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Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, both major parts of the U.S. version of The Office, take a satirical stab at Donald Trump’s hankering for a space army in Space Force, a pretty good comedy that I suspect will get better if it gets a second season.

The series starts slow, with an uninspired first episode. However, the end of that episode has a funny moment that launches into what counts as the best show of the season—one in which Steve Carell’s newly installed Space Force general must solve a satellite problem using a chimp. The episode is funny—and I found myself fully engaged with the series.

The premise provides Carell with a good, goofy base for his comedic strengths, but also provides some realistic family drama involving his Gen. Naird and his justifiably despondent daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers). Lisa Kudrow has a good if small role as his convict wife. Fred Willard, in his final role before his passing, is a total crack-up as Naird’s sickly father, who tries to conduct phone conversations while his wife is experiencing all kinds of difficulties next to him in bed.

John Malkovich provides levity as the nerdy scientist guy, and Ben Schwartz gets some of the show’s bigger laughs as Naird’s marketing man.

The cast finds its groove more and more with each episode, leading up to a cliffhanger finale that will leave a lot of folks hanging if the show’s second season doesn’t get green-lit.

Space Force is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein deliver star-making performances in Booksmart as Amy and Molly, two super-smart high school students looking to get crazy on graduation eve after years of hitting the books and missing all of the fun.

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is smart and funny; this is a film that feels like a relative of Superbad, which makes sense, considering Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s little sister. (They both have those those wide eyes while dryly delivering wise-ass asides.)

Besides this dynamic duo, the film is blessed with the presence of Skyler Gisondo (of Santa Clarita Diet) as Jared, the super-sweet and dorky rich kid; Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s longtime partner) as the school principal; and Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte as Amy’s parents. However, the best member of the supporting cast would be Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher, as the oddball student who keeps magically showing up at every party Amy and Molly visit.

The film is consistently funny—and just a little dark and nasty, with Wilde and cast navigating nicely from very funny to very awkward. Feldstein has comic chops that rival her brother’s, so here’s hoping this is the start of her headlining career.

Booksmart is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

There will never be another Friends. Not just in the sense that the 1994-2004 series was a one-of-a-kind comedy that defined a generation, but also in that there will literally never be another Friends—as in, there will be no money-grabbing, nostalgia-drunk reboot. The show’s stars could not be any more disinterested.

Which is commendable, considering the megabucks being thrown around to dig lesser ’90s series out of the grave. The recent Will and Grace revival isn’t all that loathsome, but who knows how the upcoming recycled takes of Charmed, Roswell, Party of Five and Murphy Brown are going to fare?

And then there’s Roseannehard pass.

Back to Friends: All six stars—Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer—have collectively and individually said “no way, no how, no thanks” to a reunion. Millions of Netflix viewers are apparently just fine with the 10 seasons already available; Friends is one of the streamer’s top draws, especially among (!!!Marketing Buzzword Alert!!!) #millennials.

But where do you go once you’ve binge-watched all 236 Friends episodes? Here are 14 (ish) shows starring The Artists Formerly Known as Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and Rachel outside of Central Perk. (Sorry, no Gunther.)

Cougar Town (Seasons 1-6 on Hulu):The most successful—or at least longest-lived—post-Friends solo project was also the most Friends-like. Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town evolved from a sitcom about a man-hungry 40-something divorcee into a genuinely funny ensemble comedy about—spoiler—six friends. There’s also no laugh track, favoring the rapid-fire delivery of producer Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs, and each of Cougar Town’s 102 episodes is named after a Tom Petty song.

Dirt (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Cox’s first series after the end of Friends didn’t fare as well. In 2007-08 FX drama Dirt, she starred as the editor-in-chief of a muck-racking celebrity-gossip magazine who wrecks lives for print and profit. (Remember the days when magazines could profit from print? Good times.) Dirt showed an unexpectedly dark and ruthless side of Cox, but the series eventually became too twisted even for FX, which killed it after 20 episodes.

Misfits of Science (Season 1 on DailyMotion): Before Friends, Cox co-starred in another NBC series, 1985-86 sci-fi oddity Misfits of Science. Unfortunately, this piece of retro-kitsch is ridiculously unavailable, existing only on import DVDs and random Internet sites. Kind of a stoopid dollar-store X-Men, Misfits of Science centered on a gang of superpowered teens; only Cox stood out (though co-star Mark Thomas Miller did go on to lead the cinematic triumph Ski School).

Joey (Seasons 1-2 on various sites): Nearly as hard to find and only half as funny was Matt LeBlanc’s Joey, the only “official” Friends spin-off. The 2005-06 sitcom should have been a slam-dunk right after Friends, with an impressive cast that included Drea de Matteo, Andrea Anders and Jennifer Coolidge … but, man, did it suck with the force of a thousand black holes. Apparently, the plan was to move “actor Joey” to Hollywood to fail miserably. Mission meta-accomplished.

Episodes (Seasons 1-5 on Netflix): Speaking of meta, here’s Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc! After disappearing upon the demise of Joey, LeBlanc resurfaced five years later in a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque Showtime series as an exaggerated version of himself—with brutally hilarious results. R-rated inside jokes about Friends and Joey fly furiously, as do jabs at Hollywood vanity and toxicity, with “Matt LeBlanc” leading the way as Dickhead Supreme. The best Friends follow-up.

Man With a Plan (Seasons 1-2 on CBS All Access): And now the worst. Before Episodes had even finished its run on Showtime, LeBlanc had lined up a new gig straight out of the CBS sitcom-clone factory: Man With a Plan, the kind of hackneyed network shit that his fictional self would have mocked mercilessly. He’s a stay-at-home dad! His kids are assholes! His wife thinks he’s a dope! How is this different from Kevin Can Wait? The wife isn’t dead … yet.

The Comeback (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Go): In 2005, Lisa Kudrow co-created and co-wrote The Comeback, wherein she starred as actress Valerie Cherish, a D-lister who had a hit sitcom in the ’90s (meta!). After Season 1, the Season 2 followed … more than 9 years later. The Comeback is “raw footage” of a reality show called The Comeback, chronicling Valerie’s Hollywood comeback on a new sitcom (kinda meta!). Kudrow’s ballsy, uninhibited performance is as uncomfortably funny as anything Ricky Gervais has ever pulled off.

Web Therapy (Seasons 1-4 on various sites): Speaking of meta: Kudrow created Web Therapy in 2008 as an online series, but it eventually moved to Showtime, and now it can barely be found streaming anywhere. Here, she’s Dr. Fiona Wallace, a self-proclaimed “groundbreaking” therapist who conducts 3-minute sessions via Skype with a dizzying array of celebrity patients (including several Friends). Silly on the surface, Web Therapy is a darker comedy than it first appears to be.

Feed the Beast (Season 1 on Hulu):Give credit to AMC: The cable network sinks serious money into serious failures (see: most every show that isn’t The Walking Dead). Feed the Beast, a gritty 2016 drama starring David Schwimmer as a sad-sack sommelier (that’s a wine expert, PBR-heads), was like Breaking Bad meets Kitchen Nightmares: Two buds open a fine-dining restaurant in the Bronx, only to be seared and deconstructed by the local mob. Ten episodes, done.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson (Season 1 on Netflix): Earlier in 2016, however, Schwimmer killed—too soon?—as defense attorney Robert Kardashian in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, a sprawling, ambitious, entertaining mess dramatizing the Juice’s 1995 murder trial. Stars John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. received most of the attention, but Schwimmer was fantastic (and nominated for an Emmy) in a freak-show of a series.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Season 1 on various sites):Matthew Perry was poised to become the biggest post-Friends breakout TV star, and in 2006, he wound up on NBC’s hella-hyped Aaron Sorkin dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which went … nowhere. Set behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live-style sketch show, Studio 60’s initial episodes were sharp and funny, but then dragged and died on preachy politics. (Sorkin later got the mix right with HBO’s The Newsroom.)

Mr. Sunshine (Season 1 on various sites): Perry’s losing streak just kept streaking with 2011’s Mr. Sunshine, a half-hour comedy that found him playing the unlucky-in-love manager of a San Diego sports arena. Despite a solid cast that included Allison Janney, Andrea Anders (who also did time on Joey) and Portia Doubleday (later of Mr. Robot), Mr. Sunshine grounded out after one meh season. Perry had better luck playing himself on Childrens Hospital that year.

Go On (Season 1 on various sites): Another one-season wonder, the funniest thing about Perry’s Go On was the hashtag that NBC used to promote it on Twitter: #goon. How could anyone not find laughs in the story of a recently widowed sports-talk radio host (Perry) forced to attend a grief-therapy support group? Comedy gold! America didn’t agree, sending Go On to the sitcom graveyard after 22 episodes. A darker version probably would have thrived on HBO, but whatever.

And Then There’s … Jennifer Aniston (Jen streaming on JustWatch): Aside from a few brief post-Friends cameos, the former Rachel has stayed the hell away from TV—after witnessing Chandler’s trajectory, who can blame her? Instead, Jennifer Aniston has starred in 50-odd movies, not including her first (and finest), 1993’s Leprechaun. Other great roles in the Aniston canon include Office Space, Rock Star, The Good Girl, Derailed, Management, The Switch and Horrible Bosses; avoid Marley and Me and Mother’s Day like Rachel’s Thanksgiving Trifle.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

Published in TV

The first half of Seth Rogen sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is as funny and snappy as the first movie—but the film loses its way a bit by the time credits roll. Still, if you are looking at laughs per dollar, Rogen and Zac Efron deliver your money’s worth.

The spin this time out has a sorority led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moving in next door to the Radners (Rogen and Rose Byrne). Shelby is determined to party like a fraternity does, and this leads to a semi-depressed Teddy (Efron) coming on as the sorority’s mentor. This restarts Teddy’s war with the Radners—which is bad timing, because their house is in escrow. It’s during this stage of the film when it is at its nastiest and its best.

When Teddy joins forces with the Radners to destroy the sorority, things get a little misguided. The film has some of the funniest dialogue of 2016 (“Sometimes you have to suck a bunch of dicks to find out you don’t like sucking dicks”), and I’m always down for Rogen’s humor. Byrne is an undervalued comic actress, and Moretz fits right into the stoner mode. Efron gets the biggest laughs in the movie, even when it starts to get a little too busy.

A gag involving those ever-pesky airbags is killer-funny, as is another visit with the dean (Lisa Kudrow). As sequels go, this isn’t great, but it’s a worthy installment.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews