by Luke Thomas
After the barren wasteland that has made up the dwindling Television schedules over the course of this summer, audiences will be relieved to find that late September and October is promising a whole assortment of exciting new and returning Television for the Fall and Winter season. The highly anticipated Netflix TV show Luke Cage is premiering on the 30th of this month, continuing the fantastic Marvel Defenders series that we’ve already seen built up towards with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Along with this, next month is promising the return of Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and The Flash to The CW, as well as the premiere of the gritty remake of Westworld on HBO and the return of The Walking Dead to AMC after that shocking cliffhanger. In fact, this is only really the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming up to enjoy on the small screen, so until then here are a few fantastic Television shows that you can catch up on and enjoy in the meantime, that I have personally loved watching over the course of this summer.
Toast of London
Despite loving Matt Berry, with his distinctive theatrics, absurd humour and resonating pompous voice in other shows like The Mighty Boosh, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The IT Crowd, this series has always passed right under my radar until my recent catch up. Focusing on the failing actor Steven Toast, the surreal series focuses on Toast’s quest for fame and fortune, which is constantly thwarted at every turn and obstacle by a series of bizarre and absolutely f**king mad situations. Along with Steven is a bizarre cast of characters that inhabit his life, including his unhelpful agent Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan), his landlord Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst) and his fellow actor and rival Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock). Amongst the Dickensian emphasis on bizarre names (particularly the hipster sound engineer Clem Fandango, whose delivery of his own name has become the series catchphrase in a way), the dry observation of the absurd (from situations escalating from a female African model having plastic surgery to look exactly like ‘Generation Game’ era Bruce Forsyth, to Toast’s obsession and infatuation with Mad Men actor Jon Hamm) and genuinely original material, this is a series that shouldn’t be missed. All three series are available to stream on All4 now.
If there is one word to describe me, it would definitely be stubborn. For over a year I was recommended this show by my more persistent friends, on the basis of how fun and interesting it is compared to the mainly unstructured and disappointing DCEU in films. I stubbornly refused to give this series a chance until last month, where I was hooked almost immediately, much to the smug pleasure of my friends. Focusing on the police forensic scientist Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), the series shows him coming to terms with his newly acquired super speed powers after being struck by a bolt of lightning. As he comes to terms with his powers, the series focuses on Barry’s attempts to save Central City from crime and a whole host of metahumans that threaten Barry and his team of friends. The cast is charming, the monster of the week scenarios are rarely dull and the recurring villains are some of the better to be found in superhero TV. Away from the gritty nature of the Netflix Marvel shows, The Flash embraces its campier tone, with cheesy villain names like Weather Wizard and Captain Cold coming along with well-timed jokes and one liners. Luckily, the show finds the perfect balance between this good humour and genuine raw emotion, with many heartbreaking and emotional human moments being found in amongst the typical superhero fare. With the third series premiering next month and a crossover musical episode with Supergirl coming later this year, there’s never been a better time to catch up (if you’re fast enough) with this series.
Friday Night Dinner
Friday Night Dinner is a gentle, farcical sitcom that has unfortunately never met the success of similar Channel 4 comedies, but nevertheless makes for a great watch. The series chronicles the misadventures and mishaps of the secular Jewish family The Goodmans at their regular Shabbat meal on Friday evenings, consisting of the absent-minded father Martin (Paul Ritter), the nagging mother Jackie (Tamsin Greig) and the obnoxious sons Adam (Simon Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal). Their regular weekly dinners are frequently interrupted by their oddball neighbour Jim (Mark Heap), who is seemingly infatuated with Jackie. The situations escalate from having unwanted friends and family members encroaching on the family home, to arguments between the two boys and their parents, to Martin desperately trying to hide everything from a frozen dead fox to a stain on the new carpet from the unsuspecting Jackie. The cast is on the most part likeable and funny, particularly Martin, and their reactions to each other are natural and interesting. With the newest series having aired over the summer and the previous three series’ available to stream on All4, this is the perfect time to catch up on this great sitcom if you’re struggling with something to watch.
The Eric Andre Show
Few comedians can juggle absolute lunacy and chaotic destruction with the same level of passion, originality and panache as Eric Andre. And in his self titled Adult Swim programme The Eric Andre Show, the comedian is given the perfect vehicle to express his very individual brand of comedy. Each episode begins with the besuited Andre ruthlessly destroying his putrid talk show set in ever escalating ways whilst a band plays, before it is then rebuilt around him by off camera stage hands. This segment aptly sums up the mission statement of Eric Andre’s comedy; to unnerve with unabashed and unapologetic insanity. After this intro comes a series of segments and non-sequiturs that take up the span of each ten minute long episode, all of which brilliantly satirize the standard format of cheesy talk shows. Every episode of The Eric Andre Show contains a mix of delightfully unfunny opening monologues, nightmarish celebrity interviews and a sequence of absurd pranks on the unsuspecting general public (Legalize ranch!). Over the four series’ Eric is partnered with the nonplussed and expressionless Hannibal Buress, who contrasts Eric’s unhinged persona perfectly. There are very few shows around that can handle this kind of surreal non-humour in such an effortless and fantastic way, with this probably being the best mock talk show since Vic Reeves Big Night Out in the early 90s. I really can’t recommend this show enough, but just be prepared for a wild ride unlike anything you’ve seen before. Bird up!
If you fancy something dark and unsettling and have a few hours to kill, then you really should give time to catch up with the short and bittersweet Channel 4 comedy drama Flowers. Bravely looking at the stigma of mental illness, sexuality and depression, the series focuses on the Flowers family; an eccentric and unhinged family straight from the pages of a Roald Dahl book, who live in a picturesque cottage in the English countryside. At the forefront of the family is Maurice (Julian Barrett), a struggling author of the children’s book series ‘The Grubbs’ who is dealing with his own dark thoughts and an obsession with suicide, a struggle that he is unable to convey properly to his estranged wife Deborah (Olivia Colman). Together they live with their 25-year-old twin children; the arrogant inventor Donald (Daniel Rigby) and the unstable lesbian artist Amy (Sophia Di Martino), as well as the Japanese illustrator Shun (series creator Will Sharpe), who acts as Maurice’s confidant. Jet black in its delivery and absolutely heartbreaking, this is a very special series that is sure to make you think long after you finish its short six-episode run. The cast are fantastic, particularly Julian Barrett in a welcome return to mainstream TV after finishing The Mighty Boosh in 2008, and Olivia Colman who can go from smiling denial to heart wrenching misery with the flick of a switch. The entire series is available now to stream on All4, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Just make sure you have tissues at the ready.
Toast of London, Friday Night Dinner and Flowers are available to stream for free on All4 now. The Flash Season 1 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now. Clips of The Eric Andre Show can be seen on YouTube or the Adult Swim website