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February 2016

Netflix’s ‘Love’ Is Definitely Worth Your Time

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

I firmly believe that the best romantic comedies are no longer found at the movies, but rather on TV. From USA’s woefully under appreciated “Playing House” to FXX’s equally great “You’re the Worst,”the stories that once played out on the big screen with Tom Hanks– and Meg Ryan-types in the leads can now be found on the small screen with just a little bit more edge and finesse than their predecessors. Netflix’s latest venture into streaming TV, “Love,” appears to be the next great example of that.

 

Now I must admit, as of writing this I am only two episodes into the 10-episode first season, but I’ve already seen enough to keep me watching. Created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin and Paul Rust, “Love” follows the growing relationship between Mickey, a somewhat troubled program manager at a satellite radio station (played by the great Gillian Jacobs), and Gus, a dopey but seemingly well-meaning on-set tutor (played by Rust). The two first meet at the end of the first episode in a chance encounter at a convenience store and end up spending a large portion the day together. They don’t necessarily seem like they would be a match; Mickey seems willing to do just about whatever, whenever (probably fueled by what appears to be somewhat frequent drug use), whereas Gus is a little more careful and restrained. But once they start talking and, more importantly, cracking jokes (in a typical Apatow fashion), a definite chemistry comes across. You want to see what they do and hear what they say. You want to stick around to see how things shake out.

 

It definitely doesn’t hurt that the writing is clever and funny and Jacobs and Rust both do an excellent job of bringing their characters to life, as do all of the other actors on the show. The series is really firing on all cylinders, in what seems to be typical Netflix fashion.

 

Like many of the characters on this new wave of romantic comedies on TV (and unlike many of the characters in the romantic comedies of film’s past), Mickey and Gus aren’t necessarily nailing it at life. They have very obvious flaws and failings. They’re not the people we aspire to be; they’re the people that we are. People just trying to figure it out like everyone else. I think that’s a key element in the success of these newer romantic comedy TV series; people aren’t looking for something necessarily aspirational or grand, that can be saved for the primetime soaps like “Scandal” and “Empire.” People are looking for something that they can identify with. Most people don’t fall in love as a result of some elaborate mix-up or heightened situation. Most people just meet a stranger in a random place and decide to talk to them, or in the case of Mickey and Gus, pay for their coffee. It’s relatable, realistic and above all, charming.

 

Season 1 of “Love” can be found on Netflix now. I highly suggest that you watch it soon, because it’s only a matter of time before it’s all anyone can talk about.

 

Have you watched any of “Love?” Have another newer romantic comedy-fueled TV series to recommend? Want my Netflix password so you can watch “Love” for free? That last one’s not gonna happen, but feel free to share any other thoughts in the comments. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to begin preparations for next week’s Oscars. Trust me, it’s a week-long process. And like I always say…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Let’s All Gush Over This Adorable ‘#Ham4Ham Show’ Featuring Elmo

I know I’ve already written about the greatness of “The #Ham4Ham Show,” but ever since Lin-Manuel Miranda and Co. moved the show inside for the winter they’ve been churning out some seriously great stuff. From Jimmy Fallon‘s impression-filled performance of “You’ll Be Back” to an incredible take on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” featuring the kids from “School of Rock – The Musical” and Tony award-winner Lena Hall, each digital #Ham4Ham has brought the awesome and the latest one definitely didn’t disappoint.

 

Featuring “Hamilton‘s” own George Washington, the delightful Christopher Jackson, and everyone’s favorite fuzzy red muppet, Elmo from “Sesame Street,” the video has Jackson singing “The Story of Tonight” (a song from the show), with Elmo adorably interrupting with various questions and comments. The whole thing plays out like an especially perfect segment of the “Sesame Street” that we all know and love, but with a special Broadway twist. It’s also a great opportunity to hear Jackson’s truly beautiful voice on a song that he doesn’t actually sing in the show.

 

If this just simply isn’t enough “Hamilton” for you (which I totally understand), then be sure to check out the Grammy Awards TONIGHT, February 15, at 8/7c for a performance from the entire cast of “Hamilton” (minus Elmo, unfortunately). They’re also up for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album against shows like “Fun Home” and “An American in Paris.” Here’s hoping they take home the award and offer up a mind-blowing performance. I think we can be certain that at least one of those things is definitely going to happen.

 

Are you rooting for “Hamilton” at tonight’s Grammys? (You’d better be.) Have a personal favorite “#Ham4Ham Show” since it moved indoors? Are you still trying to get over how cute Elmo was in the video above? Share your thoughts in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

Here’s the Movie You Should Definitely Watch This Valentine’s Day

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Photo by Jenn Murphy

Valentine’s Day seems to be one of those holidays that everyone would rather forget about, like Columbus Day or Lame Duck Day (which is a totally real holiday, according to this website). If you’re in a relationship, there’s unnecessary pressure to do something really exciting when you’d much rather just sit on the couch and watch “Law and Order” reruns. If you’re single, it’s just one blatant reminder after another that you’re aaalll alone. So this Valentine’s Day, I think we should all abstain from the typical romantic nonsense that we’ve come to consider commonplace and do something a little different…like watch a 4-year-old movie that was greatly under appreciated in its time.

 

What is that movie you ask? Why, it’s “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” a truly wonderful romantic dramedy of sorts starring perennial greats Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. Jones and Samberg play the titular Celeste and Jesse, a couple in the process of getting a divorce who are desperately trying to maintain their close friendship. It’s not necessarily the traditional romantic movie – we see their whole romantic relationship play out quickly over the opening credits – instead it focuses on life after the big breakup, and what that can mean for two people who still want to be in each other’s lives, just not in the way they once were.

 

Jones co-wrote the movie with writing partner Will McCormack, who also co-stars in the movie as Jesse’s friend/weed dealer Skillz. Their writing feels very natural, like real people having real conversations. The jokes don’t feel too forced and the more dramatic moments come off as very genuine. These are people you know, people you relate to. The movie is also visually gorgeous, thanks to director Lee Toland Krieger. Every shot has this lovely kind of blue/gray haze over it. That description sounds weird but trust me, it works.

 

Jones and Samberg are both lovely as well. Jones is great in everything (if it wasn’t clear already, she’s one of my faves in the game), so I won’t get into that too much. Samberg really proves himself as more than just a comedic actor. He certainly has his fair share of goofy moments in the film that one would expect from one-third of The Lonely Island, but he really nails the more dramatic scenes as well.

 

Overall, the movie is a great detour from traditional cheesy romantic fare. It will certainly itch that scratch (if that’s a scratch you need itched), but it also offers a little more to chew on. If I’ve piqued your interest, or you already love the movie and just want to watch it again, it can be found on Amazon. I promise you, it will make an otherwise so-so Valentine’s Day exponentially better.

 

So what do you think? Have you seen “Celeste and Jesse Forever?” Have another movie like it that you want to recommend? Leave me a Valentine in the comments. And, as always…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

 

 

‘Grease: Live,’ Or the Right Way to Do A TV Musical

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Screenshot by Jenn Murphy

If you had asked me after NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!” if I thought live musicals on TV should become a semi-regular thing, I would have said, “eh, sure.” After NBC’s “Peter Pan Live!” I would have said “please, dear god, no” and after NBC’s “The Wiz Live!” I would have said, “yeah, okay.” Now that I’ve witnessed Fox’s take on the live TV musical with “Grease: Live,” I say yes. Hell yes. Because, you guys, “Grease: Live” was AMAZING.

 

I’m not going to get into the plot of “Grease,” because if you don’t already have the plot committed to memory from many years of watching the movie (and seeing the 2007 Broadway Revival, like I did) you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. What I will say is that “Grease: Live” offered up a wonderful mix of what made both the stage and screen versions great. Updated elements, like the choice to have Boys II Men play the role of Teen Angel as a trio, didn’t feel weird or out of place. Classic lines like “a hicky from Kenickie’s like a Hallmark Card” remained, offering some great throwbacks to the original material. The cast even included several cast members from the film, including the original Frenchy, Didi Conn, and the original Doody, Barry Pearl, in different parts.

 

Speaking of the cast, they were all fantastic. Starring a mix of seasoned Broadway vets (like Aaron Tveit and Andrew Call) and Hollywood mainstays (like Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens), the cast had something for everyone. And, unlike other live TV musicals (*cough* Christopher Walken *cough*), they could all sing! It was quite the treat to not have any cringeworthy moments where some movie star could barely hitting the notes. (No offense, Walken. I loved you in “Hairspray!”)

 

What really made the show great was the magic behind the scenes. Costumes with built-in quick changes by William Ivey Long were lovely and made for no awkward pauses or wardrobe malfunctions. And Thomas Kail‘s direction brought the excitement of seeing a Broadway show live to the TV. The problem I often had with the live NBC productions was that they felt so stagnant; the energy just wasn’t there. Kail, who also happens to be the director of a little Broadway show called “Hamilton,” had no problem with stagnancy, keeping things moving by utilizing several sound stages and the back lot at Warner Bros. Studios. This, paired with great camerawork led by live television director Alex Rudzinski, made the show feel truly alive. By the end, I felt just as exhilarated as I would leaving a Broadway theatre. The fact that they were able to do that on TV is really something.

 

Next on the live TV musical schedule (if you ignore Fox’s “The Passion,” which I plan to) is NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” Before “Grease: Live,” NBC had been the game maker of sorts when it came to this kind of fare in the modern age. I think it would definitely be in NBC’s best interest to take some notes from Fox’s production. “Hairspray” is an amazing stage show (and movie, one that I saw 10 times in theaters) and could be just as high energy and fun if done correctly. It just needs a little, dare I say it, grease.

 

So what did you guys think? Do you love the resurgence of the live TV musical? Did you watch “Grease: Live?” Are you excited for “Hairspray Live!”? Are you an apologist for Christopher Walken in “Peter Pan Live!”? Tell me about it (…stud.) in the comments. And, of course…

 

Stay classy.

Jenn

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