Laugh Overload

[Contains lusty lay-by liaisons and SPOILERS!!!]

There was so much new (and new-ish) comedy airing this week, that I barely got through it all without losing my breath… er, from laughter, that is, not weird pervy wheezing… though there was a bit of that too (for reasons that will be explained in gratuitous detail)…

Penny Johnson Jerald as ‘Dr. Claire Finn’ in “The Orville” (S1)First up was Seth MacFarlane’s new Star-Trek-spoof/homage The Orville, which I’ve been excitedly anticipating ever since I saw an extended trailer back in July… so I was rather surprised/disappointed to see it getting such negative reviews now that’s it finally arrived. At the time of writing this, it has a critical approval rating of just 21% at Rotten Tomatoes… but a rather more heartening audience approval rating of 89%! Having watched the first episode for myself, I’d have to say I’m siding with the “hoi-polloi” on this one… the show is far from perfect, but I thought it showed a lot of promise, and livened up my dinner time a lot more than the new kosher Trek series (Discovery) is likely to, if its trailer is anything to judge by. In fairness, I’m not sure Orville’s actually any smarter, funnier, or more engaging than TNG was back in the day… but if the official franchise is going to go all dark and brooding, then there’s obviously going to be an audience/market for off-brand shows like this one, that harken back to the more playful comedy episodes of ToS, TNG, and DS9. You also have to give MacFarlane credit for creating such strong female characters to prop his hero up, as the newly-promoted captain of an intergalactic exploratory vessel (The U.S.S Orville)… and for casting such established actresses in those roles, to keep him on his toes performance-wise! Penny Johnson Jerald plays ‘Dr. Claire Finn’, a forthright physician who’s volunteered to serve on the ship solely because she thinks its newbie captain’s inexperience will keep things interesting… Adrianne Palicki plays ‘Kelly Grayson’, the ship’s first officer and (not-coincidentally) the ex-wife of its embittered captain, who is trying to make amends for her previous sexual transgressions by supporting him in his new position (an epilogue scene reveals that she was the one pulling strings behind the scenes to get him promoted in the first place!)… and relative newcomer Halston Sage plays ‘Alara Kitan’, an inexperienced security officer, whose petite frame belies her alien super-strength! A combination of Kelly’s brains and Alara’s brawn saved the day (and potentially the universe) in this pilot episode, and I look forward to seeing all three femmes getting plenty more “hero” moments in future instalments… fingers crossed…

Aisling Bea and Sally Phillips ala “Taskmaster” (S5)Next up was the fifth “season” opener of quirky-celebrity-challenge-show Taskmaster, which this year boasts Aisling Bea and Sally Phillips as contestants. The show is just as ridiculous/hilarious as ever… but the highlight of this episode for me had to be when the participants were tasked with giving creator/co-host Alex Horne a “special cuddle”, and Phillips chose to lie on his prostrate body, shoving chocolate cake into his armpits, while grinning with twisted glee. Very odd… though I couldn’t help envying him a little… until she started getting carried away, shoving random bits of fruit in his mouth and pouring water in his eyes … Ack! Despite this bizarre display, the adorable actress still elicited the studio audience’s sympathy after being disqualified in a later task, for wearing a pair of wellington boots on her hands to get a basketball through a hoop (without touching it directly), despite the instructions clearly/strictly forbidding the use of gloves or glove-like items. In fact, host Greg Davies was so intimidated by the strength of the reaction against his ruling, that he promised he wouldn’t disqualify her for anything else in future, for fear of becoming unpopular with the public! Fun (but unconfirmed) fact: According to Wikipedia, the next season will see all of the previous winners (and this year’s as-yet-unknown winner) competing against each other in a “Champion of Champions” face-off! Crikey.

Lauren Socha  as ‘Catherine “Cat” Walcott’ in “The Other One”Finally, there was a prospective BBC sitcom pilot called The Other One, written by comedian Holly Walsh, and starring Ellie White as an uptight straight-arrow who discovers that her recently-deceased father was a bigamist, and that she has a secret half-sister with the exact same name as her, played by the inimitable Lauren Socha! Their respective (and resentful) mothers were played by Rebecca Front and Siobhan Finneran… so a great showcase for some incredibly talented women, and a textbook sitcom premise that neatly brings two worlds crashing together, for plenty class-divide culture-clash hijinks, and some sweet (if short-lived) moments of unexpected emotional bonding. Of course, I was already familiar with White’s work in The Windsors, but she plays such an exaggerated cartoon in that show, it was slightly disorienting to hear her talking like a normal human person… still, I think she makes a very strong claim for her “leading lady” status here, confidently holding her own while sharing the screen with Socha, who can easily steal a scene with little more than a smile or a scowl (or a deftly-deployed swear), not to mention seasoned all-stars like Front and Finneran. Bless ‘em. On a slightly pervier tack, I also got a big kick out of seeing Socha back in black for the funeral scene… hotcha! Apparently this episode was just a one-off taster, to test the water… but it’s been getting good reviews in the press, so hopefully the Beeb will see sense and commission a full series (or three).

Meanwhile, the return (or continuation) of Dice, The News Quiz, Full Frontal (with Sam Bee), Broad City, Get Krackin, and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown have all added to the hilarity. ‘Tis a good time to be alive with a functioning funny-bone!


About Dee CrowSeer

A comic-book writer with an interest in philosophy, equality, and diversity. He/him.
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