ALIVE IN TUCSON

[Contains toilet-fountains and SPOILERS!!!]

Kristen Schaal as ‘Carol Pilbasian’ in “The Last Man on Earth” (S1)Despite Will Forte’s 30 Rock credentials, I wasn’t in any rush to watch his new sitcom, The Last Man on Earth, until I discovered that Kristen Schaal was co-starring as his post-apocalyptic “love” interest! Sadly, she doesn’t show up until the end of the first episode… but watching Forte smash and pillage his way through an uninhabited America, one year after an unspecified virus wiped out (almost) all human and animal life on the planet, was surprisingly entertaining in itself. Highlights included him nonchalantly shooting out store windows to gain access, stapling priceless paintings to the walls of the mansion he’d commandeered with a crowbar, then drowning his sorrows in an inflatable “margarita pool”… and his escalating car park “bowling” session, ending with two cars colliding and bursting into flames, was pure sight-gag genius!

Some critics have suggested that the show loses a little edge after Schaal’s character arrives on the scene… and it’s true that the second episode does settle down into a more familiar two-handed sitcom structure… but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily. There’s still a lot of potential for comedy (and, yes, rom-comedy) in the conflict between the two of them, drawing on archetypal gender differences amped up-to-11 by the devastation around them, and the long period of isolation they’ve both endured: While Forte’s slacker manchild, ‘Phil Miller’, has devolved into an almost feral state of recklessness, Schaal’s strait-laced office manager, ‘Carol Pilbasian’, has become an obsessive stickler, correcting Phil’s grammar at every opportunity, and insisting that they get married before they start repopulating the Earth!

Kristen Schaal as ‘Carol Pilbasian’ in “The Last Man on Earth” (S1)According to an interview with HitFix, Schaal was worried about how likeable her character would seem in contrast to the more easy-going Phil, but I think there’s something very sweet and even heroic about the way Carol clings to the social contract, and strives to maintain some semblance of human civilisation, for the sake of her yet-to-be-conceived children! I only have the first two episodes to go on so far, but I think this could well be the best (live action) role that Schaal has ever had, allowing her to play a slightly smarter and subtly-snarky kind of character, with more emotional depth and pathos than we usually see.

Cute as Carol is, I’m not sure I’d actually want to be stranded on a desert island with her for the rest of my natural life… but I’m more than happy to be “stuck” with her on my TV for the next couple months!

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Scully & The Stig

Gillian Anderson with ‘The Stig’ ala “Top Gear” (3/15)As an eco-conscious lefty, who’s never even taken a driving lesson let alone owned a car, I really shouldn’t have the slightest interest in an unenlightened motoring show like Top Gear… but the truth is that it’s not only one of the funniest comedy shows the BBC produces these days, it’s also their most consistently entertaining and picturesque travel show!

That said, I often drift a little during the track tests, and normally take a quick toilet break during their “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment… but this week, they actually had a Star worth sticking around for: Gillian Anderson! She can sometimes come off as quite scary and severe on-screen, because of the characters she tends to play, but she was absolutely adorable here, relaxing into the couch, casually turning the air blue, and joking with Jeremy Clarkson. Unlike a lot of big-name guests, she didn’t seem to be there to promote anything in particular… besides her own awesomeness, I guess. Swoon! Some kind soul has posted the segment on YouTube, for the benefit of international viewers… though I can’t guarantee it will be there for long, so check it out while you have the chance!

SPOILER: She also scored the fastest wet (moist?) track time of the series, and was awarded the unofficial title of “most improved”, after her record-breaking 22 practice laps!

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“Improve Your Karma, Vote For Dharma!”

[Contains leaky “test holes” and SPOILERS!!!]

Jenna Elfman as ‘Dharma Montgomery’ in “Dharma & Greg” (S2)The second season of Dharma & Greg (1998) kicked off with a bit of a curveball, as the eponymous odd couple agreed to adopt the new-born baby of a checkout girl that Dharma (Jenna Elfman) had befriended. This seemed like a pretty rich source for new storylines and jokes, but in the third episode the birth-mother, ‘Donna’ (Brigid Brannagh), returned to reclaim her offspring, and end the arc. I knew it was coming, because I used to have this season on VHS and watched those tapes to death… but it was still a bit of a let-down, all the same. The “village” that gathered in their apartment to help them raise the child was a lot of fun… especially Grace Zabriskie as a spiritual adviser/storyteller who’d inexplicably taken a vow of silence, and Meagen Fay as a man-hating milk courier… and I got a real kick out of all the alternative viewpoints on what “good” parenting involved. As I said before, one of the reasons I love this show so much, besides all the great jokes and performances, is that having full-on Hippies in leading roles means that it often comes at more familiar sitcom conflicts from a refreshingly New Age-y angle, and serves up stories that no other sitcom ever could or would.

This is particularly true of my fave episode of the season*, #2.10 (“Yes, We Have No Bananas… or Anything Else for That Matter”), in which Dharma impulsively decides to buy an empty store, and wait for the universe to tell her what sort of shop/business it wants to be. In the meantime, a makeshift community of commuters settles in, swapping simple goods and services among themselves, and even meeting-cute across the mismatched tables! It’s so sweet, watching this gentle whirlpool of fraternity form around our heroine… and plays in perfect counterpoint to Greg’s escalating obsession over the annual evaluation he’s received from his boss, who inexplicably sees our hero and his sleazy slacker pal ‘Pete’ (Joel Murray ) as equally “Superior”. There’s also a fantastically aggressive on-camera cameo by Yeardley Smith, as Greg’s snarky secretary ‘Marlene’, who resents the “Satisfactory” rating that he’s given her, and isn’t shy about letting him know!

Jessica Lundy as ‘Patty Saunders’ in “Dharma & Greg” (S2)Other notable supporting players included: Lillian Hurst, in a recurring role as the Montgomery’s maid, ‘Celia’, who Dharma insists on inviting to various social events, and embracing as member of their extended family. Mary Samuels (aka Mary Schmidtberger) doing double-duty as both a local cop frequenting a diner that D&G break into when their car craps out in the middle of nowhere (ep #2.4), and as the SF-based ‘Meter Maid’ whose heartless quashing of Dharma’s “random acts of kindess” inspires our heroine to run for election as a city council-member! (ep #2.16) Meanwhile, Marta Martin appeared in ep #2.7 as Celia’s niece, ‘Ynez’, who Greg (almost) hooked up with, back in the day. Jessica Lundy appeared in ep #2.11 as ‘Patty’, the tipsy trophy-wife of a d-bag property developer who’s planning to evict Dharma’s parents from their home. Maria Bamford appeared in ep #2.13 as an awe-struck violinist, who Dharma takes lessons from after “inheriting” a priceless Stradivarius from her bedridden grandmother-in-law (Nina Foch). Wendy Worthington appeared in ep #2.11 as an unhelpful City Hall worker… and finally, Nancy Lenehan appeared in eps #2.17/18 as ‘Karen Love’, Dharma’s intimidating election opponent.

Although there were a couple less-than-awesome episodes (and a few duff sub-plots) here and there, this was a very strong season overall… with Pete and Jane’s (Shae D’Lyn) hasty off-screen wedding and love-hate horniness making for a memorable non-D&G-centric highlight.

———–

* And one of my fave sitcom episodes ever, in fact!

Posted in HippieWatch, Rom-Comedy, Sitcomedy, Women Who Business, Women Who Law, Women Who Politic, Women Who Wait | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Dead Yet! [Victory Lap]

L7: Suzi Gardner, Donita Sparks, Dee Plakas, and Jennifer FinchGood news, everyone!

The L7 Pretend We’re Dead Kickstarter campaign reached its funding target of $97,000 with several days to spare, and has been slurping up the gravy ever since… finishing with over $130,000 in the kitty! I’m proud to say I played a small part in that success, and look forward to watching my “exclusive” DVD when its released, sometime in October.

So, a hearty handshake to my fellow backers… and to the Brazillian band CSS for being so supportive of their sisters-in-rock. “Believe, achieve”, indeed!

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Today’s Special: “Sleater-Skinney Low-Fat Flame Grrrl-illed Chicken Burger with Portlandia Pickles”

Carrie Brownstein ala “Bob’s Burgers” for Sleater-Kinney’s “A New Wave” videoQuestion: What could be better than a new Sleater-Kinney single?

Answer: A new Sleater-Kinney single with a video set in the world of Bob’s Burgers, of course! I do love it when two of my obsessions overlap, so seeing the band rocking out in Tina’s bedroom as the Belcher kids danced around them gave me a full-on nerd-gasm! The only thing that troubles me now is trying to decide who has the best moves… Tina’s gentle pogo-ing is adorable, but Louise’s punch-dancing is pretty awesome too. Hmmm… I guess I’m going to have to call it a tie… or maybe watch the video a couple (hundred) more times, to make my mind up…?

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Helter Skelter 5: Children Of The Grave

[Contains incriminating irons and SPOILERS!!!]

I was (figuratively) wetting myself with excitement when I saw the first two episodes of the fifth season of Spiral (aka: Engrenages) (2014) listed in my TV guide… but the weight of expectation rather sunk my enjoyment of what turned out to be a comparatively silly and lacklustre season.

Caroline Proust as ‘Captain Laure Berthaud’ in “Spiral” (S5)There were some pretty major character changes/deaths this time around, and on balance none of them really worked for me, though they often provided great acting opportunities for the cast in individual scenes. First up was ‘Laure’s (Caroline Proust) belated discovery that she was pregnant… and I know that there are plenty women in real life who don’t realise they’ve “got a bun in the oven”, until it pops out, fully-baked… but it doesn’t say much for Laure’s detective skills, if she can’t even solve the mystery of her own missing periods until it’s too late! As I say, it gave Proust a whole new side of her character to play, as she became increasingly broody across the course of the season, but I never really felt that invested in the fate of the foetus itself, because… well, it’s like she decided to go to work with a heavy book balanced precariously on her head… it’s bound to fall off eventually, so why should I even worry about it? I mean, it’s not like she made the slightest effort to protect herself, rushing headlong after crooks and getting into fights with random thugs… and when she took off her stab-proof vest to approach a known killer holding a sharp knife… well, you didn’t have to be psychic to see how that was going to play out! Tch! I can’t say I care who the father is, either… though I did think the way “Gilou” (Thierry Godard) kept trying to step-up as a co-parent was very sweet. Bless him.

Audrey Fleurot as ‘Joséphine Karlsson’ in “Spiral” (S5)This season also saw the (slightly ludicrous) death of series mainstay ‘Pierre’ (Grégory Fitoussi), who was shot by a trigger-happy guard after fighting free from an aggrieved client who’d taken him hostage! Weirdly for a show centring around cops, lawyers, and judges, there didn’t seem to be any legal repercussions following his demise. If the guard was investigated and/or punished for this reckless shooting, then it happened off-screen, and was never referenced by any of his friends! And when the hostage-taking client was proven innocent of the season’s main murder, everyone seemed perfectly happy to forgive/forget the whole holding-a-knife-against-Pierre’s-throat-and-inadvertantly-getting-him-killed incident! Tch! Still, we did get to see Laure and ‘Joséphine’ (Audrey Fleurot) finding common ground in their mutual grief, and forming a two-woman “widows” support group… with Proust and Fleurot delivering fantastic, heart-breaking performances throughout. Sadly, the softer and kinder Joséphine we were served this season was a disappointing shadow of the spiky and weirdly self-destructive character we’d grown to love/hate in previous years. Hell, she even ended up defending a copper (Gilou) who was under investigation by internal affairs, despite her long-established distrust and dislike for the police! Obviously in real life the younger, brasher Joséphine would have been an absolute nightmare to know, and you’d be constantly worrying for her safety/sanity, so it would be an enormous relief to see her mature and mellow with age… but as a fictional character, she’s become a little boring now that she’s seemingly settled down and taken a cushy corporate gig (where the clients still treat her counsel with mocking contempt, but have yet to physically or verbally assault her!)

Shirley Souagnon as ‘Aurélie "Oz" Poirier’ in “Spiral” (S5)As for the supporting characters… I was a little concerned by the way that the girl-gang responsible for the main murder was depicted, in the sense that the most vindictive and violent members all had dark skin and hair, while the two more meek and remorseful members were both white-skinned blondes! Tsk, tsk. Apparently Shirley Souagnon, who played the gang’s butch bullying leader “Oz”, is better known in France as a stand-up comedian, but you wouldn’t guess it from the deadly serious and layered performance she delivered here. It was hard not to feel a little sympathy for Oz at various points along her journey, as we glimpsed the sad and broken soul behind the stone-cold facade… but ultimately she was a child-killer, so I’m glad she went to a watery grave. Meanwhile, her former accomplice/girlfriend ‘Laetitia’ (Emilie de Preissac) received quite a battering in the finale, but the girl I felt sorriest for was poor ‘Kimberly’ (Daisy Broom), who was randomly raped by a sleazy truck-depot supervisor while trying to spy their delivery schedule, and then savaged by a pair of vicious dogs set on her by Oz, when she tried to run to the cops! Even then, when she was nice enough to provide Laure (and us viewers) with a full exposition of how and why the main murder went down, lying in her hospital bed with a torn-up face, she got no sympathy from our heroine. I was really hoping her rapist would get caught and punished in the course of the investigation… but no! The shit-head got way scot-free. Feh!

On the other side of the legal fence, a headstrong young judge named ‘Carole Mendy’ (Fatou N’diaye) was introduced to work alongside ‘Roban’ (Philippe Duclos), so at least her presence helped to offset the slightly racist casting of the girl-gang… though Mendy’s stable family life and lack of workaholism makes me wonder how interesting she’d be as a permanent addition to the series. Where’s the long-term story potential in someone who’s happy to shrug off a loss and go home early to play with their kids?

Fanny Valette as ‘Alice’ in “A NY Thing” (aka "Une aventure New-Yorkaise”)Oh, I also have to give a shout-out to Fanny Valette, who played ‘Cindy’ the unappreciated (and abused) girlfriend of Gilou’s dodgy new grass… she was also treated pretty roughly, but came across as very cute and charismatic in her happier scenes. Also, IMDB tells me Valette was in Molière back in the day, so yay for her! [Disclaimer: Technically this photo is from a film called A NY Thing (aka “Une Aventure New-Yorkaise”) (2009), but it was the best I could come up with…]

According to my sources, the sixth season is already being written, so I wish everyone working on the show godspeed, and hope that this season’s weaker moments were just a minor anomaly in an otherwise sterling series, rather than a warning of what’s to come…

Posted in Crime Time!, Francophilia, Women Who Crime, Women Who Joke, Women Who Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Reader…

Tina Belcher a la "Bob's Burgers" for V-Day 2015(Because I don’t have anyone else to send one to… sniffle…)

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