Television

Grace and Frankie

Netflix’s best kept secret. 

One of the best things happening on TV right now, with the domination of streaming sites allowing for riskier ideas to be approved, is the older generation getting their chance to shine. The comedy world has not always been particularly kind to the elderly, usually playing them for laughs where, more often than not, they are the butt of the joke.

Shows like Amazon’s Transparent have gained a lot of attention for the realistic depiction of someone finally embracing their true identity after a lifetime of hiding, but Netflix have got in on the trend too with Grace and Frankie, a true hidden gem that is just as deserving of the adoration.

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The show is fairly simple in premise – Sol (Sam Waterstone) and Robert (Martin Sheen), following a 20 year affair, decide to finally come out to their respective wives of four decades. Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) have never liked each other much, but the pair soon find themselves living together in their joint beach house as they try to navigate divorce north of 70.

I began watching the pilot episode well over a year ago, not long after the first season appeared. I found it funny, but I must admit I wasn’t immediately drawn in. Despite what I now appreciate to be a very fresh concept, the first ten minutes felt very generic.

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The odd couple trope has been done to death and at first glance it appeared that Grace and Frankie were never going to be any more than their stereotypes, with Fonda playing it straight as the prim and uptight Grace whilst Tomlin channeled Frankie’s hippy-dippy nature.

Fast forward a year and, following recommendations from various friends, the time had come to give the series another chance, and boy am I glad. Co-created by Marta “Friends” Kauffman, the show is one of Netflix’s hidden gems.

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It’s easy to, as I first did, write the show off, but to do so would be a mistake. As laugh out loud funny as all your favourite sitcoms, the show also has more heart than you could ever imagine. Life is far from black and white, and Grace and Frankie revels in the murky area in between, dealing with issues in a much deeper way than it might at first seen.

The titular two characters are, as should be the case in a show named after them, the beating heart. Tomlin is on top form as eccentric Frankie, laughing in the face of elderly stereotypes as she smokes weed in her rasta hat, whilst still being fully believable (basically everything Robert DeNiro was not in Dirty Grandpa. I’m still not over that film). Meanwhile Fonda is sensational in what is overtly more of a dramatic role, with the comedic touches proving a fantastic flair.

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Fleshing out the cast are Waterstone and Sheen as Sol and Robert, the former husbands of the titular pair who set the ball rolling with their coming out. Reflecting the dynamic of the titular characters, the pair are another odd couple with Sol proving to be one of the series highlights with his overly approach to his emotions, whilst Robert is the dark horse, growing into one of the most well rounded characters as the show progresses.

The writing is fantastic, tackling a range of massive themes from mortality to faith with the perfect blend of comedy and drama. There is a lot more below the surface here than you would ever find in your typical sitcom, and the show isn’t afraid to explore the deeper impact events have on the characters.

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Grace and Frankie is a revelation. Hilarious and sweet in equal measure, it is a show that could easily be overshadowed by Netflix’s top dogs such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, but is just as worthy of a binge watch (I watched two seasons over two weeks in an unprecedented display of restraint).

Here are some of my favourite one liners from the literally hundreds on offer across the first two seasons…

“Does he make appointments at the genius bar? Because if you don’t it’s a really long wait.”

– Sol

“Couldn’t we discuss the fight to masturbate after lunch?”

– Robert

“I gained another pound today. But I think it’s a pound of knowledge.”

– Frankie

“If anyone is gonna sit on Ryan Gosling’s face, it’s gonna be me!”

– Grace

Season 3 of Grace and Frankie will stream on Netflix this year.

 

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Opinion, Television

SOUTH PARK .V. FAMILY GUY:

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source: Fark

It’s one of the age old questions – which is better: South Park or Family Guy? Many appreciate both shows, but there are just as many who fall very distinctly into one camp. In my case, I am a huge South Park fan and have never really seen the Family Guy appeal. This is not to say that I don’t think Seth MacFarlane is funny – annoying as he may be, American Dad stands as proof that he is capable of decent comedy – I just find that my personal comedy tastes err more towards Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park.

Parker and Stone have been fairly vocal (understatement) in their annoyance towards the two shows being constantly lumped together, and they have a point. The similarities are undoubtedly there – animation, crude humour, surreal elements and so on – but ultimately the creators have very different approaches to what constitutes comedy, leading to shows which have much less in common than it would first appear.

South Park addressed the issue directly in season 10 with Cartoon Wars, a two part episode which lampooned Family Guy with the no holds barred approach that the show uses to lampoon everyone, suggesting that the plotlines of Family Guy were generated by manatees randomly selecting them. The criticisms were very thinly veiled, and Cartman’s words are particularly noteworthy: 

“I am nothing like Family Guy! When I make jokes they are inherent to the story! Deep situational and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a point, not just one random interchangeable joke after another!” 

It is worth noting that MacFarlane and the Family Guy camp have generally taken such criticism in their stride, with MacFarlane saying in an interview that he found Cartoon Wars “funny and accurate” but also questioned the “personal venom that they spew in the press about the show and about me.”

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source: Hulu

As much as I love South Park, it is easy to see where MacFarlane is coming from. Stone and Parker appear to hold the show in utter contempt, though this may just be a result of the two constantly being placed together. It is perhaps understandable in that case, considering South Park is ultimately the superior show.

Of course, as I’ve already pointed out, this is all a matter of opinion, but I think South Park has a much stronger case for being better. What initially began as a crudely animated shock value show has grown into smart and inventive satire, dripping in toilet humour.

Parker and Stone lampoon current events, making episodes just days before they air, and no group has been safe from their razor sharp satire. It is on this point that the South Park/Family Guy divide is at its clearest. Whilst Family Guy does satirise to an extent, it generally focuses more on homage/celebration and the shock elements are much more based on the toilet humour and gross out effects. 

Family Guy is also famous/notorious for it’s extensive cutaway gags. Whilst they can sometimes be funny, there is little doubt that the show ran out of steam many seasons ago, as did the cutaways. Whilst I would be exaggerating if I said I have never laughed at Family Guy, I don’t find the show particularly funny. It’s perfectly fine on a single, on-in-the-background viewing, but not something I would specifically tune in for.

South Park on the other hand, tends to improve on multiple watches. It is a deeper humour which can be appreciated on many levels – there is the base, crude humour which still works even if you are unaware of the current events/group that are being lampooned. Then there is the satirical slant which makes for the majority of the funniest moments. 

South Park is also still going pretty strong after an incredible 19 seasons, whilst Family Guy left its best days behind years ago. The latter show has become increasingly stale and desperate, with the infamous killing and revival of Brian being a prime example of how obsolete it has become. South Park on the other hand never feels stale due to how current each season is, and the fact that Parker and Stone seem to have an endless stream of inventive ideas.

Ultimately it all comes down to personal taste, but South Park offers multi-dimensional humour and social commentary in a way that means it will always win out over the long stagnating Family Guy in my book.

Are you team South Park or Family Guy? Share your views in the comments section! 

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List, Television

TOP 5 CURRENT US SITCOMS

The 5 US sitcoms you should be watching right now.

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5. Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt

rawIt won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fantastic Netflix sitcom that stands out from the majority of other shows due to its premise. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (AKA the minds behind the brilliant 30 Rock, which ran from 2006 to 2013), the show begins with 29 year old Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) being rescued from a bunker where she has spent 15 years in captivity after Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) led her and three other women to believe that they had survived the end of the world. Becoming known as one of the “Indiana mole women”, Kimmy decides to break free and start a new life in New York City, despite not knowing much about the 21st century world.

The fact that Fey and Carlock have taken a decidedly dark premise and made it into something as bright and cheerful as this show is a credit to them, but even moreso to Kemper for making the character of Kimmy so endearingly likable – she feels like an extension of her role as Erin in NBC’s The Office, which can only be a good thing. The cast is brilliant in that it moves away from the typical group of friends who met in high school/college hanging out and instead presents an eclectic range of people who appeared in each others lives randomly, from Kimmy’s broadway yearning roomate Titus (Tituss Burgess) or eccentric landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), to the ever hilarious Jane Krakowski as a wealthy Manhattanite.

Whilst the show could perhaps become a little grating, there is no denying that it is totally unique and hilariously funny – something which has seen Netflix renew it for a third season before the second has even begun streaming (season 2 is set to make an appearance on the 15th of April), and the fact that it was nominated for a total of seven Emmy awards. If you haven’t already seen it, what are you waiting for – all 13 episodes of season 1 are available on Netflix right now!

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

tumblr_ndwxelm1Cg1qdt9vko1_400Another show that is an acquired taste, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a cult hit that has been broadcast on US network FX, then sister channel FXX, since 2005 (it is available to stream on Netflix for those of us in the UK). Now in it’s 11th season and renewed for a 12th, the sitcom was developed by Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, who both star as members of the ‘gang’ that the plot revolves around.

Described as “Seinfeld on crack”, the show takes the typical ‘group of friends hanging out’ trope and flips it beyond recognition. Revolving around the exploits of a group of people who own a bar – Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and his twin sister Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and from season 2 onwards the twins ‘father’ Frank (Danny DeVito) – the show is about as far removed from Friends (1994-2004) as you can get.

It would be a stretch to describe the gang as friends – co-dependent alcoholics, sure, but friends is probably too light a term. The show really hit its stride with the inclusion of DeVito from the second season, and there is no issue safe from the shows satirical gaze. Taboo topics are the norm – it’s almost like a live-action South Park (1997-) at times – meaning that the show is not one for the easily offended.

The comedy is derived from the fact that the characters are all hugely self centered and damaged in their own ways – from Charlie’s anger issues and glue sniffing to Dennis’ increasingly obvious sociopathic tendencies – and it is amazing that they can continue to come up with such inventive ideas after over a decade. In season 7 episode The Gang Gets Trapped, Dennis perfectly sums up the shows premise in one of this trademark rants:

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten…somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another. Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home.”  

If you like your comedy jet black and packed with too many pop culture references to count, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the show for you.

3. Broad City

746b285916fc5f9e55c0b334e38d7a39Broad City is a show that, since it began airing on Comedy Central in 2014, has drawn endless comparison to Lena Dunham’s Girls (2012-). Whilst both tell the story of women in their twenties living in New York City, the two shows are in fact very different beasts – each with their own distinct strengths.

Starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jackson as fictionalised versions of themselves, Broad City began life as a web-series before being picked up by Comedy Central. It is due to begin its third season, with the second in particular garnering critical acclaim. Glazer and Jackson met whilst taking classes at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade, and no other than Amy Poehler took notice of the web incarnation of the show, now serving as an executive producer on the series.

First and foremost, Broad City is hilarious. Charting the exploits of self-centred, work-allergic stoner Ilana and wannabe illustrator Abbi as they get themselves into all sorts of weird but strangely relatable situations is a mine of comedy potential , and the duos writing is consistently strong. The cast is rounded out by some eccentric supporting players, including Ilana’s lover Lincoln (Hannibal Burgess) and Abbi’s roomate’s oddball boyfriend Bevers (John Gemberling).

Broad City also manages to be progressive at the same time as funny – usually the best sort of progressive, really. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the show was described as “sneak attack feminism” and Jackson was quoted as saying:

“If you watch one of out episodes there’s not a big message, but if you watch all of them, I think, they’re empowering to women.” 

And she’s right. Watch one episode of Broad City and you will be treated to some real comedy gold – a favourite of mine includes Ilana trying to track down a TV remote she lost months ago in order to cancel a subscription – but if you watch the entire series, you will be treated to a show where women do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want (and they don’t answer to anyone – man or woman). Roll on season 3!

2. Brooklyn Nine Nine

130d218593d8b917c20a9dc277f87818Brooklyn Nine Nine is without a doubt one of the best sitcoms around at the moment. Currently airing its third season on Fox in the US (catch it on E4 in the UK) and featuring an eclectic ensemble cast, the show has received critical acclaim since it began airing in 2013.

Essentially a fusion of two arguably tired genres – the cop show and the sitcom – Brooklyn Nine Nine has taken the best from both concepts and created something fresh and hilarious. With an ensemble cast that includes Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher, the show manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of modern sitcoms and uses the police precinct setting to generate totally different storylines.

The show hit the ground running and it has only been up from there, with season three shaking up the status quo and showing that creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur aren’t afraid to mix up the dynamics. Goor and Schur are known for their work on the equally acclaimed Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) and Schur also worked on the US version of The Office (2005-2013), so there is no doubt that the pair know what they are doing when it comes to hilarious sitcoms.

The writing is fast paced and hilarious, and the workplace setting means that, much like the success of Parks and Recreation and The Office, personal lives do not factor in so much as to be overbearing. There is plenty of workplace action, and the characters all have totally different backgrounds, with the contrasts and relationships between them driving the comedy.

There’s been no word yet on a fourth season renewal, but Fox would be deluded to cancel a show that has been so well received and seems to only be getting better with time – expect to be seeing plenty from the Nine Nine in years to come.

1. New Girl

giphyWhilst the rest of the shows on this list are great because they generally invert or avoid sitcom tropes and stereotypes, New Girl is included because it not only embraces them but pulls them off well. The Fox show began airing in 2011 and is now in it’s fifth season. Originally based around the Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a teacher in her early thirties who moves into a loft with three men – Nick (Jake Johnson), Shmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) – after a messy break-up, showrunner Elizabeth Merriweather soon saw the potential in her cast and established New Girl as an ensemble that also included Jess’ best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone).

The tropes are all there – the will they/won’t they couple (two actually – but recent events have established an imminent Ross and Rachel/Monica and Chandler situation), the group of friends hanging out, the bromance etc, but when it’s done this well, they don’t seem so tired (look to The Big Bang Theory for a modern example of when the tropes don’t work). Unlike most of the entries on this list, New Girl is the sort of show that has the universal appeal of Friends – it’s a simple concept made great by a brilliant cast – special mention to Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield in particular.

One thing that does set the show apart is that when we first meet the characters they are already in their early thirties – most sitcoms begin with young fresh faced twenty-somethings – meaning they have already lived a lot. This provides a whole new take on comedy – these are characters who are falling in love, but not for the first time, and they are moving up in the career ladder rather than starting out on the bottom rung. Whilst only a small deviation from the classic sitcom set-up, when paired with the fantastic writing it’s enough to set the show apart from the rest.

New Girl is available in the UK on Netflix (seasons 1-3) and on E4.

What are your favourite US sitcoms currently airing? Let me know in the comments section!

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List, Television

CHRISTMAS ADVERTS 2015 :

The results are in for the top christmas adverts of 2015

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If my recent posts haven’t managed to give it away already, I am a huge fan of this time of year. Christmas is my favourite holiday – its the time when I get to come home, relax and spend time with my family. The build up to christmas day is an exciting time, and when the christmas adverts start to appear on TV I know it’s time to start getting excited. The big competition for this years crown as the king of the christmas adverts drew to a close yesterday, and a list was released with the top nine adverts based on Youtube views up until 12pm on the 21st of December.

The list features nine christmas adverts released in the UK this year, but before going into those I want to mention a personal favourite of mine that wasn’t on the list…

VODAFONE – TERRY THE TURKEY

Vodafone opted for a hilarious advert this year. A family rear a turkey for christmas dinner, only to become so attached to it that it joins them at the table on the day for a nut roast as Westlife’s Flying Without Wings transports your soul to uncharted heights. The idea is to “get closer to the ones you love this christmas” and presumably to also realise that turkeys can actually be quite cute (in a creepy kind of way). This advert has it all – cute(?) animals, drama, suspense and Westlife.

Moving onto the list, click on the links to see each brands christmas website…

9 – ASDA #BECAUSEITSCHRISTMAS

340,000 views

Verdict: There’s nothing wrong with Asda’s advert, but there also isn’t really anything that makes it stand out from the pack. It features a variety of christmassy scenarios, but the accompanying song – Sax by X Factor runner up Fleur East – ruins any attempt at a true festive feel created by the visuals. This is nothing against the song per se, but as upbeat as it may be it certainly detracts from the overall aim of the advert, and probably has a lot to do with why it ranked last despite being one of the first released, whole 54 days before christmas.

8 – LIDL: SCHOOL OF CHRISTMAS

520, 000 views

Verdict: I am a huge fan of Lidl’s advert and was surprised to see it come in eighth place (I would easily have it in the top five, at least). The advert features a ‘school of christmas’ which has a variety of classes teaching festive etiquette, from how to react to a sub-par gift to creating the perfect leftover sandwich. It’s a funny and slightly different take on christmas advertising, and it certainly fulfilled its function of being memorable – all in all a great effort from the German supermarket chain.

7 – ALDI #ALDIYOURFAVOURITETHINGS

600,000 views

Verdict: Just winning out ahead of its rival comes other German supermarket chain Aldi, who went for a festive take on the song My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. It’s a nice idea that allows them to cram in a number of reasonably priced festive treats, but I personally found the song to be slightly grating and was prone to turning it off whenever it came on TV, probably the opposite of the desired effect.

6 – TESCO – 4 ADVERTS

660,000 views (average)

Verdict: Tesco went for a different approach this year, releasing a series of shorter seasonal adverts based around a family, played by Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey), Ben Miller and Will Close. All in all the segments didn’t prove to be overly popular, though I found some of them to be pretty amusing – particularly The Final Shop, the latest one to come out. Other efforts were more cringe than funny, but Ruth Jones is so likeable that it is hard to say anything too bad about these adverts, plus Tesco should be commended for daring to do something a little different.

5 – WAITROSE #MAKESYOURCHRISTMAS

660,000 views

Verdict: This one falls pretty much into the same category as the Asda one for me, though Waitrose admittedly has a much better version of the same idea. The advert features christmas scenarios and poses the question – what makes your christmas? It also features celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who has endorsed the supermarket chain since 2010. It apparently cost almost £1 million to make (read about it in this article for The Telegraph), and whilst it does have a very polished look about it, its hard to see where all that money could have gone. It’s a decent effort, just not a memorable one.

4 – ALDI SPOOF JOHN LEWIS

2 million views

Verdict: Talk about cheeky marketing! As if it wasn’t enough to deface a musical classic, Aldi then had the gall to take on John Lewis, the grandaddy of all christmas ads, by taking their price comparison format and applying it to a spoof of the Man on the Moon advert (more on that later). It is admittedly pretty funny, but at 2 million views to John Lewis’ 23 million, the joke might be one them.

3 – M&S #THEARTOFCHRISTMAS

2.5 million views

Verdict: This is probably the only advert that I really actively dislike on the list. Sure, the Aldi song one was irritating  but it was a nice concept that didn’t pan out upon execution. This offering from M&S however, is just plain awful. It’s a festive take on the chains recent line of #theartof ads, and it is certainly something different, but it just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s not christmassy enough – where are the cute animals and soppy stories? THAT’S what we want, not whatever this is. It just feels like overcompensation to me, and using what is potentially the most overplayed song of the century doesn’t help – Uptown Funk is not christmas soundtrack material.

2 – JOHN LEWIS: MAN ON THE MOON

23 million views

Verdict: Onto the big dogs now – John Lewis moved away from cute animals this year and went for another area that is sure to tug at the heartstrings with the elderly. Teaming up with Age UK, the department store giants urged us to “show someone they’re loved this christmas” after telling the story of the lonely man on the moon to Half the World Away as sung by Norwegian artist Aurora. The advert reportedly cost £1 million and was just one component in a £7 million campaign, with profits from a mug, gift tag and card on sale in stores going to Age UK. Coincidentally, christmas day will feature a full moon, which is a nice little touch to add to your enjoyment of this wonderful advert.

1 – SAINSBURY’S: MOG’S CHRISTMAS CALAMITY

26 million views

Verdict: As good as John Lewis’ effort was this year, there could be no other winner. Sainbsbury’s, in a stroke of complete genius, brought back Judith Kerr’s beloved Mog the cat in an adorable three minute advert narrated by none other than Emma Thompson. It is a true embodiment of everything one would want in a festive ad, and it was released to public acclaim on the 12th of November. A book – Mog’s Christmas Calamity, and a cuddly toy were also released, with proceeds going to Save the Children. A great idea and an even better cause, Sainsbury’s are the worthy winner of the 2015 battle of the christmas adverts.

What was your favourite christmas advert of 2015? Let me know in the comments section!

If you would like to find out more about Age UK or Save the Children, or if you would like to donate, click the links above to be taken to their respective websites.

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List, Television

FRASIER CHRISTMAS EPISODES – RANKED:

Ranking beloved sitcom Frasier’s (1993-2004) Christmas offerings.

 

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Daily Mail

Despite ending 11 years ago, Cheers spin-off Frasier is still held in high regard as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and certainly one of the greatest spin-offs ever created. Starring Kelsey Grammar in the titular role alongside David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leevis and Peri Gilpin, the show is a hilarious classic that only gets better with repeat viewings. Over 11 seasons the show produced an impressive seven festive episodes which feature everything that made Frasier so great, combined with a dash of festive cheer, ranked here for your pleasure…

7 – THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (SEASON 7)

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Fanpop

Frasier is at his haughty best here, having planned a traditional christmas party with only Roz (Peri Gilpin) allowed to attend from the KACL gang, only to find that rival Cam Winston is also holding a party and has poached his guests. This provides the festive setting to the episode, which revolves around the previous ones revelation to Daphne (Jane Leevis) of Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) long standing feelings for her. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Niles/Daphne dynamic was at its best when he was infatuated with her and she was hilariously unaware of it, so I was never a fan of them getting together, as much as Niles deserved them to. Whilst the episode does have some funny use of the crossed wires trope, it ranks last as it it signified the beginning of a period of decline for the show.

6 – WE TWO KINGS (SEASON 10)

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TV Guide

This episode revisits one of the show’s most common occurrences  – Niles and Frasier arguing. This time they are bickering over how to spend christmas, which drives Martin (John Mahoney) to announce he is going to work on the day. This leads the brothers to attempt to mend fences by putting together a surprise for Martin which, low and behold, does not go to plan. Even in its darker days Frasier was bolstered by its phenomenal cast, and this is an example of that situation at work, with laughs throughout. The Frasier-Niles rivalry rarely disappoints, but this episode loses marks for giving Roz a lazy subplot volunteering as an elf at the mall, whilst Martin’s decision to work feeling like a rehash of season one, suggesting the show was running out of steam by its tenth year.

5 – MARY CHRISTMAS (SEASON 8)

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Sarah TV

Frasier is realising a dream of his by hosting the Seattle Christmas Parade, but worries it won’t go to plan when his co-host comes down with food poisoning and is replaced with Mary (Kim Coles), who he had previously clashed with at KACL. As predicted, chaos ensues, with incidents including Frasier hitting Santa with a microphone. Season eight was a tough time for the series, with changes in dynamic and a decline in quality, and it shows in this episode. Whilst funny moments are scattered throughout, it’s nothing like the offerings from the shows hey-dey.

4 – FRASIER GRINCH (SEASON 3)

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Tumblr

The ‘Frasier learns an important lesson’ storyline wasn’t unique to christmas episodes, but plays well here. Frasier is determined that he only get Fredrick (Luke Tarsitano) high-end educational toys as gifts, even though Martin thinks he should just let Fredrick be himself. There is a great balance between the funny and touching here, with the end of the episode holding a sweet message. Eddie features – dressed to the nines in a santa suit and hat – and we get to see the Crane apartment in fully fledged Martin christmas mode, talking Santa and all. The only reason this episode doesn’t rate higher is because it lacks the laugh out loud hilarity of other episodes.

3 – MIRACLE ON THIRD OR FOURTH STREET (SEASON 1)

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Lockerdome

This early episode was when the show was still finding its feet, and features Frasier facing christmas alone after Fredrick receives a chance to spend the festive in Austria and he and Martin argue. The first christmas episode of the series, it sets a trend of the Cranes arguing about decorations, which goes on to be a fun staple of the festive specials. Eddie is hilarious, drinking from Niles’ cup and hiding under a pillow when the argument occurs, whilst the latter half of the episode with Frasier’s depressing christmas callers becomes increasingly hysterical. The episode does lack the shows winning ensemble in the latter half, but it’s still great festive viewing.

2 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, MRS. MOSKOWITZ (SEASON 6)

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Neogaf

The best episodes of Frasier tended to have a very simple premise – events would conspire, building up to a hilarious and absurd finale – a formula that served the series well for 11 years. This festive offering is a perfect example – Frasier is set up on a blind date with the daughter of a woman he meets in a department store. It transpires that Mrs. Moskowitz (Carole Shelley) believes Frasier to be Jewish, leading to a visit to his apartment where he and her daughter Faye (Amy Brenneman) attempt to cover up the fact that he’s not. This is complicated by the delivery of a christmas tree and Niles dressed up as Jesus, leading up to a truly hilarious final act.

1 – PERSPECTIVES ON CHRISTMAS (SEASON 5)

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First Time Mom

This season five episode came out when the show had really hit its stride, utilising the winning formula . Various different plot lines intertwine and culminate in hilarious misunderstandings, providing laugh out loud moments aplenty. The story is told through flashbacks as Martin, Roz, Daphne and Niles get massages as a Christmas gift from Frasier and the episode plays out as a series of interlinking sketches where we get to see each character at their best – the winning sequence has to be when crossed wires leads Daphne to believe that Martin is dying when he is actually appearing as a shepherd in a christmas pageant. Brilliant stuff.

Which festive Frasier is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Reviews, Television

PEEP SHOW – FINAL EPISODE

peep-show-episode-6Who can believe it, it’s finally over. After 12 years and nine fantastic series, Peep Show finally drew to a close on Channel 4 last night, marking the end of an era as we bid goodbye to the El Dude Brothers, this time for good.

Series nine has been another excellent series, with quite a few episodes that are sure to acquire the label of ‘classic’ Peep Show in coming years. The clever writing has allowed us to return and say goodbye to an impressive amount of the characters that have played supporting roles in previous years, and whilst it was disappointing not to see Big Suze or Nancy make a return, it is equally heartening that the writing did not resort to a ‘greatest hits’ medley in its closing episodes.

In the finale Jeremy is turning 40 and struggling to keep up with younger boyfriend Joe, who is an advocate of the hard partying and drug taking that Jez has spent the majority of his life partaking in. The thing is, it’s a young man’s game, and no amount of eating cashews and drinking your own pee (yes, really) is going to take away from the fact that Jeremy is hitting middle age.

imagesMark on the other hand looks like he might be getting his life on track. Granted, he gets fired by Johnson and replaced by old rival Jeff, naturally all at the hands of Jeremy, but it also looks like he might actually ride off into the sunset with April. April was the one all along, and it seems like she might be able to overlook the fact that Mark tried to bury Sophie in a ballpit last week. But alas, this is Peep Show, and there was no way that anyone was going to end up happy. Sitcoms like Friends were all about wrapping things up nicely and allowing everyone their happy ending, but to do so with Mark and Jez would be to go against the grain of what the show was about all along.

So instead we end with things pretty much as they started – all they have is each other – Jez likes how things are, Mark wants him out. April left Mark after it emerged that he had gone along with Super Hans and Jeremy doing a little kidnapping of her husband, Joe left Jez for being unwilling to stay up for a week, and Molly left Super Hans for partaking in the aforementioned kidnapping. Matt King has been undoubtedly one of the best things about this series, and the show as a whole, and his exit was suitably hilarious. As for the El Dude Brothers, we can be sure that they will be continuing to make each other miserable as they embark on middle age.

Here are my five favourite quotes from an episode full of them…

“It’s complicated. We’ll probably never fully understand – like Stone Henge.”

– Jez explains the unexplainable

“Hello Dad, you’re living inside me now, are you?”

– Mark catches himself sounding like his father

“Do I smell corporate lube? Am I about to get organisationally fucked?”

– Mark senses trouble ahead just prior to getting fired

“When I was doing the invites it became clear that you’ve betrayed everyone you’ve ever been close to”

– Mark sheds some light on the revolving door of Jeremy’s friends and lovers

“Bollocks to it. I’m gonna van it to Macedonia, finally set up the moped rental”

– And with that we say goodbye to series favourite Super Hans

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Television

THE IT CROWD: WHERE ARE THEY NOW:

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The IT Crowd was an excellent sitcom that aired for a total of four series on Channel 4 from 2006 to 2010, with a one of special bringing the show to an end in 2013. But what came of the people behind the show, which was based around The IT department at the fictional Reynholm Industries in London? After some investigating (trawling IMDb and the wider internet), I found out…

GRAHAM LINEHAN (CREATOR)

graham-linehan-2.-shaun-webb-photography.1Linehan was already well known in the sitcom world due to his hugely successful shows Father Ted (1995-1998) and Black Books (2000-2004), and by his own admission he took the tried and tested formula he had established in these shows and applied them to the tech world with The IT Crowd. Since the final episode aired in 2013 he created The Walshes (2014), a mini series set in Dublin which aired for three episodes before being cancelled. Since 2013 he has written BBC sitcom Count Arthur Strong with Steve Delaney, who also stars in the show. It has run for 2 series and a total of 13 episodes, with a third commissioned for 2016.

On a more serious note, Linehan also made headlines earlier this year when he and his wife Helen spoke out to campaign for abortion in Ireland, after Helen had an abortion in the UK for medical reasons back in 2004.

CHRIS O’DOWD (ROY)

Chris_O'Dowd_at_British_Comedy_AwardsChris O’Dowd, who played the loveable Roy (a character that Linehan said was based on himself, but was not originally intended to be Irish), has possibly been busy since his days on The IT Crowd, working consistently both in the UK and US. He has had supporting roles in a number of films including Thor: The Dark World (2013), St. Vincent (2014) and Cuban Fury (2014). He had a more significant supporting role in this years The Program, playing David Walsh – a journalist who believed in Lance Armstrong doping allegations for years before it became public knowledge.

In terms of television work, he co-wrote and co-starred in Moone Boy (2012-15), where he played the imaginary friend of a young boy in Ireland. The third series concluded earlier this year, and it is currently unknown if the show will continue. O’Dowd also narrated Irish children’s show Puffin Rock (2015-). One series has aired so far, with another commissioned for next year and currently in production.

Furthermore, the actor has a number of projects expected in 2016 – Loving Vincent and Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiars, the latter of which is based on the 2011 debut of American novelist Ransom Riggs. He has also written the upcoming Adventures of Super Frank, which is expected next year, though details are still decidedly scarce.

RICHARD AYOADE (MAURICE MOSS)

Richard+Ayoade+Submarine+Portraits+2011+Sundance+YATBZXtqkKTlRichard Ayoade, who played the eccentric Maurice ‘Moss’ has also worked fairly consistently since the end of the series. He has written and directed two feature films – The Double (2013) and Submarine (2010). He took over presentation duties of factual show Gadget Man from previous host Stephen Fry in 2012, with the fourth series beginning in June this year. He has also appeared in 6 episodes of Noel Fielding’s Comedy Show (2012-2014) and voiced Mr. Pickles in The Boxtrolls (2014).

Much of his television work is with Channel 4, who he also hosts Travel Man: 48 Hours In… for. Furthermore he voiced Mr. Snowman on the revived series Danger Mouse in 2014 for two episodes.

Ayoade has also been fairly active as a writer and in 2014 released his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey through Faber and Faber and also assisted on the writing of The Mighty Book of Boosh with Noel Fielding.

KATHERINE PARKINSON (JEN BARBER)

Katherine-Parkinson-katherine-parkinson-34556461-800-1000Katherine Parkinson completed the central trio, playing the painfully tech illiterate head of IT and ‘relationship manager’ Jen Barber. She has worked consistently since 2005, generally in guest roles on television series as well as occasional supporting roles in films.

Film roles include How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008), St.Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (2009) and The Boat that Rocked (2009). She has gained more traction in television, landing several series in the last couple of years including The Kennedys (2015) a BBC sitcom set in the 1970s which concluded its first series last month. She also starred in another BBC sitcom, In the Club, last year.

Parkinson has also branched out from her comedic roles, playing Rachel Stein in The Honourable Woman, a political thriller which aired on the BBC in 2014, as well as Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans this year.

MATT BERRY (DOUGLAS REYNHOLM)

Bxe9vTh6Matt Berry portrayed the hilariously inappropriate Douglas Reynholm from series two to the final episode. The role of his father, Denholm (Chris Morris) was originally written for him, but Berry was unavailable when the first series was being shot. This allowed for the entry of his character in series two and arguably only made the show better – bringing in the comedic talents of Chris Morris too.

Berry has worked consistently since, mostly guest starring on a variety of comedy shows in the US and UK. He has played Steven Toast in the critically acclaimed Toast of London since 2012, with episodes currently airing on Channel 4. He also played Beef on House of Fools from 2014-15, appearing in 13 episodes. His one off appearances include It’s Kevin (2013), Portlandia (2013) and Svengali (2013). His film appearances include Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and voicing Bubbles in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water (2015).

CHRIS MORRIS (DENHOLM REYNHOLM)

_47179062_morris_apChris Morris played Denholm Reynholm, the hilariously intense boss of Reynholm Industries for the first and part of the second series. He had a small role in The Double (2013) and wrote Four Lions (2010), narrating over the end credits. He is also credited with acting in one episode of Veep in 2012, as well as directing four episodes between 2012 and 2014 and producing three. Furthermore, he wrote an episode of Black Mirror in 2013.

NOEL FIELDING (RICHMOND)

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Noel Fielding only played the goth Richmond in a total of seven episodes across the series, though he inhabited the role so well that he felt like an integral part of the cast in spite of his surprisingly brief number of appearances. Fielding has continued to perform stand up consistently since the end of the show. Fielding wrote The Mighty Boosh (2003 – 2007) as well as writing and starring in Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy from 2012-14. Other work includes being a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks from 2009, founding member of alternative music project Loose Tapestries and a number of art exhibitions, making Fielding one of the former cast members with the most varied career path.

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