Episodes to End
Despite the pleas of a semi-rabid fan base, Episodes, the plucky show-within-a-show comedy from Showtime, will end after its upcoming season. In news reported this week by Deadline that saddened myself and the literally hundreds of other people who watch the show, the last-minute attempts to broker a deal for the show to live on failed.
The show which starts production this week on its fifth season, follows the adventures of the Lincolns, a married duo of TV writers whose heady British show is re-made in the States as a dumb, laugh-tracked disaster starring a very real, and very drunk, Matt LeBlanc (playing himself). While I was skeptical of the show early on, LeBlanc’s chemistry with co-stars Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan wins out and has made it one of my favorite comedies on TV.
Art This Way… or Else
How did you do on your Superman vs. Batman IQ test? I failed. Unfortunately, though I haven’t yet seen it, I wasn’t sufficiently dismissive of it and didn’t dump all over Zach Snyder for being too… bro-ey. If you haven’t been following the schadenfreude that’s been served up, or don’t have any friends on Facebook who consider themselves comics aficionados, you may have missed the hub-bub. I’ll sum it up for you thusly: Superman (as he did in the also panned Man of Steel) is violent and doesn’t take the care with preventing loss of life that fans of the source material have come to expect.
Plus people contend the movie is boring and poorly written.
But to be clear, that is not what is powering the controversy. Instead it’s this issue of “fundamental understanding.” This is the phrase that has been belabored to death by every person with a Facebook account and sense of sounding smart. They contend that people who “fundamentally understand” Superman, would know that it would be preposterous and impossible to have Superman fighting supervillains in a way that would cause massive property damage and loss of life. They prefer the Christopher Reeve version (which I also adore) where throwing a bus is the ultimate show of force.
Now to be sure, there’s nothing wrong with that. I certainly would never criticize someone for an artistic preference. But that’s why this new art-as-fascism attitude toward other people’s interpretations of famous characters is so grotesque; these people have no ownership of loving a character. Nor of interpreting or creating new art with that character.
Many of them—including some heavy-hitters in the comics world—have taken to Twitter and Facebook to make clear how much they detest Zach Snyder, his vision for the big blue Boy Scout. These missives without exception include relying on this interpretative fascism to shame and delegitimize other artists.
Of course, none of this is to say Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t terrible. It may very well be an execrable piece of trash. But I can separate my distaste for the product from a distaste for the artist and his right to express himself.
Which is to say, Superman-hating band-wagoneers fundamentally misunderstand what it is to create art.
Hickory dickory dock… That’s right, fellow 80s-born trogs. The Diceman is back. Showtime’s new half-hour sitcom, cleverly named Dice, premiered this past week. The show, starring standup comedian-cum-caveman Andrew Dice Clay, has a short six-episode first season that will be airing Sundays on the network Dexter built.
I have already ingested the complete first season on your behalf, and as a die-hard fan, I can only say… eh. It was OK. Sorry, I meant, it was unbelievable! Sorry, did you not get that Diceman reference? Well I did, but unfortunately most probably won’t. This is the fatal conceit at the heart of Dice; it’s just not 1992 anymore.
The show has an extremely talented and funny supporting cast, including the great character actor Kevin Corrigan as his best friend and standup star Natasha Leggero as his long-suffering girlfriend. And the setup, that Dice is basically himself—a washed-up standup comedian who still lives in the ghost-town of Vegas that he once ruled—has tons of promise.
But the product is just Curb Your Enthusiasm with 60-something Jewish comedian kvetching about the good old days… oh wait, that is exactly what Curb is. And more importantly, the successful central theme, that Larry David is a man-child so rich and bored there’s nothing to rein in his excesses, doesn’t carry over to the world of Dice because he isn’t rich. The show sometimes successfully plays with this dichotomy, as in a great scene where he greets a drunk cadre of partiers only to be mistaken for Gene Simmons, but most often it gets confused and stuck in between the two worlds. Is the Diceman carefree and footloose because he has a mountain of money to burn and is still successful and desired? Or is he having to hustle to keep a roof over his head? The show can’t seem to decide and suffers for it.
But much like Clay’s actual material, there are definitely moments to love and a certain physical comedy that he never really got credit for in his standup routine. Despite my “blah” review of the show, I did consume it without compunction in one sitting. It may be empty calories, but it’ll still fill you up.
It may not be quite the triumphant return I had hoped for, but it’s worth the ride.