Curious Cabinets, a Show that is, er, Regular and John Oliver pleasantly sticking it to FIFA once again
When it comes to horror anthology series, it’s the curiosity of them that appeals to me. The no holds barred content brought about from HBO’s Tales from The Crypt over thirty years ago remains a truly unique milestone in television. Today, television content has much less boundaries. Just as well then, when stumbling across the latest effort on Netflix, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, my interest piqued into overdrive. Immediately elated to see the helm of Pan’s Labyrinth himself present cryptic introductions to each of these eight gruesome/haunting/weird tales added a sense of authenticity, and sure beats a movie/tv release lazily stating “Big name director presents” in its credits. Anyway, think of this del Toro vehicle as a horrifying Hitchcock Presents, or an even more twisted The Twilight Zone. Granted I am showing my age a bit there, but the horror genre, if nothing else, has a great history in entertainment.
Although del Toro may not at the directorial helm for any of these twisted tales, but he is certainly the curator. He has assembled recent horror talent such as Jennifer Kent of The Babadook fame among others. What is constant is Guillermo’s penchant for the twisted fairy tale, with an added dose of unfiltered gruesomeness when required, and of course, curiosity. Clue is in the title, folks. The weirdest of these tales is the darkly humorous The Outside, as Stacey (played by the ever brilliantly awkward Kate Micucci) longs to become equal in beauty to her glamourous yet gossipy colleagues at work. The allure of Alo Glo, a strongly sold tv commercial skin reviving treatment, consumes Stacey, despite protests from her loving husband. The message is clear: be careful what you wish for.
Other highlights include the hugely stress-inducing and claustrophobic Graveyard Rats, where graverobber Masson is seeing his efforts ruined by rats in the underground. Desperate for the stolen wealth from the dead, he soon takes the conflict to the rat tunnels themselves in where you always get the feeling it isn’t going to end well, yet you cannot look away. Likewise with The Viewing, boasting the always-worth-a-watch Peter Weller, yet sadly once his great work is over, a tale that takes far too long to get to the point, dies a death. And here lies the series’ biggest problem; the total running time of the series comes in at almost seven hours when it should have been told in four. By the end of series finale, The Murmuring, which has undeniably great haunting qualities and execution, I found myself simply thinking ‘please just get to the point’. It really didn’t to be an hour long. It really didn’t. This is of course how the Netflix world works, devoid of time restrictions. At least the content remains true to the creator’s visions, with much more to celebrate than debate.
Continuing the line of absurd, along with a shift of entertainment medium, comes my recent introduction in the Cartoon Network animated effort, Regular Show. Curiosity building based on hearsay and viewing the odd minute or five on TV, along with my ten-year-old daughter’s shared tastes on comedy, we sat down and watched a few episodes together. We were not disappointed. Grounds keepers Mordecai, a BlueJay, the racoon Rigby, both in their mid-20s, with an even weirder cast of colleagues, spend their days avoiding work, inevitably leading to a whole host of incredibly surreal and brilliant comedy. Moredcai and Rigby are very good at one thing, and that is making bad decisions. Furthermore, to put those decisions right, they more than often make even worse decisions, and yet somehow this chalk and cheese pairing still maintain a level of enthusiasm and camaraderie to pull them through the most ridiculously hilarious situations.
World’s Best Boss sees the group purchase the last remaining mug embossed with World’s Best Boss for their hard-working manager Benson (a living gumball machine – don’t ask), but instead what arrives is a crew of “World’s Best Bosses” intent on taking over who whole park. Think of it as invasion of the Bill Lumbergh’s. On speed. “The Last Laserdisc Player” is certainly one for the retro entertainment technology enthusiasts, as the guy’s attempt to watch a super rare director’s cut laserdisc takes them to the library, and with it the uncovering of a secret society bent on erasing all existence of the laserdisc medium – the Ancient Order of the VHS. This one needed a little explanation to my daughter of a different generation and aimed at someone my age rather than a ten-year-old in 2022 – or even 2013 when originally released – but was no less enjoyable as a result. We’re certainly going to plough through these in no time at all, and the show’s deliberate attempts to threaten reversion to a base formula, only to continually upend that notion with unpredictably, ranks Regular Show among Cartoon Network’s finest.
And now, rather sadly, back to the reality of the real world. John Oliver, easily the UK’s funniest satirical export, with such gems this week including addressing the new owner and car crash CEO of Twitter Elon Musk as “What if Willy Wonka benefited from apartheid?”, turned his attention to the men’s football World Cup for his latest deep dive on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. “FIFA has always been terrible”, he begins. It is hard to disagree even before John needs to utter another word, given this is the third such deep dive he has eloquently delivered on football’s consistently corrupt governing body. But this time it is different. While FIFA and the governing body of Qatar pay- sorry, I mean play, into each other’s hands (and pockets), the former organisation’s president, Gianni Infantile, continues to peddle the belief that this World Cup will be “the one to bring the world together after some difficult times”. It won’t be, and simply can’t be, as John goes on to explain. “Underneath the fun pageantry is a much darker story,” John continues, covering the harassment of journalists while filming, to the biggest issue of them all, human rights abuses. The treatment of migrant workers, particularly their living conditions, is covered comprehensibly, and is inevitably a heart-breaking watch. The emotions are tormented further, quickly switching to anger as the Qatari authorities take pride in the self-proclaimed excellent living conditions for these migrant workers – supposedly not packed like sardines in filthy, sewage-ridden labour camps with no showers – unbeknownst to the official that the very reporter he was speaking with had already witnessed the camps in person, which is highly admirable and high risk work, and seeing the enthusiastic look of the Qatari official just draining from his face is a victory, albeit a sadly hollow one. Whether you choose to watch this World Cup or not, and everyone needs to draw their own line here, this is powerful stuff. It is also reality that is tough to be tolerant of.