‘I’m Dying Up Here’ – Sky Atlantic

I’m Dying Up Here was on my to-watch list for a long time before I took the plunge. I’m sorry I hesitated, because it’s exceptional television. It’s American comedy-drama television series created by David Flebotte and set firmly in 1970s Hollywood. It was made for Showtime in the US and picked up in the UK on Sky Atlantic (exactly where you’d expect quality imports to pitch up). It has comedy pedigree in its backbone as it’s based on a book by William Knoedelseder detailing the excesses of soon-to-be household names such as Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman on Sunset Strip in the 70s. It’s also executive produced by Jim Carrey, and at the time of writing, the less said about him the better.

While based in reality, this is a fictionalised account of the premier Los Angeles comedy club, and the denizens who inhabit it, honing their craft to make it to the big time. That way real-life anecdotes can be revised, tweaked and magnified, much like the way a stand-up takes real life and makes it funny, constantly revising their act.

The comedy club is Goldie’s, owned and run by businesswoman and matriarch Goldie Herschlag (played by Melissa Leo, and loosely based on Mitzi Shore the founder of The Comedy Store). She has very little tenderness in her heart and is all about business. She cares for her comics in a way, but is very strict with them, and this tactic has proved extremely successful. What she says goes (even insisting one comic change his name after daring to play in another LA club). Goldie’s is only place where the talent scouts come from Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’, the big coast-to-coast American talk show. That slim chance at stardom is what keeps her comics loyal.

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‘Fargo – Series 2’ – On the Box

A quick post about Fargo series 2 which started last week on Channel 4. I’d watched the film, but had no great love for it – no real recollection of it other than it was strange, ghoulish and looked bloody cold. This doesn’t paint me in the best light as a film fan, but was pretty useful when the Coen brother’s work was adapted for tv. I came to series 1 with fairly fresh eyes, not worried whether super-fan Noah Hawley could possibly write something that’d live up to the film like the real fans were.

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‘Unforgotten’ – On the Box

Unforgotten is ITV’s new crime drama. From the off it’s very strange. For a start, it seems to be entirely well-lit. In some scenes there are zero spooky shadows and you can see everything. There’s even daylight! The investigating detectives are DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan. Not only do they seem well-adjusted, friendly and generally decent, but there’s zero sexual tension and no mention of alcohol or substance abuse. They might just be normal coppers doing a good job – an extremely rare sighting in drama or fiction of any kind. I especially like the way that episodes 1 and 2 haven’t shied away from how much methodical admin work goes in to a murder investigation. In fact, that’s the most mysterious thing about the show so far. Why is the Guv so keen to work a cold case full of dead ends? Nicola Walker‘s emotional stuff is a bit heavy-handed, but I’m sure it’ll all make sense when we find out about her brother/ sister/ husband/ mother who went missing when she was a child and left unresolved feelings that poor Jimmy’s case brings up.

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‘Cradle to Grave’ and ‘The Goldbergs’ – On the Box

I find Danny Baker (radio DJ, talking head and Twitter dick) and Peter Kay (kitchen sink nostalgia-peddling comic) pretty annoying. They both seem to have peaked years ago and now they’re trading on past success. So Cradle to Grave featuring both was something to be avoided. Mr H was a big fan of Peter Kay’s last tv outing Peter Kay’s Car Share and the classic Phoenix Nights (Chorley FM – coming in your ears!) so we watched it anyway and it was surprisingly enjoyable.

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