A.P. BIO (2018-2021)

(peacock/VOD) A.P. BIO is, well, was since it’s been canceled for a second time, ostensibly about a narcissistic asshole named Jack Griffin (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA’s Glenn Howerton) who is thrust into teaching a high-school A.P. Biology course that he has absolutely no interest in. While the first season tried to adhere to a saccharin-sweet balance, the subsequent seasons firmly posited the show as a gag machine firing on all cylinders.

Consequently, the rest of this write-up will consist solely of recounting some of the most ridiculous jokes:

“I have my father’s eye.”

“You mean eyes.”

“Oh no, his actual eye. I had a bum cornea so, when he died, they just swapped his right into my eye, and that’s why I don’t look at myself naked because it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Oh Paula Pell, you do know how to comedically sell a melancholy tale.

“Yes, we did it! It was us! We were the ones who brought the ice down from the misty mountains! Take this back to the princess and she can have her Snowcone! Curtain; intermission.”

“Wow! That all happens in Act I? That’s -amazing-!”

“I have a few notes. I feel like it owes a big debt to THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE.”

“He skipped lunch with a student! Look at him: he dressed like Betelgeuse for this!”

“Uh, I’m ska.”

“He’s ska-red! I’m ska too. I’m very ska. But Durbin come back safe safe.”

“Mary, I renew my objection to this whole cabin in the woods business. I mean, I don’t know many times I have to tell you that I don’t do full nature.”

“We are going to have so much fun! Three foxy mammas in the great outdoors? We’re either going to meet a bigfoot, a Brawny paper towel man, or a Leatherface. And, as you know, two of three three are my type.”

“I mean, it’s sure to beat Michelle’s pick of San Antonio from last year.”

“I promised my dad I would tour the Pace Picante factory before he died, so I did it, and then he died right away, and now my mom sort of blames me for it, so yeah, Stef, really dull trip.”

“Metal compasses? Hand over the math knives, Wolverine.”

“I have a parasitic twin! It’s just a mass of hair and teeth, really. It’s in a jar at home! …that felt pretty vulnerable, and I’d love it if someone looked at me.”

Jack spots a poster of a wrestling match: “Neanderthal gymnastics.” (No offense to fans of wrestling, but it’s a great Jack quip.)

Not a line, but a great bit of costume design: Anthony, one of the students, is wearing a DINOSAURS ‘NOT THE MAMMA!’ shirt.

“Whoa, PIECES OF APRIL. Nice. Very on-brand for our Katie Holmes Day rummage sale.” I genuinely, unironically love that movie, and apparently the A.P. BIO folks do too as they even dress student Heather (the always entertaining Allisyn Snyder) up as the titular April, and drop in a few other fun riffs that I don’t want to spoil.

“Ralph, the football team wants real energy drinks. They figured out that Gatorade Clear is just water.”

“We need to bust outta here now.”

“Oh no, I’m not going outside. There’s probably cows flying around.”

“Yeah, I’m not trying to get hit upside the head by no barn or something, knocking my baby straight outta of me before I get to paint the nursery.”

“Listen to me: Keith is sound-mixing today. He works in a glass gazebo in our backyard with a blindfold and noise-cancelling headphones! And the song he’s working on is mostly wind and sirens! I need to sneak out of here and save my husband, and I need your help.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’s dead. And you need to let him go. But I’ll help you get out!”

“At least to identify the body.”

…and Bruce Campbell pops up on A.P. BIO:

“Dad?”

“Haha, Jack Sprat. My God. Look how big you are.”

“I’ve been this size for twenty years.”

Now that’s some fantastically succinct character background information, wrapped up in one great quip, and exactly why this show deserves more attention.

“Now, what’d everyone bring for their lunch roulette? And it’d better be good. Mary?”

“Huh? Oh, I would go first, but I want to see what Helen’s got.”

“Oh! Well, I had some time this morning so I just whipped up some seared duck breast in a balsamic reduction.”

“Oh!” “Wow.”

“And I would’ve made dessert, too, if the duck had gone down easier! Hehe!”

“Helen, did you kill this duck, like, this morning?”

“Well, yeah, I wasn’t gonna pan-fry it alive. I’m not a psychopath!”

  • – *

“Okay, for lunch roulette, I brought: one, normal, unadulterated ba-na-na!”

“…is this a rusty nail?” (There’s clearly a rusty nail embedded in said ba-na-na.)

“If it’s roulette, there’s gotta be one bullet to make it fun! Whatever, you guys suck. Let’s just play!”

“It’ll be nice for Rhonda to see how much we care. I tell you this: when Keith goes, I’m… [imitates self-inflicted gunshot to the head].”

“Hold up. Goes? Goes where?”

“Weren’t you listening? Rhonda’s husband died. What did you write on the card?”

“I wrote ‘Yippee! You’re back in the game! Get some, X-X-X’”

Context: A baby has just been born. Folks are speculating about the baby in the hospital.

“I just wish I could hold her! I’ll lactate, because I was a wet nurse during the Great Recession.”

Also: shout-out to THE GOBLINS/SUSPIRIA riff midway through the season finale. Again, is A.P. BIO necessary viewing? Probably not, but it’s hilariously and memorably inventive, and I’ll definitely miss it, as they really figured out how to make this world work over the past two seasons, even though S4 definitely leaned into the predictive sitcom tropes the show had been working so hard to avoid. However, it’s so sweet and funny that I don’t care.

GINGER SNAPS (2000)

(Fubo/peacock/Shudder/tubi/Vudu) GINGER SNAPS is an extremely Canadian production from John Fawcett (co-creator of ORPHAN BLACK) and Karen Walton. Fawcett had the concept and directed it, Walton scripted it, but ultimately it was a collaborative effort. It’s about two goth sisters living together in the basement of their idyllic, overly understanding Fitzgerald parents (Mimi Rodgers and John Bourgeois), struggling to make it through high school ridicule. The older sister is Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle, who has had one hell of a TV career, and she glows in AMERICAN MARY), an extremely confident, very protective-yet-belligerent redhead to her younger sister, Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) who is the quieter, less confrontational but more bookish, sibling.

I don’t know why I’m wasting words when the opening title sequence showcases their dynamics and interests perfectly. Even if the rest of the film was garbage, it’d be worth watching for this perfectly executed bit (which is also really NSFW). (Mike Shields’ amazing opening theme also does a lot of heavy lifting there! )

To summarize: dogs in the Fitzgerald’s suburban neighborhood are repeatedly found torn to shreds, but no one really pays much mind. The two Fitzgerald sisters head out to play a prank against a fellow classmate which goes horribly awry. Ginger has her first period at the same time, informs her sister, and is then is grabbed and scratched by something large and wolflike in a wildly Raimi-esque sequence. The two escape to a road, almost get run over, but youthful drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche, who had a small role in David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and does a fair amount of TV work now) accidentally runs over the beast with his ambulance.

Brigette drags Ginger home, tends to her wounds and, almost immediately, Ginger is a different person, a different species, growing hairier, more bloodthirsty from there, but handwaving it away as cramps until she’s full werewolf and embodying a vengeful Carrie.

Brigette tries to keep Ginger on the down-low, but … she’s uncontrollable. Matters escalate.

GINGER SNAPS wasn’t the first horror film I’d seen that was a woman transformation parable — that’d be Neil Jordan’s IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES but it was almost certainly the first I was overtly aware of, and it was quite the revelation.

A lot has happened since then, so here are a few links:

Karen Walton reflects on GINGER SNAPS, 20 years later.

Apparently, it’s slated to be rebooted as a TV series soon, which I hope will be brilliant.

COLUMBO: The Most Crucial Game (1972, S02E03)

(peacock/tubi/VOD) Gutted to hear that the world has lost Dean Stockwell. While he was in two COLUMBO episodes, my favorite of his is THE MOST CRUCIAL GAME. Dean Stockwell plays Eric Wagner, a hedonistic playboy who owns a Los Angeles football team who is murdered by the team’s manager Paul Hanlon (classic COLUMBO villain Robert Culp).

For the roughly ten minutes Stockwell is on-screen, he’s hilariously languid, lazy, high and hungover, and it’s the highlight of the episode — which is saying a lot considering how brilliant the interplay between Culp and Peter Falk always is. It’s not quite what I’d label as a classic episode of COLUMBO, but it’s an extremely enjoyable 75 minutes and, thanks to director Jeremy Kagan — perhaps best known for helming THE CHOSEN (1981) — features some of the surprisingly experimental camerawork and editing that the early COLUMBO eps are known for. You’ll be missed, Dean.

DEFINITELY, MAYBE (2008)

Programming note: I’m swamped this month balancing NaNoWriMo and work and life, so the few posts I’ll eke out will be brief and will often lean on others.

(peacock/VOD) DEFINITELY, MAYBE is one of my favorite modern rom-coms, and I was elated to see that Caroline Siede featured it in her fantastic WHEN ROMANCE MET COMEDY series (despite the fact that it took me several months to finally read it):

“Definitely, Maybe isn’t a “soulmate rom-com” about how there’s one perfect person for everyone. Instead, it looks at the realistic ways in which timing, circumstance, and miscommunication can impact and upend relationships. And it finds hope in the fact that good things can still come out of a romance that’s not meant to last. Definitely, Maybe is essentially the cinematic equivalent of the adage that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime—and that there’s value in all three.”

https://www.avclub.com/ryan-reynolds-traded-snark-for-sincerity-in-an-underrat-1847432954

COLUMBO – Lovely but Lethal (1973, S03E01)

This was initially penned for a collection of fan essays meant to cover the entire COLUMBO series, but the collection was never realized.

Viveca Scott is not like other murderesses in Columbo. She’s not an actress. She’s not married, she’s not a scorned lover, she’s not even insecure. She’s the head of Beauty Mark, a cosmetics company so popular that even our dear detective is familiar with her face.

Despite its popularity, Beauty Mark’s stock has been fading. Viveca (Vera Miles) needs a hit, as her gloating competitor David Lang (Vincent Price) reminds her. However, Viveca has an ace up her sleeve with the brilliant-but-boozy Dr. Murcheson, a chemist skilled enough to manufacture the cosmetics holy grail: a cream that eradicates the appearance of age, aptly named Miracle.

Sadly, Murcheson’s alcoholism is a roadblock in getting Miracle to market. In the nightmarish opening, we see his sweaty, porous face splashed with red light, looking the very sight of a mad doctor as he runs some final tests on a female subject. Murcheson’s assistant chemist, Karl Lessing (Martin Sheen), simply observes until Murcheson’s tremors nick the woman’s face. Karl takes over, leaving Murcheson to find comfort in a whiskey bottle.

Murcheson evaluates the test results and tells Viveca that Miracle is a failure, the prior, very successful results a fluke, but she hears quite different news from her spy at Lang’s: mousy, loose-lipped assistant Shirley Blaine. Shirley informs Viveca that Lang just received the most ingenious cream and, in one of the more far-fetched Columbo scenes, Shirley applies the cream to a nearby maid’s face and her crow’s feet disappear!

It dawns on Viveca that Karl, Murcheson’s assistant, falsified Miracle’s latest tests and brought the cream to Lang. Instead of informing Murcheson or buying the cream from Shirley, Viveca opts to unsuccessfully bargain with Karl for Miracle’s formula. When he laughs at her escalating offers, Viveca does what few Columbo murderers do: in the heat of the moment she impetuously kills Karl, bludgeoning him with a nearby microscope. She takes Karl’s single jar of Miracle and leaves before his body cools.

Early the next morning, Columbo investigates the scene of the crime (showing more interest in finding salt for his hard-boiled egg than clues), then makes a beeline for Viveca, following her from Karl’s dartboard to Beauty Mark’s offices, then to Viveca’s ‘Fat Farm’, peppering her with questions the entire way. Upon inquiring about her history with Karl, she responds: “I like young men, Lieutenant, lots of them. And if that shocks your ancient masculine double standard, I’m sorry.” In retaliation, Viveca drags Columbo to a nude exercise group, leaving the Lieutenant flustered and eager to exit and question Murcheson.

With one irritant out of her way, Viveca goes to dispatch another. Shirley has realized that Viveca was behind Karl’s murder, and the poor girl (who just wants to be like Viveca) tries to leverage that knowledge for a Beauty Mark executive position. Instead of granting her wish, Viveca opts to murder again (another Columbo abnormality) by gifting her poisoned cigarettes. Shirley dies while smoking and driving, looking to the world as if she lost control of her car.

Unfortunately, Shirley’s death does little to prevent Columbo from piecing together the murder. He confronts Viveca and she’s taken away, an unceremonious end for a most unusual Columbo woman. Viveca was a wily, successful, independent, occasionally shortsighted woman, sadly all too capable of murder. She was an anomalous antagonist when compared to Columbo’s other killer women, co-dependents who murdered out of jealousy, revenge, or ‘easy’ money. Viveca Scott was a murderess the likes of which Columbo had never seen before, and would never see again.

GIRLS5EVA (2021+)

GIRLS5EVA, from the gut-busting mind of Meredith Scardino, is one of the few shows I had to relegate to only watching during the daytime, and while I wasn’t working, because it’s so fucking hilarious that it was distracting and my laughter was prone to waking folks up. This tale, of a girl pop group making a resurgence 20 years later, is a gag-a-minute, and every performance is pitch-perfect. It’s well-worth the peacock subscription solely for it. Don’t believe me? Here, enjoy this litany of jokes:

“So, I dug up our old agreement with Larry and I think he used an old Ringling Bros. contract. Not even for humans; for bears!”

“Well, I’ve always admired that work ethic in the bedroom — it’s bananas — but otherwise it’s too much!”

“Assembly requires four men or nine daughters.”

“Wait, did you make the MAXIM HOT list?”

“Oh, yeah. Oh my god, we got this swag bag from the women’s empowerment luncheon at the Victoria’s Secret Trampoline Park.

“Oh, a temporary tramp stamp. ‘October Sky’, now on VHS.”

“YOU HUMAN B-SIDE!”

“Why am I never the one profiting off of me?”

“You’re all in my will. I have a parrot I haven’t told you about that won’t die.”

“Guess it’s just you and me, Ash.”

“Honestly, too many people left for this to be fun. Now that it’s just the two of us, it’s feeling kind of weird.”

“Don’t quote your sex tape at me!”

“Sorry, the guy from ‘Smallville’.”

“It’s pointless, but it’s what I’m doing!”

What a perfect summation of my pandemic life.

COLUMBO: -Lady in Waiting- (S01E05, 1971)

(peacock/tubi) The brilliant and multi-faceted Norman Lloyd passed away on May 10th. While he was best known as one of Orson Welles’ Mercury players, as well as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on ST. ELSEWHERE, he also directed one of the first COLUMBO episodes: -Lady in Waiting-.

-Lady in Waiting- centers around heiress Beth Chadwick (Susan Clark), a woman we’re told is homely, and she desperately wants to marry everyman Peter Hamilton (Leslie Nielsen, in his first COLUMBO appearance) but can’t gain the approval of her controlling brother Bryce, the elder heir of the family business. Her solution? Murder.

The show was still finding its footing at this time, but it — like many of the first season episodes — was playfully experimental. In the opening, Beth vividly imagines how the murder will take place through a haze of optical effects as she tears through a box of chocolates in bed. She snaps back to real life and we then see how the murder actually plays out. Lloyd does brilliant work instilling tension through a cacophony of diegetic sound, snappy edits, and post-process zooms.

While it’s not the most memorable COLUMBO episode, it features a surprising character arc for Beth, who comes out of her shell upon killing her brother. It’s a rarity to see a COLUMBO murderer mature after the committing the crime; Beth gains confidence, starts dressing and acting the way she wants, and she knows exactly how she wants to steer the family business. She’s one of the few COLUMBO murderers I sympathize with, and Lloyd did a fantastic job wrangling the episode.

Sadly, no trailer for this ep, but please enjoy this AV Club Random Roles piece between Norman Lloyd and expert interviewer Will Harris.

COLUMBO: MIND OVER MAYHEM (1974)

(peacock/tubi) You may have heard that Jessica Walter passed away yesterday and, to celebrate her life, I’d like to draw your attention to one of her lesser known roles, that of Margaret Nicholson in COLUMBO’s -Mind Over Mayhem-.

Sadly, -Mind Over Mayhem- is not a classic episode of COLUMBO; it’s probably best known for featuring FORBIDDEN PLANET’s Robby the Robot as government robot MM7, and young Lee Montgomery as a boy genius pointedly named ‘Steve Spelburg’. (Steven Spielburg directed the early COLUMBO episode -Murder by the Book-.) Walter stands out as a young, brilliant, psychologist who happens to be the wife of the victim, Dr. Howard Nicholson (Lew Ayres), an older government chemist. José Ferrer is Dr. Marshall Cahill, the director of a government think tank, who ends up murdering Howard to protect his son (Robert Walker Jr.) from allegations of plagiarism.

Ferrer is a fantastic actor but he makes for a rather lousy villain when compared to indelible Columbo murderers such as Robert Culp or Patrick McGoohan. Ferrer’s cool composure simply doesn’t play too well with Falk’s rhythms. It doesn’t help that the murder itself is sloppier than most, resulting in a rather perfunctory game of cat-and-mouse.

However, even a substandard 70s-era episode of COLUMBO is still worth your time, and it features several amusing bits with Dog, Columbo’s dog, as well as predictably novel interplay between Columbo and MM7/Robby the Robot (including Falk antiquated pronunciation of ‘robut’).

While Waters isn’t featured as heavily as I would have liked, and she’s not playing the sort of boozy ice queen she’d become known for — she would have made a great Columbo murderer — she brings a sense of gravity to the role that gives the character more depth than it otherwise would have. She brought that ability to so many shows — including the previously recommended NAKED CITY and ROUTE 66 — and is one of many reasons why she had such a long and fruitful career.

AWAY FROM HER (2007)

(peacock/VOD) AWAY FROM HER is Sarah Polley’s (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)) directorial debut, based Alice Munro’s short story THE BEAR COMES OVER THE MOUNTAIN. It’s a heartbreaking piece about a married couple, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona Anderson (Julie Christie, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO) dealing with Fiona’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. Fiona moves to a nursing home where she starts to find herself attracted to another man in the home, and Grant has to cope with the repercussions of this new stage of their lives.

Polley keeps a light touch with the melodrama, letting the story breath and sit with you as opposed to amping up the tone. The end result is a marvelously confident first effort, marking the beginning of a new career.

IZZY GETS THE FUCK ACROSS TOWN (2018)

(hoopla/peacock/tubi/VOD/Vudu) I don’t know how many favors debut writer/director Christian Papierniak asked to nab this amazing cast, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s now indebted to 80% of LA. I’d watch any film that featured just -one- of the following performers:

Mackenzie Davis
Carrie Coon
Dolly Wells
LaKeith Stanfield
Kyle Kinane
Alia Shawkat
Rob Huebel
Annie Potts

Somehow he managed to wrangle all of ‘em for this chaotic ‘one fuckup’s last gasp at attaining an old flame’ film. I’ll grant that it’s overworked — did we really need inter-titles for every scene? — and if Mackenzie Davis wasn’t the lead the film probably wouldn’t work, but she is and ultimately it does. Also, Mackenzie and Carrie Coon ‘reunite’ and play a HEAVENS TO BETSY cover that features -many- layers and that scene alone is worth the price of admission. (I’ll save you the search.)

“I’m not going to wish you good luck.” “No, no one in their right mind would.”