TV Review: This Country (BBCii!)

TITLE: This Country

GENRE: Comedy

STARRING: Charlie and Daisy May Cooper, Ashley McGuire

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBCii!

YEAR: 2017

RATING: 🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕 of 5

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Hulu

It took two recommendations from Britons for me to finally watch This Country.

Based on the title and description, I didn’t want to fall into the trap that I found myself in with Little Britain. You know how you can be bumbling along enjoying pop culture and then, during one particular episode or skit, you realize, “I shouldn’t be laughing at this. It’s really fucking mean.” But by then you’ve already bought the box set and recommended it to other people. Which makes you the asshole.

My theory is that Little Britain got mean because it’s creators, David Walliams and Matt Lucas got too famous and too sloppy in their comedy. They also seemed to disdain the characters they created with little room for finding them endearing. But based on interviews with Daisy and Charlie Cooper I’m guessing they really took to heart the writers edict, “Write what you know about.” Writing about two rural wasters is pretty much who they were before Daisy upped sticks, got a place at the prestigious acting school, RADA, and let her brother tag along to sleep on her floor.

A problem, I find, with comedy is that it’s hard to relate examples from a show that strike one so funny. This Country’s premise is the same as that of the U.K. version of The Office (the funniest version of that show): a BBC film crew has gone outside its usual London-centric orbit to film. The show is a mockumentary meant to illuminate how young people feel marginalized in rural areas, this time to the Cotswolds. It features many of the same inside-joke-gazes to camera that break the fourth wall as if to say, “Can you believe what I have to put up with?” when each character is actually as bizarre as the next.

On a meta-level This Country is funny because cousins and best mate Kurtan and Kerry live lives that are a microcosm of quotidian British village life — going down to the pub, competing in the cutthroat scarecrow contest at the local fair, waiting for a wayward cousin to come home from jail are all events in their lives that are rendered funny and sometimes surprisingly poignant. As the show progresses to season two, we see Kerry and Kurtan’s relationship threatened by a Kurtan trying to move on with a job he feels official in and getting a girlfriend.

Kurt and Kerry celebrate the death of a particularly mean village resident and former teacher, Mr. Perkins: “Yeah, well, I think it’s disgustin’ you not celebration’ a man’s death.”

My favorite season one episode is number three, “Oven Space” because it shows the depth of Kerry and Kurtan’s relationship. They’re cousins and best friends so they know how to push one another’s buttons. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t know when to stop, hence the dramatic tension in this sitcom. In this episode Kurtan and Kerry jockey for the top oven shelf to cook their snacks while they wait for their Uncle Nugget to come home from prison.

You see, Uncle Nugget was imprisoned for a crime, but he “was wrongly incinerated [sic] for just having a laugh.” (The connotations of “having a laugh” are just kidding, fooling or horsing around, i.e. doing something douchey and trying to pass it off as a joke.) But, of course, while they’re waiting Kurtan has brought over a frozen pizza that he’s really been looking forward to and he’s not going to share it with Kerry. Kerry counters with making some frozen turkey dinosaurs that she won’t be sharing with Kurtan. Strike and retaliation!

Sounds like a simple conflict to solve but the pitch battle that ensues illustrates the petty nature of Kerry and Kurtan’s daily interactions brought about mainly by boredom and under-/unemployment. More often than not Kurtan, who’s not too bright, tries to have a deep thought and Kerry’s doing something thick like watching a loaf of bread go stale on stalebreadloaf.com.

This Country is resplendent with hilarious characters, including Kerry’s mom, Sue Mucklowe, who we never see and only hear screaming from upstairs (Daisy Cooper plays her own mom off-screen), Big Mandy a tough neighbor who everyone’s afraid of but she’s got big plans for a puppet show starring the meerkats from the Compare the Market adverts, and Len, the village misanthrope who wanders around the village and irritates Kerry and Kurtan.

Fear of love Big Mandy…just don’t let her give you a home tat’oo.

In many ways, This Country is a good example of “you just have to see it” and see if it tickles you or not. But don’t only take my word for it. This Country won a three of the four 2018 BAFTAs the show was nominated for including Best Scripted Comedy.

Sidenote: since BBC3 rebranded as BBCii! in 2016, their comedies and pilots have been spot-on with including different populations, mostly young people, in funny situations. Meant to follow the audience, some shows are released only online. More often that not, I’ve watched some creative takes on British life and themes.

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TV Review: Keeping Faith (BBC One)

TITLE: Keeping Faith

GENRE: Melodrama

STARRING: Eve Myles

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC / UK

YEAR: 2017

RATING: I can’t even…

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? You shouldn’t. But if you absolutely must waste your time, the tripe is showing on Acorn.

Tell me. Really. Someone tell me who greenlit Keeping Faith? Because it is godawful and, short of having someone flogged with a wet noodle, I want to make sure I never watch anything by anyone involved with this snoozefest ever again. Continue reading “TV Review: Keeping Faith (BBC One)”

McMafia

TITLE: McMafia
GENRE: … suspense? thriller? Inscrutable hodgepodge of boring?
STARRING: David Strathairn, James Norton

PRODUCTION COMPANY/COUNTRY: BBC One & AMC
YEAR: 2017
RATING: One of these 🛏 because you’re gonna wanna catch a lot of these 💤 if you watch McMafia.

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? If you insist, AMC and the new subscription channel, AMC Premier

Here’s a good tip for this BBC/AMC co-production: skip it. For serious, don’t even bother. McMafia is slow-moving, but not a slow burn.

It’s leading man, James Norton…what to say about James? “Wooden” is a recurring theme in reviews of his McMafia performance. I hesitate to call it a performance but I know it is because I’ve seen him be an exceptionally creepy and annoying psychopath in the crime drama Happy Valley (watch season one). He’s won awards for that turn and also nabbed himself a BAFTA Award for play a smoldering holy man/detective in Grantchester. But I’m not sure what he’s doing in McMafia besides clearly waiting for his next line like they were hard to memorize.

I’m a banker not a gangster.

James Norton put himself to sleep with his performance in McMafia. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT WAKE HIM.

Continue reading “McMafia”

Why you should watch The Apprentice…UK

Karren Brady, Lord Alan Sugar and Claude Littner

Hosts of The Apprentice UK, Baroness Karren Brady, Lord Alan Sugar and Claude Littner. Brady and Littner replaced Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer, who were both a delight to watch.

TITLE: The Apprentice UK

GENRE: Reality

STARRING: Lord Alan Sugar, Baroness Karren Brady, Claude Littner and various British people claiming to be “good at business”

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC One/UK

YEAR: 2005 – present

RATING: 👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻 out of five “You’re fired” fingers

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? There are often entire episodes on YouTube

I. LOVE. The UK version of The Apprentice. For real. Like straight up SQUEAL when I see that a new series is about to pop off. “Isn’t it just like the U.S. version with that human feces some people call their President?” Absolutely not. At least I don’t think so. TBH I’ve never watched not nary one episode of the US version. I don’t care about American capitalism or how people succeed or fail in it. And once I read Emily Nussbaum’s account of re-watching the American Apprentice, I was affirmed, for once, in my good decision-making. Anything that could inflict that trash human Omorosa on us couldn’t be at all useful in my world. And once the US turned to a celebrity focus, I really couldn’t be bovvered, mate. The majority of American celebrities probably barely finished high school, so I’m skeptical of their ability to start and run a business without a legion of advisors. The rhetoric of “innate” business skills is a flim-flam, shim-sham of US capitalism.

And that’s what makes The Apprentice UK fascinating and, at times, side-splittingly funny.

Continue reading “Why you should watch The Apprentice…UK”

Doctor Foster (BBC One)

TITLE: Doctor Foster

GENRE: Drama (like, HIGH drama)

STARRING: Suranne Jones, Thusitha Jayasundera, Jodie Comer, Bertie Carvel

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC/UK

YEAR: 2015

RATING: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 (out of 5)

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Netflix, Amazon and Google Play

Doctor Foster came recommended via a podcast, Conversation Street, which covers the long-running soap Coronation Street. I’m way overdue turning people on to Corrie but I mention it here because, some great (and not-so-great) actors start out on the cobbles of Corrie and then strike out for broader acting fields. Suranne Jones, the Dr. Gemma Foster of the show’s title, played a memorable character on Corrie so that was my incentive to see what’s up with Dr. Foster. Moving from soaps to dramas can either go really well for British actors or go left in amusing but sad ways. Luckily for us, Suranne J. is a baller so this show cracks on at a good clip with her riveting acting. She’s riveting in the, “What’s this mad chick gonna do next?!” way.

Here’s why she driven a bit nutty.

Continue reading “Doctor Foster (BBC One)”

Inside Number 9 (BBC)

TITLE: Inside No. 9

GENRE: ‘Darkly comic’

STARRING: Nikki Amuka-Bird, Fiona Shaw, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC Two

YEAR: 2017

RATING: 5 missing loafers

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Series 1 is available in the U.S. on iTunes; Series 2 and 3 on DVD in the U.S.

Inside No. 9, much like Black Mirror, is the type of show you’ll remember for the first episode you ever saw. You’ll also ask yourself, “Who made this show…and who let them get away with it?” The answer is BBC Two, which is often referred to as the Beeb’s highbrow channel, and has edgier and darker comedy than BBC One. And more power to them for doing it because Inside No. 9 is hugely freaky and unnerving. (I like my TV like I like my men: freaky and unnerving. J/k, weirdos!)

I’m just coming into Inside No. 9 on series three and am glad I entered not knowing much about it. So on that count, I’ll try not to spoil too much of it for you.

On the surface level, think of Inside No. 9 as a contemporary update of The Twilight Zone.

Continue reading “Inside Number 9 (BBC)”

Catastrophe (E4, Amazon)

TITLE: Catastrophe (season 3)

GENRE: RomCom

STARRING: Sharon Horgan

COUNTRY: UK

YEAR: 2015 – 2017

RATING: 3 out of 5 overpriced baby prams/strollers

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? E4 (now) and Amazon on Demand (4/28)

I’m a huge Sharon Horgan fan. Her best work —both acting and writing — is in the BBC Three sitcom Pulling. You can, and should, watch Pulling if you like the type of debauched, dark humor that the British do so well. Horgan carries that humor over to Catastrophe.

Series one starts with Sharon (Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney — they didn’t reach too far for names) who meet and, after a one night stand, find out Sharon’s pregnant. Rob’s an American and Sharon’s Irish so there’s not only that pregnancy issue to figure out but also their cultural differences. Luckily, they’re both crass as hell, which is both entertaining and endearing in season one.

Continue reading “Catastrophe (E4, Amazon)”

Taboo (BBC One and FX)

TITLE: Taboo
GENRE: Drama
STARRING: White Idris (aka Tom Hardy), Lucian Msamati, Oona Chaplin, David Hayman
PRODUCTION COMPANY/COUNTRY: BBC One- UK; FX – USA
YEAR: 2017
RATING: Five out of five wet wipes (you’re gonna need wipes if you watch this. Regency London, even the rich places, looks filthy.)
WHERE CAN I SEE IT?: BBC One and FX

Every week when watching Taboo, after emerging from my White Idris-induced daze, I’d think, “I really have to recommend this show to people because it is craaaaaazy.”

But it’s also also overly complicated and obtuse. That’s why I waited until it was over to review it. Now, if you’re a  completists, you can binge-watch it. But Taboo is “sick with pneumonia” binge-watch material. Or “stuck inside during a hurricane or blizzard” binge-watch worthy. Taboo’s convoluted plot makes one easily distracted by the staging, the deliberate filth…or Twitter. And, yet, at the end, I actually stood up and cheered, which I’ve not done since Craster got merc’d in Game of Thrones. 

Continue reading “Taboo (BBC One and FX)”

Chewing Gum (E4, Netflix)

TITLE: Chewing Gum
GENRE: Comedy
STARRING: Michaela Coel (star/writer), Susie Wokoma, Kadiff Kirwan
NETWORK/COUNTRY: UK
YEAR: 2015
RATING: 5 out of 5 hairbrushes upside your head
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? E4 on demand in the U.K. and Netflix in the U.S.

When I moved to London in 2003 with a head full of stereotypes about the city and its people, I first tried to find a place to live in Brixton. Brixton is a neighborhood that, back then, was where a lot of Afro-Caribbeans lived. Migrating in the early 1950s as Commonwealth citizens to help rebuild Britain after Hitler bombed the shit out of it, Brixton became known as a hub of Black British life. And also riots. There were massive riots in the 1980s. So, of course, THAT IS WHERE I WANTED TO LIVE.

Alas, the rooms and small apartments I went to look at were, IMO, CRAY. The ones where I would be a “lodger” with older Afro-Caribbean women and men were dark, with lots of heavy drapery and too much white Jesus imagery for my taste. Granted, I looked at 3-4 places so I won’t generalize to the entire populace of Afro-Caribbean landlords. But studying  the evolution of Black British culture and getting to know young, Black British women made the places I looked at, and my introduction to Chewing Gum, all the more hilarious and comprehensible.


Chewing Gum is based on a stage play that Michaela Coel wrote and she brings her character Tracey to fidgety life for the TV show. She works in a corner shop part-time and most of the show takes place in her neighborhood for a fun look at Council Estate life without the hyperbole of what that life is like. Because regardless of the exterior, Tracey is fully obsessed with sex: having sex for the first time (at 24), enjoying sex and being sexy. Yet, she’s incredibly, but adorably awkward in her pursuit. She lives with her very religious mother and her sister (Susie Wokoma, star of Crazyheads and featured in Crashing), so Tracey’s randiness is constantly under surveillance and reprimand. This is especially the case with her boyfriend with whom she shares a chaste relationship, but she’s always trying to mount him like a pony.

What makes Coel’s depiction of Tracey both hilarious and forward-thinking is its opposition to stereotypes about black American women’s sexuality.

Continue reading “Chewing Gum (E4, Netflix)”

TV Review: The Family (ABC), Thirteen (BBC One/BBC America) and The Missing (BBC One)

TITLE: The FamilyThirteenThe Missing

GENRE: Thriller, Family Drama

STARRING: The Family – Joan Allen, that one chick from The Newsroom with the weird face; Thirteen – Aneurin Barnard is someone you will want to know because he and his dark curls were dreamy; The Missing – David Morrissey’s Walking Dead pedigree tricked me into watching this and now I’m mad because it was boring af.

NETWORK / COUNTRY: The Family – ABC / USA), Thirteen – BBC One, BBC America / UK, The Missing – BBC One / UK

YEAR: 2016

RATING: The Family – a reserved 4 out of 5 missing kid flyers, Thirteen – five out of five, The Missing – 2 sleepy eyes trying to stay open to watch it.

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? The Missing is still boring the knickers off folks on BBC iPlayer at this writing, Thirteen is on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and something called Vudu. The Family is available on iTunes, Google Play, and Playstation.


Okay, so this is a weird bit of televisual group-think for a TV show premise: what if a missing kid CAME BACK after several years? Three production companies sold this idea to networks, two in the U.K. and one in the states (so far).

Sometimes people with kids tell me they can’t watch stories in which kids are in danger and in peril. I totally get that. Sometimes I can’t either and I don’t have kids. But what if they kid comes back? Joy! Jubilation! Not.So.Fast say these three shows.

Continue reading “TV Review: The Family (ABC), Thirteen (BBC One/BBC America) and The Missing (BBC One)”