The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Things Watched’

Posted by Matt on August 23, 2010

I usually have a hard time just sitting down and watching a lot of something. There’s a lot of TV series out there I’d probably like that I just haven’t gotten to watching, for example. I hope to rectify this soon enough.

I guess I’m starting with Mr. Show, the cult classic sketch comedy from the mid to late 90s. I’ve spent the past two weeks watching all 30 episodes, and I can easily understand why it’s received the lofty position it has. It’s a truly ambitious show, shooting for something far greater than the average show of its type, while at the same time embracing the most absurdist comedy possibly (now put that on the back of the DVD case!)

Although it fluctuates wildly throughout the series, the structure is really what struck me the most. It was fun to see all the scenes transition into each other (which is something that posting Youtube videos of scenes can’t truly capture, although that isn’t stopping me from posting them) and how they connect in other ways, especially in earlier seasons where each episode had a central theme (not the ones that did away with them for the most part, season 4 especially, really suffered significantly from it). The thing about most sketch comedies in the SNL mold is that entire episodes mean very little; this is, of course, why entire shows are never called ‘the best’, while individual sketches are (the other major issue being the sheer volume). Mr. Show, by being both more conscious of structuring an entire half-hour and being much smaller, is able to avoid this, and this feels much stronger overall as a show rather than as a sketch-producing machine (for more and better insight into the strengths of Mr.Show‘s individual episodes, read The AV Club’s weekly retrospective.)

Of course, the sketches themselves probably wouldn’t be nearly as funny if the actors weren’t up to snuff. As the ‘With Bob and David’ part of the title would suggest, most of the comedy is in the hands of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, who are able to pull it off pretty much all the time. Their delivery and ability to inhabit the weird characters they always end up playing (Cross is great at playing shills and annoying salesman, while Odenkirk always seems to find a point in each episode to wear a fake mustache and old-timey clothes while using funny-sounding accents). But they also found a great supporting cast as well: Tom Kenny, Jill Talley, John Ennis, and Jay Johnson and the others recurring cast (including infrequent appearances by the likes of pre-infamy Jack Black and Sarah Silverman) are all crucial to each sketch. The cast is always willing to give their roles that extra push that the scripts demand, and are sometimes even able to get as much comedy possible out of even the weakest idea.

And the other thing that makes Mr. Show stand out is its ability to push each scene to its limit and pull hilarious new directions out of nowhere. Rather than simply rest on one funny idea, they will branch out, or completely subvert it, or just go all-out bonkers. This is also one of the things that appealed to me personally: anything that go in such silly, surreal direction on a dime gets thumbs up from me.





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Posted by Matt on May 5, 2010

Winding down, but at the same time getting busy. Ho hum.

Things done:

-Finally watched the first four episodes of Adventure Time. It’s a cartoon for people like me and it makes the world a better place simply by existing. I suggest you watch it legally (if American) or illegally (if you be forrin’).

-playing a combination of Pokemon SoulSilver and Super Street Fighter IV. Who needs anything else? Certainly not I. Not with Abel’s second ultra allowing me to crush opponent’s with its controllable delay and super armor.

-I listened to lots of Warren Zevon, because I hadn’t before. Excitable Boy and Sentimental Hygiene are both excellent albums.

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Posted by Matt on February 7, 2010

Having watched the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, I can now conclusively say that satire is dead.

Stone. Fucking. Cold.

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Posted by Matt on January 21, 2010

I’m baaaaaack.

The trip was interesting. Don’t know how much I participated in the things the conference was about (I went to a few of the presentations, and had to sit through the last half of the big final meeting where the press group’s constitution was amended. I essentially voted yes on everything, not giving a damn. Not that most of that was all that important, nor would my vote have swayed the decision either way). I heard some interesting things, though, and met some of the staff of other newspapers, who were fun to talk to and hang out with.

Edmonton is a pretty great place, and it was made better by the unusually warm weather. We didn’t do much while there, but I did drive through the city center (seeing the variety of local stores, clubs, architecture, etc.) We went to some comic stores, too. I’d never been to the really big nerd clubhouses that I’ve read about on the various comics blogs, and these met all the expectations that I had set for them. Big, with a huge variety of comics and trades, filled with unusual merchandise and old action figures. I now understand the glory and the awfulness of them. More of the former, though, but only because I had never been there before, I’m sure. Got some books I wanted (including one of the annoyingly unavailable X-Force/X-Statix trades), so the trips were overall very profitable.

Of course, there was the prerequisite trip to the West Edmonton Mall, which is every bit as large, glorious, and scary as I seen. To sound completely confusing, it both felt larger and smaller than I imagined. I mean, it’s really huge, and filled with many a thing. We traversed it in a few hours, although we didn’t see absolutely everything. We did, however, see lemurs, who lived in a habitat not far from the aquarium and Columbus ship recreation. That was completely unexpected, and amusing. Lemurs!

It was good to see the thing from the inside finally, after 10 years. Now I will have a bit more experience with it to help some of my ideas (one of which involves the mall, or a reasonable facsimile).

So yes, I had fun going out of town, aside from the long, claustrophobic car trip.

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Watched all of the first season of Mighty Boosh now. It isn’t quite as consistently good as the next two series, as it was still finding its footing and doesn’t have all the main cast developed (Bollo was only a bit player), and some of the stuff in it felt like half-baked versions of what would later be developed. But the comedy is still there, and many of the episodes are pretty great, and it has characters sadly absent from later series (Bob Fossil, who does make a comeback in series 3, and Matt Berry as Dixon Brainbridge, a truly great villain/asshole). My favorite episode is probably ‘Jungle’ (which features another one of Rich Fulcher’s insane characters who gave me probably the biggest laugh of all 8 episodes), although they are all pretty good, overall (especially in the last half).

It’s also probably the least frightening of all three series, although it’s strangeness is still in full-force. So if ‘Eels’ gives you nightmares, I can tell you there’s probably nothing here that will have the same effect (maybe ‘Charlie’).

Now I feel complete.

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A wrestling-loving friend of mine recently showed me Ring of Honor videos. As a promotion, I think it’s a pretty nice alternative to the big guns. It’s incredibly low-tech, and seems like an indie league with better lighting. But the wrestling is good, the wrestlers sell their gimmicks incredibly well, and Jim Cornette! So yeah, the examples I saw left me with good impressions on the whole thing.

Here’s the thing about wrestling: It’s carnival entertainment that often appeals to the lowest common denominator. But it can be fun, especially when you get some guys who create good cartoon personas for themselves and know how to keep a fake fight interesting. Basically, I see it in the same way I see kaiju movies: they are a silly good time that often appeals to the side of me that likes colourful characters beating up each other.

That said, most of modern wrestling is problematic. The WWE has no clue what it’s doing anymore, making dumb decision after dumb decision, wasting talent, having its flaws (including certain personalities being favoured over others for blatant and stupid reasoning) and now facing an avalanche of bad PR because of the ever-growing list of dead wrestlers. However, at least they show some sign of competence compared to the only real big budget rival in town, TNA, who have bought off many great people, have some promising performers, but who can’t do anything write. Wasting time with backstage story filler, including nonsensical gimmicks (even during non-gimmick matches), and having a large number of boring or confusingly short matches. It’s a train wreck, and even as someone who knows wrestling only from a peripheral view, I can tell that.

And that’s why ROH is kind of a breath of fresh air. It’s straight-up wrestling, and it gives the viewers what they want. It seems able to draw the most entertainment from this often bloated redneck industry.

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Posted by Matt on January 3, 2010

I finished The Simpsons: A Full, Complete Unauthorised History yesterday. There’s a lot of interesting things in the book, almost all of them revolving around the writers room. I really do get a kick out of reading about how the writing teams and showrunners worked together or didn’t; some of the behind-the-scenes stuff involving James Brooks and the executives was also enjoyable, but that’s pretty standard Hollywood stuff.

I think the main problem with the book is that Ortved is a little too eager to hammer us over the head with how much of an asshole Matt Groening supposedly is. Maybe he is an asshole, and some of the evidence seems to point to that, but he really should have let that evidence speak for itself. His little asides were completely unnecessary.

I could also complain about the lack of scope in the book, which really isn’t Ortved’s fault, seeing as though he did try to interview those closer to the show (and the fact that they refused probably led to the problem I spoke off in the last paragraph). It doesn’t bother me that much, as I found the information provided by the writers and others to be more interesting. I guess it could have benefited from the voice actors’ input, considering there’s a big chunk of a chapter all about them, with only Hank Azaria being quoted. But I think the book works well with its limits, and we get a really fascinating story nonetheless, even if it is slightly sensationalized.

******

I watched the two-part Doctor Who special last night. It was pretty fun overall, and with an epic feel that doesn’t wind down anti-climatically like most of the other ‘epic’ episodes do. Evil Timothy Dalton was able to out-evil The Master turning everyone on Earth into a cackling clone of himself, which is pretty impressive.

At points, some of the special effects were more iffy than normal. John Simm bouncing around and shooting lightning like a Dragon Ball retard was a little off, as were the effects where they had to CTRL-C/CTRL-V his head on everyone in a room. The show has never had spectacular special effects, but these seemed a bit off, and made those scenes look goofier than I think they were intended to be (maybe not The Master clones).

Good performances all around, though. And the saccharine ending didn’t come off so bad, really. Tennant and Davies get a good farewell show, overall. I had actually fallen out of watching the show more recently, only seeing new episodes sporadically. But this had got me really pumped for the next season, to see what Matt Smith and Stephen Moffat bring us. I’m really looking forward to the whole thing, is what I’m saying.

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The end is no

Posted by Matt on August 18, 2009

Last night’s dream was very strange. It featured my family finding a cat with an ugly haircut (like a poodle), but we could locate its home because it had a very elaborate, almost compass-like, tag. Dreams are supposed to say something about your subconscious, right? I wonder what these last couple of ones say about me.

As I mentioned, I’ve spent the last few weeks watching the second and third seasons of The Mighty Boosh (not the first one, yet). I was right in believing that this was a show for me. Bizarre stories, silly characters (I don’t know why, but one thing that I like is a more ‘realistic’ show which features characters who feel like comic book supervillains) with silly costumes, jokes that come out of nowhere (“Not you, Extreme Sports Calendar!”), and music that is both funny and rather good most of the time. Not every joke works, but the ones that do are often made even better because of the show’s excellent cast, who know how to get every last drop of humor out of every bit. I find some of the characters funny just because of how they talk and move. It’s all very good stuff.

It also inspires me a bit, because I would like to do something like that (that is, an off-the-wall comedy). Recently, I have been going over some of my current in-development stuff, tweaking things to meet the standards of what I’ve just watched. On one hand, it has helped me weed out some of the weaker ideas. On the other hand, it might be sending it in the wrong direction, because it’s my idea with my kind of humor and it is never going to be The Mighty Boosh (or Douglas Adams, or Grant Morrison) if I want it to be or not. I don’t want to be co-opting my voice. I don’t think I will, but it is a concern.

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