Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: ‘Big Blue Live,’ ‘Bare Bears,’ the Web looks at cinema
“Big Blue Live” (PBS, Monday through Wednesday). A three-night television event, broadcast live from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Northern California. Due to certain oceanic conditions, a whole lot of lunch predictably will be swimming into the bay right then, with hungry whales, dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks and pelicans following after; it’s like a Coachella of the Sea. One wonders how reliably the wildlife will hit its marks, but that’s the peril and pleasure of live TV for you. In a more dystopian society, you might be asked to vote on which species would go through to the next round; the purpose here is to enlighten, to cultivate an appreciation of biological diversity and ecological interdependence in that most dangerous species — humans, you know what I’m talking about. Also: cool animals. Conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan (“EARTH a New Wild”) and BBC’s Liz Bonnin will co-host on TV; Joe Hanson, of the PBS digital series “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” handles the social media stuff. PBS SoCal will broadcast live at 5 p.m. and again at 8; viewers elsewhere, check your local listings.
“We Bare Bears” (Cartoon Network). Created by Daniel Chong, a storyboard artist on “Inside Out” and “The Lorax” (who makes a cameo appearance in this series’ credits), from his own web comic, “The Three Bare Bears.” Three brother bears — a grizzly, an “ice bear” and a panda — live together in a cave near San Francisco and get into comical scrapes of a mostly human, contemporary sort, mostly among humans. They go to a farmers market and fill up on free samples; lose cellphones; play basketball; stand in line with other young moderns for ramen tacos and complain online. (“I don’t know what’s worse — selling terrible food or that people like it.”) The panda has a peanut allergy; they busk.
Grizz (Eric Edelstein) is the excitable one, nominally in charge (he’s a little reminiscent of Master Shake in “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” but not as stupid or selfish); Panda (Bobby Moynihan, sounding sometimes like Tom Kenny’s Ice King in “Adventure Time”) is the sensitive, romantic, fretful one; and Ice Bear (Demetri Martin) is an impassive, gnomic ninja who refers to himself in the third person. For obscure reasons, they travel stacked three high, a conceit that goes back to the comic and may have been just a way to get all three into every frame. (It’s a three-way dialectic, if that’s a thing — a trialectic.)
The show is somewhat reminiscent of early Hanna-Barbera series such as "Huckleberry Hound” and “Yogi Bear” (and like Yogi, they like to eat), while the incidental music strolls in the manner of Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther.” As a joined-at-the-hip trio, they are kin to other three-flavor comedy acts, from the (post-Zeppo) Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges, to the casts of “Aqua Teen” and “Workaholics.” Like the honey wasabi gummies with which a young student (Charlyne Yi) bribes them to participate in her study “Bears: Large and Needy Beasts of the North,” it is sweet and a little astringent. Ellie Kemper guests in one episode as Panda’s crush.
“Never Seen It” (Above Average); “If I Was In It (IFC Comedy Crib); “How Did This Get Made?” (Earwolf podcast network); “On Cinema” (AdultSwim.com). The Internet looks at movies, for laughs, in these Web series, whose substance ranges from fictional to semi-fictional to nonfictional. TV may be the greatest thing since the return of unsliced bread, but movies remain the bigger game and target.
In “Never Seen It,” a rotating cast of writers from the Lorne Michaels-backed website Above Average (including Glenn Boozan, whom I have praised here before) try to guess things about movies they have amazingly never seen — big movies like “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” even “Star Wars.” (Sample question, re: "Frozen”: “Do you know what kind of inanimate object would come to life and be played by Josh Gadd, whom America loves?” Answer: “First of all, who is Josh Gadd?”)
Asked to describe “the egg scene” in “The Fault in Our Stars,” writer Andrew Ford ventures, “So they’re in the kitchen ... where you keep eggs ... and they’re trying to bake something. Char [the name they have given Shailene Woodley’s character, Hazel] drops one, and it’s like, the fragility of life, and then he’s like, ‘Hey, it’s not that serious,’ and he drops an egg and then she drops another egg and they end up wasting the entire dozen eggs, and they’re laughing and they’re having a good time and then William [sic] Dafoe walks in, and he’s like, ‘Whaaat?’” The probability of this actually being the case seems to me to say much about Hollywood. Of “Star Wars,” Boozan wonders, “Do they call it the Death Star — that’s the official name? People on the Death Star call it the Death Star?” “How have you never seen this movie?” Ford wonders. “I was cool in high school,” she replies.
In “If I Was In It,” from the Independent Film Channel, co-hosts Frank and Mike (Paul Laudiero and Will Stephen) share a diner booth and present “a talk show hosted by two self-taught film students who discuss movies and what we would have done different if we was in ‘em.” (With Zach Cherry, who is sometimes seen sitting at the counter shaking his head, Laudiero and Stephen make up the UCB improv team RICHARD, which last year produced a much-circulated parody of the NPR series “Serial.”) “Jaws,” says Frank, “was a perfect film, but right off the bat, I’m changing things. If I’m in it, I’m killing the shark right away,” leaving “a beautiful beach movie with babes and no sharks.” (“It seems so obvious,” Mike agrees.) For “The Matrix” — "a story of an angry goth who lives in a computer and he’s trying to get out but he has to fight a bunch of secret service agents who are all twins” — Mike’s solution is, “I’m sayin’, ‘Keanu, come here, listen, Nemo — this is my cousin Marty, he works at CompUSA. He’s a good kid; he just graduated Hofstra. Lead him to your mainframe, leave him alone for half an hour, he’ll fix the whole thing up for $30.” In “Toy Story,” which they call “The Toy Story,” Frank sees “a psychological thriller about robot dolls possessed by demons who manipulate the life of a mentally disturbed child.” (Mike: “Was this animated?” Frank: “I have no idea. It wasn’t drawn, and it wasn’t real life.”)
“How Did This Get Made?” features Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas, along with occasional special guests (Abbi Jacobson, Paul F. Tompkins, Scott Aukerman), anatomizing bad movies, often before a live audience. A conceptual stepchild of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” it raises to the level of professional comedy what most of us do informally in our living rooms or all-night cafes. It mocks, but it also celebrates. Episodes regularly tape at L.A.'s Largo at the Coronet, and sell out far in advance.
“On Cinema” (formally “On Cinema at the Cinema”) is a Siskel and Ebert type affair in which characters with the names and bodies of Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington rate current films (and the occasional old “popcorn classic”), most of which they love uncritically, even when they haven’t actually seen them.
The show, which has a narrative connection to “Decker,” the metafictional — meta-fun!-ctional — low-rent spy thriller Tim (the character) writes, directs and stars in, has less to do with the films under discussion than with charting Tim and Gregg’s volatile, evolving, passive-aggressive, competitive friendship. The fall brings new seasons of “On Cinema” (Sept. 9) and “Decker” (Oct. 12), with Tim apparently turning over the reins of “Decker” to Gregg. (This announcement was originally made by Heidecker onstage during DeckerCon 2015, at L.A.'s Cinefamily Theater, where I was employed as a moderator or, to be more accurate, a prop.) It seemed for a while that, within the mythological life of the series, which is deep and sprawling and continues via social media posts and news releases between seasons, “On Cinema” might have become history, but we are informed that “frequent guest Gregg Turkington is rumored to return in ‘some capacity should a number of conditions be agreed upon.’ ” Six earlier seasons of “On Cinema” can be seen here; “Decker” awaits you here, coiled and ready to strike.
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd
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