The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Category: A Wanker’s literary reaction

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Legends of Tomorrow

I’m no fan of superhero media- films, TV, even comics, a lot of it just leaves me cold. One of my main problems with superhero stuff is that it seems to be to keen to go “dark”-after the success of the Dark Knight franchise (which has a lot to answer for), a clutch of superhero movies have attempted to recapture it’s unique brand by surgically removing their sense of humour (hello, Man of Steel! Take a seat, Gotham!).

Wentworth Miller is just too fucking much in this show, I’m telling you.

For me, the genre practically requires a healthy dose of fun to function. Which is part of the reason why I’ve always had time for DC’s TV universe- despite their underwhelming cinematic offerings, they’ve created Arrow (which is pretty good), The Flash (one of my favourite things on TV) and, now, Legends of Tomorrow, a time-travelling team-up series that proves my point-superhero media can survive purely on it’s sense of fun.

Oh fuck off Hawkman.

The show revolves around Rip Turner- a time master from the future (and yes, I know that this already sounds like a Doctor Who rip-off, especially considering ex-Tardis inhabitant Arthur Darvill plays him, but Rip existed before Doctor Who was a twinkle in Sydney Newman’s eye) who travels back in time to form a group of extraordinary humans to take down the immortal despot Vandal Savage who’s taken over the world in Rip Turner’s future. I mean, I was already interested when a show that apparently wasn’t an SNL piss-take had actual characters called Rip Turner and Vandal fucking Savage (played by, no joke, an actor called Casper Crump, which is perhaps a better supervillain name than the one the show gave him). Now, the reviews for the show have been pretty lukewarm at the moment (ironic for a show with two characters who shoot fire) and I’m here to contest that.

Vandal Savage. Do you love him the way I do?

I’ll admit too, that, the show had brought together several of my favourite aspects of the Arrow and Flash universes (universii?). For one, it had Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, perhaps the most outrageously camp performance on TV right now (even counting all of Ryan Murphy’s “characters”, which is really saying something) and for my money the most comic book villain-ish of the comic book villains around. Add to that the swaggering fun of Caity Lotz as White Canary, the square-jawed charm of Brandon Routh’s Atom, and Ciara Renee’s compassionate and curious Hawkgirl, amongst several others, and you’ve already gathered together a pretty fun group, one that I would be content to watch just goofing off in a giant time machine for twelve episodes. Of course, there are weak links- I will never stop loathing the patronising awfulness of Hawkman- but bringing together a collection of series-favourites, dumping them in a show together, and sitting back to wait for the boom isn’t the worst premise for a show I’ve ever seen.

Arthur Darvill, definitely not sent back in time by the Weeping Angels this time.

And yes, the plot is ridiculous and overwrought, prancing through time and space (COUGH COUGH NOTHING TO DO WITH DOCTOR WHO OF COURSE COUGH) with no real sense of weight, and I’m not totally convinced that the show can really maintain this plot for anything more than a handful of episodes at best. The dialogue is often quotably bad, the acting is about at the level you would expect for a bunch of hyper-heroes, and Rip Turner has all the nuance and depth that you’d expect a character called Rip Turner to have.

Based on his level of camp here, Wentworth Miller might be my soulmate.

But that’s not the point- the point is that I will defend to the death the right of shows to not aim for cerebral brilliance, innovative storytelling, or ground-breaking characters, if that show at least understands it’s main function is to entertain. I will defend Wentworth Miller purring every line like it’s a lungful of smoke he’s not done with yet; I will defend Arthur Darvill stomping around all serious in a big jacket. I will defend these things because they’re fun, and that’s what the superhero genre is when boiled down to it’s very roots. With so many movies and TV shows intent of turning the genre into a po-faced parody of itself, Legends of Tomorrow is a refreshingly doofy leap in the right direction.


A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: How to Get Away with Murder

So, I’ve been interested in How to Get Away with Murder ever since Viola Davis scooped an Emmy for her performance in it earlier this year. I’m not particularly into police/crime procedural shows, so I wasn’t exactly coming to the show from a place of wild enthusiasm or any beyond “huh, this is on Netflix and I need something to watch while I clean the house”. So, you know, it didn’t have a high level of expectation to live up to. Especially with that knowing, on-the-nose title; how would they, um, get away with that? And then I watched it, and it’s pretty much the best thing I’ve seen all year.


Seriously, trying to write a coherent review of HTGAWM has been nigh-on impossible because I just want to word-vomit every single thing I adore about this show. There’s the fiendishly compelling season-long arcs, the brilliant characterisation, the insane performances, the big issues it tackles, the smart way it takes them on. So, bear with me here while I try and put into words exactly why you should be Clockwork-Oranging yourself down in front of this show right now.

So, How to Get Away with Murder revolves around criminal defence attorney and law professor Annalise Keating (Davis), who chooses five students from her course every year to work on her cases. These five students- Wes, an ambitious nice guy with a secretive past, Connor, a callous, sharp-tongued narcissistic, Asher, a privileged upper-class douchebro, Laurel, an insecure idealist, and Michaela, who aspires to be like Annalise- end up embroiled in a murder case whose impact on their lives in further-reaching than any of them could have imagined. Yeah, I know it sounds like you’ve seen it all before, but trust me, you haven’t.


ATTENTION GILMORE GIRLS FANS: The woman second from left is Paris, and now she’s all grown up and insanely excellent!

First off, I’d say that the main strength of this show lies in it’s characterisation. All the characters in this show have fully-formed arcs of their own, developing them beyond the tropey nature of their origin, and considering that the main cast numbers eight in total (all of the above, plus two employees at Annalise’s law office, plus a recurring character in the form of Annalise’s boyfriend whose body is very possibly literally hewn from oak), that’s pretty impressive. Half of what makes the show so damn compelling is the way they break these characters down into something fresh and different, exploiting their pasts and the occasionally ruthless nature of their work in order to create fully-formed people to populate the show.


And of course, I can’t ignore the performances. There’s not one dud in this show, and everyone steps up to the plate when they’re given something chunky to get their teeth into. This, in part, has to be down to the fact that you have to bring your a-game when you’re acting opposite Viola Davis, who, within forty seconds of walking on-screen in the first episode, turns into the most compelling woman on TV at the moment (save for maybe Jessica Jones, but that’s another review for another time). The question isn’t how she got the Emmy after only one season, but rather how anyone else can expect to win it as long as she’s inhabiting this character. The show throws a lot of potentially tricky or controversial subjects at Davis-such as race, gender, class and abuse- and she knocks them all out of the park without seeming like she’s even trying. She’s a flawed, sometimes outrightly cruel, character, and I would watch a thousand seasons of her swaggering about a court shouting at people before I got bored of it (and even then, I’d still be admiring her wardrobe).


While the show doesn’t necessarily push the boat out in terms of plotting-a season-long arc, with flashforwards to a murder committed at the half-way point of the season, dotted with case-of-the-week dramas- I can’t fault the writing, either. It’s sharp, witty, and on the ball, taking on a bunch of hotly-debated topics (like rape culture, terrorism, and sexual abuse) and asking sometimes uncomfortable questions about how they fit into the world of the show. The whole thing has a kind of trashy feel to it, while making sure that the plot is never anything less than compelling, smart and decadently entertaining.

Basically, what I’m saying is watch it. Even if, like me, this show doesn’t look like it’s your thing, give it a go, because it’s fucking excellent. Smart, boundary-pushing television doesn’t exactly come around all that often, and if you love TV as much as I do, it’s almost intoxicatingly exciting when it does. I’ll hear no excuses: the first season is on Netflix, and we’re currently half-way through the (nigh-on perfect) second, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up before it comes back in February. Which is, ironically, a murderous amount of time to make us wait.

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: The Clone Wars

So, I don’t think I’ve ever written much about Star Wars on this blog, and that’s pretty shocking when you consider how much of my brainspace the sci-fi series usually takes up.

The very first movie I ever remember seeing was The Phantom Menace (which I still contend is a really good movie, and by far the best of the prequel trilogy), and my obsession blossomed from there on. And I’m serious about that obsession: I’ve read a bunch of the extended universe novels, I’ve played all the Star Wars games I can get my hands on, and I’ve marathoned the movies three times. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’ve actually tried to marathon them yourself, you’ll know how horrifyingly time stretches out in front of you when you’re half an hour into Attack of the Clones (A FILM IN WHICH CLONES NEVER ATTACK). I would not be exagerrating in the least if I said that I have found myself seriously tearing up over every new Star Wars trailer that’s been released in the last year. I fucking love Star Wars, and will happily take to task anyone who dares suggest otherwise.


And recently, I’ve started watching The Clone Wars. Well, I tried it a few years back when I first got Netflix, but soon drifted off it because my willpower is pathetic in the face of all the shitty b-movie horrors that Netflix is home to. But I’ve properly taken it on in anticipation of the release of The Force Awakens, and man, have I been missing out.

I was initially kind of put off by the fact that this was ostensibly a kids series, but seriously, don’t let that stop you from knuckling down and absorbing five seasons of this shit if you’re a real Star Wars fan. There’s no doubt in my mind that the series is better than Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith combined, which isn’t really saying much-

-but seriously, this is where all the action you wanted from those movies vanished to. The Clone Wars is basically an anthology show with all the disparate threads tying back into the story of the war between the Republic and the Imperial troops, and lavishes the viewer with new characters, plot arcs, and locations- basically, a chance to properly explore the Star Wars universe.

And there are so many things to love about this show. Firstly, the characters that made the jump from the movies- such as Yoda, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme- are all at the very least as good as their big screen counterparts, and often loads better. Anakin actually has all the charm and rogueishness that Hayden Christensen’s solid oak performance surgically removed from the character in the films, and his banter and companionship with Obi-Wan makes the end-up of their relationship even more poignant.And, of course, any character that you thought looked interesting wandering about in the background of a random scene in the films gets their own episode, a conceit that helps open up the universe and create a giant, sprawling ensemble that can fit around almost any story.


Ewan MacGregor as a cartoon is kind of goofy, to be fair.

The villains from the movies, most notably General Grievous and Count Dooku, get some back story that actually makes them, you know, threatening and interesting and ruthless. Anakin also gets a padawan, in the form of the wise-cracking Asohka, that stops him from descending into critically brooding territory.

And that’s another thing about the series that I love. Much as I will contend that both Amidala and Leia are fantastic characters and badass heroines in their own ways, it still stands that there are only two really significant female characters out of the six Star Wars movies. In The Clone Wars, there are more than I can count- Asohka is excellent and far more charming than her description makes her sound, and then there’s temperamental Sith warrior Asajj Ventress, not to mention a bunch of cool female Jedi side characters who get just as many awesome action sequences as their male counterparts. There’s a particular episode in season one that revolves around a showdown between two female Jedi and a female Sith, and it feels wrong that it’s staggeringly new and different.


Ashoka, hangin’ with some clones.

There really aren’t enough good things to say about this series- the animation is gorgeous, the voice acting is excellent (David Tennant won an Emmy was his work on the series), the action is thrilling, and the whole thing is basically an invitation that no Star Wars fan could turn down. What are you waiting for?

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Ash vs Evil Dead

So, I have a somewhat scandalous admission to make: I’m not that huge a fan of the Evil Dead series. I know, I know, I can hear you yelling at me now- “I thought you said you were a fan of horror!”. And I am. It’s just that, for whatever reason, Sam Raimi’s seminal video nasties never quite smashed their way to the same level of obsession that, say Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or, um, Final Destination (look, I’m SORRY) did in my head. Which is not to say that I don’t get it- I do. They’re great, and Raimi revolutionised indie horror with his innovative gore and balls-to-the-wall sense of fun. But I was coming to the reboot of this series without too much preciousness about the original movies on my mind, is what I’m saying.

That all said, I was pretty pumped for the premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead this Halloween (which I spent dressed as a genderswapped Beetlejuice or Wednesday Addams, depending what day you found me, so everyone else needs to up their constume game). After the catastrophic TV “re-imagining” of classic horrors like Rosemary’s Baby, this one seemed to have something that set it apart from the pack-namely, the involvement of the original directors and and the always-welcome presence of Bruce Campbell.

And I mean always welcome in the most literal sense possible. If he was to walk through my front door right now, I’d be like “hey, Bruce, let me pour you a glass of brandy and we can talk about setting the wedding date”. Did I mention that I love Bruce Campbell? Because I LOVE Bruce Campbell. He’s the greatest bad actor there ever was, and he’s probably the most iconic part of the original Evil Dead franchise, mainly because he looks like he’s having more fun than perhaps anyone else has ever had in front of camera (except me in my sex tape, but that’s another matter).

I’ll be honest, I’d probably let him finger me even with the chainsaw hand. Is that awful? That’s awful, I’m sorry.

And that’s the one thing that stands out above all else in the season premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead- just how much FUN everyone seems to be having. Utilising as many of the same visual tricks as the original movies (as well as keeping the Deadites looking the same as they always did, thankfully), there’s no part of this episode that didn’t make me grin. From the superbly executed horror sequences (the one in the haunted house that was lit by a spinning torch was legitimately inspired, and really worked) to the dumb humour to the batshit crazy action scenes, this show knows how to balance it’s horror and comedy perfectly. I wrote about Scream Queens a few weeks back, a show which pretty much failed to strike a comfortable balance between the two, and I was struggling to think of a TV show that actually did- until this came along.


I guess what I like most about it is that it isn’t attempting to come up with gritty new takes on old-school horror. It’s just having fun bringing the goofy, funny, scary, super-violent feel of the original movies to the small screen, with a bit more space to develop characters and plot. While we’ve certainly seen some great horror over the last few years- from Cabin in the Woods to The Babadook to The Visit– it’s been a long time since something with such an obvious B-movie quality has broken through to the mainstream. I’ve missed seeing someone having genuine outright fun with the genre, and in that respect alone, Ash vs Evil Dead has me on board as a viewer, just to see where they can take this next.

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Primeval

I know that it must seem like nothing really lives up to my standards any more. Fifty Shades is goddamn awful. Age of Ultron was a disappointment. Doctor Who wasn’t as good as it should have been. Bitch. Moan. Whine. Blergh.

So occasionally it’s rather pleasant to revel in something I really enjoy, even if it is a rather unpopular opinion (judging by the massive, collective sigh that happens whenever I bring it up). And that’s Primeval; a desperate ITV flail at gaining some of Doctor Who’s Saturday night teatime audience. Running from 2007-2011, I remember many evenings locked up in my bedroom with the crackly portable TV watching one of the most supremely underrated British TV shows of the last ten years.

So, what’s the story? Nick Cutter (played by a rugged and witty Douglas Henshall), a professor of We-Only-Made-Him-A-Professor-Because-Indiana-Jones-Was-ology-

-is called in to help when anomalies start appearing all over the city of London. And what’s coming out of those anomalies?

Yeah, that’s right, dinosaurs. Mother-fucking dinosaurs (and occasionally other things from other time frames, but I don’t care about that). The series was created by Tim Haines, the man behind the incredible Walking With… series, and his knowledge and love for these creatures is clear- whether it’s in the careful creature design, or the dinosaur-related jargon everyone spews every thirty seconds, this satisfies the dino-geek in me who I thought was gone by the time I reached double digits.

But of course, the enigmatic Henshall has a team-and WHAT a team. There’s Stephen, AKA James Murray, AKA the  good-looking one with both guns (firearms) and guns (biceps)-

-hey, let me have my ogle. Then there’s Connor, AKA Andrew Lee-Potts, AKA the geeky one who knows loads about dinasours who’s still pretty hot-

Here we’ve got Abby, the biologist, AKA, Yes, that IS Hannah Spearitt from S Club 7-

And to finish out, you’ve got government official Claudia Brown, played by Lucy Brown who always looks like she’s about to say something really raunchy-

And that’s the main team. Henshall leads them every week against a different dinosaur foe caught up in a new modern setting-whether they’re destroying schools or smashing their way into a screaming child’s bedroom (because Primeval never skimped on the “terrifying the kids” factor, much to my delight), it’s this lot who have to turn up and do something a bit clever to stop them, in simple three-act plots that generally get tied up by the end of the episode. The writing is top-tier tight, building on character relationships and using the monsters as a wraparound device to fill out some themes about science and discovery. Think Buffy tone, with a healthy dose of Scooby-Doo, sprinkled with a liberal helping of Jurassic Park (which it explicitly, brilliantly references a couple of times).

Still nursing my wounds from a disappointing series of Doctor Who, Primeval is a deliciously perfect example of freak-of-the-week storytelling, with just a hint of a running plot concerning Nick Cutter’s wife, who may or may not have vanished into one of the anomalies years ago. The action sequences are a little dated, but hold up with a moderate-to-strong suspension of disbelief, and the cast has an easy, comfortable chemistry right from the off- bouncing off each other with quips and piss-takes, even as they’re stalking raptors round shopping centres.

Call me a traitor, but sometimes fiendish plotting and endless character monologues just don’t do it for me. I’m one of those people who’s perfectly happy to be able to dip into a series whenever I fancy, and be completely caught up on what I need to see with a “previously-on” montage. The most important thing for me is that Primeval never lost sight of who it’s audience was- for one, freshly-teenage girls crushing hard on a sarcastic, guest-starring Ben Miller-

-and families. It’s time slot and it’s subject matter dictated it’s broad audience, and it stuck to that- throwing in the odd saucy joke or movie reference for the parents, but focusing on bringing exciting, scary, funny plots to life for everyone to enjoy. I’ll admit that a healthy dose of nostalgia was useful when I came back to the show (which is on Netflix in it’s entirety), but Primeval is the kind of thing you can dive into at any age and find something to enjoy, if you keep your standards to “entertainment”, and not deep philosophical musing. Go watch it. Go watch it now.

Who am I kidding, if you weren’t sold by the dinasour gif, there’s no convincing you.

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

Look, I fucking hate Man of Steel. I fucking HATE Man of Steel. I’m not fan of Ben Affleck, and I’m not exactly warm to the idea of gritty reboots of reboots. But since I gave due attention to the Age of Ultron trailer (and quite enjoyed doing it) I’m going to stick with breaking down whichever superhero movie trailers seem the most brilliant or utterly shite. Where will Dawn of Justice fall on the scale? To the review! Read the rest of this entry »

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Walking Dead Season Finale

It’s been a buggeringly long week, and it’s not even halfway done yet, so I apologise if I’m not up to my usual levels of blinding brilliance this week. I’d also like to draw your attention to the newly-added Blog Directory (just scan your eyes up a bit), which I’ve added to dredge up some of the long-lost blog posts and make them easier to find, as well as to make finding your way around the weird but well-I’m-sticking-with-it-now design of the Guignol. Now, on with the rant!

So, season five of The Walking Dead finished this Sunday. As you might have guessed from my increasingly bitter posts on TelePlayTime, I’ve had…mixed feelings about this series (oh, I’m going to stick a big fat SPOILER WARNING here for anyone who hasn’t seen the whole season but was still stupid enough to click on that link). The series continued in it’s quest to kill off all the interesting new characters (Gareth, Bob, Noah) while preserving the decent characters whose arcs have essentially nowhere else left to go (Maggie), or who the writers have no clue how to write for (Sasha- seriously, I refuse to believe that the great Sonequa Martin-Green is what’s stopping me from getting invested in the lazily-written OMG SASHA GOES MENTAL subplot), or who they’ve just thrown in to satiate the fans of the comics without any clear plan of how to make them a compelling part of the story (Father Flopsweat). After powering through the potentially brilliant Terminus plotline in a few episodes so we could spend a few full episodes with Beth almost tipped me over the edge, but then they killed her off and set Emily Kinney and her gorgeous voice into the wild once again, thank utter Christ (confession: a close friend of mine started watching TWD over the last few weeks, and she mentioned to me that she didn’t get why I loathed Beth so much. I vaguely remember explaining to her politely that she was watching the show wrong when I was pretty slammed last weekend. I hope that didn’t happen. Sorry Ellie, again). Then the team arrived in Alexandria, and Abraham got to say things like “Motherdick!” before he fought a pack of zombies and Noah got his face literally ripped in half and all was good again.

The last two episodes have left me with really mixed feelings, probably because I’ve watched them several times in order to write those scripts, and The Walking Dead is a brittle, brittle creation that tends to shatter into dust under any sort of scrutiny at all. Firstly, there was that abuse storyline, performed with some nuance by an increasingly impressive Alexandra Beckenridge (shout out to the American Horror Story peeps), as Rick positively leered over this married woman only for the plot to make his slightly creepy flirtation 100% okay because she was being abused and hey, it turned out she wanted Rick anyway, even though he outright states that he wouldn’t have intervened in any other situation, and it’s really just because he wants to get his dick wet (look, I watched that scene about four times in a row, and it was so creepy and grim that I just started making up my own dialogue, shut up). Tensions were building in Alexandria, or at least the writers liked to think they were. The incredible speech Rick gave at the end of the penultimate episode was the high point of the season, properly deranged, utterly beyond the pale, performed with violent gusto by Andrew Lincoln at his gruffest and most bloodied. It seemed to point to an explosive finale, as the tinderbox of plot machinations came together to create something that actually looked to be pretty good as long as you didn’t think about it too hard enough. It seemed like the death of a major, first-season character was near, and in fact, I went into this episode wanting a bloodbath of some kind, and some Lennie James for my buck.

And I got plenty of the latter. But the episode seemed oddly muted for a season that started out with Carol blowing the fuck out of an entire community and blasting her way in there like a pixie-cut Rambo to save her friends. They slotted a lot into place for the next season (which will contain an episode written by Stephen King- get it up you!), but the episode itself felt like a midpoint, not a satisfying ending. I was delighted with Lennie James’ Morgan, continually played with the kind of understated excellence that proved a magnificent contrast to Andrew Lincoln’s articulate descent into utter madness, and his encounter with one of the Wolves at the start of the episode was by far the best thing they pulled off. But stupid plot machinations got in the way of the show pulling any real punches- Glenn finds himself under a pile of rabid zombies, only for the show to cut to commercial before he could fight them off; he appears later, uninjured. We’re repeatedly told by Rick’s group how little the Alexandrians understand of the outside world, and how much they need to be educated and dominated by the incomers, despite the fact that they’ve created a functioning community that’s actually somewhat thriving given the situation, and Rick and company have basically failed to do anything close to that. I will never deny that this show has some awesome character moments and some superb actors under it’s belt, but it’s also in the habit of telling us one thing then refusing to back it up by actually proving it through actions. The jaw-droppingly stupid Alexandrian who decided to just leave a gate open, allowing zombies to wander in, was so dumb I flat-out refuse to believe it wasn’t part of some sort of ploy. And sure, we got a couple of deaths at the end- alcoholic wife beater and Hercschel 2.0 provided the dry episode with a little bloody lubrication-but I wanted the show to go out with a bang (or a bite). Specifically, I wanted to see a fan favourite go. I would have welcomed it- Glenn was surely ripe for the culling, and finishing off Carol would have been a great way to spark of next season’s actions and bring an abrupt halt to the Machiavellian-comic-book level of evilness they’ve been hurling at the incredible Melissa McBride of late.

It sounds cynical, and it is, but The Walking Dead has been hitting the same plot points over and over for the last couple of seasons- is Rick evil or good? What do you have to do to survive and also keep your humanity in a situation like this? Why do TWD writers seem so intent on mowing down all the black men in their show, except the boring ones?-and the best they can do is to present them in an interesting or shocking or exciting way. This episode kept things relatively muted, but simply doesn’t have the narrative clout it once did that would carry the quieter episodes along. It feels like the show has tried to pump itself into an early puberty, pushing itself to be something that the writers just can’t keep up with, and it’s straining at the seams trying to be the grown-up, clever, thoughtful show the people behind it so want it to be. And, until they cull a few of the overworked first-season characters, they’re stuck treading water with the same characters, the same relationships. The season five finale wanted to show that radical change was on the way for The Walking Dead, but all they proved is that killing off fan favourites is still far less acceptable than having mutilated, naked dead chicks hanging off of trees.

But goddamit, I’m still looking forward to season 6.

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Family Guy

This article has been a long time coming. Because I have some fucking strong feelings about Family Guy.

This is a show that I came to with very few preconceptions about; I knew nothing about Seth MacFarlane, and nothing about the show except that it operated in American Dad-style dark humour and that Mila Kunis had something to do with it somewhere. I want to make it clear that I didn’t come to this show already intending to hate it. No, Family Guy earned that on it’s own merits.

I think what fustrates me most about not liking Family Guy is being told by fans that I just don’t “get it”. Look, I do get it. It’s not hard to get. Look, there’s a character saying something outrageous, and it’s funny because we, the audience, understand that that’s an offensive or misinformed viewpoint to hold! Wahoo! Forgive me while I check to see if my sides have split. This isn’t “dark” humour; this is humour that offends me by being so unoffensive. If I want to be offended and shocked to my very core, I’ll read the UKIP mission statement; this is boring in how obvious it’s targets for “satire” (I apologise to the word satire for having to appear in that sentence) are. If you’re trying to offend me- a lily-livered liberal- go ahead and smack me round the face with something really outrageous, something that might actually make me do that awful, shocked bark-laugh I commit to when I’m watching genuinely dark comedy (see: League of Gentlemen). It’s like the writers were putting together the scripts when someone whispered the word “edgy” three streets away. Excuse me while I retire to my fainting couch.

And those few times that Family Guy does actually manage to make a “joke” so offensive that it actually bothers people, there’s nothing funny about it. Offensive humour, if it’s as clever as Family Guy intends to be, needs to properly and brutally satirise a deserving target and not, say, Michael J Fox (stay classy, Seth). An episode about domestic violence- which featured a handful of well-presented good points about the issue- invited the audience to point and laugh at a woman deep in denial about the abusive nature of her relationship, and later featured a scene where said woman was dragged from the room and beaten within earshot. Ho ho, gather round, one and all, and let’s all have a good old hoot at the victims of domestic abuse! A song and dance number featured a line in reference to Terri Schiavo, a woman who was the subject of a lengthy and emotional desicion regarding whether or not to switch her life support off after a heart attack put her in a permanent vegetative state: Terri Schiavo…the most expensive plant you’ll ever see”. In an episode that feature a transgender person, an episode which MacFarlane himself touted as pro-transgender, a character vomits for a straight thirty seconds once they’ve heard that they had sex with a transgender person. Now, arguably, there’s an attempt at satire here, but when several LGBT communities lashed back at MacFarlane for the episode, his response (as a strong advocator of gay rights) was “That surprised me. I don’t meet a lot of stupid homosexuals…Brian happens to be a heterosexual character, as I am. If I found out that I had slept with a transsexual, I might throw up in the same way that a gay guy looks at a vagina and goes, “Oh, my God, that’s disgusting.” It’s just the way we’re biologically wired. They should give that another look.” I admire someone so willing to stand up for their show, but when you produce a episode that you’ve waved about as a good thing for a marginalised group of people, when that group of people says “hey, we thought that was actually pretty offensive”, your first reaction shouldn’t be to talk about how smart homosexuals are (I don’t see how that’s relevant at all in this answer, and I’m not taking it out of context-read the full interview here), and then to explain the joke and say that they should just look at it again until they see the joke. You can’t set out to offend people, then get defensive when they get offended. In the same interview, Macfarlane talks about how he and the writers decide which jokes make it into the show: “Is it smart enough and funny enough that it warrants being as abrasive as it is?” The answer, generally, is a pretty hard no.

But fear not! It’s not as though ALL the humour revolves around being deliberately offensive. No, we get pop culture references. Plenty of those! Sometimes entire music videos crammed into the middle of episodes for no reason other that to fill space, apparently. But the joke ends once the reference is made. It’s like someone running up to you and yelling “A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR…THE EIGHTIES”. The Simpsons mastered the sublime art of the comedic pop culture reference decades ago, with everything from Homer’s mournful desire to watch Sheriff Lobo to Burns hustling his flying monkeys out of the power plant window. You’d think Family Guy might have picked up a few tricks in between blatantly ripping off The Simpsons, but you’d be wrong. These pop culture references often tie in with the endless cutaways, which ultimately serve to prove nothing more than that the Family Guy writers can’t make one story funny, so have to resort to jumping away from it and into something else to get a laugh.

Look, I’m not saying you specifically are an awful person for not liking Family Guy, and I will not hate you on principle for it. Just, for the love of fuck, never tell me that the reason I don’t like it is because I don’t get it. Because presumably the thought of me understanding it and still thinking it’s a pile of steaming crap might be too much for you to handle.

A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: The New Avengers Assemble: Age of Ultron Trailer

Yes, I said I’d be using this slot to rip the piss out of/shower praise on new TV shows I’d been watching, but this opportunity was too good to miss: as I sat down to write this, Marvel released a new Avengers Assemble trailer for the May 1st release of Age of Ultron after encouraging Twitter users to tweet using #avengersassemble to unlock the clip (on a side note, it would have been the funniest thing in the entire world if not enough people had tweeted that, and Marvel had been forced to slink into a corner and upload the trailer anyway. Luckily, fanboys/girls exist). So I thought I’d do a real-time reaction review for your reading pleasure? Ready? Let’s begin.

0:02: Appropriate for all audiences? Boring. I wanted to see Hulk dick.


0:13: Oh, there’s the brilliant Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch, and Not Evan Peters as Quiksilver. It was tragic, really, that Aaron Taylor-Johnson had to take on this role, as the post- Kick-Ass careers of both men have proved that Evan Peters can act Tayl0r-Johnson into the ground. His Quiksilver was by far and away the best thing about Days of Future Past.

0:28: While I’m gutted that James Spader isn’t actually on screen for any length of time (and that Paul Bettany is relegated to voicing a computer system), the obligatory trailer shot of the robot switching on and doing something a ROBOT SHOULDN’T DO is actually pretty sick.

0:35: Whenever I see the big boomy explosions shots in superhero movie trailers, I’m always reminded of Homer Simpson lying in bed, pretending to fart and shouting “KERBLAMMO!”. Don’t know why.

0:41: Ah, I like that the Avengers- who certainly don’t have ANY ENEMIES-advertise their headquarters with a massive A on the side of a building. Sneaky wee fuckers.

0:48: Mark Ruffalo’s line reading of “Artificial intelligence” made me cringe. Maybe because I’ve just seen Foxcatcher and know that he’s going to be underused in this movie. Maybe because I forgot he was in it. You don’t know.



0:56: “I’m sick of watching people pay for our mistakes” That’s very generous of you, but this was clearly Tony Stark’s mistake. Or are you talking about the people planning to pay money to see this movie? (ZING)


1:02: I think someone genuinely owes me money for being right about that.

1:07: Wait up, Wolverine claws?


1:09: Oh, fuck me, aye, Jeremy Renner’s “in” this movie, isn’t he?

1:16: Quick shot of Thor with no top on because Joss Whedon knows what the fans want, also, luscious fucking locks, whichever Hemsworth you are.

1:17: If you squint just right, you can make out Hawkeye in two consecutive frames!


1:42: Thor choke-holding Tony Stark is still less abusive and more sexy than all of Fifty Shades of Grey.

1:49: I am so up for Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Second to Captain America, he’s my favourite. Everything is delivered IN A VERY SERIOUS BELLOW. Also, the hammer is a metaphor for his cock.

1:52: Aw, Black Widow looks sick right there. Might be cool to know some of your backstory, huh? What? Oh, I see. “Never”, you say. Good to know.

1:58: I think part of the problem I’ve always been really bored by The Hulk is because when we see him fighting- which,judging by this trailer, will be a substantial part of the movie- the actor and director are limited in what they can do, say and express when he’s transformed. Also, Bruce Banner isn’t a Norse God, millionaire playboy, Soviet-era spy, or World War II supersoldier. It might have more to do with that, now I think about it.

2:04: Look, I demand that they recut this trailer with the “no strings on me” ending. Because it’s a genuinely excellent line with spine-chilling delivery and one of the only things that unequivocally makes me want to see the film. Also worth noting: Hawkeye had no dialogue, which is precisely 20% more than he will have in the movie.

Overall, I give it a Tickets On The Day, on a scale of prebook to boycott.