Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday night funnies (and weirdos)

Damn. Busy night of TV. It's the summertime, and yet there are five different shows I ostensibly follow, including one that's airing two episodes a week until Fox gets it the hell off its airwaves. Brief spoilers for, in order, "Entourage," "Flight of the Conchords," "Meadowlands" and "The Loop" coming up just as soon as I get fitted for prosthetic nose and mustache...

God love Doug Ellin and those magnificent bastards at "Entourage." Not only did they finally give us a glimpse of Vincent Chase, working actor, but they threw in a Martin Landau-as-Bob Ryan shout-out! (For your poor people who missed it, Vince reveals that E has been reading Bob's autobiography -- titled, of course, "Is That Something You Might Be Interested In?" -- on the set of "Medelin.") That joke alone is going to buy this show, oh, at least two or three weeks of goodwill from me.

I wish they had stuck with the mockumentary format for the entire episode, as most of the best jokes (like Nicky Rubenstein trying to explain why he was bringing cocaine to Colombia) came out of that framework, while the bits that broke it (like the guys discussing the rules about who could and couldn't have sex with Sofia Vergara) could have easily been cut.

As for our first extended look at Vince acting, I thought they took the right approach, giving us just enough of a taste -- and in the middle of a movie that's supposed to be a mess -- that it doesn't matter how silly he looks in the Pablo Escobar make-up. All in all, not a bad start to season four, though I wish Ari could have been involved more somehow (maybe as part of the machinations to get Gaghan).

I have to say that I may already feel more affection for new lead-out show "Flight of the Conchords," but that's largely because I have a strange sense of humor. A character whose hobby is building a bicycle helmet that resembles his hairdo? A robot-themed music video featuring a "binary solo" where the guys sing nothing but 0's and 1's? Lyrics like "You're so beautiful, you could be an air hostess in the 60s" and "You could be a part-time model, but you'd still have to keep your regular job"? New Zealand's raging inferiority complex compared to Australia? That's my kinda show, even if I felt like the musical numbers upstaged the regular scenes in the premiere. (In other episodes, the reverse is true; of the four I've seen, none of them manages to get the balance just right.) "Tenacious D" aired during a period in my life when I didn't have HBO, so I can't do the obvious compare/contrast, but I'm definitely amused by the newbies.

My weirdness tolerance is different when it comes to dramas. When you're being weird for the sake of laughs, I'm happy, but weirdness for the sake of dramatic tension -- or, worse, weirdness for its own sake -- gets old with me in a hurry. So I'm not sure I'll make it to the end of the first season of "Meadowlands," with its elaborately-choreographed neighborhood dance numbers, its high-functioning autistic teenage fetishists, its deliberatey opaque flashbacks, psychotic cops, etc. But it's an interesting start; I'll give it a few weeks to see whether there's an actual show here or just a collection of randomness and homages to "The Prisoner" and David Lynch.

Two more episodes of "The Loop" to confirm my belief that this was a mercy cancellation. Still some funny stuff -- most of it involving Joy Osmanski, both with and without a Bedazzler -- but I watched both episodes blaming my lack of laughter on fatigue, and then I put on the "Robot Chicken" ode to "Star Wars" and laughed practically from start to finish. (It's an apples and oranges comparison, I know; I make it just to note that I was capable of laughter tonight, and "The Loop" really helped me achieve it.) Plus, I have no idea why they didn't just dump Sam's brother while they were canning the two roommates.

What did everybody else think?

19 comments:

Kurt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt said...

I was surprised that they went through the whole production of Medellin in one episode. For some reason I thought we would spend 2 or 3 episodes watching that thing go to hell in a hand basket. And why didn't Ari just fly down there himself when things were going south to help? I guess his presence would've just pissed off Walsh even more.

As for Meadowlands I'll give it a couple more episodes, but the fact that I was drowsing off half way through isn't a good sign. By the way, why did Zoe freak out like that when that girl recognized her?

And to me Flight of the Conchords was a mix-bag. I watched their stand up On-Demand and their comedy is better when it's just the songs and they aren't trying to concoct some thin plot line to connect them all.

David J. Loehr said...

Tenacious D always bored me when I tried it, but I've never been a big Jack Black fan anyway. But FOTC got me the first time I heard them, and I immediately went searching for everything I could find of theirs.

They did a six part radio series for BBC radio under the same name--it's an "audiobook" on iTunes--and it's very good in its own way. They did it documentary style, with the same actor playing their manager (but he's a different manager).

As for weird sense of humor, do you know--or what do you think of--Bob and Ray? (Demographically, I'm officially part of the Chris Elliott generation, but I was raised on his father, Bob, and never thought Chris was as funny as he thinks he is.) FOTC reminds me of their deadpan, just-this-side-of-reality vibe a little bit.

Rick said...

Outside of the songs, which were great, my favorite parts of FOTC was the discussion about whether it was the fact that Bret turned on the lamp that made the girl leave or the fact that she had dated him... for six months, and the discussion of whether or not it will be weird if Bret joins them at dinner (A: it will be weird).

Brilliant.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Kurt, though they dealt with Medellin production in a single episode, episode two suggests that post-production and other issues surrounding the movie will take a while.

And, of course, doing multiple episodes set in Colombia makes it much harder to do storylines about the awesome, bling-filled lifestyle the guys have.

Fred App said...

I wasn't expecting much from the Conchords. I thought their deadpan humor would make for the kind of show where you might say "That's funny" a couple of times, but not really laugh. To the contrary, I found myself laughing out loud a number of times, mostly at the song parodies, but also at the tossaways like the New Zealand tourism poster or the conversation about Fleetwood Mac ("Rumours?" "No, it's all true.")

It's the most I've enjoyed a TV comedy in a while.

Homertojeebus said...

Alan, I am shocked, shocked that the Greatest TV Critic in the World (tribute) is not a fan of the "D"! Get thee to Netflix and a "D"-a-thon, posthaste!
I will watch Conchords tonite.
I like that they condensed the "Medelin" shoot to one ep, for the same reason the Aquaman clip worked. When it comes to maintaining the credibility of "Vince Chase, Movie Star", less is definitely more. Plus, as Alan has noted, it allows you to notice that what makes Tobey Maguire a movie star, and say, Ryan Gosling not are mysterious indeed.
Any thoughts on summer Reality offerings? I have been enjoying "Top Chef" and "Next Food Network Star", since I am a diehard foodie. I find "Pirate Master" fascinating from a sociological standpoint, as I do with many of these types of shows. I know, you stifle a laugh. But even in microcosm, people display an amazing tendency to vote against their own interests simply because a self-declared "Authority" tells them to.

Abbie said...

Is anybody here a Peep Show fan? The girl who played Sally on FOTC also played an American love interest on Peep Show in the second season. And I might have read too much into it, but I think there was a little homage there when they did the POV shots of her.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty funny and I hope it evens out at some point. It's hard to do a musical show.

I was not a fan of this episode of Entourage. I guess if that's the only way they could have exposited the plot, but I thought it was cheesy, and not in an ironic way.

Anonymous said...

I've only seen the first season of Peep Show, but it's hysterical. And, actually, The Loop sometimes reminds me of that show quite a bit. It's too bad Fox wasn't more willing to give that one a chance. But at least Reaper looks good.

Old Man Snap said...

*Loved* the Entourage last night. The only thing that's grown somewhat tiresome is Drama's perpetual plugs. Other than that, brilliant.

Grim said...

I thought exactly the same thing abbie, leading into the "I'm not crying" song it really did seem like they made a concerted effort to go POV.

Bret LaGree said...

Per "On the NEXT episode of Entourage" once people get to see Medellin I expect Vince (in a package deal with the Medellin makeup department) to be offered the lead in The Tony Clifton Story.

Anonymous said...

Entourage was okay. I wasn't enamoured with the DVD extras style approach to the episode. It was better than nothing, I guess. At least they didn't play Journey over the explosions at the end of the episodes . . . .

TuckPendleton said...

I really dug Entourage last night...the Walsh character I always found a little grating, but last night I found the actor's portrayal hilarious, and full-on descent into madness...I thought he stole the episode. With a great assist by the costume department...

And Goldberg was great...too bad they can't recast him as an agent going head to head with Ari. That would be fun...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Entourage, but it bothered me that Drama could spend 8 weeks in the fall in Colombia- wouldn't he be filming the TV show?

I also found Flight of the Conchords to be really funny. Very clever writing, and the cell phone music video was great.

Edward Copeland said...

Flight of the Conchords did amuse me quite a bit. I do have to wonder though: Will HBO ever have another comedy that doesn't revolve around some aspect of show business?

ooda said...

Edward Copeland: They've got some Dirty Sexy Money-esk comedy in development, so I guess that's one.

But honestly, thinking back, I can't think of one that is not showbiz related, except for Lucky Louie, which isn't really much to rave on about.

Anonymous said...

As a not disinterested viewer -- I know something about film and television production, although I've never worked in it -- I also was struck by how incredibly smooth the production went. Five months, and Walsh is the only real problem? No State and Main shenanigans from the locals? No bad/inconvenient weather? I can see the point that we need to get these boys back to Hollywood, fast, but it struck me as a wasted opportunity.

Choking the DP, though -- now that struck me as very real.

Matt said...

No one seems to have mentioned the potential best thing about Entourage--Perrey Reeves (aka "Mrs. Ari") is now a regular!