Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TV Tues - Fried Gold and Raw Crap

Hasn't really been much in the way of TV to watch recently outside of the Olympics, but I have managed to make my way through a couple of Brit-coms.

Spaced (Series 1 & 2): The series that was pretty much directly responsible for Shaun of the Dead, this series was created by Shaun star Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson who not only wrote every episode together, but also starred as Tim and Daisy, two twenty-something semi-slackers who initially pose as a "professional" couple in order to secure a flat together, although that very sit-com-y premise is rarely the driving force of the show. Instead, it focuses on the pop culture heavy lives of aspiring comic book writer Tim, who makes money working in a comic shop

aspiring writer and master job-shirker Daisy

Tim's best friend the militarily minded (and often simple-minded) Mike

and my favorite character in the show, their downstairs neighbor Brian

The show's humor was a combination of character based moments

weird situations

and pop culture references and homages, such as this ending of Series 2 Episode 6 whose dialogue is very reminiscent of a certain much-beloved SF film

And then of course there was the opening sequence which inspired Pegg and series director Edgar Wright to create one of my all-time favorite films, Shaun of the Dead

I'm currently halfway through the commentary tracks on the DVDs; I've finished the original batch of commentaries which were done for the British DVDs years ago -- which, incidentally, is where I learned that Nick Frost (Mike) coined the phrase "Fried Gold" to describe perfection -- and now just need to move on to the ones made specifically for the American version, which features not only the cast and crew of the series, but also several big Hollywood names who are fans, such as Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarrantino, Matt Stone (of South Park fame), an Diablo Cody (writer of Juno).

All in all, a great series, and one I am very sorry only lasted for 14 episodes. If they were ever to do a reunion, I would have to do a dance of joy

Sadly, mine would probably be more like the middle one

Black Books Series 1: While looking through the IMDB message boards about Spaced I came across a thread about similar Brit-coms and saw a few people rave about the show as being one of the greatest shows ever, so I decided to put it in my queue. As I watched the first episode I thought to myself "Well, okay, so I'm not loving it, but sometimes pilots are a little slow to get off the ground, I'm sure by the next ep or two it will find its footing." Then, as I moved into the next couple of episodes I reflected on all of the rave reviews it had received and wondered what in the world I was missing. By the end of the disc, I knew exactly what I was missing: the three hours I had wasted watching the dreadfully uneven show. True, there were bits and pieces of truly funny stuff here and there, such as the sequence where Bernard is trying to injure himself to get an extension on his taxes

or the sadly non-Youtube-able moment where Bernard gleefully dials and redials Manny's cell phone knowing that it causes Manny pain when it rings, but by the time the credits of the final episode rolled I almost did a dance of joy that I had reached the end and didn't have to suffer through any more of it. Somehow don't think I'll be requesting Series 2 or 3 . . . I also want to find everyone who said "If you loved Spaced or Father Ted you'll love this" and slap them upside the head. I mean, I know comedy is subjective and all, but the tone and style of all three of those shows are so vastly different that I don't know why anyone would compare them at all. Plus, Spaced and Father Ted have several well-defined characters with consistent and amusing quirks, whereas Black Books only has one truly consistent character, the surly book-store owner played by Dylan Moran, with the other two seeming to have personalities that shift to whatever gag was needed. All in all, not my cup of tea, but apparently I'm in the minority here, since it has an overall rating of 9.3 on IMDB.