Category Archives: comedy

The Golden Girls (s.02, 1986-87)

In the 2nd season of The Golden Girls Blanche goes through menopause; briefly dates Dorothy’s ex; gets emotional about her father (Big Daddy) getting married; thinks about plastic surgery; and falls in love with a caterer. Sophia reunites with her sister Angela; and takes part in a walkathone.Dorothy gets visited by her son Michael, who briefly dates Bridget (somebody’s daughter); works in a gallery; gets fond of Frank the priest; send a story written by one of her students to a magazine, which results in his deportation; gets upset on account of her daughter separating from her husband (and then getting back together). Rose evokes passion in Jean the lesbian; publishes a personal ad; goes to hospital because of exhaustion; moves out to experience life in full, but quickly comes back; adopts a chicken; and makes a movie about her roommates. Stan loses his business and comes crying to Dorothy; and has problems with his heart. The girls get tickets to see Burt Reynolds, and get detained by the police as possible hookers; organize a campaign to protect an old tree from getting cut down; compose a song about Miami for the competition; go the a vacation and experience a ship wreck; recollect Christmas stories; each date some famous community theater actor; babysit children of the walkathone participants; help the police to catch their new neighbours, the jewelry smugglers; and recollect birthday stories.

The second season of the show is, perhaps, the most renowned one – it got multiple awards, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe for outstanding comedy series, another Emmy for Rue McClanahan (Blanche), and two more Emmys for direction and writing (two different episodes). Because of this season the series gets included in various lists of outstanding shows (the latest one was, if I’m not mistaken, in 2009).

And yet, I still don’t get it. The level of humor is more or less the same: it basically boils down to Dorothy and Sophia constantly cracking up, with an occasional story based on a classical comedy of intrigue. But the thing is: most of the references are no longer valid (although this might be because I wasn’t brough up in the US), most of the jokes are witty but not funny, and the comedy of intrigue is actually not that skillful.

And the show is soft like a blob of overcooked porridge, – what was considered poignant back in the day now seems like a child’s play. Although the stories and story twist might have been regarded as fresh and ingenious when they were first shown, now they are almost 100% predictable, which kills whatever fun was not killed by the other of the flaws.

The characters do not seem very attractive, in every meaning of the word. Most of the time I simply tolerated them.

The execution is severely outdated, – the show feels large and awkward, sort of like Dorothy.

All in all, I don’t see the point of watching it further: obviously, the show is not the kind that would evolve to anything more agreeable, and now there’s just not enough attractors.

Names and figures

Advertisements

Darren Has a Breakdown (s.01-02, 2014-16)

Darren Has a Breakdown is a tiny webseries about this guy named Darren, who handled break-up with his girlfriend Steph rather badly and was court-ordered to undergo psychological therapy as a result. On the sessions he tells about the events in his life that usually feature his friend Tony, as well as Stephanie, whom he sporadically tries to win back, and a bunch of other people. The first season that includes 6 episodes is centered mostly around Darren’s attempts to move on with his life, usually not very successful. The second season, that is a little bit longer than the 1st, deals with Darren being evicted and finding a new place with a couple of cupcakes makers as roommates. During this season Darren also sleeps with Michele the barmaid, Tony’s on and off girlfriend, deals with his sister Kelly hooking up with one of his roommates, trying once again to win back Stephanie (after receiving a drunken message from her), and going to a party. Two season of the show take up a little over 1 hour of time.

Besides being tiny this show is also incredibly cute, and also pretty funny. There aren’t a lot of elements in the show: each episode includes 2-3 characters at most (except for the episode about the party), and is usually set in just one place, not counting the therapist’s couch. At that, all the components involved are of very high quality: the cast is always top-notch, with every actor doing an astounding job; the story is usually simple, but quite funny; and the direction is always wonderful.

This show is a perfect example of how you can make cinema without a lot of money, and how good it could be. Highly recommended.

Names and figures

The Golden Girls (s.01, 1985-86)

The Golden Girls is a sitcom about four old ladies living together in a house in Miami: Blanche Devereaux, the owner of the house, her two occupants, Dorothy Zbornak and Rose Nylund, and Dorothy’s mother Sophie Petrillo, who joins the three friends in the pilot episode in the result of her senior retirement facility burning down. All are widows, except for Dorothy, who is divorced on account of her husband Stan cheating (he shows up at some point trying to get back with her). Over the course of the season various stories are explored, most of them about the friendship between the main characters, and their dating attempts, which do not come easy because of their age. The most notable developments of the 1st season include Blanche almost giving a kidney to her sister; the bowling tournament competition; the break-in; Blanche dating a younger guy; Sophia not having a heart attack; Rose driving Blanche’s old car; Rose adjusting her will and telling the truth about her husband; the tap dancing; Dorothy having a surgery on her leg; all the plumbing problems; Blanche almost marrying a rich guy; the flu episode; Rose starting to work as a waitress after losing her previous job; the garage sale episode; helping the blind girl; the fallen tree episode; and the flashback about how all they met for the first time.

The show is highly acclaimed, and is considered by many to be one of the most outstanding comedies of all times. And frankly speaking, I do not get it at all. What I saw was an ordinary old-type comedy with characters who are all so good and nice, and wise, and understanding, it quickly starts to reek of falsity. The humor is quite mediocre – there may have been two or three jokes that can be called funny, while the rest is amusing at best, but for the most part – just… I don’t know, neutral.

On the other hand, there’s nothing bad there also. Basically, the show is a product of its time, when there was not that much competition on TV, – not in comparison with today’s situation anyway. For a viewer spoilt with modern comedies that are usually packed with jokes and gags, and are rather intense, The Golden Girls would seem slow and boring. Although some types and instances of humor were probably introduces by Harris and her writing team for the first time on TV, the likes of them have been used multiples times since, and, in many cases, more successfully, in the result of which most of the stuff that was deemed novel and interesting back in the mid 1980s, is now predictable and what-else-is-new.

The execution seems typical for the comedies made before the last decade of the 20th century: it feels overly large, awkward, slow, and kind of grey-ish (even though it’s not black-and-white). The music is silly (especially the opening theme). The cast is not flashy at all, – let’s put it this way. The acting is fine, I guess, – it’s hard to appreciate it the way it was valued in their original years, because there’s too much to compare it against, and the standards have changed completely several times over.

So, anyway. I think, I’m gonna watch the 2nd season also – judging by the ratings, it ought to be the best of them, so maybe I will understand what’s so special about this show. The first season made be bored and sad.

P.S.: By the way, a later sitcom Hot in Cleveland, that also stars Betty White, appears to be, basically, a remake of The Golden Girls, for they use exactly the same arrangement of characters, only with better humor.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.09, 2004)

Ninth and final season of The Drew Carey Show revolves primarily around the relationship of Drew and Kelley. After the unfortunate attempt at wedding in the finale of the previous season Drew remains heartbroken for a while, but quickly realizes his feelings for Kelly, and the fact that they are mutual. They start dating, and over the course of the season go through the whole nine yards, including such milestones as out-of-wedlock pregnancy, several proposals, and preparations for the wedding. Other significant story drivers of the seasons were Drew’s father’s death, after he fell off the roof and then died in hospital, – it led to Drew’s mother temporarily moving in with him; and Steve abandoning Mimi and his son Gus, which led to Mimi moving in with Drew also – that is, until she started dating again, and eventually moved in with Larry. At some point the Never-Ending-Store.com went under, which forced Drew to look for employment elsewhere. Oswald hurt himself, sued some company that could’ve been held responsible, and used the settlement money to buy into the Warsaw tavern, effectively becoming a bartender and owner. Lewis went through a number of girlfriends, and ended up with Kelly’s mother after she left her husband shortly before Kelly’s wedding. In the finale Kelly gives birth. For some unknown reason the order of episodes is mixed up – the production order is different from that it was viewed in; the correct order can be found in Wikipedia, and it would be wise to re-order the episodes in accordance with that schedule.

The quality of the season is mediocre – the show has never been fascinating, and this final installment bears clear signs of near death: some members of the cast are only partially employed (such as Ryan Stiles), while others disappear pretty much completely without a good reason (such as John Carroll Lynch) – not to mention Kate, who was never even mentioned, as if she got erased from everybody’s memory; the weird mix-up with the episodes order is most likely a negligence, meaning the network stopped caring; and all in all there is a spirit of expiration and despair is floating in the air.

The humor is no better than before, but no worse also. The acting is, give or take, the same level, although the shift in the conflict arrangement (like the change in the Mimi-Drew relationship) spoils the vibe significantly.

Generally speaking, the season is okay, but nothing particularly special, and definitely nothing that makes it worth choosing this show over all the other possibilities.

As for the show on the whole, it’s a normal sitcom – you can watch it, or you can skip it, won’t make a lot of difference. There are surely some fun moments, but the same is true for lots of other comedies, some of which are much more fun, frankly speaking.

Names and figures

Running Wilde (s.01, 2010-11)

Running Wilde is a comedy show about Steve Wilde, an offspring of a wealthy oil magnate who can be sufficiently characterized with an expression ‘spoiled brat’, and the love of his life, Emmy Kadubic, an environmental activist. The story takes off when Steve, for lack of a better thing to do, gives himself a ‘humanitarian of the year’ award, which news reach Emmy, who has been living in the Amazon jungle for 4 years by that moment, and so she decides to visit the man, for whom she might still have some residue feelings. Emmy has a fiance, Andy, also an activist and self-proclaimed eco-terrorist, and a daughter named Puddle, who stopped talking several months ago because she got sick and tired of living in the forest. Emmy and Puddle come to live in the Steve’s mansion; the remainder of the season consists of Steve’s attempts to oust Andy from Emmy’s life and win her back; Emmy resists these attempts, but without much conviction, and at the same time tries to remain true to her beliefs. And Puddle tries to be a normal kid and enjoy stuff Steve’s money can give her. Other notable characters on the show include Steve’s neighbour Fa’ad, a representative of an arab oil family; Steve’s close friend and assistant Migo, and Steve’s head of stuff (or something like that) Mr. Lunt.

Honestly, this is not a bad comedy. At least, I expected worst, considering that it was cancelled before the 1st season was over. But there are probably other reasons for that than the poor quality.

So, the story, and in this case it more or less equals to the arrangement of the characters, is relatively interesting. The conflict between the oil greediness and the environmentalism is pretty strong and evident, and manifests itself in both external relationships of the heroes, and their internal feelings and aspirations. The set of characters is well elaborated – most of them are interesting and funny; all produce curious story twists and quality jokes from time to time; the network of their inter-relationships is pretty complex and internally consistent at the same time.

The execution is also pretty good. On the technical side of things everything looks very smooth – I think the budget of the show was pretty generous, which might be one of the reasons for its cancellation. The cast is quite amazing – all the actors were chosen well, and some of them are rather high-ranking stars. All of them are doing a great job.

At the same time I cannot say that I regret the show being shut down. It is, indeed, quite interesting and entertaining, but it is also hard to imagine further evolution of the story, – apart from the relationship between Emmy and Steve actualizing, of course, but that is hardly enough for a good comedy. The environmentalism stuff, although not at all bad, seems to have started wearing off rather soon – by the end of the season it almost started to annoy. And also, like I said, the show was obviously too expensive for a comedy, so there’s nothing surprising about its cancellation. Still, it was a nice pastime.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.08, 2002-03)

In its 8th season The Drew Carey Show underwent a significant rebranding, so to say. The Winford-Lauder store is no more, and, correspondingly Drew no longer works as a personnel specialist. He scrapes by between jobs for a while, during which time has to sell his car, until she lands at one of the early dotcoms, a company called NeverEndingStore.com, which is a sort of online supermarket, where he starts working as an internal expedite analyst. For a few months he has no idea what the job is about (not even what the name means), but eventually manages to refocus. Kate finds herself a husband while visiting New York, and then moves with him to Guam; she is only casted in the first couple of episodes, and is absent for the rest of the season – so much so, she never gets mentioned anymore, even when it comes to important events. In her stead a young girl named Kelly becomes a part of the gang; Kelly is a little younger than Drew, who used to babysit her back in the day (as well as his brother Steve). After a nasty divorce, she finds herself lost in life, and Drew offers her a place to stay until she could get back on her feet; she takes a job in the Warsaw tavern as a waitress. Kate’s marriage strikes Drew so bad, he decides that he should find himself a wife as well; at that, he decides to solve all the technical issues of the process (such as the venue, the invitations, the band, etc.), and only after that find a bride. That search becomes an obsession of his: he goes through several dozens of girlfriends, most of them shown in passing, and the most notable being Amy, who liked to wear squirrel costume during sex; Robin, one of Larry’s matches; Dom, a girl Drew met on the bus; Elaine, a lesbian daughter of the priest, and, finally, Lily from New Orleans, who moves to Seattle for Drew and even goes as far as the wedding. Simultaneously with the bridal search both Kelly and Drew gradually realize their feelings for each other, but never do anything about them. Oswald blows the nursing test and eventually gets employed at Drew’s company as a delivery guy. Lewis remains pretty much as he was. Steve cheats on Mimi, who throws him out of the house; it takes them a while to reconcile, but they got there in the end. Mimi (who also works at the same company Drew does) switches the heat of her anger from Drew to Traylor, the leading designer of the company, who behaves all posh and arrogant. Also, Drew almost becomes the star of the Superbowl ad, but instead becomes a meme Puking Drew; he gets an old Rolls-Roys as a gift, and almost breaks off with Lewis over it; he makes sort of friends with the bus driver; almost loses Speedy to a cancer patient; and undergoes a colonoscopy. Mr. Wich appears a few times, but stops being a major part of the cast. There were no live episodes, nor April Fools’ ones; all the episodes shown were within the main narrative line.

This is a pretty interesting season, maybe of the most notable so far. First of all, it is very commendable how the authors handled the inevitable change – instead of trying to mask it they embraced the concept of change, and overpowered the losses (such as Christa Miller’s departure) with even bigger, flashier alterations. I have to say, this works pretty well, especially considering that the replacement (Cynthia Watros as Kelly) was more than successful, and that the humor was also pretty great. The reflection of the transformed reality, in particular, all the Internet stuff, such the dotcoms and the programming, must have been rather original back in 2002, and surely seems refreshing even now – that is, if comparing the show to its coevals.

The execution is good; there was no lasting effect of the losses on the quality of the show in general. Now I’m actually looking forward to seeing how they went off – I hope it was at least as decent as was this season.

Names and figures

The Mayor (s.01, 2017)

The Mayor is a comedy show about a young rapper Courtney Rose, who decided to run for the mayor of his city, Fort Grey, as a way to promote his music career, and then unexpectedly won the election. Together with his two friends, T.K., whom he makes director of constituent services, and Jermaine, who becomes communications director, and also Valentina Barella, who managed campaign on his main competitor and then joined the winning team as the chief of staff, he learns what it’s like to run an actual city and gets the taste of politics as a career. In his everyday activities as a mayor Courtney, who is rather self-involved but honest and sincere at the same time, has to deal with many various issues, some of them pretty difficult to solve, especially with Ed Gunt, his main rival in the election and current head of the city council, constantly throwing sand in his wheels. One other major character on the show is Courtney’s mother Dina, whom he lives with, who plays a major part in his life, and who eventually starts a political career of her own after getting elected to the city council.

Unlike such political comedies as Veep, The Mayor is rather soft and mild, which may be one of its biggest drawbacks. The other two are: it’s overly sentimental at times, and also can be a bit pompous (especially when it comes to working for the people); and it lacks truly laughable jokes, although this doesn’t mean it’s not funny. I actually liked it quite a lot, because all these shortcomings aside, it is a show with a strong vibe, great characters, quality albeit too soft humor and, last but not least, evolutionary path of story development.

Granted, the whole deal with learning on one’s mistakes and becoming better with accumulating experience is not exactly the most original approach, but it is nicely written and well thought-through, and then additionally strengthened by rather great execution, so it’s not at all unpleasant to follow. In fact, it was pretty interesting – I didn’t regret the decision to watch it once.

Which is why it is so much worse that the show has been cancelled (with rather dubious reasoning, I might add), and, though there exists a possibility of another network swooping in, the future fate of the show remains unclear.

Well, I hope Bronson will manage to save the series – I feel like it’s worth the effort.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.07, 2001-02)

In the 7th season of The Drew Carey Show Drew gets released from the lunatic asylum and, after a pause, gets back to work. He gets married to Nikki, who showed up divorced, and then – to Kate, and for a short while manages to balance between these two marriages (none of which is legal due to his earlier marriage to mr. Wick), but eventually it blows in his face, and both women live him. Nikki vanishes until the end of the season, and Kate gets over the whole thing in just a few episodes, so they become friends once again. The Winford-Lauder store changes hands twice over the course of the season: its first new owner dies of a heart attack on Halloween, before he could carry into effect his plans to promote Drew; after this things start going poorly; the management hires Christine, an efficiency expert (she dates Drew for a while); and then a 20% salary cut for all employees gets implemented, which forces Drew to look for a new job. He works briefly as a security guard, and then finds a great management job, but axes his own position, and comes back to the store again, where he gets appointed co-manager together with mr. Wick. At this point the store gets bought by a British company; its owner appoints his 19-years old daughter Milan a store president, and tasks Drew with training her. Later Drew dates Milan’s mother Lindsey, who gets the taste of poor life. Then the company goes broke, with Winford-Lauder store remaining the only asset they got left, and quickly it turns into ‘everything for 69 cents’ place. In the mid-season Steve leaves Mimi because of the harm she did to Drew, and it gets her a while to win him back. Mimi also apologizes to Drew and stops harassing him so badly. Kate builds a career at the Rock-n-Roll hall of fame, where she meets famous people and gradually gets promoted, which results in spending less time with her friends; she also discovers a recording with Elvis singing Jewish songs, but ruins it. Oswald and Lewis decide to build a house in the park, and spend a better part of the season doing it; they also build a terrible battle bot, temporarily work in an airport security, and bake cookies. Oswald falls in love with a nurse named Coleen, and starts training to become a nurse himself. Lewis continues working as a janitor at DrugCo, turns out to have IQ of 162, tries out an empathy drug, eats a human liver, and finds himself a date for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Also, Drew takes a ventriloquism class, drag races with Mimi to make life less boring; rents out a room to a gay couple; records a video resume; dates a lady cop; shoots Lewis; buys a telescope; fails to get to a birthday party in Europe; almost loses his house to a pack of wild dogs; gets hit by Steve; and gets his house invaded by a bold eagle. The gang beats the mothers in court after the list of porn website users gets leaked. In the finale Nikki comes back plotting revenge. The season includes 3rd installment of the live show, and a double episode with school-time flashback sketches. Buzz beer stops being a part of the story.

In general, this season is much better than the previous one, and, perhaps, one of the funniest on the show. It has improved in terms of the story: now there seems to be consequences to people’s actions, of which the most vivid example is the separation of Steve and Mimi. Overall development of the story is somewhat uneven and wild, but without any ungrounded lacunae or unjustified twists. The humor seems to be much, much better also. And – none of the stories here are terribly stupid, which was many times a case for previous season; except, maybe, the one with the wild dogs, but thanks to better jokes it doesn’t seem so awful either.

Unfortunately, even in this reformed state the show is still no match to its competitors of the time, which is probably why it still got no rewards and no nominations. I can only imagine how frustrated Carey was about this. Still, it’s a pretty great season – comparatively, that is, – at any rate, it’s entertaining and rather uplifting, which is the most you can demand from any comedy, I suppose.

The execution is more or less on the same level as before, maybe a little better. There were plenty of guest stars and new minor characters, most of whom were pretty good and interesting.

All in all, I’m kind of glad that I’m continuing watching the show – it may be disappointing at every now and then, but for the most part is worth the time spent.

Names and figures

9JKL (s.01, 2017-18)

9JKL is a sitcom about a TV actor named Josh, who was compelled to move from LA to NYC after his show ‘Blind Cop’ got cancelled and he lost nearly everything in the divorce. He moved into the flat adjacent to those of his parents (Judy and Harold), and his brother, a surgeon, and his wife. In New York Josh tries to rebuild his career, start a new personal life, while simultaneously dealing with his overbearing mother and other relatives, all of whom constantly intrude in his business. The title of the show comes from the numbers of the apartments the primary heroes live in. Other notable characters on the show include Nick the doorman and his mate teenager Ian.

This show is a perfect example of how witty does not necessarily translate into funny. In fact, while being packed with witticisms and jokes of all kinds, the series turns out incredibly unfunny – which for a comedy kind of blows. It is also not interesting at all – following the adventures of the main hero, as well as those of his loved ones is really tedious, for there is nothing original or fresh about any of the stories. And the characters themselves are pretty trivial as well, most of all Josh and his mother Judy.

The execution is typical for a sitcom, at that the show clearly aims to revive the 1990s success of the genre but fails miserably. The only couple of actors that are more or less worth mentioning are the girl who plays brother’s wife (mostly because she’s pretty; it’s Liza Lapira) and the guy who plays Nick the doorman (Matt Murray). Everybody else, including Elliott Gould, who doesn’t seem to have changed one bit since Friends came to an end, are not in any way interesting.

This show made me really sad – seems like any bad comedy seems to produce this kind of effect on me. So I’m warning you from watching this crap, unless that’s what you want to be feeling, of course.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.06, 2000-01)

The 6th season of The Drew Carey Show preserved only one through-out storyline – that of Mimi Bobeck and Steve Carey going forward with all the family things. Over the course of the season Mimi carries a child, buys a house (next to the Warsaw tavern), gives birth, and also wins Kate’s share of Buzz Beer thus becoming Drew’s business partner. The Drew + Kate storyline, although continues with Drew proposing, quickly dissipates after they figure out that there is a stone wall in their relationship, which is the children issue – Drew wanted them, and Kate didn’t. So they break up, and after a period of moderate chaos, go back to being friends. On the professional side Drew gets fired from the store in the beginning of the season and spends some time working in a school cafeteria after Mimi bombs his dream job with a bad reference. He manages to make his way back later by marrying Mr. Wick, who needs this for visa purposes – they remain married through-out the season, and go through a couple of immigration checks successfully. Later still Drew gets promoted to director of personnel, and at the end of the season gets tasked with preparing and opening a new women-only story after which he is supposed to become its manager. Mimi gets Drew’s old job, but is not satisfied with it, so she pulls a few pranks in the result of which Drew ends up in the psychiatric asylum, and she gets to manage the store. Kate finds a dream-job in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame; after their breakup with Drew she starts dating soon enough, with her first boyfriend having a bad blood incident with Drew. Drew’s uncle dies and leaves Steve some inheritance; he leaves some to Drew as well, but he blows it. Drew entertains an idea of becoming a scout master, but that fails because of his fake marriage. The gang attends a festival of beer and brings a bear there. Oswald and Lewis go to war with Santa, and milk snakes for income. Drew briefly works as a land salesman, which results in Lewis losing $8 grand. Drew gets into an accident and spends 2 weeks in a coma (at about the same time Mimi gives birth). Drew gets to name the baby; becomes legally dead, spends insurance money, and becomes bad boy Kyle. Drew hits mr. Wick. Steve temporarily gets Mimi’s job. Lewis turns out to be a bad guy. Drew and the gang get to deliver a bunch of easter promotion parcels in one day. Drew competes for being possible legal guardian of the baby with Mimi’s rich cousin. He also dates an activist, but is forced to break up with her. The season contains 2nd installment of Live show, and 4th installment of the April’s Fool’s What’s Wrong episode.

So far the season is the worst of them all. The show seems to be losing focus – the story breaks up into almost isolated pieces with the only thing stitching them together being the network of characters and the aforementioned Mimi storyline, which is not nearly enough. Even worse than that, the quality of some of the stories drops below the level of admissibility and good taste, which shifts the overall quality statistics significantly towards the negative values. The episode with the bear alone is absolutely shameful, and there is also the pair of episodes about the coma, and a great many separate scenes scattered across the season that are no better than that. Finally, the lack of adequate response from Drew on what Mimi does starts to seems really weird – she continuously raises the stakes, now hurting him for real with her pranks, yet he does nothing to repay her except for the ordinary skirmishes that are starting to get really old.

The second Live episode is slightly better than the first; apparently, some of the impromptu themes were rehearsed beforehand. The what’s-wrong episode is pretty much the same as the others, i.e. nothing really interesting.

The execution is more or less the same as before – nothing significant changed there, except, perhaps, that it becomes more and more clear that the show will probably never evolve to be really good, to grade up to its competitors of the time, such as Friends and Seinfeld, and Roseanne. Still, there are 3 more seasons to go, so not all the hope is lost yet.

Names and figures

A.P. Bio (s.01, 2018)

A. P. Bio is a comedy show about Jack Griffin, a scholar and philosopher, who had an incident on account of his lack of self-control, was fired from his job and basically banished from profession. After that he returned to his native town of Toledo, Ohio, where he found a job as a biology teacher in Whitlock high school. He made it clear to his students that he’s not going to teach them any biology; instead, he dedicated most of his time, personal as well as working, to various plans aimed at disrupting life of Miles Leonard, a successful philosopher and head of corresponding department in Stanford, whom Jack considers his nemesis. Over time, however, and his destructive attitude notwithstanding, Jack comes to care for the children he becomes responsible for – even though he only shows it occasionally and only in his own, uniquely insolent way. The reflections of his existence, as well as participation with other characters, constitute the narrative fabric of the show, which characters include his students (Heather, Sarika, Devin, Marcus and others), fellow teachers (Stef, Mary, Michele), the school principal Ralph Durbin, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Meredith, whom he continuously tries to win back, and some others.

Totally loved it. Refreshingly alive and provocative comedy with a great number of amazing characters, the best of whom are the children (my personal favourite is Heather), and extremely interesting network of relationships between them, fascinating not only on the conceptual level, but in development as well. The common plot is a bit jerky in a sense that the primary story driver (i.e. Jack) constantly lashes from one extreme to another, but it doesn’t make the story any less consistent or entertaining. Most of the small stories stay within the general concept while being complete and full-featured at the same time – although, I have to say, I wish some of the minor characters that only appeared once, would be used more, – then again, it doesn’t really influence the quality of the show as a whole.

The execution is just wonderful. There are, of course, no problems with the technical side of things – it all looks pretty much flawless. As for the cast and acting – everything is absolutely amazing. Howerton is a 100% hit, perfect for the part; all the children are awesome (but some are awesomer); all in all, there is not a single mismatched character, and not a single miscasted actor.

To put it shorter, this is an amazing comedy, and I enjoyed it very much. I don’t think everybody would be able to fully appreciate it, but if the first episode would hit your funny nerve, you would surely savor it as much as I have.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.05, 1999-2000)

The 5th season of The Drew Carey Show is built around 2 major developments. The first is that Drew’s relationship with Sharon ends very soon, and then Kate realizes that she has feelings for Drew, same as he does for her. After a bit of dancing around, they commence their relationship taking it slow – the sex did not happen for a number of reason until the very end of the season. Certain hiccups notwithstanding, things go rather smooth in that storyline. The second development is that natural evolution of the relationship between Steve and Mimi leads them to getting married, after which they start trying for a baby, which concludes successfully also by the end of the season. Apart from that: Mimi gets herself a fan – mini-Mimi; Buzz Beer gets a website, which only results in busting of Lewis and Oswald for selling to minors – the gang temporarily gets sentenced to staying apart; the gang goes to their high-school reunion; Drew tries to fake a physical; gets arrested for attempted murder of Mimi; holds the voting in his house because of the pothole; becomes a star of his own promotion show alongside Isabel; Mimi reveals to be married once before – to a rock-star; Drew hosts rehearsal dinner for Steve’s wedding, after which uncle Alfred dies; Mimi gets dragged from her honeymoon; Drew tries out a trench coat; Lewis tries to date mini-Mimi; the store gets the new owners; Drew gets an assistant; the gang wins a new car in a contest after Lewis totals Oswald’s old one; Lewis starts dating Leslie; Mimi gets fired; Drew strains his penis; and hires his ex (Wendy) for an assistant; Kate almost becomes a court-recorder; Drew gets tasked with hiring a new regional manager; and gets promoted to manage the store – but only until Mimi sabotages his so that he gets denoted back to his old position; Mr. Wick briefly gets fired, but comes back rather soon; Drew almost sells the Buzz Beer; Kate gets job at catering; the gang gets temporarily allergic to alcohol; Oswald and Lewis share a son – Robert; Kate competes with Speedy for control over Drew; Drew organizes a softball team; and Kate learns that there is a club of her ex-boyfriends. The season features 3rd installation of the ‘What’s Wrong With This Episode’ format, as well as the 1st instance of ‘Drew Live’. The final episode is a farcical representation of the show’s team’s frustration at not being nominated for Emmy.

The overall level of the show remains more or less the same, i.e. medium funny. I felt that the transition to Kate being romantically interested in Drew was artificial, forced, which feeling comes from this development not being nurtured long enough. The rest, however, is quite alright – pretty much the same thing that’s been going on from the beginning, only with new turns and, sometimes, faces. The errors episode seems just as silly as before. The live episode seems a little less so, but not entirely free of silliness also – I think, it wasn’t a good idea at all to introduce on-the-spot improvisations, for it only showed that most of the cast members are not very good at it.

I can understand why Drew and his co-stars were so disappointed with not being Emmy-acknowledged, but I understand why they weren’t, too. The show, although fun and funny, was never brilliant – not once since it started there was an episode that can be deemed outstanding; season 5 continued this unfortunate tradition.

So, yes, the show keeps its ground – and on the one hand not getting worse is good, but this also means that they are not getting better, either. And considering how many episodes have already been made, I fear this might never change.

Names and figures

Flight of the Conchords (s.02, 2009)

In the 2nd season of Flight of the Conchords the success of the Crazy Doggs fades away soon enough after it becomes clear that their super hit is a plagiarized piece from the 1970s Polish band. Murray, who got fired from being the Conchords’ manager shortly before the event, begs his way back in, and so everything gets back to normal. The guys get hired to compose a jingle for women-only toothpaste, but run into problems due to absence of work permits. Bret buys a new cup, which leads to huge money problems – the guys are even forced to sell off their instruments, and Jermaine temporarily becomes a male prostitute, although without much luck. Mel paints pictures with the Conchords. Murray introduces Jermain and Bret to his friend Jim, but the new friendship arrangement does not work out. Jermain falls in love with an Australian girl. Bret and Jermain compete for the attention of Brahbrah, who lost her epileptic dog 6 years ago. Murray becomes an aid to the New Zealand prime minister. The guys play tribute to Simon and Garfunkel, and Jermain gets involved with a Garfunkel-obsessed woman. Murray fails to arrange the meeting with the president. The guys try out styling gel. The prime-minister opens a New Zealand town in NYC, and later drives a bus. Bret falls for a girl working in a pet store and buys a lot of gold fish. In the finale it turns out that the Conchords owe a huge debt for their apartment – they get evicted, and Murray comes up with an idea about musical, and so they do the musical, which results in deportation.

Well, I hoped that the 2nd season would be better than the 1st, and it kind of is. Only not enough to explain all the fuss about it, and all the award nominations. It’s just slightly more fun and less dull, plus there are some interesting guest characters. Other than that it’s pretty much the same deal – the tale about a couple of complete losers who have nothing interesting about them whatsoever. The music is more or less the same level it was before, – some of the songs were curious and somewhat funny, but hardly more than that.

I really don’t understand the cult status this show acquired among some of the viewers. I don’t think there are any good reasons to watch it – after all, there are shows way more better out there, so why waste time?

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.04, 1998-99)

In the 4th season of The Drew Carey Show there was a number of notable stories. Drew restores his old band and starts doing a permanent gig in a hotel, during which time he dyes his hair blond, and has a groupy-girlfriend named Darcy, who was not aware of his day job. Soon enough Drew decided to quit the band and  focus on the career; Darcy ran away as soon as she found out. Later on he went to night school, where he met an older woman named Celia; they dated and even moved in together, but it didn’t work out because she reminded him of his mother way too much. Then the senior officers of Winford-Lauder decided to expand and buy out Drew’s neighbourhood, but promised him things they weren’t able to go through, and so Drew hit the bricks and refused to move out, and soon the investors pulled the plug on the project; as a consequence, they rented out some of the houses to the store employees, including Larry and Wick. Drew met a girl named Tracy, and so did Oswald and Lewis – all three of them dated her for a while, before going to open competition, which Lewis won. Even before Tracy Sharon the handywoman re-appeared in Drew’s life, but was dating somebody else; then she broke up with that man, and used Drew as a rebound, which soon developed into full-fledged relationship. Kate quit her job at the store and for the better part of the season was on her own, giving massages and whatnot; later she dated The Disciplinarian, a wrestler who promoted Buzz Beer, which led to a spike in the demand for the beer; later still she became Mrs. Lauder’s personal assistant, and grew to hate her job so much she quit it at the first opportunity. Oswald went into product testing and installed breast implants; he wanted to use the money earned to help out his mother, but she didn’t need it, and so he paid out his debts to friends, which they used to buy Drew a new car. Lewis got promoted at his job. Mimi and Steve fell in love with each other and started dating. Wick was caught using drugs and went into a rehab. Also in the season: Drew uncovered a conspiracy against him; got himself a home PC; tries cyber dating (on-line dating) and happens to do it with Mimi; crashes Nicky’s wedding and dances a kozatskiy dance; gets sent to China by Mimi as a prank; organizes a pajama party with models, but they didn’t show up; gives Speedy up for operation on his eyes; fires Steve; discovers an affair in his family; goes on a retail convention in Chicago; starts a con game with Mimi (bowling); and helps Oswald’s mother to open up a salon. Oswald becomes an angel of death; Kate gets hired to house sit with children, and gets a taste of real family. In the season’s finale the Dutch masters of Winford-Lauder decided to blow the building up and build a parking lot in its place, but Drew told it to everybody, and that plan failed. The season also contains a special episode with dancing flashbacks, and another ‘what’s wrong’ thing.

This is a pretty good season – I think, the 3rd one was slightly better, but only a little bit. This is an important season, too, for here starts a storyline that seems to be consistent till the end of the show – I’m talking, of course, about Mimi and Steve.

The development of the season is more or less logical and consistent, both internally and with the earlier stories. The Buzz Beer thing is slowly fading away – it was used in just one episode. Drew’s relationships were quite diverse, and rather interesting. The return of Sharon seems to me like a good thing. The overall quality of the narrative and of the humor are approximately at the level of season 3.

I didn’t like the flashback dancing episode – I generally dislike dancing in this show – but the fact that it was all concentrated in just one piece makes it easier. The episode with the errors seems just as silly as the first of its kind; I hope they will abandon this practice after this.

All in all, the show now definitely seems worthwhile – it’s funny enough, and steady in its quality and style; and the writers proved they could find interesting stories to tell

Names and figures

Flight of the Conchords (s.01, 2007)

Flight of the Conchords is a comedy show about a couple of New Zealanders – Jemaine and Bret – trying to make it in New York as a music band. They hang out with Murray, their manager and employee of the New Zealand consulate, who tries his best to find gigs for them but is not very good at it; they spend their time chasing girls and doing music and simply living their lives. Over the course of the 1st season the guys meet several girls, but none of their relationships holds for very long; they come up with rap-names, but then discover they’re not very good at rapping; they got robbed and later befriend their robbers; they deal with Mal, their only fan, on several occasions, until she switches to the Crazy Dogggs band; learn how to flip a bird; deal with racism; make a postcard with one of their melodies; go on a fake tour; buy leather suits; do acid; hire Ben the actor to lie to Murray; do Lord of the Rings cover song; and break up the band on a few occasions only to get back together every time.

Although there were definitely some great moments through-out the season, the only adjective I can characterize it with is dull. Basically, what we have here is adventures of the morons – and unlike american morons, these are quite boring in addition to their stupidity and naiveté. At some point it ceases to be fun and turns into a rather sad  picture of hopelessness. The humor is often too subtle and because of that fails to actuate. And the direction of the guys’ life path is not at all reassuring.

On the other hand, there are still some good jokes there, and good songs, too.

The execution is moderately good, although resembles more the works of the British than of the Americans – probably because of the tiny scale of the story. The acting is good enough – nothing particularly brilliant, but there were some interesting guest starts.

The second season should be better, though, – after all, it did receive a number of important awards nominations, including Golden Globe and Emmy. At least, I hope it’s better.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.03, 1997-98)

In the 3rd season of The Drew Carey Show new neighbours move in into the house next to Drew’s – Janet and Greg Clemence. Their realtor named Nicki agrees to go out with Drew and becomes his girlfriend, which relationship lasts for the better part of the season, culminating in an engagement. The wedding, however, does not happen, because Nikki realizes that Drew has an influence on her that she does not care for, and on the day she meets Drew’s parents, she calls everything off. The second significant storyline of the season is the relationship between Kate and Oswald; it goes hidden from Drew for some time, and evolves naturally for the whole season straight, with the couple’s wedding being the theme of the season’s finale. This relationship makes Drew realize that he has feelings for Kate. The third major theme of the season is about Mimi first taking advantage of mr. Wick’s fear of the storm, and alter suing the store for sexual harassment, which was initially Wick’s idea, but then turned into Mimi’s personal mission. Other than that: Drew tries to lose weight with Vitabeer and ends up with himself on a billboard; forms singles union; lets Larry move into his house and regrets it the minute DEA arrests him; buys back his house from the government; throws a bankruptcy party; goes on a diet, but ends up sleep-eating; wins a batmobile; shaves a boss’s dog and raises money to replace it by going full monty; finds out that his elder brother Steve is a cross-dresser; enters the battle of the bands; volunteers in a nursing home; goes to the Bahamas with Kate; is forced to invite new investor into the Buzz beer – his new neighbour – after the tank blows up; attends a birthday party for Mrs. Lauder; mourns the demise of his fridge Betsy; models planes; accidentally takes experimental sex drugs on St. Patrick’s day; gets to rule the store; meets Sharon the handyman; hires dating consultant; allows for his cousin Christine to date his boss; gets promoted to staff the new stores of the company; and sells out his yard for a neighbour’s horse. Lewis starts dating a guinea-pig girl named Pinky. An episode with intentional errors intended as an audience contest experiment is featured for the first time.

It would seem like the show is getting better – and on many levels at that. First, there are recurrent stories that kind of hold the season together as an organic whole; there are three of them, each takes up different volume and expanse, but combined together they do produce some kind of seamlessness. Second, the writers of the show are definitely loosening up, and start experimenting with stories and with formats – the errors contest episode, albeit not the most successful idea, would be the most obvious example here, but there are quite a number of others, most much more subtle. And third – as subjective as it may seem, the humor is also getting better; plus, there is a new title sequence (the best of the three so far), and much less dancing (thank god).

Personally, I loved the Duffy Duck sequence the most – besides the overall upsurge of story quality, of course. The execution is at least the same level as it used to be, and – in certain places – perhaps better.

All in all, the extended length notwithstanding (for usually that would’ve meant the drop in quality), the show progressed quite a bit, with a clear promise to keep on progressing.

Names and figures

Santa Clarita Diet (s.02, 2018)

In the 2nd season of Santa Clarita Diet Eric finally manages to get the serum done, when both Abby and Joel procure the Serbian bile, so Sheila’s body stops deteriorating. Eric learns that Ramona, the girl from the shop, is also undead, and briefly dates her, with full Abby’s blessing, but then things don’t exactly work out, and she moves to Seattle. Joel and Sheila get an important listing from their competitors and through that take a step up the career ladder and enter a business project with their boss Karl. But the lands for the development turn out to include the spot where they buried Gary, and so they come back there to move him, and discover that his severed head is still alive. Gary manages to persuade them not to finish the job, and eventually settles in a storage unit. He also asks them to give a deed for a property to his niece, which they do, and while doing that they stumble upon niece’s ex-boyfriend, who is a nazi and a part of a local nazi group. Sheila decides to make it her source of food, and ends up killing three of them. Her and Joel also decide to rent another storage unit, specifically set up for the murdering. Abby has a bit of trouble in school (she hits a guy named Christian with a tray), and goes out on a date with Sven, but soon finds out that she cannot share with very much. Joel investigates into the possible origin of Sheila’s accident, which leads him to the restaurant Japopo’s, and later – their temporary clams distributor, Ruby. Following the trail, he not only learns about deep-underwater clams from a lake in Serbia, but also crosses paths with a couple of Serbian knights, who aim to destroy anything related to the undead, including the victims. In the meantime Ann, the sheriff deputy who started dating Lisa, continues looking into the disappearance of Gary and Dan, and advances in her investigation far enough to pass is over to the homicide department. Joel and Sheila convince Gary to help them out, and they record a fake message intended to throw the police off the scent.

Just as before, the 2nd season of the show is extremely eventful and dense, and just like before it’s incredibly funny. I loved everything about it: the story is coherent and internally consistent; it’s interesting to follow and doesn’t have discrepancies. The characters are all pretty amazing, including the incidental ones. The writing is absolutely impeccable. The humor is subtle and smart, and really strong at that.

To put it shorter, both seasons of the show available at this moment, are perfect. I’ve seen a lot of great comedy this year (and in general, of course), and so far Santa Clarita Diet is near the top of my list. I highly recommend it to everybody with a sense of humor and, preferably, no prejudices.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.02, 1996-97)

In the 2nd season of The Drew Carey Show Jay moves to another state pursuing a business opportunity, and leaves Kate behind. Drew composes a harsh evaluation report on Lisa, which offends her, and so Drew suggests living together to make up for it. After a week they break up. A few months later Lisa gets engaged and then elopes with her fiance. Drew goes through several dates, including Bonny, the zoning inspector, who almost shuts down the Buzz Beer; and Diane, a waitress in Las Vegas, whom Drew inadvertently got married to, and stayed like that to help her out.  Drew lays claim to a store manager position, but instead Nigel Wick, an Englishman, becomes his boss; helps his school days bully Simon, which ends up in firing the guy; keeps one of Lisa’s dogs named Speedy, who is disabled and has to walk with wheels; dresses up as Mimi for Halloween; plays the Devil for Kate’s soul; mourns the death of his music teacher, who was also his first woman; makes a marriage pact with Kate; thinks he didn’t get invited to a party; agrees for his parents to move to his house, while himself staying at Oswald and Lewis’s at first, and then at Kate’s; films some training videos for the company, but doesn’t get a promotion; gets a new car, but then loses it due a bounced check; gets scammed by a woman named Kira; fights for the sky-walk and even goes on a hunger-strike; gathers money for the operation for Speedy and pretends to be gay; almost lets Earl to take over his life; competes for a place at the board of directors, but loses; celebrates 3000 days at his cubicle, which gets renamed to Drewbicle; undertakes a trip to New York, where he meets Donald Trump. Oswald wins a boxing title, and gets courted by a man; and works as an elf together with Lewis. Mimi gets temporarily re-assigned to the basement, but then returns; becomes the snow queen on Thanksgiving parade; sells cosmetics in the network marketing scheme; and briefly runs day-care center while Faith is in the hospital. Kate dyes her hair blond; tries out female friends; gets a ferret; and dates Drew’s boss. Lewis gets a rich girlfriend and works hard to keep up with her demands; together with Oswald moves to an apartment above the Warsaw tavern; and gets hit by a car. Buzz Beer goes out of business, on account of which the friends arrange a party, but it turns out to be too successful, and so they decide to keep brewing after all. Then they have to compete with a different but similar brand (Cup beerchino); get an ice-cream truck to deliver the stuff; and come up with a number of promotion campaigns, including giving out dates with Kate.

This season is a little worse than the 1st one. It has more noise in it (i.e. jokes that are no longer readable and/or funny), there is a lot of dancing (I don’t know what were they thinking, but it looks stupid), and it generally feels much longer than a comedy should feel. The finale seems completely random: while the trip to NYC in and of itself is nice attempt, the execution is messy, unbalanced and not funny, plus there is a dance-off in the end that seems totally misplaced, as if the writers has been distressingly thinking for a long time what to do there, and that was the best they were able to come up with.

There, of course, was still a lot of funny stuff there, but it seems like less than before, which brings up a tendency I don’t like. But then again, judging by the rate it is being downloaded the show is quite popular to this day, which tells me it might get better than this.

The execution is alright – more or less. Would do for a ’90s sitcom, I guess.

So far there hasn’t been anything brilliant, – nothing that strikes deep in the heart and leaves a mark on the memory as well as on the soul. A plenty of medium-good stuff is nice, sure, but it still doesn’t sum up to anything greater than medium – which the further the more seems to be leaning towards mediocre. All in all, it’s okay, but I’m starting to doubt if it will ever live up to the expectations.

Names and figures

Santa Clarita Diet (s.01, 2017)

Santa Clarita Diet is a black comedy about Joel and Sheila, a family couple of realtors, their daughter Abby, and her friend and neighbour Eric. The story takes off when Sheila suddenly gets sick, then dies, and then becomes an undead, with corresponding hunger for flesh – any kind of flesh at first, but once she tries human, she can’t ever go back. Apart from her cravings, she preserves her personality pretty much intact, except for certain changes with her libido and overall stance on life (which becomes much more pro-active). Because the family happens to live between two cops – a police officer and a county sheriff department officer – getting food for Sheila proves to be a challenge; plus, Dan, one of the neighbours, soon discovers a body part of the first Sheila’s victim and starts blackmailing Joel into murdering some of the criminals he couldn’t get rid of otherwise. Dan’s stepson Eric, a classmate of Abby, becomes involved with the family from the very beginning, which also turns into a reason for him to become friends with Abby. At the same time Joel tries to find a cure for Sheila’s disease (because her body starts to deteriorate) and soon finds out that her case is not the first in history, and that there was a Serbian village Pozica whose inhabitants got the same thing in the 16th century and ended up eating each other. By a whim of luck, he manages to not only investigate the Serbian roots of that story, but also to find a scientist conducting experiments in this field, based on the same ancient book the story of Pozica is recounted in. But before she could finish  the cure stuff happens that brings the attention of the authorities onto them.

Naturally, the premise of this story is pure fiction – that’s a given; however, what bugs me a little here is the emotional response of the primary characters to all the murders going on. My concern is that there was none – nothing at all. The husband and the daughter were surely knocked off-balance, but mostly because of the sudden change in their life, while the murders were perceived by everybody involved as something within the ordinary.

But I understand why it had to be like that – it would’ve been impossible to turn this story into comedy otherwise; and because the comedy turned out absolutely hilarious, I’m inclined not to hold it against Fresco – after all, it works, and what else matters.

I have to say, the characters are amazing, as well as their evolution through-out the story of this first season. The plot is interesting and original enough – it does include parts that can be witnessed in other similar and not so similar stories, but their combination is quite peculiar and one of a kind; plus, there are brand new things as well. The dialogs are totally wonderful and funny, as well as the screenplays in general. Honestly, this was incredibly entertaining – much more so than I expected.

Of course, the quality of the execution is really high – there were no blunders or omissions at all, and the cast is brilliant. The acting is awesome, too – I really loved all 4 primary characters, as well as recurring once, and the guests, such as Fillion and Zabriskie and de Rossi and others.

All in all, this is a marvelous comedy; it brought me endless joy and pleasure, and I’m sure, if your mind is open enough, it would do the same to you.

Names and figures

The Drew Carey Show (s.01, 1995-96)

The Drew Carey Show is a major US sitcom comedy that ran for 9 whole seasons between 1995 and 2004. It tells about Drew Carey, assistant director of personnel in a store Louder’s, and his friends since school – Kate, Oswald and Lewis – as well as several other characters, including Jay, another school friend, Lisa, a romantic interest of Drew, Jules, Drew’s neighbour, and Mimi, Drew’s sworn enemy. In season one Drew finds a job for Kate in the cosmetics department rejecting Mimi Bobek, who also applied for it. Kate starts working at the store, and Mimi gets hired as Mr. Bell’s personal assistant so that she won’t sue the company. Soon after Drew hires Lisa to work on the displays around the store; and although they are attracted to each other from get go, they have to suppress their feelings because the company rules dictate that people from management cannot date employees; when that doesn’t work out, they date each other secretly, constantly sneaking around, which causes a good deal of frustration to both of them. Over the course of the season Mimi and Drew compete at bugging each other, pulling pranks and trying to hurt the other party in various ways. At some point Jay shows up in Drew’s life, about which Kate feels very negatively, but then takes that one step that separates hatred from love. In the finale of the season it becomes known that a Dutch company is buying the store, and a lot of people are going to be fired, so Drew goes into business with his friends, and starts making beer, including the coffee-flavoured kind, but later it turns out that everybody below management are going to stay, and Drew also manages to save his job. Otherwise: Drew fires mr. Bell’s lover; attaches a funny cartoon to the memo, and gets sued for that by one of the employees; coaches girls’ basketball team; almost dates Janet, Lewis’s sister; goes to the Rolling Stones concert; almost becomes a personal assistant for Mrs. Louder, the owner of the store; celebrates his birthday; gets introduces to a racist club by his dad; fires Earl, the crazy guy; trains Mr. Bell’s nephew to be his replacement; survives the storm and goes to the church; gets Mimi for an assistant; asks out his hairdresser Suex; has to decide between Lisa and Kate for the new opening (personal shopper department); makes a commercial for the story with animals, which works, until it backfires. Kate comes up with an idea of day spa, and mr. Bell puts one of his lovers in charge of that; becomes one of the leaders of the employees strike; sells a giant bottle of perfume for less than it costs; invites everybody to dine with her mother on her birthday; and almost breaks up with Jay. Mimi charms Drew’s father; and joins forces with Drew against mr. Bell’s nephew. Oswald goes through a number of low-qualification jobs, including working at cosmetics department of the store during the strike, post-office, and drugs testing. Lewis, who works as a janitor, almost becomes Oswald’s legal guardian.

So, this here is a not so bad comedy. Actually, it’s pretty good most of the time. I have some reservation, of course, but they are mostly related to the format itself rather than to the quality of the implementation. There are also some re-setting tendencies that irritate me a little bit – that is, most of the stories are one episode long, and so the next would start as if nothing even happened at all. Ultimately, though, it’s a minor issue.

Important here is that the humor is quite good, the characters are funny and relatable – although there could have been more Lewis and Oswald-specific stories, whereas these two characters are mostly playing supporting roles. I really loved the chemistry between Drew and Mimi – that spicy, confrontational relationship is exactly what’s needed to fetch out all the benign qualities of the show, which otherwise would’ve made it all too goody-goody. All the major characters are quite interesting and nice to follow.

The execution is pretty much what can be expected from the 1990s comedy, with occasional curious and relatively unusual (for the times at least) devices.

All in all I enjoyed the show quite a bit, and I have a feeling that in the following season it would become better – there are definitely some preconditions for such evolution.

Names and figures

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (s.03, 2017-18)

Third season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is even wilder than the previous ones. [Spoiler alert] After the unfortunate wedding and Rebecca’s decision to pursue revenge, she disappears for a couple of weeks, during which time she lives in a hotel dwelling in deep depression. After coming back she comes up with stupid vengeance ideas, including mailing of poop and fake sex-tape; her friends go along with it hoping she would come to her senses. Eventually they decide to sue Josh, but then Rebecca goes on and blurts to him some information that should not become public, and so the idea gets dismissed. In the meantime things finally happen between Nathaniel and Rebecca – N. even tries to help with the revenge, but that gets way too real. Josh, who has been unhappy with his decision about priesthood, decides to come back and use the information Rebecca gave to him against her, but she gets ahead of him and proclaims him a liar and many other things – the two of them engage in a brutal crazy war, until Rebecca collides with her delusions, runs off home, and resigns from her job while being there. (Nathaniel hires a woman named Cornelia to replace her.) Rebecca’s mother discovers that she’s been entertaining the idea of suicide, and becomes extra thoughtful, which backfires, when Rebecca finds out – she runs off again, and takes a bunch of pills while on the plane. She gets help in time, and recovers in California, surrounded by friends. The event compels her new doctors to revise her previous diagnosis and come up with a new one – turns out she had borderline personality disorder; and though it takes her a while to make peace with it, eventually she does, and starts treatment, both with medication and group therapy. She comes with Paula to Buffalo, and becomes sort of friends with her dad. They starts actually dating with Nathaniel, but then she started getting obsessed again, and so she forcefully stopped the relationship, after which N. hooked up with a new girl, and that turned into a serious relationship. For lack of anything better to do, Rebecca volunteers to help Valencia with her business, and almost ruins a wedding. She decides to give Darryl her egg, and takes hormones to make it work. She decides to go back to work, but N. fires her instead. She then finds a loophole and manages to become the senior partner in the firm. Working alongside Nathaniel turns out hard for her, and so they start having an affair, constantly promising each other to stop. Heather finally graduates college after nailing every course they had. She starts dating Hector, goes to the management training and returns as a regional manager. She then moves in with Hector, and decides to become a surrogate for Darryl. Valencia tries to make her wedding planning business work, but has hard time with it. During Rebecca’s crisis and subsequent recovery, she started vlogging to cover up her fear of death, and received some followers. Later she met a girl named Beth, and they started dating, as well as developing business together. Josh abandoned the idea of priesthood, and went through several different jobs, including go-go dancing, bar tending, and being a DJ. Paula managed to restore relative peace in her family, but it still wasn’t totally smooth. She helped Rebecca a lot during her recovery; they went together to Buffalo, where she finally made peace with her first love, which apparently was bugging her all along. She also decided to completely abandon her previous ways. Derryl and white Josh went though a rough patch in their relationship on account of Darryl’s desire to have a baby, and eventually had to break up. Darryl then decided to have a baby still, and started looking for egg donors and surrogate mothers: first 2 attempts to proceed with that failed, until Rebecca gave him her egg, and Heather offered to carry the child. Eight months after that decision, Trent showed up again, and again blackmailed his way into relationship with Rebecca. That didn’t work out, and he became inclined to hurt the person most dear to Rebecca’s heart, i.e. Nathaniel.

Heather, of course, gave birth, and then there was also an important story turn, which you should better see for yourself.

The season for the most part is incredibly powerful – maybe even more so that the 1st. Same as before the show is filled with amazing songs, most of which are interwoven into the fabric of the narrative so masterfully, it’s mind-boggling. The development of the story is also amazing: the whole deal with the unfortunate revenge, the personality crisis, suicide attempt and the new diagnosis, is a fascinating set of events, that is very much consistent with both the previous story, and the personalities of the characters; it is also amazingly plausible as pertaining to how life usually goes.

The only thing I didn’t quite like is the use of Trent. He starts to seem like a go-to character that gets pulled out whenever there is a need in a way to force the story in the right direction. More importantly, it’s not the first time he gets applied to a situation to aggravate it, so he is no longer a fresh and exciting solution he was before. Generally speaking, his appearance in the final episodes looks somewhat artificial to me, although the development of the story invoked by it is not at all bad.

As for the execution, there are changes in its quality. I really love the bumper sequence, as well as the way it was fused into the story; by far, this may be the best of the three (definitely better than in season 2). The humor is still subtle, smart and abundant. The musical part is tasteful and rich.

All in all, this is a tremendous show, in its 3rd season as much as in the first 2. It’s a highly entertaining work of cinema that is also a wonderful piece of art. Recommended, without a shadow of a doubt.

Names and figures

Flowers (s.02, 2018)

In the 2nd (and last) installment of Flowers Amy receives a briefcase with things of her grandfather, Felix the magician, among which she founds a photo album about the family of Baumgartners. She later learns the story of Felix, both the fake and the real version, and becomes obsessed with the cursed family, and even her meaningful relationship with Hilda, an elderly ex-junkie turned priest, doesn’t help her very much. Deborah and Morris go away for some time, during which Deborah writes a book about her husband and their relationship with his depression; by the end of the vacation she realizes that she cannot go on like this anymore and breaks up with Morris, who is still unable to come up with any fresh ideas – and that blow up affects him even worse. Donald starts a business of plumbing and calls himself the Pipe Man; it doesn’t really work out, because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but on the other hand he has a thing with the girl who used to be a clown, and eventually even manages to pronounce his true feelings. Shun, the japanese illustrator, goes through a tough time, being basically abandoned by the members of the Flowers family, each of whom is preoccupied with his/her own thing. Amy goes straight into a manic episode and ends up almost kidnapping a baby and bringing home a loaded gun. Deborah’s book turns out a success, but creates a crack in the familial relationship that might be difficult to mend. The finale episode of the show is entirely about Shun’s first day – because there’s gonna be the last one.

Naturally enough, this is hardly a comedy; 2nd season even less so than the 1st. There are, indeed, some amusing moments, but nothing truly funny – the show’s purpose is not to entertain and not to cheer, it’s all about telling a story. That story is pretty dark, even though some of the storylines end in a positive way. Darkness aside, the show is deeply consistent and powerful in a subtle way, if that even makes sense. It deals with important issues (particularly that of mental disorders and how loss effects psychological states), and offers strong, true drama. It’s very realistic on the one hand, and insanely beautiful on the other – at that, on various levels, not only on the narrative one, but also visually.

The execution is quite amazing, as it was the case with season 1. Outstanding camerawork should be noted, along with great direction, and even greater acting.

All in all, this is a mighty story – truly amazing work of cinema shedding some light on depression and other related disorders, and also telling a fascinating story about real people.

Names and figures

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (s.02, 2016-17)

In the 2nd season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the complicated history of Rebecca’s relationships with the world continues. [Spoiler alert! Skip to the next paragraph if you’re planning to watch the show] After the wedding Greg went MIA to resurface in several weeks with acknowledgement of his alcoholism. In his absence Rebecca sort of lived with Josh – he was between houses, and bunked at her place, while having sex with her incessantly at the same time, but technically they weren’t even dating, less so living together; that is to say, she thought they did, he thought they didn’t, and the ambiguity resulting from this difference of perception was the primary ingredient of their lives for a while. Simultaneously Rebecca’s friendship with Paula went into hiatus, for which both of them were to blame; Paula, who went to law school, failed to share with Rebecca that she was pregnant and made an abortion, and Rebecca was, as usual, very self-involved. As a compensatory measure, Paula befriended one of her co-students named Sunil; and Rebecca went on to share an apartment with Heather and also mended relationship with Valencia – the three of them became a thing in itself. Heather became the face of the women hygiene products company called Miss Douche, which made her a local celebrity of sorts; and Valencia, who got very depressed after breaking up with Josh, was snapped out of it thanks to Rebecca. Greg, after showing up again, left for another city to finally study and did not return until the end of the season. Josh, in the meantime, broke it off with Rebecca and moved back into his parents’ house; he also found a brand new girlfriend named Anna, who was out of his league. Following a huge blow-out Rebecca and Paula reunited in their friendship, and Rebecca briefly hooked up with Trent, who returned once again to win her off. Paula’s husband had sex with another woman, and their marriage appeared on the verge of collapse, with a positive side-effect of allowing Rebecca an opportunity to help her out. Soon after Anna broke up with Josh after he modelled in a night club; and Josh came running back to Rebecca. They started spending a lot of time together, but soon had to halt it, because Darryl sold half of the company to a New York firm, which effectively brought Nathaniel, the new co-owner, into their lives. His strive for efficiency brought jobs of major company employees in jeopardy, and Rebecca had to dedicated most of her time to solving that issue. Josh made her a proposal, and while that made her happy, it also killed the thrill in their relationship; she became attracted to Nathaniel, which was mutual. Driven by the fear of that attraction, she managed to push the wedding date to 2 weeks ahead, and almost killed herself planning the thing, until Valencia came to her rescue thus defining her own future as a wedding planner. Josh, almost completely discharged from the preparations, applied himself in the church, specifically dedicating his time to a church basketball team. The joint effort made the wedding possible – even Rebecca’s garbage of a father was flown in with Nathaniel’s help – but then the most terrible outcome became a reality.

So, the 2nd season is slightly worse than the 1st, but only in a sense that it’s not completely perfect. And the only non-perfect thing about is some musical numbers early on in the season that produced an impression – at least, on me, – of being forced rather than naturally emerging from the narrative, as was the case before. But this reservation is regarding only a few of the said numbers, all of which fall on the first episodes of this season, while the rest of them are just as wonderful as they used to be. Some of them, in fact, are absolutely amazing.

Perhaps, the introduction sequence might also seem like an issue – I like it less than that of the 1st season, maybe because of the baby-voicing, – be that as it may, it’s totally subjective thing.

Everything else is astounding. The development of the dramatic narrative is logical, consistent with the previous states, and touches upon significant and powerful issues, such as a friendship falling-out, or the effects of pushing a wedding too hard, at that depicting things just as honestly and truthfully as always. The canvas woven by the writers evolving the storylines turns out an intricate  and rich tapestry of life in all its ambiguity and complexity – pretty much the same as in season 1, but, you know, different.

The execution is totally superb. Save for the aforementioned unfortunate musical numbers, it’s all amazing and perfect. Most of other songs, and patches of songs are funny and melodic and smart. The humor all in all is powerful and plentiful. The technical side of things is flawless. The acting is also impeccable.

All in all, certain minor drawbacks notwithstanding, the second season of the show is a great entertainment as well as a major work of art. Highly recommended.

Names and figures

Friday Night Dinner (s.05, 2018)

In the 5th season of Friday Night Dinner the parents buy a hot tub and do the nipy-nipy; Jim goes on a date with another Jackie, and erects a cross when Wilson dies; Auntie Val re-arranges the whole house after her break-up; Johnny gets in trouble because of the keys, and invites his friend Ben to come over; Martin protects his ‘good-luck’ meat, kills a crow, finds Lord Luck, uses the microscope and collects hair; Jackie throws a birthday surprise party for herself; Adam puts his car on fire; plays violin for Val and grandma, and expects and important call.

The season is more or less the same level as all the previous ones – except, perhaps, for the finale that was pretty unpleasant. But other than that, it’s all fine: the humor is sometimes good and contains a healthy dose of absurd; the execution is pretty much exactly the same it has always been.

I grew to not cherish this series too much. The thing is, it’s basically a re-set kind of show, which means its episodes can be watched in literally any sequence, and I kinda like continuous, complex stories better than this, for they require higher level of mastery and greater effort. But, of course, this kind of show also has every right to exist, no doubt about that.

Names and figures

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (s.01, 2015-16)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a comedy drama with elements of musical. It’s about Rebecca, a high-profile attorney working hard in one of the top New York law companies. Being a dedicated achiever for most of her adult life, she soon got an offer to become a partner in that firm, – and that became a turning point for her, as she realized that she’s deeply unhappy and cannot go on like this. Coincidentally, at about that moment she bumped into Josh, her ex-boyfriend from a summer camp 10 years ago. He tells her about his decision to move back to his hometown of West Covina in California, and, following her suddenly revived affection for him, she makes up her mind to do the same. And so she moves to California, finds a new job at a local firm (obviously, not nearly as flashy as her previous one), and engages into a journey of pursuing Josh. She befriends one of her colleagues, Paula, as well as her boss Darryl; she makes connection with a neighbor named Heather; and she enters the company of Josh’s friends. Josh turns out to be in a serious relationship with a yoga instructor named Valencia; Rebecca goes out with Greg, one of Josh’s friends, while trying to win back Josh at the same time. In that she gets assisted by Paula, who becomes deeply invested in the matter, which goes on against a background of her failing marriage. Rebecca’s chaotic energy makes everything around her move, even if only a little bit; for one thing, it’s thanks to her that Darryl recognizes the true nature of his sexuality. Her presence and participation, her actions, as well as actions of Paula, Josh, Valencia and Greg, form a deeply complicated entanglement of relationships that constantly shifts from one state to another. Over the course of the 1st season Rebecca becomes obsessed with the idea of being with Josh, fights that obsession and yields to it by turns, struggling with depression and anxiety at the same time. She changes the lives of everybody around, and that, in turn, changes her life as well.

As it usually goes with me, I had certain reservations about this show – in part, because a comedy this long almost never manages to retain its quality through-out, and in part, because musical shows rarely work. I can gladly admit now that neither of these two things are pertinent in this case.

Although, some of the storylines appear and go away with, as it may seem, no clear closure (like the one with the San Bernardino valley water scandal), they still are comprehensive enough to constitute an accomplished part of the big picture. More importantly, the main storyline – that is, one about Rebecca and Josh and everybody around – never goes out of focus, and gets sufficiently finalized in the end – and at the right tempo, I must add. There are no causeless leaps; the story grows and evolves in the natural fashion, and seems to be impeccable through-out in every respect.

The musical part of the show is also a pure delight. Musical numbers go at approximately 2 per episode; each of them is designed as an integral part of the story; each either describes a character’s state of mind, or makes a point. All of them are perfect in execution as well as in concept; one might like some of them better than others, but in the grand scheme of things, they all are amazing, and some are mind-blowing.

And on top of all of that, the show’s extremely funny. There are quite a lot of fine comedies coming out these days (it’s the golden age of television after all), but I’m pretty confident – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is in the top 5 for sure. What is also important for me, its humor is smart and subtle, without going to extremes of both kinds – it’s never too lofty and it’s nowhere near bottom. I suppose, deeply elaborated self-irony might have something to do with it.

The execution is befitting to all the praises I sang to the essence of the show above. The cast is 100% proper, the acting is flawless; the singing is flawless; and, of course, the technical implementation does not offer a single cause for complaining either.

Generally speaking, this is a damn fine comedy, a wonderful show, and a true balsam for a sore soul.

Names and figures

%d bloggers like this: