Category Archives: comedy

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (s.13, 2018)

Thirteenth season of Always Sunny is, like always, without a cross-cutting theme or plot, but rather a collection of separate stories, which vary in their ingenuity and quality of writing. In the first episode Denis, who left the gang in the previous season, returned and exiled Cindy, who temporarily replaced him in the Paddy’s pub. Charlie’s wife left him after having sex with the doll of Dennis. The gang smashed the escape room. Deandra flew to LA to an all-women conference, and tried to beat the Boggs record on her way. The gang was forced to sit though the sexual harassment seminar after Paddy’s got into Shitty list. Frank got himself a new car. The gang solved the bathroom problem. A clip show was composed. The gang visited the big game – Super Bowl finale, – all, except Charlie, who stayed home alone. Finally, Mac found his pride and came out to his father.

As it has always been, the show is very nasty, sometimes too much so, and at the same time it’s pretty funny – although, sometimes not enough to compensate the nastiness. Almost all the episodes are rather typical, except for the Super Bowl double episode, the clip show, and, perhaps, also the Mac’s episode. Of those four the most brilliant is the one with the clip shows: it starts as an ordinary (in general, not for this particular show) episode of flashbacks, when the heroes reminisce about the good moments of their past, but quickly grows to be much more than that. It’s the only one in this season that I can call a work of art without a smidge of a doubt. The other three mentioned are just very good, and the rest are simply good.

One thing is certain: the season is consistent with the general line of the show, although it might have gotten a tiny bit harsher – but that’s really hard to tell. And the quality of the stories was more or less even; there was nothing weak or dubious.

The execution is pretty much as it was, no surprises here. The acting is pretty great – again, within the limitations and requirements of the concept.

All in all, it’s a pretty great entertainment, but it won’t be to everybody’s linking, which can be extrapolated to the show in general, of course. I haven’t noticed any particular signs of wearing out – at least one more season the guys can handle without any problems. Can’t say that I’m looking forward to it, but I’m definitely not going to skip it, too.

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Survivor’s Remorse (s.01, 2014)

Survivor’s Remorse is a comedy show about highly successful basketball player Cam Calloway and his clan as they move from Boston, their home town, to Atlanta, where Cam has been offered a contract. The series follows Cam, his sister Mary-Charles (aka M-Chuck), his uncle Julius, his cousin Regie and his mother Cassie, in their daily challenges of clean and abundant life. In the first season, besides the introduction to the family, themes explored include domestic abuse of children, impact of the past on the present and how much one would be willing to pay to keep it away, a PR stunt that turns into something actually significant (a dying kid wish routine), country clubs as the embodiment of social acceptance, homophobia in religion, sportswear contract, visits from the troubled friends seeking help, and so on.

This is a specific kind of comedy, or, maybe dramedy would be a better term in this case, that deal primarily with rich people problems. Entourage and Ballers could be called this show’s siblings without stretching it too far.

Unfortunately, the show doesn’t offer anything actually interesting, not in its first season, anyway. The main storyline is rather trite; the vertical stories are also not very original, and some of them send out questionable messages (like the one with children beating). The humor is also quite mediocre – on top of not being a hilarious kind of comedy, it’s not too amusing, as well. There can be found an occasional funny scene here and there, but overall it’s far from amazing.

The execution, on the other hand, is rather great – I mean, it’s a highly professional work of american televised cinema, with all the technical aspects being in their rightful places. The acting is pretty good as well, although in the light of story not being anything outstanding, this doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

Generally speaking, the show is okay – barely. It’s fine as a one-time entertainment, but it is also very likely to be forgotten immediately after. I’m gonna see what is next there, but so far I’m pretty skeptical.

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Baskets (s.03, 2018)

In the 3rd season of Baskets Christine tries to run the rodeo with the help of her two sons, but, because she doesn’t have any business acumen, she quickly goes into overdraft with the expenses and also upsets her relationship with Dale, whose advice, often quite sane, she tends to ignore. Early in the story Chip goes off to find Eddie, the former owner of the rodeo, who becomes a part of the team, and even moves in into Christine’s, who also helps him with his drinking problem. Chip has a lot of trouble finding clowns, and Dale makes some unfortunate decisions as well, specifically with the horses. As bad as they were going, things become even worse when Christine gets a strange idea to host an opera night at the rodeo; while the event itself goes relatively well, save for the finale, Dale becomes extremely upset on account of not being appreciated. He even sues his mother for his losses, and makes her to transfer the management of the rodeo to him exclusively. Christine goes to Las Vegas for a conference for business women, where Martha puts some sense into her, and upon her return amends the relationship with Dale to some degree. She then comes up with an idea to film a commercial, and makes Ken and Dale compete, which ends in Dale running off after Ken slaps him in the face. He later returns with a bride named Shannon; in the finale the family of Baskets and Ken’s family both go to a rented cabin, where things escalate to the extreme. In the intertwining storylines Martha holds two relationships at the same time – with a married guy and with a tracker, both of which end on the day she turns 50; Chip abandons the french cloon routine and works up another persona, Gil Pickles; Christine meets a pastor from the Korean church next to the rodeo. Although turbulent, the season ends on a positive cliffhanger, when Ken proposes to Christine.

The story in the 3rd season develops logically with several curious excursions, all justified. The quality is more or less as great as it was in the first two seasons – the characters’ behaviour is in line with their qualities and peculiarities, their relationship evolve as they would’ve in real life, etc. – in other words, the narrative is as good as can be expected, plus some parts of it are warm and gentle, while others are prickly and somewhat distressing, reflecting reality and mixing in the right proportion so that not to deter or bore the viewer. The humor is nice enough – there were a number of funny situations, although in general the mood is more reflexive than hilarious.

The execution shows stead improvement – it was pretty great from the get-go, but it gradually becomes better with certain aspects, such as with the Chip and Dale being in the same shot. The acting is great, especially that of Galifianakis and Anderson (Christine).

All in all, the show shows admirable consistency and generally sticks to the format. Sometimes it’s pretty funny, but mostly it’s adorable and a little sad. I enjoyed it quite a bit, can’t wait for the next season. Highly recommended.

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Strangers (s.02, 2018)

In the 2nd season of Strangers, Isobel and Kim move to New York City. They want to live together, and are looking for a place, while living at Kim’s aunt Brooke. Isobel works at Le Playground, a daycare and entertainment center for kids and tries to write. A hunt for an apartment turns out much more difficult than estimated, plus, Kim gets a view on a great room at her friends’ place, and so they decide to part ways, at least dwelling-wise. Isobel keeps looking by herself, until someone suggest that she did the same thing she pulled in LA, only the opposite, i.e. to live temporarily at various place she’d rent via AirBnb. She does just that, and in addition that gives her experience and material to write about, which becomes her entry into an actual writing job, even though not very well paid. While working with kids she meets a girl named Mari, and they start going out: Mari is a married woman, but she has an understanding with her husband Mario, whom she cherishes very much, but more like a brother now then like a spouse. This strange relationship evolves naturally over time, and eventually some irresolvable issues come to the surface cause a real tragedy to emerge between them. At the end of the season, as if an additional catalyst was required, Isobel catches a break in the form of a job offer, which would require her to go to Europe for several months. // Over the course of the season Isobel meets a number of new people, some of whom become her friends, including Samir, a homosexual teenager with father who is too concerned with his son’s safety; Billy, the composer, who only started doing music seriously in his late 50s; Robbie, Isobel’s coworker; Milo, another Isobel’s coworker and, for some time, her lover; Andy, one of Mari’s friends, who becomes Isobel’s friend also; and others.

Quite an amazing journey, I have to say. In its second season the show grew tremendously and became a real deal, not just some semi-amateur webseries, but a real show, and truly great one at that. In a lot of ways it reminded me about Girls, but, of course, Strangers has its own, very distinctive voice.

The story the develops over the course of this 2nd season is very rich, heavily saturated with emotions and drama, but also with humor. It’s a consistent and reliable tale of human relationships on the shaky and ambiguous turf of the 21st century. It extremely well written, with incredible dialogs and awesome characters; what’s even more exciting is the network of relationships between them, for it is intricate by at the same time plausible.

The execution is pretty much flawless. I didn’t notice anything that might’ve required improvement – the show is clear and light, and very tasty. The acting is perfect.

I enjoyed it tremendously. As it sometimes happens, I felt a little bad on account that I’m sitting on my ass not doing anything of value, when people out there are creating such fascinating things as this show, but I perceive it only as another confirmation of the Strangers’ astonishing quality. Highly recommended.

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Baskets (s.02, 2017)

In the 2nd season of Baskets Chip wanders the land, occasionally jumping on a train, until he meets a group of travelling and homeless entertainers led by Morpheus. He stick with them, which even results in a conflict, when one of the standing members of the group, Trinity, leaves because he took her place, basically; until he sees the dark side of the group, i.e. breaking and entering and drug abuse – they barely manage to get away from the police at some point, and soon after that the group disassembles after sudden death of its leader. Chip gets into prison and is compelled to call Martha about it; and because Martha doesn’t have any money, she tells Dale, who in his turn tells Christine. Christine comes to Chip’s rescue, puts bail and then stays for the trial; Chip gets community service, because it was his first offence. While being there Christine meets Ken, father of another member of Morpheus’s group, and they kind of hit it off. After Chip’s return, both brothers stay at Christine’s, but not for long – they engage in a huge fight, virtually ruining the whole interior, and so Christine kicks them out. Chip goes on and squats in the vacant rodeo, at the same time trying to take off the ground his clown career by making Martha looking up gigs for him. On a Costco party she invites him to, he meets an actual events manager, and becomes her client; and she indeed provides him with some work. And then Christine decides to fly out to Denver, where Ken resided, and though everything goes pretty good for her, during her absence her mother suddenly dies. The whole family gathers for the funeral; at this point Chip finds out that the career of Logan and Cody made a twist when they’ve been fired by the Chemical brothers; he calls Penelope, who manages to find another employment for them. Mima leaves Christine everything she’s got (on account of which she gets in conflict with her brother), so she finds herself in front of a choice about what to do with those money: at first she gets the idea of investing them into an Arby franchise, but then Ken asks her to move to Denver, and she reconsiders.

In its second season the show is firmly on what seems to be a right track. The story is interesting, with great twists and overall logical development; the characters, new as well as old, are great; the dialogs and the writing in general are amazing – Krisel and his team did an absolutely wonderful job. There is no drawback to speak of, and there is not even a hint of that somewhat awkward atmosphere that besmirched the show in the beginning of the 1st season.

The execution is pretty much perfect – at least, I didn’t  notice any wrongdoings on the technical side of things; on the contrary – some scenes were solved rather beautifully. The acting is quite amazing as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the season a lot: it’s consistently clear and strong, with lots of highly engaging attractions. Recommended.

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Strangers (s.01, 2017)

Strangers is a tiny Facebook-produced webseries about a girl named Isobel, whose relationship with her boyfriend crashed when she slept with a girl. He left, and she decided to sublet a room in her apartment on airbnb-like service. On top of her working as an assistant to a popular mommy-blogger, she now has to figure out her sexuality, and she gets to meet a lot of strangers who come to stay with her. Each episode of the show is dedicated to one such renter – a couple on their honeymoon trying to reconnect sexually; a wannabe movie producer; a feminist minister; etc. – each of them enriching Isobel’s life with something entirely new, but also getting something from her as well. She also has a friend named Kim; at some point she meets a guy named Jake, but her connection with him ends up being a one-time thing; later on she starts dating a girl named Hayley. This last relationship gets pretty serious, but then Kim decides to move to New York, Isobel gets fired, and evicted – all happening more or less simultaneously.

This is a really nice show – not so much a laughable type of comedy, but more like a comedy of life thing. There is a number of amusing situations, but all in all it’s a drama with a touch of existential search. The small stories, as well as the stem plot, are very well thought-out – they are interesting, engaging and modern, meaning each of them dives into some matter very relevant to our times. A lot here is based on emotions and personal relationships, but it never goes in the direction of melodrama; it well-balanced and exceptionally well-written. The characters are lively, picturesque (not nothing too extravagant), and definitely three-dimensional.

The execution is really great. Frankly, I didn’t really expect for the show to be so nicely done – it’s a full-fledged professional cinematic work, with all the elements and details in their rightful places. The cast is smartly chosen; all the actors are doing a truly great job.

So, generally speaking, this is a very worthy series to watch – light, richly flavoured, not soapy at all. Highly recommended.

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Baskets (s.01, 2016)

Baskets is a sad comedy about a guy named Chip Baskets, whose sole desire in this world is to become a clown. Already in his 40s he signs up for a clown school in Paris, ‘which is in France, which is in Europe’, but, because he cannot speak a word of French, he gives up soon enough. He comes back home, to Bakersfield, California, and brings with him a french girl named Penelope, who agreed to become his wife for a green card. Upon return Chip becomes a rodeo clown, which doesn’t pay very much, but he holds on to it nevertheless. He meets Martha, an insurance adjuster, who for some reason finds something attractive in Chip and sticks around. And so he leads a sad little life, unappreciative of the growing friendship and in conflict with the rest of his family, which includes his mother Christine, soon to be diagnosed with diabetes, his twin brother Dale owner and principal of a local college, a couple of adopted twin siblings Cody and Logan, successful DJs, and, well, his unloving wife Penelope. He aspires to flourish in the art of clowning, but has no idea how to do that; yet he moves forward in life, getting a tiny bit wiser with every step.

This show requires some getting used to; I was rather skeptical about the first several episodes – Chip struck me as an awkward person with way too many delusions about the life and himself, which is not a very attractive combination, especially considering that the humor here is far from ‘hilarious’. But the further it went on, the greater grew the depth acquired by the story, and the more profound and touching it became.

Over the course of the story you get to know the characters pretty well, and in some point of that process you kind of start to care about them; it doesn’t happen fast, but once it settles, you suddenly start to realize that the life the characters are leading is not only sad (sometimes pathetic), but that there is a place for beauty, however small, and genuine emotion there. That the characters, although deeply flawed, are human and do posses curious personality traits that may even be attractive at certain angles. Turning to metaphors, this show is like a unpresentable, feeble flower that no one gives a second look as it grows, but that turns into a strong and beautiful plant.

The story all in all is quite interesting, and develops logically; there are no implausibilities, no stretches. The characters are three-dimensional, not stereotypic at all, even though it might seem so in the beginning. The dialogs are great, as well as the situation.

The execution is a solid, professional work, nothing much to talk about. The acting is very good, – and that is an additional treat, because most of the cast members are pretty fresh to the eye, and some are of non-convetional character type.

Generally speaking, this is a great show, not so much a comedy as a tragicomedy; it takes some time to appreciate it, but once you’re there, it’s a smooth and enjoyable ride. Highly recommended.

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House of Lies (s.05, 2016)

In the 5th and final season of House of Lies Marty and Jeannie gladly share the worries about their baby with each other, while working different jobs at the same time. Jeannie rocks as the CFO of a big pharma company and enjoys the privilege to boss Marty and his employees around, for now they are working as her consultants. She also dates a guy named Marc, and they seem to share deep affectiion towards each other – that is, until Marco decides to use their relationship for his own jumpstart and files accusation of sexual harassment against her. Jeannie loses the following battle and gets fired, after which she returns to K&A. Even before she does, Marty gets approached by Skip Galweather, who conveys to him an offer from the Cohl Brothers to buy out the company. At first Marty rejects the proposal, but after he finds out that his ex Monica is the primary candidate for the buy out in his stead, and upon consulting with Jeannie, who gets tired of the sort of life they’ve been leading, rejoins the race. Pretty much everything in the following development of the season relates to the process of making the company more and more desirable thus raising its value. Before the grand finale Marty & Co: hire Ron Zoble to run their day-to-day office operation; try Ayahuasca and reach the other side transformed; pitch an idea of a party boat ran by the Dushkin brothers; expose the fake black guy; marry the weed business to big tobacco; and ensure the longevity of the most popular boy band on the planet. Doug dates a girl whom he met via DnD, and who turned out to be a head of a huge company (and later became K&A’s client); later she makes it so that Doug gets to deliver a TED talk. Clyde re-connects with his former classmate, who works with a prospective candidate for mayor, and gets drawn into the idea of political consultancy himself, although in the end decides to stay put. Eventually it turns out that K&A is losing the race, so Marty decides to go truly big and sign not just some company but a country. He remembers that Ron Zoble has a Cuba contact, and together with Jeannie and the original pod they initiate this final dash to the finish line. But Monica proves to be more resourceful that could have been expected; what’s worse, once they all arrive to Cuba, they realize that all their knowledge is not applicable to this place, that everything about it is different – so much so, in fact, it makes Marty and Jeannie truly embrace the place and, as a result, themselves, and through that changing their lives.

Sadly, this is the last season of the show – and it’s pretty obvious that it could’ve went on for a while. But somebody decided otherwise – probably because of the dropping ratings (the most common reason for such decisions). What’s good about it, that did not happen suddenly, which gave Carnahan and his team an opportunity to alter the story so that its finale in the last episode of the season would seem natural and normal. They were successful about that: even though the finale is a bit too sweet and nice, the overall implementation of the story is gradual and smooth.

I really liked most of the side-stories, especially those about drugs; the story with DnD does not touch any strings in my soul, but that’s perhaps only because I lack corresponding experience – I’m pretty sure for the players it still looks quite good.

As usually, there is a lot of funny in the stories of this season, although the overall mood of the narrative is close to tragic. Be that as it may, it is still incredibly interesting to watch – the common plot, as well as the vertical plots, are all very engaging and fun.

The execution bears no difference from the earlier installments of the show. There are freezings, and there are 4th wall breakings, and it still looks great. The acting is quite amazing as well, even though some of the casting decision doesn’t sit with me 100%.

All in all, this is a tremendous season of a tremendous show, which proved to be exceptionally consistent from beginning to the end. It’s a beautiful and powerful tragicomedy with tons of wonderful features on all levels of implementation. Highly recommended, all 5 seasons of it.

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The Guest Book (s.01, 2017)

The Guest Book is a semi-anthology comedy show about a country resort and one of their houses in particular – Froggy Cottage, – whose guest write down their stories in a guest book. The first season includes such stories as the one with teacher Tim and his wife getting some rest from their newborn; parents of a groom trying to convert his wife-to-be into their religion; the guy trying to impress his boss; an ex-porn star getting to know the daughter of her boyfriend; a scientist staging a live experiment meant to help Alzheimer’s patients; a witness protection situation gone wrong; a guy named Adam trying to win over a girl from his work; a couple of squatters, one of whom is trying to rid another from drug addiction; and an Amish boy on Rumspringa. At the same time the show has a number of permanent characters: an elderly couple watching after the cottages; a doctor living next to Froggy Cottage, who is in struggle with his ex-wife over their son; a police woman, who set sights on the doctor, and employees of the local strip bar, who earn most of their money from blackmailing the guests; they are connected with each other through several intertwining storylines that develop over the course of the season and culminate in the finale.

I gotta say – I had my doubts about the show, even after first couple of episodes it didn’t seem all that interesting to me. But as the common storylines kept on unfolding I grew to love the series, and now find it rather charming. The format is cute; the mix of anthology and serialized story is refreshing; most importantly – the characters, their relationships with each other, and the story that joins them all into a unified environment, are of pretty good quality.

The show is mostly just amusing, although occasionally pretty funny, too; but it is definitely light and quite uplifting all through-out, – it feels nice. I enjoyed watching it quite a bit, especially considering the impressive cast. The execution is also really good – some of the techniques and devices used were implemented very nicely.

All in all, this is a worthy comedy, with lots of great features (one of the best is the music, by the way), which surely could lighten up anybody’s day. Recommended.

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House of Lies (s.04, 2015)

The 4th season of House of Lies is pierced with the theme of Jeannie being pregnant: the season acquires a particular quality being because of it and ends with her giving birth. Marty gets sentenced to 6 months in prison and his firm almost vanishes entirely – all the employees are now gone except for the members of the original pod. But the hope is not lost yet: in prison Marty makes a very useful acquaintance – the head of the tech giant Gage Ellis Hightower also serves a minor sentence for tax evasion; upon release Marty works hard to close this deal, as it would open a world of possibilities for his company. Even though the relationship between him and Jeannie is basically over – Marty expresses openly a wish for Jeannie to leave the company as soon as the Hightower deal is done – the whole pod has the shared goal of getting back on their feet. They make it so that Ellis gets back with his former engineer Maya Lindholm, notwithstanding the fact that they hate each other’s guts. As a result of their work, the price of the Gage’s share reaches a highly desired level of $200, for which K&A should get a very hefty bonus; but Ellis decides not to pay, and Marty has nothing else to do but to plummet his shares back into the dirt. However, the initial success proves to be enough to make the juices flow in the right direction; the company acquires a brand new customer list, but more importantly – they become interesting to Denna Altshuler, a white knight investor and Marty’s fuck buddy, who infuses the company with lots of cash. But she also wants to control the decisions made Marty and his colleagues, which Marty expectedly doesn’t like – the two of them fall apart pretty quickly, but even that doesn’t prevent Marty from signing up a bunch of wealthy companies. And though his relationship with Jeannie gets much better by then, she still accepts an offer of a CFO position in a large company. In a parallel story line Doug looses his wife after she checks out with all his money. Later he and Clyde compete for the attention of a young tech girl named Kelsey – eventually she goes with Clyde, who appears to have genuine feelings for her. Kelsey also comes up with an idea for an app, which the three of them develop together, and in the season’s finale decide to launch by themselves.

Same as before in its 4th season the show demonstrates enviable consistency: the common storylines pierce it through-out effectively holding the narrative together, and all the storypieces are interesting to watch. Ellis Hightower was obviously inspired by Elon Musk and, possibly, Jeff Bezos, although there is a ton of differences with both of those personalities. Denna Altshuler is a very interesting character. The relationship between Jeannie and Marty are exceptionally well-drawn; given the preconditions the process could not have been any less gradual, and also could not have ended with anything other than warming up – but it was just as painful and difficult as happens in life. Doug’s giant mistake (that, in the grand scheme of things, might have not been a mistake at all) was a pretty nice development; and his attempts with a colleague and their failure was an exquisite touch. His rivalry with Clyde over the tech girl demonstrated the qualities of both of their character’s as obvious as it gets; interestingly enough, Clyde turned out way less superficial than he lets the world to see. Clyde’s history with his father and its ultimate finale was a pretty powerful move.

In general, the story develops in an orderly fashion, with lots of attractions and curious twists, with fascinating new characters and so familiar old ones. The quality of the story remains on the same dizzying height preset by the first season, and the writing standards do not seem to be getting lower any time soon.

As for the execution, it’s still amazing. There was a lot of cases of freezings that we grew to know and love, and it still looks awesome. The acting is extremely powerful as usual. The story evolves, while the quality of everything else remains where it was, for it’s already wonderful enough.

All in all, the show keeps on being mind-boggling, remarkable work of cinema. Still – highly recommended.

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Ballers (s.04, 2018)

In the 4th season of the Ballers, Spencer and Joe extend their efforts to California, where they buy into a company specializing on extreme sports – Sports X, whose CEO Lance Klians has his own ideas of how to handle business. At the same time, following the request of Jason, Spencer pursues a deal with a teenage boy, who is supposed to be really good at football, so much so that every company in the sports business worth mentioning is competing for him. However, Spencer has mixed feelings about the state of California, because his older brother committed suicide there a long time ago. This emotional anguish makes him easily enraged, which compels him to be overly aggressive about the deals. Because Lance doesn’t want to play by the new rules, Spence and Joe fire him from his own company, and it takes them a significant amount of time to restore it to the competitive state – this part of the business mostly falls on Joe’s shoulder, and he does really well there. Spence in the meantime tries to marry Q with the USC, so that he could purchase TV rights for the TV channel that was part of Sports X, but didn’t get any traction. Things gradually escalate, and Spencer ends up suing one of the most powerful sports organizations in the US – NCAA. To spare his company from the possible losses this war may incur, he resigns in the finale, for the actual struggle to take place in the next season. Ricky, who officially retired, decided to come back, and begged Charles to take him in, and Charles even agreed, but then Ricky confessed taking steroids, and their newly acquired friendship faded away. Charles, who became a general manager of a team, faced some difficulties adapting to his new position, but eventually figured everything out. Vernon donated a million to his old school.

I thought about this long and hard, and I think I finally figured out what is wrong with this show. The core problem is that it’s about a person (mostly Spencer, but also Joe and some other minor characters) fighting the society – some parts of it, anyway, like other companies or organization. There little to no internal struggle, no real inter-personal drama. Also, no matter what hardship the heroes are going through, we know they eventually win, because in this type of story it cannot happen any other way. And another also: even though the heroes could be swayed sideways by their emotions and stuff, we know that eventually they would come to their senses and do the right thing. All this features combined make Ballers shiny, but shallow series, not really worthy of spending time on. Perhaps, it’s exactly this collection of qualities that make it so much like Entourage.

Of course, the show looks very good – it has a decent budget, so all the technical things of the execution are handled by professionals. The acting is also pretty good, although with a story like this it doesn’t count for much.

All in all, I don’t think I will be wasting my time on this stuff anymore.

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House of Lies (s.03, 2014)

In the 3rd season of House of Lies Marty works hard on developing his own shop, at first on his own, because Jeannie stayed at Galweather-Stern, same as Doug. Following a period of detachment, Marty and Jeannie came together again and came up with a mutually beneficial plan of maintaining two huge corporations – Free Range Foods on Marty’s end, and Colossal Foods on Jeannie’s. The deal was supposed to keep playing out for a long time, but then the Rainmaker got reinstated as the head of Galweather, and that compelled Jeannie to make a powerful move of different nature – she convinced the Colossal Foods to devour the Free Range, which was significantly smaller, and then carried them over to Kaan and Associates as a complemental gift. She also brough Doug along. Clyde, who executed a nasty betrayal at the end of season 2, grew to hate working under Monica almost immediately; the aggressive atmosphere that she created inside her pod eventually forced him to turn to drugs. Later he came up with a plan to sign the McClintoc media empire by reinstating Marissa (who also had a drug problem) as its head, and then bring it over to Marty as a peace-offering – the plan sort of worked, and Clyde joined his old pod. The better part of the season, however, is dedicated to the Dollahyde case. Dollahyde was a large clothing company founded and managed by two childhood friends – Dre and Lucas, – the latter of whom had ties to organized crime. Dre wanted the company to grow, and he saw Lucas as an impediment to that perspective. Marty worked hard to come up with a way to force him out of the company, but nothing worked, and so the things eventually progressed to ultimate measures. In the middle of all that Marty and Jeannie finally actualized their mutual romantic feelings for each other, but that, unfortunately, did not last long: driven by the desire to get a deal with the Department of Justice Jeannie informed them in secrecy about certain inconsistencies in Dollahyde, which led to full-fledged FBI investigation of Kaan and Associates, which, in turn, led the deal with playing the Foods against each other to the surface, much to Marty’s sorrow. Against the background of all that, Marty’s father Jeremiah started dating a younger woman by the name of Chanel, and Roscoe got involved into a confusing relationship with Lex, a boi born as a girl.

If it is even possible, the show got better than before. I mean, it was pretty much perfect from the get-go, but this season is especially delicious. The primary intrigue – the one with the Dollahyde – includes elements already habitual for the viewers of House of Lies, and, in addition, some straight-out violence and deceit of a whole different level. The secondary storylines – those that worked on bringing the old pod back together, those that immersed deeper into the lives of the characters, including those of Doug and Clyde, those that created a complicated mixup with Marty and Jeannie’s relationship in the center – all are internally and externally consistent, fit amazingly well with the others, and are full of wonderful subtleties, each next more delicious than the previous. The best illustration of this is, of course, the finale of the season, in which we can see and understand positions of each of the primary forces, but we also can see and understand the arrangement of forces that brought them to their corresponding positions.

On the side of execution everything is pretty much flawless. The instances of freezings (and, naturally, explanation of the realities) became more often than in season 2, which is great, because every such occurrence is just amazing, not to mention fun. Obviously, they all are implemented with mind-boggling level of expertise. The rest of the technical stuff is also impeccable. The acting is as powerful as before, maybe even better – by all means, the story offered enough opportunities for them to manifest their talent, and all of them were used 100%.

All in all, the House of Lies as a show produces an impression of absolutely perfect work of art, and for 3 seasons straight, which is no small matter. And, of course, it’s a great entertainment as well. Still, highly recommended.

Names and figures

House of Lies (s.02, 2013)

The 2nd season of the House of Lies continues the story of Marty Caan as he gets more and more frustrated with the management of the Galweather-Stern company. After the failed acquisition and accusation of sexual misconduct against the Rainmaker, a new, interim, CEO was appointed to run things – Julianne Hofschrager, who forced the message of gender equality by bringing in a number of females to the management positions in the company. She also promoted Jeannie, although at first the promotion was just nominal. Marty was being pushed back, and felt it very acutely; which is why he started to think about opening his own shop rather quickly. The primary business deal of the second season was about helping out a Las Vegas casino; the pod (which also included Tamara, one of the newly acquired closers and Marty’s college friend) came up with an idea about marrying online gaming with an established casino brand – throughout the season it got ping-ponged between two rivals, Mr. Pinkus and Mr. Carlsen, the latter of whom was more successful, but also way less stable. This casino thing became a ground for a complex intrigue with several players acting in their own interest, Marty’s being the acquisition of a big client for his new firm. Working covertly for quite some time he also managed to take some other major clients as well, including US National Bank. Jeannie was let into the secret from the very beginning and promised to go with Marty, even though he position at GS was gradually becoming more firm. Doug and Clyde were not informed about the deal, – presented to them on the final stages it became an utter surprise for them, and virtually forced to secede from Marty altogether. One other crucial influence of the season was that on the night of failed merger Marty and Jeannie both got so drunk and high they completely blacked out what they were doing together; they remembered later, of course, but kept making an appearance, because neither of them had any idea of what to do with it. Monica went though a sober period in her life, during which she also dated a girl. Marty’s brother Malcolm came for a short stay to help him look after their father. Roscoe eventually came back to Marty’s. And, on the bright side, Doug met a girl named Sarah through online dating, and married her in the season’s finale.

As before, the story is extremely tangled, which makes it hard to state it in a single paragraph – many nuances got left out. The important thing to know is that the complexity notwithstanding the season is beautifully balanced and includes apart from comic moments some pretty deep, sometimes even dark, excursus into existential matters. This time not only with Marty and Jeannie on the forefront, but also with Doug and Clyde as well.

As for the comedy, there were quite a lot of amazing findings, but my favourite is definitely the episode #4 with Matt Damon playing Matt Damon. Shortly put, it’s mind-boggling and totally hilarious.

The execution is as perfect as before, with the only difference, perhaps, being a fewer cases of 4th wall breaking and complete absence of freezings. Perhaps as a means of compenstation, some of the episodes (including the aforemantioned Matt Damon’s one) are constructed in a bold, fresh, original manner, different for each of them. The season’s finale is particularly curious in that respect, as in many others.

The cast is wonderful, and their acting is absolutely amazing. Don’t know what else to say, except maybe that Kristen Bell was particularly great.

All in all, this is a fascinating show with many and many an example of fantastic work on all possible levels of show-building, and I highly recommend it. It’s delicious.

Names and figures

Amazing Grace (s.01, 2017)

Amazing Grace is a tiny webseries about a little girl named Grace, who has lost her father a while ago, and now in every tough situation she gets into consults her inner image of him. The first season of the show, filmed and published in 2017, consists of 5 episodes with 28 minutes of video across them. Each episode is dedicated to some situation from the life of a normal teenager, such as sleepover with friends, or the necessity to perform on stage, or the necessity to use public bus to get home from school.

The show is positioned as one for the children, and that is quite true: on the one hand, it has this lightness to it that is characteristic to all kids shows, which is a completely normal thing, and on the other – it sort of teaches its potential viewers how to proceed in various life situations that might be considered difficult by those lacking life experience. There is little merit to the story from the standpoint of an adult – it’s just not very interesting, but it would definitely be a good thing for children and young teenagers as it may be beneficial to their development.

As for the execution, I found the duo of Grace and her father pretty good, even though a bit unbalanced in the beginning, which made it seem a little weird; however, later that sensation dissipated. Everything else is quite great, including the acting of the main heroine, Grace – she definitely shows a lot of promise.

All in all, this is a nice series, especially for the children, that won’t be very interesting for grow-ups, unless they would watch it with their own kids.

P.S.: The 2nd season has been commissioned in 2018, and several episodes have already been published; I, however, will not be watching the show further for aforementioned reason.

Names and figures

House of Lies (s.01, 2012)

House of Lies is a tragicomedy about a high-profile management consultant Marty Caan and his team, Doug, Jeannie and Clyde, as they all work in the Galweather consulting firm, the 2nd top ranking in the country. Their business is, as Marty puts it himself, to convince the managers of enormous corporations that they need to hire consultants to make their business model better. (Almost) every episode is dedicated to one such case: as it usually goes, the team takes off on Monday and goes to some distant city or town, and comes back home on Thursday, celebrating yet another victory more often than not. At the same time, each of them, being a human being and all, struggles with multiple problems in their personal and/or family lives arising from exactly the same features of character that allow them to be so successful at what they do. Marty has an ex-wife Monica, who works in the #1 top ranking consulting firm, with whom he shares unofficial custody of their son Roskoe (who is a genderfluid kid); they occasionally sleep with each other, because the chemistry between them is so powerful, but really Marty has no warm feelings towards his ex – he considers her totally narcissistic and incapable of humane behaviour. During his visit in New York Marty meets a young strip dancer April, who later comes to Los Angeles (which is Marty’s base), and with whom he then proceeds to have a genuine relationship. Jeannie has a complicated personal life: as do others, she too sleeps with random people a lot; at some point it turns out that she has a fiance, an heir to some great fortune, whom she been hiding from her colleagues; her engagement, however, does not prevent her from fooling around with one of the top firm’s consultants – Marco by the nickname The Rainmaker, which eventually blows in her face. The plot of the first season revolves around one of Marty’s jobs that span out of control: while being in New York on business, he gravely insulted Greg Norbert, a CFO of the huge corporation they’ve come to rescue, which later compelled him to advise the CEO to create an internal team of consultants instead of hiring 3rd parties all the time – obviously, Galweather was chosen to become the core of said team. And though, it would’ve enriched most of the people concerned, for Marty it would’ve been the opposite – he would’ve lost his job without a possibility to work in the field for at least several years, which was a total deal breaker for him, so he applied a great deal of effort to sink the bargain: in cahoots with the Rainmaker her managed to remove the current CEO of Galweather, but it turned out that Marco plays only for himself. At the same time Monica started proceedings to get full custody of Roscoe, and also managed to ruin his relationship with April. Burdened with all that, Marty faces the abyss.

The first season of the show is totally brilliant. The story is interesting, very complex, and literally packed with twists, turns and dramatic situations. The only thing I could possible challenge Carnahan with is low detalization of Doug’s and Clyde’s life (they both seem like different kinds of clowns at this point), but honestly, it’s not actually a big deal as pertaining to the density of the story, and might’ve made it worse (or not). Anyway, it’s pretty amazing as it is. All the storylines are internally consistent, develop in a logical fashion and intertwine with each other creating a perfect patchwork. There are as many funny moments as there are tragic or dramatic situations – in this respect, as well as in the amount of scandalously bold events, the show resembles Californication (everything else is different, though).

The execution is absolutely great. Not only that, the show also employs a number of techniques that are original and well-implemented – the most notable of them is time-freezing combined with breaking the 4th wall – truly, the level of technical mastery is something that should be studied in film schools, so mind-blowing it is. I cannot overstate how impressed I am by this one feature of the show – and it should be mentioned 1) it’s not the only thing that makes The House of Lies a oustanding work of cinema; 2) it lies in perfect harmony with every other element of the show.

The cast is totally smashing: most of the names (and faces, obviously) are rather fresh and new, but all are exquisitely selected to fit in their corresponding roles (also, a lot of them are very beautiful). The acting is excellent – as every other piece of the show’s execution, this one is close to perfection.

So far it has been a great pleasure, and I’m really glad I discovered this show for myself. Hope it would remain like this in the following season as well.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.04, 2014-15)

The last season of The Exes, that was finished prematurely, features a bunch of different stories, none of them very large. After Haskell blurbs out the words of love, he goes on a date with Nicki, and everything goes pretty fine, but the she sleeps with a random dude, and such is the way a story gets killed. Later Haskell and Nicki behave normally around each other, as if nothing ever happened. Later still Haskell comes up with a startup called Pee Harmony, and Nicky becomes the sole investor; the startup gets sold for a lot of money, – Nicki goes travelling, and Haskell enjoys wealth for a brief period before he looses everything. Holly finds out that she forgot about a pre-booked venue she wanted to get married in, and, instead of taking her advance back, she decides to get married in 6 month. She desperately goes through all the men she knows, and a bunch of them she meets for one time only. Near the end of the designated period she starts dating a congressman, and he even goes forward with her wedding plan, but then she gets taken aback with his overwhelming schedule, and calls everything off. Instead of looking for another guy, she decides to marry herself – an idea everybody around her consider weird, but eventually buy into it nonetheless. She gets through with it, and after that settles for friendship. Eden decides she wants more from life and goes to a law school. Stuarts discovers that he is in fact a terrible cook, but, in pursue of his dream, sells his dental practice and buys a restaurant, in which Holly becomes his partner. However, he gives up the idea of being also a chef, and settle for just management. Phil continues to be a successful sports agent, and as such gets invited to play a part of an agent in a movie opposite a big star – naturally enough, they start dating, but later Phil decides that such a life is not for him. Nicki (who is much less present in this season) comes back from her travels and brings a French girlfriend, which, however, does not last very long. The season’s ending is dedicated to Haskell, who finds out that his ex-wife is re-marrying, realizes that he still has feelings for her, and wins her over in the finale.

Perhaps, the weakest season of the show. The stories gradually become less and less plausible; the humor becomes more and more questionable; and the writing in general acquires absolutely unnecessary qualities of sentimentality and pretentiousness.

The utterly odd idea about marrying to a self gets an entirely separate place in the list of this season’s irregularities. Even though it was sort of used with effect, the writers still failed to completely smooth out its weirdness – on top of which it is also rather ostentatious. Frankly, though, it’s only one of the many inconsistencies this season is filled with.

The execution is normal – there is nothing particularly outstanding about it, but nothing unprofessional either.

It won’t be a terrible idea to watch it, for it does have some entertaining potential, and not one of its components is all that bad; but I get why it was shut down, or, at least, one of the reasons for that decision. All in all, if you were to skip it, while watching all the others, it’s won’t be a big loss.

Names and figures

This is Desmondo Ray! (s.01, 2017)

This is Desmondo Ray! is a tiny series about an animated man named Desmondo Ray living in the world on non-animated people. He lived in the house with his father until the fire destroyed it and put the father in the hospital. He loves peeing in the rain, he hates magicians and smell of burnt hair. He’s 33 and 2/3 years old, and more than anything he wants to find love. He even made a dating tape – but nobody reacted to it, except for some pranksters. One time he met Clementine, his father’s nurse, and felt some connection between them. And then one day a girl named Chelsea called him, and they went on a date.

The concept seems a bit weird at first, but then you kind of grow into it – for it was ‘strangers in the house’ in the 2nd episode. The character – who is the basis for all the tiny stories – is quite cognizable: if you’re not that kind of person, you are likely to know at least one. He is weak, and kind, and soft, and non-threatening, even though he looks weird. His desperate quest for love is also something rather common – and yet the show is not at all banal, or hackneyed. In fact, thanks to the concept and the execution it is refreshingly original.

The animation, most of which is masterfully embedded into non-animated reality, is pretty great – I like how vivid and at the same time not flashy it is. There is a great deal of nice humor saturating the story – it’s not intrusive, truly funny in places, and also rather original.

All in all, this is a highly unusual cinematic project that is also interesting and amusing. I highly recommend it.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.03, 2013-14)

In the 3rd season of The Exes, which is as long as the two previous seasons together, Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Paul because of the mistrust that appeared between them on account of Holly’s too close friendship with the guys. She goes through a number of boyfriends over the course of the season, including a very young man, who was looking to find a substitute for his mother, her old professor (in every sense of the word), and a french guy, who treated her as a hooker. She also was promoted to a senior partner in her firm. Phil was fired from his job when he made a similar request, and went on to open his own company. Him and Eden started dating each other – secretly at first, and later in the open, – but that didn’t last very long, and soon they went their separate ways, both playing the field. Stuart’s sister Nicki divorced her husband, who turned out to be gay, and became a significant part of her brother’s life: at first she just crushed at his place for a short while, later she briefly worked as his assistant, but then found her own job as a bartender, and settled nearby. Haskell became very fond of her. Also, Stuart dated a devious woman named Sabrina, and later met her twin sister, an angel in the flesh, but blew it. Eden inherited a dog that was larger than herself. Holly went into on-line dating (after the push from the guys). Haskell reconnected with his ex-wife, who got into an accident and lost her memory. Stuart got a bad Yelp review and wasted a lot of time chasing the person who left it. Everybody attends Paul’s wedding. Phil got included in the Top 10 Most Eligible Bachelor list. Stuart said goodbye to his old house. Phil slept with a nun. Holly got sick. Phil went to the funeral of his old coach. Finally, Haskell and Phil did not get vasectomy.

This season gave a feeling that the show’s writers are able to produce only this much humor, and it will be more or less evenly distributed across the season no matter how many episodes it has. Which means, that a 10-episodes season would be generally funnier than a 20-episodes one. I mean, is generally funnier.

At that the overall quality of the show remained at give or take the same level. There are still a lot of moments that would make you laugh, albeit those that would make you only smile are more numerous, and a number of those that won’t produce any sort of effect at all have also increased. But at least the characters are still good and loveable, and the same goes to the guest stars.

The stories that last for longer than one episode kind of keep the show together, and it’s nice there were a decent amount of them, but I still wish each of them would last longer. I feel like Paul was removed from the show not because it naturally followed from the evolution of the story, but for some external reason.

The presence of Nicki, the Stuart’s sister, (played by Leah Remini) was significantly increased in the latter half of the season to compensate for Kristen Johnston’s absence – it was about that time that she was diagnosed with some horrid disease and had to receive treatment for it; at that it seems like she took her commitment to the show pretty seriously – you would barely notice that she’s gone, and in a number of episodes her illness was written into the show (although not always very subtly).

My general impression is that though the quality is still very decent, it is slowly declining – maybe dissolved in a large amount of screen time, maybe for other reasons. By the end of the season the cheerful disposition of the narrative was kind of giving me a headache, which ones again makes me think that doubling the number of episodes was probably not the best idea.

Names and figures

Distance (s.01, 2018)

Distance is a tiny webseries that explores the subject of long distance relationship. A young man named Sam comes to Los Angeles for a short time, and meets there a girl named Emily. They spend a week together, gradually falling in love with each other, and then he returns home, to New York City. Both decide that this was more than just a week-long fling, and continue communicate remotely, via Skype, FaceTime, and other messengers, experiencing all the bad and all the good such type of relationship has to offer. Emily studies farming and eventually gets a scholarship, which implies that her plans to come to New York are now should be reconsidered. Sam works as a photographer, but doesn’t get much traction with his independent work. Three are 6 episodes overall, with 5 of them being divided into Sam’s and Emilie’s perspectives. The final episode tells about their time together, when Sam pays a surprise visit to Los Angeles, and Emily has to tell him about her news.

Distance is a pretty curious independent project that was created with a lot of heart and great skill. From the standpoint of professionalism of execution, it’s slightly imperfect, which fine, considering the lack of experience of the production team (at least the key persons there, including Dobrenko). The story is good, genuine, and relatively strong, although I can’t say that is very original.

I do like how it’s done: there were some pretty interesting and well thought-through techniques. The acting is pretty great – both main heroes are clearly very talented people. I loved the secondary characters, especially on the Sam’s part. The humor is nice, albeit a little too soft to my taste.

All in all, this is a nice, engaging, and somewhat cute comedy that is more amusing than funny, with loveable characters and realistic stories. Recommended.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.02, 2012)

The 2nd season of The Exes is built around two big things. First is Eden’s pregnancy (Kelly Stables’s actual pregnancy was written into the show) – it becomes the central story is several episodes, and significantly touches upon most of the others. Second is the return of Paul, Holly’s romantic interest, in the latter half of the season, and his turning into her boyfriend. Apart from this, the guys visit a shrink and determine that Holly is the core of most of their inter-group problems; everybody find out that Stuart has a huge dick; Holly goes on a practice date with Haskell, and gets a footgasm; Stuart tries to be friends with Chris’s buddies; Chris loses Stuarts dog Shopen; Holly wears a special bra; Chris dates a girl from the same building; Holly starts looking for a baby donor; the guys hire a house maid, about which Haskell gets especially happy; the guys score some weed and cook a special pastry; Holly’s sister Jill comes to visit; Stuarts gets hit at by a famous tennis sportsman; everybody go to Chris’s boat party, where Eden finally has her baby.

So, the second season of the show is pretty much just as ingenious and funny as the first one. Plus, a specially made into – although, frankly, it’s too straightforward to my taste.

The stories and the cross-cutting narrative lines indicate that the writers’ team has quite a lot of creative strength to produce engaging, attractive writing. The show is not only entertaining, it also has some pretty interesting, clever devices used, so it would be useful not just for those looking to unwind and relax, but also for wannabe writers specializing in comedy.

The execution is good quality – professionalism of the american television is combined here with decent crew, where each member know what he or she is doing. The acting, of course, is quite great as well; the second season features quite a lot of interesting guest stars.

All in all, so far so good. The Exes might not be the most genius comedy, but it is rather good.

Names and figures

The Hunted: Encore (s.01 & 02, 2016-17)

The Hunted: Encore is a tiny webseries about a group of vampire slayers in New York City fighting off the supernatural riffraff. In the first season Megan meets Dan and Adam, and after some struggle they join forces in order the defeat John, the most powerful vampire of the city, who got into the habit of producing his own clones. Although they managed to defeat the guy, in the process Adam got bitten and ran off with last remaining John’s avatar. In the second season Adam and John, who became vloggers, summoned so-called The Queens of the Damned (aka the Trampires), a group of 5 female vampires, to help them against the slayers. The slayers in their turn, got a reinforcement in the person of Bob, Megan’s old friend. Through double-crossing the slayers equated their chance, but in the final battle some of the vampires, including John, Adam and one of the trampires, managed to escape. Oh, almost forgot – it’s a musical, so the heroes sing songs all the time.

This is a really great webseries that exist mostly on the enthusiasm of its creators. It is a narrative type of show, although the story here is not the strongest part of the composition: on the one hand, it is pretty predictable, and also moves forward is awkward jerks; and on the other, it’s not that important. It’s a comedy, that is intended as a mockery of vampire shows (and films) stereotypes, which purpose gets fulfilled perfectly. It is pretty funny; the songs are great; the execution is surprisingly amazing: that is, the cast consists of super talented people, and they do a wonderful job; the camera and all the technical things are implemented on a good professional level; and the direction is also highly professional – at first there were some weak moments, such as with fights, but they improved rather rapidly over the course of the show.

All in all, it’s a very strong independent project that has a great entertaining quality to it, and all the makings of a splendid work of cinema. Highly recommended.

Names and figures

The Exes (s.01, 2011-12)

The Exes is a sitcom about Holly, a successful divorce attorney, and three of her ex-clients – Stuart, Phil and Haskell – to whom she rented rooms in her second apartment situated just across the hall from her own flat. Each of the four is on his/her own stage of adaptation to lonesome life; over time they all become friends, who care about each others’ interests and sensitive spots. The show starts off when Holly introduces Stuart, who just went though a painful divorce, to Phil and Haskell, who have been roommates for quite a while, but haven’t formed any kind of relationship. The presence of Stuart becomes a catalyst that activates the natural process of habituation; the guys, and Holly on top of them all, are forced to learn about each other’s lives and form bonds. During the 1st season Stuart tries hard to get over his ex-wife Lorna; gets rid of his clocks collection; goes to the restaurant that is about to close down; and loses money on gambling thanks to Haskell. Phil (who is an agent and also a playa) tries to sign up a jockey; is forced to go to the dentist; and tries to date Tatiana the model, who only speaks Serbian, through Stuart. Holly accidentally hooks Stuart up with an escort; fails to get a date with a homeless guy named Bob; lands her clothes to Eden, her assistant; plans her wedding with non-existent boyfriend for her mother’s sake; gives Paul, her boss, a heart attack; dates Kevin the basketball player; ad goes to the lawyers’ gala, where he ex-fiance is supposed to be. Haskell dates a virtual girlfriend Rebecca; buys a coffin; runs a driving school; and steals all the swag.

So, to make it short, this is an alright comedy with a good share of decent jokes, almost as many empty jokes (those that are not exactly bad, but don’t work as was intended), and nearly no bad humor. I suppose, this makes it a little above the average.

The stories are good enough – there’s nothing genius about them, but they are well-written, well-devised, and pretty interesting to follow. The organizing principle of the group is relatively original, and at the same time works pretty well (which is not always the case).

As for the execution – Johnston’s manner of acting is not everybody’s piece of pie (I, for example, am okay with it, although some of her grimaces seem a bit unpleasant to me), but other than that it’s all pretty great. All the cast members are good at what they do, and it seems like the group has some chemistry between them. On the technical side of things, it seems to be implemented professionally enough.

All in all, this show is a nice entertainment – not brilliant, but fun (and funny) just the right amount. Names and figures

The Golden Girls (s.02, 1986-87)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Names and figures

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

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

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

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

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The Golden Girls (s.01, 1985-86)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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