Tag Archives: the IT crowd

Doll & Em

HBO aired the full 6-episode season of this show in 3 weeks, which means it’s all over before you have a chance to decide if you truly like it.  It premiered in the UK on Sky Living in February

doll-and-em-first-season.21771This show has both women playing themselves, or versions of themselves.  I recognized Em (Emily Mortimer) right away, because she is on the Newsroom, and she’s excellent in it. She’s been in a lot of other things as wellas is Dolly Wells, but I didn’t recognize her at all.

I wonder about the people who make these pseudo-real life shows/movies, where they are playing a spoof of themselves. On the one hand, the audience gets to see the truth behind cameras and how things tend to work in Hollywood (a satire can reflect the truth pretty accurately).  And there has to be some cathartic value in playing a mean version of yourself, or getting to yell at your best friend in a fight for the cameras.  On the other hand, wouldn’t it screw with your head to portray yourself interacting with your best friend portraying herself.   Seems like lines would become really fuzzy, and a la Inception, you might start to lose track of whether you’re being yourself or portraying a version of yourself.  My head hurts if I think about it too much.

This particular show has Doll breaking up with her boyfriend and heading out to visit Em on location for a movie in L.A. To keep her busy and have her around, Em offers to pay Doll to be her personal assistant for the duration of the shoot. Always a good idea–working for your best friend in one of the most demeaning possible roles.  Look, I just don’t get personal assistants. I understand work assistants–you’re helping to accomplish something. Personal assistants are just…helping someone control their own life? I get that certain people, actors, world leaders, etc., don’t have a lot of time. But I don’t think I’d ever be so busy that I’d make someone go out and get coffee for me or pick up my dry cleaning.  She makes Doll drive her too and from work every day.  Why?! What is she doing that she can’t drive? I just don’t get it. Being a personal assistant is predicated on the idea that your boss’s life is more important than yours. Unless you’re personal assistant to a world leader, I don’t buy it. So maybe that’s why this show sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. Em was a bit spoiled and unsympathetic. Doll wasn’t perfect either.

The final blowout between them, predictable from the 1st episode, is depressing. I will say, though, that the final episode reeled me in again. Most of the show saw the two women competing against each other–for male attention, for professional success, for sympathy about their dead fathers. Women do this, no denying that, but it’s not particularly fun to watch. Most of the show is about this competition and the petty jealousy that springs up between them.  Until the last few minutes of the last episode. Seeing them communicate genuinely and support each other at the end made me much happier than all of the other episodes combined.

The show also boasts some impressive celebrity guests playing themselves – Susan Sarandon, Ben Chaplin (hopefully not as big of an asshole in real life as he was during he scene in this show), John Cusack. There was also a bonus cameo at the very end from Noel Fielding, which (despite lack of goth makeup) I recognized immediately as Richmond, from The IT Crowd.

richmond

 

Advertisements

Sports vs Sport – UK & US Athletics

soccer-vs-football

When people think of me, they think of sports, right?  Ok, no, they don’t. I am the least sporty person in the world.  But after seeing the 300th commercial for the beginning of the English Premier League on American TV, I thought I might dip my feet in the water and see what all of this nonsense is about.  I’ve been exposed to American sports for my entire life, and have been thoroughly bored and annoyed by them for that same length of time.  But I don’t actually know much about British sport, so I may as well give it a small chance, in case football (soccer) really is so fabulous.  Maybe British sport is just better?  Anything is possible. So let’s discuss the differences. But please excuse in advance all the mistakes of vocabulary I am going to make during this post.  I can barely remember the proper terms for American sports, so if I say field when I mean pitch, do not murder me via angry comments. This entire post is written with tongue firmly placed in cheek, so don’t take it too seriously. Be gentle.

Sport vs Sports- Linguistic differences are so strange sometimes.  In the UK, you play sport or you watch sport.  In the US, you play sports or watch sports.  Where did the s go/come from?  I suspect it was taken off sports so that it could be added to maths.  

Another linguistic fun fact: As much as Brits decry us for saying ‘soccer’ instead of ‘football’, soccer was the original term and it was British in origin.  Soccer was called ‘association football’, to distinguish it from other types of ‘football’ that were played at the time (including Rugby–then called Rugger).  Association football was shortened to Assoccer, and then just soccer. So, it’s not an American thing.  Legend has it an Oxford student coined the term in 1863. That being said, football makes more sense for a sport where you are only allowed to use your feet than it does for our US football, where you primarily use your hands.

And to confuse everyone even more, the Brits often shorten football to ‘footy’, but the Australians call Rugby footy.  How anyone has any idea what game they’re playing is beyond me.  But this blog is mostly about the UK, so I’m not going to delve into Aussie sports now.

In the UK, there are two sports that are in the upper-echelons of popularity: Rugby Union and Association Football (soccer). Of those two, Football is the clear favorite, but Rugby is quite popular in certain geographical areas.

Rugby is very similar to American football, with one big big difference:

Rugby padsIt’s crazy dangerous. At least 110 players have been paralyzed during a game.  There are arguments to be made that all the padding US Football players wear adds to the amount of force that comes crashing down on opponents, but I’d still rather have a helmet if it was me.

The time of the games is different as well.  American football games last approximately 500 million hoursbut a big chunk of that is resetting and stopped time.  In Rugby, they don’t stop the clock unless someone’s injured and unresponsive. It’s a lot more fast-paced, and there’s a longer playing time.  That means leaner, meaner, faster guys. Much faster than American defensive players, who generally run 5-10 feet and then bash into someone with all of their weight.  It’s a different skill set.  To be honest, I’m not interested in either sport.

Other sports in the top 5 include Cricket, Tennis, and something Wikipedia refers to as Athletics. I believe this is what we would call Track & Field.  But really, if you’re talking UK Sport, you’re talking about football.  Unless you’re me, then you’re talking about Quidditch.

So let’s talk soccer/football. There are some things that make it recognizably awesome and the pinnacle of athleticism.  I can’t believe some of the crazy kicks and headbutts they do to get the ball headed toward the correct goal.  No American sport has that kind of gymnastics (except maybe gymnastics). And the crazy amount of running?  Your average baseball player barely runs during a game, your average American football player might run a little over a mile during a game. Compare that to the 7-8 miles a soccer player runs during a match, and you see why they all look like Adonis.

On the other hand, there’s a large percentage of games that end with a score of 0-0, and that sounds pretty boring to a spectator. No wonder they get so excited when a goal finally happens.

The UK version of the NFL/NBA/etc. is the Premier League. For the first time (ever), anyone in American watch any match in the season.  They will be airing the big matches on NBC sports, and then live streaming the rest on their website.  Apparently we have better access to the entire league’s games than the Brits do.  Perfect time for a novice like me to get started with footy. They even have several resources to pick your club and charming commercials with Jason Sudeikis. The most important thing about picking your team is that you can never change it. This is a cardinal offense and I believe they still punish you with a day in the stocks in any proper English village.

Remember that scene in Harry Potter when Harry is trying to talk to Cho, and Ron interrupts to inquire (very loudly and bluntly) whether Cho has always been a fan of the Tutshill Tornadoes, or if she just started supporting them since they began winning.  Lucky for Cho, she’d been supporting them since she was six, or she would have been in trouble.  Same principle applies to Premier League clubs. Of course, if you live in the UK, geography determines a lot of who you support, but we don’t have that luxury here.  It’s a big decision, and one I’ve taken quite seriously.

I’ve decided to support West Ham.  It’s the only football club mentioned in Harry Potter, so that was …pretty much my whole decision-making process.  Other things I know about West Ham: Smithy from Gavin and Stacey supports West Ham.  That’s good(ish).  Green Street Hooligans, a terrible Elijah Wood movie, was based on West Ham fans.  That’s really bad!  Their nickname is the Hammers.  I’m Switzerland on that one. West Ham’s celebrity fans include John Cleese and Barack Obama.  Good.  They also include Rod Stewart and Katy Perry.  Not as good.  Yep, that’s all I know about my chosen team.  I am such a sports fan.  Wait, I also know that they’re not that good.  I’m fine with that, since I prefer to support underdogs.  I could never support Man U.  It’s clearly the Yankees of the Premier League. Also, while I’m comparing football to baseball, Arsenal is clearly the Red Sox. Remember that Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie, Fever Pitch?

fever_pitch_01About the guy who was obsessed with the Red Sox?  Well, it was originally a British movie (with Colin Firth) about a guy obsessed with Arsenal.  So, if you’re a Red Sox fan, Arsenal is your team.

If you’re more inclined to back a winner than I am, here’s an article about the top 5 most-likely winners (Arsenal included). Pick one of these and you will have a good chance.

If you’re not quite as informed about football as I clearly am, the IT Crowd has taught me how to fake it.  Just visit bluffball.co.uk for your best tips on how to sound like you know something about football.

The most important lessons include: If Arsenal is playing, you can always say ‘the problem with Arsenal is they think they can just walk it in’.  And, start every football conversation with ‘did you see that ludicrous display last night?’  That lets people know that you are an expert.

So, I have a team and some basic vocab for those inevitable water cooler conversations.  What else do I need? Some basic knowledge of the sport?  Well, I’ve seen Bend it Like Beckham.  Done. I know all about the offside rule: The French Mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt.

If you haven’t seen BiLB, and you need the most basic primer about soccer in the history of the world, here’s a website designed to help grandparents understand this newfangled sport all the suburban kids are playing.

Also, it’s important to know how the league works. The top 20 teams are in the Premier League, but the bottom 3 of that 20 are ‘relegated down’.  Below the premier league are other leagues of middling and lower-level.  We don’t really have anything like that in the US. It would be like if the White Sox did so badly that they were no longer Major League and were ‘relegated down’ to AAA baseball. The good part about this is if your team is not so great, they still have some nail biter matches later in the season, as they might be fighting to keep their place in a specific part of the hierarchy.

The top 4 spots in the Premier League qualify for the European Champions league, so you get a lot of international competition that we also don’t have here.  And then every four years, you have the  World Cup.  I watched the last World Cup, and my only memories of it are drowned out by the sound of vuvuzelas.  God those were awful. Anyway, the next World Cup is next year.  To turn to yet another Harry Potter reference, it’s very similar to the Quidditch World Cup.  Countries compete, so England tends to bring together its best players from professional teams, as does Italy, Spain, etc.

The amazing thing about soccer is that everyone plays it. it’s the main sport in almost every country except America.  So you can have these massive Olympic-like events where the best players in different countries are competing against one another.  I think that’s awesome. Far better than the Super Bowl, for my money.

The Premier League has a really long season.  I mean, I feel like all sports seasons in the US are too long.  NFL Football is starting again soon. Already?  But the Premier League goes from August to May.  That’s crazy long.  No wonder they’re all in such good shape. Anyway, I can’t guarantee I will be a major soccer fan by the end of the season, or that I will still be watching by then.  I’m not a sports person, by nature.  But, I’m giving it a try, and that’s…more than I would normally do. You should too.

If you think this was a terrible post about sports, from a typical ignorant American, then…you’ve got a point. But! I’m not representative of American soccer fans, and it’s not just Americans who don’t know about international sports.  Take, for example, this video of a (brilliant) Irishman commentating Olympic sailing, and then call me uninformed.

Or take heart that I’m just as ignorant about American sports as all other kinds.

Movie Review: Submarine

I watched this movie for the simple fact that Richard Ayoade, who I have loved since episode 2 of The IT Crowd, wrote and directed it.

It’s a far cry from the occasionally broad comedy of The IT Crowd, and I suspect more accurately reflects Ayoade’s quiet, artistic, erudite roots. He went to Cambridge, after all, and a podcast featuring him that I recently listened to proved he is very reserved, self-deprecating, but also incredibly intelligent and well-spoken (though he mumbles like crazy).  This film sort of reflects that personality. It is smart, it is odd, and I think in ways it would rather be noticed for being odd than being smart. It is sort of a British equivalent of a Wes Anderson film. Odd, endearing, but also in some ways too quirky to take seriously.

The story centers around Oliver Tate, a very strange teenage boy. The two quests he undertakes during the course of the movie are to get Jordana Bevan to love him, and to fix his parent’s marriage. The first quest is threatened by the fact that Jordana is far more popular than him, and she also has a mother sick with cancer. What ends up being the more difficult of the quests is the second. His father is obviously suffering from depression, and his mother ends up giving a hand job to her ex-boyfriend (an incredibly ridiculous mullet-clad martial artist-mystic) in a creepy van.  It’s a weird movie.  But I think that sort of reflects the weirdness and absolute nonsensical nature of adolescence. In the same way that Dali paintings and Alice in Wonderland irk me as an adult, I think they reflect something surrealist and strange about the world before we truly grasp how it works. Some things will always mystify me (mass violence, Yanni fans, people who like roast beef), but when I was younger, I couldn’t do a damn thing right. I remember that feeling, and I think watching Oliver Tate sort of reminds me how truly fucking weird we are as teenagers.  Our actions are truly bizarre because we haven’t really figured out how things work in the world yet. Which is incredibly difficult for the teenager, but also kind of wonderful because for those fleeting years of adolescence you have the capacity to comprehend the world, but also the true ability to be original. You haven’t internalized the rules, yet.

This movie was not a slam dunk, I have to say. It was original, it was interesting, it was visually quirky. But quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake, makes me crazy. It takes place in the ’80s, so I may give it a pass on my usual pet peeve of arty people using 8mm film to record their arty world–when in reality no one uses that stuff anymore.  But each character has a sort of representative color–Jordana wears red always; she has red stationary, a red backpack. Everything is red. It makes her more of a token woman more than a real one. I suppose this reflects Oliver’s ideas about what women should be, more than his capacity to see what they really are. He wants to be the best boyfriend in the world, because of some pre- concieved notion of what that is.  When she really needs him, he’s not there for her. Typical high school boyfriend, yes?

As much as the overly goofy, quirky, parts of the movie irked me slightly, I would take this movie any day of the week over a lot of other slick films about adolescence, like American Pie or Juno (another movie with more quirk than substance, imho). It is at least original, it does have some really nice scenes and some scenes that will make you say WTF?

Another bonus is seeing people like Dave Coaches and Gwen from Gavin and Stacey thrown into the mix. The movie takes place in Wales, so that explains their involvement. Sadly, no one asked ‘what’s occurrin’ for the entire film. Apparently, a lot of the Gavin and Stacey dialect is indigenous only to Barry Island, and looked down upon by other Welsh people. Sad! I think it’s cute. But I digress.

It’s definitely worth watching if you like Wes Anderson stuff, like The Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore. If you’re more annoyed than me by quirkiness, I’d steer clear. Then again, if you don’t like quirkiness, you might not be drawn to Richard Ayoade’s work in any form.

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.

.

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.