Watch Out for the Big Grrrls Amazon
When Lizzo appeared on James Corden’s chat show recently, he stood onstage doing almost nothing while the Grammy-winning rap sensation shook her thang beside him.
It was an awkward moment, as Corden’s been very public how proud he is of his recent weight loss – and Lizzo’s new Amazon series, Watch Out for the Big Grrls, is all about the fact that bigger girls can, in fact, dance up a storm.
This might not sound like an especially radical idea to anyone who’s ever been to a nightclub, but many of us grew up in an era when music video dancers were invariably skinny and ripped, and Noel Gallagher got away with dismissing Robbie Williams as the “fat dancer” from Take That.
At the start, Lizzo explains that, since her industry contacts and dance agencies couldn’t supply her with enough zaftig movers, she’s turned to the tried and trusted format of the reality show audition to find them. And so the the girls – including a trans woman – throw down for Lizzo while her lyrics (“I’m a thick chick I need tempo”) boom over the sound system.
Inclusivity, one of the themes of the series, doesn’t mean that everyone gets to stay, and even those that do have to push through injury, self-doubt and some seriously gruelling routines on their way to getting ready for the stage with Lizzo.
On one level it’s all really lovely – a joyously colourful show about body positivity and self-love. Lizzo, who at 33 would have grown up in a culture saturated with reality TV, is to the camera born – a natural host who lays the word “bitch” like a medal around the necks of her adoring subjects.
It’s also refreshing that this series doesn’t follow in the footsteps of shows like Biggest Loser – nobody is trying to dance themselves thin – and the inevitably heart-rending backstories (several of them have lived through intense poverty) are given prominence rather than how they got to this size.
It also doesn’t follow the traditional reality format; contestants can be eliminated any time rather than being let go one at a time, as would be the norm on shows like this.
But, and I hate to say this, all the positivity can be a bit cloying – like being beaten over the head with inspirational bumper stickers. There are only so many TV journeys you can take before a layer of cynicism begins to calcify around the heart.
Of course we live in a world where girls are bombarded with images of ‘perfect’ bodies – but surely. when body positivity has been co-opted by brands like Dove, a more daring series would have shown big girls dancing without patting itself on the back for including them.
There is something a bit obvious about the format. Of course these clearly funky American women have clean lines and incredible moves. It would have been more impressive if Lizzo has managed to prise some pivots out of some rhythmless Irish people. Perhaps she will do that for her next trick.
It feels the time is right for another great animated series, and Human Resources, with its creator Nick Kroll (of the massively successful The Kroll Show and Big Mouth) and all-star cast (featuring Maya Rudolph, Ali Wong and Tim Robinson amongst others) has the buzz around it to be just that.
Broadly speaking it’s a workplace comedy with a ‘real life’ plot of disgruntled employees in an office running alongside a fantastical hub of bizarre creatures who toil away in a parallel universe.
But that setup takes a fair bit of figuring out, as none of the characters are properly foregrounded. Many seem to be just the embodiment of a single recurring joke, and the quips zing back and forth like shots in a pinball arcade.
There’s a glut of pop-culture references, a jarring shift in tone between episodes and scenes, and an overall sense that this series was written by hyper-caffeinated Harvard graduates trying to outdo each other for cleverness.
With all of the changes in workplace culture over the last few years, there was ample fodder for a series like this to make a mark – but with the barrage of jokes, the viewer has no time to draw breath and feels pulled in several directions at once.
Several episodes in, fatigue at such relentless knowingness has already set in. A huge disappointment of a series, which once seemed so promising.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
…or of anywhere, really. Who knew there were enough leopard-skin-wearing ladies-who-lunch in every major American city to cast this franchise, which has been credited (if that’s the correct word) with the demise of the soaps?
RuPaul’s Drag Race
It’s survival of the best wig snatchers in this long-running drag-talent-show-slash-make-and-do competition hosted by Mother Superior RuPaul, who graciously allows guest judges – including Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus – to believe that the show is run as a democracy.
90 Day Fiancé
What’s hilarious about this show that follows couples who have to marry within a 90-day American visa window, is the different reasons men and women feel affronted by false advertising. For men, it’s the women’s looks; for the women, it’s the men’s (lack of) money.