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Watch as Bob Odenkirk and The Birthday Boys accept IFC’s offer

bob-odenkirk-birthday-boy-announcement

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Bob Odenkirk may not be a real lawyer, but he plays a great one on TV, on “Breaking Bad,” specifically. So when the Birthday Boys needed someone to formally accept the terms of our offer to broadcast ten episodes of their new sketch comedy show, “The Birthday Boys,” obviously they went straight for Saul …er, Bob Odenkirk.

The choice of representative makes even more sense, because Odenkirk is the executive producer of the new scripted sketch comedy, along with Ben Stiller. The Birthday Boys features the Los Angeles comedy group of the same name (UCB Theatre Los Angeles, Just for Laughs Festival) along with Odenkirk. The series is in the classic vein of absurd/silly/smart/funny variety shows (Mr. Show, Monty Python), featuring sketches that twist real-life moments and cultural touchstones.

“The Birthday Boys are too good to just be making viral videos. They are funny enough to fill time between episodes of Portlandia,” said Ben Stiller. “I’m thrilled to be working with Bob Odenkirk again on a TV project. We try to do something every 20 years or so.” Added Bob Odenkirk, “The Birthday Boys are a super funny and fresh new comic voice. I will try not to slow them down.”

The Birthday Boys comedy group includes Jefferson Dutton, Dave Ferguson, Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, Matt Kowalick, Mike Mitchell and Chris VanArtsdalen—whose combined credits include “Parks and Recreation”, “The Office,” “Conan,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, and “Portlandia.” The series is written and co-directed by The Birthday Boys and Bob Odenkirk and with that much talent involved there’s no way the show won’t be laugh-out-loud funny and fit right in with our ever-growing line-up of “Always On, Slightly Off” programming.

Watch as Bob Odenkirk announces the terms of The Birthday Boys’ agreement:

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“The Birthday Boys” premiere on IFC this fall

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Bourne Matt Damon

They're Watching

10 Paranoid Conspiracy Thrillers Worth Investigating

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Mary Evans/Universal Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

After the Kennedy Assassination and Watergate Scandal, the American public found themselves living with a greater sense of paranoia and cynicism toward the powers that be. Those bleak fears bled into popular culture and especially cinema in the 1970s, which gave us arguably the greatest, most influential decade of American film. In the post-9/11 political landscape, fear-mongering and a higher emphasis on invasive government surveillance have reignited Big Brother paranoia all over again. Before you go on the run with superspy Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC this month, check out our list of conspiracy thrillers worth investigating. But be careful…You never know who’s watching.

1. All The President’s Men

That demise Richard Nixon’s presidency is in part the result of some ace investigative journalism by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who are the subjects of director Alan J. Pakula’s classic film, the third and final installment in his unofficial “paranoia trilogy” which includes the excellent Klute and The Parallax View.

As Woodward (Robert Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) begin uncovering proof of wire taps, blackmail, and other forms of clandestinely illegal activities tied to Nixon’s administration, their lives are put into greater danger. William Goldman, who also wrote The Princess Bride, was personally chosen by Robert Redford to pen the script, but Redford didn’t like the first draft and had Bernstein and then-girlfriend Nora Ephron write a draft. Ultimately, Goldman’s taut, tense script won out and netted him an Oscar as well.


2. Three Days of the Condor

Three Days of the Condor  is one of seven films Robert Redford made with director Sydney Pollack before Pollack’s death in 2008. The film centers around Redford’s CIA analyst character, code name “Condor,” who returns from lunch one day to find all six of his co-workers murdered. Turner goes on the run while he tries to uncover who is behind the murders, never knowing whom he can trust, including the CIA.

Three Days of the Condor started shooting about a month or so after Nixon’s resignation in 1974, and is one of the first of a slew of films influenced by the corruption of the Watergate era. Interestingly enough, the film inspired the story structure for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which also, coincidentally, stars Robert Redford.


3. Marathon Man

Depending on when you grew up, Marathon Man may have kept you from visiting the dentist’s office thanks to the sadistic torture techniques used by Sir Laurence Olivier’s terrifying Nazi war criminal Dr. Szell on Ph.D. student, Babe (an intense and neurotic Dustin Hoffman), after he gets mixed up in his older brother Doc’s (Roy Scheider, a smooth operator here in his first post-Jaws role) unfinished government business.

The infamous torture scene involving teeth-pulling, drilling, and needles was actually much longer in the original cut, but was shortened after test screening audience members fled the theater in disgust. Nevertheless, Olivier was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, which he filmed while battling cancer and a degenerative muscle disorder.


4. Blow Out

While recording sounds for a slasher film, Jack Terry (John Travolta) overhears an assassination involving a presidential candidate. Terry winds up saving a young woman (Nancy Allen) who also happened to be in the car with the murder victim, and the pair wind up scrambling to assemble proof of the assassination before she can be murdered too.

Based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up, which is about a photographer who accidentally captures a murder on film, Blow Out reteamed director Brian De Palma with John Travolta after the pair worked together on Carrie in 1976. Fun fact: Quentin Tarantino was inspired to cast Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction based on his performance in Blow Out, which is one of Tarantino’s favorite films.


5. Minority Report

Even if you eliminate the sci-fi element,  Minority Report is still a tense, elegantly constructed thriller about corruption, murder, and conspiracy in the nation’s capital. Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name, follows pre-crime Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) as he and his team set out to solve murders before they happen based on information given to them via PreCogs or “precognitives.” But after discovering the unsolved murder of a young woman who has special ties to one of the PreCogs, Anderton finds himself on the run from the FBI and his own team when he himself is accused of a murder he has yet to commit.

The film was enthusiastically praised for its writing and especially its visuals, including a breathless chase set in a car factory that was based on an idea Hitchcock had for an unfilmed sequence in North by Northwest. Look for a strong performance from Max Von Sydow as Anderton’s superior, who may or may not have something to hide.


6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

While most may think of the second installment in Marvel’s Captain America franchise as a superhero film first, it is highly influenced by many of the 1970s conspiracy films on our list, including Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, and The Parallax View. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely felt the conspiracy genre was the best match for Captain America’s readjustment to the modern political landscape and his distrust of many of its most prominent players including his own employer, S.H.I.E.L.D.

As Cap (the affable Chris Evans) navigates a web of government lies and cover-ups with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, thankfully getting a lot more to do here than she did in The Avengers), he discovers all is not what it appears to be, and his faith in his country and S.H.I.E.L.D. is tested. Captain America: The Winter Soldier also has ties to All The President’s Men beyond Robert Redford: a copy of the book is visible on a bookshelf is Steve Rogers’ apartment. Cap has good taste!


7. The Bourne Series

Matt Damon saves himself for a change in these fast-paced thrillers about an amnesiac man on the run from the CIA, trying to piece together his memories and uncover a covert conspiracy within the organization. Bourne Identity director Doug Liman originally offered the role of Jason Bourne to Brad Pitt, who turned it down to make a different spy film, Spy Game with Robert Redford. Damon went through three intense months of training for the role, and did many of his own stunts, including several dizzying climbing sequences on the exteriors of buildings.

Though he returned for both The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon chose to skip out on The Bourne Legacy (Jeremy Renner took a starring role), but will be returning for an as-yet-untitled fifth Bourne film due in July 2016. The Bourne Series, loosely-based on Robert Ludlum’s novels of the same name, have been praised for their realism and reliance on practical stunt work versus computer-generated effects, no doubt inspiring the Bond franchise to branch out into similar, brawling, broody territory when Daniel Craig came aboard in 2006 for Casino Royale.


8. The Conversation

The Conversation was released just a few months before Nixon resigned the presidency, so it’s difficult to not see links between Francis Ford Coppola’s film and the current events of the day, especially given the surveillance and wire-tapping equipment used by main character Henry Caul (a fine Gene Hackman) is the same as that used by the Nixon Administration during the Watergate Scandal (a coincidence that visibly shocked Coppola after the film was released).

Coppola, like De Palma, was inspired by Antonioni’s Blow-up, and began writing The Conversation in the mid-60s, focusing on a humble, intensely private surveillance expert in San Francisco who overhears a conversation about a potential murder. Caul is hesitant to hand over the tape to the man who commissioned it (Robert Duvall) and finds himself under pressure from a bullying aide (a pre-Star Wars Harrsion Ford). The film, both Coppola and Hackman’s personal favorite, happened to be released the same year as The Godfather Part II, which wound up overshadowing it at the Academy Awards.


9. No Way Out

No Way Out is one of two great films Kevin Costner made in 1987 (the other is The Untouchables), and it is widely considered the film that launched Costner as a leading man. A remake of 1948’s The Big Clock, No Way Out centers on Lt. Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) who strikes up an affair with a young woman (Sean Young) he meets at an inaugural ball.

Farrell, who works at the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman), is unaware the woman was having an affair with Brice, and when she winds up dead, Farrell is framed by Brice for her murder and accused of being a KGB agent. No Way Out is, in many ways, a solid precursor to many of the big screen adaptations of John Grisham’s novels that dominated the box office during the ’90s.


10. The Parallax View

The opening scene of The Parallax View was purposely shot to mirror Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, heightening the unsettling fear at the heart of the film’s story about a newspaper reporter (Warren Beatty) who gets mixed up in a conspiracy surrounding the assassination of a presidential candidate. Joe Frady’s suspicions are further provoked by his investigation into a mysterious company called The Parallax Corporation, which he discovers is a recruiting front for political assassins.

The film, the third and final of Alan J. Pakula’s Political Paranoia Trilogy, started principal photography without a finished screenplay due to a writer’s strike. Star Warren Beatty took it upon himself to do re-writes with the help of his friend Robert Towne (the screenwriter of Chinatown), and the film was finished on schedule. Though it received mixed reviews at the time (possibly due to its bleak ending), The Parallax View is now considered one of the best films of the conspiracy genre.

Season 6, Episode 1: Pick-a-thon

Lip Service

10 Times The Flaming Lips Were Absurdly Funny

Catch The Flaming Lips on the season premiere of Portlandia tonight at 10P/9c on IFC.

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The Flaming Lips are known for a lot of things. Operatic rock. Epic live shows. And, of course, psychedelic imagery that includes robots and karate masters. What they aren’t often thought of is straight up funny. And yet, as we prepare for their appearance on the sixth season premiere of Portlandia tonight at 10P, we’re reminded that Wayne Coyne and his band of rock misfits have never been afraid to crack wise. “Do You Realize” just how funny these dudes can be?


10. “Wayne Coyne Wears a Halloween Costume,” Comedy Bang! Bang!

IFC Originals

IFC Originals

Scott Aukerman may have been dressed up as his favorite Wayne for the occasion, but it was Wayne Coyne’s world on this classic Halloween episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!. The Flaming Lips frontman dryly delivered absurd lines, like his favorite scary movie being The Lord of the Rings, all while playing it super cas’ in a blood drenched Carrie costume. In a series full of game rock star cameos, this was by far one of the best.


9. “A Fairy Tale Song,” Yo Gabba Gabba!

When we were kids, children’s programming was there to sell us toys, as God intended. Now, shows like Yo Gabba Gabba! are so hip, they feel like they’re made in some cool bar underneath Brooklyn that you’re too lame to be invited to. And so, of course, The Flaming Lips found their way onto the popular kid’s show, and turned their indie rock hit “I Can Be A Frog” into a ridiculous costume party full of breakdancing monkeys and oversized keytars. If ever there was a video that recreates the experience of seeing The Lips live, it’s this one.


8. Wayne In The Bubble

The Flaming Lips are famous for putting on a one-of-a-kind show. They encourage their audience to dress up like giant stuffed animals. They have inflatable characters do battle on stage. They create an environment where the psychedelic can meet the absurd. But in the end, it all comes down to this: Wayne Coyne trying not to fall over as he crowd surfs in a giant, inflatable bubble.


7. Vine’ing Like the Kids Do

How does a band stay relevant? Well, if this video is any indication, it’s just to do as the kids do. Wayne Coyne took his first cautious steps towards being a Vine star with this short video shot at Funny or Die, in which some overeager interns try to impress the Lips frontman with their take on the band’s popular song “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”


6. Wayne Coyne and Miley Cyrus: BFFs

There’s another way to stay young forever, and that’s to have a unique friendship with a pop ingénue. A happy birthday tweet from the former Hannah Montana to Coyne got fans scratching their heads back in 2014. Was this a joke, or could the fifty-something Coyne really be friends with the former-Disney star-turned-pop-performance-artist? The two have since become paparazzi targets, collaborators and full on BFFs. While this friendship may not be intentionally funny, the out there visuals the pair have produced have offered more than a few laughs.


5. Wayne Stops By The Gorburger Show

The Gorburger Show‘s premise is simple: A giant monster has taken over a Japanese television station so that he can interview his rock star heroes. Pretty standard stuff. T.J. Miller voices the corpulent creature, who has interviewed everyone from Tegan and Sara to Carson Daly. Coyne stopped by for the show’s 15th episode to discuss his love of spectacle and making movies in his backyard. It isn’t often that Coyne isn’t the weirdest guy on set.


4. Playing Pictionary on The Tonight Show

Sometimes Wayne Coyne’s funniest moments are the ones where he is in the most mundane situations. And what could be more mundane than playing Pictionary with Demi Lovato? Coyne joined the pop star, along with Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen and The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, for a game of Pictionary that grows weirder and more amusing as it goes along. If Coyne had been a famous musician in the ’70s, it’s safe to say he would’ve been a regular on Match Game.


3. The Flaming Lips Pull An April Fools’ Prank For The Ages

On April Fools’ Day 2014, The Flaming Lips teamed up with Funny Or Die to pull a prank that was as ridiculous as it was unbelievable. Out of the blue, the band performed a companion piece to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon that synced up perfectly with the classic album. Having dropped their Dark Side of the Moon tribute, The Lips decided to full on sell out. Jon Daly played a slick exec in this FOD video, telling the guys, “We need to stop thinking of this as a band, and start thinking about it as a brand.” Because, as he pointed out, “Wayne could sh*t in a paper cup, and Pitchfork would give it an 8.7.” It was time to cash in.


2. Michael Bay’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Feature Film

Selling out led to a natural collaboration between the band and Michael Bay. Who hasn’t listened to “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and wanted to see a bloated, big budget action movie version? While this was a big joke, the fact remains that we would LOVE to see this movie.


1. Portlandia’s own Fred Armisen Joins the Band


And with the sell out in place, there was only one more thing to do, and that’s find a new lead singer. After all, Wayne had a lot going on “with the Comcast deal” and all. That’s how Fred Armisen found his way into the band. If you liked this collaboration, then you’ll want to see what Wayne and Fred have come up with on the season premiere of Portlandia, which airs tonight at 10P/9c on IFC with guest appearances from The Flaming Lips and Natasha Lyonne.

Want more Portlandia? Watch a free episode from the new season right now on IFC.com or on the IFC app.

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