Tag Archives: chris o’dowd

The Crimson Petal and the White

7263Before I read this book, I heard rumblings that it was unsatisfactory. This seemed weird, because the front and back cover were filled with critical praise. And it’s a lovely long book, set in the 1870s. My novels are set in the 1870s, so I was excited to read this one.

The book spans, in Dickensian fashion, nearly 900 pages and begins with the lowest dregs of society (whores near St. Giles) before taking the reader through the middling neighborhoods to the upper echelons (ladies enjoying the London season, the newly created ‘suburbs’ of Notting Hill). Though there are many characters, two are the most important.

William Rackham. At university, he was a dandy and an intellectual. As he grows older, he is intensely dissatisfied with his life. His wife is mentally ill and hates him, his father will no longer pay his expenses if William does not begin to be responsible for the family business, Rackham Perfumeries, and he’s had no great success in his attempted literary career. He is mediocre to the nth degree. Until he meets Sugar.

Sugar is a prostitute. Her mother roped her into that life when she was a tween, and it’s all she’s known since. She is unique for a whore of this era, because she is (self-)educated, and she knows how to manipulate men emotionally as well as physically. She is thoroughly unimpressed with William when she first meets him, but he is utterly taken with her. She hates men and is working on a novel about a prostitute (named Sugar) who disembowels the most pathetic of the species.

After their first night together, William decides to turn his life around. To stop dithering and to take over the family business, to make a large fortune, and to spend a good deal of it on Sugar. Within a few weeks, he’s paying for the privilege to be her only client. His fortunes continue to rise with her careful stroking of his ego (and his other parts), and her advice on matters of business and etiquette. A month or so later, he has moved her from her dingy whorehouse to her own private abode.

There’s a lot going on in the book, and a lot to wrap your mind around. William’s wife, Agnes, was raised to be the female ideal. That means she is pretty, naive, and plays the piano. It also means she has no knowledge of sex, and doesn’t understand why she bleeds every month. She thinks it’s a demonic affliction. She has similar feelings toward her baby girl.

Sugar, on the other hand, has grown up with experiences of everything vile (death, disease, poverty) and everything sexual (she’s been a prostitute since she was 13, and has a reputation for never saying no to any sexual act).

In the end, as you might expect, both female characters inspire far more empathy than William. William is a blundering, selfish, disloyal villain of a man. His least likable quality is that he feels he’s accidentally pushed into these situations where he hurts the women in his life.  But he’s not. He chooses to be a complete ass, and attempts to explain it away with any available excuse. Pitiful.

The narrative style is engaging, and the writing is good. Technically good. I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t over or understimulated to the point of distraction. The characters were realistic and relatable, very fully developed. (WordPress, why do you insist that relatable is not a word when it is a completely cromulent one? Why are you now insisting that cromulent is not a word?)

So what is keeping me from writing a glowing review? Two things.

1) The Ending. It was nonexistent.

Agnes departs the story about 70% through, and we’re never entirely certain what happened to her. We get the beginning of a denouement between Sugar and William, but then we’re left to fill in the blanks ourselves. At the end of the book, I couldn’t help wondering what the real point had been.  Why start the story where it started and end it where it ended? What was this story saying?  After 900 pages, you don’t want to feel that way.

2) The strange and constant fixation on bodily fluids.

Here’s the thing about fiction. You’re taking a huge data set (all things you know about the world) and you’re editing. You’re taking out what’s unimportant, and leaving in only what furthers your story. This can mean you take out the guy standing in line at the grocery checkout. Or it can mean you leave in the checkout line, when the guy has a complete meltdown because the lady in front of him has more than 10 items in her basket and how dare she.  It depends on the story. But there are a few almost universally omitted things.  Like trips to the toilet.

How many times do Jane Austen’s characters mention a chamber pot?  Did anyone from the Great Gatsby stop to pee? What about the Hunger Games? How on earth did they go to the bathroom while attempting to not be killed?

Why do writers omit it? Because it detracts from the story. It’s not important, it’s just something that has to be done. It only makes its way into the story if it’s suddenly significant. The shower scene in Psycho, the heinously awful scene in Trainspotting that nearly made me sick, and I can’t even think of a third one.

In addition to detracting from the story, it also conflicts with the purpose of the characters. They are simulacra; they are not human. The purpose of a book’s characters is to help us understand humanity, not to accurately capture humanity. You don’t need to know that the character sneezed (unless the character is sick), or that they have something stuck in their teeth (unless they’re on a first date!). Their humanity is exposed only when it is in service to the story. The rest of the time, it isn’t present.

This author, Michael Faber, does not approach literature this way. He is somewhat obscenely fascinated with body fluids. There were many descriptions of the sound, smell, and sensation of someone (usually women) emptying their bladders or their bowels. There were many mentions of the slippery dribbles of semen down women’s thighs. There was a particularly grotesque scene depicting a woman having a miscarriage on a public toilet.

The worst part, for me, was descriptions of the red inflamed skin of the vulva of a young girl, because she habitually wets the bed.

I’m not a prudish person, in general. I’m not overly fond of raucous humor, but I am not the type of person to pretend I don’t have a human body. And a human body sometimes means unfun things, like bogeys and belches and menstruation. But this was too much for me. It made me uncomfortable, by the end of the book. And it served absolutely no purpose, that I could tell. The miscarriage was obviously a ‘plot point’, but is there some reason I needed to know that the maid scrunched up her nose at the smell of diarrhea on the 3rd day the governess was in the house? No.  Did I need to have my attention directed to the vulva of a young girl? No.

It was creepy. It was unnecessary. I’m not in favor of censorship, I’m not saying this should be taken off the shelves. But…I wouldn’t recommend reading it. It’s more scatological than it is meaningful. Although if you have a fetish for urine or feces, this might be just the book for you.

There is a miniseries. It came out in 2011 and stars Chris O’Dowd plays William Rackham.

the_crimson_petal_and-the_whiteThough I’m sure they’ve removed much of the strangely biological portions, I’m still afraid to watch it. I adore Chris O’Dowd, particularly since Moone Boy, and since I saw him on Broadway in Of Mice and Men. I’m not sure I can handle watching this. I’m working up my courage, but no promises.

 

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Moone Boy, series 2

After what seems like ages, the second season (series) of Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy finally aired in Feb/March.

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I was so excited for this premiere, because I think Moone Boy might be one of the most brilliantly funny shows in years. And the subject matter–an 11-year-old boy growing up in the North of Ireland–is not something we get a lot of on this side of the pond, so it’s all new and exciting to us.  Well, Boyle isn’t an exciting town, but the accents are lovely…

Technically, this isn’t available yet in the US. But it’s coming back to Hulu on April 24th. If you haven’t seen the 1st season yet, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s only ~6 episodes, so you have plenty of time to catch up before series 2! My bf and I watched the entire 1st season in one day, while we were at home with our sick dog.  And then we watched the entire season again, about 3 days later.  It’s that good.

The show, as I discussed in my series 1 review, is about the Moone family. In particular, it follows young Martin Moone, and his imaginary friend, Sean Caution Murphy (O’Dowd).

Moone-Boy-2But it also spends time on the rest of the Moone clan. Martin’s parents, Liam and Debra are sarcastic and adorable. Martin’s 3 sisters, Trish, Fidelma, and Sinead, each have their own strong characters, even though they aren’t given as much screen time. Trish is a Cure-obsessed misanthrope. Sinead is a tomboy and enjoys putting makeup on Martin while he’s asleep, in the hopes that he will wear it to school the next day accidentally (it works at least once). Fidelma, or Delma, is newly-pregnant with the child of an idiotic young choir-leader at their Catholic church. So that’s fun.

The real stars of the show, though, are Martin, Sean, Martin’s best friend Padraic (pronounced Poor-rick), and Padraic’s imaginary friend, Crunchie Danger Haystacks. A particular highlight for me in series 2 was Padraic and Crunchie dressed up as Marty & Doc Brown from Back to the Future:

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I love Back to the Future. Fun moments like that make me wish I’d had an imaginary friend as a child. I feel like I may have missed out on something.  Series 2 brought the show into the ’90s, with a slightly taller Martin who attends a new school.  With the ’90s come some major cultural events in Irish popular history. The first episode of the series covers the (ultimately unsuccessful) Irish football team at the World Cup. One episode has Martin and Padraic build a raft to float into town.  Instead, it floats the other direction and they stumble upon an abandoned island, with just ‘Island Joe’, possible apparition, as its sole inhabitant. Travelers invade a field near the Moone house, and Martin gets his first girlfriend as a result. Liam re-ignites a rivalry with his old handball opponent, this time on the golf course:

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Ostensibly, they’re both playing for pride and maybe for Debra’s heart, but come on. Of course Liam wins her heart, because he is really wonderful and adorable and the bank manager is just kind of icky.

While I won’t say series 2 is as brilliant as series 1, it’s still funny, clever, and has the rare quality of making you feel a true affection for almost all the characters.  I mean, Desi is not a person I would enjoy being with in real life, but I warmed to him a bit. My crush on Liam continues to grow, and I just want to snuggle Martin and Padraic because they are adorable.  I am not a snuggler by nature, so that should say something. Again, I cannot recommend this show enough; if you haven’t seen it, see it! It’s a wonderful combination of different themes and tones, and has a rare quality of realistic nostalgia–capturing the boredom or idiocy of a family vacation or a flawed scheme among friends.

Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy

tumblr_mpqc98RAda1r9a32bo1_500This show premiered last September in the UK, and I never heard of it until last week. It’s not airing on US TV, but is on Hulu. But I watched the entire first season in one day, and I feel robbed for not having known about it earlier! It’s the best thing I’ve watched in months. Good news: the second season/series starts in the UK next month, and a third series/season has already been ordered. More Martin Moone, yay!

The story revolves around young Martin Moone as he grows up in late ’80s Ireland. Chris O’Dowd plays Martin’s imaginary friend.

SNF21TV2D-620_1587704a If you’re wondering why I’m talking about this Irish show with an Irish cast on my British blog, it’s complicated. He’s Irish, but he and the shows co-creator have lived in London for a long time. He’s an actor I’ve written about before, and I think it’s okay to talk about what he’s doing that’s not set in the UK. Plus, I love this show, and really want to talk about it.

If you’re not wondering why I’m talking about an Irish show on my British blog, let me remind you that they are separate countries. Yes, really separate. You need your passport, and different money, and everything.

Anyway, back to the show. In addition to Martin and his imaginary friend Sean Murphy, there is the rest of his truly awesome family:

The Moone familyLiam is a clueless, exhausted Dad who I now have a secret crush on. Mom Debra is a smartass. Daughters Fidelma, Sinead, and Trisha are the good one, the tomboy, and my newest hero. My hero is the one in The Cure t-shirt, if you couldn’t guess. She’s like a really snarky, Irish Gabby Hoffman.

Poor Liam. One of the daughters asks him if ‘Mam has any cotton pads’ and he awkwardly asks if she means feminine sanitary pads, and said daughter responds ‘Yes, Dad, I want to wash my face with a tampon.’ Eye roll and doorslam. Ah, teenage girls. I remember being one, and am so glad I didn’t have two others in the house with me.

Other gems include Sinead finding out about menstruation. “What do you mean the moon is going to make me bleed? I’ll make the moon bleed!”

What I found so interesting about this show is the idea of a totally sweet, innocent 12-year-old boy with a cynical world-weary imaginary best friend. on his birthday, Martin watches his dad roll out his (wrapped) present, which looks a lot like a bike. Sean Murphy’s response is to say: “No! Surely they haven’t gotten you something decent. It must be a bicycle-shaped sock”.

Later, in church, Sean Murphy says “Church is no place for imaginary friends.” It took me a few seconds to get the second meaning there. It’s a lot of snarky little lines like that, they all made me chuckle.

I was about two episodes into this show when I decided that I loved it. Also, when Martin Moone grows up, I want to marry him. Adorable.

Other great characters include Martin’s best friend Padraic (also adorable!) and his imaginary friend, Crunchie Danger Haystacks, played by Johnny Vegas.

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Also, Steve Coogan makes an appearance as the single most disgusting human being that’s ever lived (outside of a Darren Aronofsky film)

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In addition to hilariousness, the show is actually really poignant. It reminded me a bit of Freaks and Geeks meets Roseanne, but Irish. Lots of coming-of-age themes, humiliating for nearly everyone, but still with a hint of respect that comes from looking back on such a terrible time in everyone’s life. Also, the music is great. The theme song is called ‘Where’s Me Jumper’ and I need to have it on my iphone ASAP.

I have no idea how I’m going to get a hold of the second season, but I will. I need more of this show in my life.

Family Tree

Family TreeChristopher Guest’s quirky show, starring Chris O’Dowd, premiered in May on HBO. The season finale was this month. The show will appear on BBC Two this summer. No word yet on a second season, but I’m hopeful!

First of all, if you’re not familiar with Christopher Guest‘s work, you should be.  Do yourself a favor and see at least two of the following: A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, This is Spinal Tap, and The Princess Bride.  Okay, in The Princess Bride, he was only acting and not one of the creators, but you should still see it if you haven’t yet.  It’s a great movie.  I think it’s important to be familiar with Guest’s work and its inherent eccentricities. Otherwise you might spend your time wondering why one of the main characters of this show spends all of her time with a foul-mouthed monkey puppet on her hand.

monkey and christopher guestBut if you know Christopher Guest’s work, then you don’t worry about that and you just enjoy yourself.

Quirky, eccentric, peculiar, etc. How many synonyms can I go through in this review? Let’s get it out of the way now: everyone in this show is utterly strange.  Chris O’Dowd’s character, Tom Chadwick, is the only reasonably normal one in a long list.  His sister, Bea, is the aforementioned puppeteer.  His best friend Pete works at the zoo and …I haven’t a clue how to describe him. Not terribly bright, for starters.  Fond of strange hats.  Inappropriate in almost every situation.

pete-stupples-1024His father has a Moldovan second wife and a penchant for terrible ’70s British sitcoms.

He lives above a man who runs a ‘bit and bob shop’. In other news, I have a new career I’m working toward, if I can just get enough bits and bobs… In later episodes, Tom travels to America and meets an even stranger assortment of creatures. Ed Begley Jr. plays a libertarian conspiracy theorist, Carrie Aizley is his hippie wife who sells flavored enemas.

The show follows Tom, who has recently lost his job and his girlfriend, after he is given a trunk of old family heirlooms.  He proceeds to track his family line back several generations, for reasons only he seems to understand.  Nothing in his family history is particularly glamorous so far–his most notable ancestor was the back half of a pantomime horse.

The journey through the past is interesting, but really it’s just a vehicle to get Tom into the most ridiculous situations and conversations one can imagine.  There were Civil War reenactments, morjgm-b781130906z.120130621144503000g861ej272.2a visit to a Native American Reservation, farming in rural Derbyshire, and the tales of the best Jewish cowboy in silent movies.  I found myself watching with a mixture of incredulity and bemused giggles.  It’s always entertaining and surprising–very rare for TV shows, in my experience. Not everything is a ‘joke’ with a punchline and a rimshot, but the humor is more subtle and less forced.  I found Chris O’Dowd to be the funniest of the cast, but Monkey was my boyfriend’s favorite.

There are some really big stars on this show, mostly from other Guest movies. In addition to Chris O’Dowd (who is becoming quite famous after being in Bridesmaids and Girls), there are Ed Begley Jr, Michael McKean, Guest himself, and Fred Willard, plus other cameos.

I can see why this wouldn’t be the best show for some people.  In my mind, they’re the kind of people that really love Two and a Half Men, and don’t find TV shows with a laugh track annoying at all.  But for anyone who enjoys a Christopher Guest experience, this show does not disappoint.  Sometimes, I think there are too many characters without enough to do in any given episode, but for the most part the large cast is balanced quite well.  The main three characters (Tom, Bea, Pete) are all very fleshed out and loveable. I really hope they give it at least one more season, as I want to see what happens next.

 

Summer British TV

Summer and Winter seem to be when the best of the British channels finally hits our shores. This summer is no exception. Just because Doctor Who is over, and Downton Abbey is months away, don’t despair! There are a lot of premieres in Summer and early fall. Starting in chronological order:

Family Trees

Family TreeChris O’Dowd’s new show on HBO started last month, and I have really enjoyed it so far! It’ll be running every Sunday through early July. Chris plays Tom, a somewhat depressed, slightly pathetic man living in London. His great-aunt dies and leaves him a trunk of family paraphernalia. He gets interested in his history, and goes about tracing his family lineage by finding out more about the objects in the trunk. It’s a very British show, so far, but later Tom does take a trip to the states to find out more about one branch of his family. It’s a hilarious show, very self-effacing and extremely odd. Tom’s sister, uses a monkey puppet to voice all her strangest and most offensive thoughts. She has conversations with this monkey all the time; she goes everywhere with the monkey. Tom also has a best friend, Pete, who is dumb as a post, and his dad is played by the always hilarious Michael McKean (of Clue and Spinal Tap fame). The show relies on awkward and embarrassing moments to make you laugh, which is a theme with British TV I think. Probably because awkward situations are the biggest fear of most English people.

Here’s a trailer (though I must warn you that it plays up the American part of the show far more than has happened in each episode yet):

In the Flesh

In the FleshThis is a miniseries that started June 6th. I’m not a zombie person, okay? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but that’s about it. Okay, I’ve seen Zombieland. And 28 Days Later. And Shaun of the Dead…okay I’ve consumed more zombie books/movies than I thought. Still, it’s not a concept I’m particularly attracted to. On the other hand, this is only a 3-part miniseries, so I might as well give it a try. It aired in the UK and March, to generally positive reviews. These zombies are presented as a socially-marginalized minority, have been diagnosed with PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome), and have been rehabilitated with medication and cosmetics. It sounds vaguely like True Blood‘s approach to vampires. At least In the Flesh won’t be just another scary movie a la Dawn of the Dead. I’m willing to give it a try. My only qualm is that I’m not very good with gore. Even in comedy films like Shaun of the Dead, I’m horrified by the sights and sounds associated with…zombies eating human flesh. Particularly while said human is alive. But it’s on BBC America, so it can’t be too bad. Here’s the trailer:

On June 23rd, the second season of Copper premieres.

Copper trioI was on the fence about this show throughout the first season. The three characters I liked (conveniently pictured above) are all coming back, so I’m going to give it a try (new motto for me?). This show always seems to be on the edge, teetering on the precipice of me not wanting to watch it anymore. I dislike the violence and blatant corruption, but I like the fact that it is set in the 19th century, and I think it always has potential to be a really great show. I’m hoping this year, now that it is a bit more established, it will reach that potential. Here is the trailer:

Also, on June 30th, the twentieth season of Top Gear premieres in the UK. No word yet on BBC America’s air dates, but last season they were only about a week behind, so hopefully more info will be forthcoming.

In early July, PBS will begin airing Endeavour, a prequel to the long-running Inspector Morse detective series. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Inspector Morse, so this wasn’t on the top of my Must-See list. But, I had second thoughts when I saw who they cast as Morse:

EndeavourAdd to the obvious appeal of…whoever this guy is…it’s still set in Oxford. Oxford is so picturesque, and so quintessentially English (it’s what we think of in America when we think of an English village) that I could watch just about anything that takes place there. Plus, I have a certain weakness for incredibly smart, rail-thin detectives, even when they are not played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s only 4 or 5 episodes, so I’m going to go ahead and watch. I hope not much will be lost on me for not having followed the original series closely. Trailer is here:

The same night Endeavour premieres, the biggest thing since sliced bread is set to hit BBC America.

BroadchurchDavid Tennant stars in Broadchurch and uses his Scottish accent, which is my favorite thing in the world. This show was a huge hit in the UK this Spring, and I’ve been waiting anxiously for it since. A second series has already been announced.

It’s a whodunnit murder mystery set on the Dorset coast. In addition to Tennant, Olivia Colman co-starred and co-produced the show, and Arthur Darvill (Rory!) also co-stars. This is at the top of my Must-See List, FYI. Trailer:

Since I will be thoroughly busy watching all of these shows, I’m glad there is a bit of a break before more begin. The next one starts August 18th. It’s called The Lady Vanishes.

The Lady VanishesPBS is airing this remake of a Hitchcock thriller about a woman who goes missing, and another who tries to alert authorities about the incidence, but is not taken seriously. Listen, I tend to think any remake of a Hitchcock film is just a terrible idea. Are they going to improve on his direction? No. Is the addition of color going to add more suspense and creepiness? No. Are there modern actresses/actors who could play these roles better than the likes of Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart? Hell no. But, this actually got pretty good reviews, so I’m going to watch and keep an open mind. I’ve never seen the original, so that should help. Trailer:

At the end of August, PBS is also airing Silk, a legal drama. Prepare your powdered wigs, we’re off to the Old Bailey!

SilkI don’t have a lot of info on this one, partially because the title is very hard to Google well. Apparently it deals with two rival barristers. PBS is airing it in 3 two-hour increments from August 25th-September 8th. Bonus-it features Rupert Penry-Jones, of Whitechapel. Less of a bonus–his character looks like a d-bag, judging by the trailer:

Next, starting September 3rd, the all important Idris Elba returns to my life on BBC America.

luther series 3You gorgeous man, you.

There’s not a proper trailer for this one yet (that I could find), but they made an ‘announcement trailer’

Judging by this video, I’m guessing the episodes for the new season will disturb me just as much (if not more) than the last two seasons. Don’t care. Idris Elba calls, and I must answer.

Last, but not least:

The ParadisePBS is airing this one on October 6th, and calling it The Paradise. It’s an adaptation of an Emile Zola novel, and was sort of squared off against Mr. Selfridge when it aired in the UK, because of the similar subject matter. The show revolves around the first department store in NE England. It looks a little more soapy to me, based on the trailer. But I plan to watch and compare. Bonus–Arthur Darvill is also in this one (briefly).

Beyond here, there be trailers:

I’m going to be a busy blogger over the next 3 or 4 months. Yay!

The IT crowd, Seasons 3 and 4

Well, I’ve finished watching seasons 3 and 4 of The IT Crowd, and I am gutted that it is over! Yes, they’re planning some sort of special sometime in the future, but it’s all so vague that I don’t really think it’s ever going to happen.

To continue my raving review from last week, I must say that this show gets funnier and funnier as the seasons go on.  As a result, the second to last episode of season four was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  Yes, it’s unsubtle, it’s a bit predictable, but it is so good and the acting is so funny, that I absolutely adore it.

On a side note, I have done a bit of research and find that NBC made a pilot of an American version of this show.  What?  First of all, why do American networks just take shows from England and make them worse, then show them here?  (Have I mentioned, they are making some shite American version of Sherlock where Watson is a woman?) Can anyone think of an example of when we’ve taken a show and made it better? Ever? Secondly, I have learned that Richard Ayoade was still going to play Moss, but Joel McHale was playing Roy?!  what.

Also, as this video shows, just like with the first episode of the US Office,they have taken it scene by scene and recreated it, but worse.  Joel McHale is great at playing an incredibly self-absorbed douche on Community, because it seems believable.  No one believes he would be best friends with Moss, or would work in the basement in IT.  You can’t just slap a goofy t-shirt on him and convince us he’s socially awkward. Not with all that gel in his hair.

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So, pretending that travesty never existed, I return to the purity of the UK version. Season three features some great scenes, including one where Roy and Moss try to hang out with ‘real’ guys by memorizing some football speak from a website called Bluffball, such as “Did you see that ludicrous display last night?” and “The problem with Arsenal is they always think they can walk the ball in”…and the two of them end up aiding and abetting a ring of criminals, after Roy has called the police on those same criminals.  After that, they learn not to try to hang out with normals. Another highlight is Roy and Moss convincing Jen that the internet is this:

After promising to be careful with it, Jen is permitted to take it to give a speech after she wins employee of the month. Jen declares how important and valuable the box is to her audience, stressing the total shutdown of modern society if anything should happen to it. Roy and Moss thinks it’s hilarious, but the audience believes her completely. When the box gets smashed, they panic and start looting the place.

Season four includes an episode where Moss becomes a pseudo-celebrity after appearing on the brainy TV quiz show Countdown, and goes to a special Countdown groupies club. The greatest episode of the season, as I said, is the second to last one, where Roy and Moss skip out of work halfway through the day and Moss goes through a bit of a rebellious phase. Moss steals DVDs, the two attempt to help defuse a bomb, and the entire department is threatened with firings.

 

I am really sad that this show is over just when I discovered it, but that’s not unusual for me. I usually fall in love with things three or four years after they’ve stopped being on the air.  Still…here’s hoping they make that special after all.

TV Review: The IT Crowd, Seasons 1-2

I started watching this with my boyfriend because he is a big computer nerd and heard good things about it  I was unsure at first, because there is a ludicrous laugh track and I hate those on any show.  Technically it’s filmed in front of a studio audience, so it’s not a laugh track but is actual laughter.  Regardless, I hate it.  But, just like with other shows, I have eventually gotten used to it.  Still, I must say I do not comprehend why a laugh track is ever necessary, or why shows should be filmed in front of a studio audience.  What is this, 1950?

Sorry, that was a slight digression.   Anyway!  Sometimes I dislike shows like this because they aren’t…the humor isn’t surprising.  Sometimes I can predict the exact punchline in sitcoms, and I find them less funny because a large part of humor is the unexpected.  The point is that once I got about 5 or 6 episodes into the show, I found myself laughing hysterically at every episode.  The humor isn’t always surprising, but it is all done extremely well.  A lot of what is brilliant about this show is the comedic timing.

The show revolves around two computer nerds in the IT department of a large corporation in London, who get a new manager with zero technological knowledge.

Roy, on the right, is played by Chris O’Dowd, who got pretty famous last year as the Irish cop from Bridesmaids. He plays your typical slacker type, complete with nerdy t-shirts, a bad attitude at work, and general snarkiness.  At the beginning of the show, I imagined he would be my favorite character. This was before I knew how amazing Moss was.

Jen, the girl, is their new tech un-savvy manager, also known as a ‘normal’. She is disappointed to end up in the creepy basement with the creepy nerds.  She thinks she belongs up on the higher floors, where the pretty, successful people are.  Jen is obviously necessary for the show, and she can be quite funny, but she’s just not as interesting to me as the other two.

Then there’s Moss, on the left.  Played by Richard Ayoade, whose name will become more familiar soon, I think.  He directed a movie last year, Submarine, which is supposed to be a really good coming-of-age type film.  I’ve put it on my queue.  Later this year, he is starring in Neighborhood Watch with Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, and Vince Vaughn.  The film has been pushed back because of the bad associations with the Trayvon Martin case in the news, but I think it is still coming out later this year.  Or maybe they have just pushed back the marketing side of things, I’m not sure.  News sources are a bit vague on what is going to happen in the next few months.  Anyway, I am hoping it will be pretty funny because, and let me be clear on this, this dude deserves to be really famous and really successful.  He is hilarious.  Moss is your typical complete and utter computer nerd.  Very few social skills.  Very few life skills, if it comes to that.  Ultimate example: He accidentally sets the office on fire and then emails the fire department.

The seasons of the show are short, so we watched seasons 1 and 2 in just a manner of days.  They’re both only 6 episodes long.  And now that I’m loving this show so much…I learn that they are not doing another season. Argh.  Season 4 ended last year, I think, and they are doing a special sometime this year, but then that’s it.

Anyway, back to my review! No more tangents.  This isn’t the sort of show with a real plot, so much so that you can watch most of the episodes in the wrong order and it won’t make much difference.  Each one is a stand-alone, and once again this is not something  I really like in shows.  But this show does it so well and makes me laugh so much that it negates all my previous feelings about the traditional ‘sitcom’.

In some ways, it resembles Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc, because it features people who do one strange thing or tell a lie, and that forces them into stranger and stranger positions to hold up their original lie.  An example:  To avoid a bathroom at a theatre where there is one of those creepy attendants, Roy uses a handicapped bathroom.  He pulls on the cord to flush the toilet and then realizes that the cord is actually an emergency handle.  When stewards rush into the bathroom to help the handicapped person within, he lies on the floor and pretends to be disabled and that someone has stolen his wheelchair.  Moss, also to avoid a creepy bathroom attendant, uses a staff bathroom.  When someone catches him, he claims to be a staff member, and is put to work at the bar.  Here’s some bits from that episode, just the first 3 minutes of the clip.

Another incident involves Jen needing someone to pretend to be her husband to fool old classmates at a reunion.  Roy is busy on a date with someone he doesn’t care for, so she enlists Moss’ help.  Then Roy, wanting to get rid of his terrible date, turns up at the reunion claiming to be Jen’s lover, and the three of them have it out at the reunion in front of everyone.

I am not sure what about this show is so funny.  It has a lot of the qualities that I don’t like in a show, but it also has brilliant acting and timing that is unbeatable.  I find with a lot of British shows like this one, Black Books, and Spaced, I grow more fond of them as the seasons continue.  By the end, I love them, whereas my first impressions aren’t usually great.  So, if you give this one a try, give it at least three episodes to make you laugh.  If you don’t laugh by the point when Moss spreads a rumor throughout the office that Jen has died…then you’re not going to laugh at all.

At the rate I’m going, I expect to finish seasons 3-4 this weekend, so expect yet another blog post discussing the greatness of this show.