February 2015 Television Reviews
Banshee: The Complete Second Season
HBO Home Entertainment
Banshee is a well-written, well-executed crime saga with all the nudity, violence and Amish that one could crave from a premium cable show. Catching up on a roller coaster first season, fans of the show will not be let down by the second installment.
Banshee’s second season takes blurred lines between justice and crime, pits more bad guys against bad guys so you actually like them, and ups the ante with some refreshing twists. Snuggling into the second season, expect clichés from like-minded crime dramas with shady, morally backwards characters (think Big Love).
I was more than happily surprised when the pace kept up and everything I expected fell apart, opening the way for new turns in this powerful drama. Lucas (Anthony Starr) is clumsy, charismatic and looks really good after a fight. If you are a fan of anti-heroes, some good-looking people making sexy time or good-ol’ fashioned violence, get caught up on season one, and dig right into season two. –Rachel Jensen
I cannot stress how much I wanted to like this show. It’s not every day that two funny ladies get their own series produced by the one-and-only Amy Poehler. The story revolves around two, single 20-somethings in New York City. The concept might seem cliché and familiar, but this is like the anti-Sex & The City version of girls in the city.
The situations and concepts, at times, are really funny, like cleaning a random guy’s apartment for extra cash and that random guy turns out to be an adult baby. However, the characters of Abbi and Ilana (Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Grazer respectively) are not likeable and worse, at times, completely reprehensible. It could be said that it’s revolutionary to see two female roles act against type and gender, but once you’ve seen a dozen or more shows about lazy, oafish and crass pot-heads, you feel like you’ve seen them all. –Rachel Jensen
Girls: Season 3
HBO Home Entertainment
Maybe you already caught this season after you copped that HBOGo password from one of your “privileged” friends (Praise the TV gods for that 2015 streaming service) once you bought into True Detective’s (deserved) hype. Still, I suggest you give it another watch before Season 4 starts and relish/cringe in the full cut of Marnie’s take on Edie Brickell’s OG “What I Am” music video, a lil’ slice of breakin-the-fourth-wall character definition that makes the DVD purchase a good value for your bitcoin.
For the “h8ers” who can’t (won’t?) see the sickening merits of this show, go stare in a mirror for 29 minutes—it’s basically the same thing. Ms. Dunham’s characters are the waify, slobbering tots who weren’t spanked, whose parents never objected to Lunchables or art history degrees at over-priced liberal arts colleges, who can afford to keep losing their jobs in Manhattan, live in $2,200-a-month Brooklyn hip-huts and get into drugs as a legitimate recreational activity.
But it’s OK because they’re far more fucked up, vapid and petulant than you’ll ever hope to be, and when their gravy trains stop a’rolling and they fall on their smug lil’ faces, it’s sweeter than April wine. What’s bigger than ironic detachment in 2015? Schadenfreude. Look it up on Tumblr. –Lena Dunham’s Tits
Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas Special
Jeff Dunham has his fans and his haters. I’m still on the fence after this 85-minute, Christmas dummy-centric special. If you’re a fan of Dunham, you’ll love it. He brings back his tried and true material of innuendos and puppet banter with all the usual characters.
It’s tame enough that you can show it to a room full of adults during a holiday party with minimal gasps of offended horror, but it’s also just mature enough that you wouldn’t want your 8-year-old niece asking you to explain what the purple dummy just said. Dunham’s characters Bubba J., Walter, Peanut, Jose Jalapeño and my favorite, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, share renditions of holiday songs and add jest to much loved traditions without becoming too sappy or heavy-handed.
I had my moments where I really enjoyed the humor, which is easy to grasp and based on cliché. I also had my moments where I recoiled at some attempted light-hearted racism and homophobia. Dunham’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I would keep this around for when the family can’t agree on which Christmas Special to re-watch. –Rachel Jensen
Kroll Show: Seasons One and Two
There are only two types of sketch comedy—that which is done really well and that which is an epic failure. Fortunately, the Kroll Show is the first type. Nick Kroll becomes his best characters over the course of multiple sketches and concepts, and each character is a spot on skewer of everything from rich dicks to homophobic fast food chains.
Kroll becomes both a dimwitted socialite and a version of Canadian Justin Beiber flawlessly, and then again into a multitude of trashy reality TV stars. With amazingly subtle guest star appearances like Zach Galifianakis throwing cakes off of the back of a moving train, I was surprised to find myself actually laughing out loud at how ridiculous yet clever each bit was.
The episodes kept getting better as the season went on, with many early, seemingly unrelated sketches coming back, making each little addition feel like an inside joke. If you have 20 minutes to kill for an episode, (don’t try to take it too seriously), it’s definitely worth taking the chance on. –Rachel Jensen
Santa’s Magic Toy Bag
Director: James Field, Legend Films
Legend Films is releasing a series of holiday television specials from the 1980s on DVD featuring puppets and stories by ‘80s puppet legend Paul Fusco, who brought us Alf. The first release is Santa’s Magic Toy Bag, which features a clumsy elf, Sherman, who bungles his way through every department of Santa’s vast holiday organization.
The story itself is fairly typical and lacking in many surprises. Sherman seems to have some creepy depths that the show explores as he confides in a lifeless jack-in-the-box toy in dark rooms, which creates more of a Norman Bates feel than happy holiday special. I’m sure your kids will be entertained while they trip out in their sugar cookie induced zombie state.
The real fun comes from the bloopers extra, which features crass humor, fart jokes, sexual innuendo and bleeped-out profanity. I was shocked with delight as the true colors of Sherman’s creators filled the screen. More holiday puppet bloopers, please. –Ben Trentelman
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