Category Archives: comedy

Man Seeking Woman (s.01, 2015)

Man Seeking Woman is a comedy about a young man in his quest for love. After his girlfriend Maggie broke up with him, Josh was at a loss for a while, but soon, with help from his friend Mike and his sister Liz, he started making his first faltering steps in the field of dating. He went through a number of relationships, different in length, quality and essence, but each time something went wrong and he ended up alone. A hallmark of the show (which, by the way, is based on the book by Simon Rich, series’ creator) is that its universe of discourse resembles the real world very much, but also contains utterly surreal elements that are adroitly merged with the environment so that the whole thing seems consistent in style and level of drama, but has obvious conflicts in the core, which is the source of the most of the humor in this show.

The show is pretty great: all the stories, however surreal, are amazingly consistent when it comes to the logic of the events development, which makes it extremely interesting to watch. It is also fun, because the writers’ fantasy is truly without borders; however, with humor it’s a little bit different. A major portion of it is derived from situations that are more awkward than funny, – it’s a specific type of comedy, and its presence in the humor mixture of this show is quite significant. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of stuff there to laugh at, and good quality too, but that thing imparts a certain mood.

The stories do not directly hail from each other, there are pretty huge gaps between them, and sometimes they remain unfilled; and, of course, none of the surreal excursions stuck: rather than being real events, those are more like filters, or masks, applied to reality for a short time to contort it and later dismissed with no consequences.

All in all, the show feels pretty exciting; it’s entertaining, it’s exquisitely stylish, and it’s sufficient amount fun.

Names and figures

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Vicious (s.02 + A Year, 2015-16)

Second and last season of Vicious keeps on describing the same situation as before: 2 elderly queens living together for half a century, their relationship with each other, with their friends, neighbours and family. Ash remains a part of the circle; he came with a girlfriend in the first episode, proposed to her a little later; and it was the rejection that he faced that forced Freddy and Stuart to re-evaluate the type of relationship they have. Most of the subsequent narration is dedicated to their wedding with excursions into Violet’s story (who became a victim of a scam), and Ash’s.

It should also be noted that there is a double episode special called A Year. It follows the story 1 more year after the events of the show’s finale, and is divided into 4 chapters, each depicting one of the seasons. It’s not very different from the show itself and basically winds up the plot.

In comparison with season 1 the show became even louder and cocky due to new visual design: somehow it correlates with the show’s inner essence, but, weirdly enough, does not make it any more pleasant to watch. Same goes for the deviations from the genre: in season 2 there is a lot of exterior scenes, and a whole lot of new, circumstantial characters, which definitely makes the narrative much more vivid, but not harmonious; if anything, it adds a note of nervousness to the whole thing. The way the writers handled new characters shows that they didn’t have a lot of ideas about them except that there should be more people – most of the heroes are easy to forget simply because none of the stays for long, even when it’s appropriate (like with Ash’s girlfriend).

The humor is exactly as it was – crude, slapstick, tendentious. There were less dog-themed jokes (thank god), but otherwise it’s pretty much the same thing. What’s different, though, is how sentimental the story became. Over the course of the season, and then during the special, it gradually became almost a melodrama – and almost here is only because it didn’t have enough time to hatch properly. All in all it’s a tear-jerker alright.

So what can be said about Vicious? It’s a weird and undesired bastard of comedy that strives to be 2 completely opposite things simultaneously, and dies out after finally realizing how impossible of a task it is. It may be worth watching for McKellen’s fans, but should probably be avoided even by them.

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Episodes (s.05, 2017)

Fifth season of Episodes is the final one. Sean and Beverly are stuck working on a comedy they hate under the guidance of a man they despise. Matt is hosting The Box, a senseless but entertaining TV show produced by Merc; they hate each other, but keep good appearance. Carol is wallowing in depression and self-pity as she has no job, no money, and no hope; Beverly keeps trying to bolster her spirit, but with little success. After a sex scandal blown way out of proportion Matt gets fired from the show, but the network revises that decision pretty quickly after the ratings of the show rise by 30% as a direct result of the event. Besides a longed-for opportunity to rub it into Merc’s face, Matt gets a guaranteed 13 episodes of his own show from the network, and so he and Sean and Beverly start thinking about some entirely new project.

I love it when a story development is designed so meticulously as Crane & Klarik do for Episodes. It is quite obvious that even though the length of the journey could have been different (with correspondingly changed level of detail), but all the landmarks were conceived a long time ago exactly the way they’ve been executed later. The clarity of the story is astonishing; the way they managed to keep it highly dramatic and funny at the same time, with great harmony among the components, is truly masterful. In that respect, by the way, 5th season is better than the previous, which ended in a very gloom place.

This show is interesting in how it’s an exceptionally delicate and delicious combination of purely fictional elements and those that have direct correspondence in real reality: it is not the first work of this sort in cinema, but it is definitely one of the best so far. The writing in general is pretty much perfect, both in concept and in dialogs. I can say with absolute certainty that every minute of it was a pleasure.

The finale deserves a separate conversation, really, but all I can do is mention it. It is not just strong, it is truly surprising (which, to be honest, I did not expect), and would throw you into emotional lowland only to elevate you to a highest peak the next minute. This is probably the best show’s finale I’ve ever seen; it is surely bright, fascinating, remarkable.

Cannot recommend more.

Names and figures

Vicious (s.01 + Christmas Special, 2013)

Vicious is a sitcom about a couple of elderly gays and a bunch of their friends and acquaintances. Freddy and Stuart has been living with each other for almost half a century, yet Stuart’s mother still doesn’t know the truth about them. Things start moving more sharper when a new neighbour moves into the apartment above – a young man named Ash, for whom the Freddy & Stuart company becomes a substitute for a family.

This is a downright sitcom – a really devoted attempt at restoring genre’s original conventionalities and limitations. I can guess Janetti is a fan of it, and through this show he expresses his dearest desire to bring it back. It doesn’t seem like he believes it’s even possible, though, because the whole thing reeks of desperation. It’s like the show tries to be cosy and shocking at the same time, which is naturally weird and produces corresponding effect. The humor bears a note of hysteria, pretty much all of it.

The presence of Ian McKellen, as well as of Iwan Rheon (whom I know from Misfits and, of course, Game of Thrones) is worth mentioning, although in view of the genre policy on the show, neither of them did anything particularly remarkable.

All in all, the show might give you a laugh or two, but considering the negative counter-weights that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to watch it.

Names and figures

Doll & Em (s.02, 2015)

In 2nd season Dolly and Emily first write and then try to produce and direct a stage play based on a relationship between themselves. They settle down in the Mikhail Baryshnikov’s theater (who owned a favour to Buddy, their producer) in New York, off-Broadway, assemble the cast, including 2 girls to play characters based on them (but not exactly them) – Olivia and Evan. Things between the four of them do not work out very well exactly, but somehow they manage to haul as far as the premiere. Along the way Dolly falls in love with Ewan McGregor, because he picked her up in a bar and they almost dated, and there may be consequences to their encounter. Emily gets her hopes high with a new role she’s been offered, so much so she’s almost pulls out of the play, but then the project falls apart, and she comes back as domineering as ever. Doll & Em try to deal somehow with this new form of their ever-changing friendship, as well as each of them deals with their own personal stuff. In the finale the premiere of the play comes off, offering a few surprises.

The 1st season was really great, but the 2nd one is slightly better – mostly due to freshness of the story and ingenuity of its authors, which has improved significantly. I think, once they’ve established that they can in fact produce a TV series, however small it is, they managed to relax and have fun on top of creating a highly professional product of cinema, which is reflected in the overall tone of the show. The narrator’s voice in episode 4 alone is worth some kind of prize, and that’s far from all.

The cast is pretty amazing: I suppose, Olivia Wilde and Evan Rachel Woods play fictionalized versions of themselves, as it usually goes; it was really cool to see Mikhail Baryshnikov; Ewan McGregor was kind of funny; the now infamous Harvey Weinstein appeared in a tiny, but quite memorable role of himself (not uncommon for the show, as you might have noticed).

By the way, Emily Mortimer speaks rather decent Russian, although not without noticeable accent.

All in all, in 2nd season the creators managed to preserve that combination of peculiar lightness and meaningfulness that formed in the 1st season, and enhance it with more humor and new ideas. The show has concluded with that, and it’s a good thing: it proves that Mortimer and Wells were never there for the money, that quality bears way more significance to them, and that they know how to end things at the right time.

Highly recommended for everybody.

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Frasier (s.11, 2003-04)

Frasier‘s 11th season is the final one. It was conceived as such, and, correspondingly, bears a character of a prolonged closing address. Daphne and Niles get pregnant; most of the stuff happening to them is related to pregnancy in this way or another, primary development vector being towards happy family life. Martin gets his development in the second half of the season mostly, and it is about him having found the right person. Roz eventually gets rewarded in the professional terrain, but remains without a constant life-partner, successfully advocating this way of life, not exactly widespread in the pre-Internet era. Frasier resumes his private practice, in part because the radio show started to outlive its capability; after breaking up with Julia he goes through several more minor relationships, and ends up turning to a matchmaking service, with results quite unexpected and encouraging even though obscure. A range of well-loved characters goes marching through the season, including Lilith and Frederick (but not Bulldog); Maris makes a very special appearance in the role of the murderer. Events accelerate towards the finale: on top of the wedding that has been pushed to an earlier date, and the baby who is ready to come out any minute, Frasier experiences an existential crisis comparable in scale to the one that led him to Seattle 11 years ago.

The show is just as wonderful as it used to be: the cast doesn’t go anywhere until the very end; the humor is great, although not without extremes here and there; the level of sitcom conformity is relatively low (a little higher than in season 10, but still); the overall development is logical and consistent enough; and, as usual, there is a lot of amazing characters played by excellent, funny actors. At the same time, there is a definite imprint of sadness overlaying the whole season, which is about things coming to an end –  inevitable, but sorrowful nonetheless. Kelsey Grammer seems old now somehow, – much more so than just a year before. The writers managed to make this final season all about tying up loose ends thus directing the narrative towards the exit; they did it skillfully enough for the viewer to relate to the events in the story, and through that endorse it.

I didn’t quite like that the amount of situations (solutions) with strained premise / circumstance rose over the course of the season. It wasn’t really bad, not enough to constitute a problem, but the tendency was troubling. But the show’s finale put an end to it, excuse the pun.

All in all, notwithstanding certain sags, the season was truly good, – may not be among the best ones, but it’s still a pretty important part of the story.

Frasier proved to be the most consistent show I’ve seen so far (among the comedies so much the more), and consistently good at that. The quality always remained on a rather high level, and never has it ever dropped in any significant way. Not once in 11 years. Quite astounding, if you ask me. I wish they’d do a reunion show, like Will & Grace. Either way, it’s a truly remarkable show, a whale of TV comedy, alongside Seinfeld and Friends, not to mention the later ones.

Names and figures

Doll & Em (s.01, 2014)

Doll & Em is a story about 2 friends, Dolly and Emily, who remained quite close even though Dolly stayed in London and didn’t achieve much while Emily went to Hollywood and became a famous actress. Doll breaks up with her boyfriend and turns to Emily for a solace. Emily, who is shooting some big movie in the US at the moment, invites her to come and stay with her, and have some fun, and work for her as an assistant at the same time. Dolly accepts the invitation; for some time everything goes wonderful, but a certain tension between them starts building up almost immediately, which eventually leads to a crisis in their relationship.

Totally delicious little thing. It has the power of sincerity, because the story comes from the real-life experience and adopts as much drama from there as possible, and at the same time it is devoid of the roughness ordinarily accompanying veracity of this intensity – the show’s actually very delicate and amazingly subtle. The overall development is psychologically correct, has a lot of nuances and doesn’t have any stretches or omissions. The story is small, non voluminous, that much is true, but whether to deem it a plus or a minus, is a question to which one should apply their own judgement. The execution is impeccable, especially the acting. Also, it’s not particularly a comedy, as the writers do not try to make the viewer laugh, but rather some scenes they want to tell about are naturally funny.

I love gems like Doll & Em here: tiny, almost inconspicuous, as if hiding from the world, but pure at the core, and with no defect anywhere, presenting the audience with concentrated quality. First season was a pure pleasure; hopefully, 2nd will be a match.

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Frasier (s.10, 2002-03)

In Frasier’s 10th season: Niles and Daphne get married and start living together; after a certain period of confusion Daphne’s mother settles down with them and becomes a permanent partner in their life situations; Niles undergoes a heart surgery; Daphne changes her hair; Frasier goes through several inconspicuous relationships until he falls in love with a person he hated for almost a year; he delivers a speech on his son’s Bar Mitzvah in Klingon language; he sets Lilith’s mind straight when she experiences a personality crisis on account of Frederick becoming a grown-up; and he lets Bebe become his agent again yielding to the power of doctor Phil’s gravitas; Roz successfully continues bringing up of her little daughter, who is old enough now to have an act; later she is offered a bigger job at another station and decides to accept it. Martin doesn’t have a lot of developments; Bulldog appears in several episodes, always short time.

In terms of the story, the development is harmonious and logical enough; story is interesting, sometimes fascinating and always funny; there are no fuck-ups, nothing raises any questions; even such significant additions as, say, Daphne’s mother, or Frasier’s lattermost flame, seem to be really successful – or, at least, workable (because some of them are too new to make conclusions yet). Suffice it to say: every component of this season’s composition is in concordance with every other component; their conjunction is balanced and bright.

In terms of general quality, the show remains consistently good. Episodes contributing to the main storylines are all great, and among those that are in-between there are no lame stories, but a lot of really good ones.

All in all, the show has a rather strict and strong evolution course, which on the one hand makes it somewhat predictable, but on the other – it imparts a structure making the narrative more powerful, and also framing and intensifying humor as well. Tenth season, which is the one before last, lies entirely within this paradigm, meaning it is well-tailored and really entertaining.

Names and figures

Ballers (s.02, 2016)

Story in the Ballers’ 2nd season revolves for the most part around Spencer’s feud with Andre, the biggest financial guy in the city who managed Spencer’s money back when he still played and may or may not have caused him the loss of several million dollars. The intensity of the confrontation grows from one episode to the next, the passions are rising, the risks are being taken, the game is being played. The fact that Spencer is having problems with obtaining a license so that he could actually practice does not add a lot of credibility to his position, no more than a Vicodin abuse on account of his hip injury. Yet he manages to execute counterattack by gathering funds from his rich friends to buy the company out.

The story on the conceptual level is pretty good: the origins of the conflict seem plausible enough; the development – quite consistent; and the essence (what seemed like purely ordinary conflict at first, turned out to be the result of Spencer’s internal conflict) – rather elegant. However, the dialogs are sagging: the writers heavily abuse informal vocabulary, sometimes – merely to hide the emptiness of a scene; and even relatively interesting parts resemble Entourage the further the more, and not at their best times, too.

It’s pretty entertaining all in all, but I was definitely hoping for more than that. There is still a possibility, of course, that the show would become more than just talking shit and enjoying the spoils of the wealthy life, but so far the tendency is the opposite.

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Frasier (s.09, 2001-02)

In Frasier‘s 9th season Frasier breaks up with Clair, and ends up alone, then goes through several more fleeting, short-term relationships; has a feud with a neighbour; expands his show to another city; and visits Boston. Rose starts dating a garbage man, which becomes one of her most meaningful hookups, but then something happens, and at the moment of weakness she has a thing with her boss, which is huge, but not big enough to ruin their friendship. Niles and Daphne’s relationship goes through natural stages of development, all the way up to the proposal (which was beautiful), and making peace with Daphne’s family. Martin becomes a security guard, and almost falls in love several times, last one – with the neighbor’s mother.

It is astonishing how they managed to keep the overall quality of the show so consistent from one season to the next. It always seems new, – not once has the show repeat itself so far, – and at the same time, it feels so familiar, so comfortable from beginning to end. Apart from the events already mentioned, of which episodes about Daphne’s parents were the most entertaining, there was an appearance by Bill Gates, which happened to be the same episode (#8) when Bulldog returned for a brief period of time; the one about Frederick becoming a national Spelling Bee champion (#18), the one about american flag, the one about the Boston trip (#21), and the one with Daphne’s father (#24).

All in all, a great season: there are lots of fresh stories, and all of them are pretty great quality, including the humor (which still seems funny to me after years of comedy impressions’ stratification on my mind), and the drama (which develops in the orderly, logical fashion and has wonderfully powerful peaks). Watching Frasier is always a pleasure. Names and figures

Ballers (s.01, 2015)

Ballers is a comedy-drama about a bunch of ex- and current football players and the world of professional athletes in general. Primary heroes are: Spencer Strasmore, who left his successful football career while at the peak and became a financial manager for high-level sport professionals; Joe Krutel, his friend who turned him into a financial consultant; Ricky Jerret, a very talented football player with temper issues; and Charles Green, a retired player who tries to find a new way in life. So, for the 1st season, the storylines are as follows: Spencer and Joe try very hard to land Vernon Littlefield, one of the most promising young players in the league, and encounter various obstacles on that path, including blackmail and corporate interests getting the best of loyalty and personal relationships, which is the foundation for everything in that business; Spencer also deals with his nightmares connected to an episode, when he injured an opposite team player so hard he had to leave the game; Ricky gets kicked out of the team due to bad PR vibe he’s producing, but Spencer manages to find him new home – his own old team, the Miami Dolphins, which is not the end of it, because Ricky continues to get into various stories, but he also tries hard to change his ways, and to some purpose too, although he does lose his girlfriend in the process; Charles gets a job as a car salesman, but feels discontented at it, so when he’s offered a way back to his old career, he gladly takes it.

First of all, this show reminds me Entourage a lot: the same atmosphere of big money (only professional sports instead of movies), the same perfect-weather setting (only Florida instead of California), the same general tone of rich people’s problems that are significant, but not too serious, because – you know, – there’s a lot of money floating around. The story is different, though, and I don’t mean specific events, but rather the structure of the show’s narrative, which in this case is more dense, more consistent. Plus, the main heroes are way more likeable – Spencer’s sincerity, his aspiration to help those he cares about, his resolution in building his own personality the way he wants it, – all these things make me sympathize with him; Joe is an interesting character, with his ups and downs, but definitely curious to watch; and the same can be said about Ricky and Charles, too. Their storylines intertwine with each other quite harmoniously. The humor is nice – it’s not jokes based, but rather an additional filling for the events.

However, the ending of the season seemed to me a little too cautious – there is no twist there, no cliffhanger, which sends a message that life goes on as usual, and could go on like that indefinitely, that there would be new things to overcome, but they will come and go, same as everything else. This kind of attitude is somewhat threatening, because it relaxes the writers (because it’s pretty much all the same, so why bother), and relaxed writers are not a good thing for drama. Of course, we would have to see how it would pan out in reality; so far all is pretty great.

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Frasier (s.08, 2000-01)

In the 8th season of Frasier the lie of the land disturbed by the Niles and Daphne’s mutual affection finally unsealed slowly restores to the usual state – over the course of the season, that is. Consequences of the sudden shift (necessity to uphold Niles’s fake marriage, law suits from Donny) fade away rather quickly; and N & D’s relationship slowly evolves to come to a turning point at a later stage, when psychological issues connected with it are recognized. Frasier goes through several unsuccessful relationships himself, reconnects with Lana (the homecoming queen) and becomes a sort of friends with her, which brings him into a relatively more significant relationship with woman named Clair. He also receives a lifetime achievement SeeBee award, goes into midlife crisis, and expands his show with a wine tasting section for a brief period of time. Roz struggles to find a proper man for herself, gets a god, and almost writes a children’s book. Daphne gets fat; Niles throws a basket ball and hits the target. Martin dates 2 women simultaneously, but fails both relationships; he later attends the parole hearing for the guy who caused his injury. The season ends with everybody going to Belize for a vacation.

This season is pretty great, even though the dramatic intensity is nowhere near what was fueling the previous one. Still, it’s a lot of fun to watch the development of all the principal storylines, most of all – that of Niles and Daphne’s relationship. I was a little worried it would be killed off somehow, but the writers chose to embrace it instead. The thing with the psychological issues accumulating during their first year and then bursting blended rather perfectly with Jane Leeves’s pregnancy, which was turned to the story’s advantage as the overeating problem. Frasier’s midlife crisis provoked by the SeeBee award is also a quite important landmark in the development of his character. Martin’s being at the parole hearing was a really nice touch as well, especially with him not being forgiving and not telling his close ones about it – this adds some cold reality to the whole thing.

At that, the quality of humor remains at pretty much the same level as it was before. Also, there were a lot of cases of sitcom entanglement, but none of them were concocted but quite plausible instead. The french break-up thing was really good (#15), as well as the John Glenn bit (#16; although that one can fuel some idle-headed conspiracy theories), the N&D’s transition to physical relationship was executed really nice (#19), as well as their relationship flashbacks, which were embedded rather skillfully, finally, the whole Claire intrigue was quite entertaining.

All in all, the show keeps being great, and for the 8th season in a row it’s kind of big deal.

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The Good Guys (s.01*, 2010)

The Good Guys is an action comedy and a police procedural. It is about 2 detectives brought to work together as partners: one is Dan Stark, a great 1980s cop, whose methods are outdated and rough, but effective, second is Jack Bailey, a playing-by-the-book type, a complete opposite of Stark. Both got demoted to work on property crimes (burglaries, petty thefts, etc.), which is what they do, except that every single case they got leads to something significantly larger, mostly due to pure chance. They try very hard to get back to a better league, and they do produce results, but methods by which they produce them cancel out the positive outcomes, so they just preserve their position without moving forward. Over the course of the season Bailey tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, who’s a smoking hot assistant DA, while Stark manages to charm the hell out of every middle-aged woman he gets to deal with.

It is a comedy, so there is no cross-cutting story here; every episode tells a separate one connected to the others only through the main characters and their relationships with each other. The core idea is far from being original (starting with “opposites improving each other” and up to the concept of police procedural that does not deviate from the standard very much), plus a lot (no – A LOT) in those stories depend on coincidence and/or pure luck, but the execution is actually quite nice. The stylization, sound effects, etc. irritated me at first, but they are not so bad, really. The humor is good, and sometimes even great. There are a lot of wonderful secondary and circumstantial characters.

Frankly, I thought it would be a drag, especially considering unnatural for a comedy overall length, but it was enjoyable. The show’s nothing much from a position of the art of cinema, but it’s surely a wonderful entertainment. Real pity it was cancelled – by all means, it was better than Castle‘s 3rd season with which it partially overlapped. By the way, these 2 shows are very close to each other in terms of format, although they are defined differently. All in all, The Good Guys is a nice option for killing some time.

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Frasier (s.07, 1999-2000)

Frasier‘s 7th season is probably the most significant one so far. Over the course of the season: Frasier dates several different women (a child’s book author who resembles his mother; a new neighbour; a high-school crash), but none of the relationship sticks; he progresses as a radio host, almost gets his own TV show with Bebe, almost finds roots in the Romanov royal family, and gets problems with his back; Roz continues to raise her daughter as a single mom; Martin gets new glasses. However, the real development sits in the confluence of Daphne’s and Niles’s storylines, because the thing we’ve been anticipating for so long finally happens: while preparing for her wedding with Donny Daphne finds out you know what. Niles, who engages in a relationship with his ex-wife’s plastic surgeon somewhere in the middle of the season, doesn’t learn about the change in the state of affairs for quite a while, which allows Daphne’s confusion (and feelings) to evolve, then several more complications occur along the way, and in the season’s finale something happens that is wonderful and terrible at the same time.

All in all this season is a rather ordinary one, meaning it’s pretty good but (apart from N&D intrigue) not really special. Martin and Roz get to the center of attention less frequently than before, and Frasier is the same old Frasier, with expected quirks and whims. Humor is pretty much the same we got accustomed to, but the level of dramatic elaboration grew up substantially.

The development with Daphne and Niles is the real gem of the season – and of the show in general. I believe, it can be compared to Rachel learning about Ross’s feelings at the end of season 1 of Friends, with one distinction – in this case the anticipation was being build for 6 long years, which imparted a specific tincture to the situation. The evolution of this storyline is well thought-out, there is enough time for it to grow, and key events are located in all the right places. Needless to say, acting is up to the knocker as well, same as every other element out of which this whole thing is constructed. Without any doubt – this is a remarkable job executed with amazing skill and passion.

No matter how it all will pan out in the following seasons, this one elevated the show to a new level.

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The Wrong Mans (s.01-02*, 2013-14)

The Wrong Mans is an action comedy about, as the title suggests, a couple of random people caught in the middle of very dramatic events. Over the course of the show there were kidnappings, shoot-outs, car chases, terrorists, biological weapon, lots of conventional weapon, mob dealings, sinister prospects, explosions, deranged parties, martial arts, prison break-outs, intelligence services, parachuting over the border, nazi treasure, and other stuff of similar nature, but all with a touch of realism (as opposed to action genre clichés) mostly presented in the form of 2 main heroes, who are quite ordinary, who react correspondingly to whatever’s going on around them.

A lot in the story is dependent of chance, on things that simply happen for no particular reason; given the number of various coincidences piling on top of each other, plot’s overall likelihood is pretty low, but this is actually not a drawback, but a selling point: it’s all interesting and funny in part because stuff like that never happens to common folk. The authors of the show aimed at unfamiliar combination of action and feasibility, although I don’t think they knew exactly what they gonna get. While the show is actually great, both conceptually and in execution, the extravagance of that combination seems to be a little uncomfortable. It’s the same thing that was not quite right with The Brink: even though it is a wonderful story, well placed and implemented on a high professional level, because of the unfamiliarity the audience didn’t buy into it 100%, which led to show’s short lifespan.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable movie experience; the show pans out as an action, and as a comedy both; acting is great; special effects are brilliant. It may be a little amiss (as compared to audience’s expectations), or it may be ahead of its time, it’s hard to tell, but either way it’s worth watching.

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Frasier (s.06, 1998-99)

In season 6 of Frasier following stuff happens: Frasier deals with the loss of his job for a while, fails to find a new way for himself, and gladly returns when the status quo is restored; he goes through several short-lasting relationships of various significance level, including Martin’s friend’s daughter who saw him mostly as a counselor, a lady named Cassandra from work, and a jewish girl named Fae – every one of this relationships was eventually blown; Niles continues his painful journey through the divorce, which at some point comes to an expected finale; he struggles with his desire of Daphne, who is still unaware of his feelings; Daphne hooks up with Niles’s divorce attorney and gets engaged to him; Roz is being a single mother; she also finds out about Niles’s crush; Martin endures his break-up with Sherry, and later tries to date on several occasions, including a relatively lasting relationship with a woman named Bonnie, but it ends in the season’s finale, along with Niles’s surprising intrigue with a waitress and Frasier’s relationship with Fae.

All in all, the season is more or less what you would expect from Frasier after watching 5 seasons of it. Roz goes a little bit to the background – her single-mother situation could’ve been developed in much more detail than that. Frasier’s storyline feels like the default one – it’s good, but not the one you love. The most interesting here is the development of Niles-Daphne line, especially such rather radical events as Daphne’s engagement, which seems to be quite serious, and finalization of Niles’s divorce, which is a significant step ahead as well.

Other interesting things include: Woody Harrelson appearance as his character from Cheers; the way Frasier contrives to undermine every romantic relationship he has, at that – in a new fashion every time; origin of Maris’s money (and the way the absent character is used over the course of this season in general); the character of the lawyer (played by Saul Rubinek); Daphne’s web chatting in episode #19; dr. Nora  (episode #20, played by Christine Baranski); and the way Niles handled the sudden story turn with Daphne’s engagement.

All in all, very enjoyable comedy, funny and ingenious, not unlike before, but with story moving a little bit further than usual.

Names and figures

Wasted (s.01, 2016)

Wasted is a tiny British comedy about a group of friends, one of whom just returned after a year of absence. Kent was trying to start a career as a DJ, but failed in that undertaking, and came back to his home town, where he reunited with his friends – Alison, Sarah and Morpheus. Together they get into various kinds of shenanigans, which is pretty much the whole content of the show.

The series, as it is very much obvious from the annotation above, is not exactly original in terms of the concept, but the good news is that it doesn’t make it any less wonderful. The characters, the pattern of relationships connecting them to each other, as well as the execution of specific stories, – the combination of these factors is what makes the show a very curious phenomenon.

All of the heroes are well thought-out; each of them is a bright, albeit seriously weird personality, and they click with each other in a way that produces rather spectacular adventures. And considering that they live in a small town with not much going on, it says something.

Each episode is shaped in a different style with its own set of techniques, which, interestingly enough, doesn’t seem eclectic, but imparts certain allure to the whole thing. One story device in particular deserves a separate mention: Morhp has an imaginary spiritual guide, who appears to him in the form of Sean Bean (played by himself) dressed as his character from the Game of Thrones; unlike most of the other stuff, this thing is being used in every story in this first season, – and splendidly so.

The humor is really good. The stories are all ingenious and interesting. The stylization is brilliant. All in all, this is an outstanding comedy, although I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody as it involves a lot of drinking and using drugs. But those of you who are not children and not prudes, I would advise to watch it. Totally worth it.

Names and figures

Frasier (s.05, 1997-98)

In the 5th season of Frasier everything keeps being pretty much as it was from the start. With regard to specific events, here’s the general picture: Frasier celebrates his 1000th show on the radio station, takes Bebe back as his agent, and hosts annual SeaBee awards; he doesn’t engage into any long-term relationship, but goes through several flings, including one with a supermodel, another one with a high-end lawyer, and yet another one with a modern artist; Martin eventually breaks up with Sherry; Niles almost reconciles with Maris, but she starts an affair, so they end up divorcing each other; he then tries to start things with Daphne (which is also the only significant event in her life this season), but, as usual, something comes up; Roz gets pregnant and has a baby as a single mother.

In terms of the quality, as well as of the essence of the environment, nothing changes much, except that there is much less of Frasier’s show and, correspondingly, of the callers. The accent is shifted towards characters’ personal lives and stuff that happens outside of the radio station. Which adds some irony to the fact that the season ends with all the station staff pretty much dissolved. Event though the humor in general is rather high quality, there was 1 episode (#21, about the noses) that stands out with its unnatural deliberateness.

The most curious episodes were: the one with all the outdoors (#5; also includes the title song performance), the one with different perspectives (#9), the one with Niles and Lilith accidental affair (#15), the one with Niles’ and Daphne’s ‘date’ (#20), the one with Bulldog’s heroism (#18), and the one with the dissolution (#24).

Thanks to the finale, that was quite unexpected, I’m quite curious as to what happens next. All in all, the show remains just as enjoyable as before.
Names and figures

Silicon Valley (s.04, 2017)

In season 4 of Silicon Valley, Pied Piper continues to struggle for existence, which is never a sure thing due to Richard Hendricks’s self-perpetuating streak of bad decisions. Pivot into video chat business doesn’t seem to work out, and not just because they are unable to find funding for it, but also because Richard hates the idea. He comes up with a more ambitious task of creating a system of distributed data storage that he prefers to call the New Internet. However, the funding is still a huge problem, so the team goes through some rough times, disintegrating and coming back together again, almost sinking Gaving Belson along the way, and constantly creating various kinds of disturbances, which they manage to survive thanks mostly to pure luck.

The density of the narrative was quite thick before as well, but in this season is keeps growing even more: pretty much every episode contains a huge amount of events alternating with breathtaking speed, and many of them are significant for the story. Frankly, this kind of tempo is a little daunting; it seems agreeable only because of the humor, which remains really high quality.

On the other hand, some of the characters, including Hendricks, continue to lose their integrity with frightening speed, and that makes the story discordant: I want to empathize with the guys, but it becomes increasingly harder, because they keep making rather nasty decisions as they go along. Those decisions are funny, but at the same time – not at all, and that makes me feel conflicted about the show, which is rarely good for a comedy.

Of course, the writing is still exquisite, there’s a lot of great ideas, and ties to reality are very curiously designed. Plus, like I said, the humor is a very strong feature of the show, and there are no signs that it’s gonna change in the forseeable future. I don’t know if the depreciation of the heroes is going to harm the series, but the tendency seems worrisome to me.

Names and figures

Frasier (s.04, 1996-97)

Fourth season of Frasier is little different from any of the previous seasons, and appears to be their direct continuation, both in terms of the story and in terms of the environment (universe of discourse). Every principal character on the show goes through certain stages of the love life quest: Frasier dates randomly and inconsistently; Daphne says goodbye to the most serious relationship she had in a long time and suffers corresponding consequences; Martin engages in a very significant relationship of his own, which nobody is really happy about, except for him, of course; Niles adapts to living without Marice, and even goes to dates, but ends up back where he was; and Roz dangles around like she usually does. The constant dancing between Niles and Daphne goes on as it was, and gives the audience several moments where the long-awaited shift seemed oh so possible, but nothing happened still, – just like before.

So, yeah, the world of Frasier is really steady, and changes very slowly. That makes the fact that the writers still manage to come up with new ideas, and, more importantly, execute them in an interesting and funny way, all the more impressive. Even though most of the episodes are not too far above middle level for the 1990s american sitcoms, some are written in a particularly sublime fashion, and raise the general level of the season quite substantially.

Among other things, I try to follow any signs of the times changing: the 1990s were an interesting epoch, with lots of extremely new things, so it’s especially curious how all that novelty pierces through the concepts constructed on the basis of the previous era results. It is not surprising, that there’s very little of that stuff in Frasier, but it’s not a complete absence. Curiously enough, there were no mentions of the Internet whatsoever, but there were at least 2 different mentions of Microsoft (and that’s pretty much it).

More importantly, of course, is that the show is pretty funny, even to me, even after all these years. I especially liked the Thanksgiving episode (#7), the one with the dog psychiatrist (#12), the one where Megan Mullally appears (#13), the one with the radio play (#18), the one with Daphne’s american accent (#19), and couple of others. All in all, I enjoy the show quite a lot, and it’s consistency adds the comfort of a familiar continuum.

Names and figures

Veep (s.06, 2017)

In 6th season of the Veep, Selina Meyer is dangling between jobs, desperately trying to stay afloat. When she decides to have another run at the presidency, nobody gets happy about that at first, but the subsequent thread of events, including Selina’s project of library in her own name, her attempts to muscle in on real people’s achievements, and her bookwriting efforts, as well as great deal of random, leads to a sharp U-turn in public opinion about her, so by the season’s finale the idea doesn’t seem that preposterous anymore. As for the team, it gets scattered, with Dan Eagan transitioning to the role of a TV news host, Amy Brookheimer going to work for a Congressional candidate, Mike McLintock taking family leave, and Ben Cafferty joining the team of Jonah Ryan the congressman, same as Kent Davison; but none of them is happy about the new arrangement. Selina’s daughter Catherine is running the Meyer fund together with her wife Marjorie, and then they decide to have a baby.

All in all, Veep remains an excruciatingly brilliant comedy. It’s humor is bold and loud, and wonderfully subtle at the same time. The story is very well thought-through, both on the level of the arc, and in every separate episode. The dialogs are skillful and crisp. The characters, new ones same as old, are all quite deep and funny, – but along with admiration I feel more and more often slight disgust because of the ways they chose, which (inadvertently or not) imparts a very specific flavour to the show (like some national cuisines allow for cooking meat that started to turn; and some others – for eating molded cheese). It’s not a bad thing, nor good, it’s just what it is.

Groundwork for season 7 is done, and it has been scheduled for the next year already, so, I suppose, we’ll see if the fact that Iannucci no longer writes for the show had any longterm negative effects. But so far, so good.

Names and figures

Frasier (s.03, 1995-96)

In Frasier‘s season 3, Frasier falls in love (but it doesn’t end happily), finally forgives a woman who fled their wedding, almost has a thing with Rose, and reminisce about his first week after coming back to Seattle; Niles gets separated from his wife Marice; Daphne acquires a boyfriend and learns how to dance; and Martin writes a song, but doesn’t succeed with it.

The quality in general is preserved on pretty much the same level: the show is funny and interesting, but not without occasional lapses in judgement. I liked most of the season, except for a few episodes, which wasn’t an influence setting the tone. The dancing episode was quite brilliant, as well as Frasier’s affair and Niles’s divorce storylines.

The latter is especially interesting, because it deals with a very curious device that was often used in sitcoms at the time when they dominated TV comedy scene, but not anymore (mostly because there is no dominating subgenre at the moment) – the absent character. In this particular case, it’s Marice, Niles’s wife, who is constantly spoken about, but who never ever was personalized. In this season he storyline takes a rather drastic turn – the divorce, after all, is a huge deal, especially when it may remove her from the characters’ list for good; but, of course, there is a good possibility that this is only flirtation, and she would remain in main characters’ lives in one capacity or another. I suppose, the technique may have originated from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot; it can also be said, that whenever there is a persistent evildoer in a procedural drama (a maniac, a superkiller, a criminal lord), whose identity remains mysterious for the major part of it, it is a mutated variant of the same device. I wonder if it can be actually applied to a more traditional drama.

I like that a lot of the show is written by smart people: for instance, it’s from Frasier’s lines I realized that there is a difference between ‘love’ and ‘like’ (especially when it comes to family relationships), which never occurred to me before. Also, being a psychiatrist, he gives people decent, workable recommendations, even though he relies too much on the book wisdom and neglects the everyday kind of it.

P.S.: Curiously enough, this might be the project when Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan (creators of Modern Family) became friends, as they both worked as writers on Frasier for at least this season.

Names and figures

Flaked (s.02, 2017)

Second season of Flaked follows the Chip story after the unfortunate public meeting. He’s an outcast now, despised by everyone; his relationship with London is developing, but all the difficulties they encounter (no place to live, lack of money, etc.) threaten to ruin it to the ground. Dennis opens a wine-store, or, at least, tries to do it; he later engages into a relationship with his new neighbor, who turns out to be George’s daughter. Cooler looses his lease, and is forced to live in his car for some time, which doesn’t effect his cheery optimism all that much, and then he meets a woman. Chip eventually confesses to London his big secret: he still fails to repair what has never worked properly, but at least they get some clarity.

On the one hand, the overall development seems more or less plausible, especially the development of the relationship with London storyline; all the relapcing is shown rather authentically (although I believe things like this should be emphasized a little more clearly); the acting is fine, as well as the new characters. But Chip becomes more and more repulsive with each episode, as he appears not only a chronic liar, but also a person who can easily abuse somebody’s trust for merely a glimps of benefit. This character is donwright unpleasant, and attitude he provokes kind of spreads onto the show in general. Also, there’s an issue with the story digressing almost entirely into the relationship stuff, which makes it, basically, a melodrama, because most of it ends unnormally happy, and the thragic nature of the rest is a bit too tragic.

All in all, it’s not that bad, really, but it’s worse than (most of) the 1st season; and the troubling tendency leans towards soap, which is never good. Still, there’s a hope, albeit a decrescent one, that the next season would be better than this.

Names and figures

Frasier (s.02, 1994-95)

Second season of Frasier is a rather good one. The story/environment evolves, but very, very slowly; in terms of the story, only a few events were significant enough to effect the personalities of the heroes: there was certain resolution in the relationship of Frasier with his ex-wife; Martin solved the case he’s been struggling with for many years; Daphne received an upgrade and asserted herself in the Frasier’s apartment more or less definitively; Frasier, in his turn asserted himself with the radio station more definitively by renegotiating his contract; also, the Crane brothers tried to run a restaurant and failed miserably.

Of course, there’s more to that; there are stories not as far-reaching, but interesting nonetheless, and there are some not so great ones, as well; more importantly, there’s a lot of humor, and most of it is pretty good. Stories about Daphne’s room (ep. 17), the blackout (ep. 24), the triple translation (ep. 21), the restaurant drama (ep. 8), Frasier being robbed (ep. 14), contract renegotiation (ep. 22), are all really good. The one about the restaurant business (ep. 23) I didn’t like very much – the disaster is just way too symmetrical (life usually includes amounts of chaos here and there), more like geometry than paintings, didn’t seem plausible. But other than that, the season is great – funny, entertaining, low bullshit level.

Names and figures

Flaked (s.01, 2016)

Flaked is a tragicomedy about a recovering alcoholic named Chip, whose life has rapidly changed after he killed a person while drunk driving some 10 years ago, and who since then relocated to Venice, California, and gradually became a renowned member of the community by trying to help those around him. He cultivates a friendship with a guy named Dennis, who lets him live in his house, and maintains a business of making stools, though not a very successful one. When a new girl starts waitressing in his favourite restaurant, Dennis immediately fells for her, but so does Chip, and though he tries to keep away from her, the chemistry between them soon becomes indisputable. Also, the era of new technology comes to Venice in the form of large Internet companies, as well as real estate developers, which arouses resistance reaction in the community, and, because Chip has certain connections (his famous and wealthy ex-wife is in a relationship with one of the key developers), he manages to overthrow the redevelopment project, – or does he?

Up until a certain point, the show was great, even amazing. The story is simple, yet deep enough to be interesting; the characters – well-elaborated; story turns – curious and quite unexpected. The atmosphere, and well as the whole environment mutation premise, is savoury and rich with ingredients; all in all, it was pure pleasure to watch it.

But then came the finale. The last episode spoiled everything. First of all, it introduced the final story turn, which turned out to be so spectacularly trite, I felt it like a personal betrayal. If not for this ultimate-truth-that-threatens-to-ruin-everything bullshit, even hero’s selling out (which is the second bad thing about this episode) wouldn’t have been all that disenchanting, but 2 of them combined feel kind of like you’ve been eating in a nice restaurant, and every single dish was perfect, so you dig into the last one, not expecting any foul play, and suddenly it’s a piece of tofu, or something equally terrible. And the worst part: there was no need for either of those things, they weren’t exactly driven by the story, but added simply for the purposes of intensification. Sadly, that miscalculation ruined all the previous hard work.

I’m still going to see the 2nd season, though: for one thing, it’s not that large, and also I’m curious as to how would they extricate themselves from that mess.

Names and figures

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