Why Community is the perfect show to binge watch

community tv cast study group greendale 6 nbc joel mchale donald glover alison brie gillian jacobs danny pudi ken jeong chevy chase jim hale yvette nicole brown dan harmon

There’s one chief reason why Community is the best show to binge watch. It’s because it’s so rarely the same show twice.

Community has always been a show that was unparalleled in terms of breadth and ambition – a genuine work of postmodern genius, with episodes flitting between musicals, lovingly crafted stop motion stories, and intelligently crafted movie homages. If you talk to any fan of Community and ask them their favourite episode – perhaps the chicken wings Mafia story, or the episode comprised solely of flashbacks, or maybe one of the infamous paintball specials – the only guarantee is that it’s going to be something unique.

Today’s Yahoo article is about binge-watching, and why Community – a show I dearly love – is perfect for it.

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BBC One to adapt Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses

Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman Noughts and Crosses Levi David Addai and Matthew Graham Vivian Oparah bbc one tv adaptation

If you’ve never read it, you absolutely must; Noughts and Crosses is a rather nuanced and thoughtful YA story about racism and prejudice, with a very clever ‘twist’; the society depicted is one wherein black ‘Crosses’ are the ruling classes, who previously enslaved the white ‘Noughts’, who are now second class citizens. This allows for a subtle, clever representation of racism, with several strongly drawn characters, and an emotionally compelling plot. The book was met with particular acclaim, and has been the subject of a radio adaptation in 2012, as well as a play toured by the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring Richard Madden and Ony Uhiara in 2008.

Now, then, it’s going to be a television series. While there isn’t yet word on the length of the series, or exactly when it will air, the two writers in charge of the adaptation have been announced: Levi David Addai and Matthew Graham. Levi David Addai is an accomplished playwright, having written plays such as I Have A Dream and Oxford Street, as well as being nominated for an Olivier award in 2009 and winning the Alfred Fagon award in 2011. His most prominent television credit is E4’s Youngers, but a look at his CV reveals several drama awards and nominations across the years. Matthew Graham is similar accomplished, known for Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, and episodes of Doctor Who under both David Tennant and Matt Smith; interestingly, it was also recently revealed that Graham was tapped to write for a Star Wars television show, and worked closely with George Lucas for several months.

Some very exciting news here, as the BBC will be adapting Malorie Blackman’s rather fantastic YA novel for television. Very exciting!

(Haven’t heard any news about this since then. I know Vivian Oparah wanted to be in it, that’d be pretty neat.)

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Internaut Day: Championing the Digital Age

internet internaut day digital age connected binary

I have a quote here, from a teachers’ association in 1815, which says “Students today depend upon paper too much”. It says they can’t use their chalkboards correctly; when they try and clean them, they get chalk dust everywhere.

And then I have another quote, here, this time from 1907, that says students depend too much on ink. By 1929 – just twelve years later – the problem has become store bought ink, because students won’t be able to make their own ink.

In 1941, the problem was fountain pens. Nine years later, the problem was ballpoint pens – biros, just like this. A huge impediment, according to teachers across the country. But obviously now they’re essential – no one’s going to seriously make a case that biros challenge our fundamental values, which is what they were saying in 1950.

Now, you can track this back all throughout history. I’m sure if you go back far enough, you’d find someone, somewhere, bemoaning the fact that the kids didn’t know their hieroglyphs well enough, and they were learning all that fancy Latin.

People resist change. They always have – and perhaps maybe always will.

We’ve reached the point, though, where it’s not the biro which is the focus of people’s ire, but rather digital technology. Computers, smartphones, iPads.

And, crucially, the internet.

The internet gets a pretty bad rep, as it goes. I think that’s largely based in ignorance – the majority of people have this ridiculous image of the neckbeard guy. You know the one? Slightly overweight, lives in his mother’s basement, wears an egg stained jumper, deathly pale, it’s dark and the only light comes from the screen, and he’s probably wearing a fedora or some such similar too. And he has a beard on his neck, hence the moniker.

Or maybe they’re thinking of the creepy pervert, sat stalking kids, somehow finding out their address and popping round in a white van, ready to whisk them away, and groom them or something like that.

Or, even more likely, perhaps people don’t even have these preconceptions, because they’re not even at that level – they can barely open a web page, let alone make wild stereotypical claims.

Now, it’d be naïve to suggest these people don’t exist, and that’s not what I’m here to say. But it is an inaccurate idea. It’s nothing more than a ridiculous stereotype that’s been popularised because people use it as the punchline for cheap jokes.

The digital age is more than that cheap joke, and deserves to be championed, and to be celebrated.

Everyone knows about Wikipedia, right? I’m sure everyone here has checked it at some point. Did you know it has over 5 million articles? And that’s just the English-language version – Wikipedia exists in nearly 300 hundred different languages. I think it’s brilliant, personally speaking – it’s made knowledge accessible to the masses, and truly democratised information. That’s a huge step forward, the sort that cannot be understated – not just in terms of the last minute homework, but honestly, genuinely, in terms of our social and cultural development as a species.

As much as I love Wikipedia, I fully recognise its limitations – it is, after all, just an encyclopaedia. It’s a repository of knowledge and information, but not necessarily of learning.

So isn’t it rather wonderful that places like Harvard and Yale and other top universities across the globe are beginning to offer courses online, for free, through websites like edX? Huge range of courses you can take through that website, linked to all sorts of different topics – architecture, literature, programming, ethics. I actually took a course on the History of Superheroes a while ago, which was being run through the Smithsonian, with input from Stan Lee himself.

Equally, another website you might have heard of is Khan Academy, which works on a pretty similar basis. Alternatively, you might have heard of TED Talks – the internet contains recordings of hundreds of these talks, all linked to different subject matters, given by all manner of people.

Knowledge and information and education is transcending boundaries of class, culture and country, all through the power of the internet. This is something that would have been impossible a hundred years ago! It would have been impossible ten years ago!

Another great thing, of course, is the fact that as well as having information on these myriad subjects, the internet has people interested in those subjects. The internet creates and forges communities, bringing people together through their common interests.

If you’re interested in reptiles, there’s a community discussing reptiles online. If you’re interested in rugby, there’s a community discussing reptiles online. Adam Sandler films. Trevor Noah’s standup. Art. Trees, even! It’s not just the refrain of “nerd” interests, like Doctor Who – although they exist as well, and I know, given that I’m a member of about 5 such forums.

No one is alone on the internet. There is always someone who is going to share interests with you – friendly, kind people, who are just as passionate about these topics as you are. It’s a forum to share things. I personally have made friends through the internet – Tom, and Ethan, and a different Tom, and Conrad, and Rihanna. Not the Rihanna, of course, but with the level of connectivity we’ve got today, there’s little stopping you from interacting with your favourite celebrities.

For many people, though, these communities become something much more important. It’s not just about discussing Gibson guitars or Homestuck or Stanley Kubrick movies, but finding people who understand you, and whom you can be yourself with. Lots of individuals in GSRM communities – that’s Gender, Sexual and Romantic Minorities – are able to find solace and forge lasting relationships over the internet, because they have the freedom and the liberation to be who they are. You may have heard of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who committed suicide last year because her parents refused to acknowledge or accept her gender identity. For her, the internet, and the friends she made on the internet – in this instance, it was the website tumblr specifically – were the only people who genuinely treated her with kindness and respect. They were close and meaningful relationships.

That’s not the only way internet broke down boundaries, and united people. In 2008, in Columbia, 10 million people marched, demonstrating against the guerrilla fights, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia – and that had all been arranged through a facebook group. Over the past few years, Twitter has been used to organise all manner of protests as well – #BlackLivesMatter, anyone? The ability to communicate and spread information in such a way has revolutionised every facet of our lives, and it lets us do great things – topple corrupt regimes, shed light on institutional racism… and online shopping as well.

I hope now, having heard this, you’re a little more aware of the successes of the internet, and of the digital age that we live in. Personally, I count myself very lucky to live in a time when this sort of resource exists – like I’ve said already, I genuinely believe that the internet is a force for good that has immeasurably improved the human species, culturally and socially.

This was something I wrote as part of a public speaking competition a few years ago. I lost, obviously. Misjudged the timing of the delivery somewhat. However, I’m still quite fond of it; today seemed an appropriate time to post it, given that it’s ‘Internaut Day’, the 25th anniversary of when the public could first access the World Wide Web. 

Happy Internaut Day, everybody. Here’s to the next 25 years.

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Why Supergirl merging universes with Arrow & The Flash would be a mistake

supergirl arrow the flash lefends of tomorrow heatwave firestorm the atom melissa benoist stephen amell grant gustin all shows the cw dc tv

The DC comics that these television shows draw on as source material has a history of “Crisis” events, wherein different universes are split apart from one another or merged together; typically, it’s an attempt to streamline continuity, although it’s debatable as to whether or not it really does make things simpler. As such, then, there are a vocal group who are clamouring for a similar such event to occur now, moving Supergirl into the same reality as The Flash and Arrow, positing that the slated crossover special should be used to reset Supergirl, and essentially reboot it to better fit with the other superhero programmes currently airing on the CW.

To my mind, though, this would be quite the mistake – both in terms of the story, but also from a business point of view.

Despite now being in a position where it has to move networks, Supergirl’s viewership on CBS did in fact far outstrip the ratings that The Flash maintains on the CW; this is, of course, because CBS itself has a far wider reach than the CW, but it’s also a certainty that the CW is hoping that a large number of these viewers follow the show to the CW. It makes little sense, then, to try and change what is essentially the more popular show to ‘fit’ the more niche one – why would the CW consciously alienate the fans they’re trying to attract?

A new Yahoo article from me, all about why I think a Supergirl reboot to fit in with Arrow and The Flash is, essentially, a terrible idea.

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Film Trailer Thoughts | Arrival (2016)

arrival amy adams forrest whittaker jeremy renner denis villeneuve trailer thoughts

So, this looks pretty great, doesn’t it?

Obviously, I love science fiction movies, but those that are of particular interest to me are the movies that focus on first contact scenarios, and treat them in a “realistic” fashion. Of course, there’s only so realistic one can be with an alien movie, but I do think this is a really fascinating starting point – to look at how a first contact scenario would affect geopolitics, how we would try to communicate, and so on and so forth. I can’t call to mind a single sci-fi movie that focuses on a linguist to this extent, actually, That’s got me really excited for this movie. (I’m aware this is based on a short story, but I think I’ll wait until after the movie has come out to read it – spoilers and suchlike.)

It also helps, of course, that you’ve got a great cast of actors here. I’m quite fond of Adams, Renner and Whitaker in their other movies, so I’m interested to see what they do with this movie, and how they work together. It’s also nice to see that Amy Adams is in the lead role; always good when a sci-fi movie has a female lead, and she’s definitely talented enough to anchor the movie. There’s also the fact that this movie shares a director with Sicario, and although I’ve not seen that, it’s been quite highly acclaimed – so that also catches my interest about this movie.

All in all, then, I’m really looking forward to this. At times it feels like we’re lacking in good, original sci-fi movies these days, so I’m really glad to see that we’re going to be getting a movie that looks quite outside the box.

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Making a House a Holmes

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Of course, though, House is also a riff on Sherlock Holmes. Consider his impressive deductive powers; where Holmes applies this skill to catching criminals, House applies it to diagnosing diseases. House’s entire process of a differential diagnoses is quite similar to Holmes’ famous method of deduction – once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.

There’s plenty of little links and references dotted throughout the series, though; our good doctor in House also lives at 221B, after all – the infamous address of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Further, when House is shot at the end of the second series, the shooter is named in the credits as “Moriarty”; the Napoleon of crime who was involved in the almost death of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, now immortalised forever as Holmes’ greatest enemy. Even Irene Adler gets a namecheck in the fourth season’s Christmas episode, and in another yuletide special, we see Wilson gift House a “first edition Conan Doyle” book.

My latest post for Yahoo TV, discussing the links between the good detective, and the good Doctor as well.

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Film Review | Suicide Squad (2016)

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Normal is just a setting on a dryer.

DC and Warner Brothers are in the interesting position that Batman vs Superman is no longer the consensus worst movie of their cinematic universe. Considering quite how bad it was, and how little time has passed since Batman vs Superman, that is not an enviable position to be in.

Personally speaking, I actually didn’t think that Suicide Squad was as bad as Batman vs Superman – to be honest, I think it’s probably the best of the three DCEU movies that currently exist. Don’t mistake this for it being a good movie in its own right, mind you, because it isn’t.

I don’t know, necessarily, that there’s a great deal of value in reviewing Suicide Squad, per se; it was, broadly speaking, pretty much exactly what I expected it to be a few weeks ago. This is, after all, a movie with lines like “Normal is just a setting on a dryer”, and thinks that a pink unicorn fetish is a hilarious running joke – you can sort of tell what it’s going to be like just from that, really. Will Smith was always going to be the best part, because he’s Will Smith; we knew that Harley Quinn was going to be overly sexualised, although we could perhaps have hoped for a little more depth to the character; we knew that the majority of the squad would simply be one note background characters. It’s all in the trailers, when it comes down to it; in some ways, that’s quite ironic, given the complaints about Batman vs Superman.

Interestingly, though, that perhaps wasn’t always the case.

Recently it’s emerged that Suicide Squad had quite a difficult development period. The script was written in 6 weeks – it was basically a first draft – and towards the end of the editing phase, the studio began to get cold feet, and edited together a new version, distinct from the cut put together by David Ayer. Both were shown to test audiences, and then the final version which went to cinemas – the version you and I would have seen – was a Frankenstein-esque mishmash of both editions. The Hollywood Reporter went into a lot of detail about the whole thing, and I reckon it’s really worth a read. What’s crucial, though, is that the new version commissioned was edited together by the people who edited the trailer; that’s perhaps why, despite all conventional wisdom warning against it, the movie begins with what is essentially an extended, forty-minute version of the trailers. It’s only when the movie tries to be a film on its own terms that it began to become (somewhat) entertaining.

In fairness, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the extended trailer nature of the movie’s opening. It was exposition heavy, and they used a new generic song for every camera angle change, and also those character card exposition pieces were… well, I admire Suicide Squad for trying to be different, even if it didn’t necessarily work. We’ll be charitable and call it a “worthwhile experiment”, even if realistically it’s all stuff that should have been clamped down on in the edit.

That, I think, is the main problem with this movie. It’s incohesive and quite lacking in any central vision. Honestly, I’m reminded of what I said about Batman vs Superman – it’s just a painfully reactionary movie. Watching Suicide Squad, I can’t say I feel as though any of the creative decisions were genuinely made on their own merit; the film was clearly conceived of because of Guardians of the Galaxy (note the August release, the misfit ensemble, and the incorporation of popular music) and then influenced further by the “fun” of Deadpool, and of course still failing to replicate the darkness of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Undoubtedly, of course, there are original ideas and concepts in here, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty clear that Suicide Squad is a cynical, soulless cash grab.

But what’s also interesting, though, is the defence that the cast members have been making of the film, in the face of the critical consensus. Thankfully they weren’t deluded enough to suggest that these critics had a personal vendetta against DC movies, or that they were being bought off by Marvel, but what they came out with was pretty poor.

“We’re making this movie for the fans.”

And isn’t that interesting? I mean, it’s being presented as an admirable thing, but it’s really not. To cater to a particularly small group of people is far from wise; you have to make movies accessible for the other 100% of the audience. It is, in many ways, shutting a large portion of the audience out entirely – “it’s not for you”.

This really stunts the movie, to be honest; to appreciate a lot of the nuance (a kind word to apply to Suicide Squad, frankly, and also quite the overstatement) you need to have an existing understanding of the characters. Little of this movie is able to standalone, really – given the sheer lack of development for so many of the characters, you need to be able to fill in the gaps with your own knowledge. Take Katana; she’s introduced with little build up, and a quick accompanying flashback to contextualise who she is. But we never learn more about her than a short bit about her husband, and thus after that she’s just quite vacuous – an empty space where an emotional arc should be. (I was reminded a lot of a tweet I saw about Daredevil, which said “imagine a japanese tv show in which someone investigating a corrupt american corporation is attacked by droves of lasso-wielding cowboys” – most, if not all, of the characters in this movie were pretty base level stereotypes. You can argue that a lot of that is part of the original conception of the characters from the comics, but I think it’s difficult to argue that the movie made any effort to give these characters any particular depth in and of itself.)

To consider this anything other than a problem is, frankly, quite ignorant; you can’t treat every character like Batman and expect the audience to just know how they work and who they are. Someone like Katana, if they’re to operate as an actual character rather than a prop for action sequences, needs to have some sort of focus, and some sort of development. There was nothing, though; I don’t know if this is because they were just coasting, or if they really only did want Katana as a prop for action sequences, but either way it’s quite poor. The same is true of several of the characters; it’s ultimately the “Deadshot, Harley and Rick Flag” movie, with Amanda Waller and Diablo acting as secondary protagonists. Everyone other character was, sadly, quite flat and one dimensional.

Ultimately, it’s not a very good movie. It’s not a terrible movie; the second act is pretty good, and the opening is at least interesting, I guess. There’s a lot to dislike; there’s a few bits to like, as I mentioned earlier. Little about this film inspires much confidence, admittedly – “better than the last two” is not the sort of resounding hit that DC/WB needs. Both Wonder Woman and Justice League will need to be stellar, frankly.

And I genuinely hope they will be.



Is Batman vs Superman relevant?

Suicide Squad, Edgy Teens, and a Pink Unicorn Fetish

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Bryan Fuller confirms female lead, gay character, and prequel setting for Star Trek: Discovery


Excitingly, one of the first things that Fuller confirmed was a human female lead; interestingly, however, it’s been said confirmed by Fuller that she will not be a Captain, but rather a lieutenant commander “with caveats”. The intention is to provide a different point of view from prior Star Trek series, given that the previous iterations have been from the perspective of the Captain. This female lead is yet to be cast, with shooting still two months away; Fuller has, in the past, stated that casting for Discovery will be ‘colour blind’, and as such our new lead may be of any race. Rather excitingly, Fuller has also said there will “absolutely” be a gay character, thus breaking new ground for televised Star Trek.

The show is going to be set 10 years before The Original Series; it’s another prequel series, much like Enterprise before it, although far closer in time to the original Star Trek. In setting the show so closely to the original, it means that Discovery is able to “play with all the iconography of those ships and those uniforms.” It won’t just be the ships and the uniforms, though, with one returning character having been brought up in discussion – Spock’s mother, Amanda Greyson. Rather obliquely, Fuller has suggested that Discovery will depict an event in Starfleet history that has “never been explored”; several guesses as to what this unexplored event is have been ruled out, such as the Romulan War, and it currently remains a guarded secret. This event was, however, confirmed to be referenced on The Original Series, so get ready for plenty of speculation. 

I’ve been up for the past few hours writing this article about the new Star Trek series; you can click on the above to be linked to the full piece, which has a lot more detail about the nature of the series, and what we can expect to see.

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Film Review | Inequality for All (2013)

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We make the rules of the economy – and we have the power to change those rules.

This is a documentary by Robert Reich – more on whom later – about inequality in the United States. Having lived in London for my entire life, that was a little bit outside my general knowledge base, but I can’t say that particularly mattered. One of the best things about this documentary was how accessible it was; I was watching it as part of an Economics class, so obviously that helped, but I do think that this particular documentary is likely to be quite easy to get into even without a background in those sorts of details. It’s a very coherent, very cogent piece – it’s structured around Reich, who’s now a professor of economics, giving explanations of different concepts, and then cutting away to first hand footage and testimonials that are relevant to the idea and further expound upon it. There’s also segments from lectures that Reich gives at the University of California, which are in and of themselves quite informative, as well as being quite well presented – a particularly notable segment breaking down the economics of an iPhone comes to mind.

Inequality for All takes quite a left-wing perspective – understandable, I imagine, given that Reich is a former democrat, and in recent years a vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders. In terms of the general message, the stance is quite clear; Reich feels that inequality is one of the biggest problems facing the US today, and has been trying to deal with it for nearly 30 years now. Some of the facts are quite galling, actually – the US is close to being the most wealth unequal country in the world, for example, with the poorest 47% of Americans having no wealth at all. (You can read more on the film’s website, if you’re interested.) He makes a strong and quite well substantiated case that the concept of “trickle-down economics”, with a focus on the super-rich rather than the working and middle classes, is fundamentally flawed; an interview with one such super-rich individual highlights the fact that, since he mostly saves money and actually spends little, that’s essentially a withdrawal of money from the economy. It’s far better, in a broader sense, to have a flourishing working and middle class, given that they will spend money and thus help the economy to grow.

Having said that, I don’t think that this movie does particularly lambast or deal an unfair hand to more right wing economic views. It’s very clear than Reich disagrees with them, as does the director; an IMDb review cites him as saying “there always doesn’t have to be two sides to a story”, essentially taking the stance that all the facts within the movie are presented accurately, and that’s enough in and of itself. Equally, though, the movie takes time to deal with those it criticises (the aforementioned super-rich), as well as presenting the story of some Republican voters who have been hurt by those right wing economic policies – individuals who remain Republic voters, that is. While I imagine they wouldn’t agree with Reich’s ideology, there’s no sense that they’ve been treated unfairly, or that they’re being criticised. Indeed, you see something of a debate between they and he, with footage of a talk Reich gave in their community.

To an extent, it also doubles as a profile on Robert Reich, who’s a very interesting person himself. As Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of Labour, he’s been involved in politics at a pretty high level for quite a long time; even before that, though, he’d began working for the government during the Carter administration. We get a lot of insight into what drives Reich as a person, and why he does dedicate his life to trying to “fight the bullies, to protect the powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice”. He presents himself quite well – certainly he looks to be a very good lecturer and teacher – and it’s also abundantly clear he’s got a brilliant sense of humour. Reich is under five foot tall, and there’s plenty of jokes surrounding that; there’s a clip from his inaugural speech when appointed Secretary of Labour, for example, where he opens the speech with something along the lines of “All modesty aside, somehow I always knew I’d be on Bill Clinton’s short list for Secretary of Labour”. He also presented an economics based television programme with a tall Republican friend of his called “The Long and Short of it”. I found it quite funny, in any case, but I’m easily amused.

Ultimately, Inequality for All is one of the most informative, and indeed most engaging, documentaries that I’ve watched in a long time. True, I’m drawing from a limited sample size there, but this is undoubtedly a very good piece of media; I think if you live in America, or you’re interested in politics & economics, this should be required viewing.



Film Review: Money Monster (2016)

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The Top 5 Songs of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 1

Crazy Ex Girlfriend season 1 best songs rachel bloom adam schlesinger aline brosh mckenna the cw sexy getting ready song

I first watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when it was added to the UK Netflix selection earlier this year; I was immediately taken not just by the eclectic cast of characters or the keen sense of humour, but also by the musical element. Each episode features two entirely new songs, and across the season there was a whole host of different genres, styles and homages on display. The songs are a real testament to the skill of Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s star and executive producer, as well as Adam Schlesinger, the series’ executive music producer.

Each song is more than just a joke, but also functions as an important character moment. My selections reflect that, and indeed reflect quite how talented Rachel Bloom (and indeed the rest of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team) really are; to be able to consistently write creative and hilarious songs like this takes a lot of skill, and it’s clear that they all have it in spades.

Today’s first Yahoo article is a list of my five favourite songs from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom’s brilliant CW show which I watched recently. It was fantastic, albeit quite frustrating – at some point soon, ahead of the second season, I’m going to have a write a more detailed post about the series, because there’s a lot of clever stuff going on in it.

Incidentally, one honourable mention for favourite songs is California Christmastime, which I really love.

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