Sneak Peek – HBO’s 7 Days in Hell

7daysinhell

In general, I am the fan of the mockumentary (mock documentary) format. It’s a way to put an interesting twist on your method of storytelling and when done effectively it can be quite entertaining and give you some flexibility in your narrative, as it gives the characters a way to directly address the audience and comment on events. I think I first discovered the genre with the hilarious Waiting for Guffman and This is Spinal Tap before rediscovering it on TV with series like The Office, Summer Heights High, Arrested Development and Parks and Recreation. Mockumentaries vary in their commitment to the format in how much they actually acknowledge the idea of a documentary film crew; in The Office this was overtly part of the show, with the film crew eventually breaking the fourth wall in the final season of the show and becoming part of the story line, while Parks and Recreation never explained why they had so many “talking head” segments or who they were talking to.

This Saturday, HBO will debut a new sports mockumentary, 7 Days in Hell, starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington (Jon Snow to Game of Thrones fans). The 45 minute special charters the tennis rivalry between party boy superstar Aaron Williams (Samberg) and the simple prodigy Charles Poole (Harrington) as they battle each other in a tennis match that lasts seven days (hence the title). The special fully embraces the format and plays with the tropes of sports documentaries. It is also extremely silly; there is a lot of ridiculousness at play in 7 Days in Hell and while I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was laugh out loud funny, it was very amusing and I enjoyed it.

Samberg has the showier of the two roles as Williams, which isn’t all that surprising as he is also a producer. Williams appears to have been inspired by Andre Agassi, right down to the ridiculous mane of hair. Williams is the sports resident bad boy who hasn’t met a vice that he doesn’t like. Poole, on the other hand, is a reserved man-child who is great at tennis and lives for the approval of others, especially his mother (Mary Steenburgen). Poole may be great at tennis, but he’s dumb as a box of rocks and Harrington doesn’t have to do a ton here other than have a black expression and look pretty. Harrington sells it, however, and it was kind of nice to see him do something other than know nothing on Game of Thrones.

Part of the fun of 7 Days in Hell is that it is chock full of cameos; you really never know who is going to show up. Some people, particularly the tennis pros, are playing themselves, while others are portraying some of the silly characters that litter the special. I won’t ruin any of the surprises by saying who pops up, but there are a lot of familiar faces that turn up in some unexpected places. Some work better than others, but all bring something fun to the table. I was particularly happy to discover the narrator of the mockumentary was none other than Jon Hamm; I had no idea that he had anything to do with this project, but I would recognize the dulcet tones of his voice anywhere.

7 Days in Hell is absolutely playing in the absurd end of the comedy pool, but doing so in a smart way. In some ways, the special feels like a super-sized SNL skit, with lots of diversions along the way that don’t have much to do with the actual tennis match. Some of the bits land better than others – a few jokes last a beat or two too long – but the good far outweighs the bad and there are so many silly things happening that if you don’t dig one joke they will quickly be on to the next one. With a 45 minute running time, this is a fairly sleek special; it doesn’t feel like it was padded for time and it tells the story that it wants to tell and then ends. Honestly, the time watching it absolutely flew by; 7 Days in Hell was very efficient and I was surprised to see that twenty minutes had passed as quickly as it did.

One caution – 7 Days in Hell takes full advantage of the freedom that is available at HBO and might be a little raunchier than you are expecting. There’s also a fair amount of nudity – including male full frontal – so this may not be something that you want to watch if there are little ones around or if that makes you uncomfortable. There’s also sex and drug use as well. It all pays off in the comedy, but it took a few turns that viewers might not be expecting, so consider yourself warned.

7 Days in Hell was a funny little diversion that I enjoyed quite a bit. Andy Samberg gets to ham it up to his heart’s content and it was fun to see Kit Harrington expand his range a bit in a comedic role. Some of the individual components work better than others, but the whole thing comes together to form a consistently funny special. You don’t even have to like tennis to enjoy 7 Days in Hell; you just have to open to some very silly shenanigans.

7 Days in Hell debuts Saturday July 11th at 10 pm on HBO. 

 

 

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Poor Time Management Edition

My head must have been in the clouds because I almost forgot that was a pop culture roundup week. That isn’t a problem in and of itself, but failing to remember means that I didn’t get a head start on putting this together. I had planned to get a lot of this done Monday night, as I was at a show last night, but then I started looking for breakup songs and I was down the YouTube rabbit hole. Next thing I knew it was 11:30 and I never got to the roundup. So I’m doing a rush job on it this week (mostly on my lunch breaks), so forgive me if I don’t cast as wide a net as usual. I love doing this post, but it is ridiculously time consuming.

Now that I’ve lowered your expectations, on to your biweekly culmination all things pop:

  • I gave you the skinny over the weekend on what shows have been cancelled and what shows are returning (which I have updated). Now several of the networks have released their fall schedules (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX). I’m already working on a grid to see how many conflicts I have.
  • In addition, trailers have been released for many of the new shows:

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)

Dracula (NBC)

Sean Saves the World (NBC)

The Blacklist (NBC)

Welcome to the Family (NBC)

Ironside (NBC)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC)

Betrayal (ABC)

Killer Woman (ABC)

Lucky 7 (ABC)

Mind Games (ABC)

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC)

Resurrection (ABC)

Back in the Game (ABC)

The Goldbergs (ABC)

Mixology (ABC)

Super Fun Night (ABC)

Trophy Wife (ABC)

The Bridge (FX) – debuting in July

  • No more Stefon – Bill Hader is leaving SNL. His last episode will be this Saturday.
  • I seriously considered taking a day off for this: The Bluth Banana stand from Arrested Development was in NYC earlier this week. Track where it is headed next on Twitter.
  • This website maps every recurring joke on Arrested Development. There goes my afternoon.
  • As a Mad Men fan, I really enjoyed this collection of fun facts, theories, callbacks and Easter Eggs on the show.
  • Christina Aguilera appears to be poised to return to The Voice. It was nice knowing you, Shakira.
  • These “Ryan Gosling won’t eat cereal” vines are absurd, yet hilarious:

 

  • Taco Bell is unveiling a waffle taco. You know I’m trying this.
  • Danity Kane may be reuniting (note to author – calling this group beloved might be overselling it)
  • I wrote previously about the awesomeness that was the Jon Hamm/Adam Scott collaboration The Greatest Event in Television History. This year Scott will be teaming up with his Parks and Recreation co-star Amy Poehler for a special airing June 6th. The identity of the project has been revealed.
  • The boy band The Wanted is getting a reality show. I admit I will probably watch this. I saw them perform last year at the Mixtape Festival and they were a lot of fun.
  • Casino Royale opening done in LEGOs:

 

  • Angela Bassett and Patti LuPone have joined the cast of American Horror Story: Coven. This season is shaping up to be pretty fantastic.
  • Mashable has some eerie photos from the abandoned Star Wars sets in Tunisia.
  • At this point, I’ll only be surprised to see who isn’t in Anchorman 2.
  • This article from Business Insider claims that compared to actual ads in the 1960s, the work of Don Draper’s ad agency is pretty terrible.
  • This makes me sad – Harper Lee is suing her agent for cheating her out of the copyright of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Here’s an interesting fact – Tupac’s Godmother was the first woman ever added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist List.
  • Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s former mansion is for sale.
  • Broadway star James Corden will play the Baker in the film adaption of Into the Woods. Johnny Depp will be the Wolf and Meryl Streep will be the Witch. Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal are also in talks to join the cast.
  • A bad lip reading of The Walking Dead:

 

  • Whoa – Jay-Z and this guy from 1933 are almost identical.

jay-z

The only logical explanation is that Jay-Z is immortal.

  • A new Toy Story short will air on ABC at Halloween. I hope they bring back my pal T-Bone!
  • Sometimes Twitter is just fantastic – someone has created a parody account for 80’s Don Draper.
  • Andy Samberg and his pals in The Lonely Island introduce Wack Wednesdays:

 

  • Game of Thrones producers wrote an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (for real).
  • A poster has been released for Catching Fire, the next film in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Catching fire

  • Mariah Carey has released a new single, featuring Miguel:

 

  • A murderer in Canada based his crime on Showtime’s Dexter. And they say that
  • Joe Dirt 2 is a real thing. Was there a clamoring for this?
  • More Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episodes will debut this summer – Jerry will actually talk to a girl!
  • The Iron Man trilogy remix:

 

  • Just in time for my birthday – Justin Timberlake will release The 20/20 Experience, Volume 2 in September.

As always, we wrap up with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Enjoy this Pop Punk Mashup:

 

  • These guys play parts of 17 Taylor Swift songs in 60 seconds.

 

  • A supercut of some of the best “NOOOOOOOOOO!” in cinematic history:

 

  • Someone else thought that The Great Catsby was a good idea – a mashup of The Great Gatsby soundtrack/dialogue and The Aristocats:

 

  • Disney movies are all sugar and spice – a supercut of Disney violence:

 

And finally – an Iron Man/”Suit and Tie” parody mashup: