Category Archives: comedy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Black-ish (s.04, 2017-18)

In the 4th season of Black-ish the twins take part in the school play about Columbus; invent a special handshake in order to stay everybody’s favourites, but all in vain; bends the rules with homework; do a puzzle with Junior; participate in the science fair; Andre reinvents Juneteenth; looses a ball game to Junior for the first time; does charity; gets diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; fights with his sister over inheritance; and freaks out about Devonte not walking at the age of 1. Rainbow suffers from postpartum depression, and so hard at that she even kicks Ruby out of the house; invites Dre’s cousin Omar, who was recently freed from prison, to stay with them; goes back to work, but then decides she’d rather stay at home; bans internet from the house, and discovers mommy-net; goes to yoga; learns to say ‘yes’; and grieves the death of her father. Ruby gets scammed, and scams others herself; and gets competitive about twins’ attention with Mason’s grandmother. Diane falls in love with Zoey’s first college boyfriend; gets her first period; and thinks that Jack is not as funny as her. Jack gets emotional about his height; gets haunted by Devonte; gets straight As and forces Dre to get him a dog. Zoey goes to college and appears in the family house rarely. The family plays monopoly; receives Bow’s family for Easter, including white cousins; and celebrates Devonte’s first birthday. Junior gets expelled and starts going to a public school; fails his first driving test, but eventually gets better; works as an assistant to Santa-Monica, who becomes Santa-Maria after finding Jesus; looses his virginity; breaks up with Megan; falls for his new teacher, Barbara; gets accepted to both Harvard and Stanford; and graduates from school with honor. Pops celebrates his 65th birthday. Dre and Bow run into a serious trouble with their marriage and even separate for a while thinking about divorce.

The overall quality of the show remains on the same high level. Some of the episodes are quite brilliant, such as #1, with the stage musical, and on the average they are at least good. Zoey is almost never there, although for a good reason – still, I wouldn’t have minded a couple of episodes with her student life, like in the previous season.

The final part of the season is flavoured with a strong intake of drama, which is not really funny, but on the contrary – bitter and frightening. The execution is extremely fine here: the separation story is fused into the family history seamlessly, and seems to be an organic part of the narrative line, including the snapping-out-of-it in the result of Bow’s father’s death.

The humor is pretty great; the writers continue to please the audience with various interesting topics, some related to the black history of the US, while others – of more general background.

All in all, the show is amazingly consistent; I feel like its development is very much natural, and that its crew takes into account the accomplishments of their peers while staying original at the same time. Hopefully, they will continue to be this wonderful in the future as well.

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Silicon Valley (s.05, 2018)

The 5th season of Silicon Valley is built around Richard and Pied Piper building the New Internet – a decentralized network that supposedly cannot be taken down or controlled by any one entity. On that path they constantly encounter various obstacles that originate from one of three source: Gavin and Hooli; the issues of growth under limited financing; and, later, the Chinese trying to hi-jack the technology. Jian-Yang in the absence of Erlich Bachman tries to take over his house and other belonging, in which he succeeds at first, but later, due to his inability to be civil, gets defeated by Richard via Big Head, and is forced to come back to China, where he founds a number of copycat companies, including the New Pied Piper. It then gets bought out by one of Gavin’s local partners to offer a serious competition to the actual Pied Piper, albeit based primarily on theft. With help from Monica, who leaves her partnership with Laurie, they go blockchain and announce ICO, also successfully avoiding an expensive law suit from the manufacturing company whose fridges they used earlier on the show. Dinesh’s competition with Gilfoyle takes a new development after he buys a Tesla, and both of them become senior software executives. Gavin suffers a complete debacle. Erlich does not show up. Richard takes on an assistant named Holden. Jared makes COO.

I really loved it. First off, the story is very well thought-out in terms of structure and consistency; plus, as far as I can judge, it is incredibly authentic with all the software development lingo, concepts and day-to-day realities. Although, some of the stuff the writers use is pretty old – like the tale about a guy who had a zillion bitcoins on an off-line wallet that was stored on a hard-drive that was tossed away and so he’s dug up a whole dumpster in search of it, but still failed – other concepts are relatively new and fresh, like the Rocco Basilisk, which, truth be told, is kinda spooky.

I love the way the endeavour of the heroes is developing, and how the characters remain themselves in that evolution, while at the same time also progressing to new states. What I love even more, however, is that the show is incredibly funny – even more so than before. By all accounts, this is one of the finest comedies this year – so far, anyway.

All in all, the show remains very strong and potent; and there is hope that it would stay this way in the future as well.

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Black-ish (s.03, 2016-17)

In the 3rd season of Black-ish the family visits a Disney World with VIP pass; throws a gender-reveal party; then throws a baby shower. Andre leaves Microsoft account on Charlie; gets scared of a little girl in a lift; goes to the Home Owners Association meeting; runs from the cops; goes to therapy; decides to name the new baby Devonte; reunites with his old crew after the death of one of them; performs his jury duty; develops a campaign for golden standard of shipping; decides not to take a paternity leave; hires Richard Yongster; puts some UVO on it; learns that his mother is no saint; and creates an ultimate slide-show. Bow gets needy because of the pregnancy; deals with mixed race issue; gets internship for Zoe and ends up doing everything herself; helps Gigi with her newborn; proves that she can cook snaks too; permits everybody to swear as they please; fights for black dolls everywhere; competes for partnership at work and looses to the Holiday Hanna; receives her sister Santamonica and gets to know her better; and has baby prematurely because of her age. Bow’s brother Johan joins the family and lives with them through-out the season; he’s a self-proclaimed poet known as ‘They call me Johan’; and earns by life-coaching people, including the kids. Zoe realizes that she might not believe in god; arranges new room for the twins; goes for internship in a fashion magazine and nails it; gets busted by cops on a party; breaks up with her father; decides which college she wants to go to and chooses CalU of Liberal Arts; befriends a girl named Miriam and falls in love. Junior runs for student body president and wins; competes with his father and outpranks him; gets a white girlfriend Megan; goes to work for a pizza company Possum pizza; delivers ‘I have a dream’ speech; receives courtesies from Shelly, Zoe’s friend; trains to be a counselor; and gets high on a party by accident. Ruby declares the Purge night on Halloween; reconciles with her old-time friend, Earl’s sister Avy; takes Junior as her Spades partner; and cooks a single dinner for the whole family. The twins get career tested. Diane sees porn for the first time; and has to wear a pootato costume. Pops spends a lot of time with his daughter; and has to give up his condo money. Dre’s work crew gets reinforced with Leslie Stevens’s son Connor; Lucie also comes back due to a lawsuit outcome; everybody go through a post-election depression. Charlie turns out to be an adjunct professor at a university.

So, this season turned out to be pretty great. It has all the great qualities of the previous ones, and at the same time nothing that stands out negatively, such as 2nd season’s finale with a contrived 1970s parody. The overall development of all the characters seems to be natural, as well as the main theme of the season – Bow’s pregnancy, which was turned around in the finale to give the audience a little scare (not a new move, but quite effective nonetheless).

What I really like about modern comedies, of which Black-ish is one of the finest examples, is that children are actually growing and developing as personalities: this particular peculiarity was underlined by including tiny bits from season 1 that contrasted with the 3rd season rather distinctively.

All in all, the show keeps up with the level established in the very beginning – the quality of the story as well as that of the humor remains very high.

Names and figures

Roseanne (s.10, 2018)

In 2018 Roseanne was resurrected after 20 years of sleep. Some of the later developments were rolled back (such as Dan’s death of heart attack), but the essence remained the same: Roseanne’s family is still a big, loud, poor and, in a way, insane one. Darlene and her two kids (Mark and Harris) has to move back with her parents after having failed in life. She is long separated from her husband David, who only occasionally shows up for kids’ sake. Later on Darlene has to settle for a job that aunt Crystal retired from, which is a waitress in a casino. Becky also works as a waitress; she has barely survived Mark’s death a few years ago, and now continues to struggle with nearly no hope of success of any sort. Even though she knows her age does not really allows it, she still steps into an endeavour of becoming a surrogate for money, which later fails for obvious reasons. Roseanne and Dan have lost all the gaining they ever had through-out their lives and now are poor again. In his respectable age Dan still does drywalling, which becomes harder and harder to do with illegal immigrant offering very low prices for their work. Roseanne works as a Uber driver. DJ served in the army; his wife Gina still does, and so he raises their daughter Mary by himself – of course, with the help from the big family. He wants to go back to the army, but they wouldn’t take him, and so he and Dan later decide to give the bike shop business another try. Jackie still lives alone; after Beverly gets kicked off from the elderly house, she invites her to live together. She also gets a dog. Darlene’s son Mark is a weird but strong kid, who likes to wear skirts and dresses. Harris is teen-age girl who goes through a typical phase of rejecting the authority of the adults.

The show was initially prolonged for a few more seasons, but later Roseanne Barr posted some really stupid twits (which she blamed on Ambien), and the executives cancelled it. And that’s too bad, because the result, even though depressing as fuck, turned out much more fun than I expected. Admittedly, I was pessimistic about the project from the start – for one thing, too much time has passed, and a lot has changed on television, – but they actually managed to gather almost everybody from the original cast (with appearances from many important characters), and the scripts for the show were pretty good, so in the end it all worked out just fine. Or would’ve worked out, should Roseanne be a tiny bit smarter.

Of course, this is a comedy and it’s not really depressing – only in the after-analysis, when you realize what the Connors had and managed to fuck up. But while watching the show, these thoughts do not turn up, for it is mainly concentrated on day-to-day activities, which have a lot of funny in them. Further more, Roseanne, being a Trump supporter, messes with the stereotype for that political stratum offering a picture more complex than an average individual would want to imagine. The show embraces the new times with heart open to possibilities and understanding, albeit tensed because of the characters’ poverty and insecurity arising from it.

All in all, this was really interesting – definitely an achievement of sorts; – the cancellation was a frustrating moment for me. Roseanne once again confirmed that it is worthy of a place on a pedestal, and should remain in people’s memory.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.02, 2015-16)

In the 2nd season of Black-ish Jack uses the n-word in his school performance and gets temporarily expelled; goes to play basketball in a bigger league; and learns all the truths. Junior becomes eco-hero; prepares for the cyber attack; switches to a new barber; does not get catfished via a dating site by a girl named Kirsten; and hangs out with much richer friends. Andre starts to think about protection of the family and buys a gun;  comes up with a new holiday – Daddy’s Day; is afraid of flying; leaves the children with Charlie; gets a bad haircut; receives his best friend Sha in the house; has to deal with the new boss lady Dafny; cannot learn how to swim; marries off his sister Rhonda; and imagines his family in the 1970s, in the Good-ish Times. Charlie leaves for another job and comes back, when his new firm merges with the old one. Zoey takes self-defence (karate) lessons from Pops; takes offence at her dad for not making her the face of his new campaign; goes on a college tour with her folks and visits Brown University; crowdfunds new things for herself; and gets a car. Pops gets an angioplasty; and takes over Christmas and turns it into one-present-each type of holiday. Rainbow gets a little jealous of GeeGee, Dre’s closest female friend; learns the difference between psychology and psychiatry; does not want to take Dre’s last name; prepares the school auction; investigates the case of the broken glass; and gets pregnant. Ruby almost ruins the family photo; gets a lover named Davis; gets sick and contaminates everybody else. The twins explore the Home Alone anti-burglary techniques; get baptized in the pool by Ruby; switch gender-specific activities; break apart and get back together. Diane sings; makes a documentary about Jack and sports; runs for class president and looses. Andre and Rainbow learn to say ‘yes’ more often; deal with money troubles; and try to decide who should be their children’s legal guardian in case anything happens to them. The family attends different churches; attends a neighbour’s pool party; opens a dialog about police brutality and idealism; and watches the Lion King – again. The children have a rivalry with their cousins; learn the pleasure of insider trading; and get a nanny named Vivian.

For the most part the season is almost as good as the first one. A lot of major issues are touched upon, including police violence in relation to race, money, guns, and gay marriages, not to mention many exclusively black schticks, such as the barber thing. Relations within the family develop in orderly manner, same as the relationships between (and within) the factions. Episodes became less motley and more one-two subjects-based.

The execution is on the level with season one, there’s very little change in how things are done on the show.  At the same time, due to several setbacks I consider this season to be less interesting that the show was before – it should be noted, at that, that although the quality did get a little lower, it still remains way above average. In particular, I didn’t like the finale, with the ’70s sitcom parody, – it just seemed a bit laborious to me.

All in all, though, the show is a great entertainment, and I have high hopes for its future seasons.

Names and figures

Modern Family (s.9, 2017-18)

In the 9th season of Modern Family Alex continues dating Ben for some time, but later breaks it off with him; paints her passion; capitalizes on foot fetish together with Luke; rejects an internship at MIT; and dates a firefighter. Jay thinks about his legacy; reconnects with Shorty, who feels like a failure; renovates Mitch and Cam’s kitchen; bugs Terry Bradshaw while on jury duty; tries to cheer up Stella, who’s depressed; competes with Henry’s parents; and visits his sister in a hospital after she has a stroke. Lily can’t get horseback riding lessons. Haley works in a golf club under Luke; almost becomes an assistant for the future version of herself; discovers the beauty of the world when temporarily deprived of her phone; fails the audition for back-up singer on a cruise; starts dating Alex’s professor, a genius physicist from Great Britain; goes to work for a moronic celebrity; tests dangerous stickers and passes out on the street. Manny goes off to college majoring in theater arts; brings home a girlfriend teacher; and makes a horror short. Mitch burns down the kitchen – twice; fakes a break-in; Cam performs on Gloria’s anniversary party with Mitch; runs a detention class; briefly works for a billionaire; can’t decide whether or not to take the job as a prosecutor; and discovers that his mother was secretly influencing his every decision. Mitch and Cam receive a guest from Europe named Max; go to a retreat and experience sensory deprivation; go on a ride-along in a police car; and have their hugging nephew living with them. Cam performs on Gloria’s anniversary party with Mitch; runs a detention class; and takes a hip-hop class with Phil. Gloria gets into yet another car accident; celebrate her 10th anniversary with Jay; ruins a famous playwrite for being mean to Manny; gets mad on Valentine’s day; gets into spanking with Jay; goes to the Oprah party with Mitch; and pulls a real dad prank on Manny. Phil believes in the underwear routine; performs a Normandy phone booth escape trick; almost sells a house to Coldplay’s lead singer; goes on a trip by himself; leaves his firm and goes to work for himself; gets to the hospital; gets bullied by Stephanie, a next-door shop owner; celebrates their anniversary with Clair; and spoils a show’s finale for a lot of fans. Claire buys a magic shop for Phil; runs 10k; joins book club; drives a truck; wants a she-shad; makes a nemesis out of Jay’s nemesis’ daughter; fights for LA Woman magazine cover; gets her portrait painted; and decides to merge with a closets tech startup. Joe plays golf; courts Clair; and graduates from kindergarten. Luke disappears after a party; ruins Valentine’s day for Mitch and Cam; and decides to go to college after all. The family takes a lake vacation to see a solar eclipse; and goes on a wine weekend to the country.

One of the main peculiarities of this show is unusually high number of main cast characters – there are 12 of them. From the writers’ point of view it should be rather difficult to juggle all these people, trying to allocate enough screen time for each; on the other hand, it makes it easy to conceal a temporary absence or low engagement of some of them. From the outsider’s point of view, I cannot be express my admiration at how masterfully they manage – it has been 9 years now, and the show still remains no only wonderfully balanced, but also ingenious and funny.

Characters’ storylines develop steadily and in a logical fashion. Stories, although based on pretty much the same essential points every time, always seem fresh and new and interesting. The humor continues to please with its subtlety and inventiveness; its quality is still quite high. There was no falsity during this season, nor unpleasant stiffness.

The execution has not changed from all the previous seasons – it’s pretty amazing. The acting is very good, although I feel like Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily) is not as good as she used to be; but there isn’t much of her in the show anymore, so that’s quite alright.

All in all, this was and is a great comedy – enjoyable, funny and engaging. Recommended.

Names and figures

Black-ish (s.01, 2014-15)

Black-ish is a family sitcom about Andre Johnson, his wife Rainbow, and their four children – Andre Jr., Zoey, and twins Diane and Jack. Andre is working in advertising, and has been recently promoted to SVP of a major company; Rainbow is an accomplished medical doctor; their successful careers is what brought them to the higher stratum of the middle class, and made them black-ish instead of simply black. They all live as one happy family with Andre’s father, whom everybody calls Pops, and occasionally visited by Andre’s mother Ruby, and Bow’s parents Alicia and Paul. In the office Andre becomes sort of close with a new co-worker Charlie Telphy. Over the course of the 1st season Andre gets promoted to SVP of the urban division; talks to the children about sex; ruins Harriet Tubman experience; brings the family to the Beef Plantation, the taste of his childhood; learns to keep his wife and his mother separate but equal; competes to be Santa; strains his ankle; turns 40; comes clean about vasectomy; tries to get back to his roots (hunnit); comes up with 10,000 commandments; and talks to his sister Rhonda about her homosexuality. Andre Jr. joins the field hockey team; gets a bro-mitzvah; plays both Romeo and Juliet; gets bullied by Cody and figures out how to withstand it; films reality-tv show about his mother and her friends (‘old people eating cheese’); looks for loopholes in the rules; and almost joins the young republicans club because of a girl. Rainbow promotes her profession for a career day and to Diane; uncovers Ruby’s secret about Christmas dinner; gets disappointed when her husband fails to show caveman qualities; reads ‘Hoodfellas’; competes with Ruby about what to give Dre for a birthday present; gets late; and parties with her college friends. Jack plays hide-and-seek but no one’s amused; watches The Shining; and arranges a living costume together with Zoey. Diane learns to be nice; doesn’t want night-light to go; arranges a living costume together with Junior; fights for her nickname of Gurkel; and composes family tree together with Jack from Pops’s story about 1923. Zoey starts vlog ‘Makeup by Zo-Zo’; gets her brother a date with Kyra, a super chick; gets her first boyfriend – a french guy named Andre, and then second – black guy named Derrick; learns that she was born before her parents actually got married; falls for a boy named Daylen; and starts wearing glasses. The family dresses up as Jackson Five on Halloween and re-establishes the pranking tradition; perform the elves song on Christmas; go the black ski weekend on Martin Luther King jr. day; and goes through the vows renewal ceremony / new wedding.

The genre of a family sitcom (and it seems to have had developed into its own genre) is not new, and yet people still find ways to come up with fresh and funny stuff. Black-ish is one of the most recent example of this phenomenon – it is now in its 4th season; and while I don’t know yet about the later ones, the 1st is pretty amazing. It is funny, ingenious, full of vitality and joy.

The secret is simple, of course, – it’s all about the characters. In this case we have 6 primary ones, plus a several more recurring, and each of them is a bright and unforgettable personality, even those presented as dull. The stories, which is an equally important component of any comedy show, derive from the characters, and are conditioned first and foremost by their originality and internal consistency. The Johnson family is a bunch of rather crazy people, each crazy in his or her own way, with different brands of functional insanity blending together into a wild and cheerful cocktail. It is incredibly uplifting and funny.

Through the various stories the view of the modern state of race relations is presented, with somewhat reduced level of realism (for this is comedy, after all), as it is perceived by three different generations of black people in the US. Even though the subject matter is far from the reality of my everyday life, it is still interesting to follow, because, lack of racial diversity notwithstanding, I can still relate to most of the stuff Johnsons and their companions are going through – people around the globe are not that different all in all.

The general climate of the show is light, joyful, merry. The humor is of very high quality. So far there hasn’t been anything fake or forced, or even unnecessarily half-way, which is kind of refreshing. The execution is quite flawless. The acting is totally amazing – all the primary parts are played at 100% and more; the cast selection is absolutely perfect (especially the twins); and multiple secondary roles and guest stars are just as awesome as the show in principle.

It’s a great comedy, and I highly recommend it.

Names and figures

Another Period (s.03, 2018)

Third season of Another Period is very much like the 2nd: a semblance of a continuous story that really isn’t consistent at all and has a lot of downright random stuff. In the beginning Dodo retakes the house and drives Commodore away – during the season he is pretty much absent, although always lurks nearby, and attempts a comeback closer to the finale. Dodo remains with the priest at first, but after he becomes too impudent, forces him out. The sisters – Lilian and Beatrice – remain with Dodo, so nothing changes there; although they do try to hijack Hortense’s fame as a suffragist in order to come back on top, but then Hortense turns out not dead, so that fails. (By the way, nobody remembers that Hortense is supposed to be an heiress to her late husband’s fortune; also by the way, she is played by yet another actress – third or fourth.) Beatrice becomes famous at some point when her movie from season 1 gets leaked. She later becomes a claimant to the image on the new nickel, but overdoes with beautification procedures. Lilian tries to stage a surgery, looses a fortune gambling, gets into an asylum, where she looses memory after electroshock therapy and, after getting released, becomes the wife of an Irish policeman. Frederick gets prepared by his wife to run for president; she almost convinces him that Beatrice is not his real sister, but notwithstanding all her efforts, their love for each other only gets reinforced. Blanche has hard time working and looking after a baby at the same time, so she replaces the newborn Bellacourt with her own daughter, which backfires, when Victor and Albert decide that they want a child and then let her fall into a well. Peepers suffers from his love for Dodo, which comes unshared. Garfield decides to find his parents, and does so.

The further it goes, the less it looks like a uniform story and the more – like a collection of sketches. I can’t say, however, that the show got any worse that it was in season 2 – rather, it stayed on more or less the same level, which, admittedly, is not very high, but it’s still not a degradation.

On the other hand, this is supposed to be comedy, but this season is significantly less funny than even the previous, – all the moments when I laughed could be counted with fingers of just one hand; there were many amusing spots, of course, but that’s not what would want to see, so I’m not counting them.

The technical execution and the acting is also more or less the level of 2nd season.

Is it worth watching? I don’t think so. It seems highly unlikely that the show would regain the quality level of the 1st season, so it would much more humane to just shoot it in the head – in fact, it should have been done after season 2; there’s just no point in dragging it any further, – it could only get worse from here.

Names and figures

Atlanta (s.02: Robbin’ Season, 2018)

Atlanta‘s 2nd season is subtitled ‘Robbin’ Season’ because it is set in the time of the year when it is especially hard for the people of Georgia to survive, which is why some of them turn to downright criminal activity – over the course of the season the show’s heroes get robbed several times. Earn’s relationship with Alfred (aka Paper Boi) deteriorate because he cannot manage him in a way to secure the level of respect and gain Al thinks he deserves; additionally, a guy named Tracy comes out of prison and comes to stay with Al, and serves as an agent of chaos in their tiny environment, often ruining Earn’s already insufficient efforts to make things happen for Paper Boi. Earn is no better with Vanessa, who eventually limits his presence in her life to support of Lottie, their daughter. He doesn’t have a place to live and roams from one place to another. Whatever money he comes by, he usually looses. Alfred’s career is taking off, albeit not as quickly as they all hoped it would; but he still gains recognition and fame, and by the end of the season gets invited to the tour over Europe. As before, some of the episodes are dedicated to separate stories involving the primary characters, the most brilliant of which are the one with Al and Bibby the hairdresser (#5), the one with Darius and Teddy Perkins (#6), the one with Al getting lost in the woods (#7), the one with Van going to the Drake’s party (#6), and, of course, the flashback episode about Alfred’s and Earn’s childhood.

The beginning of the season was somewhat difficult in a sense that everything developed downwards, approaching the fields of hopelessness, which mood prevailed over the narrative – there weren’t any bad or poorly thought-out storylines, nothing like that, but it was surely tense and slightly uncomfortable. Starting with the middle of the season, however, things became much more interesting as there began the streak of deep and beautiful stories, the most powerful of which was the story of Teddy Perkins and his brother Benny Hope. By the way, the role of Teddy was performed by Donald Glover himself, who wore whiteface makeup for it. Other episodes mentioned above are pretty much just as good – maybe a little less exciting, but definitely just as good.

This 2nd season all in all is darker and not as funny as the 1st one – in fact, the show seems to be turning more and more towards drama rather than comedy, although there are still a lot of truly great findings, some of which are in the humor domain.

The execution is just as superb as it was before. The writing is strong and exquisite; the dialogs are natural and subtle; the acting is amazing. The technical side of things is also great.

Generally speaking, this season is just as enjoyable, but, because of the adjusted down mood, may seem less so.

Names and figures

Another Period (s.02, 2016)

In the 2nd season of Another Period the Bellacourt family goes through troublesome times. As it turns out, most of the money earned by Commodore have been donated to various organizations by Dodo, and now nobody wants to do business with him. And so Commodore undertakes a mission to marry off Hortense, and when that doesn’t work out for obvious reasons, he brings back Lilian and Beatrice, annuls their marriages and tries to find new husbands for them, which fails miserably, for no one wants them anymore. Frederick becomes a Vice President to Teddy Roosevelt and, when blackmailed by Howard Taft, head the public campaign of incest repudiation. Chair gives birth to a boy while still unconscious from her fall; she remains paralyzed and without memory at first, but then recovers enough to force Dodo out of the house. Dodo makes a comeback, when served with the divorce papers, but manages to preserve only the abbey, where she has been living for the major part of the season. Hamish stands trial for the murder of the reporter, that was actually committed by Peepers; he turns out to be Commodore’s brother, and eventually gets acquitted thanks to his vagina defence. Blanche gets pregnant and then gets married to the doctor to cover up for him being a Canadian. New girl Flobelle joins the staff to replace Chair; she then urges everybody to go on strike for working too hard. Peepers brings in a boy called Jane, who turns out to be a thief; discovers the wisdom of self-pleasuring. Beatrice helps Albert overcome his hatchet phobia; discovers footbycicles and almost runs away with Albert Einstein; gets baptized and finds faith; and then tries to save the soul of her sister. Lilian tries to land Franklin Roosevelt, but fails; learns about condoms; goes to the bar and hits her head in an accident. The sisters compete with each other for a prince, and repeatedly try to become famous – first by jumping off the Niagara Falls in a barrel, then by hiring a music producer Joplin to write a hit song for them, – all of which fails.

Already in the second season the show starts coming apart. A lot of great qualities initially characteristic to it are still preserved here – for one, the hit stars Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome are both awesome – but the signs of decay are obvious. There is pretty much no consistency – a story that was an organic whole before turns into weakly connected set of sketches the further the more. Admittedly, a good share of them is very funny, but still. The characters that played a huge part previously, now can disappear for several episodes in a row; the most obvious example here would be Dodo, who was present in 4 episodes tops, but her absence was actually addressed and used in the story, which is more than I can say about Chair, whose vanishing was not explained at all. The actress playing Hortense was replaced – this blunder was addressed as well, but in a not very convincing way; the new girl is much worse, is not used in the plot development as much, and ultimately brings the show down.

I believe the writers faced a number of challenges when doing the season – one of them could have been the impossibility to coordinate the schedules of the cast members in a satisfying way; and all of them combined compelled them to overcompensate by offering even sharper and bolder humor than in the season 1. Unfortunately, that only pushed the writing in the direction of inventing stories that grew less and less plausible with time. Of course, it always was preposterous, but at least it was internally consistent; now most of the ideas simply seem ridiculous, and not at all in a good way.

I can probably understand why, despite the best efforts of the creative team, the show keeps on disintegrating, but what good could the reasons do? What matters is the result, and it ain’t pretty. What’s worse, it’s unlikely to get better. But I’m still very much interested in how exactly it would go down.

Names and figures

Superstore (s.03, 2017-18)

In the 3rd season of Superstore the Cloud 9 store gets rebuilt after the tornado, and things pretty much get back to normal in just a few months. Amy and her husband decide to get a divorce; she experiences some trouble in her relationship with her daughter Emma; more importantly, she tries to deal with her feelings for Jonah, but notwithstanding her attempts at dating they only keep brewing. Jonah starts dating a newcomer, Kelly, while at the same time trying to figure out his thing for Amy. In the second half of the season their mutual attraction finally comes out into the open. Glenn realizes that he wants to have a child of his own, but his wife turns out barren, and so they decide to get a surrogate; after a few unsuccessful variants, Dina agrees to carry their baby. Marcus finds out that it’s possible to make cheese out of human milk and starts a business based on that idea. Mateo gets slight injured on the job and is offered a significant sum of money, but is forced to reject it due to his legal status; eventually he tells Jeff everything, which forces him to quit his job and restore their relationship. Jonah briefly moves in with Garrett, because his house was destroyed by the tornado; Dina stops a robber; Amy tries a dating app; Glenn gets a mole on his private parts; Mateo gets an ear infection; Jonah tries to establish a health fund and fails miserably; Cramy gets born; social media issue gets tackled; Mateo gets baptized; Amy throws a Golden Globe party; Kelly believes in angels; Amy almost kills a groundhog and goes on a date with Tate the pharmacist; Jonah and Amy find a stash with recalled merch; Amy is forced to go through safety training; Myrtle gets fired; Amy gets pregnant; CEO visits the store; Amy rediscovers her latin background; a body gets found in the wall; the story almost becomes Quadro A; everybody gets a one-day amnesty; new regional manager Laurie comes instead of Jeff; the unbecoming policy of agism almost gets uncovered.

So, the season is rather good. The show demonstrates a steady, albeit slow progress – the humor became richer and more diverse; all the episodes are now stitched together quite tightly with several continuous storylines presenting altogether a solid, integral whole.

The execution also becomes better: while the technical side of it remains on more or less the same level of professionalism, the show becomes bolder, especially with destroying stuff, and therefore – brighter. The acting is pretty good – the drama gradually becomes deeper over the course of this season, and the actors proved quite convincingly that they are up for the task. Jonah, Amy, Dina and Mateo are, perhaps, the most interesting characters of the cast.

All in all I enjoyed the show quite a bit – it’s interesting enough, and much funnier than it used to be. It may be incapable of reaching the stars, but it’s quite good in flying just below the sky level.

Names and figures

Another Period (s.01, 2015)

Another Period is a period comedy set in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1902. It follows the story of the insanely rich Bellacourt family, that is at the bottom of the 1% of the 1%. The head of the family, Commodore has a lover, an ex-prostitute Celine, who joins the working staff of the house as a new maid while already pregnant with the Commodore’s baby. Commodore’s wife, lady Dodo is a heroin-addict; his eldest daughter Hortense is a suffragist and an old maid with no hope of marrying anybody; his next daughter Lilian is married to a Bavarian gay man named Victor; his youngest daughter Beatrice is married to Albert (who is in relationship with Victor), while having an incest connection with her twin brother Frederick. The working staff includes Blanche, the maid who dream of working on factory; Peepers, the butler, who is secretly of indian ancestry; Garfield, the underbutler; Hamish, the groundskeeper, and the most disgusting of the servants; and, as a new addition, Celine/Chair. Over the course of the 1st season the sisters Lilian and Beatrice repeatedly try to make their way into the highest society of Newport, always unsuccessfully. Hortense takes the issue of the women’s rights close to heart. Beatrice and Frederick is in love with each other, and fail to be subtle about it. Celine plots to overtake the house as the new mistress. The stories feature multiple real-life characters, including Hellen Keller, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Ponzi, Thomas Edison and others.

Frankly, I haven’t seen a comedy so audacious in a very long time, or maybe never at all. It is so impudent it crosses a line of good taste quite often, which, on the other hand, is well compensated by the degree of self-irony, ingenuity, and the quality of humor. It can be slapstick sometimes – especially in the first episodes, – but this quality actually fades away over time.

The principal method here is simple enough: it’s a mix of Downton Abbey and reality TV (represented, relying on Wikipedia, by some Kardashians show) – i.e. the blend of two solutions completely opposite by their qualities, so much so, in fact, nobody before even though about mixing them. Yet, it turns out, that the approach works perfectly – that is, creates a unique and original new form filled by the creators (and other writers on the crew) by fresh and bold material.

The execution is flawless – the harmony between the design and the result is absolutely perfect; professionalism of the technical implementation is beyond doubt; and the acting is superb, for lack of a better word. The humor is really strong; the show is truly hilarious at times; some of its capacity comes, naturally, from the mocking of real historical figures. Perhaps, the essence of the show is such that it can easily offend a lot of people. I, however, enjoyed every second of it.

For the show is astonishingly refreshing in its disregard of everyone and everything that today’s traditional culture urges us to respect. This thing alone is a reason enough to watch it at least once, and it’s also really funny.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.06, 2014-15)

In the 6th and final season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets a role alongside Brad Pitt, but has to kiss a tennis ball instead; then she gets offered an HBO series, almost blows, but eventually gets the part anyway, and even makes Zed, the show creator, to move it to Cleveland; promotes Paleo vodka; fights with her disco legacy that she shares with Ernie Hudson; starts dating a young editor; helps her father to get a job on her show; writes a children’s book with Melany; starts taking Adderall; poses before a drone; gets a bodyguard; lives through her show’s screen testing; gets a visit from her agent Barry; gets cut out of the show; enters a play at a local theater; has issue with her driver’s license photo; becomes an artistic director; gives her son a singing part in the play; finds out about her secret sister; decides to move back to LA and marry Johnny. Joy chooses Simon over the other two contenders just to find out that he’s already married; stars in a reality TV with Victoria but gets substituted with a different Joy; starts using dating app Cinder; decides to leave the detective firm, but then re-thinks the decision; turns into platinum blond and meets Owen’s girlfriend the albino; gets a visit from her sister, who was a nun; breaks a leg; falls in love with Bob and fights the Canadian Joy for him; gets Bob tested with Love Actually; sees Owen getting married; lives through the rehearsal dinner; decides to adopt a baby; together with Melany messes with security cameras; decides to get married in Paris; removes her 6th toe; gets married in Vegas and adopts the baby. Melany sleeps with Bob; almost has something with Franky; starts dating her neighbour Jack, an expat from New Zealand; wins the holiday lights contest; gets visited by her daughter who has doubts about studying at Harvard; looses her co-host; gets a task of diverting a journalist and ends up dating him; drugs her boyfriend with estrogen; dines with herself; has hard time because her show gets cancelled; and finds her love in the airplane. Elka enjoys her power; sleeps with the mayor; holds a Christmas party; coaches councilman for a day; hosts a party for the english Cleveland officials; plays scrabble; inadvertently kills the mayor; becomes the mayor; looses a bet to the mayor of Cincinnati; gets grilled; poses nude; meets the Pope; and marries Bob’s father. The girls go to a chemistry restaurant; get DNA tested; have fun with Bob’s voodoo doll; and buy a restaurant together.

The season started in the same way the previous one ended – with lots of great stories and funny jokes. However, that only lasted until Christmas or so. Then it gradually became more and more dull, sentimental and far-fetched. Most of the plot solution of the second half of the season are, to put it mildly, questionable. Victoria getting cut out of the show; the restaurant (which, by the way, resembles the episode of Frasier that wasn’t very good as well); Melany loosing her job; Joy’s mother falling for Bob; Joy and Elka’s lesbian ancestry, etc. – all these story turns are pretty wild, which badly hurts the consistency of the story; at the same time, they are not funny enough to justify it.

Although the execution is superb, as always, poor decision on the writing side of the table make this season, perhaps, the worst of them all. Of course, it’s only in comparison with the other ones, especially the 5th, which, by far, was the best. Plus, the season started off really good, and only devolved into something incomprehensible much later. There was a semi-traditional behind-the-scenes episode, but it more like a historic review of the show in general, and was more sentimental than funny or uplifting.

It is really sad that the show’s finale turned out so rushed and awkward. All in all it’s a great comedy, with lots of truly bright pages, which is why I still would recommend it to anyone wishing to lift his or her spirits. Just don’t get your hopes up about these closing episodes of the series.

Names and figures

Master of None (s.02, 2017)

The 2nd season of Master of None is dedicated to Dev’s trip to Italy and its consequences. [spoiler alert] After breaking up with Rachel Dev spent some time in Modena, a small italian town, learning to make pasta in a small local shop. There he met Francesca, as well as bunch of other people. After his apprenticeship was over he decided to come back to New York. Almost immediately after his return he got a gig hosting a culinary show called “Clash of the Cupcakes”; he met chef Jeff, celebrity producer of the show and befriended him; in due time he got an offer of 7-years long contract, but rejected it and came up with a different idea instead. That’s how the BFF – Best Food Friends, a travel culinary show – was born. While this was happening Francesca showed up in New York, being already engaged to her long-time boyfriend. She came for a short-term at first, and then came back to spend a whole month. Because her fiance was mostly busy with his business, she spent all that time with Dev, which eventually brought them both to realization of their true feelings. Just a few days before the BFF show was supposed to launch the ugly truth about chef Jeff came to the surface, which effectively ruined the project, but by that time Dev didn’t really care anymore.

For the most part the season does follow the line recounted above, but it’s actually much more than that. There is a range of episodes not related directly to the plot that offer glances of various kind – into the Dev’s childhood (the one with the Thanksgiving at Denise’s, #8), into the life of the greatest city in the world (#6), into the world of on-line dating (#4), into the difference of perception of religion by different generations (#3). The first episode is a beautiful homage to Vittoria de Sika’s Bicycle Thief; episode #9 is an amazingly powerful picture of growing attraction.

By all accounts, the depiction of the appearance of love is absolutely perfect here. It’s subtle (there is not even a hint on it in the beginning; and subsequent development is gradual and smooth, but also accelerating up to the explosion-like culmination), and it is very well devised and written.

I totally adore the boldness, the freedom and the strength that pierce every single minute of this 2nd season; Aziz Ansari is definitely a power figure in the world of cinema – (I’m hesitant about using word genius here, but I don’t really know how else to put it.)

The execution if flawless. I would like to especially single out camerawork and the lighting – the image was at times insanely beautiful. And also the music – the selection of melodies here are diverse and specific, and appropriate in every case. Of course, the direction is absolute, as well as the acting.

While the 1st season was pretty good, this one is completely fantastic. My second strongest impression this year. Highly recommended.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.05, 2014)

In the 5th season of Hot in Cleveland Victoria gets tested on polygraph after her new husband’s escape; she communicates with Emmett via footwear notes; survives Emmett’s fake death, and plans his funeral; doesn’t leave to live in wilderness with him; brings everybody to the premiere of her movie but ends up delivering her daughter’s baby in the car; pursues nomination for the Academy Award; tries to date an average guy; makes up with an old friend; tries to run for city council against a black disabled sports hero; gets nominated and finds out that she has to wear Lady Pants to the Oscar ceremony; selects a next film to star in and meets his director, JJ; receives her non-gay son Tony; dates JJ; meets JJ’s children; wins Oscar; and goes on a date with male model. Melany turns out to be not pregnant, but with a brain tumor; she shops for the best doctor; spoons the wrong way; accidentally invites her dentist to the premiere; finds out that radiation therapy got rid of her tumor, but still tries to get some perks out of having had it; goes to work as a bartender and ends up having her own radio show; runs a radio marathon; gets pursued by Joy’s new boss, Mitch; goes on a date with cannibal billionaire; receives a high-school friend; works as a honey trap for Joy and proves to be terrible at it; briefly gets back with the pompous english professor; has to co-host with Frankie; gets visited by her mother; and goes out with a rocket scientist, who brings his sex surrogate. Elka boasts about sleeping with Sinatra; takes a younger lover named Luke; dates Roy again before dumping him for good; learns that Macrib is back; catfishes Victoria about a guy from Wyoming; overtakes Victoria’s run for the city council; is revealed to have staged a play about the girls; debates with her competitor and wins through doing shots; graduates college; wins the election; meets her first love; and sees Max again. Joy introduces Simon to his son and his grandson (who got surprisingly grown up); looses Simon to a better cause and Sudan; goes to a nude beach; goes undercover with Bob as her lover and ends up liking him for real, which ends with Bob selling the agency and moving to Canada; meets her new boss, Mitch, and immediately falls for him; makes Mitch fall in love with her; goes to the couple’s therapy; graduates college; competes with Melany for the right to go to the ceremony with Victoria; gets torn between Mitch and Simon when the latter suddenly comes back; gets triple proposed. The girls get robbed by the same guy; get a dog and call him George Clooney; take a trip to New York; learn about the dark past of their house; and enter Elka’s house for the first time.

This is, perhaps, the brightest season so far. Martin et al. ceded ground a little bit in the previous one by staying too attached to previously discovered successful forms and ideas (such as the behind the scenes episode) – but now they re-invented the show preserving, however, its core components intact, and also remaining just as funny and ingenious as before. This season is packed with events, big and small; every major character has a consistent story line that evolves logically and adds a lot to the common broth of the show; finally, the humor is very good at worst, and usually quite brilliant. The brightest episode of the season is the animated one (#18) – it is absolutely ming-boggling, and I would highly recommend watching it even if you don’t care about the show in general.

The execution is just as wonderful as before. All the girls are totally amazing – such a powerful ability to laugh at themselves is a rare thing; I absolutely adore this about them (as well as, you know, lots of other stuff).

One of the most important things – the series is stunningly uplifting. This comedy might be one of the best ways to quickly improve your mood that I know of – surely, it would only work short-term, but that’s the case even with all of the great ones.

Names and figures

Master of None (s.01, 2015)

Master of None is a comedy drama about a medium famed actor of indian descend named Dev and his journey through life. He has some friends – Arnold, Brian, Denise – with whom he spends some of his time; he sustains a good relationship with his parents; and, of course, he is trying to find his true love. Over the 1st season he maintains a on-again-off-again relationship with Rachel – he met her in a bar and they hit it off, but then circumstances got in the way; they met again some time later on a party, but she was trying to re-establish things with her ex; after that didn’t work out, they went to Nashville for a weekend, where they had a hell of a time, and were stable with each other since then. Dev is best known to the public from his work in the commercials, and he continues seeking jobs there; he also gets a role in a trashy virus-kills-all movie called “The Sickening,” where he works for quite a long time; he auditions but eventually fails to obtain a part in the sitcom “Three Buddies”. In one of pauses of his relationship with Rachel he goes to a concert with a girl who turns out to be unpleasantly crazy, albeit hot; in another he engages in a fling with a married woman. First season touches upon such themes as communication of the younger generation with their parents; adaptation of the differently coloured people in predominantly white society; old age; cultural stereotypes (specifically, the indian accent); racism; sexual deviants; robotic seals; time-related fading of a stable relationship; and others.

It’s an interesting show that opens up certain unobvious sides of the US life. The story is coherent and evolves logically; it is rather curious to follow its development. The characters are original enough and easy to relate with; most of them are pretty nice. The main conflict (apart from Dev’s professional capades) derives from the very nature of a monogamous relationship in the modern world and as such hits some very sensitive points. The humor is sometimes a bit awkward, but mostly pretty good; it’s not a laughing-out-loud kind, though, but a more mild version.

Ansari employed his real-life parents to play Dev’s family, which, I think, was not the best solution, because although they did a fine job all things considered, it is very much obvious that they are not professionals.

Otherwise it’s a very good comedy show. Seems to me it still needs to evolve some more to become great, but it is definitely on the right path.

Names and figures

Hot in Cleveland (s.04, 2012-13)

In the 4th  season of Hot in Cleveland Joy raises her grandson Wilbur with a little help from her friends; goes back to college and ends up majoring in criminology; falls for a firefighter who turns out to be a brony; quarrels with her mother because of the baptism; becomes an extra of Victoria’s set; makes a 18 years old doctor fall in love with her; comes to intern for a private detective; briefly reunites with Sean the brony; tries to land a pediatrician of Hindu descent; meets a hot shrink; and meets the father of her child for the 1st time in 30 years. Victoria stars in the Woody Allen’s movie opposite Emmett Lawson; gains weight by eating magic diet candy; gets visited by another daughter named Oscar, a journalist; starts dating Emmet; comes back to her hometown to visit mother and sister; gets proposed to; plans a prison wedding; endorses a new japanese product – the electrocuting belt; gets a bachelorette party in the hospital instead of Vegas; thinks about her former marriages and meets Julien, the best of the ex-husbands; ruins her hair; and gets married. Melany finds a new job and falls in love with one of her bosses, Alec, who returns her feelings; wears a gargoyle costume; fakeporns her boyfriend; invites the mailman in; thinks about having another baby; doesn’t sleep with Danny Doyle, the fixer; tries to date her gynecologist; looses Harry a might-have-been fiance; fights with Joy over a coma guy; and finds out she’s pregnant. Elka engages in some shady business together with Mimi Sue; restores the image of Jesus; smuggles pills from Canada; gets an A for the “Manhands” movie; auditions for Importance of Being Earnest; and reunites with her bowling team (from the Mary Tyler Moore show). The girls visit a local spa retreat (yogi Ananda); meet Sally from Cincinnati; and celebrate yet another mutual birthday, this time with web hands. Traditional behind the scenes episode is called Look Who’s Hot Now and features Shirley Jones as a guest.

Consistency is everything, and Hot in Cleveland is nothing if not consistently uplifting. It’s always funny, although the share of ridiculous can vary from 0 to approximately 15%, which is within the bounds of norm, i.e. not enough to irritate. Storylines are developed in a logical fashion, both the old and the new ones. Of the latter I would like to specifically place emphasis on the Joy is a private detective line, for it is rather original and offers a lot of opportunities for quality humor. Victoria’s newest marriage deal is also quite engaging.

Besides humor the show contains a proper share of drama, which outlines the overall cheerful disposition.

As before, the composite episode (#19 in this case) is one of the season’s best. The execution is on the level of the previous season, i.e. rather superb.

All in all, in terms of quality nothing has changed much, while the story keeps on evolving. And this is really great.

Names and figures

Grace and Frankie (s.04, 2018)

In the 4th season of Grace and Frankie Grace starts dating Nick, her business competitor, and their relationship proves to be quite durable notwithstanding that Grace freaks out about her age and health problems. Frankie realizes that she hates Santa Fe, and is forced into a difficult choice, because Jacob cannot stay away from his family there. Eventually Frankie comes back to California, and meets Grace’s latest friend Sheree, whom they help to get back what’s rightfully hers. Robert and Saul engage in the activism, until Robert comes to conclusion that it’s not exactly what he wants. He goes back to community theater, especially after he gets awarded with a Tappee for his previous performance, and becomes a star of the brand new production. Because of the discrepancies in their views on how their family should evolve, Robert and Saul encounter certain problems with communication, and turn to therapy; their therapist suggests some unconventional methods, which they reject, but it still opens some new horizons for them in the long run. Brianna continues dating Barry, who goes to work for one of her biggest rivals; later on she experiences a serious trouble with her business. Mallory finalizes her divorce and, for lack of anything better to do, goes to work for Brianna as an unpaid intern. Coyote dates a sexoholic in recovery, and tries really hard to follow her guidelines. Bud proposes to his pregnant girlfriend, who later gives birth to a beautiful girl Faith. Frankie legally dies and goes through hell trying to reinstate herself; she becomes eschatologically aware and makes peace with her estranged sister Teddy. Due to Grace’s health issues (problems with knees), as well as he drinking and some bad decisions (a contractor she hired stole copper pipes from the house), and also because of an incident with Frankie when she almost drove the baby to Mexico, the children plot to put them both in a retirement community, and even succeed in that – but only temporarily, for Grace and Frankie, like Thelma and Louise, break out of the social convention and make a run for it.

Honestly, there’s not much to say – the season is beautiful and light, and pretty much flawless, just like the rest of the show.

The only thing I didn’t quite like is that Sheree (played by Lisa Kudrow) does not come back after her storyline is finished, but that’s a tiniest thing that doesn’t really effect anything.

In all the other respects the story is absolutely great. It is well constructed; the connectivity tissue is dense enough – there are no gaps neither in the characters’ motivation, nor in the causalities. The developments are logically conditioned and interesting to follow. The dialogs are airy and simply good. The humor is subtle, rich and deep, which, however, doesn’t make it overly complicated.

The execution is impeccable, as can be expected. There is nothing to reproach it for – nothing serious anyway, – the show is pure delight.

Names and figures

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