25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: MERRY HAPPY WHATEVER – SEASON 1

Merry Happy Whatever (2019)

Starring

Dennis Quaid (Midway)
Bridgit Mendler (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel)
Brent Morin (Undateable)
Ashley Tisdale (Scary Movie V)
Siobhan Murphy (Murdoch Mysteries)
Adam Rose (Veronica Mars)
Elizabeth Ho (Fifty Shades of Black)
Hayes MacArthur (Super Troopers 2)

Dennis Quaid and Garcelle Beauvais in Merry Happy Whatever (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Garcelle Beauvais (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Tyler Ritter (Arrow)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Kimberley Crossman (Power Rangers Super Samurai)

Merry Happy Whatever (2019)After following in the footsteps of the TV movie Christmas romcom, Netflix charts a new course through the seasonal snow with Merry Happy Whatever, the first scripted Christmas TV series. The format makes perfect sense, as the last weeks of December are jam-packed with situations that are just ripe for comedy. The setup is one you’ve seen in countless holiday movies and one-off sitcom episodes before: a boyfriend (Morin) travels back home with his longtime girlfriend (Mendler) to meet her intimidating dad (Dennis Quaid), all of her siblings (Ashley Tisdale, Hayes MacArthur, Siobhan Murphy), and all of her in-laws (Tyler Ritter, Elizabeth Ho, Adam Rose). While this is a concept you’ve seen before in a comfortable multi-cam format, there’s a new twist in that every episode is a Christmas episode.60d6bfce-d263-43c7-96f3-89c9eb70e562-mhw_105_unit_01435_rThere’s a reason why Merry Happy Whatever drops on Thanksgiving: it is tailor-made to be a big family binge-watch. In fact, watching Merry Happy Whatever manages to feel just like going home for Christmas–in all the cozy and some of the awkward ways.How you feel about Merry Happy Whatever will largely depend on how you feel about the multi-cam sitcom and the big personalities and set-up/punchline formula that MHW enjoys. I, for example, love their storied history and am always rooting for them to succeed. The choice to go multi-cam also makes perfect sense considering the target audience: this is a format that literally everyone in the family is familiar with, whether they never missed an episode of The Big Bang Theory or grew up watching I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Friends, or the million kid-coms on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. It’s lowest-common-denominator, but honestly, that’s what wins out when you’re back home for the holidays.merry-happy-whateverBut Merry Happy Whatever also works if you’re not in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by your in-laws and a pack of toddlers and dogs. For anyone that’s moved away from home, the show manages to make you feel like you’re back where you came from. That’s largely thanks to the cast, who take the crystal clear family dynamics of Tucker Cawley’s script (himself a veteran of Everybody Loves Raymond) and bring them to life. The first episode does a solid job of setting up immensely relatable family conflict that feel worth spending a whole season unpacking. The in-laws commiserate over marrying into a family that’s a Pepsi-loving, “G-rated cult,” and patriarch Don (a perfectly stubborn Quaid) refuses to let anything wreck his family traditions, especially the arrival of his daughter’s nervous and nerdy boyfriend Matt (Morin).61faa280-10fc-11ea-a7aa-45e901af2227_800_420Morin and Quaid have a great onscreen dynamic, one (obviously) reminiscent of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents. Morin, previously the lead of NBC’s Undateable, easily transcends the “nervous and nerdy” description I just tagged him with. The nervous outsider who keeps goofing up role is a tough one, one that so easily veers into annoying territory. That doesn’t happen with Morin, who is low-key affable throughout and whose nerves are justified because Quaid is so intimidating). But just like any family get together, there are moments in Merry Happy Whatever that’ll make the more liberal members of the audience go “Wait, what?” I’m particularly thinking of a scene where Sean (MacArthur) reacts to what he thinks is his tween son coming out of the closet. Sean’s wife, played with heartfelt snark by Elizabeth Ho, barely flinches and offers the unwavering support that we’ve come to expect from these kinds of scenes in 21st century sitcoms, but Sean’s response is tinged with the kind of discomfort, played for laughs, that was par for the course in the ’80s. It’s jarring, especially because it feels like Merry Happy Whatever thinks Sean’s flash of fear when he thinks his son may be gay is actually funny and not just the literal definition of homophobia. But y’know, what’s a trip home for the holidays without a dose of discomfort? It’s accurate!MV5BYWU3ZWJlYmMtOTFmNy00OGE2LWEyMGYtNjgwNTgyNDEzZWM2XkEyXkFqcGdeQTNwaW5nZXN0._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_The entire cast is a real gift, all with clearly defined personalities set up to create sparks. Of particular note is Siobhan Murphy as older sister Patsy, whose suburban cheeriness seems to hide a bit of sadness, and Ashley Tisdale’s borderline bratty little sister who’s in full-on crisis mode. But Elizabeth Ho, fresh off of Netflix’s Disjointed, gets some of the best lines in the episode, playing the blunt ringleader of the seen-it-all in-laws.8658eb90-11a2-11ea-8827-85e5c6e9935d_800_420Whether or not you’ll like Merry Happy Whatever as a solo viewing experience largely depends on your feelings about multi-cam as a format. But with a cast and creator as experienced as this, Merry Happy Whatever is definitely a STREAM IT for everyone that’s spending time with family this holiday season.

REVIEW: 2 BROKE GIRLS – SEASON 2

Starring

Kat Dennings (Thor)
Beth Behrs (The Neighbourhood)
Garrett Morris (Ant-Man)
Jonathan Kite (Black Dynamite)
Matthew Moy (No Strings Attached)
Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie)

Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Steven Weber (Izombie)
Ajay Mehta (Anger Management)
Mary Pat Gleason (Mom)
Cedric the Entertainer (Be Cool)
Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars)
Jessica Chaffin (The Heat)
Abby Elliott (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Noah Mills (The Enemy Within)
Nick Zano (Legends of Tomorrow)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Bianca Lawson (The Vampire Diaries)
Barret Swatek (American Housewife)
Andy Dick (Road Trip)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Deanne Bray (Heroes)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Marc Evan Jackson (The Good Place)
Elizabeth Ho (Two and a Half Men)
Kyle Gass (Elf)
Olivia May (The 18 Year Old Virgin)
Eddie Shin (Westworld)
Kym Whitley (Rango)

Allison Dunbar, Kat Dennings, and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)When we last saw lead besties Max Black and Caroline Channing, they were over the moon about their unorthodox meeting with style maven Martha Stewart – who not only sampled one of their premium cupcakes (the Beer-Batter Maple-Bacon Spring-Break cupcake), but also said she liked it and admired them. What more sustenance would two struggling waitresses-turned-entrepreneurs need? A lot, it turns out, as season two of 2 Broke Girls gives us a taste of success & failure.Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)Whereas season one of the hit CBS show was all about meeting cute, sharing dreams, and attempting to live down the fact that one of the fathers bilked investors out of millions of dollars, the second season is more about character and relationships: Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) step closer and closer to their ever-elusive dream of a cupcake store; while diner-cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) and entrepreneur Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge) begin sharing more than just sex. It is, like life, filled with ups and downs, steps forward and many more steps backward, never once letting the characters lose sight of their final destination. Max is overjoyed when they find the perfect space to open their cupcake store, insisting that it has a certain cache seeing how it was the site of a mass murder (complete with blood still on the walls). Where one sees disaster, Max sees opportunity: “If we go with red, it’s half painted.” This devil-may-care attitude balances nicely with Caroline’s Wharton-School pedigree of sense and sensibility, preventing either from going too far off the deep end. They establish such a mutual ground, in fact, that they both willingly don giant cupcake suits in an attempt to drum up business.Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)Elsewhere in Williamsburg, the relationship between Oleg and Sophie begins to deepen. Where it was once an excuse for crude comments about orgasms, it has developed into a touching pairing between two oddballs who are perfectly matched. Sophie, the owner of a house-cleaning service who has a heart of gold, continues in her role of fairy godmother to the two girls. In season one, she made sure they had killer outfits to wearto the gala event where they hoped to meet Ms. Stewart. Here, she gives them the seed money to rent their prime space, stock up and begin selling cupcakes. She is a silent partner; but one who eats a lot of the profits – literally.Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs in 2 Broke Girls (2011)

 

Although much of the season takes place in settings outside the Williamsburg Diner, there is still plenty going on there. Put-upon diner-owner Han (Matthew Moy) has become a little more feisty, giving to the girls as good as he gets from them – and standing up to a robber who mistakenly thinks there are quick profits to be made. Stalwart Garrett Morris, as cashier Earl, continues to be the brightest star in the Williamsburg firmament, delivering caustic barbs and witty asides like the seasoned pro he is. Season two is filled with lots of characters who stop by for an episode or three, including Steven Weber as the notorious swindler who is father to Caroline, Ryan Hansen as the boyish proprietor of the candy shop across from the cupcake store who starts to fall for a certain Wharton graduate, and rapper 2 Chains appearing as himself in a surprisingly appealing episode.Kat Dennings, John Ruby, and Ajarae Coleman in 2 Broke Girls (2011)The end of the second season provided the perfect set up for season three: while cleaning out the diner, they stumble onto a secret back room that has (surprise!) a set of doors that open onto the sidewalk. Can they create a walk-up cupcake business and make a success of it?.

REVIEW: BONES – SEASON 6

Starring

Emily Deschanel (Boogeyman)
David Boreanaz (Angel)
Michaela Conlin (Yellowstone)
Tamara Taylor (Lost)
T. J. Thyne (Ghost World)
John Francis Daley (Game Night)

David Boreanaz, Emily Deschanel, and Tamara Taylor in Bones (2005)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers)
Michael Grant Terry (Grimm)
Carla Gallo (Superbad)
Dylan Bruno (The Rage: Carrie 2)
Danielle Bisutti (Curse of Chucky)
Eugene Byrd (Arrow)
Scott Michael Campbell (Shameless)
Justina Machado (Final Destination 2)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Katheryn Winnick (Vikings)
B.J. Britt (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Joel David Moore (Avatar)
Antonio Sabato Jr. (General Hospital)
David Alan Grier (Jumanji)
Lisa Marcos (On My Block)
Thomas Kopache (Catch Me If You Can)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans Go To The Movies)
Kelly Stables (Two and a Half Men)
Pej Vahdat (Shameless)
Kerry O’Malley (Annabelle: Creation)
Robin Riker (The Glades)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Ryan Cartwright (Alphas)
Frederick Koehler (Death Race)
Cedric Yarbrough (The Boss)
Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Mark Famiglietti (Terminator 3)
Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist)
Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Tiffany Hines (Nikita)
Matthew John Armstrong (Heores)
Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy)
Laura Regan (Minority Report TV)
Scoot McNairy (Batman V Superman)
Elizabeth Ho (Disjointed)
Leslie-Anne Huff (The Vampire Diaries)
Billy Gibbons (Two and a Half Men)
Marisa Ramirez (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Scott Lowell (Adoptable)
Michael Welch (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Sarah Baker (Young Sheldon)
Geoff Stults (Wedding Crashers)
Saffron Burrows (Deep Blue Sea)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Jackie Geary (13 Reasons Why)
Michael Clarke Duncan (The Scorpian King)
Mini Anden (Chuck)
Suzie Plakson (Red Eye)
Carlo Rota (Saw V)
McKenzie Applegate (The Best of Enemies)
Sean O’Bryan (Vantage Point)
Tina Majorino (Veronica Mars)
Matthew Alan (13 Reasons Why)
Annalise Basso (Ouija: Origin of Evil)
Denise Dowse (Starship Troopers)
Debra Mooney (Everwood)

David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)To resuscitate a dead team out of their scattered disappearance is not an easy task. Luckily the DA in Washington DC is a powerful woman, stubborn and resolute, and she generally gets what she wants. So she brought Agent Booth back from Afghanistan, and Temperance Brennan, aka Bones, from the exotic place where she was trying to get some archaeologically interesting bones with Daisy, Dr Sweet’s girl friend, and Dr Sweet from his hideout somewhere in Paris where he was having a showbiz career as a cabaret singer. They all come back, change clothes and back in the business in a jiffy. Angela and Dr Hodgins are also back though from not so far away and Angela is pregnant.
As usual one case per episode, clean and neat, always dealing with a lot of bones, gross and dirty, soaked in a lot of decomposed muck with a tremendous number of maggots, worms and other corpse parasites. A series not to watch while eating anything more delicate than dry cookies.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)Angela and Dr Hodgins have a full plate with the pregnancy and the delivery of the baby. For them that’s enough and that will require some help from a friendly psychiatrist because it is hard for the father not to become overprotective and it is hard for the mother to accept the physical handicap this pregnancy may represent. Yet they decided that working with the people they are used to work and live with was the best thing for the pregnancy, the mother and the child. Angela was not alone at any moment of her days or nights.Agent Booth brought a journalist back from Afghanistan, a sort of love substitute for Temperance. But will that not cause some problems, like conflicting interests between the two professions? And Booth with his own son is already very busy in life. Will that new woman in the picture be able to cope with a child, what’s more the child of another woman? And the question of marriage will come up sooner or later and how are the two going to react to that eventuality? Probably not very well, maybe not too bad. A decision that is always difficult to take for someone who is constantly in the field of police investigation and for a journalist just back from a war zone.Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)You have the interns still rotating, the four of them. They are the surprise of each episode because they are so different and they can be so funny, though at times they are just funny for us because they are mismatched with what is happening around them, but that’s what interns are all about. Unluckily one will end up very badly. That’s not the first case, but so far none had ended up that badly. But a song will carry him through: lime and coconut, sung in a chorus all together, mellow and heart stirring.David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in Bones (2005)There will be a case that will run over the whole season, the case of a sniper who had been a colleague and friend of Booth in Afghanistan and who came back slightly berserk and decided that what he did over there was good enough for the USA too and he started killing those who were rotten, and those who were in his way for his type of justice and these were only collateral victims for him, hence justified by the end. It will take the whole team to stop him and it will bring a lot of suffering and even mourning to that team.

REVIEW: TWO AND A HALF MEN – SEASON 7

Starring

Charlie Sheen (Hot Shots)
Jon Cryer (Supergirl)
Angus T. Jones (Bringing Down The House)
Marin Hinkle (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle)
Conchata Ferrell (Krampus)
Jennifer Taylor (Shameless)
Holland Taylor (D.E.B.S.)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Emmanuelle Vaugier (Human Target)
Will Sasso (Happy Gilmore)
Kelly Stables (The Ring Two)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Annie Potts (Young Sheldon)
Ryan Stiles (Hot Shots)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly)
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica)
Carl Reiner (Oceans Eleven)
Stacy Keach (The Bourne Legacy)
Meagen Fay (That’s My Boy)
Lilli Birdsell (Doom Patrol)
John Amos (Die Hard 2)
Courtney Thorne-Smith (Melrose Place)
Graham Patrick Martin (Major Crimes)
Elizabeth Ho (Disjointed)
Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures)
Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Rachel Cannon (Fresh off The Boat)
Rebecca McFarland (Scream 2)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (The Vampire Diaries)
Rena Sofer (Heroes)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Billy Gibbons (Bones)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)

Press expressWhen we last Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) he had managed to complete a season with a steady girlfriend, Chelsea (Jennifer Bini Taylor), and when we pick things back up, once again, wedding bells for Charlie are on the horizon. Charlie wastes no time consciously and subconsciously sabotaging his relationship through the reappearance of his previous fiancé, Mia and his general proclivities towards adultery.TWO AND A HALF MENCharlie continues to exhibit deplorable behavior and his drinking problem reaches new lows, with the character at one point so hung-over he vomits into an occupied baby carriage. The writers in a turn of originality don’t go for the instant reconciliation of Charlie and Chelsea, nor do they close the door on the relationship. It allows for some character development for the character.TWO AND A HALF MENOther highlights include some hilarious cameos from Annie Potts as the deranged mother of one of Alan’s girlfriends, and Stacy Keach as Chelsea’s newly out-of-the-closet, man’s man father. Eventually John Amos turns up as Keach’s boyfriend.Two and a Half MenLast but not least, the dependable supporting trio of Jake (Angus T. Jones), Alan’s now foul-mouthed teenage son, Evelyn (Holland Taylor), Alan and Charlie’s abusive, self-absorbed mother, and Berta (Conchata Ferrell), are always dependable. Season seven brings more laughs but Season 8 would bring an end to the Charlie Sheen era.