Let’s talk televisuals..

April 11, 2011, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Comedy, GENRE, SPECIAL FEATURES, trailer/advert | Tags: , , ,

Prepare to laugh out loud with this bunch of lovable misfits. From the makers of Frasier and Golden Girls, this ensemble comedy has a top-class cast to deliver quick-witted, often dry and sassy dialogue. And opposed to 30 Rock, it is in a setting that all of us can relate to: family life. Included within the cast are three very different sets of families all connected by a father and his grown up daughter and son.

From top left and clockwise Haley, Gloria, Clare, Cameron, Alex, baby Lilly, Mitchell, Jay, Luke, Manny, Phil.

The traditional nuclear family is headed by his daughter, Claire Dunphy and her goofy husband, Phil. Her brother, Mitchel is part of a loved up gay couple who’ve just adopted the cutest Vietnamese baby ever. And their Dad, Jay is starting a brand new family with his new vibrant, young wife Gloria and her wise beyond his years, thirteen year old son, Manny.

From the creators of Frasier and Golden Girls, Modern Family shares the same kind of tightly written scripts where everything fits more perfectly together than origami. The writers have woven the character’s plot threads with effortless grace to set up hilarious one-liners. Catching an episode every now and again is easy;  you don’t have to worry about missing something if you don’t watch them in chronological roder. It doesn’t need to draw you in with complicated storylines that drag on forever or mysterious happenings that unravel themselves through the series. A little like the Simpsons, each episode just is.

Although rare, every now and again you get a show where everybody can watch. After Friend’s, I think many of us telly-addicts and coach potatoes had given up hope. Bit Modern Family delivers a show you can watch again and again.


Ugly Betty, Final Season (Series 4), ABC Wed 10pm
February 11, 2010, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Clip, Comedy, GENRE, SPECIAL FEATURES | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ugly Betty

Beautiful on the inside...

Last month, the somewhat inevitable demise of ‘Ugly Betty’ was announced to American audiences amid falling audience numbers and network indifference.

The news was met with some surprise, but general opinion was that the residents of Mode magazine should hang up their Manolos and close final issue. The decision to axe the show will be met with great upset by its hardcore elite following. This could get ugly…

The sad fact is that over four seasons, it has found itself a loyal following and has let its core characters develop and mature into fully three-dimensional beings – especially Betty.

She has loved and lost (Henry and spoiler alert, Matt) and has moved from her home she shared with Ignacio, Hilda and Justin to her own apartment over the hall from the brilliant double act of Marc and Amanda. She has more power in her new position at Mode as part of the editorial and boss Daniel helps her out whenever she needs that all important American (cheese alert) sitcom pep talk.

Of course the usual mishaps, mini-dramas and boardroom farces swirl around Betty and most of them are solved by the end of the episode. The tying up of loose plot strings has made the show so comfortable to watch but at a fairly swift pace, kind of the anti ‘Lost’.

Back when ‘Ugly Betty’ began some four years ago, it was seen as something of a breath of fresh air from the years of photogenic teens and botoxed women that had filled up the airwaves previously. Here was an ordinary character who wasn’t size zero, lived in Queens and, shock horror, was Latina. America Ferrera, who plays Betty, is, of course, far from ugly and possesses comic timing that could give the Anistons and Braffs of this world a serious run for their money. And that goes for style too..

Betty’s outfits have benefited from the direction of the legendary Patricia Field (she of Sex and the City fame), who has made sure her lead character always looks like an explosion in an accessories factory, but well put together none-the-less.

This season we have had: cults, long lost sons, prison breaks, extortion attempts and, best of all, drag acts taking off Wilhelmina and it’s only episode 12! Just what the remaining ten or so episodes have to offer is any one’s guess, but make sure you tune in wearing your finest poncho.

By Andrew Collier

United States of Tara, Series One, Showtime

When approaching mental illness or personality disorders, it usually is dark and filled with tragedy from Sybil to Girl, Interrupted. But Showtime’s United States of Tara

United States of Tara

Who do you think you're talking to?

is coming from a whole other direction. Don’t get me wrong..it’s still dark but with a thick layer of humour over the top of it.

Tara is a housewife with two teenage children (Kate and Marshall) and a loving husband (Max). She suffers from Dissociative Disorder giving her four alternative personalities that come out of their shells when she is stressed. They are Buck (dirty, beer swilling, red neck type, trucker), Alice (1950’s housewife who enjoys making cakes and trying to make babies with Max), T (teenage, highly sexed and energised, cheeky, bad girl) and Gimme (who we don’t know much about except that they like to pee on Tara’s Dad and are vile).

The first episode was quite disappointing, nevertheless it was easy to watch. You are spoonfed the introduction to the storyline in the first episode through dialogue that leaves no stone unturned. And her alternative personalities seem more like caricatures than characters.

But as the series progresses you become more used to the alternates and pay more attention to how the rest of the family are coping; how it affects their relationships with each other and with Tara. And as this happens, the dialogue gets funnier, wittier but also deeper. There are many raw moments that compel you to watch. For instance, Charmaine (Tara’s sister) has always resented Tara for having all the attention from their parents. But when Charmaine begins to realise how it can humiliate and ruin Tara’s life as well as everyone elses, there is a new bond.

Her grounded husband Max always takes care of her and supports her. He is the rock that their teenagers come up against with their moaning and outrage at their mother. And he is also the balancing calming force to combine with his mad wife. Kate, their daughter is the least accepting of her mother but is also in her mid-teens and so rebel and experiment are key to her anyway. If you know a teenager that isn’t appalled by their parents, you should take them to a doctor. Finally, there is their sweet, gay son, Marshall, who is in his early teens and much more accepting of his mother. Well….until T decides to cause havoc in his love life. But I won’t spoil that surprise for you.

With executive- producer Steven Spielberg and Juno writer Cody Dablo, it’s clear that this series has a great team behind them. And the middle of the show is filled with witty one-liners, credible characters and complex relationships for you to get a kick out of. Just a shame that they start and end USoT on the wrong foot.

Series two starts March 22, 2010. Here is a trailer for all – enjoy.

Being Human, BBC Three, 11.30 pm
February 8, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Clip, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, GENRE, Horror, SPECIAL FEATURES | Tags: , , , , ,

Being Human

Ain't nothing human about this crew

It’s all going on in the West Country…

You see, there’s this flat-share with a ghost, werewolf and a vampire…and it’s all set in suburban Bristol. That must have been an interesting pitch meeting at BBC Three headquarters, nevertheless, ‘Being Human’, the channel’s pitch-black drama punctuated with laugh out loud humour has made it to its second series, with a third recently commissioned.

The set-up of the show is brilliant – mixing the supernatural with the relatively mundane nature of day-to-day flat-sharing such as a minor obsession with ‘The Real Hustle’ and the drinking of endless cups of tea.

But this really wouldn’t make for an exciting hour of television, and so Being Human is packed with drama – everything from death trying to track down the resident ghost, Annie, to the attempted ethnic cleansing of so-called evil werewolves and vampires by a group of religious nut-jobs.

And so to the most important part of what makes ‘Being Human’ such  abusive boyfriend in the first series and subsequently he rents out the house they shared to George and Mitchell, the hairy and toothy ones and so the ‘Terry and June’ set-up with added blood lust ensues.

Annie is bubbly, slightly dizzy and spends the first series trying to work out why she hasn’t passed over to the other side and is stuck in her Bristol-shaped purgatory. George the werewolf is sensible, neurotic and fond of list-making, making him the Monica of the group if this were Paranormal Friends.

The third part of the picture is made up of the louch and troubled vampire Mitchell, a man trying to conquer his insatiable lust for blood whilst exhibiting a natty line in jackets.

The way that the three characters bounce off each other is fantastic viewing, and the humour peppered in the script is a welcome relief from the frequent blood-letting and dark plot.

The second series is currently half way through its eight episode run and offers up new twists every week, meaning that there is definitely life in the old werewolf/vampire/ghost (delete as applicable) yet.

By Andrew Collier

Big Love, HBO
...Just be good to me..

...Just be good to me..

When you think the American Dream – big family, nice house and healthy bank account spring to mind, right? If you multiply them by three you get Bill’s family.

Born a mormon in a polygamist compound, he is used to this way of life. But it wasn’t always this way – he was thrown out in his teens and went on to live a normal life with his beloved wife, Barbara and two lovely children. Unfortunately, Barb got sick and found out she was unable to conceive again. So, as you would, they decided to take a second wife, Nicki. She took care of Barb and the children and had some of her own.

This set-up would seem enough for any man to cope with as a lover and provider. Cue, Margene – the innocent, sexy and slightly wild daughter of a Las Vegas bar girl. These three wives love the bones off their man and take care of their family as a sisterhood – Barb being the leader.

Slightly uncomfortable for an audience that is unfamiliar with the polygamist ways, this is still strangely addictive. Lifestyle choices aside, this ever-expanding family outcast from their mormon roots have many normal issues that any unit or institution would have. We watch as they try and cope with normal family problems and all evils and sin that come from the ‘righteous’ compound, run by prophet Roman Grant (Nicki’s Dad).

Confused yet? Agreed – it is a pretty complicated storyline and I think this is where they fall short. Below, is a complete summary from youtube. I could write for yonks about all the different characters but that would take all night. You wonder if there is the need for such complexities.

Saying that, the acting is superb and the characters have many dimensions to them. One of my favourite’s is Nicki Grant, the middle wife played by Chloe Sevigny. She is prim and proper and the only wife brought up on the compound. Her behaviour is rigid and her sexuality suggests frigidity, but it turns out there is a wild side to her just dieing to get out. Secretly, she takes the morning after pills, goes undercover at the courts to help her Dad escape jail and falls in love with the very man trying to prosecute him.

If you liked Sopranos, you will enjoy Big Love. For it has all the stylised shots, complex storylines and unusual dynamics that make it a pleasure to cut yourself off from your own life for an hour.

True Blood, HBO (USA) and FX (UK)
"Delicious to taste but doesn't satisfy a true appetite"

"Delicious to taste but doesn't satisfy a true appetite"

Goodbye (and good riddance) to Buffy and Angel, we don’t need your shallow, try-hard, overacted reruns anymore. Vampires have got a whole new look with HBO’s True Blood and it’s dripping with an apt macabre and seriously steamy style. 

From the creators of Six Feet Under, this sexy new drama serves up a world where vampires are now citizens and living among us. This is thanks to a Japanese scientist creating synthetic blood called True Blood that is sold like a pack of beers in gas stations or a hot toddy in bars. Understandably, many are still apprehensive but there are the ignorant and nasty few who go that one step further.

Roses are red...

Blood is red, Veins are blue...

Based in  a small town in New Orleans, our story centres around a telepathic waitress, Sookie (Anna Paquin) who falls in love with her neighbour, a lonely vampire, five or six times her age, Bill. There are frequent murders occurring and the prime suspect is her horny, dumb brother, Jason. So she sets out to clear his name with the help of her new man.

The funny thing is, that True Blood is the real world sugarcoated in fresh blood, so to speak. It seems to reflect society with the moral issues it flags up. Such as the severe prejudice many hold against the vampires and the few that accept and protect them. V (vampire blood), the new trendy drug can take you to new psychedelic heights or repair you. So some humans will drain a vampire, just to get their fix or make some money.

The creators have combined an intricate fantasy world combined with the real one for you to get lost in. Enhanced by an above average cast and occasional slashes of timely humour, this is worth watching. Although not appealing to everybody, there are also quite a few vehemently graphic sexual and violent scenes.   But don’t get too high expectations. It’s not always that thrilling and the cliffhangers are often an anticlimax.

True Blood has already finished in America and has just been commissioned for a second series. Alas, UK viewers will have to wait until summer 2009 and that is only if you have FX Networks. Otherwise, box set recommended.

Outnumbered, BBC1, Saturday, 9.30pm
December 22, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Comedy, Impro | Tags:

Unlike America with their Friends, Will and Grace and other hits, us Brits are not known for our sitcoms. But every now and again we come up with a winner. Outnumbered focuses on your average, middle-class family called The Brockman’s.

Mum, Sue (Claire Skinner) is a stay at home mum and a part-time PA. Dad, Pete (Hugh Dennis) is a full time history teacher. They deal with their three children Karen, Ben and Jake with typical patience, tolerance and love. And watching them keep this up is a big part of the hilarity. The rest of the time they are dealing with the most self-obsessed sister of all time, Sue’s Dad who has dementia and many other obstacles in the way of family bliss.

outnumberedWhether you like children, have children or are children you will be able to identify with this family comedy. Partly improvised, it is intriguing to anyone to watch these children’s raw creativity. And the pure entertainment comes from watching the actor’s playing the parents respond. On quite a few occasions you can see them struggle not to corpse.

As good quality as The Office, it’s filled with irony and proves the fact that sarcasm is definitely not the lowest form of wit. Not surprisingly, Outnumbered comes from the creators of Drop the Dead Donkey and is just as sharp at portraying realistic relationship dynamics.

The final episode is on BBC1 on Saturday 27th December but if you want to watch the whole series, just check out BBC Iplayer.