Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Playing Hooky Edition

I took the day off today, so technically I’m not really playing hooky. My boss has a vague idea where I am, but “using a vacation day” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I’m actually off on some pop culture-related shenanigans that I’m sure I’ll share with you later, assuming everything goes according to plan. Stay tuned.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without making sure that you had this week’s roundup to keep you amused in my absence. As usual, I’ve searched high and low to try and find all the pop culture that you may have missed in the last week. So kick back and relax and fully immerse yourself in the world of pop.

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  • This is one of the weirder things that they’ve done on The Tonight Show:

 

  • Madonna released her own star-studded music video:

 

  • Jurassic World told in emojis:

 

  • Janet Jackson dropped her first single in six years:

 

Time for some trailers……

  • Hotel Transylvania 2:

 

  • 7 Days in Hell:

 

  • IFC’s Documentary Now!

 

  • The Secret Life of Pets:

 

  • IFC’s The Spoils Before Dying:

 

  • Awesome Asian Bad Guys:

 

  • A teaser for the second season of Fargo:

 

  • A trailer for Boulevard, one of Robin Williams’ final roles:

 

  • Kung Fu Panda 3:

 

  • People Places Things:

 

  • Emily Blunt in Sicario:

 

  • Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer series:

 

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger freaked some people out at Madame Tussards:

 

As always we end with the mashups and supercuts……

  • It’s all about the editing – a softer, kinder Ramsay Bolton:

 

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  • Pentatonix covers the evolution of Michael Jackson:

 

  • “Yesterday’s Lullaby” – mashup of The Beatles and The Cure:

 

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  • They Might Be Giants cover Destiny’s Child:

 

  • Seth MacFarlane is pretty great at impressions:

 

  • Chuck Palahniuk reads Fight Club for Kids:

 

  • Lady Gaga covers John Lennon’s “Imagine”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peek – Comedy Central’s Another Period

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Comedy Central has really been killing it the last few years with their new programming, especially with shows that are written by women; Inside Amy Schumer is one of the best things on television and Broad City has also offered two very strong seasons of comedy. So my anticipation was a little high for the newest Comedy Central show, Another Period, written by and starring two comedians that I enjoy, Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates) and Natasha Leggero (Let’s Be Cops). Unfortunately, I think that may have been too much pressure to put on this new comedy, since while I think it shows some promise I was ultimately overwhelmed by the first episode (debuting tonight). They have assembled a mind-boggling amount of talent for this show, but at least in the pilot all the pieces haven’t quite come together.

Another Period is most obviously a parody of Downton Abbey, as it focuses on the lives of the Bellacourt family – among the richest families of Newport, Rhode Island – and their servants at the turn of the 20th century. However, with the focus on the socialite daughters Lillian and Beatrice (Leggero and Lindhome, respectively) and their spoiled and clueless behavior, the show is also a parody of reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Since I am familiar with both shows – I’m not necessary proud of that – and enjoy satire, Another Period should have been right down my alley.

While I did find some things amusing in the first episode, however, the jokes never seemed to quite live up to its interesting premise. There is obviously a lot of material to mine for comedy in both of the shows that it is taking aim at, but the execution was very uneven in the pilot. Things last a beat too long or the jokes aren’t diverse enough in subject matter. The joke topics aren’t very sophisticated – there are a lot of jokes about sex – and while I don’t mind that in principle, I prefer even my low-brow jokes to be smart. There is some potentially smart commentary in there, but it’s hidden behind some of the more absurd elements of the show. Perhaps the fact that a show like Keeping Up With the Kardashians is already an absurd parody means that jokes making fun of it don’t land as easily as you might expect.

Another Period isn’t lacking in talent, however; not only are Leggero and Lindhome great, but they have surround themselves with one of the most talented casts that I’ve ever seen. The rest of the Bellacourt family is played by Jason Ritter (Parenthood), Artemis Pebdani (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), David Koechner (Anchorman) and Paget Brewster (Community and The Thrilling Adventure Hour); the downstairs staff is comprised of Michael Ian Black (VH1’s I Love the…… series), Beth Dover (Childrens Hospital), Brett Gelman (Go On), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Armen Weitzman. Even if all those names aren’t familiar, I assure you that you will recognize most of the cast when you see them. There’s a lot of “Hey…that guy!” going on when you watch it. Even the guest stars are actors and actresses that you’ve seen before and almost everyone on the show has a solid comedy background. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches and I hope that as the show finds it voice and footing that it takes advantage of all the people that it has at its disposal.

Pilot episodes for comedies are notoriously hard to do well and I’m hoping that is the case with Another Period. There is a lot of setting the table to be done as the premise has to be established as well as all the characters. With a cast this large, that’s a lot to take on and the pilot does this work fairly efficiently. But all that set up doesn’t leave a lot of room for jokes or plot line; hopefully subsequent episodes will allow more time to explore these elements of the show and in the process will help the writers find the right tone and balance for the show. I may not have initially been blown away by the pilot, but I saw enough there that I’m willing to give Another Period a few more episodes to see if it figures itself out. It may ultimately be a show whose humor I just don’t connect with, but I like so many people involved with it that I am hoping that I am hoping that isn’t the case.

I do wonder if Another Period would have been a better fit with the programming of Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network; it’s apparent tendency toward the absurd and its focus on parody would have teamed well with Childrens Hospital or NTSF:SD:SUV. In fact, many people in the cast have appeared on those shows and Adult Swim has made itself a home for more offbeat and eccentric programming (see Too Many Cooks). Another Period may find an audience and do very well at Comedy Central, but tonally I think would have made more sense at Adult Swim.

Another Period may not have come out of the gate strong, but I saw enough there that interested me that I’m planning on seeing through the entire ten episode first season. I think it has an interesting concept and I have affinity for almost everyone associated with the show, so I am willing to give it more than a fair shake to see if it becomes a show that I enjoy more. Hell, I’d probably watch it even if it was terrible just to have Christina Hendricks back in my life on a regular basis (R.I.P., Mad Men). With so much comedic talent squeezed into the show, I am optimistic that Another Period will evolve into something interesting; whether that something is in keeping with my comedic sensibilities remains to be seen.

Another Period debuts tonight (Tuesday June 23rd) at 10:30 pm (ET) on Comedy Central.

Some thoughts on A Deadly Adoption

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Since I was actually at home on a Saturday for the first time in months, I decided to take it easy this weekend. I needed a break from my usually overscheduled life and kicking back and staying close to home seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. That meant that I was in front of my TV at 8 pm Saturday night when Lifetime debuted their Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig movie, A Deadly Adoption. There was no way that I was missing that. I grabbed some ice cream and curled up on the couch, curious as to what I was about to witness.

I had been looking forward to the debut of A Deadly Adoption partially because I had absolutely no idea what to expect from it. Would it be a parody of Lifetime movies, full of over the top acting and akin to a sketch that you’d see on Saturday Night Live? Would they actually do just a traditional Lifetime movie? Were the viewers about to get punked and discover that there was no full length movie, just two hours of random nonsense? Honestly, any and all options seemed plausible. The idea that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig had teamed up with Lifetime to do anything seemed patently absurd, and when that’s your starting point anything really is possible. I was kind of rooting for theory #3 – this was all an elaborate prank – as I was sure that would make the most number of people angry and it’s always fun to watch people lose their minds of silly stuff that no one should really care about. Plus I have absolutely no idea the number of people who watch Lifetime movies like I do – as a goof –compared to those who take these movies seriously. I think the membership of the latter group is probably larger than I think, which in and of itself is concerning.

It turns out that Ferrell and Wiig opted to play it straight; A Deadly Adoption was on the surface a pretty straightforward Lifetime movie. Ferrell and Wiig didn’t vamp it up or make it overtly campy; their presence was the only thing that really made A Deadly Adoption out of the ordinary. If the leads had been Tori Spelling and Dean MCDermott, nothing would have appeared remotely amiss. This may have disappointed people who were tuning in expecting something over the top or laugh out loud funny. That’s not what this movie was. But for people who are familiar with this genre of movie, A Deadly Adoption was pretty funny in a deadpan sort of way. It played up all the unintentional comedy that these movies possess with their ridiculous plot twists and silly dialogue. At its worst, A Deadly Adoption was an average Lifetime movie; at its best it was a subtle parody of the genre that just let the tropes of the genre do the work for it. A Deadly Adoption was a silly, melodramatic film which was exactly the point. If you were playing “Lifetime movie bingo” while watching, you would have a full playing card by the movie’s end. The checked all the boxes of the needed characteristics for a true Lifetime movie. There was just enough cheese and self-awareness to make it a super fun viewing experience.

The plot of A Deadly Adoption is ripe Lifetime movie canon – Robert and Sarah Benson (Ferrell and Wiig) lose their second child after an accident, which puts strain on their marriage. They decide to adopt a child; enter Bridget (90210’s Jessica Lowndes), a beautiful young pregnant woman looking to give up her child to a loving home. Bridget is currently living in a shelter, so the Bensons invite her to move in with them and their daughter Sully. But is Bridget seems to have designs on making herself a more permanent fixture in the Benson home. To say any more would be to ruin some of the fun, but as is required for Lifetime movies, there is secret identities, infidelity, kidnapping, murder and other assorted mayhem. A Deadly Adoption is a bit like a mix of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Fatal Attraction and What Lies Beneath all rolled into one.

I don’t know if Lifetime as a network has become self-aware or not, but whoever wrote this movie knew exactly what they were doing. A Deadly Adoption is more of an homage to terrible Lifetime movies than a mocking of them and on that level the movie really works. The hardest adjustment is watching Ferrell and Wiig play it straight down the middle; you are so conditioned to expect them to do something wacky and big that it takes a bit to get used to them playing these roles somewhat seriously. There is some initial humor at seeing these two actors in the movie, but that’s the most overt grab for laughs. Sure the plot for A Deadly Adoption is ridiculous and the constant revelations and plot twists are ludicrous, but that’s exactly the point. Honestly, this wasn’t even the craziest Lifetime movie that I’ve ever seen.

I kept an eye on Twitter while I was watching A Deadly Adoption and the reactions to the movie ran the gambit. Those who were expecting a spoof like Scary Movie were terribly disappointed by the fact that this wasn’t a straight comedy. Those unfamiliar with Lifetime movies just thought that it was a terrible movie. But for the select few who had no expectations going in and have a background in Lifetime movie nonsense, it was unintentionally comedy gold. When you recognize that A Deadly Adoption was more of a conscious tribute to the Lifetime movie genre than a takedown of it, it’s kind of brilliant. It certainly didn’t work from lack of commitment from anyone involved.

I have absolutely no idea what Lifetime was trying to say by airing A Deadly Adoption – maybe they are finally admitting that they are in on the joke – or why exactly Ferrell and Wiig decided to get involved. I’m glad that they did, however. I may not have laughed out loud during the movie, but there were several chuckles of recognition and nods of approval on the execution of the required elements. A Deadly Adoption was just a weird little distraction that fell into my lap and while I don’t think it’s for everyone, it was certainly something of a love letter for those of us who watch Lifetime movies ironically. Everyone was in on the joke, which was there was no joke. It was like one long performance piece; Andy Kaufman would be proud.

If you missed A Deadly Adoption, Lifetime is surely re-running it ad nausea. Check your local listings.