For sheer lighthearted sitcom fun, few shows can compete with The IT Crowd. It follows the well-known workplace sitcom format: in each episode, we see the three principal characters interacting in their shared office. As the IT staff of a large corporation, Jen, Moss, and Roy deal with the technological incompetence of their superiors, the ingratitude of their coworkers, and the everyday indignity of being a nerd. Jen is the head of the department, the “relationship manager,” despite having no knowledge about computers, for which Roy and Moss tease her relentlessly. Roy is a selfish, laid back, halfheartedly kind bloke; perpetually single but not bitter about it, his best friend and coworker Moss is very shy and considerably weirder than his friend. Moss is the type to obsessively count the staples in his stapler and email the authorities about a fire when he gets flustered and can’t reach them on the phone. Luckily, the socially adept Jen is there to smooth things over and keep the place running, but she isn’t without her own foibles; her ignorance has gotten her into hot water more than once, like when she believed Roy when he told her that “typing Google into Google can break the internet” and passed on this dire warning to the board of directors, or when she pretends to be a classical music expert to impress a date – only to have that date ring her up from the set of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” asking for her help on a classical music question.
For a lighthearted workplace comedy, The IT Crowd is in the running as my favorite. The episodes “The Haunting of Bill Crouse” (wherein Moss accidentally convinces the whole office that Jen has died), “Are We Not Men?” (the guys pretend to be soccer fans to make friends and end up accessories to a robbery), and “Italian for Beginners” (where Jen uses translation software to pretend she speaks Italian) are absolutely hilarious, and it was hard to stop that list at just three. Recommended for fans of The Office (British or American), Parks & Recreation, Spaced, Coupling, and Community.
Showtime’s critically acclaimed series Homeland stars Claire Danes as CIA counterterrorism agent Carrie Mathison, who has just received startling information from one of her contacts: an American POW has been turned. Months later, US Marine Nicholas Brody (played expertly by Damian Lewis) is found alive in Afghanistan after being presumed dead for eight years. Though his return is heralded as a great victory and he is touted as a war hero, Carrie is certain that he is working for al-Qaeda. She goes behind the back of her superiors, setting up illegal surveillance equipment in Brody’s house and monitoring him at all times, doggedly pursuing the truth at any cost.
I could give you a list a mile long of adjectives describing how great this show is (compelling, thrilling, captivating, mind-blowing, etc.), but nothing I can think of really does it justice. The acting, particularly Danes in her portrayal of a very zealous woman suffering from bipolar disorder, is absolutely superb. The story will grab ahold of you and not let you go, with twists and turns that constantly keep you guessing where Brody’s allegiance lies. I finished the entire first season of this show in about two days because I couldn’t stand to not be watching it. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this series, but make sure you plot out several hours of free time to watch it. Once you start, you won’t want to stop.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, the librarians who write for this blog LOVE A Song of Ice and Fire. We really can’t seem to stop writing about it. If you do too, these two brand new items are definitely worth a look:
Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones by Bryan Cogman: an in-depth look at the HBO series, with material from both the first and second season. Interviews of the cast, behind the scenes photography, stills from the show, family trees, interviews with production designers and costume designers and conceptual artists: everything you could really want. If you’ve combed the extra material on the DVD sets, most of this isn’t new, but it’s gorgeous anyway.
The Lands of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: This brand new non-book is more than it appears: it’s a set of twelve full-color poster sized maps folded up and packaged in book shape. But when you unfold them, it’s a fantasy reader’s dream! Detailed, beautiful maps with tons of new information: before now, the exact parameters and proportions of Martin’s vast imagined world were not exactly defined. But now, NOW we finally know where the Dothraki sea sits in relation to the Red Waste; where the Shadow Lands and Asshai are; the layout of the canals of Braavos; and oh, behold the new details of the smoking ruins of Valyria!! It’s glorious, but a warning: if you are a show-watcher and not a book-reader, there are spoilers inside!
(And in case you’re just starting out, you can find the novels at many Rivershare libraries.)
Somehow I never got around to watching 1979′s Being There . A cultural touchstone at the time; it still holds up when you watch more than thirty years later. I was looking for movies set in Washington, D.C. and thought now was the time to watch this – thinking it would be a bit of a chore.
However, it is wonderfully absorbing. A certain calmness and serenity takes hold of you, the longer you watch it. Peter Sellers was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Chauncey Gardiner, (the character tries to communicate his name as, Chance the gardener and is mis-heard by a wealthy benefactor played by Shirley McLaine). Melvyn Douglas (who did win an Oscar) becomes very fond of Chauncey and imbues his simple statements about gardening and nature with metaphorical wisdom.
This is a beautifully made and acted film. Peter Sellers, in his last role, inhabits the character with a solemnity and simplicity that makes it a completely unique character. Chance/Chauncy’s only experience of the outside world was through television, and there are frequent clips of commercials and shows of the day. It’s really fun to see “Basketball Jones,” again.
Did all the hubbub over the Emmy awards make you want to check out some of the winners? We have lots of them available for checkout at the library! Stop by to pick one up or click the links to place holds on them today!
Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family (featuring Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series winner Ty Burrell and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series winner Julie Bowen)
Outstanding Drama Series: Mad Men (read my review of the series here)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights (read Ann’s review of the series here)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Margo Martindale for Justified
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Juliana Margulies for The Good Wife
Outstanding Miniseries or Movie: Downton Abbey (featuring Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie winner Maggie Smith. Read Ann’s review of the series here)
Check back later for additional winners Mike & Molly, Game of Thrones, and Mildred Pierce.
I’m normally wary of anything that has too much hype surrounding it, because generally I feel like it can’t possibly be as good as everyone says it is. I’m sure you’ve heard of Mad Men, as it is constantly hyped as one of the best shows on TV and has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes. If you’ve never seen it, it’s set in the 1960s in New York City, and it’s all about the “golden age” of advertising on Madison Avenue and the glamorous life that the ad men led. Last week I finally checked out a couple of episodes and I have to say, it really is fantastic. What I’m enjoying most about the show is the look and feel of it. Not only does it seem very historically accurate, it’s such a beautiful period piece. Everything from the clothes and the hair to the scenery is lovely to look at.
The acting in the show has also been wildly acclaimed, and it is also superb. Jon Hamm is fascinating to watch as Sterling Cooper’s morally-complex creative director Don Draper. You want to root for Don because he’s so charismatic and such an advertising genius, but he is certainly no angel. I’m also finding myself really interested in the storyline of Peggy, the naive new secretary to Don. We’re learning about how things work at Sterling Cooper right along with Peggy as she is thrown into a world filled with double standards between the men and the women. If you’re looking for a great drama series to watch and are especially interested in learning a little more about the past, I highly recommend checking out Mad Men. Currently we own season one, season two, season three, and season four, so stop by any of our three locations to look for one today!
The Kids are back in the Hall! Or at least they returned to the hall long enough to make a new 8 episode mini-series in 2008 called Death Comes to Town which is super duper funny and, of course, very Canadian.
It used to be impossible to go a day without seeing an episode of The Kids in the Hall, the Canadian Sketch Comedy show that originally aired on CBS and HBO from 1989 to 1995, and then appeared in constant reruns on Comedy Central and other cable channels. But it has been awhile since I have seen the gang altogether (comedians Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thomson) since they have all been off making other TV shows, voicing characters in Disney movies, and hosting reality shows in their home country, so I was thrilled to discover this new series sitting on our new DVD shelf.
Instead of The Kids in the Hall‘s usual short comedic sketches, Death Comes to Town is a murder mystery ala Agatha Christie meets Monty Python featuring a huge cast of characters/suspects all played by the five comedians. The story takes place in the small town of Shuckton, Ontario, when the town’s beloved mayor is killed in his home just after informing the town that they did not win the bid to host the 2028 Winter Olympics. One of the mayor’s old hockey prodigies, an recluse who hasn’t left his home in decades, decides to solve the mystery with help from the local news team and a bunch of quirky townspeople, all while a Demon repeatedly tries to kill him.
I highly recommend Death Comes to Town for all Kids in the Hall fans and for anyone who likes their humor both a little dark and very silly. And although fans may be sad not to see most of their favorite KITH characters, there is a brief cameo by the beloved Chicken Lady.
Another television series cancelled too soon, Better Off Ted center around the Research and Development department of a giant, evil coropration called Veridian Dynamics. Its common practices include freezing an employee and trying to convince him not to sue, attempting to create products like synthetic meat, and covering up products that have unexpected negative side effects (like perfume). The main character and narrator is Ted, the beloved head of the department who is often left struggling with what to do with his company’s outlandish requests. Ted is also coming to terms with his feelings for new co-worker and the show’s moral compass Linda despite his brief fling with his ice-cold supervisor Veronica, played by scene-stealing Portia de Rossi.
The show is certainly unusual, with its heavy satire and frequent breaking of the fourth wall by Ted speaking directly to the viewers. But fans of Arrested Development (another show cancelled before its time) will enjoy this unique and often hilarious series. It lasted for two seasons, and so far only the first has been released on DVD. I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of season two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!
American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson isn’t really a celebrity memoir about the Hollywood life. It’s the story of a young man, struggling with addiction, who wants nothing more than to get to America. Beginning with his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson describes the events of his life that made him who he is today, including dropping out of school at age 16, working in construction, becoming a drummer in various bands, and finally making his mark in the acting and comedy worlds. It was through his career as a drummer that Ferguson first developed a problem with alcohol, which he recounts with much painful detail.
This book is a powerful story about overcoming addiction and working hard to make your dreams come true. Since he was a child and visited the States with his uncle, all Ferguson wanted to do was move to the United States, and anyone who has seen The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson knows that he did indeed make this happen. Though he tells a serious story, the book of course has lots of humor and funny moments in it. I would recommend this book not just for people who enjoy celebrity memoirs, but also for anyone looking for an inspiring story about overcoming the odds and making a better life for yourself.
Is it good for your mind? No. Is it a titillating hi-def splatterfest with Matrix/300 bullet-time effects enjoyable to watch? A definite yes. You wouldn’t be lying if you told your friends there were love stories and a healthy amount of unpredictable plot twists and skullduggery either.
I came upon Spartacus: Blood and Sand due to its free streams on the Roku box last year. I stayed because I could not look away, despite the thinly-veiled disclaimer at the beginning of the historical drama assuring us “the sensuality, brutality and language is to suggest and authentic representation of that period.” Come on, it’s based on actual history. Does that count?
The production and costuming is exemplary. Virtually every ancient Roman has the standard-issue Shakespearean lilt and some 20th century vulgarities. You’re too busy watching heads and period garb falling off to care about the anachronism. Lucy Lawless will NEVER be able to be called a warrior “Princess” again.
Sadly, production was suspended last spring for star Andy Whitfield’s (Spartacus) health, as he was treated for lymphoma. When it was determined he would need a more aggressive regimen, Whitfield bid the franchise and the most physically demanding role on television goodbye.
In just a few weeks on January 21st, a stopgap measure 6-episode prequel will begin on Starz network, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Whitfield is rumored to make a couple cameo appearances among the regular cast of seeming professional body builders. Casting has begun on his Dick Sargent-esque replacement in Season 3.
I, for one, will lament the loss of Whitfield and hope for his full return to good health.
In other news, Kirk Douglas is 94 years old and could probably still reprise his original motion picture role. I wouldn’t rule that bruiser out as a replacement.