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Review: Grandfathered 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on October 1, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, Fox

Last year's big trend in new shows was the romcom, with a blitz that included Undateable, Welcome To SwedenMarriageSelfieA to Z, Marry Me and Manhattan Love Story. Most of them deservedly died a fiery death, while others were better but have largely limped on or been put out of their misery this year.

The one deserved winner from the lot was FX/FXX's You're The Worst, a semi-realistic romcom about a narcissistic, awful couple, who somehow make you love them all the same. And it seems like it's had some influence on broadcast TV, because now we have Grandfathered, a semi-realistic romcom in which a terrible awful human being is somehow quite lovable.

It stars John Stamos of Full House fame as a 50-year-old, narcissistic restaurateur who's never settled down and spends all his time wooing 20-something models whose names he can never remember. The only woman he doesn't chase after is his lesbian assistant - her being a lesbian was a job requirement.  

So far, so the plot of anything involving Adam Sandler, David Spade et al.

Then one day, he gets two surprises. The first is the 26-year-old son he never knew about turning up on his doorstep; the second is Stamos' newborn granddaughter who he brings with him. Now Stamos has to learn how to be both a father and a grandfather as quickly as possible.

The plot, to a certain extent, should be setting off warning bells, if not a full-scale run for the hills. However, Grandfathered is surprisingly smart. For one thing, playing the mother/grandmother of the piece and 'the one who got away' is the fabulous Paget Brewster from Friends, Criminal Minds and Community - a woman whose IMDB profile photo is of her holding a fish.

Paget Brewster with a fish

Brewster has a great line in deadpan delivery, but she also gets some great lines. As soon as she starts delivering the standard clichés of "boy-men who are forced to grow up by events" comedies ("If you think one day looking after a baby makes you think you know what it's like to be a parent…"), she almost instantly gets to subvert them ("…hell, I can't believe you made me say that. I'm cool. I watch Portlandia. I almost went to Coachella last year until I decided not to.") and because it's Brewster, it feels real.

Stamos also gets some good lines ("I'm a 50-year-old bachelor. We're society's most worthless people") but alarm bells go off again when it's revealed that part of the show's ongoing plot is going to be Stamos' educating his newfound son (Josh Peck) in the ways of women so that he can woo the mother of his baby, who regards him as merely a friend and a good dad. Here again, though, rather than a neverending series of lessons in negging, 'treat them mean, keep them keen', etc, Stamos' messages to his son tend to be more along the lines of, 'Have you considered making an effort, wearing some nice clothes?' and the like.

The show makes references to and even includes a clip from Kramer vs Kramer, but does a much better job than that movie does of creating loving male parents/grandparents without creating antagonistic female characters for them to fight. Grandfathered has a heart and Stamos isn't incapable of change, he just has to learn.

Grandfathered's biggest issue for UK audiences is that a lot gets lost in translation. Even the title is a US pun that won't be obvious to most UK viewers (to 'grandfather' means to make someone exempt from something), and that's before you even start on the cultural significance of something like Coachella. 

The show also makes a big deal of Stamos, who was the star of the huge Full House during the 80s, something which also gets referenced a lot. His character is to some extent 'Jesse Katsopolis' all grown up and there are photographs in Grandfathered of him from that time just to emphasise the point; Full House star Bob Saget even makes the first of several series appearances in the pilot. 

And, of course, we never got Full House over here. To us, Stamos is one of the doctors off ER at best, but more likely a complete unknown. Full House references and parallels will be equally mysterious to most of us (heaven knows what we're all going to make of Netflix's sequel/updating Fuller House when it hits the Internet). 

So while Grandfathered is a surprisingly enjoyable, grown-up, unmisogynistic romcom that both male and female viewers can enjoy, it's probably not going to be as funny for UK viewers as for those in the US. It's definitely worth a watch, since it's got bags of charm and heart, as well as Paget Brewster, but you might spend your time wondering if you're missing out on something. 

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Preview: Another Period 1x1 (US: Comedy Central)

Posted on June 11, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Another Period

In the US: Tuesdays, Comedy Central. Starts June 23

Talking of reality TV show mockery, here comes another pastiche, albeit in a somewhat different form. Imagine it’s the turn of the 20th century and the cast of Downton Abbey have been relocated to Rhode Island. Now imagine that they’re being followed by a reality TV crew and that actually, all they want to do is everything that the Kardashians get up to, except in the milieu of the time.

So we have the show's creators and writers Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome playing a pair of idiotic sisters who want to be in the list of the “400 most powerful white people”, invited to all the best dinner parties and doing sexy time with that John Ritter, if only it didn’t require 20 servants to undress them all.

As jokes written down in those paragraphs, they’re quite fun ideas and knowing that both Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and Community’s Paget Brewster are in the show might even make you want to watch Another Period. Now try sitting through 25 minutes of those jokes being milked for all they’re worth while someone does a bit of shakycam in their direction. It’s not quite so funny then unless - and this is the important part as it’s vital to understanding Comedy Central's comedy output - you’re either hammered or stoned.

Only you know if you’re hammered or stoned, but if you’re planning on being wide awake and alert and this is on your tele, you’ll be making a mistake. You’ll titter a bit, but without a bit of a chemical incentive, big guffaws will be as elusive as Raffles.

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What have you been watching? Including The Elephant Man, Hannibal, Strike Back & Halt and Catch Fire

Posted on June 5, 2015 | comments | 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.

Elsewhere on this ‘ere blog, I’ve already reviewed all the new TV shows I could find this week and which you should either try to find yourselves or desperately avoid, these being:

So if you’re looking for new shows here, I ain’t got nothing for you, mister, I’m afraid, since I haven’t had a chance to watch Netflix’s new Sense8, the entire series of which was released today. Thanks Netflix.

However, we’ve got a few returning regulars this week, too, which means that after the jump, I’ll be reviewing the first new episodes of the latest seasons of Hannibal, Halt and Catch Fire and Strike Back: Legacy. I’ll also be looking at the latest episodes of Between and Game of Thrones, and casting an eye over perhaps the last ever episode of Community.

But first, a theatre review! I have in fact between to the theatre twice this week, but I’m saving up my review of the Almeida’s marathon modernisation of The Oresteia – a trilogy in four parts, it turns out – until next week when I can give it due consideration.

The Elephant Man (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Little known actor Bradley Cooper and the rest of the Tony Award-nominated Williamstown/Broadway cast (Patricia Clarkson, Alessandro Nivola, Anthony Heald et al) come over to the Theatre Royal for this 12-week run of Bernard Pomerance's 1979 play about the deformed Joseph Merrick aka ‘the Elephant Man’ because he was exhibited in a circus. Most people will be familiar with the 1980 David Lynch movie starring John Hurt, and this follows similar beats, focusing on Merrick's life between his discovery by a Dr Treves (Nivola) at the circus run by Heald through his life in Treves’ care at the London Hospital and his friendship with Clarkson's famous actress (who in real life actually did perform at the Haymarket) until his eventual death in the hospital.

It’s a moving piece, albeit one that can’t quite focus on a theme, jumping between questions of God and Darwinism through to women’s bodies in Victoria society. Merrick here is similar to Lynch’s version, being the beautiful souled man trapped in a body so horrifying everyone but a trained actress can’t help but avoid screaming and running away from. However, this is less ‘disabled as object pity’ than the movie, giving us a Merrick who’d quite like to see a naked woman, please.

Cooper takes on the challenging role of Merrick but eschews all make-up in favour of an entirely physical and quite breathtaking performance, assuming each deformity as it’s described in an early scene. Cooper's obviously and deservedly the focus of the play, but Nivola’s performance is what anchors it and Scott Ellis’s direction is innovative. I was impressed, my wife loved it and the whole thing got a standing ovation, so see it while you can.

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