Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why Does This Always Happen To Me? A Broad City Review

Hello my fellow winter-weather prisoners! It's time to tape up your cheap snow boots, hug that office space heater, and turn down any plans that involve going outside 'cuz it's a frigid nightmare out there.

I'm just one honey jar away from becoming winter-bear-Max. Seriously. It's not pretty.

Oh well, at least the presence of the Polar Vortex, Part Two: This time with more being cold! means I finally get the chance to catch up with the never-ending avalanche of television I've been trying to work my way through this season. I have a lot on my list, but going by my midseason review schedule (which I'm still a little behind on - sorry, I had a thing...?) it's time for a look into Comedy Central's new series, Broad City.

Let me just say that after watching the premiere twice, I immediately went to YouTube and gleefully binged on the entire two-season web series (don't judge me - the episodes are only three minutes long!) all in one night. Needless to say, I'm loving this show.

Broad City stars UCB alums Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer as two broke, twenty-something ladies just trying to (barely) make it in New York City. Before you say what I'm sure you're thinking, let me stop you: This ain't Girls (but check back at the end of the month for my review of Girls' third season. Teaser: Dunham and Co. are back and better than ever). While the two shows may seem similar, Broad City gives us a much more comedic take on the hustle that comes with being young in NYC. For example, as we learn in the pilot, Abbi and Ilana will literally do anything for a buck including selling stolen office supplies, bucket drumming in Union Square, and cleaning a stranger's apartment in their underwear (Fred Armisen's creepy, hilarious cameo as a man/baby alone is worth the price of admission). These, and other more intentionally ridiculous parts of the show (Ilana skyping Abbi during sex, for one) are balanced out by some of the most relatable moments I've seen on TV in a long time. Like Abbi, I, too have a fishbowl full of change with "maybe 30 dollars in it" that could get me out of a minor jam, and a job at a gym where I've done some pretty gross things in order to be a "team player". Like Ilana, I have plunged a friend's toilet and asked a past employer whether I was going to be paid, only to hear that my check "hasn't been cut yet", whatever the hell that means, for the fourth week in a row.

Broad City airs on Wednesday nights at 10:30 on Comedy Central.
It's these too-close-for-comfort moments that make the show so feel so real; that, of course, and the amazing chemistry between Glazer and Jacobson, the two creators and stars. Like Portlandia, Broad City really shines when it's showcasing two real-life best friends playing only slightly exaggerated versions of themselves. In fact, the girls know each other so well, it's almost a surprise that they don't have the same Bert and Ernie living situation as Fred and Carrie do (one of the best reveals of last season was finding out they not only live in the same house, but share a room complete with matching monogrammed headboards). It's ok though - exploring Ilana and Abbi's separate worlds and roommates made for some great comedic moments in the pilot that should continue to widen the scope of Broad City as the series continues.

It seems silly, but in a TV landscape that's increasingly full of people who don't give a crap about anything, these girls stand out because they actually care a lot. They have dreams, ambitions, and a desire to make their day-to-day life an adventure which makes them endlessly watchable. With so many amazing comedies surrounding young women these days (how cool is it that I can write that and have it be true, by the way??), I can understand why it seems like there might not be enough time to add another one to your list. Just trust me, Broad City is worth watching, even if, like Abbi, you may have to reschedule your Damages marathon and cashew stir fry to make it happen.

Here are a few of my favorite things:

- Hannibal Buress' delivery of the line "Why does this always happen to me?" after being told his relationship with Ilana was "purely physical" made me laugh so hard, I choked a little.

- "It's called the non-member pen and you know it." Ah, the joys of working in a gym...

- Alt J's song "Fitzpleasure" was used during the creepy apartment cleaning scene, and having seen them live, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Abbi and Ilana are also fans.

- "You still have your performance bib?"

- "I'm pretty sure I'm lactose-intolerant." "Good thing you ate all that cheese."

Ready to jump into the awesomeness of Broad City now? Check out some of my favorite episodes of their web series: "The Commute", "Do The Right Thing" and the series finale, "I Heart New York".

Now it's time for: A little SHAMELESS RECAP

Season 4, Episode 2: "My Oldest Daughter": This week, Fiona is growing into a successful sales rep at World Wide Cup, but it's becoming clear that her penchant for lying is beginning to affect her future with Mike. Lip's old high school tricks for getting the girls and the grades aren't working in college, and he seems lonelier than ever. Debbie finds out her new boyfriend is 20 (20!!!! Debbie, get the hell out of there!) and Kev and V find out that in addition to Mama Carol's baby, they're having triplets in a hospital scene that officially cements Kev as my favorite character. Meanwhile, Carl is on the hunt for someone to donate a portion of their liver to Frank, but when Fiona refuses, Frank drops a pretty big bombshell...more will be revealed when Shameless airs TONIGHT, January 25th at 9PM.

See you all next week for a look into the third season of Girls!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Luck You Got: A Shameless Recap

You guys...

Shameless is back!

Shameless airs Sundays at 9PM on Showtime.
Let me just start by saying it's been way too long since the Gallagher's have graced our TV screens (over 9 months to be exact) so I needed to watch the Season 3 finale in order to refresh my memory about what happened last with Fiona, Frank, and family.

I remembered how amazing that finale was, but I forgot how many questions it left unanswered! Before I get too ahead of myself, allow me to give all you Shameless newbies out there a warning: SPOILERS LIE AHEAD! Seriously, if you haven't ever watched the show before, start your marathon now - it's only three short seasons and in my opinion, it is extremely worth your time.

The series premise, in a nutshell: Fiona (played by the criminally underrated Emmy Rossum), is the high school drop out and teenage matriarch of the Gallaghers, a family just trying to get by in Chicago's South Side. With an absent mother, an alcoholic father (the so-disgusting-it-hurts, Frank, played by comedic genius William H. Macy) and more kids than she knows what to do with, Fiona desperately tries to keep things from careening off the rails no matter what it takes. When Jimmy, a mysterious car thief, enters the picture, Fiona struggles to let her guard down and trust someone for the first time. Ok, that's all you need, now get out of here and get watching! For everyone else: Welcome to Season 4...




Shameless - Season 4, Episode 1: Simple Pleasures

The show's theme song, "The Luck You Got" by the High Strung (which accompanies one of the best opening credit sequences on TV) seems even more relevant than usual when we first return to the Gallagher home for Season 4. It's been three months in TV time since last season's finale when Frank left the hospital with a likely death sentence, Ian tried to escape a broken heart by enlisting in the Army, and Jimmy took a potentially deadly boat ride with Nando and the Brazilian mafia. Now, it seems like we're a world away from most of last season's drama: Fiona is succeeding at World Wide Cup, Lip is attending college, Kev and Veronica are preparing for Carol's baby, and Frank is keeping his distance. The Gallagher's seem to be more stable then ever, but we're talking about Shameless, so needless to say, this harmony doesn't last.

It seems like all the Gallaghers are trying desperately to change, play a new role, or juggle being two different people at once. Debbie, played by the wonderful Emma Kenney, is acting like a sarcastic, bratty teen toward Fiona, but when we see her out with her new friends, she's still clearly the most sensible and innocent one of the group (it was so painful to watch Debbie go through this terrible stage - I wouldn't be 13 again if you paid me - but seeing her attempt to flirt with a guy over Dance Dance Revolution was almost too adorable for words). Debbie has grown up a lot since last season, and in two excellent moments - the girls fighting for mirror space and their simultaneous late night text sessions - we begin to see how much of Fiona has subconsciously rubbed off on her, and what conflicts this is sure to cause between them down the line.

Then we have Fiona, who is trying to be a good employee, finally dressing the part and acting like she understands the differences between different retirement plans (good luck with that one, girl - it's all a mystery to me), but her wild and risky side comes to the surface as her relationship gets more serious with her boss, Mike. Meanwhile, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is attempting to play the role of a college kid, but his slacker tendencies and already-over-it-attitude are keeping him isolated, lonely, and in danger of failing out. Now that Debbie has become more jaded and angry about her father's abandonment, even Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) has inherited a new role at home: caretaker for the recently returned (and dying) addict, Frank, who has been acting the part of the rejected father since season 1. Now that he's lost everyone else's sympathy, he's putting on this sad show for Carl so he'll help him "survive" which just means to get as much alcohol...let's just say transferred...into him as possible. 

This season, it looks like everyone is trying to fit themselves into an unfamiliar mold but with only surface level results. Carl can't really care for Frank - he needs to be in a hospital or a rehab, not in the hands of his 11-year-old son. Lip can't be the college student everyone expects since he won't let go of self-destructive side. And Debbie won't ever really be like her new friends who put their virginity on sale on the internet (although she did price hers at 1 million dollars) because that's not who she is. Even Fiona, who seems like she's the most well adjusted in her role, still shows signs of restlessness and the desire for a life with someone like Jimmy rather than the clean-cut Mike.

Speaking of Jimmy, it's been three months since that fateful boat ride, and still no sign of him. While we know a lot more than Fiona does regarding his whereabouts, it's still unclear whether Jimmy is alive or dead (and if he is dead, which I sadly think he is, Justin Chatwin better get on another TV show ASAP because my love for him knows no bounds). At the same time, Ian (Cameron Monaghan), is also missing, but we're the only ones who know that he's officially enlisted in the army with the help of Lip's ID, while the rest of the family has no idea where he went. Fiona doesn't seem too concerned about his disappearance yet, but as the season continues, I'm hoping for Ian's return (even if that just means more time with Emma Greenwell's Mandy on screen).  

If this episode is any indication, it looks like we're in for a slightly darker season ahead. I like that the writers aren't afraid to go to some deeper, angrier places than before, but I'm concerned that it might be too much of a gut punch if we get episodes like this every week. Thank god for one of my favorite couples on TV, Kev and Veronica (played by the hilarious Steve Howey and Shanola Hampton) and the always perfect Joan Cusack as Sheila, for bringing the comic relief we've all learned to expect from the series. 

There's not much on TV that makes me feel the roller coaster of emotions I get from watching Shameless (except Parenthood because, duh) and getting to spend time with these characters again really brought me a lot of joy. So much so that I can't just abandon writing about it all season, come on! So check back every week for a mini Shameless recap - don't worry Sheila, I won't give too much away. 

Thanks for reading, everyone! Check back next week for more midseason TV reviews!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spoils, Globes, and Army Bros

Phew! There was a TON of TV to talk about this week. I'm a little behind on my self-imposed mid-season review schedule so let's catch up! Here's a few quick takes on two big premieres and one awesome award show that happened this week.

The Spoils of Babylon (IFC) Thursdays at 10PM

If you think late 70's made for TV mini-series are a weird thing to send up in 2014, you'd be right. Still, the funnyordie team takes an incredibly specific genre of television (one that was en vogue way before the time of most of it's viewers) and makes it ridiculous, campy, and at times, laugh out loud funny. The second installment was a huge improvement on the first, so if you felt like the introductory half hour lacked enough moments of pure absurdity, just wait for the next chapter for plenty of mannequin marrying, stock-footage-filled fun.

Will Ferrell is perfect as Eric Jonrosh, the egotistic, alcoholic author of this epic novel who opens and closes each episode with some of the funniest moments so far in the series. And as far as comedy temperament goes, Kristen Wiig is pretty much the only person I could see filling the over the top role of Cynthia Morehouse - the woman hopelessly in love with her adopted brother, Devon, played by Toby Maguire. She's crazy, dramatic, and exactly who you would want to have a one-on-one face-off with Lady Ann, the mannequin (voiced by Carey Mulligan) who really ups the bizarre factor of this story in a necessary way. I'm hoping that the show doesn't go back to subtlety for the next four episodes, but rather embraces the insanity as new guest stars like Jessica Alba, Haley Joel Osment, and Molly Shannon join the cast.

Enlisted (Fox) Fridays at 9:30PM
It's been a while since I've seen a sitcom pilot where, after it ended, I was actually sad that I had to wait a week to spend more time with the characters I just met. Further proving that Fox has got the lock on single-camera sitcoms (with New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope, and last night's Golden Globe winner, Brooklyn Nine-Nine...need I say more?), Enlisted's first half hour was incredibly skillful at setting up the world we're about to (hopefully) spend 22 episodes in this season, and that's not an easy task.

The show takes place on an army base in Florida where Sergeant Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) has been sent after punching his commanding officer while on tour in Afghanistan. He joins his two younger brothers, overeager Randy (Parker Young) and sarcastic Derrick (Chris Lowell) on the rear-D unit, otherwise known as the soldiers who hold down the base, support the army families, and wash the tanks. With fast jokes and more depth than I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised by Enlisted and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the next few episodes.

The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards (aired on NBC, Sunday January 12th)
Guys, you know I love me a good award show, but the Golden Globes has got to be my absolute favorite for a few reasons: 1) It celebrates the best of both movies and TV. 2) The stars get to drink (and it shows). 3) For the second year in a row, my two comedy heroes, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, were our hostesses for the evening.
This was another great year for the Globes thanks to some surprise winners like Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Elisabeth Moss, and a long deserved win for Amy Poehler! There were some not so pleasant surprises: Woody Allen, winner of the Cecil B. DeMille award, did not show up (Diane Keaton accepted on his behalf) and with those long winner's walks up to the stage, we lost a lot of valuable time (who is seating these people??) but with a great opening monologue and some genuinely funny bits, the show stayed fresh, fast, and funny for the most part. Luckily we'll be getting another year with Fey and Poehler at the helm, and until then we still have the SAG awards and the Oscars to tide us over. For a full list of winners, check out this article from The Wrap.

Just one more thing before I pick up my Dolce and Gabbana gown (and my $19 Uniqlo jeans) from the tailor...

Garfunkel and Oates are coming to IFC! There's no official release date as of yet, but their new show should be arriving some time in early 2014. I'll be keeping you all posted as Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are two of my favorite singing funny ladies around, and if their YouTube hits and numerous podcast appearances are any indication, we're in for a great series. 
The Gallagher's are back! See you all next week for my Season 4 premiere review of Shameless.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mini-Midseason Meltdown

Welcome to the amazing, incredible, awesome month of January folks!

Ok, I know it seems like there's not much to celebrate. Now that the holidays are over, we're all just a bunch of sad, freezing, winter coat blobs trying to make it through this miserable, never-ending tundra of a month.

But never fear. While all the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, the TV angels are about to give us an embarrassment of riches. New shows are premiering, old favorites are's like winter is the new fall, baby! So with a crazy amount of content to cover over the next few weeks, here's my Mini-Midseason Meltdown, complete with what's coming out, and when it will be (hopefully) reviewed by yours truly. Get in your snuggie and get ready to hibernate people. It's gonna be a long winter.

Note: The following is only a list of the shows I plan on covering - for a full list of what to expect this winter and spring, click here for the Washington Post's Midseason TV Guide.


*New* The Spoils of Babylon (IFC) premieres Thursday, January 9th at 10PM.

If you live in New York City, you've probably seen the massive subway ad campaign for this soapy mini-series spoof and thought, "That can't be real, can it?" before you notice that telltale IFC logo in the corner. It could be cringe-worthy, but this fake 70's book adaptation stars Toby Maguire, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and David Spade so I'm holding out for campy hilarity. Review: 1/12

*New* Enlisted (Fox) premieres Friday, January 10th at 9:30PM

Since it was slated to premiere in November, I feel like I've been waiting forever to see this military sitcom. From the early reviews I've seen, it seems like it will be worth the wait. I love the Stripes-esque premise about a group of rag tag soldiers who never leave base, and it already gets bonus points from me for starring Geoff Stults, previously seen as Kate's boyfriend on the late great Ben & Kate. Who knows, maybe it could take the spot of the sure-to-be-cancelled garbage fest that is Dads? Review: 1/12

Shameless (Showtime) returns Sunday, January 12th at 9PM. Review 1/19

Girls (HBO) returns Sunday, January 12th at 10PM. Review to come later this month...

*New* Broad City (Comedy Central) premieres Wednesday, January 22nd at 10:30PM

I'm super psyched for this new show starring UCB alums Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (and produced by someone named...Amy Poehler? Not sure I've heard of her...). The adverstising campaign has made it seem like Girls-lite: all the New York twenty-something angst but with more straight up funny. Gotta say, I'm not opposed! The first episode is available online here so I may get to this sooner rather than later. As of right now, expect a Review 1/22


*New* The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC) premiere Monday, February 17th starting at 11:35PM

Fans of this blog know that I am the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan around. I loved Late Night (and if you haven't seen last week's Best of Special, do yourself a favor and watch ASAP) and I can't wait to see what he does with the iconic Tonight Show format. Seth Meyers has some big shoes to fill, but if his Weekend Update skills are any indication, we're looking at two straight hours of talk show perfection. Review to come in February

Portlandia (IFC) returns Thursday, February 27th at 10PM. Review 2/28

Well I got my work cut out for me, that's for sure. Here's just one more thing before I switch over to my winter flannel uniform...

The Golden Globes (AKA the very best damn award show around) is airing this Sunday, January 12th at 8PM. Hosted once again by comedy dynamic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, I'm expecting another year where the Globes outshine the Academy Awards in every way (although with Ellen DeGeneres as this year's Oscar host, it might be a dead heat). While I won't be live tweeting the event (since I don't have a Twitter and I like to actually enjoy things I watch you crazy youths), my review of the show will be coming up on or about this Monday, January 13th.

Catch you all this weekend for the beginning of midseason content overload!!