Netflix Mini-Review: Toast of London – Who Doesn’t Love Berry As Toast in a Jam?

Matt Berry stars in this hilarious comedy about a struggling actor.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Steven Toast (Matt Berry) is an actor who constantly runs into ridiculous situations that are, mostly, the fault of his own incompetence or rampant libido. Aside from being a working voice actor under engineers Danny Bear and Clem Fandango (Tim Downie and Shazad Latif), Toast struggles to break onto both stage and screen due to his mediocre abilities and horrible personality. His career is also hampered by the complete idiocy of his manager, Jane Plough (Doon Mackichan), who routinely conveys wrong information to him. Toast lives with a retired actor, Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst), who has more than a few skeletons in his closet, and has a standing rivalry with fellow actor Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock) because Toast routinely sleeps with Purchase’s wife (Tracy-Ann Oberman). 

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He also has a bit of a drinking problem.

END SUMMARY

Here’s an alert: If you’re watching this on Netflix, skip the first episode “The Unspeakable Play.” It was the pilot, most of the good parts of it are reused in other episodes, and honestly it just wasn’t as good. If you have already tried the series, watched the first episode, and decided against it, I recommend giving it another shot. 

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And they do the play throughout season 1, so no loss there.

This show has a pretty British sense of humor, or humour, rather, meaning that a lot of the jokes are derived from absurd situations. For example, there’s a Nigerian woman who was the victim of a backroom plastic surgeon that ends up making her look like Bruce Forsyth, a British entertainer who mostly hosted game shows. There’s no real commentary on exactly how ridiculous it is that a young black woman somehow now looks like an old white man, but instead it’s just accepted and used from there. 

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Yes, there is a young, beautiful woman under that mustache. 

This requires that the show has a certain level of surrealism at any given time,  because the people in it never question the insanity of what is happening around them, much like The IT Crowd. Similar to The IT Crowd, too, the show relies on slowly building up a number of running gags and catchphrases that often end up culminating in a huge payoff. It makes sense when you realize that the show was created by people who were all veterans of British comedy, including Berry, Arthur Mathews who worked on Black Books and Father Ted, and Michael Cumming who worked with Berry on Snuff Box

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For example, you’ll have to suspend disbelief and think homeopathy works. *Shots fired*

Overall, I recommend this if you’re a fan of any of the series I’ve name-dropped in the review. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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What We Do In The Shadows (TV Series) – Pilot (Spoiler-Free)

The amazing film by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement has been adapted into a TV series, but the question remains: Can it hold up against its predecessor?

SUMMARY

Shot in the same Mockumentary format of the film, this show is about three vampires who live together in Staten Island: Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Nastasia Demetriou), and her boyfriend Laszlo (Matt Berry), along with Nandor’s familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) and energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Prosch). While the group maintains a relatively low profile, after a higher-ranking vampire Baron named Afanas (Doug Jones) comes to America to see them, they are told to work on expanding the power of the American vampires so that they can rule the world. If they don’t conquer America before he wakes up again, he’s going to kill them.

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How did they photograph the cast?

END SUMMARY

Alright, it might not be entirely fair to gauge the series by its pilot, since pilots often are subject to a lot of changes before the show gets picked up, but this show needs to avoid that. This pilot was excellent. It basically sets the tone for the series, and that tone is hilarious. Since it was made by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, it has almost all of the feel of the film, but at the same time expands upon the vampire lore and the world that the film created.

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Aside from the other spin-off that they already have, that is.

One of the things that made the film What We Do in the Shadows work was that all of the characters were so quirky and interesting, reflecting the fact that they are humans who have far outlived the worlds they were born in. This show picks that up directly, such as giving Nandor a backstory built around being an Ottoman Turk named Nandor the Relentless (a little derivative of Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), but not much). However, they also expand on it a bit by adding in the dynamics of having two of the characters in a relationship and having Colin, who no one likes, living in the house. Additionally, while Jackie (Jackie van Beek) played a relatively small role in the film as a familiar, Guillermo gets as much focus as the other characters, giving us a human to vicariously experience some of the eccentricities from an outsider perspective.

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It’s like a “three guys walk into a bar” joke already.

The writing in the pilot is extremely funny, particularly some of the interviews when they’re contrasted to the normal filming. The actors, particularly Matt Berry, are all excellent at comic delivery. I think one of my favorite moments is that, before turning into a bat, Laszlo just loudly shouts “BAT!” It’s so perfectly absurd that I just laughed out loud.

Overall, this show has a lot of promise. I think they’ve set up a lot of great plotlines that could be very funny and the idea of these incompetent vampires trying to take over the world is just inherently hilarious. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Disenchantment: Part 1 – Voice Actors Deserve More Credit

I think at least a few of you know my opinion on how underappreciated voice actors are and this show is a solid example of why.

SpoilerFree

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Disenchantment follows the adventures of Princess Tiabeanie (or “Bean”)(Abbi Jacobson), her elf friend Elfo (Nat Faxon), and her personal demon Luci (Eric Andre) as they mostly get drunk and do stupid crap around the fairy tale kingdom of Dreamland. Bean just wants control over her own life, being a princess doomed to arranged political marriage. Elfo is an exile from the elf village because he slept with the leader’s daughter (although, apparently so has everyone). Luci was gifted to Bean so that he can slowly encourage all of her worst behaviors and corrupt her spirit.

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No Evil Dead jokes will be made here.

For the first few episodes, they mostly deal with Bean’s drunken antics pissing off her father, King Zøg (John “I AM BENDER, HEAR ME ROAR” DiMaggio), but a plot does actually slowly start to build, culminating in the final three episodes forming an arc leading into the second half of the season.

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And a sugar-filled explosion.

END SUMMARY

I was a little worried about this show from some of the preliminary reviews. However, the show’s by Matt Groening, which guaranteed I was going to see it. I think The Simpsons was the greatest show on TV for the better part of a decade and I love Futurama so much I’m reviewing the entire series. So, why not take a look at his third series? (For those of you bringing up The Critic, that was Al Jean’s show, not Groening’s)

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We owe him the benefit of the doubt, people.

It starts off slow and, I’m sad to say, a little too predictable. The first few episodes’ jokes mostly are the obvious ones. As I was watching it, I did have to remark that the only reason this doesn’t feel original is because I already saw The Simpsons and Futurama do the same kind of jokes and I saw Shrek and other films do the “modern stuff but in Fairy Tale land” jokes. The difference is that it isn’t pushing the envelope like The Simpsons did (because The Simpsons did it) and it didn’t have the quiet, emotional moments that Futurama used to nail. They weren’t bad jokes, but I was already saying the punchlines before they were out.

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You only forget the other moments in Futurama because sometimes they went for the throat.

So, what kept me in the show through those episodes? The fact that the voice actors were all nailing their parts. They were giving their characters just enough of a twist to at least keep me interested, even though the characters were (intentionally) generic at first. Bean is a hard-drinking sex-positive “anti-princess,” which basically means she’s Sheridan Smith’s character from Galavant. She’d have been original in the 90s, but we’ve seen it a bunch since then. However, with Broad City‘s amazing Abbi Jacobson behind her, she still felt unique, even before she managed to get some real development. Same with Elfo, whose constant upbeat attitude is not undercut, but actually overplayed hilariously, by Nat Faxon. And Eric Andre is just a comic genius, though, to be fair, Luci is the most inherently humorous of the three leads, since he’s just an evil snarker. Then, there’s the supporting cast.

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This is a ton of comedic talent packed in one image.

The rest of this show is basically the cast of Futurama without Katey Sagal. It’s got Billy West, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, and Maurice LaMarche. Look up roles they’ve voiced and I guarantee you’ll see your adolescence. Matt Berry plays a recurring role as an idiotic chauvinist prince, basically reprising his role as Douglas Reynholm from The IT Crowd and almost everything he says is hilarious, even the obvious things. And that’s really what helps the show at the beginning when it’s going a little slow, that the characters are all saying predictable things but at least they’re saying them in funny ways. The art is Groening’s creative and distinct style, which also really helps, as do some of the great background gags.

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I mean, the Griffin’s beak is just his big nose. I wouldn’t have drawn that.

However, after a few episodes, the show actually starts to find its rhythm and manages to really start landing some solid jokes. The main thing is that it does actually reveal a story arc and some character arcs, something that really is kind of necessary for a streaming show. At that point, you start to realize that some of the things that seemed unnecessary at the start of the series do actually start to pay off a little. It reminds me a bit of the first season of BoJack Horseman where a lot of the goofy, stupid things that happened at the beginning were just to set up the world of the show, which ends up helping them play the long game. I’m not saying that this will be BoJack level, but the last few episodes actually set up the show to take a series of pretty strong turns during the next half of the season, with the characters changing accordingly.

So, it’s not really “great” yet, but it’s definitely “good” and seems to be ready to build to something much better. I’m definitely going to give it a chance. Look, it’s the first time that Groening’s really developed a series that actually has a continuity and an arc, aside from the one or two in Futurama, so it stands to reason that it took a little adjustment.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.