rants, reviews, television

Bookish Post – Oh Dany… Boy! (Spoilers)


So, you may have noticed that this isn’t a book review. And that’s only partly because I haven’t quite finished Machines Like Me yet. I say partly because I’m trying to convince myself that I haven’t been rubbish at reading this week. That’s not the reason. The real reason is that I needed to talk about this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. Or, more specifically, the reaction to it. Cause this season has divided opinion quite dramatically. And the last few episodes have left a particularly sour taste in people’s mouths. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve found the final series of Game of Thrones to be disappointing. The writing has gone downhill and the storylines are being rushed to fit into the shorter episode run. The focus has been on spectacle instead of the story. Character development has gone out of the window in favour of more CGI dragons. Now, it should go without saying but spoiler warning guys.

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books, Game of Thrones, television

Bookish Post – I’m Stark raving mad for Sansa


So, once again I’m having to put off my book review until Friday. At this rate, I might as well just do two bookish posts a week. Especially now I have weekends off. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It means I can do at least one review a week (if I can keep up) and a random post. Of course, it would also mean me coming up with an extra post idea a week and that’s not always worked out well for me. I’ve never been the kind of person who wanted to write content for contents sake. Despite what I might be being told at work. But that’s another rant for another day. Instead, I’m filling my Wednesday night post with a subject that’s close to my heart. A topic that I’ve been getting quite passionate about with a friend of mine. A friend who really wasn’t ready for how much I cared about it. I’ve ranted about this television show before and I will again. That’s the joy of finding something you actually give a shit about. You’ll always find something to be annoyed about and something to absolutely adore. I’m not the kind of person who believes that anything is flawless. That doesn’t sound like much fun to me. I enjoy conflict and feeling conflicted about something I love is the ideal situation. Really, what I’m saying is, I just love debating and arguing about things.

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books, films, rundown, television

Sunday Rundown: That’s What She Read


So how has your week been? What have you been reading?

You’ve caught me on a good day. I spent the afternoon with my family where we have a lovely Sunday lunch. There’s nothing to get you ready to face the week than a tasty roast dinner with the people you like most. And I think that extra hour in bed has inspired as I’m even contemplating an early night with a book. I mean I’m even writing this at a vaguely sensible time. What’s happened to me? Just wait til next week when I’m back to madly finishing typing at 11:30pm. It’s inevitable. But, for now, I can pretend I’m a new person. That somehow, in the last 7 days, I’ve experienced some sort of personal growth and am close to becoming a proper adult. Although, that does sound a bit dull if I’m honest.

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review, television

Tuesday Review – New Doctor Who

promotional_poster_of_doctor_who_28series_11295_star_rating_system_4_stars1 “Laura”, I hear you all asking, “are you writing this review of Jodie Whittaker’s first episode of Doctor Who because, once again, you didn’t get round to watching a film this week? Or is it just because writing the words ‘Tuesday Review – New Doctor Who‘ is incredibly satisfying for someone who loves rhyming as much as you?” To which I would respond, why not both? Yes, it’s true that I didn’t quite follow my plan for this week and was in need of something to review but I could have just watched another Netflix film and had a rant about how rubbish they all are. As I’ve made quite clear here, I do love a good Netflix rant. And, I admit, there is something quite lovely about repeating those words over and over in my head. However, this is a momentous occasion and something all of us Whovians have been waiting patiently waiting for. I couldn’t very well let it pass me by without saying something about it, could I?

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adaptation, fucking awful, meh, Netflix, reviews, television

Tuesday’s Reviews – Season 1 of Girlboss

It’s been a while since I wrote a good old Motherbooker rant but I suspect this review of one of Netflix’s new show is about to turn into one. I’ve not read the book that the series was based on. It’s mostly because the very word “Girlboss” gets me a bit worked up but also because I don’t think it’s ever right for a book title to contain a hashtag. I mean what kind of stupid millennial bullshit is that? Hashtags are an annoying but, often, important part of social media. You need to use them carefully to succeed but non of those uses involved planting them on the front of a fucking book. It reminds me of all those ridiculous books that were popular when I was younger that overused the @ symbol. It was about the time that the internet was becoming more important to everyone but it still felt new and modern. The one thing all those books have in common? They haven’t stood the test of time. They now feel horribly outdated and really pathetic. Anyway, putting aside my annoyances about the book, I had decided that I’d probably never watch the series until I needed some easy watching to get me through a packing nightmare. And then I was faced with a problem. Every time I logged onto Netflix it was there in my “continue watching” section. So, in order to get rid of it, I watched the whole damn series. Turns out, I have many feelings about it.

Girlboss is loosely based on the memoirs of Sophia Amoruso the ex-CEO of vintage clothes company Nasty Gal. It tells the story of how a 23 year old woman went from selling a random piece of Vintage clothing on eBay to owning a million dollar online enterprise. It’s also a fucking awful portrayal of women in business. The fictional Sophia (I can’t say for sure whether real-life Sophia was the same) is the worst kind of stereotype of an entitled millennial. She refuses to grow up, feels as though life owes her something for nothing, and goes from job to job because she can’t accept responsibility. Instead of being a regular citizen who makes an honest wage, Sophia wants to live life on easy street. We see her argue with and completely disrespect her boss and then act surprised when she gets fired. Sophia is exactly the kind of 23 year old that everyone over 50 thinks millennials really are.

Sophia is not just a difficult person who can’t doesn’t do well with authority figures (though this is all true). She’s just a fucking awful human being. She steals, argues with people for no reason, berates her friends for no reason, and has awful temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. She is selfish, narcissistic and completely blind to everyone else’s problems. She’s disgusting but the writers feel that it’s okay to make her so awful simply because she knows how awful she is. They seem to be pushing the ridiculous notion that it’s okay to be a bitch as long as you openly acknowledge that you are one. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order for us to accept that Sophia is a bitch she needs to have some redeeming features. The only problem is, they forget to show us what they are. She is surrounded by people who just allow her to be a dick but there’s never any evidence of why. We never see what they see in her that makes it okay. As it goes, Sophia is just the kind of teenager that should have been slapped super hard years ago. Although, Girlboss is actually attempting to imply that Sophia is just an independent, strong young woman. The kind of person that Destiny’s Child were always banging on about.

What Girlboss does more than empower women is just perpetuate the stereotype that, in order to get ahead in business, a women needs to act more like a man. Sophia is shown to succeed ahead of the women she goes up against on eBay. They are portrayed as naive and stupid women who are weak and foolish in their business decisions. They keep their femininity and their emotional vulnerability but they don’t make as much money. Sophia walks around swearing, shouting, and not giving any kinds of fucks about anyone and she’s having sex on top of her wads of cash. Instead of presenting a feminist idea of women in business, Girlboss just strengthens the boss bitch image. It’s disgusting.

To be fair, if Sophia was a super talented and repressed genius then it would be possible to forgive her sins. She’s not though. She’s just a young girl who gets super lucky. She stumbles across one great piece of clothing and luckily makes a huge profit. There was no great strategy here but a girl who took advantage of a one-off situation. There is no skill on show here. It means that there is no space for Girlboss in today’s society. The story of Sophia Amoruso holds no place in the lives of current job seeking young people. Sophia has no skills, no background in business, and no clear plan to success. It falls into her lap. The story she’s trying to sell to young people is that you can make all the money you want by not doing a fucking thing. Take it from someone who has been job hunting for fucking ages: it doesn’t work like that in the real world.

The story at the heart of this series is a fantasy that does more damage than it does good. Which would almost be okay if it was also well-made. The fact is, aside from the supporting cast and a pretty decent performance by its lead actor, Girlboss is just bad. The script is so badly written that most of the dialogue makes me cringe. There are conversations between characters that feel so unrealistic that it’s super jarring. It also features such stock characters as the put-upon best friend who always forgives her awful best friend, the female tech nerd who has no social skills and no self-confidence, the scum-bad drummer boyfriend, and Sophia’s poor father who loves her but gets nothing in return. It’s all so familiar and uninspiring it makes me want to cry. There is a potentially decent story and main character here but everything has been simplified beyond belief to make it universally appealing. It’s all so familiar because they don’t want to alienate anyone. Unfortunately, in order to get everything right the show just gets everything so wrong.

films, fucking awful, review, Ricky Gervais, television

Tuesday’s Reviews – David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)

I don’t these days I’d describe myself as a big Ricky Gervais fan but I’ve been a huge one. I loved The Office when I first saw it and Extras has a special place in my heart (mostly for Patrick Stewart’s cameo but still. I kept with him through the dodgier moments of Derek and Life’s Too Short. I still listen to his podcasts and laugh until it hurts. Back in the day, his stand-up was both hilarious and cutting edge. I was there with everyone else in terms of worshipping everything the comic did. Then he went to Hollywood and I kind of lost faith with him. From the laughably bad Ghost Town, the dismal and cliched The Invention of Lying, and the embarrassing brief appearances in the Night at the Museum films, it wasn’t the Ricky Gervais I knew. Then the final series of Derek was a bit shit and Gervais just got more unreliable. Unreliable and more egotistical. In the run up to the release of Special Correspondent Ricky was often quoted talking about how fucking great he was. Which would have been fine if the film itself wasn’t so shit. So, when it was announced that David Brent, a character that means a lot to me and a great many people, would be coming back in a feature film, I couldn’t help but feel kind of apprehensive of his return to old material. Then my old work friend saw it and told me it was awful… and he didn’t hate Special Correspondents nearly as much as I did. So, I put off watching the film and went into it expecting to be cringing, crying, swearing revenge on Gervais, or all of the above.

Aside from a few special appearances and a series of YouTube videos that I couldn’t bear watching for more than a few seconds, Ricky Gervais hasn’t played David Brent since 2003. That’s a gap of 13 years between the final episode of the BBC2 series and the character’s move to the big screen. Gervais has been keen to point out that this isn’t an The Office film; probably because some of its stars have gone on to bigger and better things at this point. I mean Martin Freeman is a huge name these days, Lucy Davis is currently starring in Wonder Woman, and Mackenzie Crook has done some stuff since Pirate of the Caribbean… I haven’t seen it but he’s definitely done it.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, right? After all, it was David Brent that was the driving force of the humour in the series so that’s all that matters. Well, kind of. Brent was the figure of fun within the series but you also had enough happening around him that he was always diluted and humanised. It’s Tim and Dawn that people loved and it was Gareth that was the lovable weirdo. Brent was always the pathetic try-hard that was sort of annoying. How well could a film hold up with just him at the helm?

Well it’s okay because Brent is not alone. The film reintroduces us to rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) who we first met in a Comic Relief sketch in 2013. In that sketch Brent was attempting to make it as a Simon Cowell type by managing the up and coming Johnson. In Life on the Road, the larger than life ex-manager of a paper company is still harbouring his dream of becoming a rock star and is self-funding a short tour with his band Forgone Conclusion. Johnson is being taken along for the ride but finds that his talents are not being used as much as he’d like. Brent throws all of his money into organising a tour that only a handful of people turn up to. He is so driven by a desire for fame that he can’t see how damaging the whole thing is.

If I had to sum up Life on Tour it would be like those people on X Factor or something who think they have talent and then are humiliated by the show when it turns out they have zero singing ability. It takes the whole awkward cringe comedy to a level beyond anything we’ve seen on The Office. At least during the two series of the show Brent was an idiot but he was still a lovable one. There is little here beyond meanness. The comedy comes from his utter lack of self-awareness and his need to please people. The series ended with him finally growing some balls and telling Finchy to fuck off. In that moment there was hope for David Brent. That hope has all but disappeared here and Gervais is back to cheap laughs and trying to push people’s buttons.

If Life on the Road teaches us anything it’s that, without Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais has no ability to reign himself in. It’s exactly the same story that we’ve seen before but when he has this kind of freedom everything just gets out of control. There is nothing to bring the narrative together and the whole thing feels more like a sketch that has been elongated thanks to some averagely funny songs that go on way too long. You kind of get the impression that, like Brent, Gervais is using this film to act out any fantasies he may still have about being a rock star. There needed to be more structure and more discipline for this to ever work alongside the TV show that is so perfect and so loved.

Still, there are funny moments and there is always going to be some joy in watching Gervais play David Brent. I mean, by now, the character fits him better than a Sergio Georgini jacket and all of the familiar gurns and noises bring memories flooding back. The problem is that there was no need to bring David back. He had a perfect ending in 2003 and Gervais should have stuck to his guns and not brought him back. It feels like Gervais is trying to profit on the Alan Partridge vibe by constantly bringing back a much-loved character successfully time and time again. But David Brent has never been Alan Partridge and Ricky Gervais has never been Steve Coogan. There is a mean and desperate quality to Gervais’ writing for this character that just doesn’t work in this context. He tries so hard to shock and offend the “humourless PC brigade” but his comedy has ceased being edgy. Ricky Gervais is bringing this character back into a society that is no longer shocked by these things. It all just seems lame.

I didn’t hate Life on the Road as much as I expected but this shouldn’t be taken as any kind of positive. I expected to turn it off halfway through. I ended up managing to watch the entire thing without feeling too bad. Still, this is nowhere near the level of brilliance that we associate with the show that first gave us this character. Instead of reintroducing us to a great comic creation this film just reminds us what we’ve been missing. It’s beginning to look as though the shrewd comic force of the Gervais/Merchant partnership wasn’t the loud and outspoken Gervais after all.

fucking funny, fucking sweet, Gilmore Girls, Kiefer Sutherland, list, Netflix, reboot, television, Top 10

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Things I Thought After Watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

In my Sunday Rundown a couple of weeks ago I promised to write about the Netflix Gilmore Girls reboot that week. That was mainly because I’d got my dates mixed up and thought this Top 10 Wen-sday was happening then. Still, in lieu of an actual review, which I figured would be both difficult, gushy, hyperbolic, and really fucking long, I’m setting down my strongest feelings regarding the new four episodes. I don’t know when I first got into Gilmore Girls but it was probably when I was 16. I instantly loved it and have rewatched every epsiode more times than I’d care to remember. So when it was announced that Netflix was bringing it back I was ecstatic. Of course, when I binge watched the new episodes as soon as possible I had a few questions. The most important being: WHY WAS THERE NO KIEFER SUTHERLAND CAMEO? I mean how hard would that have been? He’s on Netflix himself. They could have put it in his contract. What else is he doing? We need a Luke Danes/Kiefer Sutherland spin-off where they go fishing and discuss being shit at baseball. Desperately.

Ten: What is the point of the extended muscial sequence?

It went on too long, it wasn’t that funny, and it didn’t add to the story. This sequence basically sums up the vague feeling you get throughout the episodes (especially the second, third, fourth, etc. time through) that things were dragged out without reason. Random snippets appear for no reason other than to add time. If you can’t fill an hour and a half then don’t make a 90 minute episode. It’s that fucking simple.

Nine: Paris obsessing over Tristan is just absurd

After all this time? Fuck that. Paris is a strong woman who has spent the last few years making herself unstoppable. I get that the writers wanted to make her seem vulnerable and emotional behind the mask but this was a fucking shit way to do it. She wouldn’t have reacted to Tristan like this. She wouldn’t have even remembered him. There are plenty of ways to make Paris seem more human but this was just a disgusting one. It was out of character and worked against everything that had happened in previous seasons.

Eight: Emily’s story is perfect

It was always going to be sad to have reunion without Edward Herrmann playing Richard. He was a fabulous presence on the show and his chemistry with Kelly Bishop was amazing. I think the show tried hard to honour his memory but I think it could have gone futher. The funeral scene gave everyone a chance to grieve but it would have been nice for the 3 Gilmore girls to have a nice family goodbye. Sharing happy memories with each other. Still, Emily’s journey through spousal grief was both heartbreaking and enthralling. It felt so real and Kelly Bishop did a great job. I loved everything about Emily’s storyline and think, under the circumstances, that it was the best goodbye we could have wished for Emily.

 Seven: Why does Amy Sherman-Palladino keep dicking over Lane? 

Lane was always hard done by in the later seasons of the show. She never went to a great college and, aside from a small tour with her band, never saw anything but Stars Hollow. She married young and became a mother straight away. She should have been a rock and roll icon but she had to put her dreams on hold for her family. Which gives the message that women can’t have it all. The series ended with Zac being given the chance to go on tour with a huge band and Lane realising she couldn’t join him. It was her dream to go but she was left stuck at home and working in a diner. Then, years later, she’s still a mother and has to limit herself to band practice and playing drums at the secret bar. What the fuck did she ever do to you Amy? She could have been destined for great things. Why couldn’t she be a successful working mother? A great drummer and a caring mother? It’s bullshit.

 Six: Rory’s Gilmore Girls book narrative is JK Rowling epilogue levels of cringe

I mean a book about their relationship that Lorelai suggests should be called “Gilmore Girls” and not “the Gilmore Girls”. This whole plot line made me want to vomit. It’s supposed to be a cute in-joke but it’s just super cringey. It’s a cheap and awful way to give Rory’s professional life some purpose. It’s also not the ending for her career-wise that we’ve all been waiting for. One her first day at Chilton, Rory stated that she wanted to see things and write about that. This ending shows that she sees nothing but her own past. She deserved a brighter future.

Five: The wedding was perfection

It’s been a long time coming but A Year in the Life finally gave fans the moment they’ve all been waiting for. It took us a while to get there but we eventually got to see Lorelai marry the man she was supposed to be with. The wedding sequence was utterly beautiful and, I have to admit, the fact that it was set to ‘Reflecting Light’ (the song they danced to at Liz’s wedding) brought tears to my eyes. The whole set-up for the wedding was gorgeous and watching the family run through it at night was heart-warming. This moment was only marred by Lorelai’ s insanely uncharacteristic decision to “do Wild”. It’s not something she would have done. It was too selfish and cowardly a decision. I’m just glad she eventually saw sense.

Four: Lorelai’s beahviour at her father’s funeral is bullshit

The worst thing about the return of a much-loved show after any amount of time is the possibility that a character you know really well starts doing things that are out of character. One of the first pieces of information we got was the revelation that a drunken Lorelai started publicly shaming Richard at his wake. I know the two were never the closest of people and Lorelai was always critical of the way she was raised. However, there is nothing about the seasons that preceded this one that suggested that would be how she honoured her father. I mean the idea that at the spur of the moment she couldn’t think of one even remotely nice thing to say about him, even if it was just to please Emily, is fucking insane. I mean there were moments fro the previous seasons that would have worked. Like the time he helped her escape from a blind date Emiy set up or the time she took him shopping for stationary. The time he came to visit Stars Hollow and they had Chinese takeout. There were countless moments she could have picked. What she wouldn’t have done is stand there, in a drunken haze, and talk about how terrible a father he was. No matter what she thought about her childhood, Lorelai loved her father and, when all is said and done, she is still a Gilmore.

Three: The sequence with the Life and Death Brigade is fucking sensational

I mean just look at it. It’s fucking beautifully shot and is just so fun. The song, one of my favourites on the Across the Universe soundtrack, fits the action perfectly. As soon as I heard it I had one of my creative moments and imagined a whole film scenario in my head that was actually pretty similar. Everything about it was sensational. The signs alerting Rory to their presence. the gorilla masks, the smoke, the steampunk, the tango. I just loved every second of it. It captured the spirit of the group and showed that, even after all these years, people hadn’t really changed that much. Also, the Wizard of Oz ending was sheer perfection.

Two: Logan Logan Logan

I’ve always been a Logan fan. I know his relationship with Rory wasn’t always great but he was much better for her than either Dean or Jess. Yes, yes, Jess fans. I know you’ll all be shouting at me that Jess changed over time and became the perfect man. I just don’t think all that shit he put her through when they were younger was too much to get passed. Now, I hear you continue to cry, her affair with Logan didn’t exactly go anywhere to prove that they are made for each other. It wasn’t ideal but there is undeniable passion and love between the two of them. I get that the creators were pushing the idea that Logan is Rory’s Christopher and Jess is her Luke. However, Logan was always good for Rory. He pushed Rory at a time when she was really discovering who she was and who she wanted to be. He helped her take risks and have some fun. He always believed she could make it and, after he really buckled down to work, became a great husband for her. Just look at all the times he came running to her aid without even thinking. Dean made her feel guilty and Jess just left without telling her. I think we know who the better boyfriend is. I like to think the pair will eventually settle down together and raise their baby as a happy couple. Just because Lorelai couldn’t find happiness with Christopher doesn’t mean Rory can’t end up with Logan.

One: Not enough Sookie

I know that Melissa McCarthy is one of the biggest comedy stars around now and barely had the time to do her tiny cameo. I understand that we’re lucky that we had that small glimpse of her. However, I don’t think Sookie’s absence was explained in the correct way. It just didn’t make sense for her character to abandon the inn that she dreamed of helping Lorelai create for years. It didn’t make sense for her to just leave like that. Also, what about Jackson and the kids? We see Jackson in Star’s Hollow so that means Sookie left her family for god knows how long. It’s just not right. There were plenty of other ways to have explained Sookie not being around. She could have gone on a year long retreat to Asia to learn all about some new cooking technique. Or taken the family on a food tour of Europe to bring back classic dishes to the Dragonfly. Fucking anything other than what actually happened. The shitty story that Amy came up with just meant Sookie’s eventual appearance was marred and, quite frankly, rubbish. I mean Melissa was fabulous as always and the multiple cake stuff was full of feels. However, the chemistry wasn’t there. It felt static and uncomfortable.

fucking awful, fucking idiot, meh, Netflix, review, television, YouTube

Tuesday’s Reviews – Haters Back Off (2016)

Over the last few months my dedication to YouTube has waned slightly and I don’t regularly watch as many videos as I used to. However, over the years I’ve been through a series of obsessions with certain channels before getting bored of them. I guess because, when it comes to these things, I have the attention span similar to the life of a mayfly. One of the people I used to be an avid subscriber of was Miranda Sings. When I first watched the videos created by Colleen Ballinger I thought they were fucking hilarious but, over time, everything was just painfully similar. The character is absurd, sure, but there is only so many videos you can make around the concept before it becomes a bit too familiar. However, I am obsessed with her brother’s vlog channel so I feel like I’ve been hearing about the Miranda Sings Netflix show for absolutely ages. So, when it finally came out on Friday, I decided I should watch it.

Haters Back Off is intended to introduce the world outside of YouTube to Colleen Ballinger’s comedy character, Miranda Sings, whilst also showing her army of fans her life behind the camera. Starting from the moment she posts her first video, the show takes us on her journey towards fame. Miranda follows the five step plan set out by her ambitious Uncle Jim (Steve Little) and is encouraged by her hypochondriac mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey). These are characters that have, thus far, been unseen elements of Sings’ YouTube career but have been discussed at length. The two new elements to her world are her lovelorn neighbour Patrick (Erik Stocklin) and her sensible sister Emily (Francesca Reale). Patrick lets Miranda get away with anything whilst Emily deals with the constant sources of embarrassment that her family deals out without her friends finding out about them.

This show seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix and would clearly bring about a shitload of Miranda fans from YouTube onto the streaming site. However, Miranda doesn’t really transition too well into a longer format. She found fame thanks to her misguided belief that she was an amazing singer yet possessed no real talent. This is the kind of shtick that works in bursts of 3-4 minutes but got kind of grating. Obviously understand that not all protagonists have to be easy to root for but Miranda is so abhorrent that it’s not just hard but almost impossible. It’s the kind of thing that’s funny for a bit but when it’s all you’re facing it just gets boring. In this format you really realise just how much of the Miranda persona is based on negativity. 
And I’m not just talking about the character herself but her origin. Every interview Ballinger has given about the birth of her alter ego is based around her derision of the girls who can’t sing yet dare to post videos of themselves to the internet. It’s basically Ballinger, a trained singer, shitting on everyone who isn’t professionally trained yet enjoys trying. It’s always struck me as massively egotistical on Ballinger’s part that she not only judges these people on face value alone but feels that she can use them to further her career. It’s mean. Especially as she, a great singer, isn’t actually using her talent to gain views. Miranda is just Ballinger, hiding behind comedy, to bully countless people who don’t have the natural talent that she is lucky enough to possess.
Haters Back Off just takes this idea further by adding in more character’s for Ballinger and co. to take the piss out of. All of Miranda’s family are quirky yet realistic. It’s an exaggerated version of lower-middle class family life yet intended to poke fun at the people at the heart. Take the single mother who struggles to make ends meet and keep her children happy. She is mocked for her protectiveness and her ability to make medical mountains out of imaginary molehills. It’s not a funny pastiche of life in this environment but the general mocking of those types of people. Ballinger has suggested the series was intended to show the heart and emotion behind the character but all it does is reveal the lack of it in the writing. 
There are some funny moments, sure, but for the most part I just felt sad watching this. Sad that Netflix put so much effort into such poor content. Sad that something so mean-spirited could be so popular. Sad that it will definitely get an awful second series. And sad that I’ll be one of the minorities that dare to say anything bad against it. The series follows a rather safe narrative structure but can never quite find the right tone or voice. It has moments of sheer ridiculousness followed by unnecessarily dark storylines. It’s insane. Just like the tone, which seems, for the most part, is written for the existing young fans of the YouTube channel but is augmented by an incredible amount of adult jokes. It’s trying to be all things at once and failing to be that good at any of them. 
70s, Ben Stiller, Jason Bateman, Owen Wilson, TBT, television, Will Ferrell

TBT – Starsky & Hutch (2004)

My sister’s wedding is getting ever closer so I’m not exactly focused on the blog this week. There’s a lot of sorting, cleaning and final mad panic buys going on round here that I’ve been a bit lazy with my selections this week. High-Rise was something I’ve had on my list for ages and I watched it when I had a spare evening. My pick for today had even less thought behind it. Netflix suggested it to me last weekend and, as it’s been such a fucking age since I saw it, didn’t hesitate. Now, every week I try and get my Tuesday and Thursday posts to match up in some way: that might be by actor, genre or director but, as is usually the case, it’s based on whatever flimsy connection I can create. This weeks connection is the 1970s. Both of this week’s films are set in the 70s and that was enough of a connection to prevent me madly searching for a film set in a tower block or just watching the 90s adaptation of Crash. Neither of those things fit into my schedule or filled me with a massive amount of desire. So here we have it. A random film that you’ll probably all have watched many many times. It almost doesn’t seem worth bothering but when have I ever been known to listen to common sense?

Hollywood in the late 90s and early 2000s was definitely going through the time of Frat Pack: the name given to the group of comedy actors like Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. The guys placed into this group by the media would turn up together in films in any number of combinations and were constantly churning out films that are, at least now, beloved by fans. Starsky & Hutch came after a string of films like Old School, Zoolander and Meet the Parents and attempted to reboot the popular 70s TV show using the lure of the Frat Pack stars. With added Snoop Dogg oviously. Ben Stiller takes on the role of David Starsky from Paul Michael Glaser whilst his Zoolander co-star Owen Wilson stepped into David Sole’s shows as Ken Hutchinson.

The film’s plot is hardly anything to write home about but it was never really going to be. We see the two Detectives form an unlikely partnership as they attempt to bust a drug baron, Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), as he attempts to pull off the biggest drug deal ever seen. Along the way, they are given assistance from dodgy “businessman” and Hutch’s acquaintance Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) and a dragon obsessed convict (Will Ferrell). Obviously, things aren’t easy for the pair and their eventually have to go behind their captain’s back when they are inevitably suspended. It’s all very by the books for a buddy cop but fleshed out with a few in-jokes concerning the original series.

Still, that’s not to say the film isn’t funny. Yes, it doesn’t do anything to blow the genre wide open but it gives the performers enough room to work their comedy. Stiller and Wilson have just enough chemistry on screen to sell their characters and the hit-and-miss script. Their relationship is the same kind of thing that has kept them in business for years. Stiller plays the tightly wound and by-the-book Starsky whilst Wilson plays the cool and loose-moraled Hutch. It’s also the thing buddy cop movies have been know for: pair up two opposites and watch as they eventually work out their differences and capture the bad guy. It’s nothing too out of the ordinary but the pair work so well together now that it doesn’t matter.

Most surprisingly, of course, is the revelation that is Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear. Nobody would ever have described Snoop as a great actor but he does pretty well in the role. Yes, some of his stuff is a bit wooden but he offers some genuinely funny moments. Although, for my personal tastes, it is Will Ferrell’s Big Earl who offers the most memorable moment. The two cops go and visist Earl in prison and, in order to get him to talk, pretend to be sexy dragons to get him off. It’s a moment that absolutely killed me when I first saw the film and is something I reference far too regularly. Ferrell may be a tiny part of the film but, as is so often the case, he is definitely the greatest.

When it comes down to it, Starsky and Hutch isn’t really that inspiring a film but, thanks to the cast and a fairly charming script, it manages to update the tired television show into a modern film. The narrative is so flimsy it could break in a slight breeze but there can be no denying that the gags keep coming. Not all of them land as successfully as they’d like but you can’t fault it on sheer numbers. This is a quantity rather than quality kind of situation and, in spite of everything, it works. It’s not the greatest Frat Pack movie ever made but it’s still up there. I may not have watched it with as much regularity as Zoolander but it’s memorably enough to make me go back every now and then.

fucking funny, Kate Winslet, Ricky Gervais, TBT, television

TBT – Extras Series 1 Episode 3 "Kate Winslet"

In my continual effort to never watch a new television show ever, I took to Netflix to watch Extras recently. It’s been great to relive the series that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant created after The Office had become such a huge success. Extras was the potentially dangerous second album that just wouldn’t live up to its predecessor. Thankfully it was a great follow up even if it lacked the edge that made The Office so great. Of course, re-watching any series always brings up the question of favourites. So I spent much of my time watching trying to decide which episode that I loved the most. I’ve always thought that Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and David Bowie were my favourite guest stars because they were all so fucking funny. Although, in terms of whole episode I don’t think they all stand up as well as this one.

Looking at it now the Kate Winslet episode of Extras holds an even greater significance thanks to her line “If you do a film about the Holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar.” A few years after she spouted these words Winslet won her first Academy Award for The Reader. So, if it goes to show nothing else it’s that Ricky Gervais understands the politics behind Award season and Kate Winslet’s career choices better than we could ever have imagined. I’m not trying to suggest that Gervais is prophetic but if you wanted to present evidence to justify that claim you’d want to start here.

Kate Winslet may not be the most memorable of all the guest stars in the whole run of Extras but she is undoubtedly one of the strongest. Many of the big favourites (including my top 3) survive mostly due to quotable lines and absurb scenarios. In fact, non of my favourite 3 are really that important to the plot of their episodes and exist only to play with the actor’s reputations. Winslet sticks around way longer than P Stew or David Bowie and has more of an impact than McKellen. She’s one of the few cameos who actually move the narrative forward.

She’s also incredibly willing to poke fun at herself. Though she appears on set as a nun caught up in WW2, Winslet’s character comes out through her conversations with Andy and Maggie between takes. Maggie is bemoaning the fact that her new boyfriend enjoys phone sex whilst she has no clue how to approach the subject. Winslet overhears and, in a very matter-of-fact way, offers help and suggestions to get things going. The relationship between Maggie and Andy is what makes the show so perfect and Winslet’s presence only makes that dynamic flourish.

The interactions with Winslet are the kind of uncomfortably hilarious scenes that you could image watching and, during the grand finale of that plot line, the connection between her and Gervais is just amazing. The pair work well together and, in terms of writing as well, Gervais seems to understand the star wonderfully. This episode, more than a lot of the others, portrays a very well written and rich part for the cameo in question. It’s not just based on a crass mirroring of the  star’s perceived nature but a very clever self-parody by a phenomenal actress.

Season 1 may have suffered in comparison to season 2 because the show was still trying to find its feet. The humour doesn’t always stand up as strongly or hit its mark as well as its follow-up but there is plenty to love about this episode besides the potty mouthed Kate Winslet. The episode’s secondary storyline involves Andy trying to woo a fellow extra. There are some genuinely adorable moments in the midst of all the traditional awkward moments and the montage showing Andy spending time with the lady in question is a stand-out moment.

Although, this episode really deserves the title of “best episode” mainly because it showcases everything about that this show got right. Other episodes may have a mix of these but Kate Winslet’s turn just works in harmony. It understands its characters, gives its guest star enough room to let loose and lives up to the comedy its trying to be. Extras had a huge desire to make it’s audience squirm in their seats and there are enough uncomfortable moments in this episode to guarantee they’ll feel awkward watching it. It has to be one of the most cringey but addictive episodes of the whole series. A fact that, in my book at least, makes is the only real candidate for best episode ever.