Haters Back Off: Napoleon Dynamite in a Skirt? (Review)

Miranda Sings

Netflix have gone to the YouTube well and dredged up one Colleen Ballinger, aka Miranda from the YouTube channel Miranda Sings.  The new series Haters Back Off features Ballinger as the untalented performer from the channel. 

The character comes across as a blend of Napoleon Dynamite in a skirt and a demented Pee Wee Herman.  While Ballinger is wildly popular on YouTube, her Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” pastiche has well over 54 million views, the series may prove to be less so.

A certain amount of fans may follow “Miranda” over from the Google owned video streaming  site.  She does have just over seven million subscribers after all.  However watching the videos, which are mostly under two minutes in duration and feature only Miranda, is a a completely different prospect from sitting through 32 minutes of so called entertainment.

Do not misunderstand, there are funny bits in the initial episode. However, anyone who is not a “Miranda Sings” fan will be hard pressed to really enjoy the performances.

The Netflix series gives faces, and voices, to Miranda’s family and provides some sort of plot rather than just  comedic videos of a performer who cannot sing, dance or, apparently, act.

Haters Back Off really does feel like an escapee from the Napoleon Dynamite universe. (“Your mom goes to college.”) But Napoleon for all his social ineptitude could dance and it made the character endearing.

Miranda, with her Mick Jagger lipstick style and screeching, overly loud speaking voice does feel more Pee Wee Herman than Napoleon.  The male teenaged protagonist was actually likable rather than mind mumblingly annoying like Miranda.

The YouTube videos are funny and popular, the smallest amount of views on any of Ballinger’s uploads are around the two million mark. They do not appeal to everyone, although many are very, very funny. Her appeal may be more with millennials rather than older YouTube users.

Haters Back Off shows the “rise” of Miranda’s YouTube career. The determined wannabe famous performer has her own cheering section. Her uncle and mother believe in their tone deaf relative while sister Emily is just embarrassed by the whole thing.

Miranda’s uncle Jim helps his niece to work on her YouTube career  and has her shoot a commercial at his place of work.  With all the hot lights and repeated takes, Jim kills every fish in the place with the exception of a bagged goldfish.

Jim is, unsurprisingly, fired. He declares that this will allow him to manage Miranda Sings’ career full-time.

The series is annoyingly simplistic in its delivery and the characters, with the exception of Emily, are all two dimensional and thick as two planks. Clearly the younger sister in the family was adopted.

Haters Back Off  has attempted take a minute and a half of YouTube comedy and stretch it by 30 minutes.  It needs work to bring it off successfully however. Having just watched the pilot episode mere minutes ago it is difficult to remember one single “gut busting” comedic moment.

Netflix launched the new series on 14 October. All eight  episodes are available to stream in one sitting, or two. The episodes may get better as the series progresses. Certainly Ballinger is funny on YouTube but the stretch to a half hour puts pressure on the comedy and her performance.

To see just how funny Colleen is away from Haters Back Off check out her Taylor Swift:


The Grinder: The Olyphant in the Room (Recap & Review)

The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.


The Grinder makes a triumphant return after a mid-season break with its  first episode of 2016 in The Olyphant in the Room.  After the standard opening where Stew does not get yet another plot line behind a Grinder episode, the real lawyer reveals that a reporter will be doing an article about him and the family law firm he runs.

After his kids express amazement that the reporter will not be writing about Dean,  the former “Grinder” star finds Timothy Olyphant kissing Claire in his, Dean’s, parking spot at the law firm.  It also transpires that his TV replacement is staying with the object of Dean’s devotion at the weekends.

As with other episodes, Dean uses the premise of the clip shown at the start of the episode, to “help” Stewart on his latest case.  Stew begins trying to bring the focus back on real law versus the type that Dean practices.  Of course the ulterior motive behind Dean’s offer of help, is to pry Claire away from the new “Grinder” Olyphant.

The reporter, Neal (Rob Yang) follows Stew (Fred Savage) everywhere but writes mainly, it seems, about Dean (Rob Lowe). Debbie learns that Neal is actually writing a “smear” piece about the famous brother. Stewart then tries to practice some damage control to protect his somewhat delusional sibling.

Dean, in keeping with his lack of real focus, decides that Olyphant is the one throwing bricks through SUV windshields at Boise dealerships. He plans to stake out the only dealership not hit by the brick thrower and asks Claire to participate in order to keep her away from Olyphant. (Getting Claire away from Timothy is the real reason behind Dean suspecting his replacement as the brick thrower.)

Dean going all “Grinder” on Timothy Olyphant…

As part of his master plan, Dean pulls in a favor from Jimmy Kimmel  (who plays himself, as does Olyphant) and while on the ABC talkshow, Dean asks Jimmy if Timothy has ever been a guest. When Kimmel replies no, Claire proves that she does not just let the air out of Dean Sanderson by digging at Olyphant when he protests about the Kimmel remark.

Meanwhile, the “delusional” side of Dean is made apparent when he “calls out” the Boise brick throwing vandal on national television.  Claire takes Timothy on the “stakeout” with her, foiling Dean’s plan. Stewart tells Neal he knows what the reporter is really doing and after standing up for his brother, he instructs the Neal to write what he wants and to get out of the SUV.

By the end of the episode, Stewart is made to look very good and Dean made to look completely delusional.  Olyphant is shown to be just as “ungrounded” as Sanderson, but that the actor will not be leaving anytime soon.

Sidenote: Jimmy Kimmel has been busy lately. With his (very funny) cameo upcoming on ABC’s The Real O’Neals and now playing himself yet again on FOX’s The Grinder, Kimmel is delightfully spreading his wings and becoming even more of a household name. 

It bears mentioning that Timothy Olyphant is very adept at;  a) comedy and b) making fun of his image and profession. As a “long term” guest star, or late addition to the main cast, Olyphant is keeping his presence alive on television  after the end of Justified (Another FOX production).

Olyphant “grinding” it in…

Sadly, there was little of the two “kids” on show this week with Hana Hayes and Konnor Kalopsis (who play Stew and Debbie’s offspring Lizzie and Ethan) only there to promote their hero worship of Uncle Dean. (Although Lizzie does seem a little less enamored of the famous former TV lawyer…)  Mary Elizabeth Ellis as wife Debbie is used as a major plot device, she finds out about Neal’s nefarious plans to smear Dean, and William Devane maintains his usual level of  presence. 

As the season progresses, all  of the ensemble cast have settled into their roles with ease.   Apart from the Sanderson family, the law firm’s members have hit their stride as well.  Natalie Morales, as Claire, is brilliant as the “down to earth” lawyer who, despite being attracted to, and having a fling with, Timothy Olyphant is not above shoving a pin in his ego as well.

Steve Little, as Todd, has established that his character is the sycophantic hero-worshipping dullard who may mean well, but does not have the capability to do so.

FOX have a truly funny sitcom in The Grinder, along with the perfect double act with Savage and Lowe as the “Brothers Sanderson.” In fact the entire cast fit their parts like  well tailored  gloves and all help to bring the laughs to an appreciative audience.

Thus far, FOX have greenlit a “back nine” set of episodes to round out the first season of The Grinder. Pulling in around 2.2 million [sic] viewers for each episode the show may not be a shoe-in for a second season, but if there is any justice in TV land, it will be back after this one ends.

Stew and Debbie, the perfect couple…

The Grinder airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune and and enjoy the fun.


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