you), in a Chris Lilley blackface-type set-up. He reads from exactly the same script as Lilley has written, etc.

Now, what would everyone think? What would you think? Funny now?

Oh, but it’s Chris Lilley who makes the character is it? Well not even he could salvage this one.

In fairness, it seems that many people on Twitter expressed sentiments to the tune of the character not doing anything for them, with some even being daring enough to admit it didn’t make them laugh.

But once again, tell me what made you laugh- if anything- about the character. Was it the “Slap My Elbow” song? Oh, ’cause it emphasises how ridiculous rapper and rap-music is… And?

But please, let me know.

But once again, the saving grace was once again Gran, a character that many have expressed favour for. She/he really is a unique character, tough love is the only way she knows, yet her (strangely) blokey demeanour allows her to rib the inmates, to often hilarious results (ie. “Gran’s Gotchas” in Episode 1).

However, I once again express my distaste for the fact that Lilley feels the need to shoe-horn a heartfelt moment in at the end. In this case, it was Gran sharing a motherly moment with a dog-wanker inmate (yes, HA!). I guess it would have been a satisfying resolution to the episode’s vague plot, yet given the lack of laughs in the first half of the episode, it would have been nice to balance it with a few more in the second.