Difficult People: High Alert – Pet Names and Julianne Moore (Review)

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In terms of guest stars, Difficult People raised the bar with “High Alert” by including  Julianne Moore and Debbie Harry in the episode.  Harry’s part is that bit smaller than Moore’s but still memorable.  As the show starts New York in under high alert and people are being told to stay off the subway.

Matthew is getting married and both Billy and Julie get a look at their future.  Arthur manages to use a multitude of pet names for his girlfriend. None are used twice and it is an impressive feat.

Due to an alert status change, it moves up to “rose” and a news broadcast interrupts The Bachelor. This stops Julie from writing her recap of the show and she writes her “9/11” piece instead. The lengthy essay recounts her sexual expression of grief after the tragedy by having sex with nine different men and having oral sex with 11 men.

Before writing the sex filled essay, Julie attempts to see who was sent home from “The Bachelor” and discovers 14 year old Fern  Fujihara  (Grace Song). The teen had a snapchat go viral of her hamster, or guinea pig, sitting with a donut on its head. The child is now being represented by C.A.A. 

Julie’s response is a heartfelt “F*ck this world.”

This episode was all about Julie’s past sex life, and how many times  character’s mention her “f*cking and blowing 20 men.

Moore plays Sarah Nussbaum; who works for Josh Gad and Sarah wants to option Julie’s sexcapade essay into a film.  Kessler is ecstatic and so is Billy.  She is to work with a comedy writer, Harvey (Kind) who is a major irritation. The writer ends up getting into a fight with Arthur who decides to defend his girlfriend’s honor.

After the argument, Nussbaum gives the writing assignment to the 14 year old snapchat star who thinks Rich Little writes for “Rookie.”

There is a running gag about new, and bargain basement type ride shares a’la Uber and Lyft.  Once again Kevin Spacey is  part of Billy’s obsession.

Matthew has a bachelorette party and Billy is paid to attend by Nate.  Elmer (William Bogert) is a sex obsessed old man who wants to play party games that involve his bum.  Matthew passes out after on drink and Billy tries to leave. 

Elmer’s wants to play “pass the torch” and Nate brings out a yahrzeit candle. Billy was looking for one so he could light it for his father. Elmer wants to shove it up his backside and Nate decides to light the candle for Billy’s father instead.

The wedding of Matthew and Elmer is presided over by Rita (Amy Sedaris) and Kiki (Harry). A lesbian couple who live above the venue.  Kiki, says Rita, has drugs and her partner offers to hook anyone up who wants them. 

Just as Matthew walks down the aisle, Elmer dies and Rita switches the whole ceremony to a funeral. The distraught  Matthew hands Kiki some sheet music and breaks into Ave Maria.

Billy and Julie opt to take the subway after all and he decides to be like Kevin Spacey and get famous before looking for love.

Difficult People this week amped up the crudity quotient.  While the amount of pet names that Arthur used for Julie in the episode was funny, the  use of ribald language reached an all time high. It was funny the first 10 times that f*ck and blowjob were used in the show but after a while it became almost mundane.

This is a brilliantly funny and acerbic comedy. The two main protagonists are not overly generous and are self centered while working sporadically for fame.  Despite the higher than usual crudity, “High Alert” continued the upward swing of this show in terms of humor.

Kudos for the Josh Gad scenario and Julie’s interaction with Moore and Kind.

Difficult People airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  Watch this one as it is really quite funny.

 

CAST:

Guest starring Julianne Moore,  Debbie Harry and Richard Kind

Difficult People: Cedar Cove – H is for Heimlich (Recap/Review)

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This week on Difficult People, both Billy and Julie almost get that all important break. “Cedar Cove” sees Julie blag her way into  Christian Siriano’s “clown” fashion show, using comediennes instead of models. Billy gets an acting gig as a baby beaver singing about  toilet functions to children and gets invited to be a “Ten, Ten.”

Last week’s focus on Broadway was left behind as the action also moved on from Hannibal Lector territory and a quote, or two, from The Producers.  “Hashtag Cats” featured off-Broadway theatre, this week it is New York fashion week.

After the show’s open, where Julie is giving blood and demanding more cookies, while Billy complains that gays are not allowed to give blood, the episode segued into Fashion Week. The friend’s bluff their way into a fashion party, “Hey Donatello!”  Once inside, Julie insults the first “fashionista” she sees and ends up getting a modeling gig for Siriano.

This was a tightly written episode.  Billy’s Truman Capote reference in the prologue crops up later in “The Shining” sequence and the Heimlich also shows up at the fashion show.

The baby beaver advert seemed to be a brilliant parody of Barney the Dinosaur. (That big purple creation loved by children and despised by their parents.)  It also served to put Billy into an awkward situation. He went for the job as it was union and would reinstate his medical insurance. Unfortunately, his face will show and this was not the game plan at all.

It was hard to pick a standout scene in this episode. All were incredibly funny, with the exception of the “F*ck you” barrage against the Heimlich instructor.  Two gays and a transgender being incredibly hostile and rude towards one woman was not funny. Like the old saying goes: It was not big, nor was it clever.

Julie gets ill.

Walking down the hallway to her apartment,  the area transforms into the halls of the Overlook from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  She sees Truman Capote with the dog from the hotel room scene in both the film and the book.  He tells her that sex before 1978 was indeed magical.

She then sees her two beagles decked out as the twins from the film.  At long last she reaches her apartment door. It swings open to reveal Arthur and Siriano. The fashion designer calls her Julie and expresses delight that she is there.

Julie turns into Danny from “The Shining.” Moving her finger she croaks, “Julie isn’t here, Mr. Siriano.”

Hysterically funny.

Arthur and Marilyn bond while doing Julie’s recaps of reality television and the sick woman sneaks off to do the fashion show.  They call Billy who rushes off, in costume as the baby beaver, to help Julie.

As he arrives at the show, Julie is choking on a cough lozenge and requires the Heimlich maneuver. Billy leaps on stage, still in costume, and performs the maneuver causing the lozenge to shot into the lap of a Ten, Ten. (Aka, the Ten Ten’s.)

Julie then vomits into Billy’s beaver diaper.  Siriano misses this as he left when the cough drop became airborne.

Billy picks on Kevin Spacey this week. Implying that he is gay, pretending to be straight. The best gag was the Choking Chucky one where Billy says the open mouthed dummy is Spacey’s pool boy when not doing its day job.

This was brilliantly funny with many “belly laugh” moments.  Although, as mentioned above, they could have lost the “F*ck you,” sequence.  The signposting of Capote and Billy’s Heimlich really made this episode work well.

Difficult People airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  This series left Mike’s Film Talk cold last season but season two has turned the show into a “must see.”  Catch this one and see what you think.

CAST:

Guest starring Christian Siriano as himself and Austin Pendleton as the baby beaver director. 

Difficult People: Hashtag Cats – The Producers and Hannibal Lector (Review)

Difficult People poster

It is all too easy to fall in love with the second season of Difficult People.  How can you not love a comedy series that references Mel Brooks’ The Producers (“I was certain you’d had a stroke,” says Julie, “Of genius,” replies Billy.).  “Hashtag Cats” also lampoons Hannibal Lector. Joel McHale is cannibal “personal trainer” who is fattens up clients for him and his other “trainers” to eat.

Just brilliant.

It does not hurt that the two main characters, Billy Epstein and Julie Kessler are self absorbed “wannabe” who also  come across as slightly shallow pseudo intellectuals.

For example: Billy books he and his bestie Julie on a late night alternative comedy show. They kill it. Discussing it later, Billy says he was inspired by Shonda Rhimes‘ book “The Year of Yes.”

“I can’t believe you read it,” says Julie

“I read the Amazon review,” Billy replies, “I was inspired.”

Apart from homages to The Producers and Hannibal this episode brings up the issue of having “paid friends.” In the words, can one really be friends with someone they work for or employ”  A side issue deals with having a gay BFF who is really bi-sexual.

The main plot consists of Billy and Julie doing so well that Method Man comes over to tell the duo that he wants to work with them. The rapper from Wu-Tang Clan tells them he loves their work.  As he leaves, Julie and Billy both scream, “Method Man is our first famous friend!”

Julie and Marilyn have a falling out when Julie stands her mother up for lunch so she can hang out with Billy. Something that happens regularly. Marilyn makes her “gay” hairdresser her new bestie in response.

“Hashtag Cats” is the new stage experience and Julie gets tickets from James on Craigslist.  Billy cannot go as he is seeing his new personal trainer Felix. (“The cartoon  cat with  a bag of  tricks?”  Julie asks Billy in a funny response to his news.  Question: Is Felix the Cat still a thing?)  Matthew hints that he can go, but it is Arthur who will get to see the reboot.

Billy gets the best line of the episode:

“Sasha Grey, so sad to go from doing porn to something as degrading as “Entourage.”

Method Man teams up with Billy and Julie to make a pilot pitch to the networks.  The two besties suggest a comedy sketch program a’la SNL.

Billy starts his first session with Felix. The training program is  odd but Billy trusts his trainer. Billy then takes on Felix’ meal plan, for free, and his next session is all about eating while exercising.

Julie gets her tickets from “James on Craigslist” and the tickets are fake.  Julie starts a campaign to force James to get her money back. She even goes to see the police.

Billy’s trainer suggests they become friends and invites him to a meal.  Epstein asks if he can invite Julie and Arthur.  The meal has two other trainers there and they are creepy and odd. It is a scene right out of “Hannibal.”

Method Man and his new partners start off at NBC with their first pitch.  There is a great gag with the posters in the waiting room being changed every two seconds. It also starts a long running gag where Julie and Billy keep meeting the NBC VP for programming everywhere.

The trio finally get their show approved on Al Jazeera American Channel who are changing their brand.

After having no luck at the police station, Julie plays the “cancer card” and she tells James that her dying sister was supposed to see the show.

Method Man invites  Billy, Felix, Julie, Arthur, Marilyn and her new BFF to the VIP section at a performance of “Hashtag Cats.” Before the show starts, James comes to make up for selling fake tickets and Julie tells him it is too late.

Their  new partner learns of the cancer  lie and kicks them all out of the VIP section and breaks off the partnership. As the group leaves,  the police rush the theatre entrance and arrest Felix.

Sadly, Julie was right about Felix really liking Billy. Unfortunately he saw Epstein as veal…

Difficult People just keeps getting funnier and funnier. These two “hopeful” performers are exquisite in their tunnel vision and extreme focus on self.

Kudos to Joel McHale who kills it in this episode.

The series airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  If funny is your thing, check this one out.

CAST:

Difficult People: Patches – Special (Review)

Julie and Billy in Difficult People

Difficult People in “Patches” tickles the funny bone more than usual. While Billy learns that he is not a “type” in his gay world, Julie learns that she is very special indeed over at Showtime.  After last week’s porn themed episode this  un-PC themed storyline was almost guiltily funny.

Julie and Billy get jobs as guest bloggers on Buzzlist; a website dedicated to lists.  (One of which Julie gets on by the end of the episode.) The actual “office” is a conglomeration of different websites. For example  one is called “wtf” and another “omg.”  The facility  includes partitioned office space for each blogger. Apart from writing lists, the job also entails writing sponsored posts.

The latest is one for Showtime; “Six Things to Look Forward to on Showtime.” One of these a casting call for a spinoff of The Affair.  Later, as Julie makes her basset hounds new “service dog” vests, Arthur suggests that they become domestic partners for tax purposes.

Julie refuses and Arthur gets angry. He tells Julie to make her own dinner. “How,” replies his girlfriend. Billy is turned away from a gay club as he does not fit into the categories they require. (The doormen first call him a “bear.”) He then learns that his apartment has been quarantined because of ebola.

Billy and Julie  settle in at Buzzlist and begin writing their list articles and Julie gets an audition for “The Tryst” (The Affair spinoff.) The audition notes that the show is “premium cable so adjust your performance accordingly.” She and Billy discuss what this may mean and he says “not American.”

Julie decides to do an Australian trying to do an American accent “with all those hard “r’s” like all the other “English and Australian actor’s do.” She also decides to bring her service basset hounds to the audition. The dogs are banned from the communal service animal area after eating another writer’s rabbit.

She goes to the audition and reads for the part. Using her “accent” for the two casting directors Julie does not get cast for the role. However, the two women decide that Julie is mentally disabled.   They believe this because of her overacting and weird accent. The two small service dogs complete the illusion  and they arrange to have a part written for “special” Julie.

Billy ends up moving in with Marilyn as he cannot sleep in Julie and Arthur’s apartment or his brother’s.

Julie gets her “part” (four lines as a balloon seller named Patches) and she decides to keep doing the Australian playing an American accent the whole time.  Billy and Marilyn appear to be perfect roomies.

Everyone on the set believe that Julie is mentally disabled because of her accent and overacting. When she wraps the scene the casting director gives her a show jacket and a medal. A representative from Showtime; Abby (Ilfenesh Hadera) arrives and offers to treat Julie to a special dinner at her favorite restaurant Outback Steakhouse. 

Abby also tells Julie that  reporters will be at the meal as they want to tell them about “our Julie.” “I only had four lines,” Julie says and Abby replies that she got them more or less right.

At Buzzlist, Julie and Billy learn that they are no longer guest bloggers but have been hired permanently.  Kayla (Abby Elliott) then tells the two that she has a press event to attend and leaves. 

Billy gives Julie her old “cat” outfit before she leaves and Julie urges him to move out of her mom’s house.  As they talk she also realizes she needs to hold on to Arthur.

She and Arthur walk to the dinner at Outback Steakhouse and Julie agrees to be his domestic partner for tax purposes. She then gets hotdog water splashed on her outfit and changes into the “kitty suit.”  When Billy hears her accent, he realizes she sounds mentally challenged and tries to tell her.

Abby arrives with the reporters, one of whom is Kayla Julie’s  new boss at Buzzlist, and tells the press to meet their “mentally disabled” actress.  Julie immediately drops the accent and tries to explain.  “It’s not my fault,” she says, ” that talking Australian makes you sound mentally challenged.”

“You b*tch,” shouts the Australian Outback waiter, “Get out of my steakhouse!”

This episode of Difficult People was a series highpoint.  The end of the episode, where Julie learns the truth and loses her job at Buzzlist was excruciatingly funny. (The waiter’s reaction is beyond priceless.)

Watching this episode repeatedly in no way lessened the impact of the comedy of offer.  Like Hulu’s other original program, Difficult People is miles funnier in its second season.

The series airs Tuesdays on Hulu. Do not miss this one if you like to laugh.

CAST:

Guest starring Rachel Dratch as the casting director. 

Difficult People: Blade Stallion – Kosher Porn (Review)

Difficult People poster

How can you not love a show that features kosher porn, abusing interns and office squatting.  Add  a brilliant cameo by America’s most beloved documentarian Ken Burns and  “Blade Stallion” is a real winner. This episode of  Difficult People also features the splendid Fred Armisen  as Garry Epstein Billy’s older brother. (Apparently, Armisen shows up once a year in the series.)

As usual the episode opens with Kessler and Epstein complaining  about coffee houses that feature board games for “adults.”  It ends with Billy saying he has to watch his sister-in-law perform Yiddish poetry.

Arthur walks in on Julie masturbating to porn on the Internet. A truly funny scene with the sound of the vibrator grinding to a halt and Julie waiting for a split second after Arthur leaves to start again.  Things are awkward between the two later when she drops something off at  his office at PBS.

While she is there, Julie spies an empty office. She and Billy move in without checking with Arthur.  Julie’s mother is having issues with losing her patients. Marilyn drags her daughter  around New York to different museums.  They are attending them alphabetically.

Julie and Arthur take on one of Marilyn’s patient’s daughter’s, Ines (Mary Houlihan) as their intern. They team up on the kid and bully her relentlessly. Both explain about how she is paying her dues. 

Later Arthur and Julie share their interests in porn and end up having an argument. It seems that Arthur likes looking at women who resemble Julie and she likes to fantasize about NFL gang bangs.  They make up and Julie says they need to keep their porn kosher.

Billy tells his brother Gary (Armisen) that he should stand up to his wife and he does. After getting kicked out of the house, he moves in with Billy.  Unhappy, Billy goes to sleep in the empty office at PBS. Ines comes in and wakes him up.  As they talk an irate Ken Burns  comes in and kicks them both out of his office.

Marlyn is recruited to help get Gary and Rucchel  (Jackie Hoffmanback together again. She  intercedes at the poetry reading at Billy’s place of work. The two women get into an “excuse me” altercation with Marilyn finally getting the last “excuse me” in.

Rucchel complains that Gary never congratulated her for finishing college and while they diss her husband, he turns up and apologies. The couple get back together and Marilyn takes the credit.

Billy’s sister-on-law then reads her poem, “Dybbuk, Dybukk, Dybukk…” (Which rhymes with “Fib-buk.) The episode ends with Nate (Derrick Baskin) being recognized as “Blade Stallion” by Rucchel and Gary. 

Porn was the theme of this very Jewish episode.  Two jokes dealt with inappropriate sexual relations. The first was  a reference to an absence of 10 year olds: “Jared from Subway’s worst nightmare,” says Kessler in a brilliant aside. The second is Epstein snarling at Matthew (Cole Escola) “Why haven’t you drowned  in Bryan Singer‘s pool yet?”

The funniest scene in the entire episode has to be the “Conan” bit where Ines has no idea who Conan is, confusing him with James Cordon. “Is that supposed to be some kind of joke,” screams Kessler.  Very funny. Although Fred Armisen dancing was pretty darned  funny as well.

(Sidenote: Viewers who get the “Eve” reference should give themselves brownie points.)

Difficult People  has gotten so much funnier this season.  After a less than impressive first season, the show has reached new heights of humor. The series airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  Go and check out a show not afraid to poke fun at sex while keeping it kosher.

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