Tag Archive | 30 Rock

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Review: Great News 1x1-1x2 (US: NBC)

Posted on April 27, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Great News

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, NBC

Do you miss 30 Rock? Do you miss a Tina Fey-produced, screwball NBC comedy set behind the scenes of the world of television, perhaps even one written by Tracey Wigfield, who won an Emmy for her writing on 30 Rock

Really? Uh huh. Okay, that's interesting. No reason in particular I'm asking, really. Just a bit of a random questioning straight out of the blue, there. Bit odd of me, huh?

Meanwhile, on a completely unrelated topic, blasting onto our screens we have Great News which is a bit like that lovely movie The Intern, in that it sees a golden oldie mummy (My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Andrea Martin) deciding after the death of one of her friends to follow her dream by starting a new career. Coincidentally, that career is in TV journalism, just like her daughter's (Ground Floor/Undateable's Briga Heelan). Even more coincidentally, she ends up as an intern in Heelan's workplace, a New Jersey TV news show, where the already blurred boundaries between the mother and daughter's lives become even more blurred.

Ha, ha. Fooled you. All those questions at the beginning weren't random at all. I was talking about Great News there, too! Wasn't I cunning?

Indeed, Great News feels like one of those "format sells" to Germany, where a show gets remade more or less identically, except with a slightly different setting and a completely new cast. Some of the characters get changed a bit, some of the dialogue gets moved from one character to another, but otherwise everything stays the same. And in English, this time.

Nevertheless, despite the huge amount of overlap between the shows in terms of writing and cast, Great News not only still feels fresh, it also remains funny, with joke following joke like machine gun fire. Not every joke hits, but they frequently do and are invariably very funny. 

The format also mixes up the targets of the jokes. Whereas 30 Rock was all Liz Lemon's efforts to keep an insane black man and a narcissistic woman happy, giving us both racial and gender comedy, here the jokes are largely generational as well as familial. We have Heelan and Martin's mother-daughter relationship, lending itself to a lot of comedy about female neuroses; Martin's age also lends itself to jokes about oldies' abilities, both positive and negative.

On top of that, the stars of the show-within-the-show are a narcissistic aging white male newscaster (John Michael Higgins) and a terminally hip and stupid younger white female newscaster (the surprisingly good Nicole Richie). It's largely Martin's job to deal with Higgins, Heelan having to deal with Richie's idiocy ("How about we do our piece about Snapchap… on Snapchap?") while trying to advance the cause of serious journalism and her own career.  

The Alec Baldwin of the piece is boss Adam Campbell (Harper's Island), who's both a potential love interest and a frequent foil for Heelan. And as he's English, there are naturally jokes about that, too ("You Benedict Arnold!" "Benedict Arnold was the only one who wasn't a traitor in that war!").

I found the first two episodes to be both frequently laugh-out loud funny and actually funnier than the first episodes of 30 Rock itself, lacking the dramatic lulls that show did while it found its feet. Martin's obviously a hugely powerful and funny force, but Heelan's one of the few younger actresses who could hold her own against Martin and up for physical comedy as well - it's good to see her finally be the star of a show at last. The show isn't especially subtle, and no one's holding back with the acting, but it's frequently subtle in its unsubtlety ("Coming next - the hidden danger in your household's gun collection"), and the humour and performances often have odd beats that feel improvised, giving them more interest than normal.

My humour's a bit odd, but I think if you liked 30 Rock as much as I did, then I think you'll like Great News, too.

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What have you been watching? Including Atlanta, Narcos, The Last Ship and Mr Robot

Posted on September 12, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

I've been a bit slack over the past week. Work's been a bit crazy and season two of Narcos has been taking up a lot of my time. Never fear, though, as over the next few days, I should - fingers crossed - be reviewing a whole batch of new US shows, including Quarry, Better Things and Speechless. I might even pass a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning, if I have the time.

After the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You're The Worst, as well as the whole second season of Narcos and the season finale of The Last Ship. But before that, one show I had been planning to do a full review of last week but didn't get round to because it turned out not to be worth it was…

Atlanta (US: FX; UK: Fox UK - starts November)
Written by Donald Glover (Community, The Martian), Atlanta also stars Glover as the Princeton-drop out cousin of an Atlanta rapper (Brian Tyree Henry) who's just about to hit the big time. Glover has to use his big brain, as well as his connections, to get in on the deal as well as help Henry deal with the problems of the music biz, race, sex and more. 

I've seen various articles talking about how Glover has 'redefined comedy' with Atlanta and it's fair to say that he's redefined in that Atlanta is as much a drama as a comedy and there aren't many jokes. Of the jokes that Glover does give us, most of which he gives to himself and concern being the smartest guy in the room, with no one on his level to talk to ("Do you know where the word management comes from?" "Yes, it's from the Latin word manus, meaning hand" "Oh… Management really means…"). Otherwise, while it does offer an insider's view of life for the poorer members of society in Atlanta, it doesn't offer that much that's new - apparently, people will treat you differently if you're famous, for example. How insightful.

I wanted to like this, since Glover's great, and I had had high hopes for it, given Glover started out writing for 30 Rock, but my 100% dislike of all shows about the American music industry (eg Power, Empire, Vinyl, Nashville) continues to have a 100% strike rate thanks to Atlanta.

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What have you been watching? Including The Royals, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Community, The Flash and 19-2

Posted on March 23, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Well, it’s been another epic week in TV land (not to be confused with “I can’t believe you can still see the" TV Land - the network for older, nostalgic, probably slightly visually challenged folk), with loads of new shows, as well as some returning ones. I haven’t managed to find the time to tune into Netflix’s new thriller series, Bloodlines, which was released on Friday, but this week, I’ve managed to take a gander at:

I also had a look at the first two episodes of…

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Tina Fey’s new sitcom (unfortunately not starring Fey) in which one of four female cult members holed up underground are rescued by the authorities, and while three of them are happy to return home, one of them is spunky enough to try to make a new life for herself. Her name? Kimmy Schmidt. First, Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) manages to find herself a ‘home’ (aka small cubbyhole, it being New York) to live in with failed actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and makes a sort of a friend in the form of Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane). Then she gets a job looking after the son of the delightfully named and incredibly rich trophy wife Jaqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). Will she buckle under all these pressures or will she prove unbreakable?

As with 30 Rock before it, this is a show that grows from a not especially auspicious pilot episode redeemed by one character (Jack in 30 Rock, Mrs Voorhees here) to become funnier over time. But it’s still not hilarious by the second episode and if you’ve ever seen The Nanny Diaries, you’ll find yourself noticing not only how very similar they are in a lot of ways but also that there's:

  1. A complete lack of Scarlett Johansson in this, who was much funnier
  2. A complete lack of Chris Evans or anyone even in a similar role. He was funny in that, too
  3. Nowhere near as much intelligence in the script-writing, despite the source.

All the same, there are some laugh out loud moments involving IP licensing and the revelation of who Voorhees’ parents are, so I’m going to bear with and watch the rest of it - when I have a mo.

I also tried to watch…

The Royals (US/UK: E!)
Liz Hurley becomes queen and has to supervise the rest of her equally inappropriate, bonk-tastic family. Or something. I did manage to get through the young Harry-alike playing darts and managing to get a bullseye every time while not really looking, to impress an American girl into bed. But I gave up after 10 minutes, in part because it's really hard to watch that much soft porn shagging on your iPad when you're commuting on a train, without people thinking you're a perv, and I didn't manage to get back to it. Oh well. I don't think I'll be missing much. Joan Collins is in it, too, apparently. But then she was in Benidorm.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Vikings. One of these is being demoted this week. I wonder which one?

On top of that, we also have the return of Community. Woo hoo? You’ll find out the answer to that one after the break, too.

Wondering where Dig and American Crime are? The short answer is: waiting for third-episode verdicts tomorrow and maybe Wednesday. The long answer? I've got to watch them first…

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