I started watching Seinfeld because I missed Curb YE too much. At first it was a bit like Friends, four people in and out of each other's apartments, low production values, nothing much happens. It got good around S4 when there was a season long theme of trying to sell Seinfeld - the series to NBC and the gang started to go outside – to a set, but it looked more real than Friends's Greenwich village. They also started to take the piss out of Jerry's stand up routine, which I imagine was quite old hat by 1997 and Elaine was given better storylines and allowed to be meaner.
The suporting characters were recurring and consistently amusing: Newman, Jerry's fussy parents, George's absurd mom and pop, the various nemeses of the guys inc. a young Walter White as a handsome dentist. It was funny to see now famous stars playing Jerry's girlfriends (Sarah Silverman, Kristen Bauer, Megan Mulalley), although none was allowed to actually be funny. Elaine was the only woman who's allowed to be funny. Imagine having Karen from Will 'n' Grace on your show and her playing the straight guy.
My conclusion: Jerry's the mensch, George is the schlub, Elaine's the shiksa, Kramer's the schlemiel and Newman's the schmuck.
I don't usually go for big bearded bear men, but I developed a slight crush on Andri, the chief of police in a one petrol station town in the far east of Iceland, investigating a headless torso washed up in the harbour. Like Sarah Lund, he has issues: his two daughters becoming bullies, his ex-wife bringing her new boyfriend to stay, a Fargo-esque dumb colleague who lets a people trafficker escape. Scandicrime is back and this time it's Iceland, bitch! The snow comes, the populace is trapped, the big boys can't fly in from Reykjavik: it's all on Andri's hunched shoulders.
3. The Characters
Six comedians do a one off sketch show, featuring themselves as various characters. If this had been British, there would have been whimsy, or riffing/ripping off The Fast Show or Little Britain. Perhaps because there’re more grotesque characters in the US, it worked pretty well. Ep 1 was by Lapkus, last seen playing the soft hearted prison guard Susan in OITNB, starring as a Paris-meets-Britney reality star as well as an emo pole dancer (at Dick N' Boners, a Hooters style establishment), and an appalling teen in a bus station. Ep 3 met Henry Zebrowski, whose appalling life was shown through flashback as he met God and we discovered that in past lives, he was a racist comedian, one of the other criminals at Gethsemane, a caveman trying to shag a stone figure and the worst date ever, turning up naked after having his clothes stolen. Ep 5’s highlight was Natasha Rothwell being a basic basic basic bitch.
4. Follow The Money
This Scandi-crime drama was not so much the Killing or the Bridge or even Trapped; it was more like the Wire, but featuring windfarms rather than drugs and urban blight. As well as the title, there was a nod to the Wire when Mads used an authorised wireptap for an entirely different case to eavesdrop on their man. Featuring the handsome but dodgy Sander as the head of said windfarm company and his ambitious but annoying lawyer Claudia, whose idea of a fun day out for her 7 year old is to take him to a factory in Jutland because she has to sack everybody who works there. Their antagonists were Mads and Alid, the archetypal maverick and dedicated rule follower, respectively.
5. Love, Nina
Whimsical, twee, but also very funny. I think it would've been better if it had actually scripted by Alan Bennett though.
Stafan Grosilewski (Him 'n' Her) moves from Walthamstow, his to Chingford to Lesley Manville’s house. Her character, Cathy, has recently lost her husband, but not her son, Jason, who still lives with her and not his insecure girlfriend, Kelly, who practically moves in.
The men are hapless, the women are insensitive, the grandparents are hilarious. Someone said it’s about grace under pressure, but I thought it was more about the failure to communicate. Kelly’s mum loves her but shows her it by calling her a silly cow and belittling her. Family friend Michael loves Cathy but can’t tell her even after a Christmas hand hold. Kelly can't tell Jason she doesn't want to move with him to Australia and although he realises this, he can’t bring it up with her, instead pretending he didn’t get the job he applied for. No-one talks about death even though it runs through each episode. The characters aren’t as grotesque as the sister and brother in law and neighbour in Him 'n' Her, but they are very real. I loved the sister in law who was horrified by the wine choice in Cathy’s house. Jacob’s Creek?!
7. Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23
Perfect over-achiever mid westerner June moves in with Holly Golightly-on-MDMA soicopath Chloe. Off couple hilarity ensues. Strange then, that the best character is James van der Dawson playing James van der Beek. Over-sensitive, narcissistic, vainglorious, both desperate to move on from the Creek yet return to it, he nonetheless treats Chloe and June like princesses, to the extent of giving passers by money when Chloe steals their drinks. He has feuds with his nemesis, Dean Cain, and his secondary and tertiary nemeses, Fred Savage and Malcolm from Malcolm In The Middle. I didn't know he was funny!
8. The Outlaws
A very black comedy drama, rather than a Scandi-noir. Four Flemish-Belgian* women try to kill their brother in law with mixed consequences. Some of the humour fell a little flat to my English ears, but overall I was entertained by the attempted murders: paintball, electrocution, fake suicide, gas explosion, freezing, which always ended up with someone else getting hurt. At first, it seemed that the sisters' desire to kill Jean Claude is spurious: he's unpleasant to his wife, he won't lend one of them money, he maneuvered himself into a promotion over the eldest sister, he's obnoxious, controlling, manipulative, racist and insisted on calling his wife “mummy”, but as things went on it got darker, with the loss of an eye, attempted blackmail, and a rape resulting in pregnancy and forced abortion, and then you wanted him deader than dead. In the end, though, who actually dunnit was both a surprise and obvious – as all good murder mysteries should be. The local police were useless; fortunately there are a couple of dogged insurance agents on the trail of the black eyed blondes.
* Whenever they venture into Wallonia, the locals are portrayed as drunken, lazy, venal peasants.
This is not so much of a sit-com as a sit-traj. It starts off as a comedy about terrible people, and ends up a deeply dark drama about a disturbed woman. With guinea pigs. Worth seeing for Olivia Coleman playing the bitch, at the very least.
10. Stranger Things
I don't like horror, Stephen King or stories about kids, but I did like this series in its execution rather than its premise (secret lab, other dimension, children-eating monster). I was captivated by Winona Ryder trying to speak to her missing son via the medium of Xmas lights (this is the beginning of the Winonaissance I hope) and enjoyed the tale of the teenage love triangle - instead of bookish-turned-bad ass Nancy dumping douchey Jean Ralphio-alike boyfriend, Steve in favour of nerdy Jonathan, Steve changed and regretted his awful ways. Stand out star was psychokinetic El, the astonishingly good pre-teen actress who blew the part out of the water (or rather, tank she was placed in).
11. Mr Robot
Modern life is rubbish and also a bit like Fight Club.
12. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
The premise of this: over-achieving lawyer Rebecca quites high flying New York job for crap town in So-Cal because her first boyfriend lives there sounded meh to the max. But it's very engaging, for the song and dance numbers, for the enabling best friend, for the fact that love-object Josh is so unimpressive, for Rebecca herself: neurotic, self-loathing, pretty darn awful but ultimately lovable.
13. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
If we thought satire was going to be enough to stop Trump, we were wrong, but I enjoyed John Oliver's attempted take down of him. Joliver's charm is his English self-deprecation (Colbert is starting to get a Jesus-complex, you can see it in his eyes) and his absurd similes. I have also been impressed with his feminism: there are only three writers (all male) on the show so he presumably has a lot of input, and they have interrogated the swimsuit edition of Men's Health magazine, the lack of sex education in schools, leading not only to unwanted pregnancies and STIs, but also problems with understanding of consent, the wage gap, and more.
Filling the Scandi-noir shaped hole in the BBC4 schedules and our hearts. The heroine, Inge is no Lund or Noren, but she is good, a profiler brought in to investigate a neo-Nazi serial killer along with the tall and handsome Stuart Broad lookalike cop, Ingevar. Little does Inge know (until ep 4 anyway) that her Aspergsy daughter witnessed the first murder but is unable to talk about it. Ingevar has his own demons, his daughter died aged six. Throw in a lesbian vicar, a TV chef, a hipster artist, lots of snow and stripped pine, and you have the perfect accompaniment to your hygge.
15. Luke Cage
Blaxploitation hero turned champion for our times, Luke battles drug dealers, corrupt councillors, and dodgy science in this superhero-without-a-cape yarn.
16. Black Mirror
Every story was a winner, although my faves were the sweetest (heaven is a virtual place on earth) and the darkest (the revenge tragedy).