Adventure Time: The Complete Season One
Since this series began on the American Cartoon Network channel, Adventure Time has gone on to become one of the most loved animation series of the decade. The series has built a devoted following amongst both children and adults, and has won a number of awards including a children’s BAFTA. Finally, and just in time for Christmas, the UK has received the DVD release of the comic adventures of Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.
Our heroes live in the post-apocalyptic and magical Land of Ooo, home to many races and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Jake (John DiMaggio – Bender from Futurama) is a viola-playing dog of magical powers, allowing him to manipulate the shape of his body at will. 12-year-old human boy Finn (Jeremy Shada) is his best friend and adoptive brother, with the two living together in a giant “Tree Fort”. Finn has an overwhelming desire for justice, helping out anyone in trouble.
The series follows the duo meeting the residents of Ooo and the various kingdoms within it. These include visits to the Candy Kingdom to help the scientifically minded ruler Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch); defeating the dastardly schemes of the Ice King (Tom Kenny – the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) who keeps kidnapping princesses in order to marry them; and contemplating the strange and tricky behaviour of Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson – Love Actually).
There are many things that give Adventure Time its appeal. For starters there are the characters which make it so entertaining, with the relationship between Jake and Finn at the centre of the story. As the series has progressed, the relationship develops too, and indeed Finn is getting older unlike most cartoon characters. When the series began in 2010 he was 12, but know he is now 15 in 2013. What will happen to him when he becomes an adult is anyone’s guess.
The humour is also wonderful. Firstly you have the somewhat surreal ideas they are created. For example one of the stories sees the pair free some businessmen frozen in an iceberg who they hire to make their adventuring more efficient. Another sees Jake’s imagination going out of control and starting to make impossible things real, meaning he and Finn must battle with Jake’s overdeveloped creativity. A different tale sees Finn being attacked by a monster with only an approximate knowledge of many things (he knows he is hiding behind a rock – he just doesn’t know which one).
The comedy is also rather subversive. This is what gives the show its adult appeal. While it would be tempting to make just a silly show for kids, the ideas that appear in Adventure Time appeal to people across the board. Where else can you expect people to be attacked by whywolves?
Adventure Time is a wonderful series that by rights should have a broader audience. It’s a fun show, and while there are plenty of things on telly that are comic, fun itself tends to be lacking. If there is a downside, it would be that this DVD release is lacking in extras. Also, once you finish watching the last episode on a disc it is best to take the disc out of the DVD player straight away; otherwise you will find yourself skipping around 20 anti-piracy warnings in different European languages.
Adventure Time: The Complete Season One is released on DVD by Warner Home Video.
It’s Entourage attitude with Kevin and Perry Go Large aftermath. Three guys enjoying an extended adolescence, supporting themselves with the twenty-something equivalent of chores money; just enough to provide them with the lifestyle catalysts to keep their 24/7 interesting.
Workaholics isn’t a show about forgotten youth, what should be or what could’ve been. It’s about three young men from the meaty party of the bell curve trying to survive their day-to-day. There are no real long term ambitions and the closest these characters ever get to a big-picture desire is never more than a two episode arc from fulfillment.
It takes a few episodes before you start to believe that the characters are actually morons embracing moronic behaviour and not just arseholes acting dumb to excuse their actions. Once that becomes clear, the show becomes a lot more enjoyable.
Workaholics might take a little longer than most series to completely gauge your interest; the humour tends to come in bursts and the inside jokes will take more than a couple of episodes to recognise. Part of the problem is that Workaholics doesn’t seem to entirely know what’s going on a lot of the time. It’s not a program that’s ever going to medal, but like Winter Olympians from Saharan nations, it’s enjoyable to watch them try.
Plot over narrative forever.
Comedy Central has already broadcast three series of Workaholics in the US and I would wager that the majority of its potential audience in the UK (students or those still behaving like students) have already seen all of them. Even if you’re not what Malcolm Gladwell called a Maven in the Tipping Point, you’ve probably already seen most of the best moments in YouTube clips. In 2011. This makes it difficult to project an audience in the UK. If you’re not in one of the aforementioned groups, it’s unlikely that you’ll find much worth persevering with.
Workaholics starts on Comedy Central UK on 29 November
As they have been in the news recently it only seems right to quote the words of Monty Python: “Australia! Australia! Australia! Australia! We love you! Amen!”
As you might be able to tell, this is a review of a surrealist sketch show from Down Under. The first thing that should be highlighted is that it’s Australian; making this show something of a rarity. Just about all the UK’s comedy imports are from the United States. We do not really get much in the way of comedy shows from any other countries, even other English speaking ones like New Zealand, Canada or Eire. We often see comedians from these countries, but not the shows from their native lands.
Problems features a small central narrative, namely creator Sam Simmons playing a version of himself who has small problems with the world that he tries to solve while looking after his pet cat Mr. Meowgi (really a man in a cat outfit). In the first episode for example, he discovers that the company which makes his favourite tacos have changed the recipe.
There are plenty of recurring characters in the show. These include his next-door neighbours who sit outside on the front lawn discussing odd issues, such as having to shoot their favourite dog because they were popping out for a moment; the moths who live down the back of Sam’s sofa who behave like a troubled married couple; Sam’s uncle Warrick who hosts a “Mid-Morning Trivia” quiz with stupid questions and prizes like a “sexual trout”; and the man who runs a two dollar shop who seems to have all the answers and has a perfect life.
Some of the ideas to take warming up to, but there is the odd moment that is amusing. Many of these appear to be one-off sketches. For example there is a woman who decides to make promotional videos, one of which is an advert for a dugong killer. Another is of someone singing a song about an officer worker called Ultra Phil, despite the fact the work is not called Phil and objects to being sung about.
Simmons is also a talented performer as well as a writer. One funny scene features him in flashback as a child, although he plays the part as his adult self, and is later showed in tacos with his childhood friends covering him and stuffing his mouth with tacos.
This appears to be a slow-burning sketch show. It may start of slow, but there seems to be plenty of ideas to keep it going.
Score: 3 / 5
Problems starts on Dave on December 4th
Last year digital channel G.O.L.D. broadcast a documentary series called Bring Me Morecambe and Wise, which consisted of five hour long episodes (minus ad breaks of course) detailing the history of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. BBC Two is now broadcasting a short series, consisting of two episodes, both episodes 90 minutes long. This does raise the issue of how these can be “The Whole Story” when the series is shorter in length.
But do not let the length of this series put you off if you are interested in learning more about Eric and Ernie. The first part of the series deals with their early career, starting from their childhood on the stage, their first failed TV series, their first major success on ITV, and finally their move to the BBC. The second episode looks at their career on the BBC, detailing the history of some of their most famous routines and Christmas specials, lightly touching on their move back to ITV and finally the deaths of both stars.
The first episode is the more interesting of the two. Their early careers have been dealt with in other programmes, such as the drama serial Eric & Ernie broadcast back in 2011 which covered their early lives including Running Wild, their first BBC series which totally bombed and their stage comeback. However, this episode also covers their early career on ITV in the show Two of a Kind. This was mainly interesting because of the at-times troublesome relationship between Morecambe and Wise with their writers at the time Sid Green and Dick Hills.
For those unfamiliar with Two of a Kind, they may be surprised to know that many of the routines which became famous on their BBC series were recycled sketches from Two of a Kind. Early examples of the “Singing in the Rain” and the “Andre Previn / Greig Piano Concerto” began on ITV. We also get to learn about many of the comedians and variety acts that influenced Eric and Ernie, which included Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Frank Randle, Sandy Powell and Jimmy James.
Other issues are also touched upon, such as their films and attempt to make it into America (something Wise wanted to do more than Morecambe). However, their final years on ITV are only lightly touched upon. The second episode is nearly entirely taken up by the BBC series, dealing with various sketches and classic routines in-depth, although other subjects are obviously covered; primarily Eric Morecambe’s numerous heart attacks.
Morecambe and Wise: The Whole Story high point is covering the early years. Much of the later half covers moments that many of us are familiar with, so it is primarily interesting only in a technical aspect. However, if you want to get a good idea about the inner workings of the great double act, this is a fine series to watch.
4.5 / 5
Morecambe and Wise: The Whole Story is broadcast on BBC Two at 21.00 on 24th November and 1st December.
In his 1952 travelogue Golden Earth, writer Norman Lewis describes Burma (as few writers have been able to do since) as a place of breath-taking natural beauty, and writes, in the book’s concluding pages, of his high hopes for the country’s future. Unfortunately, in the decades that followed the publication of Golden Earth, Burma instead suffered at the hands of a military junta, and consequently the astonishing wildlife that Lewis saw during his travels was closed to the world.
Now, for the first time in fifty years, Wild Burma: Nature’s Lost Kingdom introduces viewers a side of the country that camera crews have long been forbidden from filming—vast stretches of verdure that have been explored by very few travellers. In the first episode of this three part series, the focus is on the Asian elephant, a species known for its grumpy demeanour, which poachers are speedily hunting to the brink of extinction.
Scouring an almost impenetrable strip of jungle are experts Justine Evans, Ross Piper and Gordon Buchanan, whose aim is to create a diverse species list with which they hope will persuade the country’s policy makers that Burmese wildlife is worth saving.
It seems miserably unlikely at first that the team will be able to ascertain such information: elephants, it is explained, are notoriously hard to track, especially in such thick forest. To therefore increase their chances of finding them, Gordon and Justine take to searching the valleys and ridges while Ross follows up rumours of a second elephant herd.
The team search with some urgency; they must find whole herds of elephants with young, not merely ones on their own. Only by finding groups of them do they have a chance of preserving these wonderful creatures for future generations. And to make matters much more difficult, they must also be careful not to spook the elephants, for Asian elephants in particular have a habit of charging when approached unexpectedly.
This alone makes for gripping television; but then there is also a strangely erotic element to it all, brought on by the programme’s effortlessly seductive narrator Paterson Joseph, who at times sounds as though he not only wishes to save the elephants, but also prepare them a fancy meal while wooing them gently with the smooth, ethereal sounds of Seal.
Once the connection has been made that Joseph is in fact Alan Johnson from Peep Show, it’s near impossible to focus on anything else — or at least this would be true, if the subject of the programme wasn’t so imperative. For anybody with even the faintest interest in wildlife, Wild Burma is essential viewing, offering a rare glimpse at a country that has long been closed to the world. Yet for the animals featured in the series, it could very well be a matter of life or death.
Wild Burma is on BBC Two on 29 November at 9.00pm
Doctor Who‘s 50th Anniversary celebrations are beginning to kick off, with shows littered across the BBC schedule in the coming months. On every possible channel. The show that will start proceedings is BBC Two’s The Science of Doctor Who, which has Professor Brian Cox answering the queries that Doctor Who has left us pondering.
The show begins with what I found to be a very witty and light hearted comedy skit featuring Brian Cox & The 11th Doctor (Matt Smith), before moving on to The Royal Institution Of Great Britain in which Cox begins his lecture to a face of famous faces (Richard Bacon, Charles Dance, Steven Moffat, etc).
If you’re a fan of Brian Cox, then the idea of him talking about Doctor Who in a serious way is one to get excited about. I would compare his voice to that of a grandpa telling you stories about years of old. He has that sort of delicacy about him. It’s a very soothing, warm voice that allows you to relax and be comfortable around him. Cox demonstrates several of his theories with experiments. Plucking volunteers out from the crowd, the results are both mad but also fascinating to watch. This makes it much clearer for a mainstream audience who might be confused or even bored by Cox’s endless talk on science.
And that’s my real problem with this show. For a mainstream audience not completely obsessed with science, it’s going to be difficult to engage with the content that Cox is presenting. They will find themselves lost and confused by what is being shown, and are likely to change the channel. Hence the reason this is being shown on BBC Two: to attract a niche audience, rather than struggle with a mainstream one. Despite that, The Science of Doctor Who is likely to please its target audience and get viewers of all ages excited about the celebrations to come.
The Science of Doctor Who – BBC2, 14 November
Over the BBC’s ninety years, people from across the political spectrum have taken shots at the corporation and its alleged political bias. From accusations of pro-left, to accusations of pro-right, the BBC has always resisted a fight. However last year, BBC Three commissioned a show that was as political as it was controversial. In attempting to make examples of those in Great Britain who exploit, lie and belittle their opponents for political and financial gain – the Beeb have taken a very definite political stance.
Returning for its second series last Sunday, presenters Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse continue to run amok targeting politicians and companies who they believe have lied, cheated and screwed over the British public. The show creates stunts with hidden camera footage in which the presenters humiliate companies or politicians. Whether it’s through Dale Maily, the sarcastic newsreader mocking people at protests or upper class events; or through James & Barnaby, the fictional MPs gate crashing conferences or secret political events to annoy major politicians, the show is unnerving in tackling anyone who has double crossed the British public.
What I love about this show is that it presents itself with a real recklessness. It gives the show an air of anarchism and frustration through its unplanned and improvised stunts. It’s very good at making the audience clear as to why their targets deserve to be mistreated. A lot of the hilarity really comes down to just the sheer confidence these two have when making their mark on their targets. An example sees the two walking into a number of betting shops posing as builders, in which they then place signs on the billboards outside, which reveal a pun to the public of the company’s misdeeds.
Surprisingly, TRWBT also attacks the BBC itself, in a clip in which Jolyon & Heydon pose as charity beggars, begging members of the public to donate to “BBC In Need” – a charity collecting for bonuses for senior BBC management. It’s great and the public’s reaction is as priceless as any hidden prank show in recent years.
The second series of The Revolution Will Be Televised premieres this Sunday and I can guarantee audiences that it hasn’t lost any of its edge since it last went off air. If anything, it’s funnier, riskier and much more cringe worthy. But in a good way.
The Revolution Will Be Televised is on BBC on Sunday nights
*Warning: Contains spoilers*
19th November heralds the premiere of the new series of ‘Last Tango in Halifax’, following its previous BAFTA success for ‘Best Drama Series’. I am not one who would normally look forward to BBC dramas, but this really is something to put in the diary.
The second series continues to follow the lives of two widowed pensioners (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid) who reconnected via Facebook and found themselves rekindling a flame that had formerly burnt when they were just sixteen. These are not the caricatured, dementia-riddled and daft old folk that we are habitually exposed to on our TV screens. These are people who are aspirational, drive sports cars, and enjoy complex and fulfilling relationships. It is not patronising, nor tokenistic; it is a dignified and realistic portrayal of the elderly, and one which is long overdue.
That said, the twilight romance is not the novelty, nor even the key theme of the series. In fact it becomes the platform of stability and normality around which other dramas unfold. It is the middle-aged offspring (Sarah Lancashire; Nicola Walker) and their associated rabble who are dysfunctional and incompetent; Tony Gardner plays a very convincing man-in-a-midlife-crisis. The contrast in the portrayal of Men and Women is a striking feature of the drama, and whilst it is pleasing to see women occupying the strongest roles, perhaps the portrayal of Tony Gardner’s character, John, as an unlikeable twit, leaves too little room for compassion. After all, this is a man whose wife and the mother of his children, has left him for another woman. He is too ugly a character to garner sympathy, which therefore leaves the emotional disruption to his life largely unexplored.
The writer, Sally Wainwright, spins a good yarn, if a little taut at times with the sheer number of dramatic revelations; to name but a few: a lesbian love affair, an underage pregnancy, an attempted lesbian pregnancy, a compassionate killing, a nut allergy and middle-aged people engaging in sexual relations. In hindsight you question whether this is really believable. Whilst watching, however, it is not problematic. This could be testament to the quality of the script writing or the high-standard of acting; I think both. Together they manage to convey real life, realistically. More often than not, the most bizarre, unfathomable, or heart-wrenchingly unfortunate stories that we hear are real-life ones (the daily stories exposed on Jeremy Kyle paint a crass but illustrative picture: “my daughter turned out to be my grandfather”-esque tales), the kind that end with “you just couldn’t make it up” (except you can, and turn it into a BBC drama).
The series explores, with a mastery of writing and acting, the symbiotic cruelty and beauty of life’s course: actions taken, and those not taken; paths littered with missed opportunities; the entanglement of different lives; the fragility of human life but the robustness of the human spirit, all of which is interspersed with beautiful landscape scenes. These offer respite from the chaos, and the constancy of the landscape also gives grounding to the characters and serves as a device for universalisation; living in the same landscape are other families who are perhaps experiencing similar turmoil.
It is tender, but not saccharine; none of the characters are completely likeable, or completely ‘good’ and it is funny, but laced with the darkness of real life pain. This is a drama series with excellent actors and a well written script; a rare jewel in recent times. Do not be put off if you missed the first series, the new series (and indeed each episode) can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story of thwarted lives and complex relationships.
Last Tango in Halifax Season Two starts on 19 November on BBC
A new comedy show on Dave (yes, an actual new programme, rather than an oxymoronic “new repeat”), this is a delightfully dark series of short comic stories narrated by various talents, accompanied by acted scenes and cartoons.
A parody of the classic children’s show Jackanory, which featured people reading children’s stories, Crackanory features comedians and actors reading black comic tales. Each of the twelve stories is narrated by a different person, and the stories are written by a team of six writers which include The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson and Hebburn’s Jason Cook.
In the opening episode, the appropriately gloomy Jack Dee starts proceedings with Nico Tatarowicz’s “Bitter Tweet”, in which an average guy with a small Twitter following who sends an ironic comic tweet to a Justin Bieber-like pop star, which results in him becoming the most hated man in the world and being violently attacked by loyal fans.
Later Smack the Pony and Miranda star Sally Phillips reads Toby Davies’s “What Peebee Did Next”, a charming yarn about the most kind and generous toy maker in the whole world. Sadly, said toy maker Peebee passes away, but he comes up with an interesting way to make sure his family and loyal manservant will never forget him.
This series makes use of many different elements. First you have the comic narration from the stars of the programme. Then you have the acting which is very well done by a group of actors collectively known as the “Crackanory Players”. On top of this you also have the animation which also tells the story in a more child-like element, albeit with an adult twist too. The stories also seem to vary wildly. The story told by Dee has a satirical bent to it, while Phillips’s tale is the more macabre dealing as it does with death. So you have a wide variety of comic themes to entertain you.
It is hard to review the whole series given that all twelve stories will vary from each other, in terms of themes, ideas and hosts. The other readers in the series are Harry Enfield, Richard Hammond, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Rebecca Front, Hugh Dennis, Sharon Horgan, Charlie Higson and Kevin Eldon. However, the content so far seems to show that Crackanory certainly has the talent to be a cult hit.
Crackanory starts on Dave at 9pm on 13 November
Detroit was once an attractive city. It now suffers from self-doubt, wonders where it all went wrong and what it did to deserve its current predicament. Choosing a bald man for the lead role in a series set there was a wise choice. He will intuitively understand all of these things.
Said actor, Mark Strong, as Detective Frank Agnew is one of the few highlights of AMC’s Low Winter Sun. Something which shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the title since it’s an American version of his role in Channel 4’s 2006 mini-series of the same name.
Strong plays the same conflicted copper; a good man corrupted by nurture not nature. Led astray by a colleague who convinces him that evil means are sometimes necessary for good to prevail. It’s an all too familiar trope; that once the devil has made a good man sin, he will forever be a sinner. Because he becomes a man who will do whatsoever necessary to relieve his karmic burden. Somehow forgetting in his quest for redemption that expedient methods rarely achieve disinfected outcomes.
Low Winter Sun follows Detective Agnew and his partner Joe Geddes (Lennie James) across ten episodes as they try to escape the consequences of a murder they committed and are now in charge of investigating. It’s occasionally interesting but more frequently not. Although there’s enough potential that I wouldn’t be averse to a second series – if the cast remains intact and somebody goes full Robespierre on the writers.
The script is colour-by-numbers deliberate and the dialogue relies too heavily on over-emphasised would-be aphorisms. Lines that might have worked as development talking points but have instead been used as the corner stones from which to build a script.
Engagement with Low Winter Sun comes exclusively with the cast. Aside from Strong and James, there’s much to be said for their most visible villain. The character and tone of James Ransone’s Damon Callis is not new to him. As Tim in ‘How To Make It In America’ his character was similarly Puckish, upbeat and mischief making – albeit with less violence. As Cpl. Josh Ray Person in HBO’s Generation Kill, and despite sharing a screen with Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood’s Eric Northman) in almost every scene, he was the biggest draw.
It helped that he had lines like, “How come we can’t ever invade a cool country, with chicks in bikinis? I’ll tell you why. It’s lack of pussy that fucks countries up. Lack of pussy is the root fucking cause of all global instability.” But even with Low Winter Sun’s shine-blocking script, he’s an enigmatic presence.
It’s not must-watch TV, but if you must watch it, you’re probably already aware that you’ve got too much free time.
Low Winter Sun Season One is available to buy now from Amazon