Jarv’s view from the couch part 2: Comedy and Drama
I know technically DarkPlace was a comedy, but I’m splitting this TV series into manageable bite-sized chunks.
Anyway, this time around, I’m looking at another cancelled British comedy, and a long running and grotesquely overrated American series.
First up: Mongrels
BBC3’s Mongrels was a short lived and mostly ignored puppet series. Set in the East End of London, Mongrels was a rude sitcom following the antics of grotesquely metrosexual and ludicrously annoying fox Nelson, and his animal mates, including a cat called Marian, a pedigree Afghan called Destiny, a sociopathic fox called Vince (Paul Kaye), and a disgusting pigeon named Kali.
Basically, this is patchy. When on song, it touches sheer brilliance (mostly down to Vince), but there’s too much of it that simply doesn’t work and Nelson is the most annoying character in the show. Sadly, as the main character, he’s on screen almost all the time. Nevertheless, there are laughs to be had here, and the Springwatch episode in particular approaches genius on more than one occasion.
Each episode contains a musical number, some of which (Ugly girls can be beautiful too, the Cunt song, and I ‘m gonna murder Justin Bieber) show the series at its best. Scatological abrasive, and borderline offensive, some of these sequences had me howling with laughter. They do step near to the edge of offensiveness on more than one occasion, but the nearer it gets the better the episode.
I’ve only mentioned Paul Kaye’s voice work, and that’s because his turn as Vince (swearing bleeped out), is gold. Vince is a deranged sociopath with a penchant for violence and a mouth in sore need of washing out. The Springwatch episode with “Did you call me a BLEEP” is hilarious, and Kaye’s barely hinged turn as the insane fox really does light up the show. Admittedly, he gets some, if not all, of the best lines, including “Look after my manor, or I will bum you, literally, to death.” and the sublime (when revealed that he has a hole in his head) “If I stick a pencil in I can talk to god” or even “My name is Vince Fox I had an accident and woke up in 19 f*****g 73. Am I mad? Back in time? Or in a coma? (Looks at crotch) Oh hello I just pissed myself… It’s a coma.”
Actually, as funny as that last line is, this gives away one of the big problems with Mongrels. It’s trying for Family Guy unconnected pop culture references that went out of date about 3 seconds after they were first “cool”. In the case above, the reference is Life on Mars, but there are many, many references that won’t travel outside of Britain, and weren’t particularly funny anyway.
Therefore, the actual success rate on the gags isn’t particularly high. When on song, it can be inspired stuff, but all in all, the series is a bit meh. A real mix of the good, the bad and the flea-bitten, Mongrels isn’t the worst way to pass the time, but no tears are to be shed at its cancellation.
Now for the meatier series: Sons of Anarchy.
I’m sorry, but this is shit. Telling the story of the outlaw Motorcycle gang SAMCRO and their various run ins with law enforcement, rival gangs and the “True” IRA, this is dogshit of the highest caliber. I managed to endure THREE painful fucking series worth of this honk before Mrs. Jarv’s patience finally wore thin (Hallelujah).
Our main characters, Jax (Charlie Hunnan), Clay (Ron Perlman) are at the top of the biker gang tree. Riven by internal politics, they see it as their duty to keep their home town Charming crime free. Against this, though, they’re gun running and under the eye of the ATF, but particularly Agent Stahl (an unrecognisable post-botched plastic surgery Ally Walker). Holding the gang together is Queen of the SAMCRO pack Gemma (Katy Sagal), and the most important other characters are probably the repugnant Tig (Kim Coates) and Opie (Ryan Hurst).
Firstly, this pretends to be realistic and is clearly based on the Hell’s Angels. Yet, inexplicably, this is the only bike gang in the world that refuses to run drugs. This annoyed me beyond all reasonable level. I know I should be able to get past this kind of pedantry, but I just couldn’t. And don’t get me started on the “TRUE” IRA. It’s the REAL IRA, and there is a mildly amusing slip in the script about half way through the third series (SoA does Belfast) where they start referring to it as The Real IRA. So why bother with the pretense?
Nitpicking aside, the other problem is that the show is so fucking stupid. The Sons themselves aren’t a likeable bunch, but that doesn’t matter, because neither are their antagonists. It goes to great lengths to try to portray them as some kind of “knights of the road” organisation that believes in freedom, liberty and protects their own, but the reality of what we’re watching on screen gives the lie to any sort of romantic order of the garter nonsense. To attempt to bang this home, though, each episode contains a dreary and pompous voiceover from Jax’s dead father, that’s allegedly from his manifesto. These are the single worst moments of each episode, without a shadow of a doubt; exercises in outright douchebaggery that made even caused Mrs. Jarv to blanche on more than one occasion. Seriously, Jax sits on the roof of the garage, and gazes wistfully at a soft-focus town with a gorgeous sunset while the VO recycles the most stupid hippy garbage. It got right on my wick, to be honest.
I can sort of guess what they’re trying for here: they’re attempting to show the biker gang as some kind of noble organisation that has simply slipped off the true path under the stewardship of Clay. Yet it doesn’t feel like that- instead we watch a variety of acts of insane violence perpetrated by our main characters in the name of keeping up with their various acts of villainy. There’s very little of the idealised Biker ideal actually visible on screen, so the voiceover drags you totally out of the show.
Nevertheless, each episode does contain something worthwhile, usually from Tig doing something foul, and Sagal puts in a hell of a shift as Gemma, as does Walker as Stahl. But all the good work the series does is almost completely undone by the vision of Northern Ireland and the IRA in the third series. When the fuck will people get it through their thick craniums that the IRA, and the Real IRA, are actually a fucking terrorist organisation intent on blowing up civilian targets with indeterminate goals. They’re scum, basically, and are not a noble fucking cause. Furthermore, the depiction of Ireland and the Irish (complete with “Japers” accents) was downright insulting. A more cack-handed clichéd load of drivel I haven’t seen in a long time. Go fuck yourselves.
Nope. Don’t recommend this one. Not at all. I’m told that Series 4 onwards are a lot better, but they could hardly be any worse, frankly. This is another series that I have absolutely no idea why people rave over it. It’s fucking terrible, to be honest. And there’s far too much dudity. I do not need to see Hunnan’s arse in every episode.
That’ll do for the TV roundups, I promise to get back to watching drivelly schlock films instead now.