Today I have inhaled Parks and Recreation, a sitcom I not so wittily described as a breath of fresh air. Because they work in Parks, where fresh air abound! I’m an idiot but this shouldn’t stop you from watching and enjoying Parks and rec
Parks and Recreation is currently airing on BBC4, a terrific sitcom that all but passed me by when it was released. Luckily I set it to record last time I was home and so had a marathon ready for me when I returned from Uni for Easter. I wont bore you with a synopsis of the show, because it is based on the lives of bureaucrats in a tiny town and telling you this likely achieves the opposite of my goal (making you watch this show). There are dozens of reasons you should watch it, so guess what I did? I made a list of five of them.
Reasons you should watch Parks and Recreation (with clips)
Amy Poehler graduated from the same era of SNL as Tina Fey and Kirsten Whigg, Leslie Knope (and the show in general) represents both her first step beyond SNL. I would argue that Parks is also her best work to date (not including Baby Mama)
N.B. hey look its Louie C.K!
Ron Swanson’s Office
I was also going to include “Ron Swanson’s Moustache” but I felt the point was implied with the other clips. the point being that he has a glorious moustache
Parks and Recreation is also useful as a font of endless clips settling the popular women aren’t funny ‘debate’.
Rob Lowe as at least three of you know was in the West Wing and remains my favourite member of the Brat Pack. He (according to the internet/his twitter) enters the Second Season near the end and remains. So why wouldn’t you watch this show? If you’re a fan of the West Wing, his last big political role, why wouldn’t you want more of this?
If the possibility of more of that is not something that gets you watching this show chances are you are not me and that’s fine but you should still watch the show.
I know this is a lazy article, but give me a break I’m only just back and to be honest I’ve been pretty busy watching Parks and Recreation. Really I’m doing you a favour, because now you will probably watch this show 4 years late and your world will be a marginally better place
I really love this theme as well, I have a very “MC Hammer” dance for it which I will show you if you buy me a beer or ask super nicely
I have a confession. Actually, I have two. Confession one: I don’t watch tv. Being a ‘poor student’, I don’t own a television set and I haven’t really been intrigued enough by any particular series to motivate me to search for it online. I usually just buy box sets based on recommendations. Saying that, there is one certain ‘reality’ tv show that has had me glued to my laptop screen every Monday night of 2012. And here lies confession two: I am a Made In Chelsea addict. There, I said it.
I used to scoff at the very idea of watching a scripted reality tv show which documents the privileged lives of a bunch of annoying London rich kids. Now, I’m hooked. All they really do is go for cocktails and bitch about the other characters, but there’s just something so entertaining about horrendously awkward silences, especially when teamed with a twitter live feed. Oh, and Millie slapping Spencer has to be the television highlight of 2012!
I’m ashamed of myself. New year’s resolution: start watching some decent tv.
This was difficult, I have spent a lot of time considering shows which started this year my short list was Girls, House of Lies and the Newsroom. All three shows show the strength of cable output in America. Sherlocks ludicrously strong second season showed that the BBC can still keep up with her counterparts over the Atlantic. My current top 5 sitcoms are Its always sunny in Philadelphia New Girl, Happy Endings, Community and Cougar Town. New Girl and Happy Endings in particular have grown substantially over 2012 whilst the others wrestled schedulers. The Newsroom is my top pick of the Year however, I am a huge Sorkin fan and it really was thrilling to see him apply his grandiose rhetoric to something that actually mattered again. From the Deepwater Horizon spill to Tahrir square The Newsroom provides a Sorkin twist on real slightly delayed news. It's a must watch for any Sorkin fan still feeling burned by Studio 60 and any fan of interesting character driven drama dipped in real life current affairs.
Television has been growing in quality the last few years, and exports from America are becoming more prevalent in normal discussions with friends over here – often without an official airing or local broadcaster which is tremendous. Of these, Breaking Bad has been essentially viewing, and is winding down in what could end up being the best television show of all time. 30 Rock and the Office are similarly shutting shop and it playfuddle.com would be remiss to ignore their impact on television in general. However, the my favourite TV show of this year is probably the Newsroom – I'm a sucker for it's creator Aaron Sorkin, and this was as addictive as the West Wing and more accessible too. It doesn't hurt that it is about something I really care about – mainly median and politics. All the acting is great, and the writing is smart – the way it relates to our immediate past and creates some kind of alternative utopian vision that seems more achievable than the liberal wet dream that Sorkin usually lives in is a revelation – but Sorkin has managed to make really watch-able,
candy TV say something important, and for me is an invaluable watch.
Other Contenders: It's Always Sunny in Phildelphia, American Horror Story, Modern Family
As an enormous Aaron Sorkin fan, I was excited and apprehensive to see the first episode of The Newsroom. The first half an hour was hardcore, Bartlet-esque American dream rhetoric: it was a bit much to handle, but by the end of the episode and the introduction of central characters Mackenzie and Jim, I wanted more.
The premise of The Newsroom – covering real-life events in the fictional setting – is different to anything I’ve watched before, and works extremely well. As well as being humorous, the personal storylines of each character are engaging, and as a wannabe journo, the behind-the-scenes style look at how a newsroom works is intense and exciting. I was so engrossed in the emotion of each and every episode that I wasn't even offended by the clichéd use of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ at a particularly poignant moment.
Sure, it’s not how TV news really works in real life – but that would be boring. I can’t wait to see which of 2012’s news items appear in the next series.
The Newsroom is getting a lot of love in this list. I too was taken by Aaron Sorkin's latest television outing, and I struggled with this choice, but it was HBO's Girls that stood out for me in 2012. Girls creator Lena Dunham has brought something really special to TV and though at first I was incredibly sceptical and the first episode failed to grab my attention in any great way, after spending time with these characters I fell for this show. It is certainly flawed and the characters range from unlikeable to annoying but I have not been so caught up in the stories of any other show this year in the same way I was with Girls, also some of the funniest moments . I would highly reccomend seeking this show out on DVD. Check out the trailer for series two below:
Here at Nanu Nanu, we're big fans of Aaron Sorkin's work – especially The West Wing. With that, and the US election in mind, we've put together a list of our favourite West Wing episodes, and written just a few words about why. Elyse JamiesonNoëlSeason 2, Episode 10 This was an incredibly difficult decision to make as, in my opinion, the first four seasons of The West Wing are some of the finest television episodes ever made. For illustration, it’s important to note that I’d bought the entire box set having only watched the first seven episodes of series one. However, I eventually narrowed my favourites down to the series 3 finale, ‘Posse Comitatus’ (I love you, CJ), and series 2’s Christmas episode, ‘Noël’. Although neither are the funniest or most politically driven, these are episodes I specifically revisit time and time again. The latter came out on top. At least for today. ‘Noël’ centres on Josh discussing with a psychologist what turns out to be post-traumatic stress disorder, jumping back and forth between that meeting and flashbacks to the events that triggered him. Bradley Whitford is fantastic in his portrayal of the confused and scared deputy chief of staff – so much character development happens in the 45 minutes available. It’s also an episode which has a wonderful aesthetic, and that makes it an absolute pleasure to watch, even if it is a little upsetting in places. Of course, for light relief, there is always Bartlet’s desire to personally sign all 1,110,000 holiday cards sent by the office of the President. ‘Noël’ has got it all. Angus Niven20 Hours in America (Parts One and Two)Season 4, Episodes 1 & 2 I understand this is annoying, being asked to pick one episode and choosing two, so apologies to everyone offended (tweet me some abuse if it makes you feel better) but it’s a two parter and impossible to separate. ‘20 Hours in America’ was the first episode that came to mind when I was asked for my favourite episode. I of course considered others but I just kept coming back to the fourth season's premiere. This was the first episode of The West Wing I ever watched back in dark days of the early '00's on More 4. I watched it before I knew what a stump speech was or a caucus or what the White House Deputy Chief of Staff did. I had no idea what was going on and yet I was totally engrossed in this episode, I was engrossed in plots I jumped in on half way through and characters I knew nothing about. That is pretty flipping special, I knew I had to watch the show. Josh, Toby and Donna are all stranded when the motorcade leaves an Indiana stop on the campaign trail. Missing the motorcade leads to them missing the plane which leads to 20 hours of shenanigans. Because of their absence Sam is having to fill Josh's role
Hours in America’ is a prime example of The West Wing at its best, showing off the ensemble, somehow highlighting the characters in the midst of some truly gripping drama. Oh and did I mention that it’s also super funny? I probably didn't, but the Josh/Toby/Donna plot really shows off Sorkin’s love affair with 1940's Screw Ball comedies. Richard Hanrahan17 PeopleSeason 2, Episode 18 It's a tough choice, as much like a father cannot choose their favourite child, for with The West Wing I would have around 154 equally talented, beautiful children, and tell 153 of them that I don't like them. Except some of the kids that hung around smoking and doing drugs behind the school when Aaron Sorkin wasn't watching them. The opening episode is quite brilliant, as Jed Bartlett makes his incredible entrance, or perhaps my favourite would be one of those festooned in light relief – where its open door policy at the White House, and all the staff have to listen to the crazy ideas that end up making sense to them. Or when John Goodman turns up (!). But I'm not going to go for spectacle, or glitz, or humour – the best episode has to revolve around my favourite character, Toby. He is the powerhouse behind the entire administration, whose idealism and intellect guarantee the moral authority with which the administration deserve. But when Toby, using spare brain resources while doing other important things, deduces why Jed Bartlett might not run for a second presidency, he creates the storyline that defines the maturity for the rest of show. And all in one catch of a bouncing ball. Finlay NivenPosse ComitatusSeason 3, Episode 21 The last episode of the third season of The West Wing is the perfect mix of all that makes the show great. CJ’s relationship with her bodyguard comes to a head with a slim glimmer of hope for her private life dashed in one of the cruellest story lines on the show. The death of Simon Donovan in a senseless random crime is juxtaposed with the cold calculated assassination that President Bartlet and everyone involved is clearly uncomfortable organising. Also gearing up in this episode is the fourth coming election and in one of the episodes best scene’s President Bartlet
in typical Bartlet style, as seen here. The West Wing was truly in full swing during this season and the next. For me everything seems to just work here. It was a difficult choice but when I sat down to re-watch this afternoon, so many of this episode’s moments stood out as exceptional.
Now that Television is becoming more international, the greatest cultural cache is knowing what’s good before everyone else. Across the pond takes a look at the great and the good from American airwaves.
My first feature for “Across the Pond” emerges from the one cultural export that, in 50 years when the economic sun finally sets on the empire that was the USA, will still survive and thrive as the endearing ember of a once great nation – halloween. Even in my short life, I have seen this scarefest develop from unique cultural curiosity into the commercial behemoth of blood, gore and candy that it is today in Britain. Online especially, it seems you can’t move on Reddit for shared pictures of Halloween costumes. Even Halloween house decorations have their own “Gangnam style” videos. Just this morning, a goat milk company posted me an email asking me to find the hidden ghost on their website.
Aside from Halloween, the USA’s other gift to the world is quality television. Yet it is rarely that these two talents have combined into anything other than a spasm of horror. The occasional show delves into this arena, most often however the horror is diluted into a different genre, but today I’d like to share with you a series that, though still in it’s infancy, promises to cater for this bizarrely barren market. Boys and Girls, let me present to you American Horror Story.
American Horror Story (AHS) is a show that is dangerously addictive, and for good reason. The brainchild of the creators of Glee, the show is put together with incredible dexterity, it feels like a soap opera with all the useless guff thrown away, and distilled through the skinned face of a murderer. Following the arrival of a family into a prime piece of real estate on the west coast of America, their lives are caught up in a local community of torment and fear.
After an affair almost tore the family apart, they arrive buoyant with expectations in a new town. Vivienne (Connie Britton), a mother who relies on organic produce in an additive free lifestyle, is still desperately angry with her husband, Ben after his affair with one of his students. As a clinical therapist, Ben (Dylan McDermott) offers his services to listen to the fearful, the depressed and the confused who, by financial necessity, arrive in his office located in the house. Their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), as is so often the case in these sorts of things, is frustrated at being, but once again finds herself struggling with a social life at school and is being bullied for being her unique herself. Not meaning to ruin the show for you, but their hope for redemption is the ignition, and the narrative’s vehicle is heading straight over a burning cliff. Let us watch the beautiful flames dance!
To give you a sense of the scale of horror at play, watching it with my flatmate – who is no pussy by any stretch of the imagination – she has yet to see the title sequence of the show in its entirety; Images of Victorian photographs, skeletons and floating sheets, are suspended over a dense piece of sound design that vibrates your organs at that perfect disorientating wavelength. This show is oozing quality production values
However, it goes beyond that simply visceral fear, as combined with sharp dialogue and well crafted stories, you never for a second question the validity of what’s going on. I had a discussion with fellow NanuNanu-er Christian about the suspension of disbelief in horror recently when we were discussing a film. He didn’t like a horror film that got unrealistic. I contended that you can’t be disappointed if any horror is unreal because it is supernatural – it only has to follow the rules of its own construction. American Horror Story satisfies both camps by knowing it’s own boundaries, and sticking to them – while also keeping itself rooted in a potential reality.
***some spoilers as to what the show is about, but nothing that really reveals anything except the premise***
Okay, bear with me here – I liked to think of it as a strange Deleuzian Soap
Opera – with his notion of “sheets of presence” this idea that time and reality placed on top of each other (I have heavily reduced this idea as it isn’t important); you can in this sense understand the horror of this show not as ghosts but something akin to echoes of the past. I’m not saying it can be real, but I like the idea that it is playing with psychology of the paranormal over an above the dangerous, and vitriolic, after-lives of those who died unjustly.
Trapped within the house, alongside the repeating murmurs of its own history, are motifs of American horror, harmonising the paranormal with slasher films, juggled with those born into injustice, the vengeance of passions, omenic premonitions, shape-shifting ghosts, almost ubiquitously American high-school massacres and misunderstood poltergeist’s – all tied up with good ol’ fashion American Murder.
But of course, the real horror in the show is not the ghosts that trap – but circumstance. Underpinning the show is the background of a financial crisis, made in America, that I believe gives the show its title. No one can leave the house, not because they aren’t allowed – although this does play into it – but because they can’t afford not to be. How many more houses and homes are filled with this torment, entirely real and at play in stress thanks to the horror of a society built on the dreams found only in America.
Even the main thread of the show is defined by circumstance – an era that allowed only abortion’s in back alley’s and basements, or elsewhere a culture that is filled with homophobia, or which shunned those who did not look right, or did not fit in. The contemporaneous malaise of each era plays into the horror of that time, that is remarkable in its self, but like a jigsaw of string, intertwine into a beautiful final conclusion. There is an inevitability finality to the show which, given the fact that all these many stories, shadows in history that come back to haunt the present, are permitted on the merits and dexterity of the show’s creators.
***end of spoilers-y section ***
It’s darkly funny. It’s sexy. It’s mysterious. It’s addictive. But, it’s difficult to enthuse my passion for this show without giving too much away, so there is only one course of action I can prescribe – you should definitely watch this. The cameos are good enough on their own to keep you interested, but try and catch up with the first season now, and you will be up to speed as the second season is only now being broadcast – though as far as I can tell each season is self contained, which makes catching up a real blessing, or should that be a real curse…?
It’s a must-see, from across the pond, and ideal halloween viewing. Here’s the original trailer.
Fresh Air are the student radio station here in Edinburgh and Nanu is teaming up with them to bring you Nanu Live. The show will be a culture and lifestyle magazine show much like the website. Every week we will recommend the best
This year’s Great British Bake Off has been an unprecedented success. Viewing figures have steadily risen as the competition as gone on, peaking during last week’s French-themed semi-final at a little over five million. Clearly, the show’s producers have stumbled upon a very successful formula – but what is, dare it be said, the secret ingredient?
Of course, the most obvious answer would be that getting to drool over row upon row of mostly beautiful sweet treats – without any of the calories! – is a rather alluring concept. Each week, the contestants produce an
array of cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries with exceptional technical skill and innovative flavours. It’s undeniably inspiring, and it would be surprising if the amount of baking done in households across the country hadn’t increased since the beginning of August.
The bakers’ masterpieces (as well as their occasional calamities) are certainly reason to tune in. However,
it’s the subtle nuances of the show that make it such an enjoyable hour. In perfect opposition to the majority of talent competitions today, the Bake Off appears to be truly harmonious. The competition is always friendly; the contestants seem to get on, celebrating with the week’s star baker pokies online or picking someone up after a disastrous bake. There seems to be very little resentment or jealousy: everyone is gracious in both victory and defeat.
As judges, expert bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are a fantastic pair: politely dishing out criticism when necessary, coupled with a disappointed-yet-not-withering look – especially when some pastry has an unfortunately “soggy bottom”. Conversely, though, they can be kind and complimentary without ever lapsing into meaningless superlatives. All television judges could learn something from this dream team.
Hosts Mel and Sue are the other superb pairing on this show, milling around among the bakers as they work and making typically astute observations. Their short weekly investigations into the history of British baking are educational and break up the show nicely, but where they really stand out is in terms of delivering the results. There’s no scripted deliberation between the judges (at least, not in front of the bakers), drawn out tension, or overly bed music – the announcement is simply made, everyone hugs. Even Paul and Mary get in among it all, truly getting into the spirit of the show.
And it is that, the spirit of the show, which seems to be the key to its success. It’s near impossible to watch The Great British Bake Off without becoming entangled in the hopes and dreams of the amateur bakers, wishing Mary Berry was your own kindly great-aunt, and making plans to attempt your very own choux pastry showstopper. The Great British Bake Off has done incredibly well, and tweaked the recipe until it’s just right – long may it continue.
The Great British Bake Off final is on BBC2 tonight at 8pm.