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Summer catch-up 2009: Television

Posted: July 27th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

As a LOST nerd, obviously I was interested to see this,  JJ Abrams’ new show about “fringe science”, but have had to use nefarious means since no good US TV seems to ever get shown on normal UK telly any more. To begin with, it’s almost hilarious how many of JJ Abrams’ stock trademarks pop up, particularly the floating 3D place names and all the lens flare, but it turned out to be a pretty fun stupid sci-fi show, owing a lot to the X-Files.  The Pacey/Denethor match-up is definitely the highlight for me, though it’s all pretty great if you turn about half your brain off. I mean, it has teleportation, flesh-melting disasters and a man who turns into a giant hedgehog. Must get hold of the last bunch of episodes. [Marceline Smith]

The Thick Of It
I don’t think I’ve watched anything at all on telly since March, so I’ll have to say The Thick Of It by default. Cos it’s great and I did it backwards by watching In The Loop first. Anything with such a consistently high level of inventive swearing deserves plaudits. [Stuart Fowkes]

The Street
Unusually for me, I’m excited that a TV programme is coming back. No polis, no doctors, no lawyers, no explosions, no superpowers, no demands for a whole day of my life to follow story-arcs. The Street focuses on the folk in a single row of houses, one per episode but not (in the ones I’ve seen) in a kitchen sink all-working-class-lives-is-misery way. So hopefully the new series won’t suck. [Stan Tontas]

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
How do I go about explaining this black-hearted gem of a comedy series? Basically, there are 4 key characters, who run a bar in Philadelphia. That the bar is barely frequented by customers, let alone its publicans, is neither here nor there. Each protagonist is convinced that they’re a loveable character in a mildly amusing sitcom series, when in fact they’re all completely self-centred assholes with some major issues. Danny DeVito turns up in Series 2 as the father figure and manages to somehow upstage all of them in his complete and utter cuntery. It’s all incredibly hilarious and surprisingly close-to-the-bone stuff for an American sitcom – “like a more twisted Seinfeld”, I’m told. Unfortunately it’s been fairly well buried on UK networks, but I strongly encourage you to seek it out. [Dave Stockwell]

Yo Gabba Gabba
With parenthood comes the depressing realisation that I am now a member of a demographic worth pursuing by evil marketing types.  “Yo Gabba Gabba” is this kids show aimed a preschoolers, right?  Except it isn’t.  A three year old will watch any old rubbish with bright colours and loud music, and will beg mum and dad for the corresponding merchandise when told to.  TV execs know this, and know that it’s the parents they have to convince.  “Yo Gabba Gabba” is a show targeted with expert precision at hipsters with young children.  The lessons are the same ones we learned from Sesame Street et al – be nice to your friends, share your toys, blah blah blah – but these are accompanied by music from act such as The Shins and Low, and surreal appearances by the likes of Biz Markie and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.  In today’s episode, Jack Black flew in on a tiny talking motorcycle and danced with the main characters while wearing a skin-tight orange tracksuit and furry hat.  I am not making this up.  This is the show that, in twenty to thirty years time, our children will drunkenly reminisce about, while maintaining that “those guys must have taken soooo many drugs”, just as our generation continues to do with The Magic Roundabout and its contemporaries.  Our son is too young to be that into it, but he’ll glance at it if it’s on.  His mum and dad, however, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. [Alex McChesney]

Entourage is the best TV programme I’ve seen in years. It seems to have been carefully constructed to appeal to me exactly and after watching it I’m convinced that the life for me is that of an international film star, living in Hollywood, being driven around in a Hummer yet still retaining the personality of a decent, nice guy. [Simon Minter]

30 Rock/Saturday Night Live
30 Rock has been the show to make me laugh out loud most since Arrested Development.  Starring Tiny Fey and Alec Baldwin along with the amazing Tracy Morgan it is a half fictionalised account of the behind the scenes happenings of a weekly live comedy show much like Saturday Night Live.  Indeed much like how Eastenders cast members usually end up popping up in The Bill here many of the cast members, past and present, from Saturday Night Live appear as the events off screen are revealed as more surreal as the ones on screen.  There are some truly snappy and amazing lines coming from these characters in addition to great guest spots from Rip Torn (Larry Sanders), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Fred Armisen who as a suspected terrorist neighbour puts in a great paranoid performance.  At the same time this past season (number 34) of Saturday Night Live has been the funniest I have seen in years.  Again thankfully making me laugh out loud more than anything else Armisen’s Obama is great, Fey’s Sarah Palin was legendary on the internet and in Seth Meyers on the Weekend Update desk they have a writer, satirist and social commentator to compete with Jon Stewart.  Elsewhere Kristen Wiig is one of the finest female performers ever to appear on the show with her endless line of creepy and hilarious characters and  Michaela Watkins “Angie Tempura” blogger character and her “Bitchpleeze.com” website is a definite personal favourite in addition to Kenan Thompson (from Kenan And Kel back in the day) making a surprise and flying transition into adult comedy (especially on “Scared Straight” and as Charles Barkley).  The season finale hosted by Will Ferrell saw the return of his Celebrity Jeopardy sketch and his renowned verbal sparring with Sean Connery.  The UK has never known how to treat/broadcast this amazing show so thank god for torrents.  Additionally I have loved Californication, In Treatment and anything Charlie Brooker touches. [JGRAM]

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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