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Me & My Monsters (2010)
Another good TV program for kids (and adults) from the UK
I'm not certain why, but the Brits seem to give their kids some pretty good programming where US broadcasters just shove any old poorly-animated junk out and call it "educational". This British kids sitcom features your fairly standard dad/mom/older sister/young son family, but adds a trio of live-action monsters. Okay
they're giant puppets and people inside costumes, but they are handled pretty well. And, they are interesting to look at.
The humor is aimed at, I would guess, five through fifteen-year-olds but is actually kind of funny, even for this 55-year-old.
The nice thing is that this show doesn't talk down to kids like a lot of US programming does. I suppose that there is some educational content—such as learning to get along with those who are different from you, and living with a sibling that likes to make things hard on you— but it doesn't preach these concepts.
It is available on the CBBC channel weekday mornings (in late 2010). With luck, other world- wide BBC channels will get this soon.
Outer Space Astronauts (2009)
You should really give this a chance!
Unlike the previous reviewer I kinda like this. It is a combination of lower-budget CGI backgrounds and bodies with live action heads. The effect is a little odd at first, but the actors do a pretty good job given that they probably didn't know what their bodies were going to be doing when they recorded their parts.
Basically, a crew of not-the-cream-of-any-crop explorers are in deep space doing something (not really explained). In episode one they encounter an alien ship filled with macho red males bent on domination and a cutesy red female liaison person. Our crew blithely shows their crew everything about our ship, including weaponry and shielding, while they refuse to show any of theirs. In the end, we beat them, there is a little implied alien sex, and the Captain's treasured liquor storage unit get destroyed. Bummer!
Is it derivative? Absolutely. Take two parts "Tripping The Rift," add another three parts of the BBC series "Hyperdrive" and toss in a little "fart" humor from National Lampoon movies and you have the idea. The plot of the first episode is easy to follow (read that: sort of shallow and easy to guess how it will end up) but the handling of the presentation — animation and faces, remember? – help it move right along. Even the juvenile humor can be ignored/enjoyed a bit..
As I said at the top, you should give this a try, perhaps at least 2 or 3 episodes before making up your mind. I'm not sure how long a run this is scheduled to have, but I think the writers/producers could easily get 20-24 shows out of this before it might grow a little weary.
Oh, and careful viewers will spot things that casual viewers may miss.
i've given the show a 7 based on the first episode; I may change my opinion up or down based on the next several of them. Watch with me, won't you?
The Sideshow (2007)
Wonderful Australian show that came and went far too soon
The Sideshow was a wonderful show on ABC (Australian Broadcast Company) that had the misfortune of being shown far too early in the evening - 7:30 - on Saturdays. Featuring a set of between three to five "guests" each week along with regulars Claire Hooper (funny, sexy woman). Flacco, and The Umbilical Brothers. Host Paul McDermott was wonderful with an intro monologue, between act intros, and a closing monologue along with closing the shows frequently with songs. If you ever get the chance to see Good News Week (on Australia's Channel Ten) or see clips of him as part of the comedy trio The Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS) you will see what an amazing talent he is.
Each show featured a variety of comedy and musical acts plus some regular features like Claire Hooper's "20 Questions" that never seemed to get around to asking the questions... just interacting hilariously with Paul. Flacco segments are surreal and funny especially when Paul sings "Goodnight, Princess" to Flacco's little Danish princess in a crib.
YouTube has some clips that can be viewed of Sideshow as well as DAAS skits and Good News Week episodes (which are available as podcasts from various sources). I only wish that I had more than the 10 Sideshows I have managed to gather this past few months. It was a funny and entertaining program that just got put in the wrong time slot and never found more than a medium-sized audience.
Good News Week (1996)
This Yank LOVES this Aussie program
Good News Week had a successful run a few years ago and then disappeared for a couple years. In 2008 it came back with a bang! Host Paul McDermott, one of the Doug Anthony All Stars troupe (DAAS for those who are familiar) is the perfect, cynical leader over two teams of comedians, actors and even high-ranking politicians lampooning the news of the day and personalities that might just be a bit too much into themselves. Loosely based on the British programme Have I Got News For You, GNW features several different rounds of questions each week directed toward either of the 3-person teams. Points are awarded and go toward absolutely nothing but add to the fun. Mikey Robbins hosts one team while Clair Hooper hosts the other. Both are very bright people and often are the only one on their team with an idea about the subject being questioned.
A favorite segment seen on about one out of each four shows is Tentacles of Death where Paul McDermott holds onto two large sets of severed cables. He asks questions and the first one to "buzz" in sets off a shower of sparks, fireworks and electrical arcing right by the host. Paul has actually been burned before by getting a hand too close to an explosive charge. Usually at least one person buzzes in early just to watch the fireworks and lightning and to see Paul squirm a little.
Practically nothing is out of bounds and nothing/nobody is spared being raked across the comedy coals. GNS is available as podcasts or may be viewed on line at the channel's website.
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a great laugh.
Return of the Saint (1978)
Fair, but not really The Saint
Sorry if this offends some, but I have major problems with this series. Starting with Ian Oglivy as Simon Teplar. Now, his character name may be the same as the character played by Sir Roger Moore in the original series, but he isn't really The Saint. He is vaguely Saint-like, but is far too much a puppet of the organization for which he works.
Instead of suave and cunning, Oglivy's Templar is brash. Rather than a twinkle in his eye, this new "Saint" seems to vacillate between looking slightly embarrassed and looking just bit too smug.
True, I am one of those, "James Bond WAS Sean Connery" and "Simon Templar WAS Roger Moore" types. Perhaps that colors my perspective, but watching some of these episodes in 2008-09 hasn't done anything to change my opinion of the show back in 1978-79 when I first saw it. I have also gone back to watch several of the Roger Moore series recently. They hold up. Rather nicely, too.
The plots are paper thin and the supporting acting is sometimes painful. I would give examples, but they would end up being spoilers.
For completists out there, go for the DVD. For Ian Ogilvy fans, go for it. But, if you have warm, fuzzy memories of the original The Saint shows, don't say that one crabby old fart didn't warn you.
The Associates (1979)
A Lesson for TV Producers
The Associates was a wonderful comedy with a great ensemble cast that just seemed to mesh from the start of the first episode.
If there are any television producers or network executives out there looking for a prime example of a truly funny show that was dropped for no good reason, this is the show. Any students out there looking for examples of how a network can manhandle and kill good programming should be given the entire run of this show to watch.
If James Burroughs is out there looking for something from his "vault" to bring out on DVD... this is the one!
Martin Short showed what a brilliant comedic actor he was going to turn out to be in this show. His timing, as well as that of the writing, was spot on. No one actor dominated with each one being given lines and situations that just seemed to fit like a comfortable glove. Even the list o guest stars is amazing: John Housman, Cloris Leachman and others.
Wow. How this one ever "got away" is a wonder.
Something VERY familiar about this wonderful program
Other have mentioned some of the merits of this witty, often funny mystery. It isn't deep, dark and gut wrenching. It IS light, well written and has a fine cast.
But, there is something seriously familiar about the cast and characters. Here's what I mean.
There is the (relatively) handsome male lead and the gorgeous female lead. They are backed up by a long-haired (shaggy) male who provides a lot of the comic relief and a short, dark- haired, bookish, glasses-wearing, female. The team travel around in a large van solving mysterious deaths in out-of-the-way places.
The only thing missing is the dog.
Freddie, Daphnie, Shaggy and Velma?
No... there aren't ghosts and glowing, algae-covered sea Captains rattling chains, but I would bet a bucket of Scooby snacks that the people who created and cast this fun show are real fans of Scooby Do, Where Are You?
And, if you watch these shows with that in mind, it becomes even more entertaining.
Paul Merton in China (2007)
Travel through China with first-time visitor, comedian Paul Merton
Well, let's start with a comparison: Michael Palin has had a good lock on these "travel with me" documentaries for a number of years, but as refreshing as his were in the beginning, they have become a predictable and seem to be a bit "I can do this but you probably never will"; Paul Merton probably best known for his work on Have I Got News For You and Room 101 provides a fresh look and feel and one more in line with what the average traveler can experience. Paul has never been to China, doesn't speak the language, and has a look of perplexity about him when hit with new situations. But, the man is a very intelligent comedian and puts a good skew on everything that happens to him or in front of him. He seems to know when to be serious and when to make light of a situation.
His six-week travels are compressed into four 1-hour programs, each fairly well paced and full of interesting things. The sort of things and experiences that I imagine I would have if I were to visit China. With the same amount of "I'm loving what I'm seeing, but I feel a bit uncomfortable and slightly out of place" that most people would experience. And, he tends to go the same sort of places I would go and you would too (probably) on your first visit.
All in all this series is a good bit of fun. It isn't as magnificently photographed as a Palin epic, but it is well worth your while to search it out in repeats or when it comes out on DVD.
After You've Gone (2007)
Not a laugh riot, but a good, well-written comedy and a good bit of fun
Please understand that I write this following the broadcast of the first show in this new series from the pen of Fred Baron, the Americal behind My Family.
I really love the casting of Nicholas Lyndhurst and Celia Imrie as the ex-husband and mother of a woman who wants to go off to Africa to "help the poor." They, along with the rest of the well- cast cast do a great job with the material. The writing is clean and the comedy comes from the actual "situations," hence the term situation comedy. Not, unlike far too many programs, from forced innuendo, double entrendre, and other fancy words for "if it really isn't funny, make it smutty!"
Shot in front of a live audience, the laughs come in realistic amounts and at the correct times. I'm going to enjoy watching this one develop over the next several weeks.
History Bites (1998)
Everything History class wasn't, but should have been!
Rick Green, co-creator of the wonderful Canadial show, The Red Green Show, branched out in the early 90's to create and star in this "bet you thought you knew what happened" history program. Combining a very good ensemble cast along with the use of humor to get points across, History Bites takes the premise of what might we know about certain points in history if television had been there to record and report it?
Would the Hun really turn out to be a bunch of misunderstood guys who really thought they were doing a good thing by slaughtering thousands as their horde moved across Asia and Europe? Was Genghis just trying to live up to his father's image?
Were the Norsemen who conquered western France shocked when the French just gave them the land and told them the now THEY had to care for the population.
History Bites is a funny show. It should be mandatory viewing for 5th through 8th graders in all schools to help them understand that what me might think of as historical fact is often just what the winners wrote, not what happened. And humor is the best way to get across this kind of information.
Too bad the Canadians keep it to themselves. Or, too bad US networks like The History Channel or even Comedy Central haven't picked this up. There are more than enough individual shows to fill more than a year's programming (at one per week).
Not just Quite Interesting... Quite Hilarious as Well!
Have you ever been watching a game show and thought, "what would it be like if the host just lost control and the celebrity panel took over?" Of course you have... we all have. Well, QI takes that premise and lets the humor fly.
There are right answers which get a couple points, glaringly obvious and often actually wrong answers that get points ripped away, and the main point of the show: Quite Interesting tidbits that get lots of points.
Stephen Fry stumbles through the questions, obviously reading them off of a prompter that is too far away, and completely knows when to just sit back and when to drop his own QI bits in.
Unfortunately not available in the US, this British show is refreshing, wonderfully staged, and a delight to watch.
It is obvious that like another British 'game show,' "Have I Got News For You" this program is shot over a period of many hours and edited down to the best parts. But who cares!?!? The point is not who wins or loses (generally the ongoing panelist, Alan Davies) but how many laughs we get per half hour and how many things you can learn by watching.
Pray for DVDs full of this or at least having BBC America pick it up.
Emily's Reasons Why Not (2006)
Better to have asked... "Why?"
Emily's Reasons Why Not:
1) Very bad premise 2) Worse writing 3) Director and writer don't seem to understand the concept of what comedy is suppose to be 3 A-Has this person EVER directed comedy before? 4) Got commitment before showing network a script 4 A-What FOOL committed to 6 episodes? 4 B-No sanity check to stop this train wreck before it began 5) Heather Graham isn't able to pull off this comedy thing 6) Rest of cast didn't seem to know what was expected of them
RESULT: Cancelled after one episode.
It would be unfair to blame this all on Heather. I'm sure she was well compensated for jumping from film to TV. I think that she just didn't have her heart in this. Of course, as bad as this was (and I think that the producers should release a "Very Special Complete Series" DVD so we can see this continue downhill) there have been worse.
The networks have lost all grip on how to produce good television and how to recognize what needs to be nurtured and what needs to never happen in the first place.
Hopefully, someone lost a job over this; we can only hope that a lesson has been learned.
Industrial Revelations (2002)
All history should be presented by Mark Williams
Mark Williams is a treasure. In this first of his multi-part historical series he presents the start and rise of the industrial revolution Great Britain. From mining operations that drove the need for steam power to the use of special canals all around Britain... he ties a series of facts and interesting information into a brilliant story.
He is a hands on presenter. Not a "see my face on camera and hear my voice" type, he gets right into things operating steam engines, making steel, piloting canal boats, and more.
Each episode begins with a basic premise but he manages to keep everything tied together show after show after show. Little items of info he brings up and explains in one show suddenly make even more sense three shows later when you get to see how they turn into something even bigger or newer.
And unlike many other presenters he seems genuinely enthusiastic about his subject matter. He is having fun making these shows and it really comes through. There is an amazing amount of information packed into a 10-part series. I believe I took away and will retain more information about the industrial revolution from this series than I ever received and remember from school (and I liked history!)
If all history could be presented like this, then more people would pay it the attention it deserves.
Mark Williams on the Rails (2004)
Mark Williams' historical programs should be mandatory
I have loved watching Mark Williams as he presents his history series, "Industrial Revelations" and "...On The Rails." Years ago I watched the series "Connections" with James Burke and found the basic premise to be fine, but that his style of presentation was annoying and tiresome as he tried to inject false enthusiasm into his scripts, and failed. Mark Williams doesn't appear to be trying to be enthusiastic... he IS enthusiastic about his subject matter. And, unlike Burke he actually ties back in all of the little info excursions he takes. And he weaves a complete story that flows from program one to program ten. I was fortunate to have someone record these for me so that I could watch them in one 5-hour sitting.
This series follows the history of the train engine from its first days of dangerous steam power to its future in transportation in this century. While the series mostly concentrates on locomotive history as it pertains to Great Britain, he does devote one entire episode to trains here in the US.
I learned a lot more about our Transcontinental Railroad from that 30-minute program than I ever learned in school. For instance, did you know that the two halves of the railroad didn't meet at first... that they bypassed each other by a hundred feet or so? Watch this and find out why.
Watching Mark present these shows is just plain fun. He obviously enjoys the subject matter and, unlike most "presenters" he gets his hands dirty. He operates steam engines while explaining their function, drives locomotives, stokes coal, oils bearings, and more. And you get the feeling that he understands what he is saying, not just reading a script.
These are worth watching, worth owning (if they ever are released on DVD) and worth recording if the US Discovery Channel brings these Discovery UK programs over here for us to enjoy.
Unconditional Love (2002)
Talk about a bizarre movie...
But a great cast! Jonathan Pryce, Kathy Bates, Rupert Everett, Lynne Redgrave, Julie Andrews and Dan Aykroyd! And that's just the beginning.
I'm not totally sure that any description of the movie and plot are going to entice you to watch this one. Suffice it to say that it has something for practically everyone: death, singing, a sparkly suit, cell phones, a little person (nice looking woman, actually), a drawbridge (modern, not Medieval), a boombox, and a crossbow. Oh, and a psychotic. And Barry Manilow.
You will have to trust me when I say that 50% of you out there will hate this movie because of the lack of the Absurd Gene in your DNA makeup. It's not your fault; it's hereditary. The other 50% of you will probably want to change the channel after 20 minutes, but you HAVE TO KEEP WATCHING.
Even at that, at the end you may wonder why you watched... but keep in mind that absurdity thing. It should grow on you. It is a test.
The Lounge People (1992)
Odd, quietly wacky, compelling and underrated
Like "Scenes From a Class Struggle in Beverly Hills," this is a movie about a totally dysfunctional wealthy family. But where the former tries to take itself seriously, "Lounge People" revels in each and every inane vignette. There is some plot to string this together, and some people may not like this movie because of the thin plot, but individual pieces can be real gems. For instance, the sequence where Christine Ebersol's bored wife character, Cynthia, is trying to seduce BD Wong's character, Billy, by the pool. The looks on his face alone are worth the price of admission.
Buck Henry is perfect as Lewis Louis. It is the sort of role he would write for himself and at which he excels. Bored, bumbling, worried about his health, and completely sane in a crazy way.
As of late 2003, I haven't seen this on any of the free channels or pay channels for at least 2 years, but I have my TiVo set to get it when it comes back on. Set yours!
My Talk Show (1990)
Clever take on small town television stations and local shows
In somewhat the same vein as "Fernwood Tonight," "My Talk Show" was about a low budget, small town television talk show. The spin on this was that the station couldn't afford to have a set, so they had Jennifer Bass (the brilliant Cynthia Stephenson) use her own living room for the show.
The producers purposely made the production values low. Unfortunately, I think too many people really didn't have a clue about how clever this show was. Her 'guest' stars ran the range from her neighbors to the local dog catcher, even sometimes including a 'name' star that happened to be passing through her town. She bickered with her sidekick/cohost, had emergencies when something she was cooking in the next rood started to burn, and problems being taken seriously by the people aroundher. And Cynthia Stephenson played the part in a way only she could have. The syndicated show only ran about one year. Is there anybody out there from TVLand? Can we get this back on the air, please?
Romanoff and Juliet (1961)
Small, delightful movie
I first saw this movie in a theater when I was 7. Since then I have watched all or part of the movie more than 20 times. Peter Ustinov is marvelous in this very amusing little film about life and love in a micro-nation in central Europe. Along with the tiny nation of Grand Fenwick (see The Mouse That Roared), Concordia stands as a testimate that bigger nations with more money and higher educations are not necessarily happier or more grounded in reality. Nor that they can wirld their power any more wisely.
This is, of course, a takeoff on Romeo and Juliet (by some English writer or so I hear). This time the Romeo (Romanoff) is son of the Soviet Ambassador to Concordia while Juliet is daughter of his American counterpart. Ustinov is the leader of Concordia with more than a touch of mischief and Cupid in his soul. His character is an observer of people and he knows what makes us "tick."
The scenes where he is going back and forth between the two Ambassodors, playing each against the other, is beautiful and very funny.
Notable in this is the appearance of a young Peter Jones, later to be famous as the voice of the book in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and of John Gavin, then an actor and later an Americal Ambassador himself.
If you are looking for a grandious movie with almost-too-clever-for-its-own-good dialog and huge sets and even extras that don't look at the camera, then you will not like this one. But, if you too have a soft spot for romance, like Peter Ustinov movies (he wrote and directed as well as starred in this) and don't mind having a somewhat haunting musical melody running through you head after seeing this, then get this or tape it on one of the movie channels.
Quick Before It Melts (1964)
Light romance in the Antarctic. Nice Robert Morse vehicle.
Robert Morse excelled in light, romantic musical and comedy roles back in the '60s and '70s. This movie, taken from a book by the same name, is cute, mostly fun to watch, and has Anjanette Comer. If you are familiar with Anjanette Comer back in this era, then you can enjoy this movie even more. Basic plot is that a non-too-successful newspaper reporter is sent to the Antarctic (South Pole in case you are trying to imagine a map) to see if he can dig up a story about anything, especially Communists and plots against the free world. What he finds is a romance while trying to get down there (he is already married) and a bunch of bored scientists and military personnel once he gets there. George Maharis, as the girl-chasing photographer, and Michael Constantine, as the only Russian Morse can even find, are good in their roles. There is nothing that isn't just a shade predictable here, but the movie was directed by Delbert Mann (several Doris Day movies, A Gathering of Eagles, All Quiet on the Western Front-the one with John-Boy-and Night Crossing) who can spin an enjoyable tale. I only wish it were shown on TV or available on video.
The New Addams Family (1998)
Some great moments, now in glorious color
I remember the original The Addams Family. It came to the air when I was 8. The humor of those shows stands up even today. The New Addams Family makes a great attempt at returning to those "original" values and humor. Certainly it isn't the first movie (but it is sure a heck of a lot better than the 3rd one!!!) which strove to bring a more modern feel to the franchise. But this new incarnation is actually rather clever. Instead of having a bunch of "names" with new faces to associate with the characters, the producers found relative unknowns that have some amazing resemblances (take a look at Michael Roberds as Uncle Fester) and some very similar vocal characteristics. Close you eyes when Gomez and Fester are talking and you can almost hear John Astin and Jackie Coogan. And Ellie Hervie is a great Morticia. I like this series. It is, of course, only in reruns now. Watch a few of them with an open mind. I think you will enjoy them as well.
Chewin' the Fat (1999)
Best comedy from Scotland, EVER!
Aye, yer gonnae sh**e yerself from laughin!
Take a bit of Monty Python, add The League of Gentlemen, then scrap all the bad stuff and give it a real edge and a heavy Scottish accent and you have Chewin' The Fat, a marvelous show from the brains of Ford Keirnan and Greg Hemphill (plus Paul, Karen, Julie and the rest). With recurring characters and a few story lines, this sketch comedy series is as brilliant as it is sometimes rude and crude. You need to have a good ear for the accents, and there are a few references that may go over your head, but the three 6-episode series (plus the Live! show and their "Still Game" stage play on DVD) are about the best thing to come along in years. And a fourth series is due in November 2001!
This is not for kids. And I'd recommend that anyone who gets upset by mothers proudly telling their friends that they "need to do more laundry these days because their 14 year old son has just started mastrubating" stay clear. A solid 5 of 5 points.
All Along the Watchtower (1999)
Gentle, sometimes predictable, but too brief a series
Scotish humor sometimes translates well to North American (Well... U.S.) tastes and sometimes not. This series of only 6 programes is quite wonderful and amusing and makes that tranlation very well. The premise - a lone military listening post high on a cliff overlooking a small coastal village in far North Scotland manned by an out-of-touch commander, a simple-minded enlisted man and a junior officer with more brains than luck - might seem limited. But the writers managed to come up with a combination of story lines that were individual while still growing on each previous one.
Like many programs from the British TV system, it probably could have used an initial run of 10-12 shows in order to get its foot in the door. Six is just not enough for many shows (and sometimes about 5.9 shows too many for others). And the pity is that these 1-series wonders rarely get saved to video and made for sale.