“Stan’s Soapbox”

Ellen Page as ‘Shadowcat’ (aka ‘Kitty Pryde’) and Halle Berry as ‘Storm’ (aka ‘Ororo Munroe’) in “X-Men: The Last Stand”In response to the tragic events in Charlottesville, Stan Lee (of Marvel Comics fame) reposted an old editorial column he’d written back in 1968, which he rightly suggests is just as true/relevant now as it was then:

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them, is to expose them – to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater – one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang–up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen – people he’s never known – with equal intensity – with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race – to despise an entire nation – to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God – a God who calls us ALL – His children.”

Amen! It’s just a shame that Lee isn’t currently cameo-ing as President of the United States…

[Note: Technically, neither of the characters pictured above were created by Lee… but ‘Kitty Pryde’ (aka “Shadowcat”) is Jewish, and ‘Ororo Munroe’ (aka “Storm”) is African-American, so it kinda works… right?]

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Encounters Of The Funny Kind

Nasim Pedrad as ‘Alex Foster’ in “People of Earth” (S2)I can’t say I was exactly chomping-at-the-bit for a second season of People of Earth, the amiably-amusing sitcom about a support group for alien abductees, and the bickering extra-terrestrial-beings that are keeping tabs on them… but I liked it well enough to give its sophomore outing a look-see, and I’m very glad I did, because they’ve made an exciting new addition to the main cast: Nasim Pedrad plays over-eager FBI agent ‘Alex Foster’, who is dispatched to the abduction hotspot of Beacon, New York, to track down a missing businessman suspected of high-level fraud and money laundering, little suspecting that her prey is actually a disgraced “reptilian” alien, who has infiltrated human society as part of a slow-burning invasion plot. Jinkies! After her stellar work in Scream Queens and New Girl (where she played another, slightly lower-grade law-enforcement officer), Pedrad has become a firm favourite of mine, and her inclusion here has made this show a must-see for me.

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“Everybody Knows That The Best Source Of Iron Is Human Blood…”

Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney in “The Katering Show”I can’t remember exactly how I “discovered” The Katering Show (2015-16), but since sampling the first episode of this (NSFW!) Australian cookery-show parody a week ago, I’ve been gobbling it down and loving every bite/byte! The web-series was written and directed by its stars, Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, who drew on their own food-related proclivities/prohibitions for inspiration… specifically, McCartney was diagnosed with numerous pesky intolerances, which her real-life friend (and enthusiastic foodie) McLennan found extremely confusing/frustrating. To quote an NPR interview transcript: “I was constantly asking her, you know, so can you eat zucchinis? Can you eat – like, what kind of cheese? So you can eat parmesan but you can’t eat brie – like, what’s the deal with that? And just constantly interrogating her about her food intolerances… [And] there was a moment where I thought, I can solve these problems for you, I can teach you how to cook. And that’s kind of where the idea for the show came about.” And so, her onscreen alter-ego zealously set about developing “delicious recipes that won’t make McCartney sh*t her pants.”

 Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan in “The Katering Show”Although these recipes are hilarious to read in their written form, they never look particularly appetizing… or even edible… but that isn’t the point, of course. The point is to squeeze as many laughs as possible out of foodie culture, and cookery-show clichés… which the two Kates do with remarkable panache. They’re both fantastically funny in their own right, but also make a great double-act, with McLennan’s bubbly enthusiasm pitted against McCartney’s cynical resentment… and it’s always fun to see the tension between their characters undercutting their forced TV-smiles… though they just as often unleash their mutual scorn on various fads and social trends, snarkily sniping at everything from overpriced kitchen gadgetry to organic farmers’ markets (which apparently make McLennan “involuntarily bleed out of [her] anus”). There are also some delightfully silly visual gags scattered in amongst all the deft artisanal dialogue, involving continuity-breaking cuts, and needlessly-extended close-ups of taps running, or random man-hands poking at the ingredients. I don’t generally assign ratings in these “reviews”, but if I did then TKS would score five solid-gold rolling-pins out of five. Hell, even their promos and “apology” snippets are jam-packed with more jokes than a lot of half-hour sitcoms I could (but won’t) mention! Meanwhile, the episode (#2.2) where McLennan decides to use her own recently-birthed placenta as the base for a lasagna (or “plasagne”, as she calls it), is one of the most disgusting/disturbing things you’re ever likely to see outside of a horror movie… and the most explicit example of the darker sensibility lurking beneath the show’s shiny, orange-clad veneer. Note: It wasn’t until I read a couple other reviews that I realised the jolly logo emblazoned on their aprons incorporates a circle of human intestine… shudder…

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan in “The Katering Show”Sadly, it looks as if the second “seasoning” (pun!) of TKS was also its last… but the good news is that McC & McL are working on a new full-length TV series for the ABC titled Get Krack!n, in which they take a Sassy Swipe™ at breakfast television. To quote the official blurb: “With no sense of on-camera technique, the Kates will shuffle through a roster of unsafe demonstrations, surly guests, underprepared experts, and the over-lit decomposition of the duo’s already rocky relationship.” Bonzer!

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Full Honours

Samantha Bee presenting “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Presents Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner” (2017)I don’t seem to have written anything about Full Frontal With Samantha Bee since it debuted, back in early 2016… which is very remiss of me, because I watch the show religiously (often replaying episodes a couple times over, so I can catch all the jokes), and am always disappointed when it disappears for a couple weeks… so I couldn’t pass up this chance to shine a light on Samantha Bee and her diligent staffers, now that they’ve scored such an impressive number of Emmy Award nominations: “Outstanding Variety Series (Talk)” and “Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series” for the main show… plus “Outstanding Variety Music Or Comedy Special”, “Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special”, “Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special”, and “Outstanding Production Design For A Variety Nonfiction Event Or Award Special”, for their Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner spin-off and, last-but-not-least, “Outstanding Interactive Program” for their website! So, snaps to the FFWSB team for all of that… and hopefully Bee will be able to use her witchy powers and/or “Deep State” connections to tip the odds in their favour…

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Quasi-GothWatch: Lazy Susan

Freya Parker and Celeste Dring in “Lazy Susan's Sexy Halloween Guide”Although country-bumpkins like myself only became aware of Celeste Dring after she was cast as Princess Eugenie in The Windsors, she first rose to fame as one half of the sketch-comedy duo Lazy Susan, along with fellow actress Freya Parker. They’ve scored some glowing reviews for their live shows over the years… and thankfully, they’ve also been captured on video a couple times, for posterity (but not prosperity?). Regular readers probably won’t be too surprised to learn that my fave skit (so far) is their “Sexy Halloween Guide”, in which they muck about while modelling various costumes, which they insist are “sexy”, despite the lip-stick-stained teeth, lop-sided wigs, and disturbing brags about hidden faeces! All-in-all, it’s a fantastically strange and funny spoof… though I can’t deny that seeing Dring in a goth-y witch’s outfit is also a big part of the sketch’s appeal for me. Sorry. As noted before, the “male gaze” is very adept at filtering out irony/satire, and just enjoying what it sees on the basest level…

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“I Did It! I *Am* A Waitress!”

Celeste Dring as 'Eugenie' and Ellie White as 'Beatrice' in Marie Claire’s “How to Dress for A Wedding With The Windsors of Channel 4” (7/17)Huzzah! The Windsors returned for a well-deserved second series of satirical spoofery this week, with new characters a-plenty… including Gillian Bevan as British Prime Minister ‘Theresa May’ (Boo! Hiss!), and Kathryn Drysdale as ‘Meghan Markle’, an American actress who’s currently dating the real-life Prince Harry. Apparently Drysdale binge-watched Suits and trawled through Markle’s Instagram posts to help get into character… even though this show is an exaggerated cartoon, rather than a super-serious study. Commitment!

It was also great to see Vicki Pepperdine returning as the phantom-like ‘Princess Anne’, berating her recently downgraded nieces ‘Beatrice’ (Ellie White) and ‘Eugenie’ (Celeste Dring). The adorably sloaney sister-princesses remain my fave characters of the series (despite very strong competition from Morgana Robinson‘s swear-y, cursing ‘Pippa’), and apparently someone at Marie Claire is also a fan, as they invited the two not-really-royals to pop into the mag’s fashion cupboard to record a very funny wedding-fashion-themed vlog: “Follow their journey as they navigate the tricky world of fascinators et al”… fun!

Still no sign of a DVD of Series 1 though… sniffle…

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“You’re Ruining The Apocalypse!”

Fans of all-female Canadian sketch-comedy had plenty to celebrate this week, as her ladyship the Baroness von Sketch Show returned for a second season… hot on the heels of the news that the show has been picked up for transmission in the U.S. (starting next month), courtesy of IFC. Interestingly the article I linked above also notes that its home network, CBC, “announced a commitment last year to boosting the number of women directing scripted series, with a goal of women comprising half or more of all directors”, so yay for that.

Jennifer Whalen, Aurora Browne, Meredith MacNeill, and Carolyn Taylor in "Baroness von Sketch Show" (S2)And, yes, the first episode of this new season was indeed directed by a female-person (specifically Yael Staav), and featured a fine selection of satirical skits… my personal fave being the one about a band of punky warrior-women in a Mad-Max-esque future, who had participated in a gendercidal purge, and are now starting to regret their haste. I also enjoyed the sketch where a mime-based miscommunication between a couple at an awkward social gathering leads to an unexpectedly violent conclusion… ‘cuz I’m a sicko like that. I don’t remember the first season being as graphic as this episode was… but that may just be because I’m getting old and forgetful now? Curiously, Meredith MacNeill was responsible for most of the onscreen blood-letting here… which only makes her more crush-worthy in my eyes (if that were possible).

Either way, it was a strong start to the season, as the show sets out its stall for a new audience, south of the border.

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