Tag Archives: Stephen Merchant

“I Give It a Year” with Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall

i-give-it-a-yearNetflix, knowing me so well, has created a tab of British movies. I came across this one last night and, honestly, I had never heard of this movie. Was this released in the US? Google tells me it was released here last August, but I have no memory of a single commercial for it.  Anyway, I decided to watch it because a-it’s British, b-it’s set in London, c-Stephen Merchant is in it.

There are actually a lot of great actors in it: Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) and Rafe Spall (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) play the newlyweds, Nan and Josh. i-give-it-a-year-movie-poster-11

They’ve only been dating for a few months when they get engaged, and then married. We don’t even really see them before their marriage, the movie starts with a sort of ‘first moments’ montage, and then the wedding is just finishing when we are really brought into the action.

Minnie Driver (who I love) plays that friend (who hates her husband as often as she loves him) that says ‘I give it a year’.

The action switches back and forth from the first moments of their marriage (disasters aplenty–the minister comes down with a hideous cough just as he is about to announce them man and wife, and Stephen Merchant gives one of the most horrific best man speeches in human history) to many months later, when they are beginning couples therapy with the worst therapist in the world (Olivia Colman).

There are little quibbles they have with each other. Josh is too lazy to take out the trash, so he ‘compacts’ it, so that he can wait a few more days without taking it out. Nan persistently sings incorrect lyrics to songs (We built this city on the wrong damn road, I travel the world in generic jeans, etc.)

Throughout that first year of marriage, the couple is orbited by two alternate choices. Chloe, played by Anna Faris in a bad wig, and Guy, played by Simon Baker:

I-Give-It-a-Year-Simon-Baker-and-Anna-FarisCan I just ask who came up with the names for these people? Josh and Chloe are normal enough, I suppose. But Nan and Guy? Sounds like they belong in a ’50s musical about an upcoming sock hop. But I digress.

Chloe is Josh’s ex, a relentless do-gooder with almost no other personality traits that I can remember. Guy is a business mogul who immediately develops a crush on Nan. This crush is fostered by the fact that Nan hides her wedding ring when she’s working with him.

Both Josh and Nan slip from focusing on their marriage and both come very close to an affair. But the couple are determined to make it through the first year of marriage, because someone told them that ‘if you can make it through the first year, you can make it through anything’. Josh doesn’t correct Nan when she sings the wrong lyrics, and he takes out the trash when he should.

And they do, they make it to the exact anniversary of their wedding.

And then, that very night, they split up. They are so glad to be rid of this marriage that they’re almost ecstatic to get a divorce. They both run off to find their other, better matches. And these two separate new couples ride off into the proverbial sunset.

And here’s my big problem with this movie.  It’s not that it’s a bad movie, or even particularly inaccurate about the trials and tribulations of living with one person as your partner in life.  My boyfriend bites his fingernails, and it drives me completely insane. He is also guilty of the trash smushing maneuver. He’s kind enough not to point out my annoying habits, but I’m certain there are many–like me constantly asking him not to bite his fingernails, I would guess…

This movie tries to show how marriage does not always end in ‘happily ever after’. It shows you what happens after the fairy tale wedding, when reality hits.  Okay, good, I’m in favor of that.  But, in the end, when Josh and Nan break up and immediately form relationships with other people, the implication is that if you do match up with the right person, then ‘happily ever after’ is almost guaranteed. Every relationship in real life is more like Nan and Josh’s than the fairytale relationships Nan and Guy or Josh and Chloe will have.  It really irritated me to end the movie with just a simple swap and everything is fine. They haven’t learned anything, except that they’re not right for each other?  And Chloe and Guy are pretty lacking in personality. They just wait for the other two to come around and want to be with them. And then, easy peasy, they do a swap and everyone is happy and everything will be perfect from now on.

In the end, the good acting almost saved this movie for me, but since the very end was the most disappointing, it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I wish I’d liked it more, because I like everyone in it. All the hype about it being from the same producers who made Notting Hill and Love Actually...it is nothing like those movies.

Also, I found this very strange French poster for it, i-give-it-a-year-1where the translated title is English Marriage.  Apparently the French have different problems in the first year of marriage?  Maybe there was no similar idiom in the French, and they don’t cynically predict a couple’s demise while still celebrating their creation. But if I was going to predict which country is not cynical enough for something, the French would not be my choice. And why is only one of the umbrellas the Union Jack? So many questions for whomever changes DVD posters for foreign releases..

Hello Ladies with Stephen Merchant

stephen-merchant-shines-as-desperate-casanova-in-hbo-comedy-hello-ladiesI was planning to love this show from the start, because I love Stephen Merchant.  I would definitely marry him, despite the fact that he is about 1 foot taller than me, probably weighs less than me, and sometimes looks like a stick insect. I’ve loved him since the Ricky Gervais Show, and have loved all of his work with Ricky.

On the other hand, his character in this show is pretty unlikable at times.  He walks a very fine line. He’s an asshole about 90% of the time, but he does come through in the end.  Barely.

Stephen plays Stuart Pritchard, a web designer living in L.A. and trying to find a lady.  He rents his guest house to Jessica (Christine Woods), a struggling actress.

helloladies04__1381442741_93.107.148.139He’s got a best friend named Wade, who has just separated from his wife and is not doing very well.  He’s obsessed with a model he’s seen on a billboard, and convinced that if he met her, she would be perfect for him.

Here’s the problem with Stuart–he’s really stupid.  Not…intellectually, but in terms of awareness of other people.  He really believes that if he could just get the most attractive girl, then suddenly he’ll feel wonderful about his life.  So he tries, desperately and obviously, to gain the attention of beautiful women. He will throw off one woman if he sees another, more attractive woman that might want him.  It’s painfully obvious, and his biggest crime is that he really cannot see how obvious it is.  He’s inconsiderate, embarrassing, and hard to watch.

On the other hand, he is inevitably punished for every terrible thing he does.  In almost every episode, he manages to manufacture his own downfall. He tries to throw a huge bash of a pool party, hoping it will turn into a scene from Spring Breakers or Project X. The party starts out slow, and he gets very annoyed with the quality of people who have turned up.  He scares off the only attractive women who show up, and then leaves out of frustration.  As he is leaving, a big group of hot girls shows up at the party.  Stuart tries to get back in, but he is blocked by the security that he insisted upon having (to keep out undesirables).

His cloying attempts to be successful with women are his Achilles’ heel, inevitably leading to utter disaster.  So that instills a certain sense of pleasurable self-righteousness in the viewing.  He always gets exactly what he deserves. We see that every time, but he seems a little slow to recognize it.

And how genius is Stephen Merchant (or whomever came up with it) for calling this show Hello Ladies.  There is no situation where a straight man can say that phrase to a group of women without sounding creepy and weird.  It can’t be done; I’m convinced of it.

Can I say that I am so glad I don’t live in L.A.? I can’t think of a single worse place for trying to find a real relationship.  I would go out of my mind.

The show is very funny, but it is the classic British ‘cringe comedy’.  You want to look away because you are so embarrassed for the characters.  It’s a fine line in this type of show, and sometimes I think Hello Ladies steps just a bit over.  I mean, surely Stuart must get it eventually?!

I will say that, in the end, he did eventually do the right thing.  I’m sure there will be 2 steps back for every half-step forward with this character, so if there is a season 2 (I hope there is!), I expect him to make up for being a good guy by behaving like a moron for several episodes in a row.

My boyfriend’s only complaint about the show is that it seems too obvious that Jessica and Stuart will end up together.  If they do ever get together, I think it won’t be until Stephen finds someone who might actually be a-interested in him and b-a real person, rather than his paragon ideal of what he wants.  Right now, Jessica is the only ‘real’ woman in his life–one that he sees as a person, rather than as an accessory to prove his virility/success/popularity. I don’t see her showing any feelings for him unless there’s another genuine human being in his life that is interested in him.

That being said, I honestly hope they stay friends.  It would be far more interesting for me to see a friendship between them, while they both try to find the right person, rather than resorting to the tried-and-true  ‘I couldn’t find the right person because they were standing next to me the whole time’ rom-com standard.

I know the show hasn’t gotten great reviews, but I think it improved a lot by the end of the season, and would probably get better with a few more episodes.  I hope HBO gives it another shot.

An Idiot Abroad 3: The Short Way Round

An Idiot Abroad - Short Way RoundRicky Gervais has a pretty well sustained habit of only doing 2 seasons of his TV series. Two series and a special is his m.o., if precedent can be trusted. While this was technically billed as the third season of An Idiot Abroad, it is really more of a prolonged special.

Instead of sending Karl out on his own, Ricky and Steve have given him ‘a little pal’ in Warwick Davis.  I’m not sure if this idea came from Ricky working with Warwick on Life’s Too Short, or it emerged from the China episode of An Idiot Abroad–the very first episode, actually–when Karl visited a ‘dwarf village’ made up of little people who lived in very small homes and put on shows a few times per day for tourist tips.  Karl thought this was wonderful and really enjoyed it.  He said to the camera that ‘Ricky knows a little fella’ and he wondered what he would think of the village.  At this point, I remember asking my boyfriend if he thought Karl was talking about Warwick Davis.  He was, in fact.  Karl called Warwick and asked his opinion on the dwarf village.  Warwick did not think it was wonderful, something Karl couldn’t quite comprehend.  It’s one of the more interesting scenes in the original An Idiot Abroad series, and I sort of think that’s where this idea to put the two together came from.

If you’re wondering about the name (The Short Way Round), it’s an homage to a series of documentary (I use this term for want of a better one) films that Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman made.  The first was called The Long Way Down, where the boys rode their motorcycles from London to New York, by going East. The second was The Long Way Down, where they rode their bikes from the Northernmost tip of Scotland to the Southernmost point of Africa.  I’m not sure if The Short Way Round refers to the short nature of this special, the shortness of their trip, or is a nod to the shortness of Warwick.

In the first episode, Karl and Warwick go to Venice.  They are recreating Marco Polo’s trip to China, so they begin in Italy. It becomes apparent immediately that Karl and Warwick do not agree on anything. Their life views are completely different.  And the rest of this ‘series’ will remind you exactly how awful it is to travel with someone with whom you are not getting on.  The boys dress up that night for a costume party in the old Venetian tradition.  Karl really does not like this, and I can’t say I blame him.  One of the old-fashioned games is to be blindfolded and tickled with various things, etc., to experience different sensations.  As Karl explains, he could do without having an unknown someone’s halitosis blowing onto his face.  He complains, and then ditches Warwick on his own.

Karl and Warwick in costumeThe next day, Karl has picked something he wants to do–a jet pack.  The most hilarious part of this episode (and also the saddest), is that Karl is made entirely miserable by this activity that he has brought upon himself.  Oh, Karl.  The end of the episode has the boys move on to Macedonia, where they stay with a family of Romani (gypsies).  Warwick is made a bit uncomfortable–Romani consider little people to be good luck, so they make excuses to rub his head and touch him.  I would take a pass on that as well.  Later, the boys attend a religious ceremony where men stick metal rods through various body parts and then do some whirling dervish style dances.  Then Karl tries to be lifted by a bunch of helium balloons, but proves too heavy. He coerces Warwick into going up, and he sails very high in the air and feels a bit ill. But it’s good to see that the show will not just be making Karl uncomfortable.  It would feel too much like bullying if Warwick enjoyed the whole trip and Karl none of it.

Episode 2 takes the boys on to India, where each participates in activities they dislike.  Karl enjoys laughter yoga, and dislikes acting in a Bollywood film–partially because Warwick is acting a bit bossy now that he’s more or less in his own milieu.  They take a river cruise on the Ganges and then camp on its banks. They plan to stay for the night but some drunken locals annoy Karl so much he leaves for a hotel. The highlight for Karl is a trip to a nearby circus Karl and Warwick as clowns

 

 

and to visit the Spider Girls, a pair of conjoined twins featured there. The circus and its emphasis on showcasing the disfigured, disabled, and anatomically different, make Warwick very uncomfortable.  Karl is in his element here.  Everyone is a bit worried about Karl, but I think he’s very nice to them.  He asks them questions that would occur to everyone, about how they accomplish daily tasks.  He’s never disrespectful; only fascinated.  And if no one was fascinated by them, they’d have a much harder time making a living.  On the other hand, I can see why it would make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially Warwick.

The third and last episode gets the boys all the way to China. They take a trip on the Yangtze river, where Warwick gets a private cabin and Karl is put in steerage with 5 other blokes and a non-functioning toilet.  This seems very cruel to me.  Unless Warwick is paying his own way, I can’t help but think this is just Ricky being a terrible person. Part of the humor of An Idiot Abroad has always been seeing Karl complain and rant about doing things that a lot of us would love to do–climb Machu Picchu, see the Pyramids, go whale watching, etc.–but this is him complaining about a legitimate slight. I didn’t enjoy that. Once they’re off the boat, they visit the Chengdu Giant Panda research facility to interact with Pandas–thereby making me incredibly and irrevocably jealous.

Karl and Warwick as Pandas

On their climb up Mount Emei, Davis is beginning to be exhausted and wants to rely on a chair that you can hire to carry you up the mountain.  Karl has a bit of a pep talk with him and it is one of the nicer scenes to show how traveling with someone can give you a more full experience than if left to your own devices. Then, Karl decides he has worked hard enough, and pays to have the men carry him up the mountain.  It doesn’t occur to him that this is strange, because he doesn’t think he has anything to prove by getting up the mountain. Warwick does make it up all the way, and is grateful to have gotten to the top. As a grand finale to the series, the boys are supposed to do a bungee jump or base jump or some other X-sport off the top of the Macau Tower.  Warwick does it, Karl chickens out.  In typical Karl fashion.

The thing about these shows is that Karl is the last person to enjoy traveling.  I think traveling is incredibly important to understand the vastness of the world and your insignificance in it, but some people do not enjoy it. Karl thrives on routine and convenience. In every situation, his only experience seems to be anxiety and irritation.  It really straddles a line between hilarious and sad.  With Warwick in the mix, that is still there, but I think the dynamic is a bit muddled.  There are points where it does seem like everyone is ganging up on Karl, forcing him to exist permanently outside his comfort zone, and trying to deny him the only parts of the trip that seem fun and exciting to him.  But at other times, when Warwick is made to try something new and scary, it feels less like schadenfreude…or maybe it’s schadenfreude that is more equally distributed.

I can’t say I enjoyed these 3 special episodes more than the original series, but they were still funny and interesting and made me think a lot.  Whenever I watch Karl, I think about his way of living.  He doesn’t think the way other people do, I suspect because he hasn’t had a lot of education.  At a certain point in school, everyone starts to think in the same way. Call it scientific method, or brainwashing, or logic, or whatever, but all of the educated persons on earth will use the same process to evaluate the world–even if they get vastly different ideas from that process, it is the same process.  Karl has a more intuitive grasp on the world, which means occasionally he says the dumbest things you’ve ever heard.  It also means occasionally he says something that will make you stop and re-evaluate the universe.  He honestly sounds like Confucius sometimes, blurting out things that might be riddles, or nonsense, or great truth.  I love listening to him talk because he doesn’t say what anyone else would say.  I will probably watch anything with him in, just to hear the things he says.

Ricky Gervais news

Yesterday, Ricky came out with some news that I’m honestly not thrilled about.  He’s said, on his blog, that he doesn’t plan to continue with the Ricky Gervais Show, Life’s Too Short or with An Idiot Abroad after this year.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, as this past year was the first time he ever did any project that lasted beyond two seasons and a Christmas special.  As for the Ricky Gervais Show, which takes bits from his popular podcast with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, he claims he has gone through the best stuff from the original podcasts for the show, so it’s really about running out of material.

But I think it’s mostly about a fear of commitment.  He wants to have these perfect little runs with everything he does, so he backs out just as they’re sort of hitting their stride.  Going out on a high note I guess.  And I think some US shows could maybe take a page from his book (Veronica Mars, I’m looking at you), but it also is a bit annoying to constantly get attached to a project he’s doing and then it’s over two minutes later.

Ricky said he will do two specials to end An Idiot Abroad.  I’m not 100% clear on whether these specials are the same as the ‘Short Way Round’ project he is working on, where Karl and Warwick Davis travel about on a scooter. I suspect they are one in the same, because how long can you film those two on a scooter? First of all, it’s a scooter, so they’re not going to be traveling the world at a very high rate of speed.  It’s meant to be a spoof on the popular British shows Long way Round and Long Way Down, which featured Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman on motorcycles doing epic trips around the globe.  But they could go a proper 80 miles per hour on good roads.  How’s a Vespa going to fair in the Sahara?  We’ll have to wait and see. Even if they’re epic trek is from London to the Cotswolds, I’ll be tuning in.

As for Life’s Too Short, they have confirmed a second season and Ricky said he has written a finale, so it will follow the two seasons and a Christmas Easter special pattern. To be expected, really.

Ricky did mention a lot of new projects he’s working on.  The main one is a show called Derek, which he shot a pilot for Channel 4 in the UK earlier this year, and he will be producing a few more episodes later in the year.  He has said he wants a US airing, and I’m sure it’s in negotiations.  My guess would be with HBO, as aired his comedy specials, Ricky Gervais Show, and Life’s Too Short. Plus, you can swear.

My only concern with this show is that it doesn’t seem as accessible to an American audience as the others he’s made.

The show features Ricky as Derek, a potentially intellectually sub-normal retirement home worker, and also has Karl in his acting debut as the janitor/handyman type at the retirement home.

There was a lot of controversy when it first came out because people have accused Ricky of playing up a mental disability for laughs, but Ricky says that Derek is not disabled, only a bit slow.  I think a lot of the criticism has died down since the pilot aired.

My concerns with an American audience are that:

a-it seems very entrenched in an aspect of British society that doesn’t usually make it to this side of the pond.  The lives of the uneducated, the decidedly not-posh, the poor.  The type of people you see in the supermarket or something and you know they are either not trying to live an active life, or they are unaware of the impression they’re putting out. Usually, the shows that make it to the US feature at least educated professionals, if not the out and out wealthy.

b-We are a lot more sensitive to p.c.-ness on this side of the pond.  I remember being absolutely shocked at the blatant sexual harassment in the Office, and I know that’s not something that would fly on an American show.  Ricky himself has said that for the US Office all the characters had to be much more likeable than they were in the original show.  So I think the controversy over Derek in the UK will be more of a big deal here.

Even if he is not purposefully portraying a disabled man, he is obviously portraying a man of sub-par intelligence, and he is walking a very thin line between making that character loveable and heartwarming, and playing up his stupidity for a laugh.  Ricky likes to toe that line in all of his work.  But I think there’s a big difference with this. In Life’s Too Short, you would find yourself laughing at Warwick Davis’ character.  You wouldn’t be laughing at him for being a little person, but for being a smart person doing incredibly stupid things.  In Derek, you have someone of normal intelligence playing someone of below average intelligence, and you are meant to laugh at him for being a bumbling moron. There’s a big difference in that, for me. You’re meant to care about him, and like him, but also laugh at him.  I think that we Americans find that much harder than the Brits.  Maybe that’s just me?

But I have watched the pilot, which is up on YouTube.  I’m not sure the legality of that, but I’ll risk incarceration to give you my opinion.

I really love the Hannah character, who is sort of a female Tim (Martin Freeman from the Office UK)–the everyman of the show that we can relate to and we genuinely root for.

Karl Pilkington’s ‘character’ seems to me to be just him being himself, with a bit of fake hair and some glasses.  He complains a lot, likes to fix things, doesn’t know why he’s friends with Ricky.  Check, check, check.

I did find it very difficult to laugh at Derek, because he is obviously a bit odd and not very clever.  What shocked me the most, I think, is that I cried. I cried more than I laughed, which is certainly a departure from a lot of stuff like An Idiot Abroad.

I think the bottom line is that I trust Ricky as an auteur, as a story-teller.  I don’t think that Derek will be a huge hit here, but I do hope it airs on HBO or similar. I will definitely watch it, but I’m sad that all of his other projects are ending, all in the next year. And I’m going to miss Stephen Merchant being on my TV!

Top 5 British Everything! part 2

Ok, time for yet another installment in my ever-growing number of pointless lists! First off, my picks for top 5 British TV shows.  You’ve no idea how difficult this was!  I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if I’d actually seen large amounts of British TV, not just the stuff that trickles across the pond.

1. The Office/Extras

I’m cheating a little bit by putting these together.  They are both written and starring Ricky Gervais, so it is justified, but I love them enough that they might deserve individual spots on the list.  Too bad, though, because I don’t have enough room for that!  I think the Office was my first introduction to British TV, and I have to admit it took me at least two watch-throughs to understand what the fuck they were saying.  The accents are thick, but the show is also completely full of utterly unintelligible cultural references that I still don’t get.  But the parts I could understand were hilarious.  I can only guess how much funnier it is if you have any idea what they’re talking about.  Luckily, the DVD provides a slang glossary that explains some of it.

Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is hilarious in the show, but of course my heart belongs to Martin Freeman (who is becoming a common fixture on this blog), as Tim.

Extras is a bit more easy to digest for an American audience (though I hear they actually changed some of the scenes for the American audience), and has a mind-boggling amount of guest stars.  Just to name a few: Ben Stiller, Vinnie Jones, Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, Samuel L Jackson, David Bowie, and, most importantly, Daniel Radcliffe in possibly the most hilarious scene ever on tv.

As with the Office, my favorite character on this show is not Ricky Gervais. Stephen Merchant is a very odd looking fellow, especially with the ludicrous glasses and hair he has in this show.  He looks a bit like a stick insect with a turtleneck and thick spectacles.

It doesn’t help that the guy is something like 12 feet tall.  But anyone who has seen Extras, or played Portal 2 knows how awesome he is.  Plus, he co-created the Office and Extras with Ricky, so I like that he gets to be on camera in this show.

It’s interesting to think about Ricky Gervais’ shows.  He always has himself as the central character, and he always plays a semi-terrible person, surrounded by much nicer characters.  This simultaneously makes me think he is an incredibly egotistical, but also very self-deprecating person.  Whatever his motives, his shows are hilarious.

2.Doctor Who

A couple of disclaimers before I explain my love for Doctor Who: 1-I have only seen the newest incarnations of the show, and don’t really have much desire to go back and watch the episodes from the ’70s, 2-David Tennant is the only Doctor for me, 3-The production values on the show are terrible, the effects are terrible, occasionally the music is terrible–I acknowledge all of this, and love the show anyway.

Here’s a show that makes almost no sense, on the face of it.  The concept is ridiculous: time traveling alien with two hearts and one sonic screwdriver travels through time/space (usually ending up in England, for some reason) with human companions finding and solving catastrophes that usually have something to do with aliens.  Many of these aliens look like ‘pepper pots‘ or cheesy 50s robots.

Add to that some truly low-budget effects and Billie Piper’s annoyingly overdone mascara, and it should be a terrible show.  But it’s not.  It’s witty, funny, adventurous, light-hearted, occasionally moving, and always worth watching.  Also, it’s a bit uncanny that the show can have had 11 different actors portray the eponymous Doctor and still have you believe that he is the same person.  Rather ingenious, the way the writers worked that into the character’s back story.  I’ve watched through three doctors now, and while Tennant will always be my favorite, I liked seeing how each one brought a new idea to the same frantic and infectious energy at the core of the show.

3. Fawlty Towers

A classic British show from the ’70s starring John Cleese and his actual (then) wife as Mr. and Mrs. Fawlty, who run a small hotel on the English seaside. Basil Fawlty (Cleese) is a cowardly misanthrope who is constantly yelled at by his controlling wife, and he, in turn, takes out his anger on Manuel, the Spanish waiter with limited English skills.  It was voted one of the best British tv shows of all time, and is actually more popular now than I think it was when it originally aired.  It’s a slapstick, over-the-top sort of show, which took me a while to get into, I confess.  It’s certainly not the sardonic, mockumentary style of humor you’d find in the Office.  It’s totally different, and more in line with the traditional British sitcom.  There are only twelve episodes of the show (2 six-episode seasons), so you can polish off the whole series in a few days’ time.  The show gets better with each episode, and by the end of the first season, I was hooked.  If you’re in the mood for something silly, Fawlty Towers is perfection.

4. Sherlock

What’s this? Martin Freeman again?  I’m sensing a theme.  If you recall, I’ve already done a few posts about this show and my love for it. As such, I won’t repeat myself.  I will say, however, that this show is about to overtake Fawlty Towers, and maybe Doctor Who, in my long-term estimation and adoration.  It is a paragon of everything you can do with TV drama.

5. The Inbetweeners

This show is, without a doubt, the sickest thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time.  But, as it’s about 16-18 year old boys, that makes sense.  It is painfully embarrassing to watch, shockingly foul-mouthed, and absolutely hilarious.  It taught me at least 5 new, incredibly awful words for female genitalia, unfortunately. That’s the sort of show it is.  I didn’t want to like it, what with absolutely every other line being horrifying, but it is too damn funny to ignore. Plus, the knowledge that absolutely all of these boys are completely clueless makes their slightly misogynistic tendencies more bearable.  There was also a movie, which I saw thanks to a multi-region dvd player–I don’t think it was ever released in US theaters or on format 1 dvd.  If you doubt how funny this is, a scene from the movie should clear it up:

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Honorable Mention: Top Gear, Downton Abbey–It was very, very difficult for me to pick just 5 shows, and as I have already talked about these two on this blog, I’ve left them as honorable mentions rather than putting them in the top 5.  Nonetheless, they are awesome.

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British Music–if the tv shows were hard to choose (and they were), this was like choosing between my children…if I ever had them and was faced with a Sophie’s Choice type situation… The point is, this was really hard. The only easy choice was number one…

1. The Beatles

I’m fairly certain that anyone who has spent more than half an hour with me knows this is my favorite band of all time.  I can’t even begin to discuss the amount of influence the Beatles have had on my life, or on music in general.  There’s nothing I can say about them as musicians that hasn’t already been said.  What I can say about my personal love for them, is that it all has to do with my mom.  She loved the Beatles and played 60s and 70s music almost exclusively when I was growing up.  As a result, I went into middle and high school knowing all the lyrics to I Am the Walrus, while other kids were really into N Sync.  Not to imply that I was some sort of cool music kid, I was not cool in any way, but I do appreciate that I was exposed to this sort of music from an early age.  It is much more in keeping with my views on music and on the world, and every time I hear a Beatles song, even if it’s one I’ve never heard before, it’s the aural equivalent of nostalgia.  It sounds like home to me.

2. David Bowie

I got into Bowie late in life…Or late in life so far. I think I was 24 or 25 before I set out to listen to some of his stuff.  It was never on the radio when I was growing up…Too old to be on the top 40 stations, too new to be on the oldies station.   And, where I grew up, we had those two kinds of stations, plus a lot of country music and some religious crap.  So I wasn’t directly exposed to Bowie until I set out to listen to his stuff.  Wow.  Within about a day, I was in love. I think I had probably heard his stuff in other contexts, in movies and commercials, but never in its original form.  To this day, Suffragette City is one of my favorite songs ever. The best thing about Bowie is that his songs have variety–Suffragette City doesn’t sound anything like Changes or China Girl.  My biggest annoyance with today’s music is that you can put on any song on someone’s album and it will sound identical to every other song.  The only distinctions are slow or fast.  But back in the day, musicians felt like they could experiment with something new if they wanted to.  I think it was even expected.  This means that you can find something to listen to by the same artist, even if you’re in a vastly different mood.  Which means there is a Bowie song for every occasion.  He even wrote a special song for Extras!

3. The Rolling Stones

When I was young and first formulating my opinions on music, as we all do in our early teens, this is what the Stones looked like:

Not something any teenager associates with being cool, or being alive for that matter.  They all look like the Cryptkeeper.  But, take a look at how awesome they were in their heyday.

It’s a bit like looking at pictures of your dad when he was young, and realizing he was not always interested in mortgages or the price of a good recliner.  Anyway, I still dislike most of the Stones later catalog, particularly ‘Love is Strong’.  But their early stuff is just amazing!  Enough to make up for most of the stuff they put out in the ’90s, and almost good enough to overcome Keith Richards’ appearance in that Pirates of the Caribbean movie!  My particular favorites are Paint it Black, Sympathy for the Devil, and Beast of Burden.

4. Queen

Like many of my generation, my first introduction to the music of Queen was during Wayne’s World.  Thank God for Wayne and Garth. Queen was an amazing band, and Freddie Mercury was a seriously stunning frontman. Google frontman, and the first result is a Wiki article on lead singers with a picture of Freddie Mercury. That says it all.

Like David Bowie, Queen have the capacity to sound radically different depending on the song you’re listening to.  Another One Bites the Dust sounds nothing like Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and nothing sounds anything like Bohemian Rhapsody. Seriously, has there ever been a song that is as fun to sing as Bohemian Rhapsody?  If you think you can argue with me, watch this:

5. the Clash

What can you say about such an important band?  They were one of the first punk bands ever? They were one of the best punk bands ever? A lot of people have heard of the Clash but might not be familiar with their songs.  Only, I’m sure you’ve heard them, even if you didn’t know it at the time.  I’m sure everyone has heard Should I Stay Or Should I Go, but it doesn’t sound like a punk song when you hear it, and I don’t think I knew it was the Clash until later in life. The Clash isn’t a mainstream band, by any means, but it is not something so esoteric that you can’t appreciate the songs without a music degree.  And in terms of influence on later musicians and on the direction of music at the time, they were hugely important.

I am aware that this list has been full of men.  I am not someone who thinks women cannot be great musicians, but I am someone who listens to older music, and there were a lot less of them back then.

Honorable Mention–Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Amy Winehouse, the Streets, the Who

What kind of ridiculous list has Led Zeppelin as an honorable mention?!  Good God. I’m too exhausted to continue! I was going to torture you all with my favorite bits of British history, and other factoids of a comparatively useless nature, but I will desist. Maybe next time.

Coming Soon

I thought I would take a day to look at what’s coming out of the UK and hitting our shores in the next few months. Warning though, this post is restricted in some ways to what appeals to me as an anglophile.  So, for example, if Big Brother UK is going to be on here, I probably won’t talk about it, because I don’t honestly care..

Films:

The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki from Thor).  Not to be confused with the Samuel L. Jackson movie of the same name.

This trailer isn’t anything spectacular, but the cast is.  According to Wikipedia, it is from a play by Terence Rattigan, about the wife of a judge who falls for a pilot in the RAF. Intriguing, could be good. Lots of good quotes on the trailer, but no telling if that translates to an actually good film. But it has been out since November in the UK, and currently has an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, so I’m guessing it’s going to be fairly good. It comes out in limited release here March 30th.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Could there possibly be a more boring title? I can’t think of one. But, then you look at the cast: Ewan McGregor (doing his native Scot accent for once), Emily Blunt, and Kristin Scott Thomas. And I’m in.

Seriously, though the subject of salmon fishing in the Middle East could not be of less interest to me for many reasons, this looks like a really good heart-warming sort of film that I love.  This one is coming out quite soon; limited release this coming weekend! I am definitely looking forward to this film.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is it! I don’t think there’s any movie that I’m more looking forward to this year.  Can you believe the cast? Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, HP), Bill Nighy (HP, Underworld, Love Actually), Judi Dench (every period drama ever, the new Bond movies), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Penelope Wilson (Downton Abbey, Dr. Who), and Tom Wilkinson (tons of stuff, most recently Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  Seriously though, when the US does a movie with this many superstars, it is some absolute trash like Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into You.  But this is going to be brilliant, because not only are they quite famous in England, but they are famous for being actually good actors. Cannot wait for this movie! But I will have to, as it doesn’t come out until May 4th.

Books:

Some titles I’m looking forward to in the coming months include:

Britain, etc.–A nonfiction, light, trivia-based jaunt through Britain from A-Z.  Hopefully I’ll learn something and be entertained at the same time.

The English Monster–It’s historical fiction, it’s a murder mystery, it’s based on a true story.  Set in the early Regency period, based on some real murders. Difficult to think of dreadful murders going on at the same time Jane Austen was penning her lovely novels.  I have decided lately to get more into crime fiction and this may be one of my first forays into that oeuvre.

And of course, the unnamed J.K. Rowling book will be at the top of my reading list, no matter what it is about or when it comes out.  That’s just how it is.

TV:

Life’s Too Short: I’m watching this right now on HBO. It’s a lovely and ridiculous comedy starring Warwick Davis (Willow, HP films, etc.) as a warped and foul version of himself. It’s yet another Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant project, and expect a full review once the series is done. It’s brilliant.

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Whitechapel: This one is a modern police procedural starting with a Jack the Ripper copycat.   I am starting to be rather obsessed with Jack the Ripper! This was actually on BBC America last fall, but I missed it with the holiday rush. So I’m going to try to watch it now.

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Top Gear!: Anyone that doesn’t know about this show has my pity.  Ok, I should preface this by saying that cars are not of much interest to me.  I started watching this show with my bf because he loves cars and I love England, so it was a good fit.  But it is hilarious, one of the most popular shows in the UK, and lots of fun even if you’re not a ‘petrolhead’ as they call it. Season 18 starts in April. Also, do not confuse this with the American version, which has more cars and less class.

Here is a best of montage to wet your appetite: