Horrible People, Surreal Potential
There’s something wrong when post-apocalypse drama is more appealing than a sit-com.
Here’s what to do when you’re sick. Box-set binge.
It was all my dehydrated brain could handle while my body was rejecting the planet, so I watched something called ‘Russian Doll’ on Netflix. My reason for choosing this programme was carefully considered, viz. it was being marketed heavily and
it was downloadable onto my tablet so I could hold it in bed and not drop it when I made a dash for the sick-bucket.
I watched with several huge reservations, the first being that one of the most Googled articles on the series was ‘5 Major Questions That Must Be Answered In Season 2’. This is not a good thing to come up first on a new show.
Second, the first episode was nearly my last. It seemed to concern an incredibly annoying woman with no neck who has a truly horrible life being surrounded by absolute Boho wankers in NYC, who relives her birthday night over and over, dying each time. So, ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Happy Deathday’.
Third, everyone is astoundingly crude. The leading lady, Natasha Lyonne, can’t find use for any sentence without a Fuck in it. Now, Londoners are among the most imaginatively sweary people in the world, but the random use of Fuck is limiting and boring. Plus, do these people who worship artistic freedom and holistic humanism hear themselves? Lyonne complains that her lover is a ginger Irishman, and she’s a redhead! But oh, wait a minute…have I just fallen for a clever double bluff – is that what this is about, messing with double standards?
Plus – and I notice this a lot in the little TV I watch – the writers just wander away from what appear to be important plot points. There’s a whole schtick about a missing cat for a while, then it’s gone for ages. I note ‘Russian Doll’ is billed as a comedy drama but there’s little actual comedy here, just smart references from a bunch of vile, cynical people being vituperative toward each other. Okay, so if it’s on Netflix it’s there to tap into (mostly) Millennial angst, and that means a lots of Generation Me shows about solipsistic, introspective fusspots worrying over their mental health and complaining about their parents.
But then something odd happens. At the exact mid-point the series improves dramatically by losing most of the humour, which frankly wasn’t working anyway, and suggests that something genuinely other-worldly is happening. Fish die, fruit rots, mirrors vanish…and paradoxically we’re on more solid ground because in 2019 comedy is very difficult to get right without upsetting every fringe group going so why bother?
So I’m in. I’ll run with the next season so long as I don’t feel like I’m being led down the ‘Lost’ route. Anything’s worth taking a punt on more than another series about the Rapture taking people away or part-cyborgs or wars between devils and angels. But will ‘Russian Doll’ cut it?
There’s something wrong with the world when you find that post-apocalypse drama is more appealing than a sit-com. But hey, it’s a weird new post-democracy world and we’re only hanging onto its coat-tails. Perhaps this is why I should retreat into old Norman Wisdom films when I’m feeling ill. Norman is annoying too, but he makes me happy.