Roughly two/three years ago, I found that my TV-viewing habits had reached an all-time low. I felt the visceral sense of feeling left out, out-of-tune, and not “with it” – like Vince LaSalle from Recess when everyone at school had watched Nitwitz 3 except from him (“Me no know!”). I then felt this vise-like grip of anxiety and concern get replaced with the rather warm but smug feeling of superiority for having not watched the TV; an attitude that one hears frequently these days – usually in bars that serve organic beer, or in shabby chic markets, and other hipster habitats of that ilk. However, for various reasons (specifically the apparent “golden age” of TV we find ourselves in due to Amazon and Netflix), I find that my TV -viewing habits have returned once again. I once was lost but now I’m found. (On a rather ironic note, my TV-viewing habits returning happened to coincide with me reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace for the first time; a book warning humanity against the dangers of TV addiction. Oh well)
Considering that I’m a huge fan of the original Coen Brothers film upon which this series is based, it’s kind of odd that I’ve only just started watching it. For the uninitiated, Fargo (the series) takes place in the same universe as the events of the film. Fans of the original will find much of what they loved in the film here; violence, humour, the macabre, irony, the loveable “Minnesota nice” dialogue – not to mention the perpetually enjoyable juxtaposition between the mundane and the gruesome; the sort whereby a particularly nauseating murder scene involving a de-limbed corpse will be looked over by a couple of officers, who then proceed to discuss and compare their wives’ meatloaf recipes. Martin Freeman plays the shy and rather spineless Lester Nygaard who begins to lose patience with his dead-end job, his condescending wife, bumping into a childhood bully, and his rather humdrum existence.
The series not only nails the tone and the humour of the film, but actually expounds upon it. There was a fear that it would just be a carbon copy of the film, albeit without the wit, finesse, or charm, but those fears were immediately quashed. The acting is superb, and the writing is never trite or predictable. And so, am I looking forward to watching season two? (Apologies but it has to be done) “Oh ya, real good now, you betcha!” (I feel unclean and disgusted at myself).
Rick and Morty
Being kind of tired of Family Guy writing as of late, and not yet diving into shows like Bojack Horseman, F is for Family, or Bob’s Burgers, a drunken and debauched Doctor Who/Back to the Future existentialist romp by the name of Rick and Morty was the one that caught my eye. Having first been introduced to the show after watching/listening to the first H3H3 podcast with Rick and Morty‘s creator and voice actor Justin Roiland over 3 months ago, and blitzing both seasons on Netflix within a few days, I’ve found myself re-watching the show on repeat for the last couple of weeks; especially after the first episode of season 3 “dropping” on April Fool’s day last weekend (albeit only on Adult Swim).
Rick and Morty follows the life of grumpy, old, callous alcoholic genius scientist Rick Sanchez and his adventures with nervous, wimpy, but ultimately relatable teenager Morty Smith as they traverse increasingly frightening and bizarre dimensions and universes via Rick’s portal gun.
There’s so many elements I love about the show; the naturalistic dialogue that’s filled with burps, stutters, mispronunciations, and sentences that go nowhere, the fourth wall breaking (moments where the voice actors break character and laugh due to the ridiculousness of what’s being said are left in), the self-awareness in that the show’s creators know that you know it’s a crazy show about visiting other dimensions and galaxies, which they then use to their advantage through humour and various scenarios, the ease with which they go from dick jokes and gross-out humour to genuine sentimentality and extremely dark philosophical concepts. I could go on. To mention David Foster Wallace again, Rick and Morty goes beyond the post-modern ironic and controversial humour of let’s say Family Guy, but evolves into what has been referred to at ‘New Sincerity’; whereby the cold, cynical, and self-aware elements of irony work in-tandem with (and not against) genuine moments of sentimentality and tenderness.
I know, I know. It’s trash TV – or, as Karl Pilkington called it: flumpf telly.
It’s a guilty pleasure for sure. It’s the whiskey in the hot chocolate, the licking of a cake mix bowl, the faux-Jedi force move on an automatic door. In short, Kitchen Nightmares is grimy, a bit shameful, and kind of ridiculous – but exceptionally satisfying; like eating a pork pie in the car park of a supermarket literally moments after doing the weekly shop. (This vivid image comes to mind because I remember hearing about a survey that was conducted in 1999 by a handful of the UK’s biggest pork pie companies in order to analyse the pork pie habits of the public. The results were confusing but surprising. It was found that there was discrepancy between the amount of pork pies the public were purchasing, versus the amount of pork pies the average household admitted to eating in the comfort of their own homes. In other words, a large percentage of the pork pies were being consumed in drizzly, grey supermarket car parks – perhaps by married husbands wanting to enjoy this pork and pastry vice away from the disapproving looks of their wives – like some sort of debauched act).
The editing is insanely OTT; complete with explosive sound effects, dissonant violin stings, glass smashes, etc. It also does that exceptionally irritating American reality TV trope whereby the bookends of the show’s parts in-between adverts are utterly plagued with over-edited, overly-dramatic “recaps” and “teasers” for the previous and next parts of the show. To keep audiences interested, they’ll even manipulate clips in the “teasers” to make it look as though something insane will happen – like someone is about to die, or a that a hellish inferno will consume the entire restaurant for example. In the teaser, you’ll hear Gordon say “OH. MY. GOD”, followed by a clip of a fire engine or an ambulance rolling up to the restaurant…but then, in the next part, you find that the reason why the emergency services arrived is because Gordon invited them to attend the restaurant’s relaunch.
And whilst I’ve been watching this show, like an addict, for a few years now, I’ve noticed an annoying trend that’s been happening in the later seasons whereby Gordon becomes essentially a therapist. Normally an episode is filled with the always enjoyable Ramsay-esque diatribes and and insults, sequences of him going through a fridge filled with rotten food, a ridiculous dinner service where pure idiocy is on full display, followed by a great turnaround and seeing the new menu. In later seasons however large potions of the show are dedicated to Gordon going round the owner’s house (they are usually a married couple, on the brink of a breakdown) and being an unofficial marriage counsellor. He’ll even make them do a couple activity to “bring them together” or “boost confidence” by making them cook some spag-bol or something. There was this one moment that comes to mind when a kind of spineless, shy owner, who hates confrontation, is taken to a boxing ring with Ramsey who then makes the owner punch pads whilst getting him to scream morale-boosting shouts. I’m not kidding here (watch this clip and remind yourself that it’s supposed to be a cooking show). And dig this – it works! The owners always cry and thank Gordon for saving their restaurant and their marriage; it’s utterly bizarre, and corny, and insane, and stupid – and yet I just can’t get enough of it.