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Television

Overrated/Underrated: Richard Ayoade’s twisted travel show, and how does a brand’s voice sound?

PARK CITY, UT -- JANUARY 17, 2014--Actor Richard Ayoade, from the film “The Double,” photographed in
Richard Ayoade in 2014.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

UNDERRATED

Todd Marcus’ ‘On These Streets’: Ask most pop culture fans for their impressions of West Baltimore, and the response will usually be rooted to HBO’s grim document of the war on drugs, “The Wire.” Focusing on the more positive yet also distressingly unchanged aspects of Charm City, this jazz record — led by one of the few bass clarinet-specializing bandleaders — sets an urban community to music in a lush, far-reaching recording colored by Marcus’ work in a local nonprofit, along with snippets from interviews taken after the death of Freddie Gray. Most important, it swings.

For the record:
2:05 PM, May. 07, 2018 For the record: An earlier version of this story did not mention that ‘Travel Man’ is also available to stream in the U.S. via Sundance Channel.

‘Travel Man’ with Richard Ayoade: Best known for his part in the British sitcom “The IT Crowd” as well as writing and directing the darkly funny indie films “Submarine” and “The Double,” this dryer-than-dry comic takes the travel program to eccentric new heights with this series, which comes with the wry tagline, “Travel without mercy.” The British series is available in the U.S. only on YouTube and Sundance Now, but once you track it down, you’ll see Ayoade’s twisted take on sightseeing with guests from his shores and our own, including Lena Dunham, Jon Hamm and Paul Rudd.

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OVERRATED

Sentient brands: Social media has no shortage of frustrations, but one of its more insidious developments is multimillion-dollar companies deigning to speak with potential customers as if the corporations were people. As weird as it is to imagine the voice of a fast-food chain, some accounts offer the odd witty remark (@MoonPie is a surprisingly weird snack cake), but most moments are more unsettling. A recent congratulations message from “Star Wars” to Marvel on the big opening for “Infinity War” from under the same Disney umbrella felt like the sound of one handful of cash clapping.

The White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner: Last week, no less an authority than President Trump called for an end to this annual celebration of political journalism, and in wake of a set by comic Michelle Wolf where she evidently performed her roasting duties too well, a press corps charged with covering the government is now happily considering some changes. Given that the current late-night landscape has ensured that we don’t want for political humor, maybe a change is in order. How about they just let the president book the show, because that’s who they work for, right?

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chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.

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