Jonathan Downard photograph

Praise and Malaise

by Jonathan Downard
Nov. 2005

Major Malaise on a certain insurance company who decided to bank on the Beatles "Long and Winding Road" while showing pseudo-disturbing images of road trouble and dirty children. This type of lame, sentimentalist, mommy advertising evokes chunks of my lunch, and super chunks of Malaise on Michael Jackson for making it possible. In the '80's, after coaching Paul McCartney on the value of owning entire catalogues, Jackson then outbid and snaked McCartney out of the rights to his own music. Michael Jackson is responsible for every time you've heard the Beatles ripped off in commercials and advertisements of all kinds. -Yay, capitalism!- The Beatles have been whored out to advertise everything from sneakers to retirement plans, and Michael Jackson has been there, (moonwalk-flip-the-hat-eehee!) pimping them for millions. I've never been naive about the whole damned world being for sale, or anything... but usually you wait until someone's dead before you treat their artwork this way, without asking.

Praise to Extras, HBO's new sitcom starring and created by Rick Gervais. The man behind the BBC's original, The Office, Gervais continues to prove himself adept at finding the comedy in extremely uncomfortable situations. As a film extra, he weasels his way into strange situations with his coworkers by lying and generally being facetious. In the premiere episode, he gets caught pretending to be a Catholic while trying to impress a woman he meets on the set. Kate Winslet, who is the star of the movie in this episode, overhears a female extra fretting about dealing with her husband's phone sex and eventually gets caught talking dirty and making fun with Gervais right in front of the man. Gervais captures all of the desperation, disgust, and disappointment of the characters with subtle wordplay and gestures. With brilliant writing, acting, and dialogue, Gervais delivers another masterpiece of irony, sharp wit, and the humorous bumbling of the socially clueless.

Praise to another HBO season premiere, Curb Your Enthusiasm. When Larry finally gets his own sandwich on the board at Leo's, he's ecstatic. But when he finds that he cannot stand the sandwich Leo created for him, he gets into his usual melee of faux pas, arguments, and angry rants. When his father is hospitalized, his incoherent babbling leads Larry to be obsessed with the idea that he may have been adopted. Sardonic wit and irritating behavior are ever-present. Abandoning his carpool partners, getting kicked out of the temple, answering the phone during sex, habitually fighting publicly with Richard Lewis, and stealing Ted Danson's sandwich-- the "creator of Seinfeld" does a hilarious job of showing us more and more of what not to do around others.

Malaise on Comedy Central's Too Late With Adam Corolla. With no background music and a somber audience, the once-great sidekick of Dr. Drew and Jimmy Kimmel shows that his personality and wit can't fill a small room. His interviews are choppy and unfocused and his lame jokes get nowhere. It's like a complete absence of magnetism. It's kinda like that "stillness" where you hear the wind and the crickets chirping, prolonged through the whole program. If you absolutely need to fall asleep after watching The Daily Show, this is Comedy Central's gift to you. It appears Adam is a guy who just cannot perform well without a good partner.

Praise to Flight of the Conchords, and the HBO One Night Stand they did recently. Their own particular brand of folk parody is smart, funny, and tuneful. With songs like "Business Time," a seventies-style funk tune about getting some on a Wednesday night; "Alby the Racist Dragon," a story/ballad in which a badly burnt Albanian boy breaks the dragon of his racism; and "She's So Hot... Boom!-" a hardcore dancehall reggae jam, these guys rock. Known, in their own words, as "New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo," Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement come together to folk the hell out of you. Each is involved in other projects: for Bret, the Black Seeds, a reggae/dub type sound; and for Jermaine, Humourbeasts, an out-there sort of duo. Bret was in the first and third Lord of the Rings films, as well. If you happen to catch them airing this beauty, have your recording device ready-- you'll want to see it a few more times.

Praise to Rome. It's no surprise to me that HBO kicks everyone's asses at the Emmys. They handle drama and comedy in the rawest and most sensibly realistic ways seen on TV. Rome is no exception. Every scene is sculpted out of the architecture and artistry of Julius Caesar's Rome, visually very compelling all the way. It seems that no one can or will make a Roman drama without using a small army of English actors speaking in mock-Shakespearean, so I'll leave that point alone. But the show does a great job of showing the different social levels of aristocracy, the soldier class, and slaves (the working class). It also paints portraits of Caesar as an arrogant genius; Mark Anthony as a foolhardy, whoring tool; and Octavius as a brilliant, yet bigoted and spoiled boy... The true heroism, as in reality, is mostly saved for the regular guys, the soldiers and slaves, upon whose backs these prominent figures ride their fortunes. The political maneuverings and subtle intrigues remind one of recent times. Add to all that some great battles and some even more fearsome sex, and this show will chauffeur you to a well-conceived and entertaining vision of the past.

Malaise of the Ages on Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive, a "reality" show on E! Unlike my Celebrity Fit Club and Surreal Life experiences, this show truly made me feel so crappy that I don't even care what happens the rest of the season. I'm not sitting through another minute of this shit. I watched an episode and a half, and these spoiled little jerkoffs whined, complained, and fought through it all. I may have been formerly interested in learning about the Foreman kid and the son of Anthony Quinn, but I'll just have to read about them somewhere else. I have better ways to waste time than to watch a snotty, pampered, latent-gay son of an Ecuadorian business tycoon arrogantly mealy-mouthing and arguing with the goofy son of some English baron about who's the best of the best among their merry band of dipshits.

copyright 2005, Jonathan Downard

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