There are probably some of you who dig the home-shopping channels. Whether you watch them for fun and amazement at the goods peddled, or you’ve actually made a purchase or two for your aunts and cousins, it’s an arena with an otherworldly strangeness. The ceaseless patter, the attempts to hypnotize you into buying something, possibly in the middle of the night when you’re so addled you just give in. Hey, no judgment here.
I Love That for You (streams on Crave, new episodes Sundays, 8:30 p.m.) is, in part, a workplace sitcom set at shopping channel Special Value Network (SVN). As such, it’s a tight, tart comedy sending up the egos of the on-air hosts and mocking the greed of an outlet that sells gimcrackery with deeply serious intent. It’s both plausible and acid-toned.
The series is more than that, mind you. It’s sort-of cringe comedy about a needy, annoying and spectacularly vulnerable woman. That’s Joanna Gold (Vanessa Bayer, who was on Saturday Night Live from 2010 to 2017), a figure with a fiercely awkward backstory. See, when Joanna was a kid, she had leukemia and spent ages in hospital. She recovered and is now fine in her thirties. But she never grew out of being that coddled kid getting so much attention and sympathy. Her parents really protected her. And during those years in hospital, she became obsessed with the shopping channel SVN. As the series opens – there are three episodes available now – she’s just landed her dream job selling stuff on the TV channel.
Awkward but eager, anxious but bristling, she’s bad at it. But her ace is the cancer story, which she wields to her advantage, regrets and then is stuck with. Joanna is likeable in a strange way. She just hasn’t fully grown up and remains a bit lost. This makes for a heady concoction and Bayer must carry a lot, which she does well. As satire of home-shopping TV, it’s deadly, with well-drawn characters and a portrait of low-grade showbiz sharks who mostly loathe each other. Molly Shannon is excellent as the channel’s veteran sales star, Jackie, a woman addicted to her job, but with a soft underside.
Apart from Joanna, the breakout character here is Patty (Jenifer Lewis), the ultra-ruthless mogul who owns SVN and runs it with an iron fist. Sales and money are all that matter to her, and her asides about various male moguls she’s seduced are hilarious. She begins one of her pompous speeches about money with, “As my dear late friend Bernie Madoff used to say…” There’s so much going on in this briskly efficient comedy, from awkwardness to a deception story, to high-grade satire, it could be bewildering, but it works for me.
Also airing/streaming this weekend
Trigger Point (streams on CBC Gem) is a new and bonkers British police drama. It’s bonkers because it’s all wailing sirens, explosions and terse dialogue spat out by stock characters. Set in London’s Metropolitan Police bomb-disposal unit, it features a brave, cool bomb-disposal expert named Lana Washington (Vicky McClure from Line of Duty). Her sidekick in the dangerous work is Joel (Nut) Nutkins (Adrian Lester) with whom she served in Afghanistan. There are chases, many moments of overcooked tension and bombs exploding, especially in tower blocks where not very middle-class people live. If your taste runs to British police series featuring a lot of jargon, tension at the office and suspicion of foreigners, this could be wild fun for you. Six episodes, three available now on the free part of CBC Gem.
George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO, streams on Crave, Saturday, 8 p.m.) is a new, two-part documentary consideration of Carlin and his career. Made by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio, it’s about Carlin’s rise, fall, rise and rise again. It’s really a two-story documentary, with Carlin’s personal life discussed by his fiercely proud and protective daughter Kelly, who has a good eye for the telling detail. The other story is told by other comedians, including Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert, who marvel at Carlin’s ability to stay relevant and provocative.
Finally, The Hall: Honoring the Greats of Stand-Up (streams on Netflix) also features Carlin. Four contemporary comedians eulogize four who have passed away, and Jon Stewart gets very serious about Carlin as an artist. Chelsea Handler praises Joan Rivers, Dave Chappelle talks about Richard Pryor and John Mulaney tells us the comedy of Robin Williams did not come from a dark place of the soul. It’s all a bit laboured, with some funny bits.
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