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July 2, 2012

Review: Anger Management (FX) 1x1-1x2

Posted on July 2, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Anger Management

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30pm, FX
In the UK: Not yet acquired.

So how do you want to be remembered when you die? Do you want to go out with a bang or do you want to fade away?

Charlie Sheen seemed dead certain to be going for option a. After a catastrophic public meltdown that saw him chucked off Two And A Half Men, one of the US's top-rated comedy shows, he seemed to be going pellmell towards even further collapse. And then…

…he signed up for Anger Management, an FX sitcom. Well, surely that was going to be like petrol to a forest fire - an even greater disaster in the making.

Except not. Anger Management is a fairly traditional sitcom in which Charlie Sheen plays Charlie, a former baseball player turned anger management therapist who has some - but not much - difficulty dealing with his patients, another therapist (Selma Blair) who is also his best friend with benefits, his ex-wife and his daughter, as well as dating in general.

And while there are a couple of meta-moments about his firing from Two And A Half Men at the beginning of the first episode and while in many ways this is the same womanising Charlie of that sitcom, this is not the Charlie Sheen you might have been expecting. This is a Charlie Sheen who can talk coherently, intelligently, sensitively about issues and resolve them like an intelligent adult.

Boy is it dull, even if FX is trailing it as something of train wreck. It seems Charlie Sheen went with option b.

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June 27, 2012

The Wednesday Play: Cathy Come Home (1966)

Posted on June 27, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Cathy come home

Well, we've done a little dance around the decades to take in all manner of different genres for The Wednesday Play, but today it's time to go hard-core for a play that's been voted the best British drama ever: The Wednesday Play's Cathy Come Home, starring Ray Brooks and Carol White.

Written by Jeremy Sanford, produced by legendary producer Tony Garnett and directed by one of Britain's finest, most important film directors, Ken Loach, Cathy Come Home is also possibly the most influential British TV play ever made, highlighting on TV for the first time the problems of the homeless in the Britain of 1966: the play was watched by 12.5m viewers, a quarter of the British population at the time, and eventually led to the formation of the charity Crisis as well as changes in the law to allow homeless fathers to stay with their wives and children in hostels.

As well as revolutionising attitudes to homelessness, the play also revolutionised British TV direction. At the time, most TV plays and dramas were shot in studios on video, with a somewhat theatrical direction. Loach instead used a documentary style, shooting everything on location on 16mm film, often with handheld cameras – although union regulations of the time forced Loach and cinematographer Tony Imi to shoot about 10 minutes of the play on video, which they telerecorded and spliced into the film as required.

So, yes, it's important.

But without further ado, here's the play, which you can watch in one of three ways: DVD, by giving Ken Loach films some money with the first YouTube clip after the jump, or by watching the regular YouTube version that follows it. Obviously, if you choose option three and like the play, go for options one or two afterwards to ensure that nice Mr Loach and the BBC get some money for their hard work.

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June 26, 2012

Review: The Newsroom (HBO) 1x1

Posted on June 26, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

newsroomcast2.jpg 

In the US: Sundays, 10pm, HBO
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic. Will air starting July 10

I guess it was only a matter of time before Aaron Sorkin got around to creating The Newsroom. You could probably have proved it with Venn diagrams or something.

Sorkin does, of course, love two things above all others: politics and TV shows about TV shows. On the politics side, The West Wing looked at the undeniable vital national importance of decent politics and politicians, but Sorkin also wrote the Guantanamo-tastic A Few Good Men. As far as TV shows about TV shows go, he's had a patchier track record: Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, which looked at the vital national importance of live comedy sketch shows, was a flop, as was Sports Night, which looked at the vital national importance of TV sports shows. 

So I guess it was inevitable that Sorkin would develop a TV show that incorporated into its storylines not just politics but also a TV show about politics. Thus we have The Newsroom, almost a 'Greatest Sorkin Hits' collection of things you'll have seen and loved in previous Sorkin productions: politics; a TV show with behind-the-scenes relationship problems for the production team; ditzy women; failing men; witty banter; talking and walking; beautifully written, fact-heavy sermons; ethnic minority assistants; people doing the right thing; people doing jobs to the best of their abilities; and exhortions about how much better America could be if only all its citizens were well educated.

In this show, of course, we also get journalism and long speeches about how important it is. And as with much of The Newsroom, although you may have seen something similar on Studio 60 et al, here it just about works, because journalism is plausibly of vital national importance – unlike live comedy sketch shows. It's not quite The West Wing, either in the quality of the cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston, Dev Patel and Jane Fonda, or in the power of its execution, but it's certainly a pretty good start – assuming you like Sorkin.

Here's a trailer or two and if you're in the US, you can watch the whole of the first episode.

Continue reading "Review: The Newsroom (HBO) 1x1"

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