Things are out of whack. You know that and I know it. Off-kilter, off-balance, call it what you will.
The other day in this space I was telling you about doing online shopping. Among other things I ordered two pairs of gym shorts from a certain outfit. In a spirit of optimism, you might say. A day will come when I will be back at the gym kicking up my heels. Now, daily I receive an online flyer from this outfit. “Check All-New Arrivals For Brighter Days Ahead,” “New Deals On Denim” and that class of exhortation.
Then one day the flyer arrived with this subject line: “Do Whips & Chains Excite You?” Aghast, I opened it. Of course I did. No mention of whips, chains or related things. Just an announcement about “Modern Overalls” being in stock. This is the world we live in now, where strangeness reigns and whackery is everywhere.
With that in mind, here are three wonderfully off-beat, unorthodox comedy series on Netflix to suit the tenor of the times.
The Guild (one season on Netflix) began as a web-only series, and it shows. Episodes that were originally a few minutes long are stitched together on Netflix to resemble a normal comedy show. It’s about a group of gaming-addicted people who have trouble dealing with life away from their computers and their number-one game, which is never named but sounds like World of Warcraft. These obsessives have formed an online “guild” but don’t know each other. Central character Cyd (Felicia Day, who created the show) is a young woman using online therapy sessions to deal with her addiction to the game.
It ain’t working but when another gamer in the group shows up at her door – that’s Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) who has a crush on her but has never seen her in person – Cyd sees an opportunity to take the gaming gang out into the real world. The show looks like it was made for a handful of dollars but the writing is sharp, deadpan and often hilariously droll in its mockery of geek and gaming culture. If you’re tempted, watch it soon, as it leaves Netflix on March 1.
Norsemen (three seasons on Netflix) is an outrageous spoof of Vikings and other series – let’s throw in Game of Thrones – celebrating the derring-do of warriors and pillagers. It is set in the village of Norheim in the year 790. (It’s in English, but a Norwegian production.) The comedy emerges from the sheer absurdity of solemnizing these bloodthirsty, primitive people, and it tilts toward Monty Python.
To give you a sense of it, the series opens with a hardy band of pillagers returning from a raid somewhere, bringing back goods and captured people to work for them. One captured chap complains about his plight. Top Viking man Olav punches him in the nose. Then Olav confesses to his second in command, “That’s not really me, you know, that fear-based leadership style.”
Nominally in charge of the village is Orm (Kare Conradi) who is filled with brilliant ideas, such as confiscating all the weapons to make them into an art installation. It would make the village stand out. Questions arise: Can you go out raiding and pillaging if you can’t find your helmet? Do you need to take a pillow for those long journeys on a Viking warship? A cross between The Office and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s absurdist, occasionally gross and beautifully original.
Feel Good (one season on Netflix) is the creation of, and stars, Mae Martin, a Canadian comic who is big in Britain. When it aired there last year, it was called “a glorious, shining jewel” in one review. No masterpiece but fascinating, it’s a romantic comedy with a dash of drama and a fair amount of fast, surreal humour.
Semi-autobiographical, it features Martin as a version of herself, a queer stand-up comic who falls heavily for her new girlfriend, George (Charlotte Ritchie), who has never had a same-sex relationship before. The engine that drives the surface action and energy is that mad, passionate feeling of head-over-heels romance. They can’t get enough of each other. Lisa Kudrow has a recurring role, adding some acid tone to the deftly done farce.
Martin is one compelling figure – and, yes, sometimes her character plays up her Canadian roots – and one can see the reasons for her appeal in Britain. She’s direct, concise, puckish and the show’s strange malarkey is rather sweet.
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