There's… Johnny!

Review: There’s… Johnny! 1×1 (US: Hulu)

In the US: Available on Hulu

Anemoia isn’t a real word. It’s a made-up word, albeit one made up to serve a purpose: to describe that universal feeling of nostalgia for a time and place you didn’t live in. Someone laminate it and send it to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

I wasn’t alive in 1972. I certainly wasn’t alive in the US, watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. A show that ran for 30 years, making its Nebraskan host Johnny Carson one of the most famous men in the country, it was also NBC’s most profitable TV show of the time.

Yet watching There’s… Johnny!, I felt anemoia for LA in 1972. Originally planned for NBC’s just-shuttered Seeso service but now available on Hulu, the show stars Ian Nelson as Andy, a Nebraskan boy whose family worships Johnny Carson and his show. One day, Andy writes a letter to Johnny to ask for both an autograph for his parents… and a job. Soon, he receives the autograph and a letter telling him his wish has come true, and before you know it, he’s on a bus to LA to live his dreams.

Dreams hit reality when he arrives, of course, and it turns out there is no job for him after all. But his sweet, naïve nature means that soon he’s being taken under the wing of Johnny’s assistant T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh (Cosby, In Living Color), as well as show co-ordinator Jane Levy (Suburgatory), and ultimately his dreams come true. But what will sex, drugs, rock & roll and 1972 all do this small town boy?

The West Wing

The show has apparently been 17 years in the making, with producer-creators David Steven Simon and Paul Reiser (yes, that one) working with the Carson estate to produce something that’s a comedy, a drama and a homage, Reiser having appeared multiple times on the show during its run so earning the estate’s trust. An almost unrecognisable Tony Danza is the only actor to be playing a real person (famous exec producer Fred de Cordova), leaving everyone else to play people who could well have existed but didn’t.

Nevertheless, those liberties and the fairy-tale qualities of the show to one side, the show feels like an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at how the Tonight Show could have been made. Taking a hint from Aaron Sorkin’s original plans for The West Wing, neither Johnny Carson nor his long-time sidekick Ed McMahon ever appear on There’s… Johnny!. Instead, they either appear blurry in the distance or through footage from the actual Tonight Show, a technique also used for the show’s guests, who in this first episode include a young George Carlin. It’s a technique that works well and also avoids the audience having to accept other actors playing two of the most famous people in TV history.


Most of the first episode is about Levy and Nelson’s burgeoning relationship, with Levy having to deal with a violent ex-boyfriend and her parents failing marriage, Nelson providing a sensitive shoulder to cry. Both do admirably well, Levy both as fierce and as funny as she was in Suburgatory and getting some decent lines from Reiser and Simon’s amusing script. There’s also the daily struggles of the writers’ room to come up with genuine gold for Carson’s famous monologues that will reward them with a wink or even a look, with moments that ring true such as a struggle to work out which is a funnier sounding petrol station: Texaco or Mobil. And, of course, we get to see Carson deliver the end result and the audience’s reaction (no, no spoilers).

The show deftly manages to walk between all these different issues, while lightly touching on the history of the period, including McGovern v Nixon and The Joy of Sex. It manages to do this without wallowing in temporal tourism, yet the beautiful recreation of the The Tonight Show studio of the time will still bring a tear to your eye, whether you were alive then or not.

There’s Johnny

The show isn’t a slam-dunk, must-watch that will have you rolling around in the aisles. But it’s a smart, loving, only slightly nostalgic slice of TV comedy about TV comedy, as well as a loving tribute to one of the US’s most hallowed TV shows, that’s certainly worth at least half an hour of your time. I’ll be back for more.

George Lopez in Lopez

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Themyscira on DC's Legends of Tomorrow
Weekly Wonder Woman

Weekly Wonder Woman: Justice League #33, Trinity #15, Wonder Woman/Conan #3

Yes, it’s Weekly Wonder Woman – keeping you up to date on pretty much anything involving DC Comics’ premier superheroine, including which universes she’s in

Justice League is out tonight, both here and the US. The predictions are it’s going to do good box office – it’s already been released in a few countries and international box office seems to be good so far, allegedly doing the best ever for a Hollywood movie in Brazil (really?) – even if pretty much every review says “it’s not great, but at least it’s not Batman v Superman bad”.

TMINE will be seeing it tomorrow, so next week’s WWW will feature a full review – and will probably be on Wednesday.

If you want to read some Justice League stories before seeing Justice League, Syfy Wire reckons it’s got the top 5 for you:

However, while a lot of them are good stories, slightly problematic is the fact that most of them aren’t Justice League storylines, just stories that involve the Justice League or Elseworld versions of the Justice League. You’d think they could do better with so many decades to work with, wouldn’t you?

Movie news

Rumours have been swirling around that Brett Ratner – the world’s most average film director but also one of the financiers of Wonder Woman and also the subject of a lot of allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, homophobia et al – has been shoved off future movies, including Wonder Woman 2, at the instigation of Gal Gadot, who would have refused to sign on the dotted line for any more movies were he involved. Warner Bros has since denied the story and Deadline says there was nothing to it. Still, here’s Gal Gadot sort of denying it but not.

Gadot has also discussed how Diana differs between movies, as well as being a role model and the loss of UN ambassador status. But still on a sexism roll, someone’s noticed that Justice League‘s costumes for its Amazons are somewhat different from those in Wonder Woman. Could having a male costumier on the former movie, a female costumier on the latter be the issue?

Still, several of the Amazons themselves seem to like the change, so maybe it’s not quite so clear cut.

TV news

Two weeks in a row we’ve had some TV news, which is quite remarkable. This week, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow made a brief visit to Themyscira.

Themyscira on DC's Legends of Tomorrow Themyscira on DC's Legends of Tomorrow

A little bit before the Trojan War it would seem, but the DC Universe is not our universe, of course. It’s also not the DC Extended Universe, so don’t be expecting Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman to show up on it any time soon now.

Merchandise news

This one’s just spooky.

Wonder Woman Justice League Hot Toy

Comics reviews

After the jump, this week’s adventures of Diana in comic book land. We (thankfully) have the end of the ‘Metal’ tie-in storyline in Justice League #33. We (thankfully) have the end of ‘Trinity versus lots of other Trinities’ storyline in Trinity #15. And we (thankfully) have the latest pairing of Diana and Conan in Wonder Woman/Conan #3.

I should have probably saved that joke until next Thursday, shouldn’t I?

Continue reading “Weekly Wonder Woman: Justice League #33, Trinity #15, Wonder Woman/Conan #3”

Future Man

Review: Future Man 1×1 (US: Hulu)

In the US: Available on Hulu

Howard Overman has something of an affinity for aimless youth who end up on very important missions to save the world. He is, after all, the creator of Misfits, Atlantis and Crazyhead. The rather more famous Seth Rogen, meanwhile, has something of an affinity for feckless losers who spend all their time smoking weed, playing video games or both.

A match made in heaven surely? Well, now we have Future Man to find out, as Rogen exec-produces and co-directs this show based on an Overman idea (although not script). It sees Hunger Games‘ lesser star Josh Hutcherson playing ‘Josh Futturman’, an aimless 20-something still living with his parents (Ed Begly Jr and Glenne Headly) and who ‘works’ as a janitor at a STD research laboratory. There he’s bullied by Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) but comes under the protective wing of the laboratory’s boss, Keith David, who’s trying to find a cure for herpes.

However, at night, he’s a top game player, dedicated to beating impossible first-person shooter ‘Future Man’, in which the world has been taken over by ‘biotics’ and he and comrades ‘Wolf’ and ‘Tiger’ are the head of the resistance.

When Hutcherson becomes the first person to ever beat the game, the real Wolf (Preacher‘s Derek Wilson) and Tiger (Eliza Coupe of Scrubs, Happy Endings, Wrecked, Benched) come back from the future to reveal that the game was a recruitment tool to discover the one person with the skills that could help prevent the biotics from really taking over. Together, Josh, Wolf and Tiger must go back in time to prevent the future from occurring. But is Josh out of his depth or does he have secret skills that just need developing?

Current man

As you might expect given its pedigree, the show is both smarter than it sounds and also reasonably bro-ish. But it’s not great. Most of the jokes are about masturbation, usually to female video game characters, but occasionally just about sex in general and they’re not exactly the subtlest (Coupe: “We’re going to [go back to] ’69 now” Josh: “What? Erm, okay… What’s he [Wilson] going to do? Watch?”). There are debates about the nature of video games themselves, with long discussions about the realism of Super Mario, gamers’ real-life psychological profiles and what would happen if you introduced video-game violence into the real world, with all its many consequences.

The show is also self-critiquing, with Josh’s initial suspicion that Coupe and Wilson are playing a joke on him growing from “Okay, so that’s The Last Starfighter” to “Okay, so that’s The Last Starfighter meets Quantum Leap“; the show uses The Terminator‘s typeface every time there’s time travel; and when Josh arrives back in his family home back in 1969, a Back To The Future sting plays. There’ll be more movie parodies to come in later episodes, too, judging by the trailer.

However, while there are certainly quite a few laughs to be had, normally from Hutcherson’s reations and Coupe and Wilson’s lack of cultural understanding rather than the cringe-worthy jokes, this doesn’t have either the production values or direction (Rogen co-directs the first episode) to really pull off what it’s trying to do, with many of the obviously stunt doubles’ faces visible during fights, for example. The cast is good, with Britt Lower (Man Seeking Woman), Paul Scheer (The League, Veep) and Ron Funches (Undateable) also showing up in so-far minor roles, but squandered by a script that has few of Overman’s cleverer or dirtier traits.

If you like Rogen’s brand of loser gross-out, embarrassment comedy and you like sci-fi movies, you might find Future Man appealing. If not, you’ll probably simply feel like me that this is a show that’s about five or ten years late to a party that’s just about over.


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