Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Slings Arrows - Season 2|
Actors: Stephen Ouimette, Martha Burns, Paul Gross, Susan Coyne, David Alpay
Director: Peter Wellington
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television
"Absolutely addictive" ?The New York Times — "One of television?s best" ?San Francisco Chronicle — "Struts and frets . . . delightfully" ?Time In its second season, the smash hit Canadian comedy about a struggling Shakespear... more »
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Sure It's Sophisticated--But It's Darn Funny Too
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 09/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If anyone had told me a year ago that my favorite program on television would be a Canadian import about a Shakespearean theater troupe, I would have had my doubts. But Season 1 of "Slings and Arrows" beguiled me. So droll and sophisticated, but with moments of sheer slapstick, I was absolutely enchanted. The writing was so smart, so funny, the performances spot on--including Paul Gross and Rachel McAdams (two of the more familiar actors for American audiences). It ended in six episodes and I wistfully said good-bye to a near brilliant show. I had no idea there was more to come.
So I was delighted when I heard Season 2 was on it's way. But I was also doubtful. Could they really mine the same material and come up with another winner? To my mind, they did that and even more. I enjoyed it every bit as much.
This season there was less back story, so it dealt more specifically about the inner workings of actually staging a couple of shows. The misadventures of producing the cursed "MacBeth" is definitely the highpoint. It might have been the funniest thing on TV last season, seriously. Add subplots about theater ingenues in "Romeo and Juliet" (McAdams says farewell in episode 1, so there's a new ingenue), a romance found/lost/found, and plenty of wit--and you have a delight. One subplot about an experimental advertising campaign to lure new traffic to the theater festival is perfection. As someone who has been a season subscriber in the LA theater scene for over ten years, this was particularly hysterical to me--how much truth there was.
But, trust me, you don't have to be a theater goer or a Shakespeare enthusiast to enjoy this program. But you do have to enjoy smart, sophisticated entertainment with top notch performances. I have shown this series to a couple of friends who would NEVER have sampled it on their own. They were surprised how identifiable it was and how funny!!!
Watch this--and if you haven't seen Season 1, what's stopping you? KGHarris, 9/06."
Bit of a decline but still wonderful
Joel Rafi Zabor | Brooklyn, NY United States | 08/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first season of Slings and Arrows was the best thing to turn up on English language television in I don't know how many years. The second seasons sags a bit in the middle but recovers wonderfully by the end. The problem has to do with spurious, often unconvincing plot contrivances intended to keep the principal characters busy for six episodes. They seem hastily conceived. The worst of them has to do with an ad agency; others have to do with a tax examination and a couple of romances, BUT: despite these patches of weak writing, the original characters, and a couple of new ones, are as appealing as before, the individual and ensemble acting are superb as ever, and the simultaneously warm and unsparing comedy seems a kind of miracle. The wrap-up, involving Banquo (in the production of Macbeth) and a side-effect of a rescued production of Romeo and Juliet, is wonderfully written and played and seems an augury of better days ahead in the third and apparently final season. I give this four stars only to provide a contrast with the sublime first season. This is still nearly solid gold."
An already superb series gets even better
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 04/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As fine as Season One of this truly wonderful series was, Season Two was, in my opinion, even better. The series takes us even deeper into the characters, sharpens the humor, thickens the plot, and delves even more deeply into Shakespeare than in Season One. Viewing Season One did not make me want to rush out and read HAMLET, but Season Two did make me rush out to read MACBETH.
This ability to multitask is what makes SLINGS AND ARROWS such a wonderful series. It manages to do several things on several different levels remarkably well. I've read several books on Shakespeare, including those by Stephen Greenblatt, Peter Levi, and Stanley Cavell, as well as the wonderful prefaces by Samuel Johnson, but I can honestly say that I got as much insight from many wonderful little moments in this series as in any of those. Cavell is brilliant, but some of his essays are so far removed from the play that I'm not sure what work of art he is discussing (I'm reminded of somebody's--I'm not sure who--comment about James Agee's film criticism that it takes you directly into the heart of a film; Cavell is brilliant, but I never felt Shakespeare's pulse reading him).
As funny as the show was in Season One, it got even funnier in Season Two. The bits about the "rebranding" firm Frog and Hammer are among the funniest things I've ever seen on TV. I always enjoy Colm Feore, but his turn as Sanjay, the head of Frog and Hammer, is the best thing I've ever seen him do. The twists and turns of his character are simply brilliant.
The backstage drama is even more engrossing, as Geoffrey "collaborates" with Oliver in staging a version of MACBETH based on the latter's design for the play. The collaboration consists not merely of Geoffrey pouring over Oliver's notes, but through long conversations with Oliver's ghost. The writing is sharper than ever with wonderful parallels between what is happening in the play (inside the play) and the events in the various characters' lives. Each of the three seasons features some difficulty with the lead actor (Season One with a Hollywood star playing the title role in HAMLET; Season Three with a dying actor in the role of LEAR). This year Henry Breedlove (played by Geraint Wyn Davies, perhaps most familiar from his recent appearance on 24 and as the vampire detective in FOREVER KNIGHT) is a distinguished stage actor who has played Macbeth before and sees no reason to play the role any differently than he has before. Geoffrey's task is to shake him up and make him bring some life to the role, to take some risks instead of doing the same old thing.
The great misfortune with SLINGS AND ARROWS is that we only got three seasons and a total of 18 episodes. But perhaps it is as good as it is because they deliberately limited how much they did. FAWLTY TOWERS is frequently considered the finest comedy series ever (the BBC did a poll on the finest BBC series ever and it snagged the Number One slot). But it was limited to only 12 half hour episodes. Perhaps it is a lesson that more networks could learn that sometimes less truly is more."
Geoffrey and the New Burbage gang take on the Scottish play
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 03/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Call me superstitious or cowardly or weak
But I'll never play a character
Whose name one dare not speak
I'll play Hamlet
In doublet and hose
Or either of the Dromeos
But sorry, I won't play Mackers
I'll play Richard the Third
With a hump and wig
Or Henry the Eighth
That selfish pig
But sorry, I don't do Mackers
Every soul who plays this role
Risks injury or death
I'd rather sweep the bloody stage
Then ever do
When I watched the first three episodes of Season 2 of "Slings & Arrows" on the first of these two DVDS I have to admit that I was wondering what happened to the series. Like those of us with a background in the theater, I fell in love with the New Burbage Theatre Festival and its madman artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross). If his bouts with mental problems were not enough, Geoffrey is saddled with a leading lady, Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), who is his once (and perhaps future) girl friend and the ghost of Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), his predecessor whose sudden death got him his current gig. The first season was all about staging "Hamlet" with a television star as the melancholy Dane, while the second season finds Geoffrey tackling the Scottish play (hence the title song, "Mackers," quoted above). But Geoffrey is running around dealing with not only Oliver's ghost and all those notebooks his predecessor left behind about directing the play, which gives plenty of time for the associated curse to wreck some havoc.
The good news is that when we get to the second half of the season on the second DVD, "Slings & Arrows" is totally back on track, but a bit too late to deserve the same 5 star rating as Season 1. That is because in the final three episodes we finally get deep into the staging of the play in question, as Geoffrey finally makes a connection to the play and connects with the play and then has to find a way to persuade if not coerce his lead, the ego maniacal Henry Breedlove (Geraint Wyn Davies) in to following his direction. The best moments are when Geoffrey gets us to see the play anew. Ironically, at the same time the Festival is putting on "Romeo & Juliet," directed by Darren Nichols (Don McKellar), who is actually back again. Nicholas antipathy for the play is such that he is trying to present the play devoid of all romance to the stunned displeasure of his leads, Sarah (Joanne Kelly) and Patrick (David Alpay). So we have two plays where the director and cast disagree on the performance and for the most part the wrong side is winning the argument, which is somewhat maddening. Especially when who is right and who is wrong on each stage is so absolutely clear, but the great cosmic joke for Season 2 just because people do what you want and just because you are right, does not mean that they are ever going to admit that you were right despite ample evidence proving the point.
Of course there are other things going on at New Burbage to keep everyone occupied. The Festival is having massive financial problems and as a last resort Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney) has hired an advertising guru, Sanjay (Colm Feore) who promises a "youth quake" as the result of a bizarre ad campaign that goes out of its way to offend current subscribers. Meanwhile, Ellen is being audited and Anna (Susan Coyne) has caught the eye of a visiting playwright, much to her surprise. But if you know Shakespeare then you know the play is the thing, and it is not until we get to the Scottish play that "Slings & Arrows" is back in high gear, although what is happening with the other play has some interesting moments. Now we have to wait for Season 3 to come out on DVD, it appears that the first line of the final stanza of the opening song sets up what we have to look forward to in the final season:
So gimme King Lear
I'll play them all for free
But I'd be crackers
To take on Mackers
You see, I'm skittish about the Scottish tragedy"