Get Your Goat

Kate Dickie as 'Katherine' in "The Witch: A New-England Folktale"Although I booked my ticket for B-Mouth Film & Comic-Con months ago, and would probably enjoy the experience regardless of who they’d booked to appear, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be anyone there I was super-excited to meet/hassle… until a couple days ago, when they announced that Kate Dickie would be in attendance. Hurrah! Of course, she played the pivotal role of ‘Lysa Arryn’ in Game of Thrones (and pretty much set the entire story into motion, with her fateful letter to the Stark family way back in ep #1.1), which is more than enough reason to want a little face-time with her… but I thought it would be wise to check out some more of her work before the convention, in case we got chatting…

First up was Robert Eggers’ period folk-horror flick The Witch (aka “The VVitch”) (2015), which won over most of the pro critics, but seems to have polarised the general public*, with many nay-sayers dismissing it as “boring” and “not scary” at all. If this film had simply been the story of an ostracised and isolated Puritan family slowly descending into self-induced paranoia and evangelical violence, then I might have agreed with those curmudgeons… but within the first ten minutes, we see definitive (and disturbing) proof that there is in fact an agent of Evil lurking in the nearby forest, intent on doing them physical/spiritual harm. True, there aren’t a lot of big “scares” in the first couple acts… more like a sinister unease that builds and builds until the blood-soaked, bat-crap-crazy finale. It’s a film that demands attention, because any time you look away to grab a drink (as I foolishly did in a couple of the wrong places), you might miss an unsettling little stab of strangeness or grotesquery. Granted, the old-timey language was a little tough to follow at times, and I had to rely on subtitles for some of it (my ears ain’t what they used to be, dagnabbit!), but the visuals have a dark poetry that should travel well in any language.

Anya Taylor-Joy as 'Thomasin' in "The Witch: A New-England Folktale"Although I was mainly watching this for Dickie, who plays the family’s distraught and distrustful matriarch ‘Katherine’, the star of the show is undoubtedly Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays ‘Thomasin’, the unsuspecting ingénue “coming-of-age” in an increasingly hostile and hellish environment. Both Dickie and Taylor-Joy give pitch-perfect performances, quickly drawing you into the drama and dysfunction underlying their mother-daughter dynamic… but I also have to salute the scene-stealing prowess of Ellie Grainger, who takes the “troublesome younger sibling” trope to a whole other level as the bolshy, goat-bothering ‘Mercy’. Bless ‘er.

Clearly this film isn’t everyone’s cup of herbal tea, but it’s already won itself a prime spot on my (metaphorical) list of All-time Faves, and would make a great double-bill with The Wicker Man… which is still the gold standard for the genre, as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately the powers-that-be have chosen not to include any of the American Blu-Ray’s extra features on the UK DVD/BR releases (despite this being where most of the cast actually comes from!), so I’m going to wait and see if any of them appear on the upcoming European editions before making a purchase. ‘Cuz that’s how I roll…


* On Rotten Tomatoes the film currently has a “Tomatometer” rating of 91% but an audience score of only 55%!

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Girl, Resumed

[Contains child-labour chain-gangs and SPOILERS!!!]

Zooey Deschanel as 'Jess' and Hannah Simone as 'Cece' in "New Girl" (S4)Fox’s announcement that the upcoming season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine would crossover with New Girl inspired me to revisit the latter sitcom, which I’d dropped from my rotation shortly after the godawful “Girl Fight” fudge-up of 2014. Although there were some other rocky moments during the back half of that (fourth) season, there were also a lot of big laughs, great guest stars, and a genuinely tear-jerking finale… so I’m glad I got back on the bike, despite all the wobbles and grazed knees.

First of all, I’d somehow forgotten how insanely adorable Zooey Deschanel can be in the lead role of quirky vice-principal ‘Jess’, and how funny Hannah Simone can be as her savvy BFF ‘Cece’… the scene where she gets super-drunk during a bar crawl (ep #4.15) and keeps raspily obsessing about chicken-wings was a memorable highlight, as was her silent-but-supportive reactions to Jess’s lengthy diatribe about life-choices in ep #4.18. Meanwhile, the guys’ recurring love interests this season included: Greta Lee as ‘Kai’, the secretly-wealthy slacker who ends up dumping ‘Nick’ (Jake Johnson) for being “too ambitious” (eps #4.9-10/12-14)… Meaghan Rath as ‘May’, the “Army brat” violinist that ‘Coach’ (Damon Wayans, Jr.) manages to charm despite his cheesy pick-up lines (eps #4.15/18/21-22)… and Zoe Lister-Jones as ‘Fawn Moscato’, the hilariously self-centred and controlling councilwoman who tries to spin ‘Schmidt’ (Max Greenfield) as her ideal arm-candy (eps #4.12/15/17/20-21). Although I was obviously pulling for Schmidt and Cece to get back together in the end, because they’re such a ship-worthy couple, I was also a big fan of Fawn’s… her constant electioneering was a great running gag, and Lister-Jones managed to make her remarkably sympathetic, despite her ruthless opportunism.

Zoe Lister-Jones as 'Fawn Moscato' in "New Girl" (S4)Other notable supporting actresses included: Nasim Pedrad as ‘Aly’, the petite police training-officer assigned to whip ‘Winston’ (Lamorne Morris) into shape (eps #4.12/19)… Michaela Watkins as Schmidt’s callous boss ‘Gina’, and Erinn Hayes as ‘Ruth’, a facile school nurse (ep #4.13)… Jamie Lee Curtis as Jess’s acid-tripping mom ‘Joan’, and Jaidan Jiron as the perfectly-cast ‘Young Cece’ in a flashback (ep #4.16)… Nora Dunn as Schmidt’s passive-aggressive nit-picking mother ‘Louise’ (ep #4.19)… and Kiersey Clemons as ‘KC’, a random cutie that Winston tries to pick-up outside a coffee shop, before realising that she’s an anti-cop protester on her way to a rally (ep #4.20) (which was co-written by Morris, and is easily one of the best/deepest this show has ever produced). Oh, and I also want to give a shout-out to Bianca Collins, who played the un-named ‘Short Latina’ dancing with Coach in the bar, who the other characters derisively referred to as “Dora the Explorer” (ep #4.21). Harsh.

P.S. Vote Moscato!!!

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“Jamaican Bobsled”

June Diane Raphael as 'Piper Ferguson' in "NTSF:SD:SUV::"After deciding to pace myself, and wait a little while before bingeing down on the third season of Burning Love, my hungry eyes immediately fell on NTSF:SD:SUV:: (2011-2013), a “short-form” spoof of police procedural shows and action movies, which also happens to co-star the fantastically funny and talented June Diane Raphael!

Her character, ‘Piper Ferguson’, is defined as the “hottie” of this San-Diego-based counter-terrorism unit, with her tight/skimpy clothing and the bizarre (though not entirely unappealing) way she poses herself, cocking her hip and thrusting out her chest at every opportunity, as if she’s shooting a cheesecake photo-spread.* This is in stark contrast to Rebecca Romijn, playing the team’s supposedly unappealing “geek-girl” lab-tech, ‘Jessie Nichols’, whose supermodel looks are offset by a big pair of glasses and baggy clothes, in the classic She’s-All-That-stylee. The team is led by Kate Mulgrew‘s brusque (but hilariously prickly) Commander ‘Kove’, whose eye-patch mysteriously switches sides between seasons (SPOILER: In a later episode, it’s casually revealed that the patch is a pointless affectation that she randomly adopted shortly after gathering her current recruits together). Oh, and in the third season, Romijn was replaced by Karen Gillan, as self-styled “Gadget Girl” ‘Daisy’, but I can’t say I ever warmed to her very much as a character…

Summer Glau as 'Olivia Frampton' in "NTSF:SD:SUV::" (#3.1)As with Childrens Hospital, the show that spawned it via a “backdoor pilot” trailer, NTSF episodes can be a little inconsistent, depending on who’s writing them, and what angle they’ve taken on the premise… but overall there were more than enough laughs and “WTF!!?” moments to make it worth a watch. If I absolutely had to pick a fave episode, I’d nominate the season three premiere “Comic Con-Air”, which sees Piper and star-agent ‘Trent Hauser’ (Paul Scheer) transporting some of fandom’s worst villains to prison via a private airplane, which has also picked-up a couple of bargain-hunting civilians. Aside from the hilarious mash-up of geek-culture stereotypes with an affectionate parody of the cult classic that inspired it, this ep also featured cameos by Natasha Lyonne as the disgruntled wife of a cheap-ass man who figured riding with convicts was a good way to save a couple bucks, Abigail Spencer as a surprisingly resilient air-steward who forms an immediate (though rather dubious) emotional bond with Trent, and Summer Glau as (to quote from the text) “a fake nerd girl, who seduces nerds with her chunky frames, then steals their collectables”. Boo! Hiss! Swoon! Oops!

June Diane Raphael as 'Piper Ferguson' and Kate Mulgrew as 'Kove' in "NTSF:SD:SUV::"Meanwhile, JDR also got some great standout episodes, such as ep #1.10, in which Piper’s previous programming as a brainwashed sleeper agent is activated and she sets about assassinating her colleagues (while speaking in a cod-Russian accent, of course)… ep #2.13, in which she repeatedly attempts to seduce the husband of a (happily?) married couple who are participating in an infomercial for NTSF’s exciting new home-security system… ep #3.8, in which she finds herself partnered with (and falling for) an old-school, unreconstructed agent who’s been brought out of retirement to help track down an unfrozen hippie villain from the 1960’s… and #3.11, the “secret origins” episode, which reveals how Piper was first recruited to the squad by an alarmingly indiscriminate Kove, back in the day.

As with Childrens, the quick turnaround of episodes allowed them to attract a lengthy list of notable actresses to play supporting roles throughout the seasons, such as: Candace Bailey (#3.4), Moon Bloodgood (#1.7), Lilan Bowden (#3.6), Alison Brie (#2.3), Kelly Brook (#3.10), Jessica Chaffin (#2.3), Carly Chaikin (#2.1), Eliza Dushku (#3.6), Courtney Ford (#1.12), Mo Gaffney (#3.6), Kathryn Hahn (#3.5), Kali Hawk (#2.5), Stacy Keibler (#2.5), Ellie Kemper (#2.6), Kerri Kenney (#1.2/2.3), Brie Larson (#2.2), Natasha Leggero (#2.5), Caity Lotz (#2.4), Tara Macken (#3.11), Jayma Mays (#3.6), Tracy Meyer (#3.11), Lennon Parham (#2.13), Aubrey Plaza (#2.12), Saskia Reeves (#3.10), Kristen Schaal (#3.9), Danielle Schneider (#1.5), Alia Shawkat (#3.4), Betsy Sodaro (#3.7), Gabrielle Union (#1.6), Morgan Walsh (#1.9/2.13), Michaela Watkins (#3.3), Nicky Whelan (#2.5), and Casey Wilson (#1.1). Hurrah!

Carly Chaikin as 'Brittany' in "NTSF:SD:SUV::" (#2.1)———–

* Recently, I rewatched the 2004 Catwoman movie, having convinced myself that I quite enjoyed it the first time I saw it. Whether that’s true or not, I found it a total chore to get through the second-time around… but it did allow me to listen to (and better appreciate) an episode of How Did This Get Made?, a podcast hosted by Scheer, JDR, and Jason Mantzoukas, in which they gleefully discuss and dissect infamous turkeys like that one. I only mention it here because they specifically mock the way the camera slobbers over the title character in her cut-up costume, and JDR seems particularly impressed with the way that Halle Berry works her body after her mystical-resurrection/feline-ification… so I can’t help wondering if that informed/inspired her performance as Piper in NTSF…?

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Grace Woosley (with Denis Leary) on the set of "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll" (ep #2.6)This week’s episode (#2.6) of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll featured a 13-year-old guitar-playing prodigy, who won the opportunity to hang out with the band in their rehearsal studio, and jam along with them on a couple songs. I was curious to see if the actress who played the part, Grace Woosley, was equally gifted with an “axe” off-screen… but it seems from her official site that she only started learning to play in preparation for the audition, and isn’t quite as skilled as her on-screen counterpart (yet). That said, I’m tone-deaf and completely useless at music, so she’s already way more accomplished with the instrument than I am, despite being a third of my age! Pesky. Apparently this is Grace’s first on-screen role, and it looks like she’ll be recurring in a couple more episodes, so snaps to her for that… and if the experience inspires her to become a bona fide rockstar, then more power to her elbow (and fingers, obviously)!

P.S. Weirdly the official episode description suggests that meeting her character “lead[s] Johnny (Denis Leary) to discover a new talent of his own”… but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that’s referring to. I mean, he already knew how to write/sing songs with other people, so it can’t be that… unless he’s going to start composing for a younger audience now? Does showing support/affection to a surrogate daughter count as a “talent”? Hmmm…

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“Will You Hold My Box?”

[Contains urinal gifts and SPOILERS!!!]

June Diane Raphael as 'Julie Gristlewhite' in "Burning Love" (S2)The second season of spoof “reality” dating show Burning Love (2013) flipped the genders of the “prize” and the competitors, with June Diane Raphael taking the lead as ‘Julie Gristlewhite’, who failed to bag toxic-bachelor ‘Mark Orlando’ (Ken Marino) in the previous season and ended up dating de-closeted lesbian ‘Carly’ (Janet Varney) instead. Apparently that fling flamed out in the intervening months, after Julie realised she wasn’t actually gay, and so she returned to the mansion to be courted by a pack of male suitors (of varying eligibility/instability), in the hope of finding her “fanty-tale”* ending. It would be impossible to overstate how awesome JDR is here, delivering an absolute tour de force performance, playing a character who’s equal parts adorable, inane, insane, and irresistible… and when she locks the full-bore intensity of her lust on disinterested “bad boy” d-bag ‘Blaze’ (Ryan Hansen) it’s hilarious, terrifying, and arousing, all at the same time! Seriously, the scene where she lies in the backyard brazenly humping a cushion in broad daylight, then requests fresh underwear from a waiting production assistant… that’s going to stay in my memory a verrry long time (though the scene where she rages at one contestant for calling her puppet-show date “dumb” comes a close second as a stand-out highlight of the season).

June Diane Raphael as 'Julie Gristlewhite' in "Burning Love" (S2)Julie’s return also gave series creator/writer Erica Oyama a perfect excuse to bring back more female cast members from the previous season, to act as her occasional “advisors”. First up was Abigail Spencer as ‘Annie’, who helped Julie to moderate a “pop quiz” group date for the fellas, inadvertently stealing their attention away with her wholesome charms, and skimpy floor-cleaning outfit. Then Varney cruised by as the heart-broken Carly, who was secretly hoping she could rekindle her relationship with Julie, while supposedly helping her to decide between her final two suitors. Bless. Noureen DeWulf also had a brief cameo in the finale as ‘Titi’, who reiterated her earlier (off-screen, but related to us via Julie) warning that Blaze was seeing someone else, before revealing that she was the comely “someone” in question! Meanwhile, in a parallel subplot, Deanna Russo returned as ‘Tamara G.’, the monkey-hearted “winner” of the previous season, who had since been callously dumped by Mark via a local newspaper front-page, while he was safely out of town… though he rather bizarrely claimed the abrupt break-up was as much of a shock to him as it was to her, having apparently forgotten he wrote and arranged for the “Dear Jane” article to be published in the first place! Feh! Their acrimonious split left Mark free to hijack this season’s finale, and rescue Julie from her Blaze-less indifference with a surprise proposal… though it doesn’t look as if their impromptu “romance” is going to be especially long-lived, either…

Jessica St. Clair as ‘Polly’ and Rebecca Romijn as ‘Katie’ in "Burning Love" (S2)As for the supporting cast: Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor returned as the show’s only surviving couple for a catch-up segment… Katie Aselton played the co-founder of a “Puppet Education” business… Lindsey Kraft played ‘Rebecca’, a Jewish model subbing for Julie during a photo-shoot date with an obsessively-Semitic contestant… Rebecca Romijn, Caroline Sharp, and Jessica St. Clair played the “sister-wives” of one of the finalists, who belatedly revealed himself to be a polygamist… and Danielle Schneider played the overly-emotional sister of a super-proud single-father finalist.

Verdict: I didn’t find this season quite as funny or engaging as the previous one… possibly because I shotgunned it straight after finishing the first season, rather than pacing myself properly, and leaving a little distance between them… but as I said above, JDR was absolutely on fire in every episode (no pun intended), and it’s a damn shame that the Emmys weren’t honouring individual actors/actresses in “short-form” shows when this aired, because she would have been a total shoo-in! I’m already jonesing for more Julie… but I’m going to try to delay watching the third (and final?) season for a little while, so I can appreciate it properly…


* Er, that’s a word Julie coins, combining “fantasy” and “fairy tale”, obviously…

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“Will You Accept My Hose?”

[Contains bagel-socks and SPOILERS!!!]

In the wake of my withdrawal from Childrens Hospital, I decided to scarf down the first season of Burning Love (2012), a spoof “reality” dating show created/written by Erica Oyama and directed by her husband, Ken Marino, who also starred as ‘Mark Orlando’ the “toxic bachelor” tasked with whittling down a bevy of beautiful women who are all competing for his attention/affection. Although the premise was inherently ridiculous (despite being based on an existing genre of television), it did mean that the show was jam-packed with awesome comedy actresses, playing hilariously exaggerated (I hope!) caricatures of the contestants who willingly partake in this sort of trial-by-flirtiness:

Morgan Walsh as 'Vivian', Beth Dover as 'Lexie', Noureen DeWulf as 'Titi', Deanna Russo as 'Tamara G.', Natasha Leggero as 'Haley', Malin Åkerman as 'Willow', and Kristen Bell as 'Mandy' in "Burning Love" (S1)Malin Åkerman played ‘Willow’, a homeless woman who was more interested in having a roof over her head and access to free food, than in the contest itself… Jennifer Aniston played ‘Dana’, an optimist who naively chose to wear a baggy panda bear costume to conceal her appearance, in the hope that Mark would appreciate her personality before seeing her outer beauty (she was rejected in the first round, sight unseen, of course)… Kristen Bell played ‘Mandy’, a devout Christian who compromised her beliefs to perform a killer stand-up routine, but still got rejected (poor thing)… Noureen DeWulf played ‘Titi’ (“Teety”), a spoiled “princess” whose name was repeatedly mispronounced by Mark*… Beth Dover played ‘Lexie’, an intense stalker-type who was dangerously obsessed with Mark, and got all the best lines in the first three episodes, before being eliminated (boo!)… Carla Gallo played ‘Tamara P.’, a blind photographer who almost made it through to the second round simply because she had the same name as one of the other contestants, and Mark got them confused (so crushing to see her reaction when he corrected his mistake and dashed her hopes!)… Natasha Leggero played ‘Haley’, a promiscuous exhibitionist who was constantly walking around naked (but pixelated) from the waist down, and actually had sex with some random dude during her one-on-one “date” with Mark, behind his back (literally), but in full view of everyone else in the bar (ew!)…

June Diane Raphael as 'Julie', Morgan Walsh as 'Vivian', Janet Varney as 'Carly', Beth Dover as 'Lexie', Noureen DeWulf as 'Titi', Natasha Leggero as 'Haley', Deanna Russo as 'Tamara G.', and Malin Åkerman as 'Willow' in "Burning Love" (S1)Erin Muroski played ‘Destiny’, a desperate un-trained dancer, who was eliminated toot-sweet… Oyama herself played ‘Shera’, a barely-seen contestant who got bounced off the property within seconds of her arrival, after loudly vomiting onto the pavement beside the parked limo… June Diane Raphael played ‘Julie Gristlewhite’, an otherwise very attractive prospect who was still rebounding from a previous relationship, and kept nervously forgetting her prepared “bon mots”… Deanna Russo as ‘Tamara G.’, a woman with a monkey heart, who nearly died during a workout date with Mark (rather romantically/tragically reasoning that Love is more important than Life!)… Helen Slayton-Hughes played ‘Agnes’, a half-deaf octogenarian who Mark kept referring to as a “cougar”, but eventually rejected for being too old (at which point she was bussed back to her nursing home)… Abigail Spencer played ‘Annie’, the seemingly “perfect” contestant who Mark casually treated like crap throughout the process… Janet Varney played ‘Carly’, a closeted lesbian who grew increasingly (and hilariously) belligerent and bitter the longer she was kept on the show… and Morgan Walsh played ‘Vivian’, a heavily pregnant mother-to-be who tried to hide her baby bump behind various household objects, in the classic sitcom stylee. Oh, and Ken Jeong played ‘Ballerina’, the “exotic” contestant with a fairly obvious “secret”…

Natasha Leggero as 'Haley' in "Burning Love" (S1)There were also cameos by Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor as the “winners” of the previous season… Mo Gaffney as Carly’s pushy mother… Kerri Kenney-Silver as Mark’s besotted co-worker… and Zandy Hartig as the ‘Owner of a Burning House’ that Mark resolutely fails to assist, despite supposedly being a professional fire-fighter. Tch!

Verdict: Although I’ve never seen the “serious” shows that were being parodied here, I found this spoof absurdly funny, and was impressed by how clearly delineated the characters were, given the brevity of the episodes and the size of the ensemble. Even though it meant seeing my faves getting eliminated from the cast as the weeks went by, I loved how the “competition” aspect of the story played out, and thought the twisty ending(s) made for an epic finale. Top marks all around!


* Not that anyone asked, but if I’d been in Mark’s shoes, I would have proposed to Titi by the end of the first night, and just sent everyone else home! Besides being super-gorgeous, she also seemed a lot saner and funner than most of the other contestants… her only real flaw was that she was quite bitchy about her rivals, but I like to tell myself that she was just playing up to the cameras, and would be much nicer in person. Her parents seemed very sweet, so… it’s possible she’d take after them more as she got older, right…?

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The Healing Power Of Laughter/Medicine

Over the past couple months I’ve been working my way through all seven seasons of Childrens Hospital (2008-2016), which began as a short-form web-series spoofing serious medical dramas, before evolving into an Emmy-award-winning TV show (via Adult Swim) and setting its absurdist sights on a wider range of genres. The style and format of each episode could vary quite wildly, with the characters and their relationships morphing to suit whatever the revolving writers felt like doing with/to them that week, but the main cast remained largely unchanged, throughout the years…

Erinn Hayes as ‘Dr Lola Spratt’ in “Childrens Hospital”Lake Bell played ‘Catholomule “Cat” Black’, a bi-curious (and occasionally nude) doctor, whose navel-gazing narration was a highlight of the first season, along with her deeply disturbing lust for ‘Little Nicky’ (Nick Kroll), a six-year-old boy with an advanced ageing disease that made him appear outwardly adult. When she (seemingly) died giving birth to Nicky’s child, she was replaced in the second season (but not my heart) by ‘Dr Valerie Flame’, played by Malin Åkerman… though Cat later returned to work and slack-off alongside her successor. Meanwhile, Megan Mullally played ‘Chief’, the handicapable head of staff, who bravely soldiered-on despite an array of infirmities, and the suggestion that she was simply a figment of someone else’s insanity. Despite the presence of these more familiar names/faces, my pick for the show’s MVP would have to be Erinn Hayes, who played ‘Lola Spratt’, a doctor who also happened to be a fully-qualified attorney, ventriloquist, ace impressionist, and secret government agent, with super-powerful puppy-eyes! Remarkably, Hayes managed to remain consistently charming, funny, and natural, no matter what ridiculousness she was asked to deliver, or how many tonal and stylistic shifts she had to navigate… and frankly her performance here is nothing short of Herculean, comedy-wise! I can’t say I was familiar with her before watching this show, but she’s leapt way up my watch-list now… and it boggles my mind that she hasn’t landed her own star-vehicle already, though there is some consolation in the fact that she’s been nominated for an Emmy this year (Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series)!

Beth Dover as ‘Nurse Beth’ in “Childrens Hospital” (ep #6.4)The doctors were ably assisted by two dutiful nurses, ‘Dori’ (played by Zandy Hartig) and ‘Beth’ (played by Beth Dover)… and if I absolutely had to pick a fave episode at scalpel-point, it would be #6.4, which was presented as the work of a competition winner (‘Carol Torton’, played by Liz Cackowski), who had never written for television before, but was an avid “fan fiction” author, and had chosen to explore Nurse Beth’s status as an “outsider” in love with two sparring doctors, who were also a secret vampire and  werewolf respectively. Besides giving the very funny Dover more screen-time (which is always appreciated), I’ve always been a sucker for deliberately bad writing… though obviously as an aspiring author myself, there’s a certain amount of self-recrimination mixed in with the laughter!

That episode was also one of a select handful that stepped back from the mutable “reality” of the eponymous hospital to provide a (fictional) glimpse behind-the-scenes of the show… although director/co-star David Wain always appeared as “himself”, the rest of the cast took on secondary alter-egos, to portray the eccentric actors who supposedly appeared in the long-running, top-rated medical drama: Bell played Lake Bell as ‘Dixie Peters’ in “Childrens Hospital” (ep #6.7)‘Dixie Peters’, a pretentious thesp who favours goth-y/glam-rock make-up and outfits (hotcha!)… Åkerman played ‘Ingrid Hagerstown’, a Swedish actress who speaks no English, and learns all of her lines phonetically (Fun fact: Åkerman was actually born in Sweden, but her family moved to Canada when she was two years-old)… Mullally played ‘Lady Jane Bentick-Smith’, a theatrically-trained English toff, who occasionally lapses into faux-”British”-nonsense-slang… and Hayes played ‘Lynn Williams’, a unibrowed narcissist, who faked an alcohol-abuse problem in order to attract tabloid press attention. Tch!

Over the course of its 86 episodes, the series also attracted an all-star roster of guest-stars, including: Eva Longoria (ep #1.10), Eva Amurri (ep #2.3), Kerri Kenney-Silver (ep #2.4, 5.12), Laura Marano (ep #2.4/7), Abigail Spencer (ep #2.6, 4.3/9), Lizzy Caplan (ep #2.10, 3.13), Rachael Harris (ep #2.11), Lisa Edelstein (ep #3.1), Sarah Silverman* (ep #3.2), Alicia Silverstone (ep #3.10), Michaela Watkins (ep #4.6), Kathryn Hahn (ep #4.12), Julie Bowen (ep #6.2), Constance Wu (ep #6.7), Mimi Kennedy (ep #6.13), Rachel Blanchard (ep #6.14), JoBeth Williams (ep #7.6), Valerie Harper (ep #7.9), Molly Shannon (ep #7.10), and Shirley Jones (ep #7.11). Phew!

Lisa Edelstein as ‘herself’ in “Childrens Hospital” (ep #3.1)Verdict: Although individual episodes could be a little hit-and-miss, depending on the conceit and style of comedy employed by the disparate writers from week to week, and the inconsistent characterisations made it hard to form any real attachment to their joke-dispensing-puppets, the performances were always very watchable, and overall there were more than enough hilarious diamonds-in-the-rough to make for a very welcome comedy chaser!


* I can’t really mention Big S in a hospital-related context without also touching on her recent and very real life-threatening medical emergency, after a suspected sore throat turned out to be “a freak case of epiglottitis”… i.e., an inflammation of the flap of cartilage at the root of the tongue, which could theoretically cover the windpipe completely, cutting off the air supply and causing death within minutes. Eep! Thankfully she was spared that fate by the good folks at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), and is now on the mend again… so best wishes to her, and her friends/family.

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