What does it mean when 10 top Canadian comedians are put together in a room? To help you answer, the 10 Canadian comedians are Colin Mochrie, Dave Foley, Andrew Phung, K. Trevor Wilson, Tom Green, Caroline Rhea, Deb DiGiovanni, Jonathan Lajoie, Brandon Ash-Mohammed and Mae Martin. I’ll tell you what it means; it means Amazon Prime Video is investing directly in Canadian content.
LOL: Last One Laughing Canada (streams Amazon Prime Video) is a reality competition featuring those well-known Canadian comics. You will note that several are internationally known. This makes it easier to sell to Amazon Prime viewers around the world. The show is part of a franchise, with existing versions originating in Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil and Japan.
Is it funny? Intermittently. Is it any good? Well, take away the ultra-elaborate set-up and some mildly amusing moments arise. At times it seems absurdly tortured. Jay Baruchel is the host and the intro and set-up last longer than the Beijing Olympics, but without the razzle-dazzle.
The comics gather very slowly and are put in a room. Baruchel monitors from another room. The idea is for a participating comedian to be funny, but the others must not laugh. If they even smile or snort a suppressed laugh, Baruchel appears and, as in soccer, displays a yellow card as a warning, or a red card to dismiss the participant. The evicted then join Baruchel for running commentary on the game. There, they are allowed to be funny. Well, they try.
Things get off to a rocky start, with poo jokes, COVID-19 jokes and wiener jokes. This is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff from people we are told, at length, are gods of comedy. Dave Foley makes an interesting pitch for being the straight-man to the others. “Fortunately, I’m not a fan of comedy,” he announces. Caroline Rhea says she’s wearing her daughter’s clothes.
The upshot is too much convoluted set-up and not enough laughter. In fact, some of these comedians are, at first glance, simply insufferable. Perhaps some were jet-lagged. If you stick with it, you might find a gem of joke. On the evidence of the early going, this is for fans of juvenile comedy. Fortunately, the prize money goes to charity.
Also airing/streaming this weekend – Cargo (streams CBC Gem) is a new arrival, an eight-part miniseries from Finland (various languages with English subtitles) about human smuggling. It unfolds as a smart thriller and dwells with good insight on moral ambiguity. Things start in Eritrea, where Kiki (Evelyn Rasmussen Osazuwa) is living a quiet life with her husband and daughter. When a member of her family turns up, having deserted from the army, a police raid starts an unforgiving journey for everyone.
Kiki has been receiving money from her father in Finland, where he works as a truck driver. Facing the wrath of the government and military, she flees Eritrea with her husband and daughter, aiming to get to Finland. Meanwhile her father has been doing a bit of human smuggling there and things get complicated when his van, which has people hidden inside, is stolen by a petty criminal who has no idea what he’s getting into.
The drama is evenly spread between two storylines: Kiki’s dangerous journey to Libya, then to Europe, as she’s separated from her family, and the murky drama of events in Helsinki. Cargo is a real find, a drama that manages to focus on the issue of human smuggling and simultaneously unfold as an edge-of-your seat thriller, all done with characteristic Scandinavian starkness.
Summer of Soul (Sunday, ABC, 8 p.m.) was one of the most acclaimed documentaries of last year. It’s footage – most of it never seen on TV – of a series of weekend concerts held in 1969, part of the Harlem Cultural Festival. As a showcase of Black artists of the time, it’s astounding. There is a fierce energy here, with Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples duetting with Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone at her very best. An unmissable concert film. The full title is Summer of Soul (... Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) and here it is, on network TV in prime-time on a Sunday night in 2022.
Finally, the Beijing Olympics draw to a sullen close, for all the glow of gold, silver and bronze medals. On the CBC main network on Saturday at 6 a.m., there’s the final of the pairs free skate, then later the women’s bobsleigh. The closing ceremony airs Sunday on the CBC at 6 at a.m.
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