No Paloma

Poster for the Paloma Faith competition I entered, but didn't win... (8/15)Although I greatly enjoyed watching Paloma Faith’s Glastonbury set on TV t’other week, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d much rather see her singing in an intimate club setting, than on a festival stage. Apparently the marketing peeps at MasterCard read my mind, and immediately launched a competition that would allow a couple hundred fans to get (a little more) up-close-and-personal with Paloma, at an exclusive showcase in London. When I discovered that the gig was taking place at The Savoy Hotel, a short walk from Waterloo Station, and that the train company was running a special summer promo that would allow me to get there and back for just twenty quid, I started getting very excited about the whole endeavour. In fact, I even started looking around for a fancy new outfit to buy, fearing that I’d feel shamefully scruffy in my more typical jeans/t-shirt/trainers combo (in the past Paloma has spoken out quite strongly against dressing for comfort!).

Meanwhile, I also learned that my pay-as-you-go “cash card” (issued by Orange, but handled by MasterCard) would soon become defunct, so this seemed like a great opportunity to send it out in style. Spookily enough, when I went into my local EE (née Orange) branch to confirm that the cards were being phased out, one of Paloma’s songs* was playing over the in-store speaker, which I took as a very encouraging omen! It really seemed like the stars were aligning in my favour, and that the “romance and adventure” promised by my August horoscope would actually come to pass! The only thing standing between me and an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime evening of music, glamour, and idolatry was… well, all the other entrants, obviously!

As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post (and the accompanying graphic), I didn’t win. Tonight I’ll be sat at home, watching a DVD, listening to the rain against my window, and occasionally scowling up at the poster of Paloma that hangs on the wall over this very computer, mocking me, like a much cuter version of Edgar Allan Poe’s eponymous raven. “Nevermore!” Sigh…

Ah well, congratulations to all the lucky winners, whoever they may be… I hope the weather is kind to them, and that the “complimentary refreshments” are plentiful!

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* “Leave While I’m Not Looking”, in case you’re curious.

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(A Star)

Malala YousafzaiI don’t normally take much interest in the annual announcement of GCSE results… and don’t entirely understand the new grades they’ve invented since my own school days… but I feel compelled to sing the praises of girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who has achieved an “A*” in six subjects (incl. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Religious Studies) and an “A” in four subjects (History, Geography, English Lang. and English Lit.). So, hurrah for her, and the good folk at Edgbaston High School in Birmingham!

Note: I received a copy of her book (I Am Malala) as one of my b-day presents this year… so hopefully I’ll get around to reading that before she graduates from university!

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“Hugs Are For Winners”

Sarah Silverman as ‘Sarah Silverman’ in “The Sarah Silverman Program” (S1)Sadly my old DVD player has finally packed up after ten years of loyal service, and since the-powers-that-be have cunningly decided to encourage internet piracy by making it impossible to buy region-free players off the shelf, I’ve had to start looking for R2 copies of my fave American shows and movies… so I was relieved to find that the UK release of the first season of The Sarah Silverman Program (2007) was almost identical to the US version I already owned… though sadly, the later seasons still aren’t available on this side of the Atlantic, dammit!

I’ve watched my R1 version of S1 to death by now, and know many of the jokes by heart, but I still found myself laughing aloud at the anti-heroine’s adorable, oblivious, and offensive antics. Sarah Silverman is such a dynamic and charismatic performer, with a truly unique cartoony energy… and this show gives her plenty room to show off, with its surreal tone, and jaunty musical numbers. It isn’t quite as mind-blowing as Jesus is Magic was, but it does tackle some very contentious subjects with gleeful abandon, and go to places that most right-thinking sitcoms would fear to tread. Playing Jekyll to Sarah’s Hyde is real-life sister Laura Silverman, who was cast as her long-suffering on-screen sibling here, and steals numerous scenes with her sweet-hearted nurturing and sneaky ad-libs. Their a cappella duet on “White Dog Poop” is also the highlight of the DVD’s special features section, imho… and almost worth the admission price by itself!

Laura Marano as ‘Heather Silverman’ in “The Sarah Silverman Program” (S1)Meanwhile, the younger version of Sarah’s character, seen in numerous flashbacks throughout the series, was played by Laura Marano, who’s since gone on to star in three seasons of Disney’s squeaky-clean sitcom Austin & Alley… though I hope she’s still proud of the work that she did here, now that she’s old enough to watch it! On the DVD commentary track, co-star Brian Posehn notes that Marano knew everyone else’s lines better than they did… in fact, everyone was so impressed by her commitment in the pilot, the writers created a larger role for her as an adorable pageant contestant named “Heather”, who Sarah adopted/mentored to vicariously fulfil her own thwarted aspirations (ep #1.4). (SPOILER: A bizarre “morale boosting” monologue reveals that the girl was actually Sarah’s abandoned biological offspring all along… poor thing!)

Tig Notaro as ‘Tig’ in “The Sarah Silverman Program” (S1)Other notable supporting actresses included: Laura Hayes as an “Old Woman” that Sarah insulted while shopping for cough syrup (ep #1.1)… Missi Pyle as the host of a local talk-show who took an interest in Sarah’s charitable stewardship of an unstable homeless man, while ‘The Ghost’ of his dead mother (Jill Talley) kept trying to warn Sarah how dangerous he was (ep #1.2)… Rachael Harris* (aka Rachel Harris) as an unsuspecting ‘School Teacher’ who invited Sarah to speak to a class of children about her supposed illness (ep #1.3)… Talley (again) as a religious neighbour Heather ran to after growing sick of Sarah’s overbearing attitude, and Justine Dorsey as a very assured and impressive pageant rival (ep #1.4.)… Tig Notaro as ‘Tig’, the new partner of Laura’s policeman boyfriend (Jay Johnston), who Sarah developed a confusing crush on (ep #1.5)… and finally, Candace Brown as ‘Natalie’, a sheepish friend who needed help moving house (ep #1.6). Note: This was the pilot episode for the series, but it was scheduled as the finale, despite the dis-continuity this causes when you watch them in the prescribed order. Tch!

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Rachael Harris as ‘School Teacher’ in “The Sarah Silverman Program” (S1)* Last week I watched the leaked pilot of Fox’s Lucifer TV series, in which Harris plays a flirty therapist who’s compromised by the title character. At first I found him (and the show) rather dickish, but it improved a lot once Lucifer started working with a cynical homicide detective (Lauren German), and she explicitly called him out on his douche-y smugness. Hurrah! Harris was also very funny, and looks set to become a recurring character, so I’ll happily watch another couple episodes of this supernatural procedural when they finally get around to airing it… sometime in 2016…?

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Historical Laughter

Eleanor Bron (circa 2006)I’ve been keeping an eye on the BBC’s online offerings of old radio comedy, and when I saw an image of Eleanor Bron appear on the iPlayer page, I immediately clicked on the associated show… which turned out to be an award-winning* four-part adaptation of Craig Brown’s satirical history of Britain, titled 1966 and All That, from 2006. Some of the jokes were rather daft (e.g., famous figures were given pun-names, such as “Neil Knock-Knock” for Neil Kinnock…), while others were more sarcastic and satirical, and overall I found the show very amusing… though it probably helped that I had a glass of wine and a video game on the go, so I could just relax and let the nonsense wash over me! Then again, with all the wordplay that was going on, I did have to pause every now and then to reorient myself… and a lot of the cleverer historical references probably went straight over my head…

Bron was one of the two main narrators/question-setters for the show (along with Joss Ackland), and I also believe she impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher in several fake interview clips… though I don’t have any proof of that, beyond what my own ears told me. Either way, it was lovely to hear her voice again, delivering ridiculous disinformation in a straight-faced and authoritative tone. Bless.

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* Gold Sony Radio Academy Award (2007)

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“Kickin’ The Shit Out Of Hitler!”

[Contains crazy killer cats and SPOILERS!!!]

Lauren Socha as ‘Kelly Bailey’ in “Misfits” (S3)When the third series of Misfits aired back in 2011, I ended up bailing after the first episode… besides the constantly-changing powers and increasing sense of claustrophobia*, I also think the show’s appeal suffered a serious blow when Robert Sheehan left. ‘Nathan’ was the most voluble member of the gang, and the source of many of the most quotable jokes… but he was also one of the more interesting and unique characters: an angel-faced gobshite with no foot-in-mouth filter or concept of decorum, who was slowly learning to show a little more compassion for the people around him. He was an irritating idiot at times, but he really did get under your skin, and the series simply wasn’t as entertaining without him. That said, over the intervening years I’ve come to appreciate what an awesome actor his replacement Joseph Gilgun is… and while his character (‘Rudy’) acted too much like a cheap Nathan knock-off at times, it was fun to see him bickering (and occasionally wrestling) with his own disapproving conscience-clone… and he always gave the funniest reaction shots, even if he was just reacting to himself! Overall, I’d say that the third series is vastly inferior to the first… but taken on its own merits, it’s still pretty funny and occasionally thrilling…

Lauren Socha as ‘Kelly Bailey’ in “Misfits” (S3)On the plus side, ‘Kelly’ was finally given a worthy love interest, in the form of hunky “power dealer” ‘Seth’ (Matthew McNulty), so I enjoyed seeing the two of them growing closer over the course of the series, as their budding relationship was tested by various unexpected threats, such as body-jacking coma patients and zombie ex-girlfriends! For all my kvetching about the premise-altering power-shuffling that Seth was responsible for, I did like the way Kelly’s new-found technical genius was depicted on-screen, and utilised within the stories… even if the accompanying catchphrase (“I’m a f*ckin’ rocket scientist!”) started to grate after a while. Too often it seemed like the writers had forgotten how to write proper dialogue/jokes for her character, and simply defaulted to having her say “f*ckin’ this” or “f*ckin’ that”, in place of an actual punchline. Ah well… at least Lauren Socha got some solid emotional scenes to play through her romantic arc, and the body-swap episode (#3.5) gave her the opportunity to prove that she could tone down her accent and play a non-“chav” when required to do so. She also got to head-butt Adolf Hitler in the time-travel episode (#3.4), which is something I’m sure every young actress would be happy to have on their show-reel!

Nathalie Emmanuel as ‘Charlie’ in “Misfits” (S3)Now… on with the laundry list! Nathalie Emmanuel appeared in ep #3.1 as ‘Charlie’, a super-cute juvie who got seduced by Rudy… then stabbed-up by ‘Tanya’ (Katie Moore), an aggrieved team-mate with an asymmetrical fringe and the power to stop time. Harsh. This episode also saw the debut of Kehinde Fadipe as “Melissa”, the female incarnation of ‘Curtis’ (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), who recurred in several episodes, and scored significant screen-time in ep #3.2. I thought Fadipe did a great job of mimicking Stewart-Jarrett’s performance, and I salute her for being such a good sport about all the storeroom masturbation scenes she had to film… but, story-wise, it’s a little suspect that Curtis’s distinctive shoulder tattoo disappeared whenever he turned into Melissa, to allow for all the wacky “mistaken identity” hi-jinks… and the whole thing about Curtis impregnating Melissa with a soiled wank-hanky was kinda dumb (though apparently it is technically possible). Meanwhile, Hannah Britland appeared in ep #3.2 as ‘Emma’, a visiting runner who copped-off with Curtis and Melissa, and didn’t seem especially shocked when they turned out to be the same person (though Curtis had just saved her from being drug-raped by an evil trainer, so I imagine she was feeling fairly grateful).

Nicola Harrison as ‘Clare’ in “Misfits” (S3)Catrin Stewart returned in ep #3.4 as ‘Lily’, the “frigid” barmaid who could freeze stuff with her hands… until she got captured by Nazis and power-jacked by Seth in an alternate timeline. Nicola Harrison appeared in ep #3.5 as ‘Clare’, a vulnerable “anger management” therapist that NiceRudy copped off with, before RudeRudy dumped her for being too old and crying too much. Boo! Amy Manson appeared in ep #3.6 as ‘Leah’, a disgruntled one-night-stand who cursed Rudy’s penis with a super-STD after he callously “dumped” her as soon as he’d pulled his trousers back on. Unfortunately, after he’d sobered up the next morning, Rudy couldn’t remember who’d actually done the damage, so he was forced to chase-up various potential partners, in an attempt to make amends: Joanna Christie played ‘Jo’, a medical student who lived in the party-house, and most certainly didn’t have sex with him… while Ellie Jacob played ‘Amy Goodwin’, an unfortunate lesbian who’d drunkenly kissed him at the party, and thus became the prime suspect… much to the disgust of her girlfriend, ‘Jenna’ (Anna Nightingale). Oh, and Hannah John-Kamen had a cameo as ‘Carly’, an inexplicably attractive ice-cream vendor, who took a shine to Curtis.

Charlene McKenna as ‘Shannon Speers’ in “Misfits” (S3)Charlene McKenna appeared in ep #3.7 as ‘Shannon Speers’, Seth’s (very) ex-girlfriend, who was resurrected from the dead by Curtis (after another power-swap), only for her to turn into a flesh-hungry zombie! Meanwhile, Sandra Maitland played ‘Maggie’, an old lady whose pet cat was also revived (and zombified) by Curtis… Jayne Wisener played ‘Stacie’, an unfortunate cheerleader who got attacked by the man-eating moggy… and Velile Tshabalala had a very brief scene as ‘Laura’, the gang’s new probation-worker, who was bitten as soon as she set foot inside the community centre! Finally, ep #3.8 saw the return of several deceased characters as revenants, looking to tie up their earthly business before moving on… chief among them was ‘Sally’ (Alex Reid), who attempted to exact her sneaky revenge on ‘Simon’ (Iwan Rheon), and once again make me wonder if she ever had any genuine feelings for him or if the whole thing was an act from the very start. Gah! Thankfully Danny Sapani also returned as her murdered fiancé ‘Tony’, to explain the extenuating circumstances surrounding his untimely demise, and escort her into the afterlife. I thought this was a very nice way to end the series… so it’s a shame that wasn’t actually where the series ended… or even where the episode ended!

Jessica Brown Findlay as ‘Rachel’ in “Misfits” (S3)Personally, I didn’t buy the “shock” twist of having the revived “Virtue virgin” (Jessica Brown Findlay) randomly slit ‘Alisha’s (Antonia Thomas) throat and leave her to bleed out in Simon’s arms. Aside from the question of how much damage a quick slash with a craft knife could actually do, it just seemed like such a hasty way to take Alisha out of the equation, so that Simon was free to travel back in time to become the “SuperHoodie”, and close the loop. It’s ridiculous that he’d go to so much trouble to save her life that one time in the warehouse, knowing full well that he was simply delaying her death by a couple months, and not bothering to warn her how she’d snuff it in the altered timeline! And why would such a conscientious and genre-aware “hero” let himself die while possessing the most useful power yet (i.e., an immunity from everyone else’s powers)??? It just didn’t make any sense on any level… and the way the gang buried Alisha’s body in an unmarked grave just raised further questions about how exactly they’d been concealing the disappearances of all the people they’d killed, and disposing of all the bodies that had been piling up around them. In the first series, the death of a single probation worker and the disposal of his corpse was a major source of suspense and concern… but here it’s all just shrugged off with a wink and a smirk… which really cheapened the show, imho. Fun fact: The first two series were rated “18” on DVD, while the third series is only a “15”, and I think that has a lot to do with the slackening tension, and “lighter” tone of these episodes. Either way, they weren’t making ‘em like they used to! Sigh…

Esther Smith as ‘Suzy’ in “Misfits” (S3)The third disc in the case contained a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as two lengthy “webisodes”: The first, “Vegas, Baby!”, was released a month before Series 3 started, to explain Nathan’s absence… showing how he relocated to Las Vegas, where he was hoping to cheat some serious dosh out of the casinos using his shiny new conjuring power, to help provide for ‘Marnie’ (Gwyneth Keyworth) and her son, ‘Nathan Jr’. It’s a great little short, but just made me miss him all the more, dammit! The second webisode, “Erazer”, saw Rudy chasing a super-powered graffiti-artist into a world of his own painting, where our “hero” found a trapped young woman named ‘Suzy’, played by Esther Smith (looking very different to the “future Lib-Dem leader” she played in Ballot Monkeys)! The “surprise” ending was super-predictable, but at least this story gave Kelly one last chance to drop some science before retiring…

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* In a behind-the-scenes featurette on the Series 2 DVDs, there was a lot of speculation about what might happen to the characters after they’d finished their community service. It was suggested by several interviewees that “anything could happen”… but, realistically, that wasn’t true because this was an ongoing TV series with a limited budget. So, either the gang would relocate to some other enclosed location and have adventures there, or they’d get sentenced to more community service and return to the established set… which is exactly what did happen, in fact. Meh.

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Quasi-Goth/PunkWatch: Madeline Blue (Again)

Madeline Blue as 'Cure Punk' in "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" (S1)I’m only halfway through FX’s Wet Hot American Summer prequel series, First Day of Camp, but I just wanted to stop and give a shout-out to Madeline Blue… aka “Cure Girl” from the original movie. Although all the adult cast members had returned to reclaim their roles as “teenaged” counsellors, the children attending the camp were being played by actual child-actors again, so I assumed that Blue and her fellow “indoor kids” had been forgotten… but then they rocked up in ep #1.4 as older, trouble-making “punk” versions of their earlier characters, hassling the owner of a store, and inadvertently angering a bad-ass government assassin! It’s quite a short scene, but Blue got to make fun of Jon Hamm, and once again demonstrate her attention-grabbing comic energy, so I think her fans will enjoy it. I know I did!

Note: While idly Googling for images, I also found a website selling WHAS T-shirts… some of which are modelled by actual cast members, including Blue herself!

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Believin’ In Heathens

Elizabeth Gillies as ‘Gigi’ in “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” (S1)When I sat down to watch FX’s new sitcom Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, all I knew about it was that it starred series-creator Denis Leary as ‘Johnny Rock’, the washed-up lead-singer of a semi-famous 90s rock band trying to make a comeback… which was all I really needed to know, personally. I have fond memories of singing along to Leary’s comedy tracks on road-trips with my friends back in the day… and still laugh my head off every time I hear his “Traditional Irish Folk Song”… so I went into this show with an open mind and eager ears.

As expected, there were plenty of Leary’s trademark drug jokes and pop-culture references… but just when things had started settling into a comfortable “loveable loser keeps losing” groove, Elizabeth Gillies rocked up as Johnny’s previously-unknown offspring, ‘Gigi’, to whip him (and the show) into shape. It was perfectly natural for Leary to give himself the lead role, but the most refreshing thing about SDRR is that he’s actually given Gillies’ character all the power: She’s young, smart, beautiful, ambitious, talented, commanding, and has enough money in the bank to hire her own father as a songwriter, along with his former bandmates to back her up, as she shamelessly strides her way to fame and fortune. While Johnny gets the lion’s share of the screentime in the first episode, Gigi dominates all their scenes together, working her shell-shocked father like a puppet, asserting her sexual agency all over his former-best-friend and co-writer (played by John Corbett), and strutting circles around everyone in the rehearsal room! The terror on the men’s faces says it all…

Admittedly, some of the jokes are a bit creaky, but the cast are sparky (including Elaine Hendrix as Johnny’s long-time girlfriend, ‘Ava’), the music’s good, and the premise is admirable… so roll on the next episode!

Posted in Comedy shows, Folk music, Musical shows, Rants about Music, Rants about TV, Rock music | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments