Archive for December, 2006

Ricky Gervais meets Garry Shandling

Wednesday 27 December (2006)

ricky gervais meets garry shandling

Last year there was a program on TV called ‘Ricky Gervais meets Larry David‘ which came as a one-off and completely out of the blue. I watched it, because I was a huge Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fan and I thought that Larry David was a comedic genius. As for Ricky Gervais… well; I liked The Office (and before it was popular to do so – honest!) but I didn’t really think Extras was very good at all, and more importantly I didn’t like Gervais himself.

It had always bugged me the way that people here in England talked about the ‘cringe factor’ in The Office as though it was something that had been invented by Ricky Gervais. After all, I had downloaded episodes of Larry David’s new post-Seinfeld show, CYE, and that was exploring social etiquette faux-pas scenarios with style over a year before The Office premiered. The Office was a good show – but it wasn’t a great show. Everyone thinks that it is, and they’re entitled to their opinion, but it really annoys me that since its success Gervais has been cast as the ‘saviour’ of British comedy. Peter Kay was funnier (and cleverer) in Phoenix Nights, but he at least didn’t let it go to his head (although, to be honest, he’s turned into a bit of a wanker over the last few years too.)

Anyway, onto the point. Garry Shandling is not one of my comedy heroes like Larry David is, but I absolutely love The Larry Sanders Show. I remember when it used to be on Channel 4 late on a friday night, but I didn’t get it because I was young. But something about it stuck with me, because a few years ago I decided (probably after hearing it name-dropped in CYE reviews) to buy a ‘best of‘ DVD, which was the only one available at the time. It was frustrating because it only had random episodes selected from all six seasons of the show, but now that I was older I got it. Earlier this year I downloaded every episode when I realised that I could (thank you broadband) and it truly is one of the greatest comedy shows of all time.

So what is important here is that I have a lot of respect for Mr. Shandling, and not so much respect for Mr. Gervais. Part of it is personality, sure – but I really think Gervais is just a flash-in-the-pan who got lucky. Because, remember – American sitcoms are not always good, and indeed a great deal of them are dire, but the ones that are good have the edge over similar British ones for one simple reason: they’re more prolific. Sure Fawlty Towers is consistently hilarious, but at the end of the day there are twelve half-hour episodes – Seinfeld clocked in at over one hundred and fifty episodes, so even though they were only twenty-two minutes long, it’s a greater amount of consistently good comedy. Similarly with CYE – Larry David has given us over fifty episodes, in comparison to Gervais’ twelve episodes of The Office.

But for good or ill, Gervais is now the most famous English comedian in America, and he’s friends with Ben Stiller and David Letterman so he will only continue to be successful there. That is a fact; I accept it, I live with it. But for some reason, he seems to think he’s now the apostle of comedy – he’s ‘enlightened’ us over here in England, and now he wants to rub his American ‘heroes’ in our faces as if we weren’t aware they existed already. So the ‘Ricky Gervais meets…’ concept has been expanded, and now we have ‘… Garry Shandling’ (he also met Christopher Guest but it was such a sickening display of arse-kissing that I turned it off.)

This alone bugs me – the Larry David thing was a one-off, so I could have let it slide; but now he’s meeting a whole troupe of his heroes – on camera? What? If I suddenly became successful as say a film director, I’d definately want to use my success to start meeting people like Luc Besson and Johnny Depp etc., because they’re people I really respect – but I’d want to do it in a very subtle way! I wouldn’t film myself strolling up to Deppo and saying “Hey man! You’re were so fucking amazing as Raoul Duke!”

But maybe that’s just me.

So anyway, (finally) I watch Gervais meet Shandling. And to my complete surprise and absolute joy, Shandling seemed to completely agree with pretty much everything I’ve just said here. It was weird, actually – he came across as frankly rude at times, but it was hilarious watching Gervais try to cope with it. Whilst Gervais merely did his whiny annoying laugh every time Shandling made a joke (and he made several; whilst debatably rude he was certainly witty) and spent a great deal of time singing the praises of Shandling’s comedy, Shandling refused to tread the same path in return. He brought Gervais up on some aspects of Extras and basically said, “Why are you making comedy about this? Why do you think it’s funny to explore these agonising social situations?” Interestingly, Gervais didn’t try to defend his work, even when Shandling suggested it was childish to joke about people with disabilities (they showed a clip from Extras with a lady who had cerebal palsy, where Gervais jokes that she looked drunk or ‘mental’ and then squirmed around as he realised she had a disability.)

Another hilarious moment was when Shandling explained why he had done so many varied things throughout his career – writer for a straight sitcom, standup, his own sitcom, then the subversive Larry Sanders Show – basically, that it was easy to be successful by doing the same thing over and over but it’s only funny so many times. Basically, saying to Gervais: enough with the cringe-comedy already man. Try something new – start proving your worth as the new chairman of English funny.

It just looked to me like Shandling had Gervais and his show; the entire concept, pegged immediately and then refused to play ball. And it’ll probably not do his reputation any favours at all in the English press – but fuck that. Good for him! I respect him more than I did before, and I suspect Gervais will be a little more careful about choosing which ‘hero’ to ‘interview’ next, because I don’t think he could handle another one of them very skillfully saying (without actually saying it) “You’re not as good as me.”

Heh, sorry about the length… I got carried away I guess. Another two cents deposited.

Nintendo Wii: first playtest

Sunday 24 December (2006)

So today I went over to my uncle’s house under the guise of visiting my cousins on their eighth birthday, but ostensibly to have a go on his Nintendo Wii console. This was the first time I’ve ever been on the most exciting video games console yet available, and I have to say – it’s fucking great!

I started out with a quick game of tennis on Wii Sports. I was amazed at how intuitive it was – I had barely strapped myself into the Wiimote when it was time to serve, which was done by pressing the ‘B’ button and then – well, serving. So I press the button and the ball flies up into the air, and suddenly I’ve got to swing my arm through the air to serve. I felt like an idiot on my first go – my parents, sister, three cousins and my gran were all sat on the couch behind me and my uncle, so I was quite self conscious. But, lo and behold, I swung my arm and served the ball, and the game was underway. By the third swing of my arm I had forgotten there was even anyone else in the room, as I leapt about swinging my arm, trying my backhand and topspin. So intuitive was it that on my very first go playing it, I actually won the match 2-1.

Next I tried making a ‘Mii’ – the avatar-like representation of yourself that is used in game. Again this was simple, easy and fun to do – I designed a simple charicature of myself, chose a hairstyle and height etc., then I was done. So my uncle loaded up this fitness test thing that you can do on Wii Sports – a set of basic challenges which you are supposed to do once a day in order to improve your abilities and real-life fitness.

First up: bowling. This was harder to get used to than tennis as it didn’t just rely on the motion of the Wiimote, but also the speed. The first few times I did it I failed to hit the pins, the bowling ball not moving fast enough. Once I got the speed aspect down, I started fiddling with my angle of attack, and putting spin on the ball – it was tougher to get the hang of, but that’s good. I had worried beforehand that all the Sports games would be simple hand gestures that required little or no skill – that’s not the case.

The final game I played before the kids took over the machine was baseball, which was really challenging and a lot of fun. Like tennis and bowling before it, I had to hold the Wiimote in the appropriate stance – this time like a bat. Balls were fired at me and I swung at them with gusto, but I only managed to hit about half of them properly. This was the first game I played that I could see myself flinging the Wiimote into the TV, swinging as hard as I was – my ‘Who the hell lets go of the Wiimote?’ stance is now changed to ‘Yes, a potential hazard.’

But what did I bring away from this first Wii session? Well, until now I’d been fairly content to wait until Smash Bros. comes out before buying my own Wii (probably waiting for the rumoured relaunch.) Now? Fucking get me one of those consoles right now…

Harry Potter speculations

Friday 22 December (2006)

Well, the title of the next (and final) Harry Potter book hit the Internet yesterday, and I was in on it early thanks to Digg. The Deathly Hallows. Cool name! I was talking to Sally about it and we think it’s interesting – ‘Deathly’ is obviously bad – something that kills, or causes death – but ‘Hallows’ is quite the opposite; it means (more-or-less) ‘to make holy’. The best way of summing this up, I think, is to say it sounds quite armageddon-y. A battle between good and evil? Well, no shit.

I’m not going to get into the minefield that is trying to figure out what happens in the plot – suffice it to say, I’m still not convinced that we’ve seen the end of the Snape plot twists and the ‘Harry has to die’ argument is compelling, but perhaps just a little too obvious. So what shall we speculate about?

Release date!

I preordered the book on Amazon a few minutes ago, because I’ve never been one for standing outside bookshops late at night with a bunch of kids wearing capes and pointy hats, and I like waking up at the start of the weekend and casually picking up the hottest book in the world from the floor in front of my letterbox and returning to bed for eight hours of solid reading. Then, Amazon sent me a confirmation email:

amazon confirmation email

Just in case you haven’t realised what I’m getting at, here it is again:

harry potter confirmation email

What the hell?! February? That’s two months away!

So of course, the date is wrong. Remi certainly thinks so, and he’s probably right. But, something about this bugs me. Why would they put that date? Why not just say “to be confirmed”? Perhaps this is the date that the actual release date will be announced? But I wanted to uncover some more information.

Thanks to Gmail’s search function, I easily found my preorder for Harry Potter book 6, The Half-Blood Prince. This blew my mind: I preordered it exactly two years ago today. That’s right! The 22nd December 2004. And in the confirmation email, which has this date right there in the corner, it showed this:

the old amazon email

Which, as you all know, was the actual release date. So feel free to speculate 🙂

My two-cents on ‘The Hobbit’ movie

Monday 11 December (2006)

Oh God, The Hobbit movie. Ever since the shit hit the fan over in New Zealand, the Internet has been rife with speculations and angry comment, with even Tolkien’s great-grandson Royd publicly stating that the decision to cut Peter Jackson / Richard Taylor et al. out of the deal is a big bad mistake. Perhaps this is the case, but I think a lot of people are overlooking the point here – so, with the prefix that I am not a Tolkien scholar, here’s my opinion on the whole mess…

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Scientology Orientation Video

Sunday 3 December (2006)

I’m not going to say anything about Scientology, other than that it concerns me and that in my personal opinion it is a dangerous cult. The ‘Church’ of Scientology is famously litigious, and as slim as the chances are, I don’t wish to incur their wrath.

That said, someone has posted a four-part orientation video on YouTube. Watch it quickly! Because I bet that those Scientology guys will pull this as soon as they catch wind of its existence. I mean, this is Scientology we’re talking about! There’s no way they don’t normally charge people to watch this stuff. They’re the only ‘religion’ I can think of that charges people to read the bloody holy text, so as far as I’m concerned they charge you for everything. I mean, it’s like walking into a Christian Church or an Islamic Mosque and then being told that salvation can be yours, via the Bible/Quoran, for only a nominal fee. Buy Genesis and Romans and get the Gospels half price!

Pay special attention to the ‘conversation’ at the end of part one* – it’s like something from The Simpsons! Classic. But also, very disturbing – I mean that seriously. Watch it!

*There are probably better bits later on, but that’s as far as I’ve got so far.

A Friday Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Friday 1 December (2006)

I’m working Sunday, so I won’t be in the mood to write this then – so enjoy a one-off Friday review instead. 

pan's labyrinth (el labertino del fauno)

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