On movie’s biggest eve, naturally I’d like to talk television. Here’s hoping Oscar gives a little love to Mad Max, Brooklyn (sweet little movie) and Leo (scroll down for Revenant review) but we’re here for good TV, not overlong award shows where the Hollywood elites get to stroke each others egos for 4 hours to the tune of $232 000 gift bags. We’re also not here to talk about the ” the inmates are running the asylum” media circus, reality TV, “the am nots” and “are toos” that passes for political discourse these days TV. We’re here to talk about artists, clowns, New York in the seventies, punk rock, alien abductions, lizard men, Louis C.K., Louie Anderson, racist Alan Alda, pie sitting, mental illness and Martha Kelly.
Who’s Martha Kelly you’re asking? Martha Kelly is Chip Baskets’ insurance adjuster. Chip (Zach Galifianaskis) who was studying to be a classically trained clown at a Parisian clown Académie, up until he got expelled for not being able to speak french is forced to go back home to California. He returns to the states to pursue his dream of clowning, but finds that there isn’t a huge demand for clowns in his hometown of Bakersfield, except for at his local rodeo. Chip also has to suffer the insults of his twin brother Dale (also played by Zach) and the indignation of having to move back in with his mother played by Louie Anderson. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d ever type: I love Louie Anderson. His portrayal of Mrs. Baskets is kinda brilliant. Produced by Louis C.K., Baskets is dark, funny and my new obsession.
“Warning: this show is not a “comedy”. I dunno what it is. It can be funny. And also not. Both. I believe that “funny” works best in its natural habitat. Right in the jungle along with “awful”, “sad”, “confusing” and “nothing”.
I just think it’s fair this one time to warn you since you have every right to expect a comedy from a comedian. I will not warn you again. Anyway it’s 2 dollars this week. Take a shot.”
Set in a bar in Brooklyn, it is shot like a one room stage play. The show tackles issues of racism, mental illness, family dynamics and dysfunction. It can get tripped up on its own ambitions but has moments of brilliance and insight. The cast is phenomenal: along with Louis you have Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi, Steven Wright and a show stealing Alan Alda who plays the cantankerous Uncle Pete. I’ve only seen the first two episodes but there is enough there to keep me coming back for more.
Speaking of back for more, The X-Files returned for a 6 episode refresher to remind us the truth is still out there. The 6 episodes produced uneven results with the best being Mulder and Scully meet the Were-Monster which showcased how good this show can be when it combines humour and the paranormal. The grand conspiracy was probably too ambitious for just 6 episodes and felt too rushed and too problematic. All that can be forgiven for the little moments we got between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) that showed two old friends who truly cared for one another.
The main character of Mick Jagger’s and Martin Scorsese’s Vinyl is the music. Everything else except maybe the tone take a backseat to the energy and mayhem of what was going on sonically in 1973 NYC. Vinyl is best viewed as a heavily dramatized historical glimpse (with many liberties) into a pivotal moment in Rock N Roll. You can forgive the clunky dialogue and tired plot points to imagine you were there at Mercer Union to see The New York Dolls tear through Personality Crisis or seeing The Velvet Underground playing Venus in Furs at one of the Plastic Exploding Inevitable parties with Warhol cool or witnessing the birth of Hip-Hop at 1520 Sedgwick avenue in the Bronx with DJ Kool Herc cutting up the Meters. As long as the songs remain the same, Vinyl should remain in the rotation.
Better Call Saul is back and as good as ever. It’s not easy to emerge from the shadow of one of TV’s watermark programs, but Vince Gilligan’s spin on a small time grifter who finds his true calling in the morally flexible nature of the law stands on its own. Bob Odenkirk musters enough charm, wit and sleaze to give Jimmy McGill a place among the greats. Season 2 starts off with Jimmy’s career skyrocketing but the allure of the con is always beckoning. Mike (Jonathan Banks) still doesn’t suffer fools kindly but always seems to be surrounded by them. In Better Call Saul we get to watch another person break bad in front our eyes and the brilliance lies within the increments that it takes place. Noble ambitions become tarnished and discarded as characters succumb to the pitfalls of ego and validation. Corruption never looked so good.
It’s nice to know TV’s still golden, and in a week’s time we get to put House of Cards through the reality index once more.