It’s a packed weekend of content, so let’s get started. There’s a lot of music and drama involved, with some comedy.
If you watched Saturday Night Live last week, you saw first-time host Idris Elba deliver a heart-on-my-sleeve opening monologue. The British actor noted that 20 years ago, he was a part-time bouncer in New York, dealing marijuana and DJing on the side. Since then, he’s played the Stringer Bell character on The Wire and he’s been the star of the BBC drama Luther. He’s come a long way. And he mentioned the DJ gig more than once.
Turn Up Charlie (streaming on Netflix) is why Elba was out promoting himself. It’s not Elba’s first foray into comedy. (His low-key, six-part family comedy In The Long Run was shown in Canada on CBC.) But it is clearly a labour of love. Elba co-created the series with Gary Reich and he’s the executive producer and star. He plays Charlie, a DJ who had one big hit in the nineties and has been on a downward spiral since then. Now, he does weddings, while his family in Nigeria believe he’s become a music mogul. In this wacky comic world – it’s very, very wacky – his childhood best friend David (JJ Feild) actually did become a star in Hollywood and is now back in London to do a stage play, to prove his acting chops. It’s a disaster, this stage-acting gig, but Charlie is more interested in how David’s wife, Sara (Piper Perabo), has become a truly famous DJ and he wants to collaborate with her and save his own professional life.
One wacky twist leads to another, and after much horseplay and unlikely twists, Charlie is asked to play nanny/minder to David and Sara’s precocious and slightly demented little daughter, Gabby (Frankie Hervey). Gabby is the kid from hell – foul language and physical attack are her preferred methods of dealing with adults.
Elba is in full-throttle comedy mode here. The zaniness is a bit much and the pace is frantic. Thing is, there’s a short distance between a labour-of-love project and a vanity project and, in some advance reviews, Turn Up Charlie has been condemned as wildly egotistical and self-indulgent. It isn’t. It’s very British, mind you, with a fondness for humour that is raw even by U.S. cable standards. It’s madcap and zany to the point of being unhinged, but it has its moments of hilarious silliness.
One can hardly blame Elba for wanting to shift away from the brooding seriousness that is usually associated with his acting work, let alone his other status, as the also-brooding sexiest man alive, according to People magazine. He’s a solid actor and yes, he can do zany comedy. Indulge him. Turn Up Charlie is no disaster, it’s just a different untidy kind of craziness.
Also airing this weekend
The 2019 Juno Awards (Sunday, CBC, 8 p.m.) is live from London, Ont., and hosted by Sarah McLachlan. Among the performers are Arkells, Bahamas, bulow, Coeur De Pirate and Loud, Jeremy Dutcher with Blake Pouliot, Loud Luxury, the Reklaws and host McLachlan. To add to the usual brash atmosphere, Rick Mercer, skater Tessa Virtue and writer Tanya Talaga will be among the presenters. The Juno Awards can be a gangbusters show or it can fizzle. It’s impossible to tell in advance. What hangs over the awards this year is the deliberate absence of Drake, who simply opted out. And, frankly, it’s an absence that casts a shadow.
Billions (Sunday, Crave TV, 9 p.m.) returns for Season 4. At the start, it looks like old enemies Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) are forming an alliance. The motive is, of course, revenge on somebody.
Sunday is also St. Patrick’s Day. There is little evidence of that on TV. But I’d urge you to mark the day by watching Derry Girls on Netflix, a comedy series set in Derry in Northern Ireland during the 1990s. That is, during the Troubles. The Guardian called it “daft, profane and absolutely brilliant.” It is all that. Also there’s the TV movie The Journey on Netflix, a speculative treatment of the evolution of a peace deal that ended the Troubles. Timothy Spall plays hardline Protestant Unionist Ian Paisley and Colm Meaney is Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein on a long car journey together that allows them to bicker, banter and reach agreements.
With that I leave you for a short break. Be good to each other, enjoy what you consume and I will meet you here again in about two weeks.