Search Party season 1 (2016)

Awful young NY woman, with too much money and not enough responsibilities, gets obsessed with finding a former classmate gone missing, whom she never even knew or liked very much. I read MZ Seitz’s review (“The condition of believing oneself sensitive while feeling very little has rarely been examined with such exactness”), realized it stars Alia Shawkat, and set to watching immediately. I keep seeing Shawkat in tiny roles (Night Moves, Damsels in Distress, 20th Century Women) so the star turn here is appreciated.

Dory is joined by weak-willed boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds, a cop on Stranger Things) and self-obsessed friends Portia (Meredith Hagner of Hits) and Elliott (John Early). They get help/hindrance from crazy person Rosie Perez, the missing girl’s ex Griffin Newman (Vinyl) and private investigator Ron Livingston (Office Space), crashing the missing girl’s vigil, a wedding and a Parker Posey-led cult on their way to the ridiculous truth.


Metalocalypse seasons 3 & 4,
and The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera (2009-2013)

Two more seasons of fun and violence and ridiculous humor, leading to the musical masterpiece that is The Doomstar Requiem.


Archer season 5 (2014)

The gang loses their spy agency but gains a large shipment of cocaine, which they spend all season trying to unload. Sterling Archer is a father. I’m not crying, you are.


Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe

Things have gotten more grim and less funny, but I appreciate Brooker sticking with it.


Twelfth Night (2017, Simon Godwin)

Not television or movies, but we watched a really nice filmed National Theatre broadcast with a rotating set, and Tamsin Greig (Black Books, Green Wing) as Malvolia, greatly tormented in the second half.

Six more Charlie Brooker-written dystopian fictions, now streaming in our dystopian reality.


Nosedive

Not the best opening to the new series, too blunt and screamy for my tastes. A yelp/ebay/etc star-rating system gone out of control, with everyone rating everyone else over every interaction, and all social status and even home loans depending on personal ratings. Lacie (Bryce Howard of Lady in the Water) gets increasingly desperate as her plan to increase her ratings for a society wedding backfire, and she spirals down until she can’t even get picked up hitchhiking due to her short-term social media reputation. Trucker Cherry Jones gives her an inspirational speech about living outside society, then Lacie crashes the wedding. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), cowritten by Parks & Rec‘s Michael Schur and Rashida Jones, and featuring the best Black Mirror music ever, courtesy Max Richter, who incorporates the downvote sound effect into the music during Lacie’s death spiral.


Playtest

Cooper (Wyatt Russell, the guy who pretends to still be in college in Everybody Wants Some!!), kind of a likeable idiot, gets stranded while traveling the world, signs up to earn some quick cash playtesting a VR game. I’m a sucker for movies with dream/game layers where you can’t tell what’s real, and this was a good one. The idea behind the game is a haunted-house horror experience that uses your mind’s own fears against you, and Coop’s biggest fear is losing his mind like his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father did, which is what happens when his attempts at trade-secret espionage interfere with the equipment and it fries his brain. Director Dan Trachtenberg made 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Coop playing an early, harmless demo:


Shut Up and Dance

I don’t think this one is based on any technology that doesn’t already exist. After trying to have affairs or look at child porn or other blackmailable offenses, strangers with prankster-infected laptops get dragged around the city making deliveries and being asked to do increasingly terrible things, including bank robbery (“I saw it in a documentary. It looked easy”) and fistfighting to the death. Then their secrets get leaked to friends and family anyway, a grinning trollface sent to each of the victims. Director James Watkins made The Woman in Black and Eden Lake, lead Alex Lawther played young Turing in The Imitation Game, and his older partner in crime was Jerome Flynn of Ripper Street, not Michael Smiley like I first hoped.


San Junipero

Just what I needed after the nihilism of the previous episode, a lovely story with complicated ideas about (virtual) life and (actual) death. Opens with a Lost Boys poster and Belinda Carlisle song on the radio and Max Headroom on TVs, pushing its 1987 setting hard, but then “one week later” we’re in 1980, and “one week later” it’s 1996. Shy Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis of Always Shine) met exhuberant Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) one night in a time-hopping Matrix fantasy world but didn’t have the nerve to follow through on their relationship, and now searches for her every week during their time-limited trials, as their actual, aged bodies live in separate nursing homes. The most human-feeling Black Mirror, and also the one that ends in the most inhuman manner, a robot arm attending to its databank of disembodied consciousnesses. The director did last season’s Be Right Back, also about personal/virtual relationships.


Men Against Fire

Not my favorite episode, by director Jakob Verbruggen (Whishaw/Broadbent miniseries London Spy) who makes a hash of the action scenes, but it’s one of my favorite evil technologies – military implants that help soldiers kill the enemy without hesitation by making the enemy “roaches” look and sound inhuman. Lead soldier Stripe, whose equipment glitches so he can see the truth, is Malachi Kirby of the new Roots remake. He’s briefly allied with Ariane Labed (Alps, The Lobster) before his partner catches up with him, kills Ariane and his equipment is recalibrated to brainwash him back into blissful ignorance and conformity.


Hated in the Nation

A combination of previous ideas – rogue hacker messes with people over social media leading to their deaths, and intrusive government technology leads to dystopian horror. In this case the gov-tech is bee-drones which replace the country’s dying honeybees and happen to double as ubiquitous surveillance devices. After our hacker uses a sort of twitter poll to let the people decide whose brains the bees will burrow into through their ears, cop Kelly Macdonald (voice star of Brave) tries to protect future victims. She finally gets lead beemaker Benedict Wong (Prometheus and The Martian) to try deactivating all bugs, but instead they go after everyone who participated in the online death polls, killing hundreds of thousands. A nicely apocalyptic way to leave off. Director James Hawes made a TV remake of The 39 Steps a few years back.

Finally got around to watching the rest of these episodes (though not the Jon Hamm Christmas special) in prep for the upcoming American launch.

Be Right Back

After her cellphone-addict boyfriend Ash dies in a car crash, pregnant Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter in the Marvel movies/shows) signs up for a service that analyzes his voice recordings and social media posts and creates a Siri-like program she can speak with. Then she beta tests the next version, where a folded-up pseudo-flesh Ash (Domhnall Gleeson of About Time, who plays the human in the similar Ex Machina) is shipped to her house. But it turns out the way you behave at home with your spouse can’t be easily predicted by your social media posts, and even though Ash is able to learn, Hayley finds him creepy and finally banishes him to the attic. Director Owen Harris also made Holy Flying Circus.


White Bear

My favorite of the bunch, either because it’s the most horrific or because it costars Michael Smiley as a dystopian game show host. Victoria (TV’s Lenora Crichlow) wakes up confused and amnesiac, is told that most of the world has been consumed by a mysterious screen transmission, and those who haven’t are insanely murdering random citizens – so The Signal meets The Purge. Vic and a couple refugees come across Smiley in the woods, who first appears to be on their side, then is revealed to be one of the killers. After her thrilling escape, all this is revealed to be a complicated piece of theater. Nobody is dead, except the child Vic kidnapped and murdered, for which her punishment is to live in this nightmare, being constantly pursued and terrified, humiliated in front of a live audience, then her mind zapped with the MIB forgetfulness-ray for the next show. Director Carl Tibbetts has worked on Hemlock Grove, did a little-known plague thriller called Retreat with a promising-looking cast.


The Waldo Moment

Comedian Jamie (Daniel Rigby of the show Jericho) who talks through a cartoon bear called Waldo finds his attack on politicians going viral. Jamie’s more of an insult comic than a politician, but his producers smell a hit and strong-arm him into continuing, even entering Waldo into the campaign, at the expense of his sanity and his relationship with a woman in the race. This isn’t quite dark enough for Black Mirror, so at the end a guy from an unnamed U.S. agency meets them wanting to use Waldo to destabilize global elections. Based on a Nathan Barley sketch, I think. Director Bryn Higgins has a series of historical hospital dramas.

Unstable puppetmaster:

Dignified debate:

A Wish For Wings That Work (1991, Skip Jones)

First time I’ve watched this since its highly anticipated TV premiere. It’s like Rudolph but with Opus – he helps Santa with a problem and is rewarded with a fly-around by the ducks that used to laugh and call him names. Highlight is when Opus is injected into a scene from Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon after an ad break.

Opus was Michael Bell (Duke in G.I. Joe), neighborhood pig and ducks were Joe Alaskey (Plucky in Tiny Toons, Bugs and Daffy in Looney Tunes: Back in Action), and uncredited appearances by Robin Williams (botching a NZ accent) and Dustin Hoffman (goofing on Tootsie). Director Skip Jones was a Don Bluth animator.

Breathed was not happy with the final result, and I can see his point. Still the only appearance of Bloom County characters on TV – technically Outland characters at this point – though Breathed’s Mars Need Moms book was adapted as a crappy-looking flop feature film, and his story Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big was adapted into a short the author called “an unmitigated technical disaster – unfinished and unwatchable.”

Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno Live (2015, Jody Shapiro)

A weird hour-long mash-up of scenes from Rossellini’s Green Porno live tour, behind-the-scenes tour footage, coverage of the book tour, the original short films, and related stuff, like following a scientist to observe mating seals. “It is essential that what I say is scientifically correct. Otherwise I’m a nut – and who needs another nut?” I didn’t realize she’s done two other series called Seduce Me and Mammas, and an hourlong documentary called Animals Distract Me. Jody Shapiro also shoots and produces Guy Maddin films.

A Very Murray Christmas (2015, Sofia Coppola)

In which a bunch of our favorite actors who cannot sing very well, and a handful of actual singers, congregate in Coppola’s underlit Lost In Translation hotel to act sad, goof around and gradually cheer up. The band Phoenix was the best part, with Chris Rock’s off-time backing vocals a close second.

Chris Isaak Christmas (2004)

Watched in hotel while getting ready for the family Christmas. A million times more festive than the Bill Murray one, with more upbeat music.

Charlie Brooker’s 2015 Wipe

Funny look at a depressing year. Good bit on the media’s changing attitudes on the humanity of refugees, and Brooker finally got to address his spooky Black Mirror PM pig-sex prediction on the air. Stanhope got cut for being too controversial… hope his segment turns up sometime.

Shaun The Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas (2015, Jay Grace)

Like the movie, but shorter, and with troublemaking nihilist llamas which are even worse than the pigs.

Recently I have watched a lot of television.

Very little of it was watched on a real television.


Over The Garden Wall (2014, Patrick McHale)

Oh, this was wonderful. Fairy-tale voyage of Wirt (Elijah Wood) and his little half-brother Gregory (Collin Dean), with Beatrice the bluebird (Melanie Lynskey of Heavenly Creatures, Matt Damon’s wife in The Informant) and other voices by John Cleese, Christopher Lloyd and Tim Curry. They’re stalked by The Beast and a soul-collecting woodsman through a land called The Unknown, but in the last episodes this is all revealed to be unconscious fantasies as the boys are in real-life danger. Nice animation and use of music. Hopefully the show lives on… a quick look at twitter shows that it probably will.


Brass Eye (1997/2001)

Christopher Morris’s self-serious news-magazine show, a series of episodes about made-up current-affairs crises, accompanied by the kind of insane, over-the-top graphics familiar from The Day Today. For instance, here’s a 3D graph of the Man vs. Animal evil continuum paradox:

Frequent appearances by Mark Heap (Brian in Spaced). Morris interviews actual semi-celebrities and politicians about his fake issues, getting them to take stands against things with obviously humorous names.

Error I caught, which only someone in British television could make: Morris mentions “Dennis Potter in Blue Velvet


Charlie Brooker’s 2014 Wipe and Weekly Wipe season 3

I wish it was all about news and politics, less about TV shows and advertisements since I don’t care about those. And I wish the Wipe annual specials didn’t cannibalize the previous year’s TV series, and those didn’t cannibalize themselves in their sixth episodes, and that the special and series were more spaced-out throughout the year, but hell, I love all the Brooker shows I can get.


Parks and Recreations seasons 5-6

Leslie’s time on city council (with Jon Glaser as Councilman Jamm) goes poorly and she’s eventually recalled. Pawnee and Eagleton merge. Ann and Chris move away together so they can leave the show (Rashida Jones is in a Patrick Wilson movie and a TV series written by Steve Carell, Rob Lowe’s in a Burt Reynolds movie and an apocalypse series). Andy gets a temporary job out of town so he can shoot Guardians of the Galaxy. Jerry gets his name changed to Larry and joins Donna in the opening titles for the first time. April has more responsibility, Tom loses his rent-a-swag business to Henry Winkler and opens a restaurant, Ron marries Lucy Lawless and becomes a stepdad. Ben and Leslie are married and she’s pregnant with triplets. Flash-forward three years??


Girls season 2 (2013)

Predictably, Jessa’s marriage with Chris O’Dowd (I didn’t recognize him last time because of the weird American accent he’s doing) doesn’t work out. Hannah and Adam have a pretty bad breakup (911 is called) and she dates Patrick Wilson for a while. Shoshanna is sorta with Ray, Marnie’s career is falling apart and she’s crushing on her ex Charlie, and Hannah is having a breakdown. It’s a very dark season, but also astoundingly funny and still one of the best shows ever.

Watched some of the extras, learned that one of my favorite jokes – DJ team Andrew Andrew – is actually a real thing. Oh, New York. Also, Jon Glaser is in every show I watch. Including him, I count about fourteen new familiar faces (“celebrity cameos” doesn’t sound right), pretty good for only ten episodes.


I’ve been missing Human Giant. I see Aziz every night on Parks & Recreation, and Matt Walsh is on Veep, so I checked out Rob Heubel’s and Paul Scheer’s latest shows, which both happen to be parodies of shows Katy watches.

Childrens Hospital season 1 (2008)

Sort of Grey’s Anatomy love-affair hospital show with Heubel, Rob Corddry as a clown, Rob’s brother Nate, Megan Mullally (Tammy 2 in Parks & Rec), Ken Marino, Lake Bell (In a World) and Erinn Hayes. Guests: Nick Offerman, Jason Sudeikis and David Wain.


NTSF:SD:SUV:: season 1 (2011)

More memorable and addictive than Childrens Hospital, maybe because it had twice as many episodes and an exxxtreeeme theme song (DIIEEEEGOOOO), a cop procedural parody starring Paul Scheer, June Raphael (Burning Love), Brandon Johnson, eyepatched chief Kate “Captain Janeway” Mulgrew, loser Martin Starr and ugly nerd Rebecca Romijn.

Guest villains: JK Simmons, John Cho, Rich Fulcher, Adam Scott, Tony Hale, Lorenzo Lamas, Jeff Goldblum, Jerry O’Connell, Wilmer Valderrama, Robert Picardo, Matt Walsh and Julian Sands


IT Crowd seasons 1-2 (2006-07)

I’d watched and not loved the first episode a couple times, but Fumi didn’t steer me wrong with Mighty Boosh, and I have unconditional love for Richard Ayoade so I finally gave in and watched more. After a few minutes you can ignore the awful laugh track and the show gets good.

Ayoade stars with Chris O’Dowd (Girls, The Boat That Rocked) and Katherine Parkinson (new Maggie Gyllenhaal show The Honorable Woman), and unexpectedly to me, Chris Morris of Brass Eye, though he suicides after eight episodes and is replaced by Matt Berry of Darkplace & Boosh. Also pleasantly surprising: Noel Fielding of the Boosh as Richmond, the secret third I.T. guy who is normally hidden behind a closed red door.

Written by Graham Linehan (Big Train, Black Books) with codirectors Barbara Wiltshire (10 O’Clock Live) and Ben Fuller (That Mitchell and Webb Look)


Bob’s Burgers season 1 (2011)

Terrific, filler for the Simpsons-shaped hole in my life.
Although hopefully later seasons are less obsessed with butts and pooping.

Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal, of course. Dan Mitnz (a writer on Important Things, Human Giant, Lucky Louie) is Tina and John Roberts is Linda. Regular roles for Ron Lynch and Sam Seder (Fenton in Home Movies), appearances by Jon Glaser, Todd Barry, Amy Sedaris, Brendon Small, Paul F. Tompkins, Steve Agee, Kevin Kline, Jay Johnston, Jack McBrayer, Tim & Eric, Robert Ben Garant, Jerry Minor, Brian Posehn, Sarah and Laura Silverman.


Also watched Louis CK’s new special, Live at the Comedy Store. Good stuff, and I enjoyed the few minutes by opened Jay London – gotta see if he’s got his own special. And rewatched Spaced with the commentary tracks, now that I’ve finally found software that can read those infernal DVDs.