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2014 TV Reviews Pt 4

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM



I’ve always felt that Andy Samberg was destined to be a leading comedic actor. He was always the best thing on SNL for years and getting out from that umbrella of sketch comedy allowed him to dive right in with a show of his own. He is, without question, the single most important driving force in Brooklyn 99 - and it’s a show that also has Andre Braugher and Terry Crews so that’s saying a lot against those two scene-stealers.



Brooklyn 99 isn't really written with one-liners and quotes in mind, but with funny dialogue in conversation combined with smart editing to really hit those funny beats.


Now we have a show entirely about detectives at Brooklyn Precinct 99, and hijinks and silliness ensues. It’s slow to get going, but by the seasons’s end you’ll be wishing there was more episodes so you could spend time with the likes of Boyle and the Ebony Falcon.


Samberg is not only a driving force from episode to episode, he also keeps it all kind of grounded. Every other character and actor swirls around him and all, especially by the end of the first season, really find their footing (especially Joe Lo Truglio and Stephanie Beatriz as Boyle and Santiago respectively). There’s a lot of great things happening character-wise in Brooklyn 99 with this cast and Samberg moving it along.


Ravishing


Unfortunatly, the stories have yet to be anything beyond your standard workplace comedy. There’s some nice bits with the NYFD (and Patton Oswalt) and a few crimes that they have to uncover (like drawing dicks on cars) but overall, it’s still just a workplace comedy framing everything. Normally, I would be fine with that. Look at Veep (below) which is also a workplace comedy. But it moves its stories along and has something to say beyond just that singular work and job in regards to its characters. It uses that structure, sure, but moves beyond “guy likes girl here” and “girl doesn’t like this other guy there” or “guy doesn’t like boss” stuff, which kind of brings down the show.


More specifically, you have a police precinct and a show that’s willing to go outside of that for more comedy. It’s strongest moments are when it does that. When everything is kind of stuck in the same mold of most other workplace comedies and not using the device of being detectives and cops as an advantage, Brooklyn 99 can get a little dull and even the awesomeness of Terry Crews can’t help that.


That being said, despite those shortcomings and writing a bit up and down, these characters are consistently great and dialogue really clever and smart. Joe Lo Truglio has always been a favorite of mine, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like Braugher and Crews. Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero, though not given a ton to do at times, really own their roles well. There’s one episode where Beatriz’s Santiago is just lying and lying and lying, digging deeper and deeper into her hole and the show is well-written enough to not make it fall too much into cliche. Those “comedy of errors” are the basis of most sitcoms, including this one, but Brooklyn 99 is sharp enough with its characters and stays true enough to them to not make it become trite.



Only Gina Lenetti, though acted fine by Chelsea Peretti, feels forced at times. Simultaneously, though, she's also more politically incorrect and will say some pretty random (and even mean) things to characters when nobody else will or can.


As it is, Brooklyn 99 is less a complete show but more a solid first season to build upon. I think it will only get better and a little more bolder as it goes along. Having more fun with crimes and investigations would be a good place to start and having more episodes that take advantage of single-camera sitcom television more (such as episodes "Tactical Village," "The Party" or one of the stronger early-season episodes, "Halloween”;) It’s destined to just get better and better with these characters alone.


Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Missing Castle Playset Parts


________________________________________________________





I don’t like hyperbole, I like logic. I like level-headedness. I like conversation and discussion. I like thinking before uttering a word or writing a sentence. So I will say the following:


Veep is the best comedy on television right now.


Is it as broad as Modern Family or as silly as Brooklyn 99? No. But for someone who loves comedy, Veep hits all the right elements. It is satire perfected. Clever. Witty. It even manages to throw in the physical comedy once in a while. Most of all, though, the dialogue. Man, the dialogue. Veep is easily the most quotable comedic television show since probably Seinfeld.


Not just about politics...


But life itself..



With Veep, though, it’s smart. Really smart. It plays itself dumb, though, and that’s where it gets you. That’s the trick it plays. It’s a show that is working on so many levels it’s nearly impossible to dissect, and it offers a variety of comedic tones and styles that can grab just about anyone to sit in and watch.


Best of all, is that Veep takes risks. A lot of comedy doesn’t do that. Most shows play it safe in the realms of familiar structure and audience expectations. Being on HBO, it probably allows the creators and writers to take that kind of step and you see it on screen. It’s a smart show wrapped in a “workplace comedy” packaging. It follows those elements of shows like The Office (especially the UK office) or, for a more direct comparison: In the Thick of It which comes from the same creator. It has those sensibilities of British comedy - dry, satirical, tongue-in-cheek but willing to take those extra steps to be absolutely goofy (and offensive) at the drop of a hat.




I was already on board based on the pedigree of Armando Iannucci alone. The first season was solid. Nothing amazing, but solid. It only had eight episodes to really show what it could do. Then along came Season two with two more episodes for a total of 10, and seemingly a bigger budget and more story lines and characters to throw into the mix. It was improved across the board - everything felt more polished and ready for prime-time.


Now we have Season three as we watch Selina Meyer's rise in the ranks of political incorrectness. Julie Louis-Dreyfus shows just how damn good she is with flawless comedy timing as a fully-realized character. She’s sincere throughout it, playing it completely straight which is what allows it to work so damn well. Meyer really is that person, you can’t separate the two. Louis-Dreyfus becomes lost in her.



But she’s just the tip of the iceberg as Season 3 also tests those around her. Most are familiar amongst comedians and comedic television circles. Even if you don’t remember their names, you know their faces. Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott and the scene-stealing Timothy Simons are as memorable and given as much interesting things to do as cast regulars as Louis-Dreyfus then.


But then, on TOP of all that, you have the recurring characters as well. I can’t list them all, but Season three highlights were certainly Christopher Meloni, Gary Cole and muthafuckin' Clay Davis. I mean Isiah Whitlock Jr.



PS, Go watch the Wire. You can actually read my retrospective (three parts FYI) here.


Season 3 is all about political campaigns. Because of that through-line, it feels more together and consistent than the previous two seasons. It’s more focused on that angle and from it we get all that variety we know from the show alongside a scathing satire about politics in general. The television pundits, the way financing works, the juking for position on the campaign trail amongst the staff, the speeches (oh man, the speeches) what to wear, how to act in Britian, how awkward millenials are in Silicon Valley.


Those characters around her aren't just there to be goofy and weird and funny, but they're representatives of various factions of politics in general. From millenials to two-facing to pandering, they're all there in some form. A common scene stealer is Jonah, the purest definition of "love to hate" becuase he is such a jerk, and at the same time you see how that jerk attitude gets him far in political punditry.



"Rapist faces" like Jonah, who steals nearly ever scene. Just note: that's Selina's daughter he's hitting on there. A great scumbag.


If you aren't watching Veep, please do. It's too clever and smart and outright raunchy to not be entertained by. It's a politically incorrect political comedy, and those are the best kind because politics are so ripe for dismantling. This type of comedy is, surprisingly, hard to come by and a bit rare. Then, when you're done with that, go watch In the Thick of It and In the Loop. Same creator, same style of comedy, plus you have Peter Capaldi just being incredibly offensive with every other word.


Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Boomshakalakas

________________________________________________________






Jesus, Louis.


I mean, come on.


Enjoy your Emmy, asshole.


Just to be clear, I'm angry out of respect and the emotion his show brings, not out of anger.


I’m not going to waste your time going over why Louis CK and his show are brilliant. It will probably involve long drawn-out comedy analysis that pretty much negates the point of comedy. You know: how he captures life through vignettes, keeps things grounded, keeps things personal and never goes on some “angry” rant about bullshit. He pretty much just tells stories, which the great comedians always do and are most remembered for.



You know, like this guy. Only Louis is the R-rated version of him.


But what I will go over is how brilliant Louis CK is dramatically as a writer, director and producer. I don’t know if this season of Louie will win the Emmy for a comedy show or a dramatic one, but it’s going to win one. You don’t make a two-part episode flashback that’s quite obviously very personal to Louie CK that will utterly move you to the verge of tears and not get some recognition. A fucking Peabody or something. Come on.


Season 3 is as brilliant as it’s always been, but one thing is obvious: this show is getting darker, more serious and certainly testing its creator on a new level. That’s good. That’s why it went away for a while. CK seems like a guy that doesn’t want to bore you and wants to challenge your presumptions. “Oh, I have this comedy show I do,” he probably says. “Let’s make people cry and think about their mothers.”


And that’s funny if you think about it, even if the path of putting Louie’s mother in a flashback utterly breakdown in front of her kid or he tells his absent father to “fuck off” and he tries to relate all this to his current predicament with his daughter. Yeah, there’s no laughs here. Just honest truths - and that’s what CK does best both in his stage sets and especially on his shows.



Louie's nominated episodes of last year, and the one he won for, were all more drama-oriented. “Duckling” is still one of the best episodes of TV I’ve seen. “Pregnant” was the one he won the Emmy for on writing.


There’s a running theme through Seeason 3 and that’s “lost innocence” or, at the very least, “coming of age.” Much is about his children’s problems, his own teenage years (doing flashbacks, which I believe is the first for the series) and dealing with his ex-wife and how to raise their daughters. It’s funny, but not “hahahah” gut-busting funny. That’s not Louie CK’s style when it comes to this show. Hell, it’s not even his style on stage. Like I said, he just tells stories and you get humor organically from that.


CK is one of few comedians that have found some sort of balance creatively and professionally. He makes a ton of money, but he does so the way he wants to and without compromise. He’s successful while still retaining that “comedian’s comedian” element where he will do giant specials in massive theaters but still show up at some 20-30 person room out of nowhere (he showed up at one here in LA earlier this year - a back room of a comic book store and nobody knew he was coming). Very few, if any comedians, are able to achieve that. Ok...I'm getting off track.





But it's not only his writing to laud, the man can direct like few I've seen. He sets wonderful scenes that capture sincere moments, this is best exemplified when there are children. The kids in Louie, whether it's flashbacks to his own teen years or his daughters in present day, are remarkable. I imagine Louie is just naturally good with kids from his experience as a father, because there's not a lot of kids on TV that feel this authentic. Then again, there's not a lot of shows that feel this authentic.


Look, if you want some yucks and want those 2 - 3 jokes and punchline quota/boilerplate bullshit, feel free to watch whatever CBS is shilling. I don’t know, Two and a Half Men? That’s popular, right? Louie probably isn’t for you.




But if you like to be tested and challenged, knowing it will probably be funny but could just as easily turn serious and make you think about life and your own existence, then by all mean please watch Louie. It’s the most ambitious and bold show on TV. A comedy? Sure, sometimes, but I might argue it’s best when it’s not trying to be. Like Louis CK, it’s at its best when it simply tells stories and comedy comes from those honestly brutal truths spun. If you find that funny, great. If not, at least you feel like you didn’t get your time wasted.




Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Depressing Mirror Images


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