Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: ‘Drunk History,’ ‘William Shatner’s Brown Bag Wine’
“Drunk History” (Comedy Central, Tuesdays). Derek Waters and Jeremy Konners’ anthology comedy, Internet-born and cable-polished, returns for a second season on Comedy Central. The premise is a process and the process is this: A person, typically a professionally funny person -- but not in this case trying to be funny -- deeply versed in the particulars of a historical event or personage, gets drunk, really drunk, and tells the story; the story is then staged and filmed, with actors lip-syncing the storyteller’s dialogue. All the comedy, which is ample, is generated by the intersection of historical momentousness and alcohol-inspired colloquialism; and in the tension between the film, which is carefully made, and the recitation, which is made as well as possible under the circumstances; and in the shifting interplay of these modes and realities. It’s like watching superimposed films running at different speeds and in different directions. But because the intention is not to insult but to celebrate, albeit hilariously, the effect is never demeaning, no matter how much the speaker might demean him or herself. (And there will be self-demeaning.) It is mock-heroic and actually heroic at once. I am just an old softy, perhaps, in heart and/or head, but the whole business strikes me as tinged with love. Each episode is usually thematically built around a city -- Montgomery, Ala., leads the way in season two -- but sometimes around a theme, as in the upcoming “American Music,” in which David Wain will tell the story of Alan Freed (played by Jack McBrayer), Eric Edelstein will recount the meeting of Kris Kristofferson (Jon Daly) and Johnny Cash (Johnny Knoxville) and Colton Dunn takes us back to the commercial birth of rap, with Sylvia Robinson (Retta) and the Sugarhill Gang (Da’Vone McDonald, Jaleel White, Ron Funches). I eat these like candy.
“William Shatner’s Brown Bag Wine Tasting” (Ora TV, whenever you go online). In the get-me-an-Internet world, celebrities who might otherwise spend their time collecting stamps or raising the perfect rose have gotten themselves talk shows. Jerry Seinfeld has his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (Crackle), Steve Buscemi his “Park Bench” (AOL). I don’t even want to tell you how many podcasts are out there, because that would take time to reckon. (But a lot.) William Shatner -- that octogenarian ball of energy, his incredible youthfulness only partly cosmetic --who has already hosted his own cable interview show, “William Shatner’s Raw Nerve,” hits the Web this week with “Brown Bag Wine Tasting,” a new feature of the Ora network, where Larry King reigns now. (An earlier, more modest version lived on Shatner’s own dedicated website; you can find his Dave Koz interview, at least, still pinging around cyberspace.) Though the former Captain Kirk has a longstanding reputation for self-obsession -- they made a movie about that, “Galaxy Quest” -- he is, in fact, a fine and curious questioner, unworried about seeming impertinent or nosy or deeply sincere; he is too old for that now. Though his first guest is a celebrity, TV host and chef (or “cook,” as you’ll learn) Alton Brown, trailers indicate that he will be spending time getting to know regular people, too (a cheese monger, a magician). Interviewed in Shatner’s own kitchen, with Shatner’s own dogs making noise offstage (he has a doberman called Cappuccino, I’ll repeat that, a doberman called Cappuccino), an even more than usually intense Brown makes biscuits and gravy, talks about his past and parents and how cooking is like flying an airplane. (Spoiler: something to do with barometric pressure.) Then, like the guests who’ll follow, he’s asked to blind-taste and describe, in original terms, a brown-bagged wine. It’s all about the poetry, man. Shatner!
Robert Lloyd is perfectly sober on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd.
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