Unhappy Comedies

I’ve noticed a recent trend in sitcoms. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but an extra twist of lime has been added to the mix, metaphorically speaking. Here’s the 411 on the down low: Most of the characters in these comedies are not likable and the overall feeling generated by the shows is discomfort. Please, come with me to THE LAND OF UNHAPPY COMEDIES.

baskets

Our first stop is Bakersfield, CA. After flunking out of a prestigious French clown college, Chip Baskets is determined to fulfill his clowning dream. So, Baskets moves in with his less-than-supportive mother (played somewhat disturbingly by Louie Anderson) and takes a job as a rodeo clown. Chip’s only friend is Martha, an insurance agent who tolerates the poor treatment he heaps on her liberally. His twin brother Dale (mom’s favorite) is another source of irritation in Chip’s demoralizing life. And it’s a comedy! Don’t get me wrong, Baskets is a crazy good television program. It’s just not a happy viewing experience. Did I mention that it’s a comedy?

GettingOn

Moving approximately 135 miles to Long Beach, CA, we come to the Mount Palms Memorial Hospital where the dysfunctional denizens of Getting On help people who are ready to move on to their final reward. Meet head nurse Dawn Forchette, a woman who freely mixes her love life and job, failing miserably at both; nurse Didi Ortley, a compassionate and humane caregiver; Dr. Jenna James, who cares about nothing but her research, often at the patients’ cost; and supervising nurse Patsy De La Serda, a sexually ambiguous emotional wreck who puts a face on unhappiness. What better premise for a comedy? These characters frequently act with disregard for those around them, driven only by their own needs and desires. In Didi we have a reasonable person that most of us can relate to but the others are all toxic. The result is an uncomfortable but hilarious viewing experience.

LastMan

Our journey concludes in Tuscon and other ports of call. Humanity has been wiped out by a virus and Phil Miller is The Last Man On Earth. He travels the North American continent for two years looking for others but finds no one. As he sits in Tuscon contemplating ending it all, other survivors begin to arrive and we soon find out that Phil (who goes by his middle name, Tandy) is a real jerk with few redeeming qualities. After finding out that Carol will not have sex with him unless they get married, he (wait for it) marries her. But the bonds of wedlock do not keep him from flagrantly lusting after Melissa, who gradually falls in love with Todd, a shy and husky man who Tandy tries to kill in order to be with Melissa. Did I mention that it’s a comedy? The format of the show makes it simple for adventures to occur, with other survivors occasionally finding the group, some with evil intent, others not. As the show progresses, the group moves hither and yon, allowing for more variety in the storylines. No question, this is a great show, but the overall vibe is one of discomfort and shuddering. And it’s a comedy!

I enjoy all of these shows, but they leave me feeling a little bit dirty, a little disillusioned with humankind. Still, if you want to see superior writing, most excellent acting and clever plot twists, you could do worse than these unhappy comedies. Come on down to Everett Public Library and take one for a test drive. Mileage may vary.

Percy Jackson: Books to Movie

Let me just start this by saying Percy Jackson was my Harry Potter growing up. So when I heard that a movie was being made. I. Was. Elated. Before I go on, I do want to say that this is only my opinion and I would recommend you watch the movie with an open mind. After all, I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for the movie from people who haven’t read the book. So it can’t be all bad, even from my jaded mind.

So spoilers ahead for the books and the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

First up in this review are the Things They got Wrong.

The directors of the movie seems to have looked at “The Prophesy” and then tossed it out the window. It is not mentioned at all throughout the movie nor is the Oracle of Delphi. To add insult to injury, the actors are way too old to be twelve like they were in the books.

Then comes the big Minotaur scene. Book Percy is devastated when his mom disappears believing her dead. It is referenced multiple times in the next couple of chapters about how sad he is. Movie Percy seems largely unaffected by his mom’s death.

Another thing that really bugged me in that scene was that the Minotaur didn’t return to dust. It was just a dead body. Never mentioned again, luckily, we don’t even get to see another monster die, aside from Auntie Em and that’s just another whole thing.

The next big scene that they royally messed up was the Capture the Flag Stream Fight. Clarisse doesn’t exist in the movie, so instead Annabeth fights Percy. She hurts him and then gloats about it. He doesn’t even get the floating Trident above his head. He was told that in like the first 15 minutes of being in Camp Half Blood by Chiron. Therefore ruining another great scene.

The worst scene in the entire movie is when Percy has to decide who gets a pearl. In the book he decides to save his friends, there by showing his fatal flaw, something every demigod has. Percy is cursed/blessed with how he will do anything to save his loved ones. This scene showed how hard it was to choose between his friends or his mom. In the movie, he leaves Grover behind in favor of saving his mom. Completely going against the book and undercutting what was a major decision.

On a personal note as well as the last con, there is no playing with Cerberus scene. Arguably one of the best scenes in the book.  So that’s a huge mark against the movie.

Now on to the Positives.

The visuals they did for dyslexia as well as for Olympus are quite nice. Olympus looks quite pretty actually.

One of the First scenes in the movie is a new one. It’s a conversation between Zeus and Poseidon talking. Zeus threatens Poseidon. Poseidon denies the theft. It’s kind of nice to have this little family discussion.

Riptide is handed over to Percy with the accompany lines “This will help protect you” “This is a pen… A pen”. Given in this scene he doesn’t know that it’s a sword, it is quite hilarious.

In the Lotus Flower Casino and Hotel, Movie Percy and pals are given some candy shaped like lotus blossoms. We are then treated to what looks like a drug swirly light show. Which is better than the book where they just get sucked into the magic video games.

Another great thing is that you don’t have to risk your money on a movie you might not like because it’s free at the Library!

All in all, from a book to movie standpoint, it didn’t do well.  I’ll probably never see it in a good light, but I hold the books close to my heart. It’s probably better if you watch the movie while having zero knowledge of the books, you will likely enjoy it more

Crew Expendable

Ah, the summer of 1979. If you were more than a gleam in your Mother’s eye, you might have noted the signing of the SALT II agreement, celebrated the Sonics wining the NBA championship or listened to Michael Jackson’s newly released album Off the Wall. If you were to ask my 11-year-old self what the most important event was, however, it would definitely be getting to see my first R-rated movie. After much cajoling on my part and vetting of the film by my parents, I was allowed to attend a viewing, with an appropriate adult of course, of the movie Alien. I still may not have fully recovered.

If you have seen the film (and if you haven’t: a. seriously?? and b. spoilers ahead) you know that there are many things that could leave an impression on a developing mind. The alien itself is a literal nightmare, its method of reproduction is grotesque to say the least, and a decapitated android admiring a ‘perfect organism’ while covered in milk/blood has a tendency to be disturbing. But no, my fevered preadolescent mind began quaking in fear because of…… air ducts.

Ridley Scott created a set so convincing that I felt I was trapped along with the crew in a cramped, grittily industrial and incredibly dark spaceship. When the camera slowly panned across a hallway, I was filled with dread even before the creature appeared. The final straw for me was when Dallas, played by Seattle’s own Tom Skerritt, crawled through the air ducts in a doomed effort to flush the alien into an airlock. As the device that is tracking him started to register two blips, I began slumping down in my seat getting ready to cover my eyes.

If you too are terrified by effective film set design, or just want to see a great movie again, now is a good time to check out Alien. Not only do we have the DVD at the library, but in honor of the 40th anniversary of the film’s release in the summer of 1979, it is being shown in actual theaters again and will be coming to Everett in October.

Now, if you would like to delve into the film a little deeper and learn all about its complicated creation story, the library has just purchased The Making of Alien by J.W. Rinzler. The book is an Alien aficionado’s dream containing new interviews with Ridley Scott and many others involved in the production, rarely seen photographs, and enough concept art of the Alien from H.R Giger to give you nightmares for weeks.

The story of the film’s journey from concept to creation is actually quite fascinating in its own right. It serves as an intriguing reflection of the shifting mores regarding gender (a female hero??), the creeping influence of commercialization (damn company!), and fear of automation (I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy). Either that, or I’ve seen the film way to many times.

Also, just let the cat go. Come on!

Auntie Em, It’s Six Sharknadoes!

Come a little closer.

Can we talk about something… embarrassing?

Group1

I really really like the Sharknado movies. Ever since I was a young lad working in the smallest shafts of the coal mines where full-grown adults could not fit, I’ve loved movies that are intentionally stupid, that make fun of themselves. In formative days, these included Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and The Toxic Avenger. Later I  grew to love bad movies that didn’t know how bad they were, such as Dante’s Peak and Galaxina.

But today we live in a golden age, a time when movies about shark tornadoes are made by the half-dozen! Their premise, as I recall, is that strange weather patterns over the ocean result in, wait for it, tornadoes that are filled with sharks. Tornadoes. In the air. Filled with sharks. Reflect on that for a moment.

The basic plot of each movie is that people are being killed by flying sharks and everything appears to be hopeless. Our hero, Fin Shepard, tries to reunite his family, save kids trapped on a school bus and generally preserve the future of humankind. Meanwhile, flying sharks eat people. On the fly. In the air.

A dumb idea, but one that knows it’s dumb! In one of the later movies a character says something like, “How can these sharks breathe in the air?” And therein lies the beauty of this series. Nothing is remotely believable or possible, yet people continue to get eaten by sharks.

But it’s the sheer ridiculousness of, well, everything that makes this movie dynasty so entertaining. Take for example one moment from the third entry in the series. A minor character loses one arm, two arms, one leg, two legs via shark attacks. In a last ditch effort to save everyone else, he pushes a self-destruct button with his head (remember, no limbs), thereby destroying many sharks, as well as himself. Our savior Fin comments, “It’s too late. We can’t save him.” C’est magnifique!

Moments like this are plentiful. It’s kind of like Mystery Science Theater, except the commentators are in the movie rather than watching it. These shark movies just might fill the void in your chest that sucks you dry each and every night after work. (Note: Sharknado is not guaranteed to fill the void in your chest that sucks you dry each and every night after work.)

Titles in this educational series include Sharknado (2013), Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014), Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016), Sharknado 5: (Global Swarming) and The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time! (2018).

Group2

So take a little chance, if you’re feeling lucky, and check out this series. And remember, wait 60 minutes after eating before watching Sharknado.

LA To Vegas

LAtoVegas

It’s no secret that I’m always on the lookout for an entertaining new comedy. Thankfully, the quality of new television programs is higher than ever before. However, the flip side of this is that many sitcoms now have a mere 10-16 episodes per season rather than the classic 26. So if you’re a binge watcher, it doesn’t take too long to get through an entire season. Which creates a need for more high quality programs.

Fortunately, funny people are indeed filling this need. My discovery this week is LA to Vegas, a Fox sitcom that ran only for a single season. It’s not the best or the brightest of shining stars, but the premise is familiar yet unusual.

Each episode begins with the statement that many people fly regularly from LA to Vegas over the weekend. This leads us to Jackpot Airlines, a low-budget outfit that is based in Vegas and to a sitcom standby, the workplace comedy. The workplace in this case is a small aircraft with a crew of four. Rounding out the cast are three regulars on the flight: a gambler, a stripper and a long-distance dad. Additional plot material is drawn from other passengers who are not recurring characters.

In a way, this premise is not much different from your typical workplace sitcom. There are the staff members who we see each episode and there are customers who appear only in a single episode. But the feel is unique, moving from LA to Vegas, sometimes being in an airport, sometimes in a strip club for a children’s birthday party. The revolving cast of characters creates a wide variety of comedic situations and the fact that Vegas is the destination means, well, anything goes.

In the greater scheme of things, I would probably not rate LA to Vegas in the top tier of comedies. However, the jokes are clever, the actors are talented and the situations are amusing. All in all, not a bad way to spend a binge day.

Sadly, the show ran for a mere 15 episodes, as has been the case with many recent highly-entertaining comedies. So the crew and passengers will remain trapped in this small yet amusing world until time immemorial…

But I digress.

With the wide array of platforms currently creating programming it’s hard to keep up with what’s out there, so keep your eyes peeled for new TV shows at Everett Public Library. And please, remember to return your seats to an upright position.

Funny Stuff on the Box

I am a person who thrives on comedy. When choosing movies, television shows or books I always gravitate towards humor. And now that Seinfeld is rumored to be cancelled (pause for laughter), I’m always on the lookout for new sitcoms. What with cable and streaming services, the new offerings are more numerous than ever before. Here are a few newish shows that I have come to treasure.

Group 1

Fresh off the Boat is the story of a Taiwanese family that moves from Washington D.C. to Orlando so the father can open a cowboy-themed steakhouse. As so many Taiwanese dads do in Florida. The family consists of parents, three boys, and grandma. In addition to typical sitcom plotlines the Huangs are faced with culture shock while attempting to mix seamlessly with the Orlando way of life. What makes this show stand out is the superior acting of all parties and the clever writing. The “sit” part of the sitcom is pretty typical, but the “com” is a cut above the rest.

Group2

But perhaps you’re the kind of person who’s looking for proof of alien abductions in your television comedies. Fear not! People of Earth is just the ticket for you. The cast includes a group of abductees trying to make sense of what’s happened to them, a reporter trying to write a story on the group, and three aliens of different species (one of whom is named Jeff) trying to conquer earth. Ozzie, the journalist, is not a believer but the more he investigates the more it appears that the group’s claims are true. He even begins to suspect that he himself is an abductee. Meanwhile, the aliens halfheartedly attempt their conquest. One of the freshest and funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time, but be aware that TBS quite suddenly pulled the plug on it, leaving a cliffhanger that will never be resolved.

AngieT

Finally we find Angie Tribeca, a police comedy strongly reminiscent of Police Squad!. The show’s focus is the LAPD’s infamous Really Heinous Crimes Unit. Sight gags, one liners and general silliness prevail whilst the officers attempt to solve cases. If you enjoy this exchange from Airplane! then you’re dead-certain to love Angie Tribeca.

Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.

These are just a few of the truly superior comedies available for your viewing pleasure at Everett Public Library. So get out your banana peel, couch and VHS player and settle in for a long, funny Spring.

Bill Murray Stories

Everyone has a story about Bill Murray, whether it be something he did in a movie, on a talk show or during his run on Saturday Night Live. My Bill Murray story might be his appearance on the first episode of Late Night with David Letterman in 1982. It was a rather crazy bit of television and I later found out that Bill and Dave were both drunk at the show’s taping. Or perhaps it would be the many ways in which his dialogue from movies has permeated my life.

Caddyshack
caddyshack
“So we finish 18 and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ … So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

This completely improvised speech came from the lips of Carl Spackler (Murray) in Caddyshack regarding the time he caddied for the dalai lama. Now I frequently think to myself, “I’ve that going for me.” Which is nice.

Stories

But not everyone has a story about how Bill came to their birthday party and sang or served them a drink in their local bar. And this is precisely what the movie The Bill Murray Stories is about. Apparently, many people tell of encounters they’ve had with Bill Murray. It’s even become an internet thing to post these tales. Tommy Avallone, the film’s director, sets out to determine if these stories are true or simply urban legend. And as Bill Murray is notoriously difficult to contact (he has an 800 number that goes directly to an answering machine and he seldom returns calls) Avallone does this without going to the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Stripes
Stripes
Oh, it’s not the speed really so much, I just wish I hadn’t
drunk all that
cough syrup this morning.

So Avallone begins tracking down people who claim to have had serendipitous encounters with Mr. Murray. Stories range from Bill washing dishes at a house party to Bill playing kickball with strangers in the park. In each case, the stories’ purveyors are able to provide photographic proof of the incidents. More than just legend, it appears that the Bill Murray stories are true!

Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters
“Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!”

This wonderful movie continues on to dissect Murray’s philosophy, his way of life. As this aspect of the story is somewhat mysterious and surprising, I’ll leave you to explore it on your own. And I highly recommend that you immediately check this film out so that you too can be in the know.

Prolific actor, funny guy, bringer of joy, he is… Bill Murray.