DVD cover image for Shardnado

2013 was a watershed moment for disaster films. While many folks were updating their anti-Zombie kits some of us were shopping for chain saws in case the absolute worst-case came to be – a Sharknado. This terrifying premise is exactly what it sounds like – a huge Oz-level tornado sucks up sharks (and only sharks) from the sea and throws them at large municipalities and at a few people specifically. The movies aren’t comedies per se, but play it straight with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

In the opening installment, the main character, Fin, appropriately, is on a mission to save his estranged wife and daughter during the height of this cloudburst of cartilaginous killers using the best tool at hand – a chain saw. By the end, Fin has saved his family and sawed a swath through Los Angeles’ aquatic infestation.

But wait! There’s more! Five more monsoons of man-eaters!

DVD cover image of Shardnado 2

Sharknado 2: The Second One takes us to New York where Fin’s now-safe wife April (Tara Reed) is promoting her new book about surviving a deluge of toothy torpedoes. Little do our heroes know that weather systems WILL follow you across the country when thwarted to taunt you a second time.



DVD cover image of Sharknado 3

Continue reading “Sharknado!”

The Inimitable P.G. Wodehouse

P G Wodehouse was a prolific writer, with nearly all of his stories set among British aristocracy and/or in the proverbial ‘polite society’ of 1920s and 30s Britain. Knowingly or not, he somewhat reflected the naïve obliviousness of a few of his characters in his real life. After moving to France and being captured by the Germans in 1940 he wrote and performed several broadcasts on German radio. Although comical and apolitical, the mere act of broadcasting over German radio during the war was incredibly controversial, and fueled a charge of treason back in Britain. Never quite understanding the ostracism, in 1947 he moved house to the US where he lived until his death at age 93 in 1975.

His characters are wonderfully stereotypical, as Wodehouse himself said, “a real character in one of my books would stick out like a sore thumb.” Even so, they become perfect players in his explorations and send-ups and show his deep understanding of human nature and behavior.

Here are three television adaptations that showcase Wodehouse’s insights into the (well-mannered) human condition. Continue reading “The Inimitable P.G. Wodehouse”

Three Classic British Sketch Comedy Shows

During the same period they were bringing Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster to the small screen, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were sprinkling the British airwaves with their own sketch comedy show A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

photo of Stephan Fry and Hugh Laurie
image credit: BBC

If you ever thought to yourself, as I have, “Is there any such thing as ‘highbrow absurdist humor’?” well, then this show answers that question with a resounding “Well, if you look at it with a slight squint.”

Rife with non-sequiturs and heavy with wordplay, the show satirized British society and politics and often broke the “fourth wall” during a skit. Fans of Jeeves and Wooster will recognize the general shape of the interchanges between a sharp Fry to Laurie’s blithe cluelessness, though in this series Laurie is cast as more of the straight man.

I particularly enjoy the closing bit which always has Laurie seated at a piano and Fry asking “Please, Mister Music, will you play?” as he mixes a cocktail while dancing. (Why, yes, I did learn my dance moves from Stephen Fry, why do you ask?) As I’ve noted before, Hugh Laurie is an accomplished pianist with a bend toward classic American Blues and, as we find out here, can do a really good mouth trumpet. Continue reading “Three Classic British Sketch Comedy Shows”

Leading Ladies of British Comedy

The Vicar of Dibley – Reverend Geraldine Granger is assigned to the small Oxfordshire village of Dibley, its first female vicar following the Church of England’s quite tardy change of heart regarding the ordination of women.

Offering spiritual guidance to the tiny town’s cast of oddballs, the vicar negotiates her way around and through entrenched expectations, power hungry frogs-in-a-small-pond, and just plain cluelessness.

Played by Dawn French, half of the well-known comedy team of French & Saunders, each episode ends with the vicar telling a joke to her not-very-bright assistant Alice, played by Emma Chambers, who in her struggle to get the joke tends to take it literally in ways that are much funnier than the joke itself. Continue reading “Leading Ladies of British Comedy”

One Season Wonders (kind of…)

At Last the 1948 Show (1967)  Prior to 1967 it was a dark time. Comedy hadn’t yet been invented and the population was just starting to accept the world becoming colorized after thousands of years being a nice, calm, black and white.

Enter two scholars from Cambridge, John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Well, them and this other guy they dragged off the street by the name of Marty Feldman. And maybe a couple other people too. I mean, who really remembers 1967? Anyways, after a 19-year delay the long awaited At Last the 1948 Show finally hit the airwaves. People around the world were overjoyed.

Initially there were 13 shows aired in the UK, and technically it was 2 seasons, but much of it was lost (possibly due to an invasion of Norwegian Blue Parrots) and only a few of the missing episodes were able to be pieced together, probably by a mixture of magic and rifling through the cushions of innumerable British couches.

This series is a great look at the development of the folks that went on to become Monty Python and wonderful showcase of the great Marty Feldman’s talent.

And now for something completely different… Continue reading “One Season Wonders (kind of…)”