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)

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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: Carter – Birdman (Review)

Difficult People Julie and Billy selling tickets

Difficult People “Carter”  starts off making a number of references to  television shows.  It moves into paying tribute to reality TV, “Real Housewives” no less and segues into a massive homage to (or a mickey take of)  the underwear scene in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

This episode was a scathing look at “tourist” theatre goers in the Big Apple. The show’s open has Julie and Billy handing out fliers for their “fringe” production “Swiftical the Musical.”

It is the New York Fringe Festival and these are touting their show. Two people queuing up for “Hamilton” tickets are told by Billy that Lin-Manuel Miranda has endorsed their show.

“Who’s Lin-Manuel Miranda?”

The female tourist asks this before repeating that they really want to see “Hamilton.” It is irony in its purest form. A jibe at the culturally illiterate who want to be part of the culturally astute without the knowledge.

As the pair continue to hand out leaflets, they celebrate their Jewishness by assuming the hayseeds lining up for Broadway tickets are all non-Jewish people who have never been near a Jew before.

A ticket tout comes up and asks the duo if they like comedy.  Billy gets the line of the night with his response:

“We used to, but now we do it.”

Julie and Billy’s show is a cat themed musical based around Taylor Swift. Swift serves the pair with an injunction banning them from putting on the show. They then decide, with some unacknowledged input from Arthur,  to just rename the show  “Carter.”

They  will keep all the melodies and rewrite the lyrics to reference former President Jimmy Carter. Matthew is fired and then hired. His response to each is to scream.

Marilyn “Gwyneth Paltrow’s” her way onto “The Real Housewives of New York City” as psychiatric consultant and ends up being part of the show.  “Carter” is sold out.

Denise and Nate are hurriedly preparing for 400 diners in their restaurant  and cannot watch Matthew in the play. While preparing vegetables they talk. Denise tells Nate that she wants to adopt. Nate suggests Matthew but Denise says he is too old.

“Carter” goes over fairly well, despite the audience leaving in dribs and drabs. Matthew’s entrance generates a small rush to the exit.  Marilyn brings the cameras, and two of the  “stars” of  “The Real Housewives of New York City” to the show.

The show within a show is funny.   Billy’s rapping is actually as impressive as it is amusing.  After the show Lin-Manuel Miranda comes in and tells Billy to remove his name from their fliers. (As part of a subplot thread involving Nate, Miranda apologizes for stealing his, Nate’s, rhyming book report in the fourth grade.)

Denise and Nate tell Matthew that they will be adopting a child and he does not take it well. Leaping up, the young man starts crying, “No,” and rushes out of the venue in his underwear.

The sight of Matthew blundering down Times Square to drums, in his tidy whities, was just brilliant. Not only was it funny but the clear allusion to “Birdman” was just perfect.

In the film  Michael Keaton is a former Hollywood star who is seeking to legitimize himself by performing on stage.  Julie and Billie are also seeking to legitimize themselves via the stage.  This could well be a series high for Difficult People. It seriously cannot get much better than a homage to Keaton’s Times Square “brief” walk.

Difficult People airs Tuesdays on Hulu.  This series  keeps on killing it each and every week. Catch this show and catch some clever comedy.

CAST:

 

Guest starring Lin-Manuel Miranda as himself, LuAnn de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan as themselves.

Difficult People: 36 Candles – Sharon Stone and Drunken Birthdays (Review)

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Difficult People “36 candles” continues to knock it out of the park in terms of comedy. Last week’s “special episode was hysterically funny, but this week sees the funny being provided “across the board.”  Billy with his DeNeil Tinder (Sean Phillips),  Arthur and his “manly” transformation and Julie’s  drunken birthday party are all high on the comedy chart.

We also learn what “Sharon Stoning” is.

Arthur accidentally scores on the basketball court providing his PBS team with what appears to be their only win.  He is instantly transformed into a “man’s man” and drinks brewskies while watching sports.  Arthur now sees himself as an athlete. Later in the show he volunteers himself as the most athletic member of Julie’s birthday party.

Billy finally meets “DeNeil Tinder” after carrying on an online “romance” for months.  The two hit it off brilliantly and later, after sex, they are caught out by Billy’s boss Denise (Gabourey Sidibe). DeNeil, it turns out, is Denise’ cousin.  She invites Billy to a meal with her two aunts. 

Billy is horrified to learn about the meal. He has issues with “feelings” and finally decides to “Sharon Stone it.” Sharon Stoning means to fake an emotion if you  cannot really feel it.

At the dinner, the two normally vicious women adore Billy and are supportive of his relationship with DeNeil. Denise is furious.

Eventually the two come unstuck when Billy becomes too “soppy” with his emotions. The breakup is helped by Matthew (Cole Escolargate crashing Julie’s party. He tells DeNeil that Billy was faking his feelings for him, in other words, he Sharon Stoned DeNeil.

Julie and her mother spend a day celebrating as a pre-birthday buildup to the actual day. The two women argue at first, Marilyn left a young Julie at Benihana’s and it scarred her for life.  Her mother argues she was only gone for a moment and she came back at once  when she realized what she had done.

The Kessler women eat at Marilyn’s country club and get a free spa day.  At the spa, they are given complimentary champagne as Chloë Sevigny has treated the entire American Horror Story cast to a spa day. Lady Gaga is not there.

The women get drunk on champagne and any ill feelings are left in the bottom of a champagne flute. Later they go put a paper bag of dog poo on an old adversary’s doorstep and set it alight.  They learn that the woman does not live there any longer and a complete stranger stomps the poo filled burning bag with her foot.

Marilyn takes Julie back to the scene of the year’s old crime, Benihana’s. Arthur, DeNeil, Billy, Julie and Marilyn are  there. As Julie’s mother begins a long rambling speech, she excuses herself. Julie goes to the restroom and throws up.

She meets her childhood idol Kate Pierson and gushingly tells the disinteresting celeb how much she meant to her growing up.  

Meanwhile, back at the table, Arthur gets up to cook some food and falls on the grill. DeNeil and Billy rush out because of Matthew and Marilyn scrapers when “dog poo” woman turns up and points her out.

Julie returns from the toilet to find everyone has gone and she is alone, “again.” Cue flashback sequences where  little Julie chucks away her party hat and sets at the table alone.

Having hated the first season of Difficult People it is hard to believe that now the antics and misfortunes of both Julie and Billy are unmissable.  Their close circle of family, friends and co-workers are addictive to say the least.
Matthew being angry that he now has to do deliveries rather than Billy and getting mugged by prepubescent children right outside the door was hysterically funny.  Even the trans waitress (Forgive us LGBTQ if we have wrongly identified this character. We know not what we do…) shouting out about no one else working at the diner was funny. *Normally she just irritates.*

While this episode was not as funny, overall, as “Patches” it came very close.  Everyone got a chance to be funny.  Even Denise’s two aunts, a clear homage to The Simpsons’ Patty and Selma, were funny.

Difficult People has become a Hulu classic that should not be missed.  The show airs Tuesdays on Hulu.

CAST:

Guest star –