The Inbetweeners

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A friend of mine recently recommended a British comedy series called The Inbetweeners. I had never heard of it, but found that the first two seasons were available on Netflix to stream instantly.  Each episode is less than half an hour long, and each season was six episodes, so in one lazy weekend I was able to watch both seasons.

The show revolves around the daily lives and mishaps of four awkward teenage boys and their attempts to co-exist with the popular crowd, the bullies, their exasperatingly caring parents, and the most confounding group in their world – girls. As well as finding themselves between social strata, they’re also no longer little boys, but not quite men – hence the title of the show (I assume). The group of four consists of a cautious nerd (Will), an endearing idiot (Neil), a pathologically lying know-it-all (Jay), and an average Joe (Simon).

I found it to be extremely well written, and perfectly cast. It is raunchy, cringe-inducing, and often hysterical, and the chemistry between the four boys is realistic and at times adorable. It’s like The Wonder Years, but far more obscene. As with other successful shows featuring foursomes (Seinfeld, I Love LucyThe Golden Girls, Sex and the City), there’s a character for every viewer.

I’m looking forward to watching the third season, as well as an accompanying full-length feature film that was released in the UK last year.

MTV has produced an American version of this show (which makes sense because the language and situations in the original would never be allowed to air on any basic network here) that will premiere in August, but I saw a trailer for it and it looks awful. The acting is not as good, the script seems to be a watered-down version of the original, and it looks all-around cheesier. I also read recently that an American studio is re-doing the movie, which makes no sense at all, and will probably also be terrible.


The Killing vs. Homeland: A comparison of two first seasons

Even though the second season of AMC’s hit show, The Killing, has finished airing, I only recently started watching the first season. Adapted from a popular Danish series (Forbrydelsen), the show follows a homicide officer investigating the murder of a local high school girl. Over three long nights I watched all thirteen episodes, from the discovery of Rosie Larsen’s body, all the way to the unsatisfying end of the season when many questions are yet to be answered. All the while I couldn’t help comparing it to Homeland, a popular Showtime series that I caught up on after the first season had already finished airing on television.

image via AMC
Mireille Enos in AMC’s The Killing

image via Showtime
Claire Danes in Showtime’s Homeland

Similarities between the two shows:
-Leading petite female characters (Mireille Enos’ Sarah Linden and Claire Danes’ Claire Mathison) who are employed in some area of criminal investigations and who enjoy jogging and engrossing themselves in their professional work to the detriment of their personal lives
-Older male bosses who are constantly trying to talk the ladies out of risky, unprofessional tactics
-Histories of mental breakdowns
-Linking crime to the Islamic community
-Sloppy investigative work (as an ordinary citizen, I hope people aren’t this careless in real law enforcement!)

The Killing tries to stay interesting by revealing a new, seemingly important piece of evidence to the audience at the end of each episode. By the third or fourth episode, it’s clear that anything they find out at the end of the episode will get explained away by the end of the following one, and the viewer is usually only privy to details that Linden or her partner Stephen Holder also know. In contrast, Homeland‘s revelations about characters and their activities often keep the viewer a step ahead of Mathison’s investigations, and are less often red herrings. Also, in Homeland Carrie starts with a target suspect and has to work out his past crimes and prevent any future ones, whereas in The Killing, the investigators were faced with a specific crime and their main goal is to find the perpetrator.

Although The Killing angered many fans who stuck through it during the first season by not concluding the investigation, I recently found out that season two, which ended this past Sunday, does reveal the killer of Rosie Larsen. I can’t imagine how many more suspects they can round up, but at this point I have to see it through to the end.

Community, the Video Game

I guess there’s no hug button.

Last night, NBC aired an unusual number of new episodes of Community, the final three of the season, and hopefully not the final three of the series. It’s a great show that hasn’t gotten enough recognition over the years, and as I recall the threat of cancellation loomed over it before this season began.

In the first of the three episodes, Pierce (played by Chevy Chase), finds out that his late father left a sizable inheritance, but the recipient would be the first person to win a custom-made video game using an avatar based on their likeness. The use of the video game was a final dig at Pierce who apparently thought video games were more important than what his father made his riches on – personal wiping cloths. This is made more interesting by the fact that Pierce is totally clueless about video games.

Pierce naturally invites along the rest of the study group, even before he knows what’s in store. In typical Community-style irony, they all sit down in personal, high-tech cubicles, only to be rendered as old-school video game characters in a pixelated world reminiscent of early Super Mario Brothers, but cross-bred with Oregon Trail with a dash of Prince of Persia version 1.0. Most of the episode is shown in this 8-bit universe as The Greendale 7 try to navigate through the levels with all of their usual quirks and personal interactions.

I was a super nerdy child of the 80s and this episode brought back a lot of memories of old games I used to play on my first computer – that is, my family’s first computer. Kids back then didn’t get their own electronic devices.

I really hope Community comes back in the fall. They’ve done an excellent job developing the core characters over the years and have always balanced humor, sentiment, and geekdom perfectly. I also hope the NBC website soon offers a version of the Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne game!

The beginning of the episode and a glimpse into the fun 80s era video game depicted in it are available here.

Biff at Yankees Spring Training

Every year for the past twelve years, David Letterman has sent his Late Show stage manager, Biff Henderson, down to Tampa to hang out with the New York Yankees during pre-season training. He chats people up in the dugout, exercises with players out on the field, and shows off his skills as a comedian as he tries to make them, and the viewers, laugh. This year’s antics included creating a likeness of a well-known politician, stumping Reggie Jackson with a baseball question, and spending a day off with Nick Swisher.

I especially liked that they used the same music and title style used in the intros of Eastbound and Down episodes. Next year he should take Kenny Powers along to spring training.

HBO’s Girls

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I was riding the subway this week when I saw an ad in one of the stations for a new HBO show simply named Girls. The poster featured four young girls below the tagline “Living the dream. One mistake at a time.” At first glance I thought: Sex and the City starring teenagers. I’ll pass.

The show is the brainchild of 25-year-old Lena Dunham, who wrote and directed the 2010 independent film Tiny Furniture. She has a track record of writing quirky stories about young women in their early 20s who are struggling to find themselves. This is what makes the new show different from Sex and the City, a difference the show’s creators are trying to make clear in interviews. Girls appears to be a sardonic and humorous look at the pre-Sex and The City stage of life, the years before a gal in the big city can afford a nice apartment or a pair of super-expensive shoes. Dunham, who is also the star of the show, plays the anti-Carrie: no money, no rich boyfriend, and definitely no glamour.

After watching the trailer, my original snap judgement based on the subway poster has been reversed. I’m now looking forward to catching the April 15th premiere because it looks to me like Bridesmaids meets Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (minus the disco) – a promising combination. I even caught a glimpse of Chris Eigeman in the trailer; I first saw him in the Whit Stillman trilogy years ago and have adored his acting ever since. Hopefully he remains in the series beyond the pilot episode.

The production company behind Girls is Apatow Productions, founded by the writer/director/producer behind such hit comedies as The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Bridesmaids. With support from someone like Judd Apatow, both Dunham and the show are poised to be successful.