How To with John Wilson (2020)
Painting with John (2021)

Two low-fi HBO shows made by very different auteur-Johns. Both shows seem like each episode is a new random doc segment of a John’s life, then in the final episode you realize they’ve taken you on a journey with purpose. This is my new favorite kind of show.

“I crashed seven drones.” Lurie’s playfulness extends to the filmmaking, where he shows a domestic scene then replays it with added laugh track. Unlike the fishing show in a couple major ways: no celebrity guests, and John can actually paint.

Wilson’s show loves visual puns and sidetracks following unusual characters. In an episode on improving memory, while looking for a Zagnut bar he meets a supermarket inventory system developer who is obsessed with the Mandela Effect (“I found the one place where the worse your memory was, the more people liked you”), then he stumbles into the West Side Story remake set (“for the rest of the week it was hard to tell who was a human and who was an actor”).

from How To Split The Check, which leads John to a sad referee convention:

wildlife from How To Make Small Talk:

The other John:

Central Park season 1 (2020)

Oh wow, a comedy musical with cast from Hamilton and Book of Mormon and Kimmy Schmidt and Veronica Mars… good characters and songs… would be the perfect show to watch with Katy except for its singleminded love of poop jokes. Doesn’t bother me, I’m waiting for season two.

Harassing owls:

The Venture Bros. season 1 (2004)

Show is more bizarre than I realized. The title characters are useless, all the drama happening around them, and it steals characters (the Six Million Dollar Man, the Fantastic Four) from other shows at will. Foetus music, a Lydia Lunch reference. Twist: the Venture Bros are killed in an Easy Rider season finale.

Creator Christopher McCulloch voices the Monarch and a Venture, and worked on the The Tick #1, while Tick #2 voices bodyguard Brock Samson. The other Venture is prolific anime voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas, and their dad is James Urbaniak, who shares my birthday and is from New Jersey, so we’re practically family.

Samurai Jack season 1 (2001)

Only after Primal came out did I belatedly realize I was stupid for never watching this. Demon sends samurai into an intergalactic future, what’s not to like. Wasn’t expecting the season to end with Aku telling fairy tales to kids, complete with a reference to The Shining.

Among many online concerts, i attended the quarantine edition of SF Sketchfest, which opened with a montage of famous comedians saying no to Sketchfest. Fred Armisen welcome, Reggie Watts theme song, Eugene Mirman using a flowby during intermission, Triumph vs. Weird Al. Highlights were Jon Hamm’s movie trivia, Kumail vs. Emily, and the Kids in the Hall.

Attempted to watch The Shivering Truth – really sweet puppet animation, shame it’s wasted on so many unfunny jokes. Adam Fuchs did the titles! Also walked out on stand-up specials by Yvonne Orji, Jenny Slate, Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish. I stayed through A Steven Wright Special (1985)

Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of My Life (2012) has some sweet puns and lots of editing humor.

Nathan Barley (2005)

“It’s bad to have a bad uncle.” Julian Barratt is a pathetic angry guy who works for terrible website Trashbat run by Barley. Dan and his sister Claire room with DJ Nathan Fielder, and all of them discover they’re no better than the dummies they’re mocking. Barley torments a young Ben Whishaw, and Richard Ayoade and Benedict Cumberbatch are hanging around. When all your characters are annoying it’s hard for the show not to end up annoying, but as an intersection of post-Brass Eye Chris Morris, pre-Newswipe Charlie Brooker, and mid-Mighty Boosh everyone else, I was gonna have to watch it.

Charlie Brooker had an early-quarantine special Antiviral Wipe, then the end-of-year Death to 2020. The highlight of both was the Barry Shitpeas quote on OUATIH: “Quentin Cappucino made a new version of that film he does.” The latter special featured some good fake celebrity commentators and websites.

“Lenny’s a racist, but he’s one of the good ones.” Filipe’s short letterboxd review kept coming to mind, “the overall absurdism does have its moments and Morris’s anger comes through,” especially when the movie ends with cops and feds getting cheerfully promoted for destroying the lives of cool weirdos. Lead weirdo is Moses, who runs a black militant duck farm. Agent Anna Kendrick is looking for people to set up to take credit for saving the world from terrorism I guess. The feds determine Moses’s crew is no threat, but after Moses sells fake uranium to nazi cop Jim Gaffigan (!), the higher-ups get involved and everybody below goes to jail.

Moses presides:

Danielle Brooks (Clemency the same year) gives Santa a touch-up:

Afrika nails informant Kayvan Novak (Four Lions):

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.

Lately I’ve been getting burned watching recent indie/foreign movies as soon as they’re digitally available, then seeing them announced for local theater runs a few weeks later – most recently What We Do in the Shadows and The Babadook, and you could’ve added Winter Sleep and Two Days One Night and Clouds of Sils Maria if I hadn’t been slow to watch them at home. To solve this, I thought I’d start focusing on less recent movies, finally landing on 2010 – old enough that everything’s out in HD and nobody’s talking about them anymore. This was first up, since I’ve recently seen lots of Chris Morris on TV via The IT Crowd and Brass Eye.

Pretty good comedy, most of the humor coming from would-be terrorists blowing themselves up accidentally/preemptively. Riz Ahmed and his Bradley-Coopery friend Waj (Kayvan Novak of Syriana, a lead voice in Curse of the Were-Rabbit) go to Pakistan for jihad training, but accidentally blow up their friends and are sent home. Hassan is the new guy, invites neighbor Julia Davis (Big Train) into their bomb-making den. Riz and Barry (Nigel Lindsay of Alan Partridge) struggle for control of the group. Finally the four strap on their suicide vests under silly animal costumes and head to a fun run aiming to take some infidels down with them (this probably would’ve been changed after the Boston Marathon). Doesn’t go very well. Favorite bit: Waj takes a muslim guy as a hostage; cops don’t know which is which, shoot the hostage.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 2 (1990)

This season included three episodes of Bela Lugosi in The Phantom Creeps, and the first appearance of Mothra. Favorites: Sidehackers, Jungle Goddess and First Spaceship on Venus. Also great: Wild Rebels & Hellcats

Sports Night season 2 (2000)

We finally made it. Katy was not romantically satisfied with the ending, except of course for Sabrina Lloyd and Joshua Malina ending up together again. The “show” is saved last-minute by Agent Coulson, but the show was not saved, and Sorkin moved on quickly to West Wing. Of the Sports Night directors, Don Scardino did a lot of 30 Rock, Marc Buckland made TV movies with Ken Marino and Jane Lynch, Dennie Gordon made Joe Dirt, Alex Graves works on Game of Thrones, Robert Berlinger made a Dukes of Hazzard prequel and Thomas Schlamme made So I Married an Axe Murderer and Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure.

Man to Man with Dean Learner (2006)

The laugh track wrecks the deadpan comedy, but as with most laugh tracks, you learn to ignore it after a while. Dean’s first guest is, of course, author Garth Marenghi, followed by a racecar driver, a prolific sci-fi actor, a folk guitarist, and a psychic, all played by Matthew Holness. The final episode reminds of Look Around You s2, bringing back the whole cast (all the Matthew Holnesses) for a memorial to the would-be-sixth guest, downward-spiralling star of the film Bitch Killer. I love how Dean blatantly mistreats his guests, sometimes to disfigurement and ruination, through flashbacks and insinuation and even live on the show.

The Day Today (1994)

Based on a radio show called On The Hour, this show saw the brilliant debuts of Christopher Morris (Jam, Brass Eye, Nathan Barley, Four Lions), Armando Iannucci (Time Trumpet, The Thick of It, Veep), Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character, Rebecca Front (Big Train, Nighty Night), producer Peter Fincham (Ali G, Look Around You, Smack the Pony), and weirdly, writer Patrick Marber (Closer). And I’m going to assume it inspired Charlie Brooker as well, since it’s a fake news show, but instead of making fun of current events, it’s mocking the manner in which they’re generally presented – so it’s still relevant and hilarious twenty years later.

My Life in Film (2004)

Starring the blond guy from Love Actually (the one who picks up American girls with his cute British accent) as a self-described “independent low-budget filmmaker”. He never gets around to making any films, but each episode is in the style of a different classic (I loved the driving-school homage to Top Gun). Fake-hitchcock cameo in the Rear Window ep by Ron Burrage (Double Take).

The Sarah Silverman Program season 1 (2007)

Hadn’t watched this in a while.
Co-created by Sarah and the guys behind Community and Heat Vision & Jack
It costars Brian and Jay from Mr. Show, Sarah’s sister Laura (of Dr. Katz/Home Movies) and Steve Agee (Cyberslut Killers in the Hollywood Hills) with guest spots by Zach Galifianakis (as Sarah’s homeless ex-classmate), Jill Talley (as a ghost), Doug Benson, Jimmy Kimmel, Ron Lynch, Rachael Harris, Scott Aukerman, Tig Notaro, Paul F. Tompkins, and Tucker Smallwood as God.

Important Things With Demetri Martin season 2

Man this was such a brilliant show.
And Jon Benjamin!

Metalocalypse season 2 (2008)

I can never keep straight which ones Malcolm McDowell and Mark Hamill play.
The other thing I can’t keep straight: the entire plot, or any non-band-member characters.
But is that so wrong? I’m enjoying myself.

Revenge of the Subtitle (1992)

Short public-access series in which comedians take clips from foreign films and maliciously re-subtitle them. Hoy!

AD/BC: A Rock Opera (2004)

A 1970’s-style nativity musical from the innkeeper’s perspective, mashing up the casts of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh. Not a lost masterpiece, but cute enough. Next Christmas I will see if Katy will sit through it.

more shows to find: Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and Horrificata Illuminata.