Monday, September 14, 2015

Top 10 Comedy TV Shows of All Time

10. Trailer Park Boys

This was a very difficult decision, but the Canadian comedy TV show is the one that had to be chosen. It follows around 3 trailer park trash guys as they get into silly situations which pit them up against the trailer park supervisor and his pot bellied assistant. 

It is crude, rude and the same jokes are repeated over and over. The cast failed with other projects, but struck a comedic classic with this one. There are 9 seasons so far and more to come. Plus there are been a few spin off movies too. 

Here are a few of the excellent shows they beat to get into my top 10 comedy TV shows of all time list: the Peep Show, Young Ones, Flight of the Conchords, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry Sanders Show, Porridge, The IT Crowd, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Reeves and Mortimer, The League of Gentlemen, The Office US, Legit...

oh shit I forgot Fawlty Towers (well worth being in the top 5- I will add it onto Monty Python)

9. Monty Python and Fawlty Towers

Obviously these old guys were going to make the list. Monty Python started the sketch show craze which inspired lots of today's outlandish characters and comedy bits. The show was too raw to be considered higher in the list. But there are lots of slices of comedic gold within their large bank of material.

Classic sketches include the prancing army dancers, the fish slapping in the face sketch, and the cross dressing lumberjack. Perhaps more importantly the TV series led to the greatest comedy movie of all time; the Life Of Brian. A movie which was revolutionary for it's time because of the way it made fun of religion. Monty Python are the most important men in comedy history.

Fawlty Towers deserves it's own spot in this list (but I am too lazy to re-write it). It was created by just one of the Monty Python group- John Cleese. The two seasons are compact and jam packed with non stop hilarity. An essential part of any self respecting comedy lovers' collection!

8. The Simpsons

Usually I would place this much higher up in the list. Really the Simpsons deserves to be in the top 3 most funny comedies of all time. But after 21 or 22 seasons I have grown a little too familiar with the show to get excited when I see new episodes. Nevertheless, the amount of fun to be had watching this clever cartoon is almost endless. 

We have all seen it. We all love it. The show has made impeccable observations. After Brass Eye it is the most important show in this list, largely thanks to Lisa's morals and Homer's deep down good heart. The greatest cartoon of all time and the greatest family show of all time.

7. Arrested Development (Seasons 1 and 2)

This was a 10/10 comedy show for the many years it was left at 2 seasons. But public demand led to a recent 3rd season. It all got a bit too messy and hopefully they re-gain the classic humor which originally made the show great in the planned future seasons.

The show follows a dysfunctional grown up family who are rich, but not really anymore. There is the drunk old mother who doesn't care, the criminal father who has a twin (who is in love with the mother). The show is narrated by Ron Howard. The lead character is played by Jason Bateman, the one family member who seems fairly normal. The rest are a potty bunch and all hilarious. Fingers crossed for future seasons.

6. Brass Eye

Chris Morris struck comedy gold with On The Hour- a radio show taking the piss out of modern day media. It led to the amazing TV series The Day Today (which is just as good as Brass Eye really but I can't mention both as they are part of the same concept).

Brass Eye used ridiculous Fox News like graphics and media manipulation to hilarious effect. This is probably the most important of all the great comedy TV shows here, as it actually made many people realise just how much mis-guided power the media has. Important and hilarious!

5. The Office UK

This is the show that launched the behemoth Ricky Gervais into super stardom. It led to the often excellent US version of The Office too. There were only 2 seasons of the original UK version and they were comedy brilliance throughout. From the twisted Gareth to the cringeable David Brent.

Gervais will be creating a film for David Brent next year, which will certainly be a treat. He has been very busy creating other good series including Extras and Derek. Plus his brilliant podcasts with co-writer Stephen Merchant have led to the fascinatingly tediously stupidly brilliant Karl Pilkington being launched upon the world. Alright :)

4. Workaholics

I am going out on a limb with this one. Workaholics has bordered on being childish many times over the initial 4 seasons. They have really got into their stride though. This is still a work in progress, but the humor is wonderfully gross and on the edge. 

The moment I realised this show was worthy of being on the top 5 is when Jack Black guest starred in an episode in the most recent season- it worked beautifully and I can only hope the guys do some kind of collaboration with the Its Always Sunny gang in the future. Noice!

3. Seinfeld

No other comedy series has produced so many shows with such consistency. There are many seasons of Seinfeld and many episodes in each season. It is often more chuckle comedy than side splitting stuff, but it is consistently great.

This is a series created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (who went on to make the awesome Curb Your Enthusiasm in more recent years). Seinfeld footage looks a bit dated now, but it is still worthy of a full watch. 

2. Alan Partridge

It All began with stints on the amazing The Day Today for Steve Coogan's most celebrated character. Alan Partridge then got his own faux TV show which showed the potential of the character.

Things really got good when we followed him around in I'm Alan Partridge, which was followed years later by an almost as good second season in the same format. Many years later we were treated to the 11 minute shorts series just showing Alan as a disc jockey, which was as good as anything previously done. It was all topped off more recently with a decent movie for the character. Classic comedy!

1. Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia

An amazing TV series with 10 seasons under their belt, so far. The gang of 3 mid thirties bar owners, their bullied waitress Dee and the amazing Danny DeVito, are a match made in heaven. 

Its Always Sunny watches the gang get into schemes, arguments and clashes in a non stop barrage of hilarious and often borderline "non PC" humor. They always seem to manage to stay just inches on the right side of tasteless. The best comedy show there has ever been or will ever be!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Office US review all seasons

Most likely when other Brits heard there was to be a US version of The Office, we groaned. The UK version was an absolute classic but like so many UK comedies, it was far too short with just 15 episodes over 2 seasons and a double Christmas special.

Despite my scepticism I gave the US Office a try. The first season was shorter than the following seasons. It was a kind of "feeling out" season where the characters found themselves and much of the dialogue was taken from the UK version. It didn't all work but there was enough to suggest that this could be a great idea, so a next season was booked in.

From season 2 to season 7 on The US Office, I would say the show was a solid 8 out of 10. The characters like Dwight got better. Andy Bernard was introduced for an extra dimension and everything just seemed to click with the supporting cast.

The boss, Michael (played by Steve Carell) is infuriating in his selfishness and stupidity. It was unrealistic that he could get away with screwing up so much, but ultimately that is what made the show work. Steve Carell left the show in season 8 and at first it was an exciting relief.

With Will Ferrell Taking over for a while before a range of other actors interviewed for the bosses job when Will Ferrell's character went into a coma. Eventually Andy was made the boss and his character was a much watered down version of Michael Scott.

It was Michael's lack of self awareness that made the character great. In the same way that Gervais's David Brent was also unaware of his reality. When Andy took over the show lost a big part of what held it together. Dwight helped save things by becoming more prominent, but when Michael left it was the beginning of the end. To be continued when I finish the last seasons...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Short Poppies Review - Awful to Amazing

Rhys Darby came to my attention in Flight of the Conchords, his role as the band manager was one of the highlights of the show. That led me to check out his live DVD which was awesome, showcasing some excellent physical comedy with sounds effects.

Then yesterday I heard he had recently starred in a new comedy series called Short Poppies. The reason I wanted to write this Short Poppies review so quickly is because it sucks. It sucks so bad that I doubt I will get to the end of the season. (see below the Youtube clip where I update the review to include episodes 4 onwards).

The premise is simple and nothing new. A faux documentary team follows round a character for a few days. The idea is that the character is funny to watch. The problem is that the characters are awful and just not funny. Whoever wrote this got it badly wrong, I am guessing it is Rhys as he is listed as the creator in IMDb.

The closest thing to Short Poppies is the Australian Chris Lilley creation We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year. Lilley's characters were a bit hit and miss but there were enough moments of hilarity to justify follow up series. Rhys Darby has started badly. Despite good ratings on IMDb, this show should not be continued in my humble opinion.

Rhys Darby is awesome but it is obvious he can't write good comedy or create great characters. He works best in the naive, 80's style nerd that we saw in the Flight of the Conchords and in his Hollywood appearance Yes Man. I hope this series doesn't hurt his chances of getting more work in Hollywood or other comedy projects as he can be hilarious. Below is a clip of his live show as it is just not worth posting anything from Short Poppies...

Rhys Darby's Short Poppies Review Update

Well well well. The first two episodes were so awful that it took me a while to garner up the might to watch the third. It was just as bad, which led me to angrily write the above review.

A while later the series was still sitting there in my unwatched list. "OK one last chance". WOW: probably one of the best episodes of comedy I have seen ever. Seriously! And I am a comedy fanatic. Episode 4 features an old lady who doesn't complain, she "criticises". It is amazing observational comedy and immediately had me giggling. This is exactly how this type of comedy should aspire to be.

Next up was episode 5 which brought back the familiar character Bill Napier, the park ranger briefly seen on Rhys's live DVD. This was also a pretty good effort.

Then the show lost me again in episode 6 with a really crappy character. The seventh episode got me high on laughter again with the super "dodgy lawyer" Rhod Gilbert. A really carefree, bad lawyer who loves drink and cars and crap jokes. Good stuff.

The final episode was an airing of the documentary so it featured all the characters and a little of a new posh executive guy. Not bad.

So all in all I have utterly mixed feelings now. in fact I'm going to rate each episode in a world's first because this series polarised me so much:

1 "Terry Pole"  0   - Utter crap
2 "Steve Whittle"  0 - Embarrassingly bad comedy
3 "Ron Taylor" 0 - Awful
4 "Mary Ledbetter" 10 - Will be treasured by me
5 "Bill Napier" 8 - Very funny
6 "Louise Cooper" 1 - Just plain bad
7 "Rhod Gilbert" 8 - Excellent
8 "David Farrier"6 - Good effort

So I will be deleting all but episodes 4,5,7 and will probably keep 8 too as it features the good ones and was quite a feat to pull off. Thank christ we have moved on from VHS to downloads or I would of been spending hours over the next few years fast forwarding over the crap.

I hope to see the 3 characters I loved in a season two. Maybe a move to the States would be appropriate as Bill Napier has accepted a job there? Maybe working with one/some of the US comedy guys will be enough to polish this up into a quality series.

Here is some of my favourite Mary Leadbetter:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Brass Eye Review

Brass Eye was created by Chris Morris who also starred in the series as the anchorman and various news reporters. There are 7 episodes in all which all focus on a different topic. The show is a mock up newscast with over the top special effects which are alarmingly similar to those seen on real news programmes.

The subject matter is highly controversial, most notably in the final episode. Morris aims to shock and toe the line between the unacceptable politically incorrect. Unsurprisingly it caused a bit of a storm when released. It is basically a more extreme version of the previously released The Day Today.

The first 6 episodes of Brass Eye were shown on Channel 4 in the UK in 1997. The last episode was a special which was shown in 2001. It was the final episode which caused the biggest stir with thousands of complaints and politicians even joined in.

The show is compelling viewing from start to end. This is possibly the best comedy series ever produced. Morris has a sledgehammer wit which holds no bars. He is excellent in all the roles he plays as are the other familiar faces.

What really sets this show apart from almost anything else is the sheer dedication to entertainment. The humour is dark and uncompromising. The sets and production obviously had an immense amount of effort put in.

There are some cringe worthy moments, especially with the celebrities who are duped into making ridiculous statements by Morris. The final episode is particularly uncomfortable in parts. But it is all worth it and you will find yourself watching this series over and over again.

Anyone who does not know Chris Morris might recognise him as Denholm, the boss from the first series of the more recent IT Crowd. Unfortunately there isn’t much else he has appeared in besides a cameo appearance of I’m Alan Partridge as the “posh sod with quacking plums in his mouth”.

He also created Jam after Brass Eye which is a very dark and atmospheric series and then Nathan Barley. Both are excellent but do not compare to Brass Eye or the earlier The Day Today. Most recently he created  the movie Four Lions which is fantastic. Hopefully we will see a lot more of him in the future.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wilfred (US)

Wilfred is a rather unique concept for a TV show. It features a talking dog played by a man. This sounds a little silly at first but it is well worth a watch.

The dog is played by Jason Gann who also stared in the original Wilfred series from Australia. The other star is Elijah Wood who you may recognise from the Lord Of The Rings. I have seen the Australian version too and have to say I prefer the US one. It is well polished and better acted.

The story lines follow Wood’s character. He is having some issues in his life and is now basically a jobless hermit. Wilfred becomes his friend and they smoke weed and chill out together. Wilfred is a fantastic character and gets Wood into all sorts of trouble.

The story lines can be pretty dark but it is all in good fun. There are occasional lighthearted ‘dog jokes’ which are very welcome, for example Wilfred can’t help but go crazy chasing around after a laser pen. Wilfred is a rogue and this bad behaviour is hilarious when combined with his K9 instincts.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Doug Stanhope

Doug Stanhope is one of the comedians with near perfect reviews, except for those that really hate him. His style is drunk, brutally honest and shocking. For those that don’t know him I guess you could say he is like a Bill Hicks that has gone off the rails.

His more recent DVDs are as hardcore as ever and in one (maybe the Oslo DVD) he says he doesn’t care anymore about “the message”. He admits that sharp insightful comedy which dissects ’the powers that be’, hasn’t got him anywhere. He still has some great points but it feels like he has now given up trying to make points in favour of sticking with shocking stuff. He still manages make you realise how the world is full of hypocrisy.

This is easily the most compelling current stand-up comedy and it is no coincidence that Doug Stanhope is the first review on this site for live shows. He is utterly engaging and entertaining. His ramblings often seem to loose track as he sips on his beer, but they always seem to work out funny, and often profound.

This is a very important comic. He is not afraid to say the harshest things which keeps you on the edge of your seat. I often find myself amazed at what he is saying, as do the crowd. As for his DVDs, they are all worth getting. I often find I need to be in the mood to watch stand-up on DVD, but with Doug I can watch him anytime.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stephen Merchant

As far as I know there is just one DVD from this guy. It is an admirable effort. What really shines through is his intelligence, which manifests itself in well timed and varied humour. As a stand up show I was pleasantly surprised.

Stephen gives an air of someone who is a little introverted and on edge, someone who would not be totally comfortable in front of thousands of people (from my experience seeing him on An Idiot Abroad and listening to podcasts). Actually he does a great job of ruining this preconception. He looks very comfortable and is not afraid to loosen up and be a physical comic.

This is a refreshing contrast to Ricky Gervais, who is not the best stand up comedian. There are one or two influences from Ricky’s shows, but Stephen Merchant takes things much further. It really feels like he has gone the extra mile and explored every avenue of his comedy talent.

At times there are some dull parts and some rather tacky jokes. If there is one criticism then I would say he tries a little too hard to fit too much in. He could easy cut some of the material and it would be just as good. Those parts are the very ‘easy jokes’, it can feel like he is trying to impress too much by shoving a joke in wherever he can.

But all in all this is excellent stuff and well worth buying. I’ll certainly be buying any future DVDs he does, which is more than I can say for his comedy partner (actually I’ll probably download anything by Gervais in future more out of curiosity).