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June 16, 2016

Review: Wrecked 1x1-1x2 (US: TBS)

Posted on June 16, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wrecked

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, TBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Me: Hey guys, this is an interactive one. So, are you ready? 

You: Yes we are!

Me: Cool. What's the secret of comedy?

You: We don't know, Rob. What is the secret…

Me [interrupts]: Timing!

Rubbish, hey? Doesn't work at all written down. But I laboured with it because I think it makes a valuable point - timing is very important in comedy. Get it wrong and your joke just isn't funny.

What's the right time for a TV parody of another TV show then? The answer's not immediately obvious. Consider, 'Allo, 'Allo, one of the most successful British sitcoms of the 80s and early 90s, running for 85 episodes over 10 years from 1982.

Huge numbers of people watched (or were too offended to watch) this sitcom about the wartime French resistance without being even slightly aware it was a parody of Secret Army, the BBC's outstanding and very dark wartime drama, which ran between 1977 and 1979. 

Three years between the finish of Secret Army (not including Secret Army spin-off Kessler in 1981) and the start of 'Allo 'Allo, and yet everyone had already forgotten what the show was parodying. Thank heavens 'Allo 'Allo was funny, hey?

So spare a thought for Wrecked, which has bizarrely chosen to parody Lost, which aired between 2004 and 2010. That's six years ago Lost finished and 12 years since its first episode aired, yet here's Wrecked doing an almost scene-by-scene parody of its first episodes, but imagining what would happen if only the ugly no-hopers, rather than the pretty talented ones survived the crash.

How good's your memory? Good enough to laugh at how accurate Wrecked is? Probably not.

The first two episodes tread the familiar-ish terrority of the initial plane crash, waking up on the beach, the tending to the wounded, the investigation of the island, looking for satellite phone signal, et al. The show's anal enough about its Lost lore that it even kills off its Jack (James Scott) in the first episode, as per Lost's original pilot script. In his stead, he leaves three also-rans (Zach Cregger, Asif Ali, Brian Sacca), who all look like someone more famous but certainly aren't quite as good; there's Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) as the Locke of the piece, albeit a Locke who can't walk; there's a generic bunch of millennial women who whine a bit (Ginger Gonzaga, Jessica Lowe, Ally Maki); and there's a couple of people who hang around being dicks in different ways (Will Greenberg, Brooke Dillman). 

Wrecked tries to get its laughs by doing sixth-form grade pastiche of the original, while throwing in general ineptitude, people arguing over whether a podiatrist is a proper doctor or not, and pointing out that no one knows any phone numbers any more so can't call for help using someone else's phone. As an example of the level of humour we're dealing with here, when Sacca's dad appears to him and Sacca wonders if they were coincidentally on the same flight, dad replies: "No, this is a dream sequence… were you not getting that?"

Oddly, Lost's most iconic storytelling technique - the flashback/flashforward/flashsideways - isn't used in Wrecked in these first two episodes, everything being told linearly. Too complicated, the writers had forgotten about it or something being saved for later? I don't know, but it's a bit like setting Allo Allo in Swindon during the Cod War without it.

Neither an incisive parody of Lost nor funny in its own right, Wrecked is a great big dud, despite the obvious cash spent on CGI and location filming in Puerto Rico and the occasionally interesting guest cast (eg Eliza Coupe from Happy Endings). I guess timing really is everything.

Here's the first six minutes and a trailer, just so you can see if you agree with me.

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June 16, 2016

Review: Still The King 1x1-1x2 (US: CMT)

Posted on June 16, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Still The King

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, CMT
In the UK: Not yet acquired

We've been talking quite a bit about remakes and shows 'inspired' by others in the past couple of weeks, but I hadn't realised until now just how quick the remake cycle has become. Take Still The King, which is 'based on a treatment by' and stars Billy Ray Cyrus (CMT - that's Country Music Television. All clear now, isn't it?). It sees Cyrus playing a former one-hit-wonder turned Elvis impersonator who winds up in jail in Tennessee after crashing into a church sign while drink-driving. He's released, but on condition that he remain in the state for a year, that he do community service at the church he wrecked and that he start paying child support. Child support? Oh yes, he has a 15-year-old daughter (Madison Iseman) he never knew about as his manager hasn't been passing on the letters from Iseman's mother (Chasing Amy's Joey Lauren Adams).

Sounds a bit familiar? Like last July's Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

Wait. There's more. Because when Cyrus turns up at the church, he's mistaken for the new pastor who's supposed to be arriving in town soon. Needing a job, Cyrus assumes the pastor's identity and uses his performance skills to liven things up during services.

Yep, it's also last July's Impastor

So there you have it - it now takes almost exactly a year on US television for an off-cycle, new show to get copycats on the airwaves.

That aside, is Still The King any good? After all, CMT isn't exactly known for scripted anything, let alone comedy, and Cyrus isn't the world's best or most experienced of actors.

Surprisingly, it was actually quite likable and even innovative. The first episode isn't that great, but does feature a dream sequence that includes both Elvis Presley and a black Jesus Christ, perhaps the first sign the show isn't going to be quite what you expect. The second episode is a slightly better affair, dealing with the question of the real pastor Cyrus is impersonating with a surprising solution. There are some touching moments as Cyrus realises what he's been missing out on with both Adams and Iseman. And Cyrus's character is surprisingly charming, too.

It's not yucks-a-minute stuff. There's a slight whiff of homophobia whenever the show features Adams' deadbeat boyfriend (Jon Sewell), although he does provide some of the most laughs as he tries unsuccessfully to be the alpha male of the house. There's also not much depth to any of it.

All the same, given how bad and derivative it could have been, Still The King is a surprisingly decent, genteel, warm-hearted dramedy that shows promise, has all manner of famous guest stars lined up and might be worth your checking out.

June 15, 2016

Review: BrainDead 1x1 (US: CBS; UK: Amazon)

Posted on June 15, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BrainDead

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Airs on Amazon

Sometimes, I wish it were summer all year round. Not because of the weather or vacations, but because it's when the US networks decide to relax their formulae and let loose a little.

Take CBS. Most of the time it's the home of nasty, unfunny comedies (eg Mike and Molly, Mom) and a neverending stream of formulaic procedurals (eg Code Black, Elementary, Blue Bloods). Then come's the summer, it lets down its hair and (ironically) acts like it's on spring break, giving us the likes of Under The Dome, Extant and Zoo. True, none of these have actually been much good, but at least they're different, at least they're trying to shake things up - I'd much rather have them than yet another Criminal Minds or NCIS spin-off.

So what does CBS have for us this summer? Savour this moment. Brace yourself. You're going to enjoy this.

This summer, CBS is giving us BrainDead, a sci-fi political satire in which the intractable problems of the US Congress are revealed to be the result of alien ants taking over the politicians by eating their brains and forcing them to listen to The Cars' 'You Might Think'.

Don't you just love summer?

Here's a trailer. Minor spoilers, etc, after the jump.

Continue reading "Review: BrainDead 1x1 (US: CBS; UK: Amazon)"

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