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September 14, 2016

Preview: Son of Zorn 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on September 14, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Son of Zorn

In the US: Sundays, Fox. Starts September 25

I don't know exactly where Mattel and Filmation lie within the many concentric circles of giant US conglomerates' IP assets, but if they're not contained at least somewhere within Fox, I think the creators of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe have a good copyright infringement case on their hands with the arrival of Son of Zorn.

Zorn's the guy in the picture above; He-Man is the guy in the 80s cartoon below.

Somewhat similar artistically, I think you'll agree. 

However, that's probably about the only similarity the two have in common, beyond an oddly similar array of friends, because Zorn owes a lot more to He-Man's own inspiration, Conan the Barbarian, than to He-Man. He's a macho, manly kind of guy who'll only take orders from a woman if he believes she's really a man.

That's possibly why he ended up getting divorced and returning to his cartoon island nation to fight demons, giants, et al, while his wife (Cheryl Hines from Suburgatory and Curb Your Enthusiasm) headed off to Orange County, California, to raise their son, Alangulon, by herself. When Zorn returns to Orange County to see his now-teenage son and discovers that Hines is getting married to online professor of psychology Tim Meadows (Mean Girls), he decides to remain in Orange County as a detergent salesman so he can woo back his wife and become a father again.

Coming from Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Last Man on Earth, The Lego Movie), it's unsurprising that this is a good deal funnier than you might expect - and you might be expecting Kröd Mändoon. While this is basically no different to any other culture clash or squabbling exes comedy - or even to Last Man Standing - with Zorn having to learn to be sensitive and fit in with modern American mores to have a relationship with his wife, it's less about the format and more about the detail with Son of Zorn.

Zorn's not just a huge dick with a huge sword, he's a huge dick with a huge sword and access to death hawks. He's also a 'diversity hire', barbarians from island nations being something of a rarity in California. Alan(gulon)'s a vegetarian and can flirt with the best of them, but he would be better with the girls if he had his own car… or death hawk. Hines's character is trying to be responsible but is also someone who was happy to hang out with a barbarian and have sex with mountain trolls when she was younger. And Meadows' character is hyper self-aware, particularly of the fact he's a big disappointment in life and that Zorn is just big, giving an almost Ben Carson-like deadpan performance of oddness.

A lot of the jokes are obvious and you can usually see where everything's going. But Son of Zorn keeps coming back with sufficiently out-there jokes that it doesn't seem matter. Worth trying, at least for an episode or two.

September 13, 2016

Review: Better Things 1x1 (US: FX)

Posted on September 13, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Better Things

In the US: Thursdays, 9pm ET, FX

As you get older, you become more reflective. You look back over your life and all the things that made you what you are and that took you to your current place in existence. Often, you'll want to share your thoughts and ruminations with others, share those memories before they become like so many 'tears in the rain'. 

Frequently, however, this is far more interesting for you than for anyone else, who probably have their own stories and memories they enjoy far more than yours.

Better Things is a semi-autobiographical piece written by and starring Pamela Adlon, co-written by Louis CK. Adlon isn't a big name, unless you're a fan of either Grease 2 or Louis, but she's had a long career in show business, particularly in voice-over work. Indeed, you may recognise her voice more than her, since she won an Emmy for her performance as Bobby on King of the Hill.

Ever wanted to know what life is like for a 50-something single mother with three daughters, who's the daughter of a TV producer and who's an actress living in LA who goes to a lot of auditions and has to deliver a lot of bad dialogue in a lot of bad TV shows? I can't say I feel a desperate need to know myself, but maybe you're different, in which case Better Things will be a big help bridging that empathy gap.

Trouble is, it's not saying an awful lot that you won't have heard elsewhere. It's tough being a single mom; it's tough dating when you're older; it's tough having a teenage daughter; it's tough being an older actress. And so on. These are known things. Even the 'bad parenting' jokes have been done to death this year alone, in movies such as Bad Moms and TV shows such as The Detour. Maybe we need reminding every so often, but I'm not sure a multi-part comedy series on FX is the best way to go about it.

All the same, there are good things in Better Things, although that's more to do with some creative choices than the subject matter or anything especially interesting or funny that happens. Better Things isn't always linear storytelling, with time jumps backwards and forwards, dream sequences, inter-titles, TV shows within TV shows, cameos by famous actors, either as themselves (Julie Bowen from Modern Family) or as characters (Bradley Whitford from The West Wing). The autobiographical elements give the show a specificity and an accuracy that it might not otherwise have had, too, and there's some laughs to be had from Adlon's voiceover work. 

Maybe if you're facing similar issues, you'll find this funny in a gallows humour kind of way. Personally, I found it just a little bit too self-involved, a bit too much a female Californication but without much joy.

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September 1, 2016

Review: Four in the Morning (Canada: CBC)

Posted on September 1, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Four In The Morning

In Canada: Fridays, 9/9:30NT, CBC

Were it not for the awkward scheduling of aircraft, 4am would be a time long since lost to me. To be honest, staying up after 10pm is hard enough these days and if we make it midnight, we feel like we're as street as Idris Elba.

4am is a time for young people.

You can certainly tell this from Four in the Morning, CBC's new alleged comedy show, in which two young couples talk about the kind of things in the kind of way over-educated young people straight out of college do at 4am in the morning. 

An alleged piece of 'magical realism' - as clear a sign it's written by gits as if it had a purple 'BANTER!' logo stamped on its title sequence - it's little more just this horrendous chat, arch dialogue that's so self-satisfied, it probably thinks it's just solved the problem of world peace while simultaneously creating bons mots that will endure the aeons like granite. Characters with implausibly twattish names like 'Bondurant' ("A manically intense, always well-intentioned, singularly focused trumpet player") and 'Mitzi' monologue at one another and have Tarantino-esque conversations about conversations with psychic pigs. They talk about their love of jazz and quote at each other, while playing for one another's boyfriends or girlfriends, or grouching about the state of the world and their lives. They visit late night fooderies that sell gorilla meat and throw bricks through any number of apparently unsecured Canadian buildings' windows.

They do all of this without realising they're being incredibly annoying. Because ha, ha! They're young people.

The show, which has a 'micro budget' of CAN$300k per episode, feels like so much student improv, the kind of thing put on in so many fringe theatres to an audience of seven, mostly friends of the cast and crew. And to be fair, Four in the Morning is probably perfect for annoying, over-educated young people who love the sound of their own opinions at four in the morning.

But for everyone else, it's yet another Canadian comedy show that's terminally short on laughs.

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