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January 7, 2016

Review: Byw Celwydd/Living A Lie 1x1 (UK: S4C)

Posted on January 7, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Living A Lie

In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, S4C. Available on iPlayer

The last time S4C decided to do a glamorous, exciting drama set in Cardiff Bay, it gave us the much-missed Caerdydd, a shiny, exciting, mind-blowingly Welsh soap full of hip young Welsh-speaking media types, entrepreneurs and politicians staying at the St David's Hotel & Spa, going to all the best pubs and generally enjoying everything cool and hip Mermaid Quay has to offer, apart from the Harry Ramsden's.

It launched the career of many a Welsh-speaking actor, but it's gone now. Sigh. We've still got the last series on the Sky box and we live for the day that S4C might eventually get round to putting it out on DVD. It was top. RIP Caerdydd.

Of course, almost no one outside of Wales had ever heard of Caerdydd until it started filming sex scenes in the Senedd, so it seems appropriate that following the success of Y Gwyll/Hinterland in the rest of the world, S4C's latest attempt to create a world-class drama follows largely in the footsteps of Caerdydd by being set in the Welsh Assembly and featuring bright young things having sex, albeit everywhere except the Senedd toilets.

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January 7, 2016

Review: The Shannara Chronicles 1x1-1x3 (US: MTV)

Posted on January 7, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Shannara Chronicles

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

When Into The Badlands arrived on our screens the other side of Christmas, I tried very hard to work out why it wasn't any good. After all, it had impeccable source material to work with and a decent cast, and it had imported Hong Kong martial arts stars and choreographers to jazz up the fights. Except it was hackneyed and dull.

Was it because it was on AMC, famed for almost fetishing slow storytelling? Or was it simply because it was from Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who perhaps aren't up to post-apocalyptic quest dramas?

It turns out it's probably a bit of both, but perhaps not for the reasons I was thinking of. I think it's because Gough and Millar were putting all their effort into the rather similar The Shannara Chronicles.

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January 4, 2016

Preview: Idiotsitter 1x1 (US: Comedy Central)

Posted on January 4, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Idiotsitter

In the US: Thursdays, 10.30/9.30c, Comedy Central. Starts January 14

So here's something you probably already know: women have friends. Some of them even have best friends. They have great laughs together, nourish each other's soul, yadda yadda. 

However, TV history isn't exactly replete with female friendships, particularly not ones written by women and especially not as the central relationships of TV shows. You may be able to think of an Ethel and Lucy or two, but until recently, TV hasn't considered them worth writing about.

Now we have a whole new generation of actresses and comediennes, mostly in the US, creating and starring in TV shows with their female friends. Idiotsitters is just such a show, created by and starring Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse, as two ill-matched soon-to-be best friends.

And just like Doll and EmBest Friends Forever and Playing House, it's utterly tedious and unfunny to anyone who isn't the show's two leads/creators/writers or who has a similar relationship with her own best friend ("Yes, that's just like us! Isn't it? Isn't it?! I must text her about it… Hey she's watching it TOO!!! Jinx!").

The story is that Newhouse is a Harvard-educated academic who desperately needs a job, so goes for an interview as a babysitter. There she discovers that she'll actually be looking after the grown-up daughter of two very rich, very eccentric people, said daughter (Bell) being that strangely insulated kind of offspring of rich people who's so cut off from the real world, she comes across as being either a complete idiot or having learning disabilities. She might actually even have learning disabilities, so nuanced is Bell's performance. All Newhouse has to do is keep her out of trouble. 

You can imagine how that goes. Imagine the funny situations. Imagine the laughs as they quote Dirty Dancing and baby-talk to one another. Imagine the belly aching as Bell encourages Newhouse to break her hand for her to explain to the cops why she broke her probation or as Newhouse discovers she was given a date rape drug during a party.

Struggling? Well, maybe you just don't have that kind of relationship with your best friend. Or perhaps you've seen a genuinely funny comedy at some time during your life on this Earth.

There are people who already find this funny. It was, after all, a web series before getting a broadcast commission, so clearly had one or two viewers at least. I can't imagine they were all Bell and Newhouse's friends and families either.

But this is not a show with universal appeal, shall we say? It's clear that Bell and Newhouse are having a whole lot of fun together. Perhaps that's part of the problem - there's clearly no genuine tension between the ill-matched couple, no real dislike, no real despair on Newhouse's part at the situation in which she's landed up in, no real suggestion of malice by anyone. Instead, it's like watching two tweens playing dressing up and play-acting. 

And maybe that's the lesson for us all - never make a TV comedy with someone you're already friends with, since you're always going to be enjoying it more than the audience will be.

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