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The First One’s for Free

By Brian Prisco | TV Reviews | February 16, 2010 | Comments ()


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I never get to watch series live on television, so I’m usually catching up through Netflix, particularly with the Watch Instantly. And while usually, I find it to be mostly old episodes of “Airwolf” or stuff that barely makes it on to TBS Late Night, they’ve really done a great job updating their selection. We’ve already pimped series like “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Friday Night Lights” on here, so I’m focusing on some series that you may not have heard of. Most of them are British, so forgive me for being naive, those of you on the other side of the pond, especially since some of them are almost seven or eight years old. But if you’ve got access to Netflix Watch Instantly, you should take the chance to watch these as soon as possible. Feel free to litter the comments section with suggestions of your own. Since I know you will anyway.

The League of Gentlemen

While this can be considered sketch comedy to some extent, what impresses me most about this series is that they’ve actually created an entire village and populated it with their characters. It’s a gothic Monty Python, about a town where people are mysteriously murdered, but done with that dry wit. “The Kids in the Hall’s” new sketch show “Death Comes to Town” owes a lot to the “League of Gentlemen,” and is just as intriguing.

The Guild

Oh, Felicia Day, you’re so fucking precious. Resembling our own Intern Rusty, this petite redheaded nerdlinger confesses her relationship woes to a webcam. However, our heroine is obsessed with a World of Warcraft universe — trying to find balance between her online persona and friendships and the stark reality of her loaner behavior and anti-social tendencies. It’s like the Facebook page for Pajiba, only funny and dipped in Dungeons and Dragons.

Party Down

Starz is kinda trying to get a dog in the cable series hunt. Unbeknownst to me, they fired off a shitton of series the last few years. This series got crazy buzz through the interwebs, and now you can watch the first season on Watch Instantly. I’m not sure if this was paired with the atrocious “Head Case,” but “Party Down” is the far superior series to that watered down and tarted up Dr. Katz. “Party Down” is the exploits of a Hollywood caterer — the excellent Adam Scott — and his cronies, including Lizzy Caplan and temporarily Jane Lynch — as they attempt to build film careers. I’ve never gone the catering route, but hey, there’s still time. I’m worried about the second season, since they replaced Jane Lynch with Jennifer Coolidge, who’s hilarious but playing kind of a busted character here.

MI-5

Like “24?” Then you’ll like this British version which was like playing “Oh Look: The Brit Edition,” as you can spot the guest stars including Hugh Laurie and Anthony Stewart Head. I’ve never been big on small screen action series, but what impressed me about this was their desire to give you a heart attack with every episode. Everyone will fucking die if they have their way. My biggest complaint about most series — especially “Heroes” and for a while there “Lost” — is that after the first season, everyone signs huge contracts that prevent the writers from being able to kill them off willy-nilly. I’ve only seen the first series, but so far “MI-5” doesn’t shy from gruesome deaths.

That Mitchell and Webb Look

While not as good as “Peep Show,” this sketch comedy series is still pretty stylish, and a nice advancement of the fine tradition of Brit sketchwork. Like “Little Britain,” it relies heavily on catchphrases and stock characters, but really I’m using this as a platform to extol the virtues of “Peep Show.” I know some of you folks hated that series, and that’s OK. That you are fucking defective. That’s numberwang!

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

One of the finest things Netflix Watch Instantly has done is air episodes of recent series that are currently airing. I don’t have Starz, but I still get my fix of this gratuitous series once a week. The dialogue reads like someone who has been kept in a birdcage lined by Frank Miller comics and forced only to watch a constant stream of 300. It’s over the top in every way, every physical action done in slo-mo to out rival “Baywatch,” and steeped in anachronistic swearing, constant and graphic nudity, and megapixels of digital blood. It’s about gladiatoring, and every time someone gets hit, it’s crunchy and squishy and spalttery. Let’s be upfront: this is a terrible, terrible, terrible fucking series, but I will not look away. The power of bad compels me.

The IT Crowd

I hated the first episode of this show, and began to doubt the intelligence of those of you who recommended it to me. But it fiercely grew on me. And by the end of the third season, I was fucking hooked. It’s basically the exploits of an IT office — and mostly three characters: a slacker, a nerd, and their clueless boss. As pointed out by one of my friends, it relies a little heavily on LOUD MEANS FUNNY, but really, the characters are hilarious. Easily my favorite is Moss, who’s a glorious smoothie blended from Napoleon Dynamite, Bruce McCullough’s Gavin from Kids in the Hall, Dwight Schrute, and Beaker from the Muppets. Much of the cast comes from the inexplicable Brit Block on Adult Swim: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh — shows that confound me worse than Frisky Dingo. It only gets better with the late series inclusion of Matt Berry.



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