The Middle (2009-Present)

The Middle

(TV-PG)

Plot Summary: The daily mishaps of a married woman and her semi-dysfunctional family and their attempts to survive life in general in the city of Orson, Indiana.

Creators: Eileen Heisler, DeAnn Heline

Stars: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (White Noise) Every once in a while, you’ll get a chuckle out of this show, and there are some insightful commentaries about life in general. However, watching Frankie & Mike Heck schlep through life in their crappy jobs, in their crappy house, and with their ungrateful kids is way too often depressing. After Season 1, I will only be watching further episodes of this show if it happens to come on TV while I’m doing something else. That being said, Heaton and Flynn are charismatic in their roles; Frankie is a much better character than Debra Barone. Also, Atticus Shaffer is an excellent little weirdo.

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Lilyhammer (2012-present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A New York mobster goes into hiding in rural Lillehammer in Norway after testifying against his former associates.

Creators: Eilif Skodvin, Anne Bjørnstad

Stars:Steven Van Zandt, Trond Fausa, Steinar Sagen

Serious Jest:animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)(Casual Watch)  I went into the first season hoping for The Sopranos-meets-Norway. I don’t know much about Norway, and it’s nice to get a glimpse into other countries through productions that feature them as almost a character in themselves (for example, The American). This series did a great job in featuring Norway. However, it was also pretty hokey and featured a protagonist that I did not like.

Frank Tagliano is a narcissistic, hypocritical bully, who pushes his culture and ideas of how the world should be onto everyone in his newly adopted country, stepping on hapless and sometimes innocent Norwegians for selfish gain in stereotypical American imperialist fashion. However, unlike The Sopranos, in which Tony Soprano constantly struggled with his conscience, this show glorifies Frank.  I feel like I’m supposed to chuckle as he “outsmarts” (more like strong-arms) people into satisfying his every whim. Fortunately, in the second and third seasons, Frank became a little more judicious and tolerable, while other characters, such as Fausa’s Torgeir, flourish. In my opinion, Fausa carries the show. He is charismatic, funny, humble, and tough when he needs to be. He idolizes Frank, even though he is often unrewarded for his unconditional love. Most importantly, he is the conscience of the show, and through him, we are reminded of the price one pays for being or following Frankie the Fixer.

By the way, world, look out for Maria Joana

maria-joana

and Ida Elise Broch.

  ida-elise-broch You might fall in love.

Californication (2007-Present)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: A novelist battles writer’s block and a weakness for drugs, booze and sex while struggling to make things work with his girlfriend and daughter.

Creator: Tom Kapinos

Stars: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Evan Handler

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  This show is very well done for what it is.  The script is witty, the actors are capable (although I’m not a fan at all of Madeleine Martin‘s deadpan portrayal of Becca Moody).  I just can’t relate to these characters.  For the most part, they are wealthy, entitled Los Angeles socialites who do terrible things to each other, yet they continue to hang around each other.  They are co-dependent, dysfunctional, hedonistic, and incestuous (not literally).  Not my cup of tea, but the story is compelling enough that I watched all the way through Season 2.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-present)

(TV-MA)

(TV-MA)

Plot Summary: The misadventures of a milkshake, an order of fries, a meatball, and their retired next door neighbor in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Creators: Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro

Stars: Willis, Carey Means, Dana Snyder

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Casual Watch)  I watched the first 2 seasons on Netflix and would have kept watching, but I wasn’t willing to pay to watch the remaining seasons on Amazon, or even to take the trouble to download them on bit torrent.  I suspect you have to be high to really enjoy this show.  That being said, at about 10 minutes an episode, it’s entertaining enough to casually squeeze an episode or two in at lunch.  Also worth it for its pop-culture value; get 2 or more of your friends together, and you’ve got some great Halloween-costume potential!

Louis C.K.: Chewed Up (2008)

(NR) 60 mins
(NR) 60 mins

Synopsis: Louis C.K.‘s second one-hour special filmed at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, MA.

Directors: Louis C.K., Shannon Hartman

Writer/Star: Louis C.K.

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  Louis C.K. is one of my favorite comedians.  As usual, he charismatically delivers brutally honest material that leaves you simultaneously uncomfortable and laughing.  Some of the material in this special, though, especially the stuff in the beginning involving offensive words, I just don’t relate to.  Before you get all “that’s what’s wrong with ‘Murica” on me, I’m not saying he was wrong for going there, but I just didn’t find that material very funny…just like I’m not much into toilet humor.  If you love that stuff, go for it…if you’re offended by my lack of enthusiasm for it, though, I cordially invite you to pound sand and kick rocks.

The Joneses (2009)

(R) 96 mins

(R) 96 mins

Plot Summary: A seemingly perfect family moves into a suburban neighborhood, but when it comes to the truth as to why they’re living there, they don’t exactly come clean with their neighbors.

Director: Derrick Borte

Writers: Randy T. Dinzler (story), Borte

Stars: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Worth Watching)  A different concept and pretty good acting, even if the plot twists were sometimes predictable.  This film is a clever dramatic social commentary, but even calling it a dark comedy is a stretch.

Stir Crazy (1980)

Stir Crazy

(R) 111 mins

Plot Summary: Skip and Harry are framed for a bank robbery and end up in a western prison.  The two Eastern boys are having difficulty adjusting to the new life until the warden finds that Skip has a natural talent for riding broncos with the inter-prison rodeo coming up.

Director: Sidney Poitier

Writer: Bruce Jay Friedman

Stars: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  Don’t get me wrong, I love the bromance between Wilder and Pryor.  They were both very charismatic in their films together, their comedic chemistry was synced up like the periods in a women’s barracks, and they didn’t rely on their differences in race to establish a masterfully balanced contrast.  But, over time, the jokes that used to kill back in the 70s and 80s just don’t have the same impact anymore.

Also, is it just me, or is it a little unbelievable that a prison rodeo would draw the huge crowd seen in this film?  I had similar thoughts during The Longest Yard, and I love football.

This movie is amusing, and it’s not bad background, but it’s not worth dedicating an exclusive 2 hours to.  On the other hand, I’m definitely going to try to incorporate “kiss the baby” into a future conversation.

Orgazmo (1997)

(TV-MA) 92 mins

(TV-MA) 92 mins

Plot Summary: Naive young Mormon Joe Young is recruited to act in porn movies.

Director & Writer: Trey Parker

Stars: Parker, Dian Bachar, Robyn Lynne Raab

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t BotherJeez, these South Park guys really love to go after the Mormons!  To be fair, though, they often portray them as happy and good people, despite their wack-job religion.  Parker & Matt Stone often seem to be on the same wavelength as my funny bone (no pun intended), so although this movie was silly and came off as thrown together with little effort, I couldn’t help but keep a smirk through most of it.  The acting of Parker and Bachar in this film was very good, especially in their expressions.

Also, the women in this film were hot (except for the ones that weren’t meant to be)!  IMDB reflects that an unrated version of this film exists.  If any of you have seen that version, please weigh in here.  I suspect that I would have given that version 3 mugs!

 

Cheers (1982-1993)

(TV-PG)

(TV-PG)

Plot Summary: The regulars of the Boston bar Cheers share their experiences and lives with each other while drinking or working at the bar where everybody knows your name.

Creators: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles

Stars: Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Queue it)  Not only was this show good enough to run a full eleven seasons, but, over twenty years after the last episode, it still holds up! The topics are still relevant, the dialogue is still funny, and you can still see real-life versions of these scenarios play out in your local favorite watering hole.  I’ve already called out a few Cliff Clavins!

Whereas most shows that start out hot eventually lose their steam and fizzle out, this series changed characters, tweaked plot lines, and kept just enough of its essence true to execute a strong run throughout (I think the show got better when Woody came aboard!).  I normally hate sitcoms, but this is one of the best ones I’ve ever watched.  Queue up the complete series on Netflix, and watch every last episode.

Jawbreaker (1999)

(R) 87 mins

(R) 87 mins

Plot Summary: A practical joke goes murderously awry for a trio of teen queens who are desperate to cover up their crime.

Director & Writer: Darren Stein

Stars: Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz

Serious Jest: animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd)animated beer mug 25% (transparent bkgrd) (Don’t Bother)  Not bad for what it is: a tongue-in-cheek high school story about privileged teen white girls.  While I couldn’t relate, it wasn’t boring.  The editing and cinematography were key.  Too much overacting, though, especially from McGowan.  Love that Noxzema girl, though!