Tag Archives: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

10 Highly Questionable TV Crushes

Yesterday evening, as well as the excitement of the first Only Connect quarter-final on BBC2, BBC3 brought us the new series of American Dad!, the much-less beloved baby brother of Family Guy. Always one to go off in my own slightly inexplicable direction, I actually prefer American Dad! to its brash and noisy older sibling. For one thing, it has Patrick Stewart in it. For another, it doesn’t have Quagmire (giggidy giggidy go away you are too creepy to be amusing). But perhaps the main reason for my preference is that I have quite a big soft spot for patriarch and eponymous American Dad Stan Smith. I really shouldn’t. He’s barking mad, often very sinister, and also he’s a cartoon. But nonetheless I see his enormous chin and hear his absurd pompous voice and I think, “Ah, Stan. How about slipping some of that American-ness my way, baby?”.

Therefore, in his honour, I now present to you Screen-Eyed Monster’s ’10 Highly Questionable TV Crushes’.

1. Stan Smith (American Dad!)

For those unfamiliar with American Dad!, Stan is your quintessential Republican. He always wears a suit with a little American flag lapel pin; he works for the CIA; he is immensely single-minded in his devotion to both God and Ronald Reagan (not necessarily in that order); he’s horrified by anything remotely left-wing (i.e. his daughter) or non-heteronormative (i.e. his son); in short, he’s sexist, homophobic, bigoted and gun-crazy. But here’s the thing – he’s actually quite sweet sometimes. I mean, he lets an alien and a talking goldfish (inhabited by the mind of a former East German ski-jumper, obvs) live rent-free in his all-American house. And he’s a very snappy dresser. And one time he sacrificed an eye and a hand to save the life of his estranged wife in a post-apocalyptic dystopia run by the Anti-Christ. So, you know, you sort of feel like you’d be safe with Stan. Unless he could only save either you or George W. Bush, in which case you’re a goner.

2. Nigel McCall (Rev)

At first glance, it’s fair to say, Nigel doesn’t appear to be a major heart-throb (even if you generously ignore the fact of his name). As the lay reader at a small inner-city church, he seems to have a problem with authority, which is a bit odd for someone apparently devoting his life to working for the Supreme Authority, and generally wears either a V-neck sweater or a cassock – so not exactly your go-to guy for flights of feverish fantasy. In addition, he’s worryingly strait-laced, posh, pernickety, fastidious, slightly camp and humorously out-of-touch with young people. I guess in that sense he’s quite similar to the actor who plays him, Miles Jupp. In fact, Jupp is the son of a minister and studied divinity, so really they have an awful lot in common. OK, fine, I have a crush on Miles Jupp. Stop banging on about it.

3. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)

Ah, Barney Stinson. Womaniser, philanderer, inventor of the Lemon Law. Not a bad person, really, but hardly the ideal date/boyfriend/husband, not least because he seems completely incapable of committing to any other human for more than about twelve seconds. His motto is ‘Love ‘em and leave ‘em’ (well, that’s not strictly true – his mottoes are ‘Suit up’, ‘Legen – wait for it – dary’ and ‘When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead – true story’) and he bounces between attractive women faster than you can say ‘Bob Barker’s your dad’. Nonetheless, he has a sweet side, mainly involving a troubled youth as a lonely hippie and a surprising soft spot for babies. Bless! Sign me up.

4. Walter Skinner (The X-Files)

FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner is a man on a mission: to keep America safe from threats both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial. Sure, at the start of the series he has little time for Mulder’s wacky theories, but then Mulder is trying to convince him that aliens are trying to kill us all, which, let’s be honest, does sound a bit bonkers. But after a few run-ins with bad guys not of this world, Skinner starts to believe (certainly quicker than Scully does), and then he’s a steadfast ally, giving leeway where leeway is needed and reining things in when they get out of hand. He also had the balls to take on his evil boss, the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and he very much enjoys a good bubble bath. In fact, aside from the age gap (he’s 50 by the end of the series) and the fact that he has a bit of a bald thing going on, I’m not sure this one is actually that weird. Right? Right…?

5. Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)

Jack Donaghy is basically Stan Smith if Stan Smith joined NBC as a network executive. Staunch Republican – check. Snappy dresser – check. Severe disdain for namby-pamby airy-fairy lefties – check. At times it seems all he cares about is money, seducing powerful women and money. But, disconcerting capitalist dogma notwithstanding, Jack’s a pure charmer; after all, you don’t get to be Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming by alienating everyone you meet. In fact, as frontwoman Liz Lemon becomes increasingly selfish and morally ambiguous, Jack starts to shine as a beacon of common sense, conscience and compassion. Either that, or I’ve been so mesmerised by his hypnotic blue eyes and perfect hair that I’ve lost all sense of reality.

6. Brian Steadman (Teachers)

The thing about Brian is that he’s not a bad guy. It’s just that, well, he only ever wears tracksuits (he’s a PE teacher, after all), he’s not brilliant with the ladies (“This has nothing to do with you being fat, which you’re not, you’re just healthy… in a large way”) and he finds it hard to keep up with all this new-fangled political correctness – indeed, finds it hard to keep up with much of anything at all. Still, he seems all right at his job, and certainly manages to avoid some of the worse traits found in his colleagues, such as chain-smoking, one-night stands, sleeping with students, and whining constantly every second of every day. RIP, Brian. RIP.

7. Leonardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

By way of introduction to this one, let me quote Wikipedia: “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a team of mutant red-eared sliders named after four Renaissance artists and living in the sewers of New York City, where they train by day and fight crime by night as ninjas.” Standard. So, yes, essentially I’m saying I have a crush on a humanoid terrapin who lives in a drain. But not just any humanoid terrapin who lives in a drain, oh no. Leonardo is the leader of the gang. He’s the man (turtle) in charge. He’s the hero. He gets stuff done. And you’d never want for pizza.

8. Dennis Reynolds (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

My God, Dennis is a terrible person. I mean, even in the context of It’s Always Sunny, in which every character is appalling, Dennis surpasses them all by being outstandingly horrible. Ever pushed a former friend out of a moving car? Dennis has. Ever bought a boat so you could lure women onto it and coerce them into sleeping with you? Dennis has. Ever installed a glory hole in the bathroom of the bar you own? Dennis has. Ever threatened to kill your sister, chop her into small pieces and make her into a fetching suitcase? Dennis has, and he would do it again. Is he a sociopath? Perhaps. At the very least, he’s sufficiently odious that I’m really struggling to justify the fact that I’ve included him on a list of TV crushes. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that he takes his shirt off a lot.

9. Huck Finn (Scandal)

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right at the start: Huck is a former Special Ops torturer who really, REALLY loved his job. As they say, once a torturer, always a torturer, and Huck remains a mass of inner turmoil and conflict (not helped by the fact that his ‘hero good guy’ employer keeps asking him if he could maybe just do a teensy-weensy bit of torturing, nothing too serious, all in a good cause, you know – but that’s a rant for another day). However, he has the following going for him. One – sympathy vote (he was blackmailed into becoming a torturer in the first place, so, you know, totally not his fault). Two – incredible loyalty to friends and family (see above re. ‘Nothing wrong with a bit of torturing between friends’). Three – strong technological game, including hacking into government mainframes, which would be useful in avoiding any pesky parking tickets / jury service / murder charges. Basically, however badly you mess up, Huck’s got your back. Maybe best to keep it turned away from him though.

10. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Spike, AKA William the Bloody. Yikes. Where to begin? Vampire without a soul. Killer. Thief. Double-crosser. Science experiment. Punk. Bleach blond. Writer of truly terrible poetry. On paper, it looks bad – any sensible girl or boy would stay the hell (geddit) out of his way and go for someone a bit more wholesome and human. But pretty much the entire Buffy fandom would pick Spike over, for example, wholesome human Riley Finn, who’s about as interesting as a piece of old sandpaper. And that’s because Spike is cool, all sarcastic and leather-clad and muscly and Cockney and cheekboney and and such. Having a crush on Spike is basically inevitable. Twisted, absurd and highly problematic, but inevitable.

So there you have it. Am I mad, or do I have an eye for a diamond in the rough? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.


Californivacation: Eight Things I Learnt in TV Land

I realise that my blog’s been pretty quiet for the last few weeks, but I have an excuse: I’ve been on holiday. I went to the States, where, thanks to the insistence of my travelling companion (my sister), we saw all kinds of cultural, educational and natural sights throughout the south west: San Francisco, Alcatraz, Stanford University, Pebble Beach, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park. But, hell, I wasn’t going through California without stopping at my spiritual homeland, the epicentre of film and television magic, the guiding light at the heart of all that is broadcast on a rectangular screen: Hollywood.

So we went. And it was magical. And here’s what I learnt there.

1. TV makes stuff look bigger.

It’s a well-worn cliché that the camera adds ten pounds, but, as it turns out, it also adds metres, miles, hectares and cubic feet. Making brazen use of my sister’s love of FRIENDS, I managed to convince her that a tour of the Warner Bros studio in Burbank would be a fun activity, so we headed north, parked up, grabbed a Starbucks and hopped onto a golf buggy, where a friendly guide took us on a little drive around the backlots of the studio. And everything was SO SMALL. Around one little square in the middle of the lot are pretty much all of the buildings and places that ever popped up in FRIENDS – the Geller house, the street where Joey builds a cardboard-box Porsche, the field where Ross plays rugby, the newsstand where the squirrel threatens Phoebe – as well as the Addams Family house, City Hall from Batman (the original and best Adam West version), the Waltons house, the street where Kermit, Jason Segel and Amy Adams sang the opening number in The Muppets, and numerous other buildings from about a bazillion TV shows and films. Add a few distinctive lamp-posts, some brightly coloured signs and a distinctive shop or two and you get twenty different towns from one little hamlet.

I should add that the highlight of the Warner Bros tour was when we got to visit Central Perk. The actual Central Perk. And we sat on the actual Sofa. It was brilliant. But you know what? That was teeny-weeny too.

2. TV sometimes tells the truth.

So, yes, TV can mislead us (like, who knew that amateur detectives aren’t really allowed to stroll onto crime scenes and start solving stuff?). Then again, sometimes the box is bang on. Take Baywatch, for example. For a British viewer, it’s impossibly glossy: the sun always shines, everyone is beautiful, the lifeguard houses are so cute, there are lots of nice piers under which you can have a romantic tryst… Basically, the programme makers have created the perfect setting for a fun soapy drama. But the thing is – it’s actually like that. We went to Santa Monica. We saw the lifeguard shacks and the creaking piers. We gawped at the beautiful people running and doing tai chi and flicking their hair. We sunbathed. We paddled. We watched the silhouettes of surfers making the most of the last rays of sun. And then we damn well went to a diner and had fries and milkshakes.

"In us we all have the power, but sometimes it's so ha-ard to seeee..."

“In us we all have the power, but sometimes it’s so ha-ard to seeee…”

(It should be noted that some of the less savoury programmes are fairly accurate too. Take It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The main characters run a horrible bar in an awful area of the city; they live in squalor, they take drugs, they scrounge welfare money and they sometimes eat dog food. And when we went to see the place in downtown LA where they film the outside of the bar… Let’s just say we were afraid to get out of the car.)

3. TV is big business.

This seems like an obvious thing to say – if people didn’t love TV, no one would make it (and no one would blog about it either). But you go to LA, and TV (and film) is everywhere. Walk down any street and you’ll see signs that say ‘Location available for filming’ or ‘Catering/laundry/decorating services for production companies’; and even the buskers and street performers are dressed up as film and TV characters (we must have seen about a dozen Minions shuffling along the pavement). Plus, if you know where to look, there are TV and film locations all over the place: for example, Buffy’s house is in a nice suburb in Torrance, and the Scrubs hospital is in a pleasant street in North Hollywood (now turned into flats, which was a bit of a disappointment, but damn it, we pretended to be Vanilla Bear and Chocolate Bear anyway).

4. Like, REALLY big business.

Also, people (read ‘tourists’) will pay good money for TV-related stuff. Forget pricey studios tours and TV museums and ‘experiences’ (see #6 below); just walking along the street can seriously cost you, if you get sucked into wanting one of the pieces of TV-related merchandise that fill the shops and sidewalk stalls. All the usual tourist tat is there, Hollywood-themed as hell: key-rings, licence plate covers, sweets, badges, T-shirts. But this is TV Land, and people get creative. Who wouldn’t want, for example, a CSI-themed stain remover pen? Or ‘Bazinga’ shot glasses? Or John Wayne toilet paper?

Naturally, I didn’t fall into the trap of spending lots of money on frivolous television-related items. And I most certainly didn’t buy a dress that looks like the outfit worn by the Tenth Doctor.

Allons-y, Alonso.

Allons-y, Alonso.

5. Contrary to popular belief, celebrities aren’t around every corner.

But for all the excitement and television buzz, there’s one element that is conspicuously missing, and that’s actual actors. They must be there somewhere, of course – it’s where loads of them live and work. But we didn’t spot any. Well, we may have seen one; there was a really tall guy signing a piece of paper for an excited-looking woman outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. But my sister and I both peered at him curiously, and we had no idea who he was, so it probably doesn’t count.

Even if you go to a working studio, it’s tricky to spot a celeb. Apparently past visitors to the WB Studio Tour have been successful (our tour guide mentioned a group recently who’d got to meet Kunal Nayyar, AKA Raj from The Big Bang Theory – cue ‘Oohs’ from me and several other women, and eye-rolling from my sister). But we didn’t see any actors either there or at Valencia Studios, which is where – take a deep breath – NCIS is filmed. Tours aren’t available, so we drove there anyway to have a peek; unfortunately, it turned out that the show was on hiatus, so all we saw was a very bored-looking security guard and some closed-up trailers. But I was there, man. I was there.

6. It’s fun to pretend to be on TV.

After we’d left Los Angeles, of course, the television-related fun was over. Psych! It wasn’t. Our last stop on the trip (after the Grand Canyon and all that jazz) was Las Vegas, Sin City, a place of lights, flamboyance, bedazzlement, poker tables, martinis and, of course, gruesome murders that always turn out to have some kind of unexpected twist. This, my friends, was CSI: The Experience at the MGM hotel, a sort of interactive exhibition where the TV-obsessed tourist gets to be part of a criminal investigation team. I chose my scenario, ‘Skeleton Found In Desert’ (I thought ‘Car Driven Into Living Room’ and ‘Body In Back Alley’ might be too bloody), and then I set to work. I took notes at the crime scene, ran DNA samples, matched bullets to guns, visited Autopsy and looked at suspicious seeds under a microscope. And I had a lovely time. OK, so I probably had a slightly easier job to do than real CSIs (the puzzles at each station were about as tricky as a ‘Spot the difference’ game on the CBeebies website), but the fake bullets were nice and weighty and there were some cool UV lights and they gave me a little clipboard to jot down my thoughts. Plus I got a certificate at the end. Lush.

That's right. ACCREDITED.

That’s right. ACCREDITED.

7. There’s so much TV I haven’t watched yet.

The biggest lesson of all, perhaps, is that I haven’t even started to delve into the extraordinary world that is TV today. I’ve seen the sets for Pretty Little Liars, Suburgatory and Hart of Dixie, but I haven’t seen the shows yet. I’ve been offered T-shirts featuring Sam and Dean from Supernatural, the Stark family sigil from Game of Thrones and quotes from Girls, but I haven’t seen those shows yet either. When I finally got home and spent several jetlagged days collapsed in front of Netflix, I was presented with Wallander, Suits, The Thick of It, Heroes, Prison Break, Modern Family… The list goes on. Honestly, I should start watching more TV.

And the final lesson… 8. Don’t rely on technology.

Hope you liked the pictures that accompanied this post. Sorry there weren’t more – two days before the end of the holiday, the memory card in the camera had a meltdown and corrupted about three-quarters of the photos we’d taken. Guess we’ll have to go back sometime…

The Gang Goes Insane and Other Stories: The Top Ten Most Brilliantly Bonkers Comedies That Have Existed

My my, Sunday nights will be dull for the next few weeks – not only has Downton finished for another season, but the current series of Rude Tube, complete with the lovely Alex Zane, has also come to a close. Thank goodness, then, for Toast of London, the last brief spark of Sunday night hilarity (until the inevitable post-Christmas return of the Big Fat Quiz of the Year). Broadcast so late that no one appears to be watching it – it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page!!! – Toast is nonetheless a delightful piece of nutty comedic programming, calling to mind British surreal humour at its best. How best to commemorate its barely noticed existence…? Sounds like it’s time for another definitive top ten list!

The Top Ten Most Brilliantly Bonkers Comedies That Have Existed

DISCLAIMER: This Is Jinsy doesn’t appear because I’ve only seen the bits with David Tennant, but it looks like it would qualify for this list. In contrast, Peep Show is excluded by being insufficiently bonkers, and The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen by being insufficiently brilliant. In my view, of course. (My definitely accurate view.)

10. Fortysomething (2003)

Just squeezing into the list at no. 10, Fortysomething wasn’t out-and-out absurd, its main attraction being the glorious casting of Hugh Laurie as the main character and Benedict Cumberbatch as his eldest son. Most of the humour came from gentle digs at the middle class (Cumberbatch’s opening scene involves Laurie telling him off for eating all the luxury seafood goujons), but two key elements push it over the line into wackiness: the constant chop-and-change of who’s sleeping with whom (the teenage boys’ girlfriends being swapped back and forth between the brothers as if they were Pokémon cards), and Peter Capaldi (yes, he’s in it too) as the semi-antagonist who is an angry thorn in Laurie’s side until his horrifying descent into madness in the later episodes of the series. Good times!

9. Family Guy (1999-present)

One of the most mainstream programmes on the list, and more ‘occasionally amusing’ than ‘pee your pants hilarious’, Family Guy nevertheless deserves its spot because of the sheer abundance of moments that make you say, “What just happened?” Primarily responsible for these moments are the show’s cutaway gags, cued in by Peter Griffin’s chorus of “This is worse than that time I…” (“went on a blind date with Gary Coleman to Mexico” / “forgot how to sit down” / “swallowed that midget who played Mini-Me”), with additional weirdness contributed by supporting characters like Adam West, the town’s dippy mayor; Ernie, the man-sized prize-fighting chicken; and the Kool-Aid Man, a large jug of red liquid who periodically bursts through walls and shouts, “Oh yeah!”. No, I don’t know why either.

8. A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1989-1995)

Hugh Laurie’s second appearance on the list*, and he’s back where he belongs, in cahoots with (and frequently being punched in the face by) Stephen Fry. All sketch shows have an element of bonkers to them, and Fry and Laurie are adept in the art of off-the-wall moments – see for example Fry demonstrating the fine art of quantity surveying – but A Bit of Fry and Laurie handles the madness with style and with substance; this is absurdity with intent, the primary victim of Fry and Laurie’s pointed wit being the English language (what’s in a name?).  Sketch shows don’t get more erudite than this.

*You’ll notice that this kind of recurrence becomes a running theme in today’s entry.

7. Black Books (2000-2004)

Black Books is a comedy set in a bookshop that has nothing to do with books and everything to do with wine, shouting and creepy house cleaners. Dylan Moran scowls his way through every episode, alternating lazy insolence with furious rage, while Bill Bailey and Tamsin Grieg’s half-hearted attempts to get on with slightly more normal lives result in bee homicide, ruining other people’s wine cellars and inappropriate responses to the Shipping Forecast. Despite all three of the main characters being egotistical, obnoxious and barking mad, the true tour-de-force of Black Books is making you like them anyway, and there are even a couple of genuinely moving episodes in the final season. RIP bees.

6. Toast of London (2013-?)

Despite its lack of recognition from Wikipedia, and being broadcast at 10.40pm on a Sunday night, Toast is a ripping yarn, with Matt Berry (best known as Douglas Reynholm from The IT Crowd) carrying the whole show on his well-moustiachoed shoulders (you know what I mean). The premise is slight – a semi-successful actor takes on a series of semi-successful roles – but the madness abounds, with a potential girlfriend who collects beaks, some really small champagne glasses, and an acquaintance whose botched face lift has made her look like Bruce Forsyth. Each episode also has a single musical number, for no earthly reason. Finally, Matt Berry has the best hair of any actor working today.

5. Friday Night Dinner (2011-present)

Another programme that isn’t as well-known as it should be, Friday Night Dinner works on the fairly normal premise that two grown-up sons come home to their parents every Friday for a family dinner. (Un)fortunately, patriarch Paul Ritter is nutty as a fruitcake, with a penchant for topless dining, conversations in the toilet and drying his own fish, which drives wife Tamsin Grieg (cf. Black Books) and sons Adam (Simon Bird) and Johnny (Tom Rosenthal) up the wall. And yet Dad seems quite sane next to Mark Heap, the family’s next-door-neighbour; creepy and pathetic in equal measure, he’s scared of his own dog (“Down, Wilson… Argh!”) and madly in love with Mum, to everyone’s increasing discomfort. Hello, bambinos!

4. Look Around You (2002-2005)

Look Around You, which I’ve talked about in a previous post, is a simple idea brilliantly executed: a spoof of educational science programmes that is chock-full of lies and nonsense. Fronted by Olivia Colman (also appearing in Green Wing and now well on her way to national treasure status), Josie D’Arby (of CBBC fame), Peter Serafinowicz (the voice of Darth Maul) and Robert Popper (writer of Friday Night Dinner**), Look Around You teaches us about the newest inventions that are sure to improve our lives: the fast-food casserole outlet, the invigorating sport of gonnis, and a cure for that life-changing disease, cobbles. Plus, spot a vast array of celebrities in silly cameos: Simon Pegg, Matt Lucas, Adam Buxton, Harry Enfield… Thanks, Look Around You. Thook around you.

**It’s all very incestuous, isn’t it?

3. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005-present)

Probably the most offensive show on the list, It’s Always Sunny takes five awful people and puts them into ridiculous situations that allow their worst qualities to shine through: episode titles include “The Gang Finds a Dead Guy”, “Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire”, and “Mac Fights Gay Marriage”. The plotlines are barmy and not one of the characters is an acceptable human being, with the possible exception of Charlie, described by my dictionary (Wikipedia) as “the least morally bankrupt member of the Gang”. So, really, it’s all about mocking those who mock others, and not at all about laughing at people with monobrows or poor spelling. Not at all.

2. Green Wing (2004-2007)

Set in a hospital but with a cast of characters you wouldn’t trust with a sticky plaster, Green Wing treads a fine line between wacky comedy – such as this classic example of the hilarity of helium – and actual pathos, most obviously in the ongoing love triangle between Caroline (Tamsin Grieg in her third appearance in this list), Mac and Guy, none of whom deserves not to get the girl/guy at the end. The combination of actual issues like friendship, family, pregnancy and terminal illness with batty moments like people falling out of windows and the occasional appearance of a camel or motorbike traversing the wards takes a bit of getting used to; but whose life wouldn’t be improved by being able to name all the bones in the skull and having a thorough knowledge of the rules of Guyball?

And the winner is…

1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)

What can you say about Monty Python that doesn’t involve the phrases ‘lumberjack’, ‘dead parrot’ or ‘Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pate, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam’? The dream team of surrealist comedy need no other description than to note that the sketches produced by their combined minds are the most abstract and random on the entire list; and that, good sir, is saying something.

All hail the masters of laughter and nonsense! And go and watch Toast.