TV Review: Peep Show (2003-2015)

Original Run: September 19th, 2003 – December 16th, 2015
Created by: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Directed by: Jeremy Wooding, Tristram Shapeero, Becky Martin
Written by: Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, David Mitchell, Robert Webb
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Olivia Colman, Matt King

Objective Productions, All3Media, Channel 4, 54 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Few shows are perfect at what they do. Peep Show is one of them, however, and what’s most impressive is that it did it for eight season, over twelve years.

There isn’t a bad episode out of the 54 we were given, which is pretty unheard of. Sure, I have my favorites but overall, this show maintained great consistency from episode to episode and season to season.

Now if I’m being honest, the first few episodes didn’t immediately grab me. The show had a style that my brain had to adjust to with the entirety of the show being filmed in a first person perspective with narration being the characters’ thoughts. But by episode three or so, I was on board and from that point forward, became a loyal fan to the series, anticipating every new season as they dropped.

What makes this show work so well is its stars: primarily the comedic duo of David Mitchell and Robert Webb. I’m also a fan of their sketch comedy stuff and really anything either of them do. These two have perfect chemistry, timing and the ability to work as a tandem better than any marriage I’ve ever seen.

Joining them are the always superb Olivia Colman, who has gone on to win an Academy Award, as well as Matt King, who actually plays my favorite character on the show, Super Hans.

The plot follows two roommates who pretty much hate each other but seem eternally bound to one another as each continually fails through life and by the end of twelve years, are exactly in the same place where they started. The show does try to mix it up a bit every few seasons but Mark and Jez always come back together like magnets.

The casting on this show was also perfection. Between the leads, the fantastic supporting cast and the other regulars that continue to come back to the show over it’s long existence. It’s actually cool seeing some of the regulars return, even after they take lengthy breaks. Olivia Colman coming back in the final season, especially after she has had immense success since leaving, was pretty stupendous.

Peep Show is perfection. But I know that it isn’t for everyone. There are people I tried to turn on to it that couldn’t get into it. But that just made me reassess my life, my social circle and I’m proud to say that I have less social baggage now.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other ’00s British comedies like Black BooksSpaced, Green Wing, Whites and the Mitchell & Webb sketch comedy shows.

Documentary Review: Leaving Neverland (2019)

Also known as: Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me (UK)
Release Date: January 25th, 2019 (Sundance Film Festival)
Directed by: Dan Reed
Music by: Chad Hobson
Cast: Michael Jackson (archive footage), Wade Robson, Jimmy Safechuck

Amos Pictures, HBO, Channel 4, Kew Media, 236 Minutes, 182 Minutes (UK)

Review:

So, yeah… I had to watch this because there has been so much controversy around this documentary.

First off, if you take this documentary at face value and don’t go through the details with a fine tooth comb, it’s pretty convincing and pretty damning. But like all documentaries, this one had its agenda and it had to hit its points home without there being any counterpoints to what was presented as “fact”.

To be blunt, this is incredibly one-sided and hopefully, people are astute enough to see the forest for the trees, even if the two alleged victims that are featured in this documentary come off as genuine. And I do think they do come off as genuine or they are just damn good actors and deserve every Oscar next year.

I’m not saying that the victims are lying and I don’t want to doubt them, assuming their stories are true. But there are a lot of holes and when looking at the facts that are presented here, some of them don’t line up with details that are already public knowledge.

One example I should point out, is that Jimmy Safechuck’s mom says that she danced for joy when Michael Jackson died in 2009 because he couldn’t sexually abuse anymore children. However, Safechuck never told his mom that Jackson abused him until he was inspired by Wade Robson coming forward in 2013. And this is just one of several things that don’t add up when you take these victims’ stories at face value and look at other important factors like the actual timeline of events.

This was a compelling documentary and I am certainly not dismissing the possibility that Michael Jackson sexually abused children but if the victims’ stories are to be believed, there are a lot of plot holes and details that need to be ironed out.

The biggest problem, is that I can’t take any of this at face value because looking beyond this documentary as entertainment, which is what it is designed to be, as fucked up as that is, these stories come apart when you do any research beyond what is laid out and spoon fed to the audience for four whopping hours. But then, you can see that things don’t add up just within this movie, if you are actually paying attention to the finer points. Plus, the movie isn’t exactly clear on the dates of events it discusses, except where something happens around an event known by the mass populace like the release of an album or actual trials.

I’m not on either side of the debate here. However, it is pretty damn weird that Michael Jackson spent so much time with kids behind closed doors without parents around. But even if Jackson was a predator, the fault really lands right in the parents’ laps.

I don’t want to doubt the story of any victim but we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty and when details don’t add up or make sense, that’s more than enough for me to dismiss whatever story is being sold to me.

This was shoddy filmmaking where the film’s own director shot himself in the foot by not catching contradicting details. It was agenda driven, didn’t offer up anything fair and balanced and presented no real evidence other than the stories of two victims, stretched to an ungodly length.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: various other documentaries about Michael Jackson.

TV Review: Black Books (2000-2004)

Original Run: September 29th, 2000 – April 15th, 2004
Directed by: various
Written by: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley
Music by: Jonathan Whitehead
Cast: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig

Assembly Film and Television, Channel 4, BBC, 18 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

It is quite possible that Black Books is my favorite situation comedy of all-time. It is certainly in contention anyway, as it is one of those shows where I can watch any episode at any time and still find it uncontrollably funny. The jokes and gags don’t get old, the camaraderie amongst the cast is iron clad and the tone of the show in how it deals with its subject matter and its use of timing, is impeccable. Very few shows are this well written and have the comedic talent capable of optimizing such great writing, as well as the cast of Black Books.

The plot follows Bernard (played by Dylan Moran) who is a drunk Irishman living in London running a bookshop. With him are his dimwitted but insanely lovable sidekick Manny (played by Bill Bailey) and their neighbor and friend Fran (played by Tamsin Greig). The show, like all sitcoms, follows the cast’s misadventures and misdeeds. In this case, things never seem to end well and the characters are usually their own worst enemies.

The cast plays off of each other so well and in such a way that I would put them head-to-head with any other great sitcom cast and I could guarantee they’d outshine them.

It’s sad that the show only lasted for three series, six episodes each. 18 episodes just isn’t enough but at least those 18 episodes are all quality, unlike American sitcoms that pump out 25 episodes a season, only producing a handful or less that are worthwhile. Regardless, I would love to see this revived for another series or even a proper special to officially close out the show. Yes, it has been ten years since it left the air but all three of these actors still has the talent and the ability to pull it off.

Besides, if you are a fan of the show, how could you not want to see where Bernard, Manny and Fran are ten years later? My prediction, Bernard and Manny are miserable working for some online book retailer and Fran is a cat lady with a failed liver.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: SpacedThe IT Crowd and Green Wing.

TV Review: Black Mirror (2011- )

Original Run: December 4th, 2011 – current
Created by: Charlie Brooker
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: various
Cast: various

Zeppotron (2011-2013), House of Tomorrow (2014- ), Endemol UK, Channel 4, Netflix, 19 Episodes, 41-89 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Black Mirror wasn’t a show that I was immediately into when it started. I heard the buzz around it and eventually decided to check it out on Netflix after the second season started streaming there. Shortly after, Netflix took over the show from the UK’s Channel 4, as it was getting a lot of play on the streaming service.

The show is an anthology series, so there are hit and miss episodes. The vast majority of the episodes are pretty stellar though and there or only a couple that I wasn’t into.

The show started out really strong with the episodes that were produced in the early seasons. The third season, the first on Netflix, was pretty solid but slightly down in quality. The fourth and latest season was the weakest and had one episode that I didn’t like in any way.

The gist of the show deals with emerging technologies and possible side effects of their implementation into everyday life. The show takes place in the very near future and most of what is showcased is pretty plausible and already emerging into our world. In a way, it shows the threat that unchecked technological advancements can bring into our lives and society.

Each episode is really well produced and each has its own director and cast. Most episodes have notable directors and actors and this brings a real quality to the show. Every episode looks good, has impressive cinematography and even though different creative teams make each chapter, there has been a visual and tonal consistency over the course of the show’s run. I thought this could have changed when Netflix took it over but they have done a good job, thus far, keeping things aesthetically sound.

Despite its low points, which there are very few, Black Mirror is one of the best shows currently on television. Each season usually has one episode that doesn’t hit the mark for me but that’s not a bad ratio when Netlfix is currently doing six episodes per season.

It’s an important show because it at least tries to warn us about how technology can be perverted and used for more nefarious means. It also brings up morality questions and the potential unintended consequences that can come from these new technologies.

Rating: 8/10