Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grab bag: Pufferfish, TV, good writing

Another reason to like David Owen's Franz "Pufferfish" Heineken:

"`So, Rafe,' Walter says when we're all seated. `Do you want to talk to the Bellyard affair?'

"And that's another thing that gets my goat, Walter's shameless use of corporate speak. I hope he asks me to talk to Rory Stillrock, because I'll reply I can't, the poor bastard's dead."

That's an amusing line with a righteous target. I should add, too, that while crime fiction offers plenty of acerbic protagonists and plenty of introspective protagonists and quite a number of funny protagonists, Pufferfish is among the few who are all three. The Pufferfish novels are: Pig's Head (1994), X and Y (1995), A Second Hand (1995), The Devil Taker (1997), No Weather For a Burial (2010), and the new How the Dead See.
*
In one episode of The Thick of It, a civil servant catches a government minister in a lie, the minister tries to deflect the accusation, and the following exchange ensues:
"Are you inferring that I—"

"Implying."
Misuse of infer for imply has long been a common mistake, and correcting it can get a copy editor in trouble. I loved the exchange.
*
As good as the actors are on The Thick of It, the show has me thinking about writing.

Discussion here at Detectives Beyond Borders and on Adrian McKinty's blog, which introduced me to show, has elicited comparisons with celebrated television comedies of recent years, including Seinfeld.

What made Seinfeld the show that it was? Look at the post-Seinfeld television careers of some of that show's principals. Jason Alexander, who played George, and Michael Richards, who played Kramer, each starred in a show shunned by viewers and panned by critics as among the worst ever. Series co-creator Larry David, on the other hand, went on to make the excellent Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Conclusion? Writing matters. Maybe that's why another Seinfeld cast member, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. chose a show with a distinguished writing team behind it for her latest TV series: Veep, created by Armando Iannucci, who also created The Thick of It.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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11 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Veep has the writers but they seem at sea in the milieu and they've also lost their nerve a bit. Veep lacks energy because they didnt invent a Malcolm figure which is bizarre because DC is or was full of them: Rahm Immanuel, Dick Cheney, John Bolton etc. A really inspired bit of casting would have been to have a Barney Frank type figure: a caustic, funny, tough, openly gay, very smart, enforcer of the party line. That would have mixed things up nicely.

Also would have helped to have at least one women writer on the staff to write material for JL Dreyfus. Seinfeld always did.

May 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I’ll have to watch a bit more of “Veep” and compare its writing and production staffs with those of “The Thick of It.” I wonder if, despite all the talk about mistrust of politicians, Americans respect their politicians too much to make fun of them. Or maybe “True Colors” was as far as Americans would go in that direction.

May 13, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yes thats true. Americans, like Australians (but unlike the English or the Irish) don't like to hear criticisms of their country by outsiders. I'm not sure why that is.

There was a nice review of Seinfeld's stand up in Birmingham in the Guardian last week: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/may/12/jerry-seinfeld-review-comedy

The writer correctly pointed out that there's nothing people from Birmingham enjoy more that talking shit about Birmingham. You couldn't get away with that in Melbourne.

May 13, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One of the first Australian crime writers I read was Shane Maloney, whose protagonist is in the Labour Party but who shits all over Labour and Liberal equally -- a bit like "The Thick of It." Well, not really. Maloney’s Murray Whelan is far more partisan.

I saw Seinfeld's stand-up act years ago, right after his TV show started but maybe even before it had jumped to a network (didn't it begin life on cable?) I had a friend who was on the Seinfeld bandwagon from the start and who came down from Montreal to see the show. I thought he was -- mneh, full of everyday observations that were mildly amusing at best. I do remember one pretty good line that achieved the zany off-handedness he probably tried for in the rest of act, something about women's bathrooms: "There's a door marked `women' and women come out of it all day. I could get with that."

Now that I've shat all over Jerry Seinfeld, I won't alienate you any further by telling you my reaction to the first twenty-seven minutes of "The Big Lebowski," which I'm watching now.

May 13, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Stop the tape. Go outside. Find a youth. Score some pot. Smoke a fatty. Chill. Rewind the tape and watch. Its like dropping acid and watching 2001 A Space Odyssey. You dont have to do it, but it can help.

May 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I could walk down the block and have a beer.

May 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My first choice, by the way, was "Yes, Minister," for obvious reasons, but Netflix doesn't have it available for streaming.

TBL is a good crime story so thickly encrusted with mannerisms that it would probably take a good half ounce just to begin chipping it all away.

May 14, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Americans, like Australians (but unlike the English or the Irish) don't like to hear criticisms of their country by outsiders. I'm not sure why that is.

Adrian, I think it's because we are young, immature, and emotionally insecure nations. More dimestore psychology: high self-esteem + low confidence.

May 14, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How do the French feel about criticism of France by non-Frenchmen?

May 14, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I think they ignore it completely; pretend it doesn't exist. The French are too self-absorbed to even wonder or care about what others think. When you think you speak the world's most perfect tongue, you don't care to sully your mind reading the criticisms of non-French writers.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They're apt to turn a brooding, self-critical eye on themselves, though, at least since 1968.

May 15, 2012  

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