In the Know
Peacock’s claymation sitcom is at its best when it skips the satire for the strange, but “best” is grading on a curve.
To its credit, In The Know resists dropping the term “woke” to describe its characters. Unfortunately, in a fairly disastrous opener, that’s the only “those silly sensitive liberals” signifier it lets go past. The premiere’s big joke, one it repeats OFTEN, centers on the proper terminology for someone without a place to live. Because, of course, it's a goofy waste of time to worry about language. Only Zach Woods’ ever-increasing profane frustration at being corrected by Fabian (Caitlin Reilly) saves the bit. His voice performance as “NPR’s third most popular host” Lauren Caspian is just sly enough to make it unclear if his anger comes from his inability to remember the correct term, someone having the nerve to interrupt him, or the thought that someone in the office might be more progressive than him.
It isn’t that mocking blowhard radio hosts can’t be a rich comic vein. Just check out the original Frasier series, a show with a strangely intense cross-generational appeal that persists even over 19 years after the final episode aired. It’s centering that mockery on NPR, particularly an NPR that has more in common with a conservative’s fever dream of what the company is like rather than anything resembling reality, feels like a weak tea. Fortunately, things improve for In The Know as it quickly moves beyond what initially seems like an exercise in sticking it to those caricatures of public radio employees. Continue Reading →
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
The ScienceSaru-produced animated series rebuilds rather than retells Bryan Lee O'Malley's beloved comic.
Late in the final volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's 2004-2010 comic series Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour), once the action's done and the hateful Gideon Graves has been slain, protagonists Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers take a moment to process everything. Defeating Gideon meant facing not only the vicious misogynist swordsman but also their respective character flaws (It's telling that one of Scott's key moments is his realizing just how alike he and Gideon are, and by gaining that understanding, he affirms that, yeah, Gideon has so got to die).
There are a few candidates for Scott's actual finest hour in Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. His after-action conversation/reconciliation/renewal with Ramona is my pick. Bryan Lee O'Malley/Oni Press.
As Ramona says, change is one of life's constants, which applies to Scott Pilgrim's ventures into new mediums. Edgar Wright's thoroughly enjoyable movie shifted around characters and reworked some of Scott's flaws. The colorful, impeccably soundtracked, hair-tearingly difficult Ubisoft-produced video game ramped up the goofy save for one particularly pointed ending. And now, with the Netflix animated series Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, creator O'Malley—joined by co-writer and co-showrunner BenDavid Grabinski and animation studio ScienceSaru (with episode director Abel Góngora) have changed things up yet again. Rather than retell Scott Pilgrim as it's been since 2004 (a story already told, with riffs, as a comic, movie, and video game), the creative team opts for something more radical. It's a work as much in conversation with the Scott Pilgrim that came before as an adaptation. Continue Reading →
In 1983, a group of crooks broke into a vault at the Heathrow International Trading Estate in London, patrolled by Brink’s Mat security conglomeration. The Brinks company was already famous for a famous robbery, one that was carried out in the '50s in the North End in Boston, an incident that turned into a charmingly strange movie by William Friedkin in 1978. Continue Reading →
What We Do in the Shadows
Season 5 of What We Do in the Shadows premieres tomorrow, and you might have some difficulty parsing that it’s already there. Many sitcoms tend to run out of steam by season 5 (you’ll note that exactly when Fonzie jumped the shark), resorting to dropping plot arcs without explanation, swapping out established characters for newer, less interesting characters, setting up tiresome romances, and relying on gimmick episodes, like flashbacks, clip shows, and musicals. Despite its supernatural premise, What We Do in the Shadows still follows much of the standard sitcom structure, so it’s a minor miracle that it’s still the freshest, funniest half-hour show on television right now, without anyone having to put on a fat suit or get stuck in an elevator. Continue Reading →
Episode one begins with a chorus of pig screams. The camera pans through endless cages with the poor little oinkers cramped inside. Then we cut to a woman being strangled. We can’t see her face or who’s attached to the hands squeezing the life out of her. The victim cries out, but we can’t hear anything over the pigs. Continue Reading →
Netflix's new animated show Centaurworld, created by Megan Nicole Dong, is a whimsical show set in a world of centaurs. It's chock full of catchy songs and comedic moments that adults and kids will enjoy, but it also bogs itself down with complicated mythology that steals time from its lovable characters. Continue Reading →
During our pandemic lockdowns, who amongst us hasn’t recruited quarantined friends and family into a baking project beyond our experience? Now imagine the pressure of concocting an elaborate bake with a pal or family member for all the world to see. With Netflix’s Nailed It! Double Trouble, bakers pair up in teams of two to recreate extravagant bakes and win $10,000. While some elements have changed in this new season, host Nicole Byer still panics at the push of a button, chef Jacques Torres still imparts wisdom to the contestants, and the bakers reach new heights of spectacular cake fails. In the words of guest judge Ron Funches, “I love a good hot mess.” Nailed It! Double Trouble is the good hot mess we need, seeing twice the fun and chaos from amateur bakers. Continue Reading →
As TV’s best series about mental illness and addiction comes to an end, our hero BoJack doesn’t get closure, exactly (because there’s really no such thing), but is further down the road to self-awareness and real insight than he ever was. He may end up making yet another bad decision based both on self-loathing and selfishness, but there has to be some reason he keeps getting another chance, another hit at the reset button. If you’ve ever struggled with depression and/or addiction, then you know how both wonderful and absolutely terrifying that feels. Though the final season stumbles a bit with extended bits on cancel culture and open relationships, it ends on a subtle, melancholy note: “Life’s a bitch, and then you go on living.” [Gena Radcliffe] Continue Reading →
Jim Carrey returns as a kids' show host who stubbornly continues to choose goodness, no matter what life throws at him.
Kidding picks up right where it left off in season one, with reality literally crashing in on Jeff Pickles (Jim Carrey). Season two follows the ever-moving cycle of conflict in Jeff’s life and psyche. Though no longer listed as a director for the series, Michel Gondry’s cool, icy tone (with plenty of gliding single takes) is still present. In this season, it's former Weeds showrunner Dave Holstein’s delightfully twisted sense of humor that gets to shine. The series fully embraces the absurdity of its circumstances and brings more laughs. Not to say the show is any lighter. Like Weeds, it brings the menace this season. It’s 2020; everyone's into ax play.
When we last left Enlightened PBS Children’s Entertainer Jeff Pickles, things were going from bad to worse in every aspect of his life. His show was on permanent hiatus; his marriage, torn apart by the death of his son Phil, is in tatters; family estranged, and his identity is being pulled apart. All he had was the hope found in the felt-fantasy land of Picklebarrel Falls.
Carrey remains a consistent highlight throughout this season, making appropriate choices when conveying Jeff’s conflicted ethics. Jeff ticks and the wheels turn in his brain; it’s part of what makes him feel human. As the show embraces the comedy chops of its main cast, flashes of “Classic Carrey” are present and we can see that Carrey hasn’t lost his goofiness at all and that everything being acted for us is a choice. Continue Reading →