TV: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 2 (2015)

brooklyn-nine-nine_612x380Creators: Dan Goor and Michael Schur
Language: English with some French
Length: 23 episodes, roughly 22 minutes each
Finished watching on: 22 May 2015

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a new contender in the TV scene last year, coming in with a strong first season. Its second season is a worthy continuation of that. The writing is tight and the jokes come fast and readily, helped in no small part by the excellent comedic timing of its actors.

As a sitcom, there isn’t a whole lot in the way of overarching plot, although there is more this time around than in the first season. As a result, each story seems a bit disjointed, and no one story is particularly memorable. But overall it’s an enjoyable series and something that’s easy to look forward to after a long day at work.

Also since it’s a sitcom, character development is pretty limited and usually serves to emphasize the characters’ distinctive traits – but it’s worth noting that enough real character development is done to keep the series feeling a bit fresh, even if occasionally I got the feeling that the lessons characters were learning by the end of the episode were just going to be forgotten by the next.

I was pleased with this season, in any case – I’ll be continuing to watch it next year. In fact it should be starting again in September, so I have something to look forward to.

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TV: How I Met Your Mother, season 8 (2012-13)

how-i-met-your-mother-8x011creators: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
language: English with smatterings of Italian, French, Cantonese
length: 24 episodes of about 22 minutes each
finished watching on: 16 May 2013

I watched this last month after hearing that the mother’s face had finally been revealed (although spoiler alert, it’s only in the closing moments of the season!). Because I’d been promised something, I think that meant that I watched it far too quickly – I think only two days from start to finish. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, in general – after it finished I found myself just wanting more!

Anyway, it’s getting to be more of the same with this show. We see the main character Ted getting into a variety of relationships but we basically know that they’re going nowhere because we know they’re not the mother of his kids. We see the other characters doing standard hijinks. So at least at the end of the season it’s good to see that they’re moving to draw the thing to its conclusion.

One thing I hadn’t noticed as much the last time I watched this (a year ago now) was the amount of times they unironically use the term “bro”. I’ve kind of had enough of that and wanted them to shut the hell up after not very long.

Another annoying thing is that the show is now building to a rather large climax, with the promise of a wedding in the very near future – in fact, the characters are all packing up to go off to this wedding in the final episode, and I was fully expecting the wedding to occur in the final episodes of the season, so when I found that I’d reached the last episode I was a little disappointed. That also may mean that the next season consists entirely of the few days leading up to said wedding. I don’t know, to be honest. I just don’t like the prospect of having to wait another year to find out (perhaps it would be healthier for me to start watching it in October along with everyone else, rather than waiting till May next year to marathon the series, which is becoming a bad habit).

TV: Coupling (2000-2003)

20120905-132141.jpgWritten by: Steven Moffat
Language: English and some Hebrew, French
Length: 28 episodes of 29 minutes each in four seasons.
Finished watching each season on: 5 Aug, 19 Aug, 29 Aug, 1 Sep

This series was created around the turn of the millennium, and since it was a sitcom about three men and three women, it immediately invited comparison to its contemporary, Friends. Like a British version of Friends, people said. The comparison doesn’t run that deep, though, since the shows are quite different when you get down to it. In an average episode, Coupling tends to have more concentrated humour, following the tried-and-tested British formula of a smaller number of episodes by a more consistent team of only one writer. Steven Moffat is now more famous for things like Sherlock and Dr Who, which I tend to avoid out of habit, but at least he proves here that he has some knack for comedy.

I first watched this a couple of years ago at a friend’s house, and I enjoyed it at the time, although it was quite a late episode, and I had no emotional investment in the characters, so it was a little confusing for me. So I only watched it again recently when a friend here gave me the series.

One if Coupling’s strengths is that it complies roughly to a general structure to each episodes; this is actually different to the usual structure of American sitcoms, in which two or three unrelated storylines tend to play out at once – this allows the storyline to be given suspense by switching to the B story temporarily, but can get annoying – and as I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve seen some shows, particularly How I Met Your Mother, jumping through awkward hoops just to keep this structure going. Here the show tends to start off with two concurrent conversations, usually from the point of view of the girls and the boys. Often they discuss the same events, which we may see in flashback, and the stories tend to converge at the end of the episode in a cleverly constructed dramatic crescendo. This tends to work quite well for the show as it gives each episode a focus.

One thing I was quite surprised about is how dated the show now seems, actually. It was only just over ten years ago, but unlike its contemporaries (eg, Friends), it really looks it. Perhaps this is because the BBC is always trying to be really modern or something – and attempts at this just serve to date a work even more after the fact. It was mainly little things that did this, such as the title card sequence, and especially its font. But it’s also other things, like seeing one of those colourful seethrough iMacs in an office, presumably ultramodern for the time. Seeing that stuff just reminded me how old it was. It wasn’t even just that; subtler clues hint that the zeitgeist of the time was more optimistic then (before 9/11 and all the recessions) than it is now.

Anyway, I think the main thing I want to complain about is perhaps the incessant gender stereotyping. Most of the show’s humour that doesn’t derive directly from the characters themselves (they all have very well-defined roles and tropes, which is good) derives essentially from saying things like “men do this; women do that”. To me this can be amusing sometimes, but often just comes across as old-fashioned – and when almost all the episodes involve this sort of humours somewhere, it gets boring. So sometimes it felt like a stuck record.

Overall, it’s worth it, though. It’s funny and well-written despite its flaws, and the characters really can just be hilarious. So I’d suggest checking it out!

TV: How I Met Your Mother – Season 7 (2011-12)

Created by: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
Language: English with some Japanese, Russian, French
Length: 24 episodes of 22-23 minutes each.
Finished watching on: 10 June 2012

I just realised at the beginning of last month that the newest season had just finished airing, so I got about to watching it quite promptly. The first six seasons of How I Met Your Mother waste a lot of time with false leads to the “main” mother plot, and extra excuses for a sitcom plot to develop. This season starts and ends with a flashforward to Barney’s wedding (so we already know that his character’s going to change a bit during the season), which will maybe come at the end of the next season, I don’t know. This at least means that it’s getting closer to some kind of hint about the true identity of the mother in the show.

The rest of the season is fairly predictable fare for this show, though. The tricks that they used to insert a sitcomesque B-plot into a story ostensibly told by another person get more and more ridiculous, with many episodes involving someone telling a story, getting sidetracked, and having to be sternly told to get to the point, which they never do. This happens enough times that it gets boring and trite, but serves as a nice nod towards the increasing ridiculousness of the show’s conceit.

It has its fair share of dramatic moments, though, where you’re made to care about the characters’ plight, and I think it’s good that a comedy show inserts moments like these.

Anyway, it’s still a very addictive show, and I think I watched at least two episodes every day. I like the fact that I get all the little jokes that the series has built up over the many seasons.

I don’t like the fact that I’ll have to wait a year for the next season, though (at the moment, it’s only been about 7 months since I watched the first six seasons). I guess I’ll just have to live with that. At least I didn’t have to wait weeks between episodes…

TV: How I Met Your Mother Seasons 1-6

Created by: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas
Released: 2005—2011
Finished watching seasons on: 18 Oct 2011 (1), 28 Oct (2), 4 Nov (3), 17 Nov (4), 24 Nov (5), 5 Dec (6)
Episodes: 136…
Language: mainly English

OK. It’s 2 months since I last updated the blog, and almost 3 months since I saw the series in question, so I’ll have to make this particularly brief. I have an excuse though, having moved to the other side of the world and become very busy in the meantime…

If you want to stop reading now, I liked How I Met Your Mother. I get its comedy and its style. There’s perhaps not much special about it; it’s a bit formulaic, and runs in a long line of relatively family-friendly American sitcoms, and reminds me in many ways of Friends; but I enjoyed watching it and I found it addictive, hence completing the six extant complete seasons in just under two months (often watching three a day).

The central conceit of the program – the main character Ted is telling his children the story of how he met their mother in a particularly long-winded way – helps to keep it fresh (we know, for example, that Ted’s early love interest isn’t the mother), but also gets old very quickly. OK, so how can you tell a story for six years and not get to the crux of it? That kind of thing started to bug me after a while. It also sort of falls into a rut eventually, where Ted falls in love with a woman who is revealed not to be the mother, and then he goofs out and pushes her away – over and over and over again.

But the characters are great (especially Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris), and the show rewards you with injokes if you watch enough of it – references to older episodes, mainly. The continuity is generally good, and although I get the feeling that to some extent they’re making it up as they go along, they’re a lot more consistent than a bunch of other shows that I’ve seen. And I liked it overall.