TV Review: McMafia

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

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 “TV Review: McMafia”


TV Review: 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”


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 “TV Review: Why you should watch The Apprentice…UK”

Inside Number 9 (BBC)

TITLE: Inside No. 9

GENRE: ‘Darkly comic’

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


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)


STARRING: Sharon Horgan


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
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.)

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
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)”

Crazyhead (E4)

TITLE: Crazyhead

GENRE: comedy-horror

STARRING: Susie Wokoma, Cara Thebold, Rianne Steele, and Tony Curran


YEAR: 2016

RATING: 6 out of 10 blood-soaked stabby things

BEST QUOTE: I’m coming! I swear to God, sometimes I feel like just fucking off to the Seychelles and just forgetting this entire thing! Right, come on, you, twinkle toes. – Callum, head demon and also Raquel’s therapist…and Amy’s

WHERE CAN I SEE IT?: On demand on E4 in England; on Netflix in the US starting 16 December 2016.

Show creator Howard Overman did Misfits. I LOVED and highly recommend Misfits (on Hulu) so it was easy to fall into watching Crazyhead.

Our Crazyheads are Raquel and Amy. They are also misfits in that they, at different times, thought they were mentality ill. But it turns out they actually are seeing demons. And since they’re both seers, it’s up to them to sort out the baddies. Oh yeah: and save the world. Raquel is weird and she knows it: quick with the inappropriate but often too true sexual observation. Amy, on the other hand, seems well-uptight. But once she realizes she’s seeing reality for what it really is, she’s got depths of fight in her that she and Raquel will need to fight all and sundry evil-bringers.

If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of the two new British shows trying to claim the Slayer’s crown, I’d say go with Crazyhead over BBC One’s Class. It’s refreshing to see at least one young woman, Raquel, who isn’t a bobblehead doll actually looking like she could kick a demon’s ass when pressed into service for humanity. About five episodes in I finally thought, “Dear god, how many flights of stairs has Raquel had to take at a flat out run?” A lot. But it’s worth every but of exertion.

And Crazyhead only had six episodes so you can totally fight your “get out and do something” demons in favor of this binge-watch.