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.

14 comments on “Horrible People, Surreal Potential”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    There was nothing much there to attract me so it’s just as well I don’t have Netflix, I suppose. Not a millenial either, of course. Go with the Norman Wisdom.
    Glad you’re feeling a little better.

  2. admin says:

    ‘An apple a day, if well aimed, keeps the doctor away.’ – PG Wodehouse.

  3. Billy says:

    I’ve just watched the first season of ‘Star Trek Discovery’ on box set. Great entertainment but us geeks inevitably get freaked out by all the things that don’t fit with future series; this set of adventures is supposed to come after Enterprise and preceed all the other Star Trek series. Example – the Klingons are literally demons, nothing like later on in William Shatner’s adventures.

  4. Roger says:

    How about a post-apocalyptic sitcom?
    Our mental nausea always last longer than our physical.

  5. Ian Luck says:

    If I’m ill, I have no shame in saying that my ‘Video Penicillin’ is watching any show made by Gerry Anderson – it will generally be his ‘holy trinity’ of ‘Stingray’, ‘Thunderbirds’, and ‘Captain Scarlet’. If I’m feeling particularly ill, the selection will also include ‘Joe 90’, and ‘The Secret Service’. Although great, his live action shows ‘UFO’, and ‘Space: 1999’, are generally a bit too dark to make you feel better – and the ‘Space: 1999’ episode ‘Dragon’s Domain’, still has the power to interfere with a really good sleep. The fact that, even though I’ve seen all his shows literally dozens of times, and they still entertain, shows their quality – and, many, many years before Pixar inserted stuff that went over kids’ heads, but made their parents laugh, Anderson was doing it. Australian businessman, ‘Sir Harry’ invites Lady Penelope to visit – “Then we can have a few beers” he tells her. My favourite, though, features Lady Penelope’s factotem, Parker. In one episode (The Cham-Cham), he has an afternoon off, and, just before leaving, dressed very smartly, complete with straw boater, informs Lady Penelope: “I thought I’d take cook out for a punt…” Could be a summer’s afternoon boating… Or it’s a euphemism for something. Being old and cynical, I prefer the latter ; )

  6. admin says:

    Funny what we watch for comfort-viewing. I feel a column coming on.

  7. Colin Quinton says:

    I made it to episode 3 and decided to quit but I might now give it a second shot. To a certain extent I think the trailer mis-sold the show, making it look far more like a comedy than it is. I also think this is true of Netflix’s other release last week, Velvet Buzzsaw – the trailer looked like a wacky comedy rather than a slower art-world satire. I saw it through but wondered how many would switch off hallway. I suppose they’ve got to pull the punters in somehow! Thoroughly enjoying The Good Place though

  8. John Griffin says:

    Admin, if you don’t like ‘fuck’ used to liberally punctuate every sentence, pass through Swansea in a car in the daytime, don’t actually stop there, especially in the evening.
    Actually they say ‘fack’.
    Remembered/overheard in a Richard Thompson concert there following a particularly dexterous piece on acoustic: “Right. Fack. Fack it. Think I’ll fack off home, smash my facking guitar and cut my facking hands off. Fack.”

  9. Ian Luck says:

    I gave up on Star Trek with ‘Enterprise’. The god-awful theme music, for one, and the inevitable tinkering with long established continuity. It is stated, explicitly, in the ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode ‘The Last Outpost’ that although Ferengi ships had been observed, the beings that crewed them had not. Ever. But, what do we have in an episode of ‘Enterprise’? An encounter with Ferengi. And don’t get me started on The Borg. What I have seen of ‘Discovery’, I didn’t like at all. I’m not alone. In fact, I prefer Seth McFarlane’s homage to Star Trek, ‘The Orville’ to it, and remember seeing a post on a Star Trek forum where nobody seemed to like ‘Discovery’: “If you want to watch real Star Trek – watch ‘The Orville’.” ‘The Orville’ definitely feels like ‘proper’ Trek: the episode where they enter an area of two-dimensional space is simply wonderful, and feels like ST:TNG, and the episode where crewmembers are abducted to be exhibits in a vast alien zoo feels just like classic Kirk era Trek. It’s funnier than all the iterations of Star Trek, because it’s by Seth McFarlane, but that’s no bad thing. The cast is good, and their characters are great. Yeah, I’m a fan.

  10. Peter Dixon says:

    Ian; do you know who is the only alien/robot to win an Oscar?

    A: Ernest Borg 9

    For my money Futurama beats the lot.

  11. Wayne Mook says:

    when ill I just snuggle up somewhere warm with the radio on a book to hand, and tend to drift in and out of daydreams.


  12. Ian Luck says:

    Peter – nice one. I agree about ‘Futurama’ but the episode which features Fry’s pining dog broke my heart. I can’t forget it, nor could I ever watch it again. See, writing this has made me get something inmy eyes. I don’t particularly like dogs (I’m very allergic to their fur), but that episode ruined me. Luckily I was at work on a Saturday night binge watching a box set, but oh, my… What is that horrible Millennial phrase? Oh, yes; the feels. Mr Groening, you knew what you were doing there, didn’t you, you magnificent bastard.

  13. Ken Mann says:

    Star Trek appears to be set in a world that experienced some sort of surveillance crisis and then had a revolution against it. Hence nobody carries cameras, and there are no security cameras anywhere on any of their ships. If they introduce them in Discovery a lot of future plots will retroactively not work.

  14. Bee says:

    Oh Ian Luck – Fry’s dog made me weep the first time I saw it. I couldn’t believe a comedy cartoon would say something so sad and so moving. Have not been able to watch it again as I get ‘all the feels’ from the first frame. It should be shown in schools as an educational film about the meaning of loyalty and treating your pets well.

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