Public Service Announcement 9 of 2020: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Sky Comedy launched yesterday. (It replaces Universal TV on the EPGs, and if a new home isn’t found for Unpopcult’s beloved Private Eyes, there will be TROUBLE.) Its schedule, largely American in origin, comprises a decent mix of re-runs of shows like Modern Family, 30 Rock, Veep, The Mindy Project, Sex and the City, and the essentially perfect Parks And Recreation; a slate of late-night American talk/sketch shows (Corden, Fallon, Oliver, SNL); and some new-to-the-UK comedies, such as AP Bio, Mrs. Fletcher, and Miracle Workers. Many will also be available as boxsets.

There’s some extra good news for Virgin Media viewers like me, who don’t have access to Sky Atlantic: it looks as if a few shows which were previously on that channel have been moved to Comedy. Veep and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver fall into that category, as does Curb, back for a tenth season of semi-improvised misanthropy. I didn’t see season 9 for that reason, but I’m going to assume that I can just pick it up again, from tonight at 9pm. Also tonight: The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon (10.50pm), and The Late Late Show with James Corden (11.50pm).

Public Service Announcement 39 of 2017: Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dimension 404

Two long-running comedy shows return this week for their ninth season. At one end of the spectrum we’ve got Modern Family, which is past its peak but still reliable, more or less, largely due to the fact that in the Burrell/O’Neill/Ferguson/Hyland/Stonestreet team it has some of TV’s best sitcom turns (Friday 6 October, 8.30pm, Sky 1). And you could certainly show it to your beloved aunt, unlike the peerless Curb Your Enthusiasm, back after 5 years for more delicious misanthropy (Mondays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic).

A few other bits and pieces: season 2 of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black makes its way to broadcast TV (tonight, 9pm, Sony Channel); season 3 of Lucifer has now started on Amazon Prime, but I can’t tell you anything about it because I’ve only just started watching the first season and I’m trying to stay spoiler-free; and science fiction/black comedy anthology Dimension 404 arrives tomorrow, with a decent cast – Patton Oswalt, Megan Mullaly, Sarah Hyland (again), Lea Michele, and so on. Mark Hamill narrates. People seem to like it (Thursday 5 October, 9pm, Syfy UK).

Unpopcult at the Emmys part 6: Best Comedy

The nominations are:

30 Rock

Curb Your Enthusiasm


Modern Family

Nurse Jackie

The Office

This category is perhaps the most interesting it’s been for years, with the appearance of ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family’, both of which look like being Emmy heavyweights.  I haven’t seen the most recent season of ‘The Office’, although the word seems to be that there’s been a dip in quality, which might count against it.  The same has been said of ’30 Rock’, of course.  I seem to be in a bit of a minority here, but I didn’t think that season 4 was measurably worse than seasons 1-3.  Or perhaps the critical reputation of the first three seasons was a bit over-inflated.  Anyway, it’s still full of insider-y TV biz jokes which will play to the key constituency, so while it’s less likely to win than in past years I don’t rule it out.

We haven’t yet had the second season of ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the UK, but if it’s anything like as good as season 1 it has to be a contender, although I wonder whether not actually being a comedy might ultimately deny it a vote or two here.  And ‘Curb’ is ‘Curb’ – I love it, but unless the voters feel like rewarding it for the ‘Seinfeld’ revival I can’t see that the most recent season did anything which would turn it into a winner.

Which brings us back to the new guys.  If the vote’s for a cultural phenomenon then ‘Glee’ will get it.  If it’s for a comedy ‘Modern Family’ will win.  My guess is the latter. 

A couple of Emmy footnotes: surely the biggest nailed-on certainty of the whole thing has to be composer Michael Giacchino’s nomination for his soundtracking of ‘Lost’ finale ‘The End’.  Also in the musical categories, it would be nice to see ‘Long Hard Times To Come’ winning Best Titles Music for the otherwise-deprived-of-Emmy-love ‘Justified’.

Unpopcult at the Emmys: Leading Men

Woo hoo! The Emmy nominations are out, and Jed and I are a bit excited about them.  Okay, a lot excited.  So we’re taking advantage of the fact that we suddenly have no tv to watch (hello, off-season!) and indulging ourselves with a LOT of Emmy posts over the next few days.  Humour us…

I’m delighted I get to talk about the Leading Men categories –  or “Outstanding Lead Actor” if you want to be formal about it – because of the high swoon factor amongst the nominees.  Obviously, though, that’s not the point, so, er, anyway, let’s start with the surprises – finally FINALLY, Kyle Chandler’s been nominated for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama” for his work on Friday Night Lights.  He’s always been brilliant (even if I’m only on season 2 just now) and the only thing wrong with his nomination is that it didn’t happen years ago. 

But hang on!  Matthew Fox is nominated too!  And his valedictory turn in Lost this year deserved it, so I’m delighted for him as well. Am I supposed to choose between them?

I guess I should be grateful then that Timothy Olyphant didn’t make the cut for Justified, and make it even harder to pick my winner, but I don’t feel grateful.  His performance was perfect.  Nuanced, mesmerising and perfect.  And, like Fox and Chandler, it would have been someone new in the list of nominees.  Instead, we get the old guard of Laurie, Hall, Hamm and Cranston, yet again.  We all know I’d keep Jon Hamm in because a) I love him and b)  he needs to win sometime DAMMIT, but, good as the other three guys are, I’d have preferred to see Olyphant in there instead of any one of them.  Not that he’d have a hope of winning, I don’t think – it’s Foxy vs Hamm vs Chandler for me.  So Cranston’ll probably win it again.  Sigh.

To be honest, I’m a lot less invested in the “Oustanding Lead Actor in a Comedy” category.  As you know, I don’t “do” comedies so the only one of these shows that I’ve watched this season is Glee, and yes, Matthew Morrison’s Mr Shu is lovely and fun and everything, but I’m surprised to see him nominated.  Was he this year’s best lead actor in a comedy?  I have no idea.  Why has Chuck’s Zachary Levi missed out on a nomination yet again?  Again, I have no idea (and I’m not happy about it).  But who’s going to win? Well…. 

Tony Shalhoub’s fine in Monk, but it finished ages ago.  Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory has his fans too, but I don’t think he’s going to take it either.  And The Office’s Steve Carrell  and Curb’s Larry David have both been around for ages, and been nominated many times; I think their ships have already sailed.  Baldwin or Morrison, then?  Personally, I’d give it to Matt because a) I like a change and b) he deserves extra credit for all the rapping he has to do.  But I doubt these are the same criteria used by the Emmy voters; Alec will probably take it again.

Curb Your Enthusiasm s7 ep 10

Not as good as the last episode.

Having said that, it was good enough: the identification of the phrase “having said that” as a modern-day irritant was classic ‘Seinfeld’, the issue of whether everyone had sufficient respect for wood was classic ‘Curb’, and the bit where Larry played “Larry” playing Jason playing – oh, there are just too many layers for me to unpack – was priceless.

It did have an air of finality about it, but generally the last episode of a ‘Curb’ season always does: David clearly doesn’t need to work again unless he wants to; and HBO, equally, are content to sit back and wait until he wants to, if he ever does.  But providing closure on ‘Seinfeld’ really did feel like Larry David providing closure on “Larry David”, and unless Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander could be tempted back for a few shows in the future it may be that ‘Curb’ has reached a natural conclusion.

Curb Your Enthusiasm s7 ep 9

Oh yes.  Best of the season by a mile, with all of the season’s successes thrown together in one glorious episode.  So we had the table read-through of the ‘Seinfeld’ reunion script, followed by rehearsals, which both gave us the opportunity to see  “new” ‘Seinfeld’, and let daylight in on magic by giving us what felt like an authentic view of life on the ‘Seinfeld’ set.  The sparky animosity between Larry David and Jason Alexander, the man who portrayed his alter-ego, remains a joy, as does any scene in which David and Jerry Seinfeld play off each other.  And there was more: Larry’s friendship with the 9-year-old girl, leading to the hideously funny pay-off scene (“Call the police!”) was as inspired a plot as we’ve had all season.

But perhaps best of all was Leon (the peerless J.B. Smoove), pretending to be a Jewish accountant, dressed as a member of the Nation of Islam, and turning up at Michael Richards’s trailer – I assumed that they couldn’t avoid the Richards-and-the-heckler incident, but it was dealt with quite beautifully.  And Leon’s claim that he “Danny Dubersteined the fuck out of that man in that room” didn’t sit entirely well with his boast to Richards that “Danny Duberstein is good at two things – math and fucking”.  Wonderful.