This week we've got history, I Survived A Japanese Game Show, The Mighty Boosh, Hung, True Blood, The Apprentice UK, & Red Riding
I Survived a Japanese Game Show: "Episode Two" by Matthew J. Brady
It's back to Japan for more silliness; this time around, the two teams (the goofily-named Red Robots and Green Tigers) start out by having five members stuffed into a giant pair of pants and getting bombarded with tennis balls fired out of pitching machines. They have to pick up as many balls as possible with grabber claws and put as many in the pants as possible within a time limit. Pretty funny, but the second game is even better, with the teams having to dress a mannequin while running on a conveyor belt. The premise gets kicked off when the host strips Judge Bob's clothes off because he used the phrase "birthday suit" incorrectly, and now the teams have to put the clothes back on a representation of the Judge. And to add an extra bit of messiness, the clothes are hidden in a sort of sandbox full of flour. Why so much flour on this show? The answer: Japan.
With this being the second episode, we're getting to know the contestants better, but luckily, this season the focus seems to have shifted toward the competition, so we spend less time with the annoying people and their confused wonderment at being in, get this homey, a country different than the United States. They're mostly all pretty loathsome, but that's to be expected in shows like this. The Green Tigers win again, so they get to go to a professional baseball game and throw out the first pitch, while the lame Red Robots have to work picking up balls at the world's largest driving range while golfers are taking shots at them. Much whining commences, especially from Justin, a loud douchebag with MC Hammer lines shaved into the sides of his head. He doesn't have to compete for elimination though, so we'll be stuck with him for at least one more week. Instead, the down-to-earth Yari is up again, along with a young guy named Dan who seems boring and humorless. They have to cover themselves in lotion and carry a torch across an obstacle course that includes crawling across a buch of half-naked sumo wrestlers. Did I mention the humiliation factor? Dan seems especially unhappy about this development; how did such a stick-up-the-ass loser end up on this show? He's kind of a better athlete though, so he's also around to annoy next week.
Yeah, this is pretty much quintessential summer TV; I don't think I would bother watching something like this any other time of the year. But it's fun for now, with plenty of ridiculousness to distract from the oppressive heat. If the more obnoxious people can get kicked off and the games get even sillier, I'll like it even better.The Mighty Boosh - "Hitcher" by Sean Witzke
"Technically, you're not a peeping tom if it's one of your relatives."
The plot of the episode is simple - Howard and Vince play some slap-bass in front of a bear, he goes berserk and tries to kill Bob Fossil and some kids. Howard and Vince have to drive the bear to a zoo-prison for dangerous animals. They get lost, end up in the Forest of Death, run into the evil man-witch dubbed The Hitcher. He's cockney and evil, and carries the zoo-prison around in a box with him. They get split up, and both eventually end up trapped in the box. Naboo saves Bob Fossil from the bear, and they become best friends for the episode, to Naboo's chagrin. Naboo learns about the Boosh being in danger by way of surprisingly accurate tea leaves. Then they save the day by convincing The Hitcher to play some slap-bass and anger the bear, and then Fossil and Naboo crash into Bryan Ferry (according to Vince's animated flashback, he was raised by Bryan Ferry in the jungle).
Yes, that Bryan Ferry. From Roxy Music. The one that sung "More Than This" and "Editions of You". Then Bryan Ferry shows up (played by Julian in the worst makeup you'll see on tv this year) and calls Vince "the least musical of all his children" in a stilted wrong dialect.
Cut - the intro, where Howard brags about being an amazing actor. Some of the animated sequence. Some callbacks to the opening sequence. Chunks of Bryan Ferry's conversation with Vince, some of the weirder lines from the Hitcher's monologue about "My own beastly creation!", and later him giving a whole two minutes to talking about how the guy from Level 42 can't play slap bass for shit.
Vince is really onto something with the Gary Numan love. Vince busting out a thirty-tape set of Gary Numan is overkill, but once they start dancing to "Cars" it's hard to disagree with him. I mean, have you heard The Pleasure Principle? It's full-on. This is the first appearance of the Hitcher in the series, but he actually appeared in the first episode of the Adult Swim airings "Eels". There is an established set of moments to hit with a Hitcher episode - he gives incomprehensible and disturbing anecdotes about his childhood, pees on something/ someone ("aw it's coming out like yellow cable."), raps (this time with assistance from Dave Brown and Rich Fulcher in skeleton outfits), complains about his old age, and threatening to mutilate Vince and Howard. This time we get the Hitcher busting out a jazz-funk solo.
This is the most meta episode of the Boosh, with jokes constantly made about low production values, bad makeup, and the shows formula. Howard talks to the camera a couple times. Vince comes out and says that each week he's got to get Howard out of trouble. The best line in the whole episode is Naboo telling Julian Barrat he doesn't look a damn thing like Bryan Ferry.
You could actually make the case that this is the end of classic Boosh - my favorite season is the second, but there's a really sweet tone to the first season that gets pushed out in the 2nd and 3rd. The 1st really isn't as funny as the rest, but there's a charm that never comes back. It's a trade-up, there's less Bob Fossil, but when he shows up he's funnier. There's no more Matt Berry, but now there's Richard Ayoade. The sitcom setup is gone and dead, and it feels a lot less forced when Howard falls in love with random women who show up for an episode than pining after Miss Gideon. And the cast settles into the proper setup - Howard and Vince have Naboo and Bollo as counterpoints and the zaniness seems to arise from these four weirdos rather than "Howard and/or Vince stumble into X" week after week.
Next week - Rich Fulcher tries to rape Vince, then the entire cast gets sexually assaulted by a herd of hippy Sasquatch. Good times.
Although each episode opens with Sir Alan Sugar intoning "This is not a game", there's plenty of evidence that he's full of shit. That's not a surprise or anything--after all, if this show really was a "twelve week interview", the way Sugar claims, it would be intensely unwatchable. All of these contestants share one thing in common--they're all unlikeable when they start getting serious. (Except for Tim, because he's a cool black guy.) No, Sir Alan. This is a game. It couldn't have been more straightforward then tonight's episode. The teams were given one hour, live on the British version of the Home Shopping Network, which turns out to be just as sleazy and cheap as the American one--classless impulse products no human being could ever conceivably need hawked by fast-talking hucksters. One team member stays on camera for the hour, motormouthing their way around an expensive foam mattress destined to serve as the "guest bed" in the basement apartment unemployed 20-somethings die in, a "2 million candle" flashlight useful only if you're in the woods looking for a kidnap victim, and, because it's television, a hideous synthetic fur jacket with a gigantic wolf painted on the back.
It's pure crap, from the opening portion where Tim & Paul "steal" some of Saira's products, to the uncut 3 minute sequence where Saira and Paul laugh hysterically at the hideousness of the Wolf Spirit jacket. Because it's television, we see Sir Alan Sugar watch the two clowns screech out prices and phone numbers. He claims to be doing so "from home", which means Sir Alan Sugar's television room was decorated by an autistic Cub Scout troop consumed with a psychological need to document their entire existence via photographs while the chairs were supplied by some Arab sheik who was worried Jabba The Hut sized leather recliners was too gauche, even for a fucking harem. Despite Sugar's rapidfire delivery of compliments for Miriam's presentation skills, he ends up firing her in the boardroom, claiming that she should have had enough sense not to let both Paul and Tim serve as her on-air producers. It's beyond absurd--Miriam's performance wasn't affected in the slightest by Paul & Tim's backstage antics--but we're too close to the season finale. Neither James nor Tim are entertaining enough on their own, making Paul--a loudmouth moron with a hair trigger temper--the only possibility for drama, besides Saira. And while Saira will bring the crazy, as she has in every prior episode, she's missing the one thing that Paul has in spades. He's a selfish fucking asshole. All reality shows need one.
Hung – Pilot by Martin Brown
Look, Dan Ackroyd ruined the idea of the male prostitute for me and for everybody else when he created Fred Garvin, the multiple truss-wearing, fully qualified male strumpet who managed to service the entire quad cities area—Moline, Rock Island, Davenport and Bettendorf. HBO’s new series, Hung, doesn’t exactly improve on Saturday Night Live’s premise so much as it simply welds it to the type of anti-hero centered series format pioneered by The Sopranos. On paper, it’s a fairly formulaic set-up: Dude tries to live a quasi-normal life while navigating the pitfalls of a dubious profession. We meet Ray Drecker (played by Thomas Jane, who you might remember as The Punisher, unless you were smart enough to dodge that satchel of trash) as he’s hit rock bottom—a star athlete in his youth, he’s hit middle age and failed to capitalize on his potential, wound up a high school coach who can’t even turn around his team’s losing street. Ray’s nadir is signified by a house fire in his parents’ old house, which he lives in with his teenaged twin son and daughter, and drives him to beg for money from his ex-wife (Anne Heche) and her new husband. After taking a class in getting rich quick, Ray decides that his biggest asset in his monumental cock, and awkwardly sets about turning it into his money-maker. It’s pretty much all right there in the preview.
And yet, Hung’s pilot was surprisingly compelling—partly because of strong performances by each of the actors; mostly because of Alexander Payne, the writer/director behind Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election. Payne’s not responsible for the script, but he knows exactly what to do with it. A lesser director would concentrate on all of the show’s gimmicky aspects, mistaking them for its selling points. Payne, on the other hand, knows that what happens isn’t nearly as fascinating as how it happens, and turns the pilot into a slow, deliberate character study of a man at his ultimate low, who knows he’s not smart enough to think himself back to security. This first episode doesn’t even feature an actual encounter with a trick, which means no money shot for the people who showed up expecting something like Entourage. Instead, it sets up a tightly wound story for a potentially greater payoff. They’d better not blow it.
True Blood - "Scratches" by Nina Stone
Is it the sign of a good show, or the sign of too much TV and being a little sick in the head, that when I was thinking about remedies to heal my ill feeling stomach and head today I thought, "wish there was something accessible like vampire blood."
Yeah, I'm sort of disturbed that this was a thought of mine.
Nevertheless, it does tell you the impact that True Blood is having on me. I just like this sort of thing. If you've read any other types of reviews i've written in the past, you'll know that I love cleverness and even magical, meta-fiction-ish stuff, but only when it has a pay off. I like when it's clever and imaginative just beyond the reach of my mind, but ends up making sense...or just being really cool. So far so good with this show. I realize I'm totally alone on that. I'm totally alone on it in my own home. My husband hasn't disliked something I've liked this much since...actually, he sort of hates everything I like, except for my family, but he seems to hate True Blood on a personal level. Bad example. So. Okay, yes, True Blood gets a little heavy on the melodrama at times. I mean, how many times does Sookie get mad at someone and storm off, only to make-up later? Every episode? And if it isn't an immediate make-up, it's usually because she gets hurt really badly.
This episode was more of that. But we've got some sort of new creature on our hands, somebody doing crazy damage that even vampire blood can't heal. Almost lost Sookie, and would have, if it weren't for a little-old-witch doctor - the millennium version of the little lady with the high pitched voice from the Poltergeist movies - who saved her. And then, of course, some of Bill's vampire blood.
And Lafayette is alive! ALIVE! And saved by Sookie! Hooray! I wonder what'll become of him now? And Sookie's brother, Jason, seems to have moved beyond the honeymoon period of his new found religious conviction, and comes clean about actually liking and respecting Vampires to his cult leaders - only to be swayed back into believing in their ways. Not for long, I'm sure. But more on that in later reviews because what I need to discuss is: who/what is that creature that attacked Sookie?! And left the same terrible claw marks on the new waitress Daphne? (Which are revealed at the very end of the episode as she's bout to skinny dip with Sam! Oh no, Sam! Watch out! Make sure you wear protection! Or just leave. Leaving would work as well.)
I fear and delight in thinking that somehow it's all going to be tied to Maryanne - who Tara, although charmed by her, seems to be immune to the power she tends to wield over others. But see...this is what I'm talking about. I can tell that there is some clever plot line that will be revealed that is just over my head and out of my reach. And I like that.
There's little bits here and there that I'm leaving out...but if you want to get the full experience, you're just gonna have to start watching! Or you could just keep reading these and being confused by all the people whose names I keep saying. I can't make your decisions for you.