Category Archives: episode review

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E5 Review “Partings” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

I only spent half the time distracted [this episode] … hardly a ringing endorsement

Episode 5 of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “Partings”, sees the Southlanders split between two factions — those who are going over to the dark side and those who will stand and fight. We also witness the Queen of Númenor having to make a fateful decision.

“Partings” started slow but got better as it went on. It’s definitely stronger than the previous episode, and I know this because I found myself merely checking my phone whilst watching rather than checking the show whilst watching my phone. And I didn’t fall asleep again. However, saying that “I only spent half the time distracted instead of almost all of it and that I remained conscious” is hardly a ringing endorsement.

The big problem continues to be the characters — and that is really a fatal flaw for any piece of work. What actually motivates them? The Queen of Númenor’s fateful decision doesn’t seem to be based on much nor make sense at all. And Galadriel, ostensibly the star of the show, continues to resemble a teenage fan fiction version; petulant, stupid, arrogant, essentially angsty and definitely not a good guy. She would have been mediocre in a budget network 1990s show. I just don’t buy into any of the characters. It’s hard to care when relationships aren’t properly established or developed and when we don’t really feel like we know our characters.

However, on a plus point, black-guy-who-is-the-friend-of-the-guy-who-is-supposed-to-be-Isildur (he’s Isildur inasmuch as the Galadriel in this show is Galadriel and I am Father Christmas), that is, the guy who fell out with “Isildur” previously, shows signs of potentially maybe having the possibility of becoming an okay character, eventually.

“Partings” was somewhat better than the previous ep, but to say I was “gripped” would be an overstatement. Whereas the previous episode was a two-out-of-five, this outing was a solid 3 minus.

Let’s see if this season has the exit velocity to launch us into a hopefully much improved season two. That’s the best we can hope for at this stage.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

The Rings of Power: a cure for insomnia

Rings of Power Episode 4, “The Great Wave”, involves more Númenor-based Elven hijinks, the big reveal of the mysterious Orc man-God “Arda”, and a Dwarven secret.

The episode also involved a lot of sleeping. My sleeping. I fell asleep twice while trying to watch this. A cure for insomnia is probably not what Amazon was hoping for when they ploughed a billion dollars into this series.

This blog is all about short form reviews. But for this episode, there was no way to fulfil that in this case. There is simply too much to say.

So what was wrong with the weakest episode of Rings of Power to date? Far quicker to say what was right.

THE GOOD

Gimli 2 shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character

The visuals continue to be pretty. The non-CGI goblins/orcs are a welcome return to aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings film series, undoing the awful CGI overdrive of The Hobbit. And Gimli 2, as I am calling him, shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character. There was no sign of Probably-Gandalf, or there was but I was asleep, which is a good thing, and the role of the Zummerzet-by-way-of-Kingston-Jamaica-cum-Dublin sort-of hobbits was mercifully minimised.

THE BAD

Everything else about this episode really is off.

Lack of immersion / Comedy resemblances

Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions.

First of all, I can’t stop thinking about how Galadriel sounds exactly like Kate/Bob from classic British sitcom Blackadder II. And speaking of comedians, I talked in my Episode 1/2 review about how Fat Hobbit looks exactly like Dawn French, thereby reminding me of the wonderful French and Saunders Lord of the Rings spoof, and how Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven smith of all, bears an uncanny resemblance to Monty Python‘s Michael Palin. Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions. To make it worse, Isildur — who is going to be a big donny in this show if they follow Tolkien’s mythos — looks just like James Callis who played Gaius Baltar in Battle Star: Galactica (2004). This might be ironic as the mythos suggests Isildur may follow Baltar’s plot path, in a manner.

Anyway, that I’m constantly finding myself dropping out of the hoped-for immersion and thinking about such things really shows that this show is not holding my attention. But if I doubted as much myself, falling asleep definitely proved the point.

Characters without any character

the writers … fulfil the age-old writing adage of “tell not show”…

Speaking of Gaius Baltar, I mean Isildur. He has a weird kind of bromance with his two BFFs. But in this episode they fall out, bigly. It’s supposed to be a huge dramatic moment in the episode. But I didn’t care. Why? Because I forgot the other two guys existed. I can’t even remember what their names are, who they are, what they even do, and the who I do remember, Isildur himself, just seems like a moody little twonk. Good job the writers were there to fulfil the age-old writing adage of “Tell not show” with some phenomenal exposition: “You got me kicked out of the navy. All I ever wanted was to be in the navy”*. Rule of writing for the “writers” of this show: big dramatic moment for Character A isn’t big dramatic moment if Character A isn’t a character. Even with a swell of music.

*(This is a paraphrasing. This episode was truly too awful to go back and catch the actual line. Suffice it to say, it was even more moronic than what I have written)

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave”‘. Wow, that’s a blog post title almost as long as the cast list of the aforesaid show. “Let’s have a whole bunch of characters / NPCs and make this show EPIC!” was surely what went on in the writers’ room. Apparently, according to showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay you can never have too much of a good thing. Nor of a bad thing. Speaking of which…

There’s a weird Monty Pythonesque vibe to Bloke-whose-name-we-don’t-know-nor-care-to-know who fancies Girl-who-I-think-is-the-daughter-of-the-guy, the one with the brother who’s on the boat. That one. Her. Weird, almost sitcom-ish stuff.

When Legolas 2 (as I’m calling him) copies Gimli 2’s (as I’m calling him) kids’ knocking game and opens up a secret chamber containing a priceless ore, my jaw-dropped — at the absurdity of it all. This segues nicely into…

Tonal shifts

…two thousand year old teenager Galadriel

Reviews slating Episodes 1 and 2 bemoaned strange and inappropriate tonal shifts between high drama and low comedy, a shifting of genres. I didn’t see that myself. But with this episode, I finally agree. Strange comedy moments that don’t gel with the overall vibe abound. Another major culprit is defiant two thousand year old teenager Galadriel. Nothing about her makes sense, and she seems to be in an alternate teen version of this show from a different universe.

Galadriel’s behaviour with the Queen Regent of Númenor, in particular, was totally unbelievable, and this show has got Goblins in it. More sitcommery interspliced into what is presumably intended to be a weighty epic. The parallels to Game of Thrones, given the GoT spin-off is going head-to-head with RoP, cannot be avoided. So imagine, if you may, the Red Wedding, followed by Galdariel’s hilaaaaaaaaaarious petulant attitude that winds her up in prison, comedy directoral cut included. Inappropriate tonal shifts.

Gimmicks

… Legolas 2 … Gimli 2 … Aragorn 2 … Probably-Gandalf …

Asides from being a kind-of woke rip-off of The Lord of the Rings — complete with Legolas 2, Gimli 2, troll fight, the Dark Lord’s comin’ ta getcha, Big Statue, Aragorn 2, Frodo-Sam-Merri-Pippin Hobbit mash-up characters, Probably-Gandalf — the show is also guilty of other gimmicks. My favourite is directorial.

The directorial trick of stuff spraying against the camera lens is being overdone. Remember that shot from Children of Men, that crazy long shot, where half way through the lens got sprayed? They had no choice but to carry on, as the shot was so long and complicated that they would have lost everything if they’d tried to go back. But that bit of splatter made the scene all the more graphic and disturbing. In LOTR:ROP their overuse of this trick — once per episode — is drawing attention to itself in a rather uncouth way.

No tension. Simple as.

showing us Sauron so soon…. giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub.

They show Adar’s face, the man who we presume is Sauron. Isn’t that a no-no? The fact that he was unseen in The Lord of the Rings made him scary all the way through. In the original Alien, you hardly see the alien, just snatches, and it makes it all the more horrific. And we all remember seeing Mr Blonde cutting off Marvin’s ear in Reservoir Dogs. Oh wait, no we don’t, it happened off-screen, yet that made it all the more graphic — indeed, many people, in a straight Mandela Effect twist, “remember” seeing it happen, such was the effectiveness of that non-show. So why have they blown it by showing us (probably) Sauron so soon? Giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub. Even if Adar isn’t Sauron, just as Probably-Gandalf may not actually be Gandalf, why is a main baddy being robbed of his shadowy nature this early?

The biggest problem with the show so far, and it was particularly highlighted in this episode, is we just don’t care. Sure, we know we have to stop Sauron because he’s evil, he won’t stop so we’ve got to stop him, or whatever. But there’s just not enough to care about. Galadriel, who could have gone to the western lands where she’ll never die, who is an elf and lives thousands of years, is talking to the leader of an a realm of humans that is an island kingdom way over the seas and totally isolated and safe, that these men and the elves need to join forces again to fight Sauron to stop the people of the Southlands, which is a human realm very, very far away, who I think joined with Morgoth — Sauron’s own lord — to fight against good, from being conquered… I mean, read that sentence back. Who cares? Where is the drama? What is the point? I’m enjoying the beautiful visuals, but whatever. In LOTR, Sauron was coming, he was coming for you, and it felt immediate, it affected everyone. But here, his coming is so distant, so far-off, so irrelevant to everyone else, that it’s hard to be bothered.

IN SUMMARY…

Bored of the Rings? Yes.

2/5

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E1&2 Review “A Shadow of the Past” and “Adrift” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes

What is LOTR:ROP?

It’s finally here, the series that nobody apart from Jeff Bezos asked for: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. LOTR:ROP tells the tale of the second age of Middle Earth, some thousands of years before the events portrayed in the Lord of the Rings. Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes from Tolkien’s rubbish bin, LOTR:ROP will take us back to experience the world of J. R. R. Tolkien once more, a world of good versus evil, dragons and treasure, duty and honour, and prosthetic ears.

Having spent one billion dollars on this show — a sum large enough to make one thousand people millionaires, or one person, me, a billionaire — Amazon really is going all in on this intellectual property. This innovative company with a proven track record, and a story based on a world created by one of the greatest figures of British literature, means hopes are high for this series.

Episodes one and two came out at the same time, so let’s delve into both together. The raison d’être of this blog is short form reviews. But hey, LOTR is epic, right? And judging from recent productions, “epic” means “long”, so here are my words splurged manically over your screen.

So Far, So Familiar

They seem to be trying to do a Star Wars Episode VII job on this. Kind of following the basic outline of the original, LOTR, with enough nostalgia thrown in to keep people hooked. We have Galdriel, we have Legolas 2, we have the Hobbits (kind of), we have a dark lord, we have a looming danger, and we have juicy maps. My concern with this show is they might follow the path of Star Wars episodes 7-9 which, although not awful, perhaps do not spiritually live up to their predecessors. But we have to see if this is a case of respectful homage or memberberries as the series develops.

Hobbits

Remember the Lord of the Rings? Remember how we had the Hobbits who epitomised a nostalgic olde timey rural England where things were simpler but life was better? Remember how duty and burden fell on one of these wee folk, and how in the hobbits we had the everyman characters through which to experience and connect with this fantastic world of wizards, dragons, elves and orcs? Yeah, well that’s all been replaced with a kind of gypsy tramp version of the Hobbits, now restyled the Harfoots, who caravan their way through the woods, just because. Instead of being our window to the world, these Harfoots seem to function as a kind of bumbling comedy relief. So I’m not sure what the point of them is other than to say, “Hey, remember the hobbits? Nostalgicus Rememborius! Poof!

The Harfoots feature a Ghostbusters style all-female reboot. Whereas before we had Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, now we have a kind of comedy mash-up of the original fab four boiled down to a twosome: Fat Hobbit, who looks just like Dawn French in the wonderful French and Saunders LOTR spoof, and Female Frodo (minus the burden of the ring), who herself looks eerily like Jennifer Saunders. Perhaps the presence of French’s ex-hubbie Sir Lenny Henry as Chief Harfoot (can’t remember his, or any character’s, name) is tripping my mind out. As an aside, and speaking of resemblances, the elven master smith, Celebrimbor, bears more than a passing resemblance to Monty Python member Sir Michael Palin, and I just can’t get this out of my head. I feel at times like I’m stuck in some kind of new version of Erik the Viking.

In short (no pun), I worry that the showrunners are going to push the Harfoots in an Ewoks / JarJar Binks direction.

OTT

One of the great things about Tolkien was his excellent command of the English language and the poetic beauty of his prose. So LOTR:ROP has taken the novel approach of, err, ignoring Tolkien’s own words. Some of the lines are way of the top and completely trite. They “march at first light”, of course. And then there’s, “You don’t know what’s down there!” –“That” (pregnant pause) “is why I must go”. So far, so fanfic.

It’s not just the dialogue which is over-the-top. Some of the action and special effects are ridiculous. Remember when people complained that in LOTR Legolas was almost like a computer game character, spinning and twirling about? Yeah, okay, well bring Legolas’ willing-suspension-of-disbelief testing agility back, because the way Galadriel dispatches a troll like a video game character, and the way the useless white men by contrast flail around, is just too much. Absolutely ridiculous.

Lord of the Woke

I don’t want to touch this toxic subject, not least because I risk sounding a bit Klan-ish. But it’s been a big talking point, so I have to.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power is going out of its way to be woke. And that isn’t a compliment. All the main characters are female and/or ethnic minority. All the white males seem to be dysfunctional idiots. Every marriage is mixed race. In fairness, Tolkien himself said the Harfoots were darker than the Hobbits, although I’m not sure he had Sir Lenny Henry in mind. But anyway, there’s nothing per se wrong with any of this. However, the producers have been inclusive in a way that draws attention to itself, and therefore at the expense of the immersion of the world they’re creating. And that is unforgivable.

This series will be compared to Game of Thrones, so let’s just get down to it. GoT was multiracial and featured many important female characters. But it never felt shoehorned in or for the sake of ticking boxes. It was completely natural. The people in the North were broadly ethnically similar, those from Dorn had a kind of Latin and/or Mediterranean vibe about them. The various races all mixed together in a natural way and in appropriate locations. It all just made sense.

By way of contrast, LOTR:ROP has the strange primitive isolated Harfoots who, for some reason, live in a multiracial society, where some folks speak Zummerzet, others Irish, and others still Jamaican — often the same character will sport all three accents within a sentence. This just makes no sense whatsoever and draws attention to itself. And it’s weird that in this multiracial society, there seems to be no interracial marriage; all the whiteys stick together, and all the non-whites stick together. None of it makes any sense.

But at least LOTR:ROP deals with racism through its world-building genius, where white men refer to non-white and or non-male elves, as “dagger ears”. Ooch.

The Good

There are some plus sides. They’ve done reasonably well introducing us to a wide range of characters fairly quickly. Although maybe they should have followed Tolkien a bit better by introducing them over time. They do set up a lot of stuff very quickly, albeit with a lot of exposition. But this is handled mostly effectively.

The visuals are excellent, and there seems to be a kind-of return to the aesthetic of the LOTR films and away from the overly CGI design of the Hobbit. And that’s very much welcome. The show does look gorgeous, for the most part.

The acting isn’t blowing me away, but it’s not bad. I’ll be interested to see if these relatively unknown thesps are able to deliver a heavy emotional payload later in the show as legends such as Sir Ian McKellan could in the LOTR movies.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, LOTR:ROP isn’t overly exciting me. It’s not what everyone hoped it would be, but it’s not what everyone feared it would be, either. I think some of the harsh reviews so far have been a little bit unjustified. Sometimes I don’t know if reviewers believe what they say or they are simply in love with the sound of their own witty barbs (case in point, Christopher Stevens from the Mail). We need to give this series space to see what it can grow into.

As for the storyline, before firing up Prime, I was concerned. It’s because LOTR:ROP isn’t based on a story, so much as it is based on a series of appendices and footnotes and backstories that Tolkien deliberately left out of his novels as he knew it would all get in the way. It’s like when an artist comes out with an album comprised of the offcuts of a previous album, but tries to sell it as an original work. We were on dangerous ground.

So given this isn’t an adaption of a Tolkien story like LOTR or the Hobbit were, I had fears about what the story was to be. Nonetheless, so far everything seems pretty clear: there’s some kind of dark lord, he’s comin’ ta getcha, and the powers that be are blithely and blindly ignoring the imminent threat — the elves being particularly culpable, having declared “mission accomplished” and buggering back off to their vineyards. Kind of riffing/ripping off LOTR, but you could say that is a tried and tested formula.

In Summary

Enjoyable, but nothing amazing. And we can’t use the yardstick of Tolkien’s magnificent work or the wonderful Jackson-Boyens-Walsh films to judge this by; we must judge it by its own standard. Nonetheless, more evidence must come in before the jury can render a verdict.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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“Game of Thrones” is Worse than Crack (Flashback)

gameofthrones5

I’m talking synergy, people!!

With the release of Episode 1 of House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones spin-off prequel series, I thought I would dip into the archives and repost an oldie from way back when. Will House of the Dragon have the same effect on me as Game of Thrones did?

Game of Thrones Season 5 only finished a month ago. Yet I am in withdrawal. No hyperbole. My belly is in knots, I can’t sleep at night, I’m even more pale and clammy than usual. I want Season 6 so badly, it physically hurts; I may even be developing an ulcer.

And it’s still almost a whole year to wait until Season 6. How am I going to survive for a year!?

But a thought just squelched its way into my GoT-starved mind.

There are fifty episodes so far. There are fifty-two weeks in a year…

I’m talking synergy, people!!

*dances to couch humming the theme tune*

© 2015, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Series Review “Unorthodox” (2020) #NetflixReviews #100WordReview

Powerful

Unorthodox is the story of Esther (Shira Haas), a nineteen year old from a Hasidic Jewish community in New York, who tries to flee her arranged marriage and authoritarian community to build a new life for herself. But will her community, or her husband, let her escape?

Unorthodox is, I believe, the first Netflix series shot in Yiddish, which makes it notable. It’s an engrossing story which paints a powerful picture of a repressive community without ever getting into Judaism-bashing. The limited series was infused with realism.

Powerful.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Limited Series Review “Ripper” (2020) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

engrossing

Four episode Ripper is Netflix’s recounting of notorious serial killer The Yorkshire Ripper, a.k.a. Peter Sutcliffe, and his murder spree across northern England in the ’70s and early ’80s. The series follows the standard script: talking heads, archive footage, and narration overlaid. None-the-less, it was thrilling. Well told, we are immersed in the world of ’70s/’80s Britain. With Sutcliffe’s recent death due to Corona (in December 2020), this is a timely and engrossing look at one of Britain’s worst ever serial killers.

As the series itself says, we all expect and want the serial killer to be an otherly monster, but the reality is far more banal, and far more terrifying.

4/5

© 2020-2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Spitting Image Season One (2020) Review #BritBox @BritBox_UK

A show this well-funded … with some of the best … talent around … just cannot be this badly scripted.

Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
Episode Six
Episode Seven
Episode Eight
Episode Nine
Episode Ten

Spitting Image is the legendary satire-with-puppets show from the 80s and 90s. Crude, surreal, and always biting. This show helped define the era itself whilst commentating on it. And in a world seemingly gone mad — Brexit, Trump, Covid-19 — it seems the perfect moment to awaken the kraken. We’ve seen false dawns before (Newzoids 2015-2016), but this is the real deal, the return of the king.

Spitting Image Season One was a mixed bag, to be blunt. The structure of an episode started out a bit chaotic, but then gradually got stronger, until the last few episodes when it was generally good: satirical takes on the news events of the week were interspersed with running sketches. The show definitely grew in self-confidence throughout its run, and hopefully this rhythm will give the show the exit velocity required to launch a more consistent second season.

The puppets were absolutely magnificent (with the bizarre exception of one, Nicola Sturgeon, read here for more details). Even better than the original run’s puppets, whilst totally in keeping with the style. Of course, the puppets would be nothing without the puppeteering, which was splendid.

The biggest problem with Spitting Image Season One, and it’s quite a big problem for a weekly satire, is that it often lacked bite, edge, or even good jokes. Worst of all, it was frequently very lazily written. Prince Andrew getting hit in the head, James Corden getting killed in almost every episode, Trump’s hands are small: no amount of repetition can render these “jokes” funny.

A show this well-funded and with a team of 16 + writers, many of whom are veterans (David X. Cohen, Al Murray, Patric Verrone), with some of the best voice talent around (Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr), and frankly genius caricatures and puppeteering, just cannot be this badly scripted. Okay, they are responding to moving events, which is hard, but that should be bread and butter for the talented team behind this show, many of whom are stand-up comedians or with a background in improv. And just look at South Park, they are able to create hilarious and highly contemporary stories and jokes. Furthermore, Spitting Image often barely mentions current new events (see ep 7): a real clanger was the US Election Special Part II which was extremely light on US Election Special stuff.

In short, everything about this show was magnificent — apart from the writing. There were many highly memorable moments, but Season One is best watched in 24 minute compilation format; there simply isn’t enough funny stuff to fill ten episodes. But this is a show we need. So I look forward to season two despite Season One being, on balance, poor.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.inews.co.uk/content/uploads/2020/09/PRI_144981546.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E10 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

The satire was … more on-point than during most of the series.

Recent episodes of Spitting Image have been a bit weak. Would the season finale arrest this decline, or are we locked in a death spiral?

Episode 10 had the usual mix of running sketches and references to that week’s news events. This week, Priti Patel’s bullying came up. Boris Johnson compares it to his Eton shenanigans and declares Patel’s behaviour “harmless banter”. The whole cabinet then proceed to “banter” Hancock by physically abusing him while victim Hancock proclaims, “I’m part of the gang”. Probably the best scenes of the episode. Satirical, references current events, and the surreal elements had some basis in truth (Priti Patel “deporting” a succulent plant out the window for being “foreign”).

There were many other funny moments, too. Barack Obama was portrayed as a money-grubbing, corrupt, shyster who only cares about selling his book. Great to see a hero of the liberal-left satirised. Harry Styles tries to be macho but just keeps getting camper, which made me laugh. And Taylor Swift was portrayed as vacuous and basing everything on market research. The runner Mike Pence’s Fairytales for White Folk was actually funny this week, almost makes me regret that we won’t likely be seeing it again. Fox Man Starmer was also back, and as usual he isn’t so much “forensic” as he is a tedious law bore. None of this was razor sharp, but it was all diverting satire with surreal and grotesque streaks running through it.

The satire was indeed more on-point than during most of the series. A great example of this was the satire of Amazon, referencing absurd over-packaging of items and its almost creepy invasiveness. So much funnier than all that nonsense with Bezos on Mars from previous episodes.

There were a few clangers, though. Bezos’s girlfriend’s puppet looks exactly like a whitewashed Megan Markle puppet. This was weirdly distracting. The song number was once again unfunny. And there were a few sketches that went on a bit long.

None-the-less, Episode 10 was a stronger outing than in recent weeks, a decent end to the season. Just nudges a three.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://i.inews.co.uk/content/uploads/2020/09/PRI_144981546.jpg

BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E9 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Nicola Sturgeon … this was lazy and vaguely racist, poor quality nonsense from the Spitting Image team.

Spitting Image Episode 9 continues with the rhythm it found in the last outing, running sketches interspersed with satirical takes on the news of the week, and it was characterised by the same growing confidence in its own material.

As for the “news of the week” stuff, we saw Cummings get sacked. This was a diverting if not totally amusing section. There was also a return of Trump and his launch of Trump TV. Again, hardly side-splitting, but it was good to see the best character in the show back again. We also also saw Matt Hancock give an interview on Good Morning Britain, an event whose significance, such as it was, has already been forgotten by society. None-the-less, vaguely interesting but hardly amusing.

The episode was characterised, as so often during this first season, by frankly unforgivably lazy writing. The Mars stuff, where we see Bezos, Musk, and Branson trapped on the Red Planet and passing the time by blazing the days away, is as unfunny and pointless as ever. The addition of Oprah showing up as she “has houses everywhere… even on Mars” was not in the slightest funny. Joe Wicks rears his head again only to be (once again) splatted by a frying pan. This running sketch is so forgettable that I have no idea why the writers keep doing them. But the pièce de la resistance of awful and lazy writing was the treatment of Nicola Sturgeon. I am no fan of Sturgeon or the SNP, so I was yearning for some good quality satire here, but this was truly dire stuff. The accent and mannerism was all off, the jokes was bizarrely lazy. I mean, “Glasgow kiss”? Seriously. But the worst sin of all, the puppet was really poor. This show has phenomenal puppets, and it is a puppet show, so this was just shocking in its general direness. The worst part of this sketch? It has actually made me take the SNP’s side in a debate: this was lazy and vaguely racist, poor quality nonsense from the Spitting Image team.

But it wasn’t all boring or lazy or unfunny. Jurgen Klopp once again amuses, starring opposite Idris Elba in a new section called “Good Klopp Bad Cop”. I didn’t need to reach for the needle and thread, but despite the lack of split sides I did at least smile along. The life of the modern rock star mockumentary sketch was overlong, but still quite snort-worthy if not full-on laugh-worthy. The joke was summarised, “Modern pop stars: focused, middle class, and tedious”. David Attenborough’s further tech fails did actually make me laugh, as did a scene with Ronaldo as a fat pub landlord: the line “Mini Frazzles… but enough about your dick” made me chuckle. And Ru Paul’s Pope Race was actually very funny, I can’t deny. To top it off, there was another “comedy” song which, although not funny, was for the first time this season not totally awful.

Despite some good moments, Episode 9 was still fairly poor quality. I’m even more convinced of what I said in my Episode 4 review: Spitting Image Season One will be best viewed as a 24 minute viral video compilation of its best bits.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

Reference: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/nicola-sturgeon-spitting-image-puppet-23061793

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BritBox Review: Spitting Image S1E8 #BritBox @BritBox_UK

Amusing … but uninspired and lazy

Spitting Image Episode Eight saw the show begin to get into the swing of things. With its running sketches, such as Govey in Paris and the Bond auditions, this felt like a show that was finally finding its rhythm. Sadly, it’s not a hugely funny rhythm.

The anthropomorphised Coronavirus “Coronie” is back again. He’s depressed because of the vaccine, but gets a pep talk from the Flu who tells him that Chicken Pox isn’t down in the dumps so why should he be? So Coronie vows to “mutate with the times”. Uninspiring stuff, but at least it has surrealism to make it borderline diverting. Something that cannot be said of our inane Bezos-Musk-Branson storyline featuring the three entrepreneurs trapped on Mars and getting high as kites. This is as unfunny as ever.

Biden comes face-to-face with the Illuminati which is comprised of underused puppets created for the show, one of which is Piers Morgan. But really, Morgan is that influential? Having him as a main member of the Illuminati could only be motivated by a desire to flatter the real Morgan’s huge ego in order to get air time on GMB. Weird stuff.

But it wasn’t all dire.

Harry and Megan made a return. It’s still the same joke: he’s a clueless put-upon prat and she’s a power and fame hungry C lister who’ll stoop to anything to get breaks. None-the-less, it’s amusing. A rather amusingly well-delivered line from Harry was, “Either I’m an idiot, or you’re the greatest actress of all time”, to which she responds “Oh, Hairr-brains, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said”. As much as I’ve been doing down this show over the last few episodes, that exchange genuinely made me chortle, and it was also refreshingly humanising of these two individuals.

The spoof of Tarantino was completely straight-forward and predictable but none-the-less reasonably amusing.

BoJo was shown as beholden to public opinion and willing to flip-flop at the drop of the hat if the people, that is, Marcus Rashford, will it. This was quite amusing, and I shared an online clip of this segment, such was my amusement.

Idris Elba‘s “smoulder” was back, and pretty amusing. The best bit of the episode, really, all five seconds of it. And there was some mockery of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s new age nonsense, which also amused. The James Corden impersonation is still shockingly accurate, hard to believe it isn’t actually him. Seeing Corden get hit around the head with a club by Tiger Woods was satisfying and amusing, but it was hardly great satire.

Amusing. Yes. “Amusing” is the word. Much of this episode was amusing, some of it raised a smile, but none of it made me laugh out loud as moments from previous episodes did. Therefore, even though it was more solid than Episode Seven, it has no real stand-out comedy moment unlike last week’s outing. Although there was an exceptional stand-out bit of surrealism where Kanye West takes to rearing GMed cattle which are designed to grow trainers instead of hooves which he then just snips off and sells…

Spitting Image seems to be finding a rhythm, finally, and growing in self-confidence, but it is still uninspired and lazy, lacking in bite, edge, or even good jokes.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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