The Simpsons Season 8 (1997) – TV Review

Following on from another huge success in Season 7, and this time not having a huge cliffhanger to build off to start the season, there was pressure on this season of the show to continue the good work, and luckily for us it does.

Kicking off the season with a compellingly Treehouse of Horror episode, season 8 sets off strong and never looks back.

While some episodes this season were quite forgettable, there was also a significant amount of stand out episodes for me, whether it was through the quality of them or the controversial or memorable storylines.

Some of my personal favourites this season were: Frank Grimes’ instant hatred of Homer in ‘Homer’s Enemy’, Sideshow Bob turning to the good side in ‘Brother from Another Series’, Homer’s confrontation of his homophobia in ‘Homer’s Phobia’, the X-Files riff in ‘The Springfield Files’, and also the Homer and Burns centric ‘Mountain of Madness’.

There are many other strong episodes and again all the major characters get a chance to shine, and the supporting cast also get increasingly more story as the show settles in and becomes truly comfortable with that it is.

This continues the huge success of the golden age of ‘The Simpsons’.

Rating = 4.5/5

Fleabag (2016) – TV Review

Following on from the big success of her one woman show, the BBC hired Phoebe Waller-Bridge to turn ‘Fleabag’ into a tv show, and the rest was history.

The result is a show that mixes comedy and drama together with such ease that it can cause the viewer whiplash as they bounce between genres, almost overnight creating a new touchstone for what British comedy could achieve and launching Waller-Bridge’s career into the stratosphere.

The show is hilarious with brilliant one-liners, unique comedic situations and pitch perfect line deliveries, as well as the sexual and potentially ‘offensive’ humour that really cuts through.

However, the real key to this show is the drama and emotion at the heart of everything. Much of the sex and humour the main character uses is just a deflection technique to hide from the pain inside, and while I won’t spoil the reasons for this pain, I will say that it is so perfectly revealed that it breaks your heart.

There is deep explorations of feminism, relationships, sex, depression, and family here. The writing from Waller-Bridge is so sharp and incisive, making the whole show feel incredibly fresh.

Despite all the focus on sex and relationships, the real thing that proves to be the focus is family, and especially the unique and fascinating relationship between Fleabag and her sister Claire.

Claire is Fleabag’s opposite in almost every way, she is successful, uptight, and never lets her emotions come to the surface. The two clash constantly, but there is also a very clear love and dependency between them that make it very special to watch.

Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman, and the entire cast play the characters in a pitch perfect manner that makes them instantly memorable and all work in the context of this world.

The only thing stopping this season from being regarded as one of the British comedies greats is that the second season managed to be better, and my review for that will be coming up shortly.

Rating = 4.5/5

Bad Education (2020) – TV Review

For many years as he was churning out box office hits as Wolverine whilst also starring in successful studio programmers/awards flicks/popular plays, Hugh Jackman was an almost universally loved actor and somehow still very much under appreciated, mainly because of how easy he made it look.

Now, on the back of a career high performance in ‘Logan’ to end his time as Wolverine, it feels people are really appreciating what Jackman does and they will be even happier once they have seen this film.

Detailing the true story of a college fraud scandal, this film takes an interestingly comedic and high energy approach, whilst some of the camera work makes it feel almost documentary style.

The story itself is interesting and packed full of surprises, and especially for Jackman’s character there is a big LGBTQ storyline that I won’t spoil as it wasn’t included in the marketing but it is compelling and well executed.

The best thing about this film is the cast, with Jackman giving a performance unlike we have seen from him before and now he is free of franchise commitments, I can’t wait to see him continue to take risks like this.

Alison Janney is also very good in her supporting role here, showing exactly why she is now an Oscar winner and one of the most respected character actors of her generation.

The only disappointment for me was how under-utilised Geraldine Viswanathan was in what could’ve been a fascinating role but essentially just operates as a plot device to get the plot moving. Viswanathan is a great talent and I hope she gets more compelling roles going forward.

Despite the fact that this is very much a ‘film’, it was released as a TV Movie on HBO and therefore will compete in the TV awards season and not the film awards season, and it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.

Rating = 3.5/5

The Simpsons Season 7 (1996) – TV Review

Starting with the high profile conclusion to the epic “who shot Mr Burns” saga, there was a huge amount of pressure on the show to see if it could live up to the hype of the thing it was parodying: the “who shot JR” from ‘Dallas’, and the show managed to deliver.

Moving on from that and into a fresh season, they managed to think up a wide variety on angle’s and topics to address this season. Everyone one of the major characters feels well served here and they all get their chance to shine.

Some of the stand out episodes for me were the laugh riot of ‘King-Size Homer’, the more thoughtful and contemplative ‘Summer of 4 Ft.2’, the pop culture exploration of ‘Radioactive Man’, and Kirk Douglas episode ‘The Day the Violence Died’.

This season had to follow season 6, which in my opinion is the best season the show has ever done, and there is very little noticeable drop in quality and therefore another very fine season of TV.

Rating = 4.5/5

I’m Alan Partridge Season 2 (2002) – TV Review

Arriving five years after the incredible success of the first season, there was huge amounts of anticipation for this second season, and it somehow managed to not only live up to it, but it my eyes exceed it.

Moving Alan from the travel tavern to a little caravan where he lives on the grounds of the mansion he is having built proved to be a stroke of genius, and adding a new and much younger girlfriend for Alan also brought a interesting new dynamic to things.

The major old favourites were also back in supporting roles, with Lynn and Michael there to continue their time as Alan’s long suffering but absolutely essential companions.

Some of the episodes here are the finest examples of British comedy that you could ever find, with “The Colour of Alan” and “Never Say Alan Again” being particular stand-out’s from a incredible season.

Steve Coogan has simply never been better in anything than he is here, and for years to come people will look back on his work here as some of the best comedy acting and writing that you will ever find.

“Jurassic Park!”

Rating = 5/5

Jack Whitehall’s Sporting Nation (2020) – TV Review

When I heard that Jack Whitehall was going to be hosting a lockdown series for the BBC that would focus on British sport, I was throughly uninterested, as I thought it was an odd pairing of topic and host, and that it would also just be a glorified highlights package.

However, I decided to give it a go and was instantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Whether it was the corona virus enforced lack of live sport I’d experienced this summer or not, I found this cleverly structured and well executed look at the many ups and downs of British sport to be quite gripping and very comforting.

Whitehall does add some comedy in but is mostly restrained here and delivers some genuinely good voiceover work to add to the feel of the show.

It’s by no means a modern classic, but in these uncertain times, it felt like a warm sporting blanket to wrap ourselves up in.

Rating = 4/5

The Deceived (2020) – TV Review

This four part thriller has been a ratings success for Channel 5, and I don’t think it’s any surprise why when you consider it is from the writer of ‘Derry Girls’ and stars ‘Normal People’ breakout megastar Paul Mescal (more on his role later).

It is very much cut from the cloth of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and it’s like, a slow burn thriller that hints at supernatural. Telling the story of a University girl’s affair with a lecturer, who’s wife then mysteriously dies in a fire and a whole range of mysteries begin to unravel.

The show is very much a two hander between Emily Reid and Emmett J. Scanlan, and both do a good job. Reid is compelling as a version of the ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ and I hope to see her career continue to grow after this. As for Scanlan, he’s playing a very unlikable character here and he has to use all his acting ability to keep us so engaged with his story.

Likely the main reason many young people will be watching this show (which they usually wouldn’t have) is the presence of Paul Mescal. After his remarkable performance in ‘Normal People’ he has quickly become a internet heartthrob and those tuning in will he very sad to see that he has a small supporting role in which he is unable to do anything with apart from show the same one emotion throughout.

That isn’t the fault of Mescal, it is just how the character is written. He is definitely his usual charismatic self and very few actors have such a natural on screen presence like Mescal, but so much more could have been done with his character and he was really wasted.

We also get canoes from some of the ‘Derry Girls’ cast and other character actors in supporting roles throughout but few manage to make an impact.

Most of the story beats were predictable if you know the genre well, but a strong cast and compelling atmosphere made it an enjoyable watch and a success for Tobias Beer and Lisa McGee.

Rating = 3.5/5

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