Tuesday 12 December 2017

New on netflix: Gore, more gore, and theatrical gags galore

Best of Enemies - Available now

William F Buckley and Gore Vidal during an ABC debate in 1968.
William F Buckley and Gore Vidal during an ABC debate in 1968.
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

In The Simpsons, when Homer meets the man who boasts of inventing "that thing where people jabber back and forth annoyingly on the radio", he quite rightly punches the character.

The makers of Best of Enemies, however, clearly expect that we will be awestruck at the story of Gore Vidal and William F Buckley, who are credited with inventing election-time punditry during their epic 1968 debates on ABC. At the time, the network was the poor third wheel in the nightly news wars between NBC and CBS and needed something innovative to spice up their coverage.

Their solution was to hire two diametrically opposed intellectuals - Vidal and Buckley - to voice the ideals of conservatism (Buckley) and progressivism (Vidal). Their politics were poles apart but what really makes the debates dramatic is the mutual revulsion, inspired, the film posits, by the overwhelming similarity of their backgrounds. It also sets the scene well in describing the cultural foment of 1968 and the emergence of identity politics in America. Where it rather falls down is that the zingers that fly back and forth sound a little tame and gentlemanly when compared to the type of punditry we have today, especially on American television.

Scream Season 2

10 episodes, available now

So how to put this? If you weren't mad about the first season of Scream (which aired in the US on MTV), you probably aren't going to like the second season (or at least as much as we've seen). This new series retains its adolescent melodrama reminiscent of a soapier than usual episode of Pretty Little Liars, but does up the violence to please those who like their horror meat served red. After being met with lukewarm ratings and some criticism from fans after the first season, the second season was actually something of a surprise. The opening sequence of Scream season 2, like the opening of season 1, pays homage to classic horror movies. However, while the old series was directly influenced by the original Scream film, season 2 is more of a parody: A teenaged girl is murdered in her home by her best friend, "Why?" the friend asks rhetorically. "Because I'm so sick of your slut-shaming!" However, this sequence is revealed to be a movie within the TV series and the real opening follows the central character through the cinema as she and a classmate, are chased by a killer. From there, it's the usual smorgasbord of gore and irony intermingled with some juicy teenage love stories. It's all brainless good fun.

Bo Burnham

Available now

Bo Burnham made his mark as a YouTube teen sensation, but you'd never have known it from the confident performer on his Make Happy tour.

The show encompassed a theatricality that audiences hadn't previously seen from the writer and actor, who was the youngest person ever to record a Comedy Central special, aged 18. Amy Schumer was once asked what was the difference between professional comedians and amateurs and she replied "the amateurs still have hope". Burnham seems to embody this comedic existential bleakness on his tour. "Y'all ain't never seen a comedy show like this in your life," he promises, "and probably for good reason."

Here he mocks the corporate influence in his work while lamenting that he's not getting any corporate freebies and struggles with his version of fame. "Give up on your dreams," he tells the audience. "I am not happy." What makes Burnham special though is his theatrical element. It's rare that a show can take you from an elaborate call and response rap opening number to a solid six minutes of meme jokes and still feel like an hour of comedy, but that is exactly what this does. There are lighting cues, miming, physical comedy and a piano to punctuate the punch lines. It all meshes well with Burnham's introspection and makes this special well worth a look.

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

Blue Eyes

Channel4 On Demand, until June 26, episodes 1-10

Essential viewing this, as we face into the possibilities of Brexit, with a fast-growing refugee problem and the rise of Europe's extremist parties. This 10-part Swedish drama is a tense, well-written political thriller, an examination of the rise of the far right, who have indeed gained considerably in Sweden since this was written in 2014. Created by Alex Haridi, who wrote Real Humans, the drama that Channel4's Humans was based on, this follows two female politicians at opposite ends of the spectrum. The story begins with a doting mother and grandmother, who is also the local extreme right candidate, murdered after an inflammatory speech, whereupon her daughter steps into her place, determined to understand and avenge, against a backdrop of exactly the kind of crises that Europe is currently facing. All 10 episodes are available until the end of the month.


RTE Player, until January 2017, 5 episodes

There is no rush on this, but consider making time over the next while to watch the complete run of five episodes of Storyland currently on RTE Player. The award-winning strand is now into its sixth season, conceived as a way to encourage and trial original Irish drama. Each drama is up to 20 minutes long, and acts as a showcase of what the writer, director and producer are capable of, with the idea being that the most successful will lead to bigger things, as happened with Hardy Bucks, which became a series and a feature-length film. Or Rob Cawley and Gary Duggan, who made Happy Slapper as part of Storyland, and then went on to write RTE's Amber. This season, there is a comedy about mismatched cops, a family trying to adapt to an apocalyptic scenario, a woman who discovers she's pregnant the same day her boyfriend disappears, a skateboard fanatic with family troubles, and a detective garda released from prison for a crime she didn't commit.

Spot the next big thing.


Emily Hourican

Costing The Earth

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006r4wn/episodes/ downloads

So much material devoted to the natural world is deeply depressing - vanishing species, endangered ice caps, irreversible climate change, not to mention the constant procession of idiotic 'deniers' - that it is wonderful to encounter something positive for a change.

This BBC podcast looks at man's effect on the environment, but focussing on the positive efforts being made.

Hosts Tom Heap and Dr Alice Roberts talk about initiatives and projects aimed at solving the challenges facing the natural world, including the Chinese billionaire harnessing solar power, the ways in which New York is cleaning its filthy waterways, the story of coal from the Industrial Revolution to now, and a debate into methods of reducing our carbon footprint.

Tiny Spark


Subtitled 'investigating the business of doing good,' this is an independent, non-profit news programme reporting on philanthropic and social initiatives, created and presented by Amy Costello. Since it was set up in 2011, Tiny Spark stories have included an investigation into the idea of HIV disclosure in Africa, and exposed the harm caused by medical volunteers in post-quake Haiti, and been cited by news outlets including The Huffington Post and The Atlantic. This is where to go for a different view of the world and off-the-beaten track reports, as well as interviews with leading voices from the world of philanthropy, international aid and development.

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