Posts Tagged ‘ The Office ’

Compliance

Reality is all the rage in Hollywood.  Whether it’s political Oscar bait, schmaltzy biopics, or those horror films that dubiously claim to be ‘based on real events’, modern audiences apparently crave a bit of authenticity.  Fiction is passé, imagination is out – we want stories about real people doing real things, and we want them here, and we want them now.

But the ‘reality’ of cinema is usually of a specific kind – the kind that takes all the complexity and rawness of a historical event and, for better or worse, moulds it into a two hour jaunt with character arcs and thematic unity.  In short, narrative technique attempts to tame the sprawling chaos of history in the hope that a more distilled truth will emerge.  Sometimes it succeeds (Capote), sometimes is does not (Lincoln). Continue reading

Top Five Comedy Shows You Must See Before You Die

All of the television programs on this list are made in Britain and feature British/Irish actors and actresses. That’s not being elitist, at least intentionally, against American comedy, which is often very good (Ted, Arrested Development and Parks and Recreation spring to mind) but usually has the tendency to be very direct. Humour in this region of the world is more often much more subtle and much funnier as a result and few other television shows over the past decade exemplify that particular brand of humour more so than the following five:

The IT Crowd

Have you tried turning it off and back on again? Written by Graham Linehan (also involved with Black Books and Father Ted), The IT Crowd follows the adventures of geek genius and socially awkward Maurice (Richard Ayoade) and the laidback and rather unlucky Roy (Chris O’Dowd), two IT guys under the supervision of the somewhat clueless Jen (Katherine Parkinson), relationship manger and head of the department who actually knows nothing about IT. Much of the humour comes from internet and computing in-jokes, Jen’s complete lack of knowledge concerning computers (of which Roy often takes advantage) and her attempts to build a bridge between the basement dwelling IT department and the rest of Reynholm Industries which leads to Roy and Maurice’s many awkward and failed interactions with those from the higher levels.

Spaced

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have proved their humour can translate onto the big screen with the hilarious and successful ‘Hot Fuzz’ and zom-rom-com classic, ‘Shaun of the Dead’. But it was on the small screen where they had one of their first successes with Spaced on Channel 4, which Pegg co-wrote and co-starred with Jessica Stevenson. Centred around Tim Beisley (Pegg) and Daisy Steiner (Stevenson) who pretend to be a happy couple in order to meet the prerequisites of the ideal flat on 23 Meteor Street, the show follows the pair as they attempt to navigate love, life and work (or lack thereof) combined with one another’s less than usual friends; would be soldier Mike, tortured artist Brian from downstairs and the lonely landlady, Marsha, rarely seen without a cigarette in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Known for its rapid fire editing, frequent pop culture references, subtle humour and eclectic music, Pegg and Stevenson pitched it as a cross between “The Simpsons, The X-Files and Northern Exposure.” And it works.

The Office

Famous around the world, The Office, stars Ricky Gervais’ most recognisable character, David Brent, as a manager of Slough paper merchants Wernham Hogg, chosen to be the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. The comedy lies in Gervais’ flawless portrayal of a man desperate to be accepted, who confuses respect with being well liked, mixed in with an awkward and often inappropriate sense of humour. His lieutenant Gareth is clueless and obsessed with his time spent in the Territorial Army and is perpetually locked in a mini-war with Tim, an unpretentious and good-natured sales rep, whose witticisms and actually funny jokes make him almost the complete opposite of Brent. Despite Brent’s obnoxious and often mystifying personality, Gervais manages to inject some poignancy into the character and more often than not we end up sympathising with him. If you like cringe humour (99 per cent of the series), then boy is The Office the show for you.

The Inbetweeners

What can you say about this non-typical coming of age show about four completely different yet normal English teenagers? Subtle probably isn’t one of the most often used words. One word should bring back a host of memories for those who have seen it yet may elicit confusion from those who haven’t – clunge.

Sexual and general awkwardness? Check. Lewd teenage jokes? Check. Rip roaringly funny dialogue and story lines? Double and treble check. Not one for the easily offended or those who have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.

Black Books

Like the IT Crowd and Spaced, Black Books comes under the category of ‘good things come in unfortunately small doses’. With only two seasons, and a handful of episodes, by the time you’ve finished watching all of them (not too long after you’ve started, who needs to go to work anyway?) you’ll certainly be left wanting for more.

Dylan Moran stars as the heavy smoking and drinking Irish misanthrope Bernard Black, who runs a second-hand bookstore despite the lack of any apparent desire to actually sell any books. Manny Bianco (Bill Bailey) is Black’s assistant and flatmate who in reality is little more than a slave and whom Black refers to varyingly as ‘Gandalf’, ‘Bigfoot’ and ‘Genghis’ while his best and friend, Fran (Tamsin Greig) runs a shop next door selling odds and ends which is endearingly referred to as “a load of wank.”

Cue lots of dark and sometimes puerile and wine related humour.

Honourable Mentions

Father Ted – Father Ted isn’t mentioned in this list because it has a list of its own – the five best television comedies named Father Ted, all of which are occupied by Father Ted. There’s not much else to say about Ted, Dougal and Jack which hasn’t already been said. Perhaps the classic show can be summed up with a quote from Fr Dougal McGuire, oftentimes the bane of Fr Ted’s existence.

(Dougal has trouble remembering his prayers)

Father Dougal: Our Father, who art in heaven…

Father Ted: (sternly) Hallowed.

Father Dougal: Hallowed be thy…

Father Ted: Name!

Father Dougal: Papa don’t preach…

Father Ted: Dougal, you know you can praise God in other ways.

Father Dougal: Oh yeah, like that time you told me I could praise him just by leaving the room.

Father Ted: Yes, that was a good one all right.

And, of course, who could forget kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse?

 Misfits – Though not necessarily and solely a comedy in the strictest sense of the word – there’s plenty of drama and tear inducing moments to be found in this super-powered series – anybody with a sense of humour could rarely be found dry eyed (in a good way) when Robert Sheehan took to the screen as the loveable Irish rascal, Nathan. Filthy minded, with poor hygiene and worse morals though not without emotion, Nathan took all the laughs and transcended the series from shadow sci-fi to supreme comedy drama. No matter how serious or touching the moment, one could be assured that Nathan would turn up sooner or later with an absurdly obscene comment to ruin it.

Sample quote from Nathan (When asked whether community service has changed him) – “I think I’m taller.”

Autumn Line Up Preview:Series-ously Good Shows

Summer is winding down and the cold nights are one the way. The only solution, flick on the TV and get settled into some of these fantastic shows coming your way from September!

The Walking Dead

What started as a six episode pilot season has now gone on to become a global phenomenon. The Walking Dead is based on the 101 issue (and still going) strong comic book series by Robert Kirkman and as TV goes, it is definitely one of the least likely to be universally accepted series around. It follows a band of survivors trying to survive a world ravaged by a zombie apocalypse, with the alternate spin on the formula being that TWD focuses on how the survivors manage more so than any gruesome flesh eating violence, though there is plenty of that too. Acted with aplomb by Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Callis and especially Norman Reedus, the writing on the show is a step above the standard TV fare and will surprise most viewers at how dramatic it can be. We are now on to the third season, boasting a new record 13 episodes, and things are about to start moving quicker and meaner so now is the time to catch up and prepare yourself for The Walking Dead!

Starts October 14th

The Office

With all the doom and gloom of a zombie apocalypse you may be in need of some comedy. Have no fear because everyone’s favourite paper company is back on our TVs this autumn! The Office follows the exploits of the wacky and slightly offbeat staff of Dunder Mifflin (-Sabre) paper company and has proven over the last few years to really be its own beast apart from its British original. Gervais’ version of the show was regarded as great situational deadpan humour but Greg Daniels and his crew decided to take a more obvious and exaggerated (let’s just say American) approach to the idea and have in turn created their own universe that no longer has any real ties to the original series, but exists tremendously on its own all the same. Last season was the first without loveable dunce Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) and it is no secret that the series definitely felt the loss, but with the fast moving conclusion to the last season and the hope that the writing crew has now learned to cope without Carrell to write for, this ninth season will hopefully bring back the show’s former glory.

Starts September 20th

Supernatural

It’s hard to believe that we’re on to the eight season of this show. Along with The Wire, Breaking Bad and more, Supernatural is in that elite club of critically adored shows that just couldn’t find strong enough viewerships. Since about the third year, there had been constant hints and rumours that the show would be finished. Yet here we are, eight years on the go and now moving to a Wednesday night anchor slot. The plot of Supernatural follows the Winchester brothers whose family business is “saving people, hunting things”. All those stories of things that go bump in the night? They’re not stories! Sam and Dean spend their time hunting and killing demons, ghosts, vampires, shapeshifters and more, all the while each season dealing with a major season long story arc to boot. It is incredibly well written stuff, playing on the real friendship between Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki to provide fantastic moments of humour, as well as incredibly heavy hitting moments of grief and tragedy. Season 8 has a little work to do after an only slightly disappointing last season, plus there are plenty of loose ends to tie up, but this is a show that always comes through, no fear.

Starts October 3rd

Revolution

The first newbie on the list, Revolution is the brainchild of Eric Kripkie who previously created Supernatural, and produced by J.J Abrams. The show is based in a post-apocalyptic world where an unknown event has rendered all modern technology useless. A world without the internet, all shudder together now. We follow the Matheson family who possess and item which can reverse the effects and possibly explain what caused them to begin with, but they must avoid the pursuit of the warlords and militia that rule the territories. It’s a series that could go either way, but Kripkie knows good TV and Lost showed us all that Abrams is the same. Hopefully this one has legs and gets a decent viewership.

Starts September 17th

666 Park Avenue

Featuring the return to our screens of Lost star Terry O’Quinn in this exciting looking supernatural mystery series. It follows the new management at a building complex, the occupants of which all appear to be harbouring something sinister. The aforementioned O’Quinn plays the owner of said complex who, it would appear from promotional material anyway, is the Devil-like creature who is pulling the strings of the whole operation. Pre-release information has been coming very slowly and thinly but it is all only adding to the intrigue and this should hopefully be a very exciting show, if done right, in the vein of Stephen King’s finer novels.

Starts September 30th

Community

Last but not least is a show in desperate need of some TLC. Community follows the exploits of a group of eccentric, to say the least, characters all attending Greendale Community College. What set the show apart from the very first episode was its ability to dedicate each episode to a particular pop culture phenomenon or movie series, whilst retaining enough affection for the subject matter at times to avoid out and out parody. It has been bandied about by NBC so much that each year a new series was debated right down to the wire, with season three even being put on hiatus half way through. Yet the critics still heap the praise and a fourth season will be airing, albeit with two new showrunners stepping in in place of original head honcho Dan Harmon, who was removed under shady circumstances on the studio’s part. Here’s hoping studio intervention hasn’t ruined something wonderful and Community still has all the charm that has made it one of the most rewarding shows airing for its fans

Starts October 19th

Along with these shows, which we will be reviewing weekly on Irish News Review, there are many others worth a watch that have wrapped up mid-season, such as True Blood, The Newsroom, Breaking Bad. Others that definitely get our thumbs up are The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and the fantastic Modern Family.

Netflix: the good,the bad and the downright ugly

After a treacherous journey across the Atlantic Netflix has finally reached our shores with a few casualties along the way.  Launched in January this year Netflix is an online site allowing customers unlimited access to their film and television show catalogue for a small enough monthly fee.  Starting in America in 1999 Netflix became a massive hit and has now launched its European counterpart.  Seems all great in theory, your favourite film or sitcom at any time of the day, streamed in HD with no limits but there is a catch..

According to reports Ireland’s version of the site has only a small percentage of what the American version does.  The content just doesn’t seem to be there yet. Lots and lots of straight to D.V.D movies containing actors you’ve never heard of before.  But don’t be fooled, if you look hard enough there are plenty of gems found amongst the stones. Take for instance the brilliant sitcom Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  Apart from a small run on 3e a few years ago the show has not had much publicity in Ireland, which is such a shame. Set in Philadelphia, it centres around a group of friends who own an Irish Bar. Starring Danny DeVito and the always funny Charlie Day, its crude and stupid while still managing to retain a sense of intelligence.  Probably one of the most underrated comedy shows running currently and with Netflix all seven seasons are available for the subscribers pleasure.

Other great listings on the site include  the beautiful if not slightly depressing Into The Wild, directed by Sean Penn.  The American version of The Office, widely regarded as better than its source material. The Ben Affleck directed Gone Baby Gone and the George Clooney directed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.  These all nearly make the site worth paying for. Nearly being the operative word. At times a slow internet connection can give the viewer a fuzzy image and some of the films audio is so low its nearly inaudible, even with the sound at full volume.  It still has its appeals though, recommendations based on what you have viewed and your preference ratings make it easier to decided what to watch. You might even discover something you didn’t know you’d like. For the price of a cinema ticket once a month you can’t really argue.

There is still a lot of kinks for the people at Netflix to work out but when they do they will be on to a winner.