by Julian Spivey
BBC America has gotten into the mockumentary game with the new faux-reality series comedy “Almost Royal” airing Saturday nights at 9 p.m.
“Almost Royal” stars Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart (who are also writers of the series) as a brother and sister duo who are far, far down the list of British Royals who following the death of their beloved father travel to the United States, as his dying wish asked, with his ashes in tow to see a country that he truly loved.
The plots are loose, as would be expected from a faux reality series, and simply rely on George (Gamble) and Poppy (Hoggart) traveling to different cities in America and engrossing themselves in local customs and attractions.
Much of the show’s humor stems from the fact that others surrounding George and Poppy in America don’t seem to realize it’s all a complete joke and view the brother and sister duo as imbeciles from overseas.
The laughs all come from George and Poppy’s interactions with American things that are so foreign to them. These laughs are occasionally riotously funny when the duo says or does something that mocks Americanism in ways that should be mocked – like a Tea Party meeting in Boston – but can also fall flat for periods of time as the entire premise of the show at times seems uninteresting. At times the characters of George and Poppy can also seem more annoying than funny.
The best all-around episode thus far has probably been the duo’s trip to Texas where they experience things like cowboys at work (hilariously asking one if he was inspired by the “Toy Story” movie) and a foray into cheerleading for Texas State University.
“Almost Royal” is an interesting show for BBC America that’s at its best when the humor is more biting in its satire, but is ultimately only worth a few honest laughs per episode and likely won’t relate with too many American viewers.
by Julian Spivey
1. ”Parenthood” and Ray Romano
“Parenthood” has been the best drama on network television (like the Emmy voters care about network dramas) for its entire five season run, but when the incredible Monica Potter performance from season four failed to garner a Best Supporting Actress in a Drama nomination last year I knew that this series would never get its Emmy due. That still doesn’t mean it’s not being incredibly and unfortunately snubbed. Perhaps even bigger than a series snub is the fact that Ray Romano has been snubbed for the season straight season in the guest actor category. Romano, who was an Emmy darling on his ‘90s sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” winning two awards, has shown an incredible talent for dramatic work on “Parenthood.” It’s the biggest acting growth I’ve ever seen from an actor on television and it’s completely being disrespected.
2. “Late Show with David Letterman”The “Late Show with David Letterman” is one of the most awarded variety shows in Emmy history, but stopped receiving nominations a few years back. I thought Letterman’s retirement announcement would get the attention of the Emmy voting committee, but it hasn’t. The sad thing is Letterman’s show still remains the grandest of network late night talk shows – being better than buzzier shows like “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel Tonight.” The real miscue here is that “Saturday Night Live” received a nomination over the ‘Late Show’ … did these people actually pay attention to ‘SNL’ last season? It was one of the worst seasons I can remember from the long-running sketch comedy series. Oh well, Letterman will be eligible for one last season. Hopefully he’ll get his due respect in 2015.
3. “The Mindy Project”/Mindy Kaling
“The Mindy Project” is currently the best comedy on network television and putting to shame the nominated likes of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” which is about three seasons past its glory, but still isn’t getting any respect from the Emmy voting committee. The critically acclaimed show is a thing of pop culture beauty with creator/writer/star Mindy Kaling being able to lampoon and pay homage to things like chick flicks all at the same time. Not only was the show greatly snubbed, but Kaling, who reminds me a lot of Tina Fey with “30 Rock,” should’ve also been nominated as Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and for her incredibly witty writing.
4. “Hannibal”/Mads Mikkelsen
I’ve read numerous critics who claim that NBC’s “Hannibal” is the best series currently on network television and many have remarked that if it was on cable it’d be something everybody was raving about instead of barely hanging on with a cult following on NBC. It seems almost impossible for a non-cable or premium channel drama to receive a nomination these days, but “Hannibal” really should’ve had a shot. Even more so of a snub is likely the fact that Dr. Hannibal Lecter himself, Mads Mikkelsen, couldn’t get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. As a huge fan of “The Silence of the Lambs” I never thought anybody should ever be Hannibal Lecter besides Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, but Mikkelsen has been a marvel to watch in the role of a younger Lecter.
5. Matt Smith
I know full well that “Doctor Who” is not the kind of show that’s ever going to receive Emmy nominations, but I would have loved for Matt Smith, my personal favorite Doctor, to receive a nomination for his parting series. I’d argue that his performance is one of the best on the entirety of television, because it’s truly one of a kind ranging from moments of dark drama to slapstick humor in a matter of minutes.
by Aprille Hanson
On Friday, a bunch of kids tuned into the premiere of Disney Channel's new series "Girl Meets World" ... and so did their parents, with possibly more anticipation. The amount of 20-to-30-somethings that tuned in to watch the return of the beloved couple Corey and Topanga from the hit ‘90s series "Boy Meets World," which lasted seven seasons, was probably staggered. I don't know the numbers, but I can tell you that 'Boy' had such a loyal following, it's certain that anyone who had grown up watching Corey Matthews (Ben Savage) have crazy times and learn some lessons along the way with best friend Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) and fall in love with Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel), tuned in.
It's why Disney's leap to create a show surrounding Corey and Topanga as parents was perfect for not only ratings, but a chance to recreate the magic that surrounded the previous series. We left Corey and Topanga in 2000 when the series ended. They were married and getting ready to move to New York.
In "Girl Meets World," it's more than years later and they're still in the Big Apple, now with two children, a daughter (about 12 years old or so) Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and her little brother, Augie (August Maturo). Of course, Savage and Fishel agreed to reprise their beloved roles as Mr. and Mrs. Matthews, but what will be great is if the show can (as rumored) draw in some more guest stars, particularly Shawn Hunter.
But for now, the pilot episode "Girl Meets Boy" was filled with enough cutesy writing and activity to entertain a younger audience and flashbacks to 'Boy' days to make us adults smile. I knew right off the bat when Riley and her best friend Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter) were in her room, debating on whether or not to sneak out the window to go ride the subway, it was going to be a fun little trip down memory lane. How many times did Shawn Hunter sneak in and out of Corey's window? Maya is certainly the feisty, trouble-making sidekick to Riley's kind heart - sound familiar?
So as the girls decide to sneak out (Maya of course is the instigator), we see Corey coming through the window on the outside to spoil their plans. Let's face it - he's seen this scenario before. But what was beautifully emphasized throughout the episode was how Corey and Topanga both want Riley to make "the world" her own (part of which is allowing her to ride on the subway). Also, not to follow in the bad-girl footsteps of Maya, but to be there to support and save her, just like he did for Shawn. Shawn wasn't mentioned, of course, but it's clear the writers are hoping to hinge the show's success on the two's friendship. Both Blanchard and Carpenter had big shoes to fill and the two young actresses made the parts their own and are going to be easy characters to care about.
What is even more interesting is that it's revealed Maya's home life might not be as rosy as Riley's, which is a definite throw-back to Shawn. It's a moment that can be seen all over Corey's face as she tells him after she stages a little riot for no more homework to be given, "I have no one at home to help me with my homework."
Fans got to see a lot of interaction between Corey and Riley, more so than him and Topanga, which may have left some fans a little disappointed. After all, it's the magic between one of the cutest couples in television history (from sandboxes to the altar) that brought us back in the first place. But I'm sure that will come in time, but it's clearly not what the show is about.
Corey is taking on the role of the beloved Mr. George Feeny (William Daniels), Corey's neighbor, teacher, mentor, friend, etc. that was the patriarch of "Boy Meets World." Here, we see Corey teaching a class at his daughter's school and playing the part of the overprotective father when a new boy from Austin, Texas, Lucus Friar (Peyton Meyer) moves to the city ... and in the desk behind his daughter, who is clearly smitten. Meyer is actually 15 years old and looks it. The casting may be a little off here because the sparks between the two just didn't kick off like they first did for Corey and Topanga. Could be because he looks his age, which isn't his age in the show. I don't think the writers will try to replicate what Corey and Topanga had (I don't think it's possible), but if they even attempt it with these two, it might not go over as well.
That's one of the few flaws that I could find. The cafeteria scenes (popular in 'Boy' episodes) were almost the same as they were when Corey was a kid - same looking tables, same red chairs. And wow else would be in Corey's class than the nerdy, over-the-top, over-achiever named Farkle. Not gonna lie, this kid takes irritating to a whole other level, but it is a nice ode to the character Stuart Minkus on the original series. It wasn't addressed in the episode, but according to IMDB.com, Farkle's last name is in fact "Minkus." Is it possible Lee Norris might be making a cameo? Gosh I hope so.
Besides Corey clearly handing over the reins to his daughter to make this "world" (ahem, show) her own, the best moment came at the very end. While Corey and Topanga are letting their daughter know that she'll need to spread her wings and fly, but they'll always be there for her, a poster is in the background of the subway station with Mr. Feeny's face on it. For a moment, I thought this was the only glimpse of the beloved character we'd get. But then, as Corey looks on, Daniels is leaning up against the wall in a guest appearance and says as he had said so many times before, "Well done Mr. Matthews." Then he disappears. This could mean in the series he has died or that he just won't be making any more guest appearances.
But as a fan, I'll take that sweet, perfect moment that made absolutely no sense to all the kiddos watching.
It's easy to tell "Boy Meets World" creator Michael Jacobs, who also writes along with April Kelly from the original series, are the creative minds behind this newest project. That means that the concept of the original will continue to carry on for a whole new generation. There might be a kid out there watching who has a friend that has a troubled homelife (just like Shawn and Maya) or one that might fall in love with their childhood friend. It's a show that hinged on the relationships and story lines that may not be as sunshiny as other Disney Channel shows. It's a show where kids can learn real life lessons, not from an undercover pop star or a kid that has a "dog with a blog," but with someone who reminds them of themselves, their friends and family.
If it continues like its predecessor, "Girl Meets World" is going to be show for a whole new generation to grow up on. And, for the pilot at least, it's easy to say, "Well done."