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Ricky Gervais, co-creator of Britain's ‘The Office’ plays David Brent, who would have driven viewers to riot had his self-aggrandizing shtick lasted 10 seasons. But for two seasons, it was comedy gold. (BBC Worldwide/AP File)
Ricky Gervais, co-creator of Britain's ‘The Office’ plays David Brent, who would have driven viewers to riot had his self-aggrandizing shtick lasted 10 seasons. But for two seasons, it was comedy gold. (BBC Worldwide/AP File)

Watch it/Watch out

Shaw Cable’s subscriber-only Netflix rival only kinda sucks Add to ...

One of the great things about Black Books – besides its endearingly surly lead character and the fact that it features the terrific insult, “He looks like a horse in a man costume” – is that it was short. The whole thing lasted just three seasons, and each season contained just six episodes. It didn’t overstay its welcome.

That’s what makes the original British version of The Office so fantastic. The documentary-style show, set in the world’s least exciting paper company, lasted just two seasons. In fact, the show’s single best episode is the fourth episode of season one. There’s no fat on this thing whatsoever.

It’s also a good thing the show didn’t last long, because it allowed writers Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais to create one of the most self-obsessed, socially oblivious and just brutally awkward central characters ever. David Brent, played by Gervais, would have driven viewers to riot had his self-aggrandizing shtick lasted 10 seasons. But for two seasons, it was comedy gold.

Besides Brent, the show also featured a more convincing love story than pretty much anything currently running on prime-time TV. It also followed the somewhat bizarre British TV comedy convention of turning weirdly depressing toward the very end. In fact, the last episode of the series was so sad that viewers probably forced the show’s creators to film what turned out to be a more cheerful, concluding Christmas special.

And that was it. The entirety of the original Office can be viewed in a day. Meanwhile, the U.S. version of the show is entering what feels like its 65th season. NBC promises this will be its “final” go-around, but we have our doubts.

WATCH OUT MacGruber MacGruber ‘s closing credits, which arrive about 90 minutes too late, note that the script for this movie took three people to write. Three people.

The original McGruber was a Saturday Night Live skit that was kind of funny the first time it ran and somewhat less funny each of the six dozen or so times it was remade in following episodes. It’s a send-up of one of those scenes in MacGyver where Richard Dean Anderson’s character has to defuse a bomb with nothing but a pen cap and some Jell-O mix. The only reason the skit worked in the first place is because it was about 30 seconds long, and the actors kept getting cut off by the bomb exploding.

So of course someone decided this would make great fodder for a feature-length film.

McGruber is just bad, bad in the kind of lazy, self-referential way that most SNL –spinoff movies are bad. Brace yourself for endless, unnecessary and unimaginative profanity, a stunningly unlikeable lead character and a waxy looking, out-of-shape Val Kilmer playing the lead villain with all the enthusiasm and charisma of a funeral director’s business card. Absolutely nothing works.

As an aside, MacGruber is not the worst movie on Netflix’s “Recently Added” list this week. Not by a long shot.

READER PARTICPACTION:

Did we miss a gem? Did we not plumb deep enough into Netflix’s bowels for stinkers? Any tips on usage? Pour your Netflix thoughts and feelings into the comments, we publish some in the next edition:

Sam B2 writes: Watch Being Elmo. It's a terrific documentary, (and no you don't have to be into kids programming or Elmo to enjoy it).

Ian In Langley writes: I also notice if I search for a title they don’t have that one would think they should.. it appears in a week or so.

Their database is much larger than they project at you.. you do need to search by name (just search!) and rate what you’ve seen.

I’m not sure if we see what is “trending” until we begin rating and searching.. I do know there’s way more shows to watch once you begin doing that.

-DP writes: For the price, it’s good. For providing me with the movies I want to see, it sucks. I have little interest in contemporary TV shows, but have a massive list of old (70s through 2000’s) classics that I’m interested in catching up on. Netflix Canada never fails to disappoint. Any of the Rocky series (I-V)? Nope. Brazil (Steve Martin cult classic)? Nope. Sid and Nancy (arty cult classic from the 80s)? Nope. The Gods must be Crazy? Nope. My American Cousin (Canadian ’80s flick filmed in the Okanagan that nonetheless had widespread distribution)? Nope. Sure, I’ve watched a couple of good movies I was suggested that I hadn’t thought about (Black Swan, Antichrist (ultra-disturbing, but interesting), etc.), but if you actually think of a film you want to watch, forget it.

Crystal Glass writes: I’ll never know. I live in rural Ontario, where high speed internet is unavailable. My “high speed” is a Rogers rocket hub. While it beats dial up by a LONG shot, the price for usage is quite high. No Netflix for Cryssy.

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