Jim Carrey Isn’t Kidding in This Very Dark Comedy

The idea of Jim Carrey playing a “Mr. Rogers like” host of a children’s TV show looks a little bit creepy when you see the previews. Watching the new Showtime series “Kidding” doesn’t alleviate those concerns. I’ve watched 2 episodes so far and I so can’t figure out if it’s a comedy or a drama. Mostly it’s just weird.

Carrey plays Jeff Pickles a.k.a. Mr. Pickles the host of a beloved children’s puppet show on PBS for 30 years. His personal life however is a shambles because is son was killed in an auto accident one year ago. His marriage which was already in trouble falls apart. He tries to make sense of the world and maintain a good relationship with his surviving son who was a twin of the deceased boy.

In the opening episode he tries to convince his producer Sebastian played by Frank Langella that they should do a show about death. The idea is rejected because not only is this a beloved children show, it is a multimillion dollar branding and marketing institution that could be damaged by taking on such a dark topic.

It turns out that Sebastian is not only his producer but his father. Also his sister Deidre played by Catherine Keener works on the show as a puppeteer.

This is not the over-the-top kind of comedy you expect to see Jim Carrey playing. This is no Ace Ventura by any means. Despite the fact that he’s a grown man with 30 years of television experience he comes across with a youthful naïveté reminiscent of his character Truman Burbank in “The Truman Show“. As I said in the opening paragraph I’m not really sure if it’s a comedy or drama. Let’s call it a very dark comedy with ample doses of tragedy and pathos.

Carrey’s character is a complicated person and is well portrayed. The supporting cast is excellent as well and there are some other dark comic moments surrounding the supporting cast. But don’t expect a lot of laughs in a show whose primary theme is dealing with the death of a child.

I watched these episodes several days ago but have not bothered to write this review because I really wasn’t sure what to say about the show. I’m going to give it a very weak “I’m watching” rating mostly because I’m curious to see where the story will go. Don’t count that as a very ringing endorsement however. Check it out at your own peril.

“Rel” Shows Potential to be Funny but Only Time Will Tell

So we have a guy who is a standup comedian that gets his own sitcom. He has a male and female sidekick who come in and out of his life. We’ve seen this formula dozens of times before. It all began with Seinfeld but no one has been able to recapture that magic that we had between Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer. The new multi-camera half-hour comedy “Rel” starring Lil Rel Howery is another such attempt that at least initially falls short. Then again it’s probably unfair to compare a newcomer to what is one of the most successful sitcoms of all time.

Lil Rel Howery has appeared in the recently canceled “The Carmichael Show” which I enjoyed. However he is most famous for his role in the hit movie “Get Out” as the comic relief sidekick TSA agent who gives Daniel Kaluuya advice over the telephone as he faces his bizarre future in-laws. He is now capitalizing on that success with this new sitcom.

The premise of the show is that he is a nurse living on the south side of Chicago whose wife had an affair with his barber. She takes their two kids and moves to Cleveland. He tries to get over the shame of the loss. He is supported by his best friend Britney played by Jessica “Jess Hilarious” Moore and his ne’er-do-well brother Nat played by Jordan L Jones. Nat is recently out of jail and is constantly denying that he was a meth dealer. It wasn’t meth it was ecstasy like that makes a big difference.

Their father is played by veteran comedian Sinbad who is disappointed in both of his sons. In one scene where they go to church, dad tries to be supportive of his recently divorced son but he insists that he not sit near him because he doesn’t want to be associated with a guy who could lose his wife to a barber. The preacher in the church is also played by Howery made up in a bald cap and a beard.

My ultimate test for a sitcom is “did it make me laugh?” And on several occasions this one did. The first episode was pretty much a one joke story about the shame of losing your wife to your barber. It remains to be seen if the show remains creative and funny or just becomes a string of well-worn clichés.

Admittedly because I’m an old white guy I not going to have as much appreciation for some of the cultural context of an African-American cast and story. I probably will not continue to watch. I already enjoy “black-ish” and found it to be funnier than “Rel”. Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for the show turn you off. It does have some very funny moments and I suppose once I got used to the characters I might appreciate it more. But in an already crowded space I will not be adding it to my watchlist.

Because I did laugh I will give it a very strong rating of “Could be watchable“. If you’re looking for a good African-American comedy you should check it out for yourself.

That show appears on Fox. The pilot episode was shown September 9 as a sneak preview and is available on demand. Regular episodes premier September 30.

Big Bang Ending; Hamill goes from Jedi to Templer; Legend is legendary EGOT; Reviews and more.

Here’s the latest in entertainment news. We started out with a couple of reviews from this blog in case you missed them.

“Carter” Is the Least Credible of the Overdone Consultant Detective Genre

You Should Purge “The Purge” From Your DVR

Anarchy Fans Rejoice. “Mayans MC” is Everything You Loved about SoA

Here is a calendar of premiere dates courtesy of TV line. Or follow me on Facebook where I will post daily updates for new fall premieres.

In the links below read about:

  • Chris Hardwick returns to “Talking Dead” but several producers resign in protest.
  • Spoilers from Inside Line dated August 14
  • The story behind the decision to end The Big Bang Theory after 12 seasons
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated August 29
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated September 11

Not linked but still of interest…

  • Marvel’s Runaways will return to Hulu with 13 episodes starting December 21 and will pick up within hours of the first season’s finale. There are hints it will somehow connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No details yet.
  • At one time there were rumors of up to 5 Game of Thrones spinoff shows but it appears that 4 of them are dead and one is going forward. It’s the one we previously reported will take place over a thousand years before the current series.
  • Hulu announced that “Castle Rock” based on stories by Stephen King has been renewed for a second season.
  • A Marilyn Monroe nude scene from the John Houston film “The Misfits” that was believed to have been destroyed has been rediscovered.
  • From Jedi to Templer… Mark Hamill joins the cast of History Channel medieval drama “Knightfall” for season 2. I watched season 1 which was just okay and probably wasn’t going to watch season 2 but with him on board I will have to check it out.
  • John Cleese will guest star in the upcoming season of disability sitcom “Speechless”.
  • TLC network has renewed “Dr Pimple Popper” for season 2 starting in January. Reality documentary show follows a dermatologist who operates on gross looking cysts. Started out as a popular YouTube channel and then moved to TV.
  • RIP actress and singer Morgana King who played Marlon Brando’s wife in the Godfather I & II.
  • USA Network has canceled “Shooter” after 3 seasons. The show is being shopped around to other networks.
  • Madonna recently turned 60 years old.
  • RIP singing legend Aretha Franklin age 76
  • TNT has ordered a limited series “The Angel of Darkness” which is a sequel to “The Alienist” with many of the stars returning to reprise their roles including Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans, and Daniel Bruhl.
  • Star Wars: Resistance animated TV series will premiere on The Disney Channel October 7.
  • Stephen Ogg recently seen the “The Walking Dead” will be a recurring character in the TNT sci-fi drama “Snowpiercer”.
  • “Watchmen” comic to be adapted to TV series for HBO.
  • Netflix has renewed female wrestling comedy GLOW for season 3
  • A six part miniseries of John le Carre’s “The Little Drummer Girl” is coming to AMC network November 19.
  • CW network announced a three night crossover of its superhero series “The Flash”, “Arrow”, and “Supergirl” will start Sunday, December 9 and will introduce new character Batwoman.
  • Lip-Synch Battle has been renewed for season 5 by Paramount Network.
  • This season will be the final season of The Big Bang Theory.
  • Timeless which was canceled yet again by NBC will have a two hour movie to wrap up the plot. It will air sometime in December.
  • RIP musician Ed King who is guitarist for Leonard Skynyrd and cowriter of “Sweet Home Alabama”.
  • RIP entertainment journalist Robin Leach host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” age 76
  • RIP playwright Neil Simon age 91
  • John Goodman reveals that the Roseanne character will be killed off in the spinoff show “The Connors”.
  • Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood will be killed off to eliminate him from the final season of “House of Cards”.
  • Matt Smith a.k.a. the 11th Doctor Who will appear in Star Wars episode 9 in an undisclosed role.
  • HBO has dropped all erotic programming from its lineup including edited adult movies and unscripted series such as “Real Sex” and “Cathouse”.
  • Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ana Inaba will host next year’s Miss America competition.
  • USA has announced Mr. Robot season 4 will be its last.
  • Release of the new sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” has been delayed one year until June 2020
  • Emmy Rossum announced this will be her last season on Shameless.
  • The new season of Doctor Who will premiere Sunday October 7 in both the US and UK.
  • Jack is back! Not Jack Bauer but the next best thing. “Designated Survivor” recently canceled by ABC is been renewed by Netflix.
  • HBO has renewed “Ballers” and “Insecure” for a fifth and fourth seasons respectively.
  • A Broadway musical version of “Beetlejuice” will premiere March 2019 at the Winter Garden Theater.
  • RIP 70s film icon Burt Reynolds age 82.
  • 20th Century Fox has deleted a scene from the film “The Predator” the latest in the alien sci-fi series after it discovered one of the actors was a registered sex offender.
  • After Brooklyn Nine-Nine moved to NBC its order has been expanded to 18 episodes.
  • RIP actor Bill Daley who played Maj. Healy on “I Dream of Jeannie” age 91
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, and John Legend are now EGOT winners. This means they have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. The latest Emmys for producing “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”. John Legend is the first African-American man to achieve the status. Only 12 other people prior to this had won EGOT in competitive categories.

 

“Appreciative” Chris Hardwick Returns To ‘Talking Dead’; Co-EP + Others Quit

Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on NCIS: LA, Grey’s, This Is Us, The Resident, The Gifted, Runaways, SEAL Team and More August 14

‘The Big Bang Theory’: Behind The Sudden Decision To End Series After 12 Seasons

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on Good Place, Empire, 9-1-1, Lucifer, The Flash, Supernatural, NCIS, TWD and More August 29

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on Grey’s, Walking Dead, Power, Young Sheldon, Riverdale, House of Cards and More September 11

 

Anarchy Fans Rejoice. Mayans, MC is Everything You Loved about SoA

For those of us who have been morning the loss of the hit drama “Sons of Anarchy” our sadness has been vanquished. The anarchy universe has been reborn in the new FX series “Mayans, MC”. Kurt Suter who created “Sons of Anarchy” brings us yet again complex, nuanced characters placed into impossible situations that test their loyalty, morality, and self-image. Known for his surprising plot twists, Suter brings his creative magic to the small screen yet again. Fans of the original “Sons of Anarchy” will find themselves completely at home in this new incarnation. If you’ve not seen Anarchy we highly recommend you check out this new series that shows every indication of being just as compelling as our previous visit to this world.

“Sons of Anarchy” was about a Southern California motorcycle club whose stock in trade was gunrunning, pornography, and prostitution. They often collaborated or sometimes collided with an Hispanic motorcycle club called the Mayans. That club is the basis for this new series. In Anarchy, the president of the Mayans was Marcus Alvarez played by Emilio Rivera. He appears in the opening episode not as the president and as the “Godfather” or sort of president emeritus of the organization. IMDb says he will appear in a total of 3 episodes. None of the rest of the members of the Mayans are carryovers from Anarchy although there are some cameo appearances (such as Robert Patrick) of other characters from Anarchy.

The lack of carryover characters does not in any way make this new incarnation unfamiliar to fans of the original. The complex relationships between characters, the moral dilemmas they face, the test of loyalties, the mind blowing plot twists, phenomenal action sequences, and gut wrenching violence that were the hallmarks of Anarchy are in full bloom. Let’s face it… This is a reboot but it’s a wonderful reboot.

Our main character is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes played by JD Pardo whose credits include TV series “East Los High“, and “Revolution“. Here’s a prospect or you might a pledge trying to join the MC. He is sponsored by his older brother Angel. Their father Felipe who is a butcher in the town is played by Edward James Olmos. The club president Obispo “Bishop” Losa is played by Michael Irby who has been seen recently in “SEAL Team” and “True Detective“.

The club is in business providing security for the Galindo drug cartel. When one of the shipments gets hijacked it sets off a chain of events that has them doing battle with a rival Samoan club. We also meet a Mexican vigilante group made up of survivors of cartel violence who are trying to take down the cartel because the authorities seem powerless to do anything.

The hijacking reveals that there has to be a traitor among the group which adds to the tension of the situation. It’s bad enough when you are hired to protect a drug shipment worth $2.5 million. But then to try to weed out the traitor among you makes things even more complicated. I won’t go into any more plot details because it would spoil some big surprises. Let’s just say that everything is not as it seems. Nearly everyone is carrying some sort of secret. And a tremendous amount of detail is revealed about secret agendas in the first episode alone.

There is action galore throughout the first episode. The hijacking involves a stunt where a truck flips and explodes. There is a bloody shootout in a cemetery when they confront the Samoan gang about the hijacking. They eventually capture, torture and kill the Samoan leader in ways that will make you cringe. This is a violent adult drama not for the squeamish. And much to my surprise for a basic cable TV show they dropped at least three F-bombs. I had heard that the rules for basic cable were one “F-bomb” per season. At least that’s the rule for AMC’s “The Walking Dead“.

If you were a fan of Anarchy you are already watching this show. If you never saw the original, you don’t need to have seen it to jump into Mayans. Highly recommended show that earns a strong rating of “Must See” on my rating system.

You Should Purge “The Purge” from Your DVR

In our current political climate when Congress seems unable to act and presidents from both parties have taken to the use of executive orders to try to get anything done, the idea of the government run amuck is a ripe topic for a horror/thriller TV series or film. The Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” does a brilliant job of showing us in near future America when the government holds terrifying control over the population. Last season’s outstanding “American Horror Story: Cult” was its first ever season with no supernatural elements but quite effectively drew its terror from the current political climate. Unfortunately the new USA Network 10 episode limited series “The Purge” fails to deliver as either a political commentary or a horror story.

We’ve already had four feature films in the franchise based on the same premise. The basis of the entire franchise is that it takes place in the near future or perhaps an alternate version of America present-day in which one night per year in which all crime including murder is illegal. From 7 PM until 7 AM next morning anything goes. The government has declared this to be a fundamental right that people may exercise. The premise being that if you let people experience total chaos and anarchy once a year to get it out of their system, you can justify more significant oppression and control of their lives the other 364 days. It also serves to thin the herd of some of society’s less desirable and less prosperous people.

The original film “The Purge” (2013) followed an upper-middle-class family who believed they would be safe during the purge thanks to a newly installed home security system. It starred Ethan Hawke as the father. The mother was played by Lena Headley known for her role as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. It wasn’t a great film but it was watchable on cable. You felt the peril that the family felt as their home was attacked and their lives threatened. They explored the moral dilemma that they faced when someone begged to be let into the house to escape attackers. Can you trust a stranger in need under such circumstances?

While it was a reasonably good thriller, it failed to explore the political landscape which allowed such a situation to rise. You never did get a good feel for why the government instituted such a practice. Had we not already experienced a franchise such as “The Hunger Games” in which the government promotes chaos in order to counterbalance its oppression, the film would have made even less sense.

I have not seen the other three films “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) which seems a little bit redundant in its title, “The Purge: Election Year” (2016) which probably failed to be any more terrifying than what really happened in 2016, and the recent prequel “The First Purge” (2018). In my opinion the premise barely held up for one film. I can only suppose that the other films were just a way to capitalize on the mild success of the first one and to have an excuse to make really violent movies. I would hope that the “Election Year” version went a little more into the politics of this universe and the prequel similarly filled in some of the back story but I can’t say for sure.

Now we come to the topic at hand which is this new 10 part series based on the films. The episode presumes that you understand either from the films were from the advertising of the show just went is “The Purge”. They didn’t even bother to put up a title card explaining the premise. It’s a little bit difficult after one episode to figure out exactly who are the main characters and who are just supporting roles. We have a young couple who are attending a purge party of political bigwigs who are celebrating the event. They seem to feel uncomfortable being there despite the fact that the venue is under strong security from outside chaos and everyone involved has signed a waiver giving up their right to purge that night. Another woman from some large corporation is forced to work all night on an upcoming merger deal. She and her colleagues are similarly isolated, protected, and have signed waivers not to purge. However near the end of the first episode she sneaks out for purposes yet to be revealed.

The only mildly interesting subplot is of a man looking for his sister. He finds that she has joined some sort of cult in which they are basically a suicide pact which offer themselves up as a sacrifice to the chaos of the purge. They dressed in robes and go out as a group on a bus to an area where they know they will be slaughtered. However this subplot, like the entire plot, seems like a one note story. Once you say “Wouldn’t it be interesting if one night per year all crime including murder was legal?” There really isn’t a lot to explore. Similarly “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was a religious cult who took that opportunity to commit suicide by offering themselves as a sacrifice to the purge?” Okay so there’s a premise but what of it.

The TV series stars no one you ever heard of before so I won’t bother listing their names or credits. You can always follow the IMDb links if you are curious.

One could be hopeful that some of the back story on how the purge came about or what are the political motivations and consequences of it might be explored in the remaining nine episodes. But that’s a long way to go on nothing but hope. Unless you are a huge fan of the films and have gotten something more out of films 2 through 4 then I got out of the original, you would probably agree with me that this deserves a very strong rating of “Skip It“. If you do want to check it out, the only saving grace might be that it is only 10 episodes. I think your time would be better spent watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” or some other better done dystopian future franchise than this one.