“Diamonds!” “Incest!”

Natasha Leggero as 'Lillian Schmemmerhorn-Fish' and Riki Lindhome as 'Beatrice Downsy' in "Another Period” (S2)Comedy Central’s satirical-spoof-historical-“reality”-show Another Period returned for a well-deserved second season this week, picking up the various soapy plot threads left dangling at the end of last year’s finale, and re-introducing us to the monstrously self-absorbed Bellacourt family, and their bizarrely self-abasing staff.

Narcissistic sisters ‘Lillian’ (Natasha Leggero) and ‘Beatrice’ (Riki Lindhome) were still exiled from the family estate, attempting to eke out their fading fifteen minutes of tabloid infamy with the help of savvy self-promoter* Harriet Tubman (Bebe Drake)… while their father’s heavily pregnant mistress-turned-maid ‘Celine’ (aka “Chair”) (Christina Hendricks) was comatose and confined to bed after being shoved down a staircase by her mentally-unstable nemesis ‘Blanche’ (Beth Dover). Drama! New additions to the cast included Lauren Flans, who is now the third actress to take on the role of elder Bellacourt sister ‘Hortense’ (!), and Alice Hunter, who plays ‘Flobelle’, a recently recruited maid whose extensive knowledge of vintage dress designs and unquestioning veneration of her “social betters” immediately endears her to head butler ‘Peepers’ (Michael Ian Black)… though I assume she’ll have a few shocking secrets to reveal before the season is out (my money’s on her being another illegitimate offspring of the Commodore’s!)

Anyhoo, this was a very funny refresher that’s more than whetted my appetite for the mayhem and madness that’s sure to follow in the subsequent episodes (and several more seasons to come, I hope!). Incidentally, this premiere was written by Jen Statsky, who’s also worked on Lady Dynamite and Broad City, two sitcoms that I really enjoy but can’t quite wrap my head around… or at least, not enough to be able to bash out a coherent blog post about either of them, as yet…

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* To clarify, that’s how she was portrayed in this wilfully irreverent comedy, not how I’d describe the actual historical figure. No offense intended!

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“Of Course It’s Pink, Emily!”

Jennifer Whalen, Meredith MacNeill, Carolyn Taylor, and Aurora Browne a la "Baroness von Sketch Show" (S1)I was intrigued when I discovered that CBC was airing a new all-female sketch show with the amusing/informative title of Baroness von Sketch Show… and then I got properly excited when I realised that one of the aforementioned females was Meredith MacNeill! Hurrah! I wasn’t quite as familiar with her collaborators/co-creators Jennifer WhalenCarolyn Taylor, and Aurora Browne, but between them they have a lengthy list of acting/writing credits, including such award-winning Canadian comedies as This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Corner Gas.

As for the sketches themselves, there weren’t any outright duds in the first episode, but a couple of them did give me a weird sense of déjà vu… and some of the punchlines were predictable, in a pleasantly comforting sort of way. It’s a funny show, for sure, and the cast are very capable and likeable… and of course it’s great to see MacNeill clowning around on-screen again… but overall it’s a fairly family-friendly, lightly-satirical-and-slapstick-y affair, that’s unlikely to blow anyone’s mind the way Kids in the Hall did, back in the day…

P.S. Apparently since I last checked her IMDb profile, MacNeill scored a lead role in a home-invasion-gone-wrong rom-com called Your Money or Your Wife (2015), which earned her an “Outstanding Performance” Award at the Atlantic Film Festival… so snaps to her for that!

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CrazySexyFool

Elizabeth Gillies as ‘Callie Ross’ in “Killing Daddy”I promised myself I’d stop watching Lifetime thrillers and their schlocky ilk… but when I discovered there was a TV-movie called Killing Daddy (2014) starring Elizabeth Gillies as a petty grifter intent on ending her estranged/super-wealthy father’s life after he suffers a debilitating stroke, as revenge for him supposedly causing her mother’s suicide… well, how could I resist, dammit?

To be clear, this flick is ridiculous (and probably quite offensive, if you take its depiction of mental illness at all seriously), but at least the writer was smart enough to make their vampish villainess the lead character, rather than telling the same story from the perspective of the wholesome do-gooders she preys upon… and Gillies plays the trashy role with relish, bringing some much needed personality to the “bad girl” clichés, along with her boundless sex-appeal. Meanwhile, poor Cynthia Stevenson is lumbered with a lot of bland domestic dialogue as the father’s reality-show-addicted housekeeper (and secret lover), though she does get to do a bit more emoting towards the end of the movie, after (belatedly) discovering how devious/deadly the daughter really is… and Tori Anderson gives a charming but thankless performance as the more successful and sweet-natured step-sister, who jets off on a business-trip halfway through the story, and misses out on all the sleuthing shenanigans.

To my shame, I actually checked to see if this flick had been released on DVD yet… but (for better or worse?) it hasn’t been. On a happier note, the second season of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll will be kicking off a week from today, so I won’t have to wait very long to see Gillies strutting her stuff on-screen again…

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A Red Letter Day

Ania Bukstein as ‘Kinvara’ in “Game of Thrones” (S6)I have a couple reasons to celebrate today… first is the release of Kroll Show: Season 3 on DVD*, and second is the anniversary of my birth, thirty-something years ago. Yay?

Out of curiosity I checked the IMDb celebrity b-day list this morning, and was excited to see that a new addition had claimed the top spot: Ania Bukstein, the stunningly beautiful Israeli actress who recently joined the cast of Game of Thrones as ‘Kinvara’, “High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis, the Flame of Truth, the Light of Wisdom, and First Servant of the Lord of Light”. So, I’ll be toasting her good health/fortune with a tiny bottle of Jägermeister later (don’t judge me… it was a present!), and hoping she gets more screentime soon…

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* From what I’ve read, there aren’t any proper extras on the discs this time, so I’ll probably wait for the price to go down before I actually buy it… but it’s nice to know it exists, at least!

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A Right Royal Send-Off

[Contains the ghost of King Arthur and SPOILERS!]

Celeste Dring as ‘Eugenie’ in “The Windsors” (S1)The first series of The Windsors went out with a bang this week… though, thankfully, it was a purely metaphorical “bang”, as the heroic ‘Wills’ (Hugh Skinner) arrived in the nick of time to disable the bomb that conniving ‘Camilla’ (Haydn Gwynne) had set to blow the younger royals sky-high! In fact, it was a surprisingly action-packed finale, with a violent punch-up between Camilla and ‘Pippa’ (Morgana Robinson), and a Hunger-Games-inspired nightmare in which ‘Beatrice’ (Ellie White) and ‘Eugenie’ (Celeste Dring) were forced to fight for survival against other entitled toffs for the public’s amusement. The scene where they breathlessly discuss who’ll present the prizes at Wimbledon now that they’ve decapitated the Duke of Kent was probably my highlight of the whole series… and I love that they were still wearing their trademark “fascinators”, even while murdering distant relatives in a dystopian future. You don’t get that kind of glamour in Game of Thrones!

Overall, I thought this series started strong, and remained consistently hilarious/surprising/ridiculous throughout its run… so I was very glad to hear the continuity announcer proclaim at the end of the episode that the show will be returning for another bite of the Duchy Organic biscuit next year. Huzzah!

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Quinnesis (Pt. 2)

[The second part of my ramble about DC’s beloved villainess/anti-heroine ‘Harley Quinn’, and her origins in Batman: The Animated Series (1992 to 1995), where she was both inspired and voiced by Arleen Sorkin. Contains jazzy piano riffs and SPOILERS!!!]

Harley Quinn in "Batman: The Animated Series" (S2)Another significant piece of Harley’s backstory is provided in ep #2.9 (“Trial”), as she testifies against ‘Batman’ (Kevin Conroy) at a “kangaroo court” held inside Arkham Asylum, and it’s revealed she was once employed in that very facility as a psychiatrist, before being seduced/corrupted/deranged by ‘The Joker’ (Mark Hamill). This episode also features another kick-ass collaboration with ‘Poison Ivy’ (Diane Pershing), as the two bad-girl-besties conquer and capture “The Caped Crusader”, prior to his eponymous trial! Yay? Sadly, there’s also more terrible mistreatment from The Joker, who sprays a pitch-black room with machine-gunfire in the hope of hitting Batman, despite the fact Harley is hanging from the ceiling bound in a straitjacket at the time! Harsh. On the plus side, she does seem to be standing up to him more at this point, not simply taking his abuse lying down or mindlessly cheering him on… she even angrily accosts him when it’s revealed that he tried to grass her up to the cops in return for a reduced sentence! In fact, the super-cute clown-girl comes across as unusually mean and vicious in this episode… though I guess you could put that down to peer pressure, as she’s rubbing shoulders with some pretty hardcore psychopaths on the dangerously unbalanced (in several senses of the word) jury bench…

Harley Quinn a la "Batman: The Animated Series" (S2)The hilarious high-point of the series was undoubtedly episode #2.7 (“Harlequinade”), in which a jaundiced Joker has apparently tired of his usual wacky capers, and decided to flat-out level Gotham City with a nuclear bomb! This extreme emergency forces Batman to take equally extreme action, releasing Harley from Arkham to help him track down the “Clown Prince of Crime” before everything goes Kaboom! They fall into a classic “odd couple”/”buddy cop” dynamic that kinda makes me wish she were his permanent sidekick, in place of snarky d-bag ‘Dick Grayson’ (Loren Lester)… but sadly, after many twists and turns, she falls back into her unhealthy infatuation with “Mistah J” (who would clearly have been quite happy to let her burn to ash along with the rest of their supposed friends and pets!) Still, on the upside, we do get plenty laugh-out-loud gags, some awesome action scenes, and even a sexy song-and-dance number, which Harley deploys to distract a roomful of ogling gangsters while Batman and “The Boy Wonder” manoeuvre themselves into position for an ambush. The lyrics of the song, “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again”, suited her so perfectly, I assumed it had been written specifically for the episode… but it actually came from an old-timey musical called Meet the People (1944), starring Lucille Ball… which seems appropriate, considering Harley’s own screwball antics. Oh, there’s also an earth-shaking revelation about her roots: “And here you thought I was just another bubble-headed blonde bimbo! Well, the joke’s on you… I’m not even a real blonde!”

Harley Quinn in "Batman: The Animated Series" (S3) (aka "The Adventures of Batman & Robin")In 1994, the series was rebranded/rebooted as The Adventures of Batman & Robin, and even though this is commonly accepted as a direct continuation of the previous Animated Series, the animation style had changed quite a bit (more Anime-y, if you see what I mean), and the stories seemed to have become a little sillier… at least in the two episodes I watched of it! I know it’s not up to the fans to define what is and isn’t “canonical”, but given a choice I’d kinda like to pretend that episode #3.6 (“Harley’s Holiday”) never happened. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that Harley was given another starring role, and that she was striking out on her own, attempting to go straight, with barely any references to her abusive (ex?) boyfriend… but I just felt the spiral into chaos and recidivism rang a little false, sparked by a rather forced misunderstanding involving a security-tagged dress that she’d purchased with her own legal tender. The scene of our anti-heroine being chased around the city by a retired General in an armed tank, simply because she’d “borrowed” his adult daughter as a hostage, had me rolling my eyes so hard, I almost saw the inside of my own skull! Oy…

Harley Quinn and Batman in "Batman: The Animated Series" (S3) (aka "The Adventures of Batman & Robin")And last/least, her final appearance of the series, in #3.9 (“Lock-Up”), was a supporting cameo role, as a character witness called to testify for/against Arkham’s strict new chief of security ‘Lyle Bolton’ (Bruce Weitz), who turns out to be a bat-crap-crazy fascist and future villain-in-waiting. Meh.

Note: In my (apparently faulty) memory of this series, Harley was always wearing her distinctive black-and-red “harlequin” costume, thus making her current barely-clothed-hottie-with-bunches incarnation seem rather heretical… but throughout these early episodes she actually spends a significant amount of time sans-costume, while either incognito or incarcerated, and generally favours skimpy clothing when she’s chilling off-the-clock… so I now realise that was always a part of her character’s make-up (if you’ll pardon the pun).

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A Bright Lady

Montserrat Lombard as 'Emilia' in "Upstart Crow" (#1.4)This week’s episode (#1.4) of Upstart Crow saw ‘Shakespeare’ (David Mitchell) completing the last of his 154 sonnets, and electing to present the finished pieces to his twin muses, commonly known as the “fair youth” and the “dark lady”. When it was suggested that a “sultry” woman with “dark eyes” and “thick black hair” would be appearing in later scenes, the first actress who leapt to mind was Montserrat Lombard… and lo-and-behold, she was indeed the brunette beauty of which they spoketh! Hurrah!

She was playing a fictional version of Emilia Lanier (nee Bassano), a minor noble of Venetian descent… though she was born and educated in England, so probably didn’t have quite as strong an Italian accent as Lombard was affecting here? She only had one scene, but scored several solid laughs as the supposed object-of-admiration who takes snarky offence to the “satirical” sonnet that Shakespeare has written about her (No. 130, in case you’re curious). Fun fact: Lanier was an accomplished poet in her own right, and is considered by some conspiracy theorists to be a co-author (at the very least) of several works attributed to The Bard! Crikey.

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