Monday, June 20, 2016

DIFFICULT PEOPLE: My review

Trying to be a good responsible TV Academy member I’ve been watching a lot of the screeners provided “for my consideration.” Shows and networks I’ve never heard of. It’s the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” of ION programming.

A lot of the comedies, in particular, are disappointing. Show after show of Millennial Romy & Micheles blundering through Manhattan encountering “kooky” things. Or shows that try so hard not to use any comic tropes that they’re painfully unfunny and boring.

But I continue to screen, always looking for that hidden gem. And huzzah! I found one.

DIFFICULT PEOPLE.

First off, how many of you have even heard of it? It’s on Hulu.

Disclaimer #1: This show is not for everyone. It’s very non-PC and depending on your sense of humor, the stars are either wickedly funny or reprehensible assholes who deserve to die. I like ‘em. You may not.

The show stars Billy Eichner (who also does those hilarious ambush interviews on the streets of New York) and Julie Klausner (the tolerable version of Kathy Griffin). They go through life providing a running commentary of snark on everything and everyone they see. What makes them sort of/kind of/a little redeemable is that they’re both losers in their careers so you can see where the bitterness originates from and they pay a price for the snark – they often go too far and shoot themselves in the foot.

But the snark is funny. The show is funny. Hey, I’m just excited that the show WANTS to be funny. Julie Klausner created it and does a lot of the writing. What impressed me most is that she also tries to tell actual stories. In some cases they’re absurd, but there are even episodes with A and B stories that share a common theme or come together at the end. This, in contrast to “Hey, wasn’t that fun dropping my keys down a sewer line? Oh wow, there’s a construction site. Let’s see what mishaps we can get into here.


There are some fun supporting players too, notably Andrea Martin as Julie’s equally narcissistic mother, and James Urbaniak – Julie’s bizarre roommate.

There are no sacred cows. Disclaimer #2: Any show that takes potshots at Chelsea Handler is a show I’m going to love. But no one is spared, not handicapped people, not religions, not even BLACK-ISH.

Not all of the jokes land and because of the myriad of pop culture references this show will have a shelf life of eleven minutes. But Billy & Julie are a winning comic pair with a somewhat unique relationship, and they hate Chelsea Handler. So what the hell? If nothing else, it’s a potential guilty pleasure.

The big question is: If you don’t subscribe to Hulu, is it worth shelling out the money? I’m sure Billy & Julie would agree: Just binge during the free trial or see if there are bootleg clips on YouTube.

22 comments:

Daniel said...

When the show is released on Blu-ray, it can include a sidebar feature with Billy and Julie explaining all the references in stand up routines. And then they can do another sidebar to explain the references in the first sidebar.

mmryan314 said...

I agree with you about this show. I started watching it, in fact, waited for it when it started. What makes it funny to me is that there are actually real people who behave like these two. Cringe-worthy, awful, selfish, rude but you still like them. Comedic delivery - A+.

qrter said...

I heard of it! I even watched the first season - loved it. Klausner and Eichner have wonderful chemistry. The only point of criticism I had, was that some episodes try too hard to do the Seinfeld thing, where seemingly disparate elements come together at the end of the episode. This is not the kind of show that needs forcibly tied up plotlines, it felt a bit too artificial, to me.

That said, really looking forward to the new season.

VP81955 said...

Would any of these millennials have the courage to create a multi-cam, filmed before a live audience? Or would that be beneath these hipsters?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Remember when Hulu used to be good? You didn't have to pay for it, and they had a number of old, forgotten shows (like Sid & Marty Kroffts' lesser-known sitcom from the late 80s, D.C. FOLLIES) that you could watch totally for free - it was more or less an alternative to YouTube in that you knew you could watch shows without having to worry about them being removed for copyright infringement. Now it's turned into like a Netflix competitor. Screw it.

Besides, shows that are dumped on internet services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon only reach a small percentage of the masses anyway, as not everybody out there has internet, such as people in rural areas, or older people who don't know how to use the internet, let alone a computer . . . or people who simply can't afford decent home internet.

Mike Schryver said...

Hulu still has a bunch of free stuff. Some individual shows may have come and gone, but for years I've had a queue of free shows I like (including WINGS) that are all still there. The only difference I can tell is that they've added pay stuff in addition.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@VP81955 I'm a Millennial (though, being born in 1989, I personally prefer "Generation Y," as the term "Millennial," to me, makes it sound as if I was born in and spent most of my childhood between 2000 and 2010, but that's just me), but rather than produce a multi-cam sitcom in front of a live audience, I'd much rather revive the concept of single-cam sitcoms with . . . a laugh track.

H Johnson said...

I've heard of it. I couldn't make it through the first episode. I didn't find the snark funny, just kind of low hanging fruit targets. I'll give it another try based on your review, but watching characters that I don't like at all is hard.

And @JS, how can you hate on Hulu for not being free? Do you live somewhere that doesn't cost anything? You get pissed at the grocery store because you can't walk out with free yogurt? Sheesh. You think Ken Levine writes this blog for his health? Okay, that doesn't apply.

I watch local news over the airwaves and subscribe to Hulu, Netflix, & MLB.com via wifi. Bet I don't pay anywhere near your cable bill.

Aloha

Michael said...

Friday question: With the explosion in the number of new series across broadcast, cable, and streaming, I would guess it is more important than ever to come up with a show name that is memorable or stands out. For shows with established stars, is it best to name the show after the star?

Steven said...

Billy told the greatest joke about about the movie Finding Dory in one of his man on the street interviews with Patton Oswalt. In reference to the Dory character and the upcoming Finding Nemo sequel, he looks at the camera and screams,

"Spoiler alert: she's dead! How long does a fish live?!"

I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

yatesy said...

My friend Shannon actually had a small part on Season One of difficult People (she was the girl at the Story Slam "..the FIRST time..") and she also said Julie and Billy are amazingly nice, which is always great to hear. I am excited for Season Two!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Chelsea, check out her interview on Marc Maron's recent podcast. She kept calling him a "pussy," causing Marc to almost has a meltdown on the show.
Turns out, he is a pussy, but Chelsea is a bona fide JAP from Hell, and that's nothing to take pride it either. You get that shitty feeling you used to get when you listened to Joan Rivers talk after a while. Everything that's fucked up about showbiz radiates from Chelsea. Funny show, though.

VP81955 said...

you have a few hours left to vote for Stand Tall! http://www.lacinefest.org/page-9-52016.html

Charles H. Bryan said...

Off topic: I think I'm very glad that I remembered to watch ep 2 of BRAINDEAD.

forg/jecoup said...

Going to check this one out!

I hope Ken you considering voting for Mom and Middle on the Emmys, underrated shows overall (aside from Janney)

forg/jecoup said...

Will check this one out. I find Billy annoying though but maybe this show will work fo me

Since it's Emmy season, Ken please consider voting Mom and The Middle in the major categories, those shows deserve more Emmy love

forg/jecoup said...

Sampled two episodes, nope not for me

Peter said...

Urbaniak's character isn't just her roommate, he's her boyfriend.

kelly childress said...

Love Difficult People! Have you seen Casual? Another Hulu show.

Craig Russell said...

I would think shows on Hulu, etc. Dont have to "stand the test of time". Not like we will be watching them in 30 years on "NetflixLand"

Jonny M. said...

Love Difficult People, and when I watched it (months ago) I thought of you Ken because it's a show with actual jokes and I thought you would appreciate it. And agreed that Andrea Martin is amazing on it.

blogward said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Lots of worthy Frasier 'tropes', and the narcissistic personality disorder analyst (Jewish) mother is spot on. Spot. on. ROFL@her. Lots of throwaway laffs and I like the way the dialog is mingled, like real theater. Something worth sharing. Maybe it's a little dialog-heavy; a non-verbal pratfall or two would be welcome.