La La Land - Review

A poor man's Sacha Baron Cohen, Brit Marc Wootton invades Los Angeles in his new Showtime series, in which he plays three thoroughly obnoxious characters operating on the fringes of Hollywood. Having created the same fey psychic in the BBC's "High Spirits With Shirley Ghostman," Wootton is fearless in a way that has people calling him a "fucking idiot" and "fucking loon" in the premiere alone. Still, one's tolerance for these "Borat"-like shenanigans -- which at times border on cruel -- is tested by six episodes, and after that visit leaving "La La Land" finally felt like a relief.

Wootton plays three newly arrived, thickly accented Brits, which seems to disarm those stunned by his bizarre behavior: An aspiring actor lugging around his mum's ashes, a psychic with questionable abilities (the Ghostman persona), and a scraggly documentary filmmaker who isn't above putting his subjects' lives at risk to spice up a project.

While Cohen has become the genre's gold standard (literally and figuratively), even his shtick began wearing thin about halfway through "Bruno." Given the excesses associated with the genre it's a long way back to "Candid Camera" -- though the underlying principle remains the same.

Given that the cameras aren't hidden, the real question is what pretense Wootton and company employed to get so many people to participate, from veteran actress Ruta Lee serving as his "mentor" to the parade of producers who visit him at a sleazy motel to hear his outlandish "pitches." The signature moment, in fact, comes in the last installment, when Wootton's filmmaker interviews actor/host Alan Thicke -- and gets caught trying to steal his silverware.

Then again, it's hardly the first reality show to capitalize on people's willingness to play along with just about anything as long as someone's filming them.

All told, it's funnier on paper than in execution -- like the filmmaker hiring a stripper named Kiki as his assistant -- largely because Wootton is so intent on pushing buttons well past the point of discomfort.

There is something intriguing here about the periphery of Hollywood in which Wootton's characters reside -- interacting with life counselors, acting coaches and publicists who will endure (at least for awhile) the eccentricities of an oddball actor or aspiring Michael Moore. Eager for exposure, many of them -- including an exorcist, psychics and even a Minute Man who thinks he's the subject of a documentary about protecting the border -- are clearly ripe targets.

At other times, however, you begin to sympathize with those subjected to Wootton's abuse, such as a middle-aged woman in a later episode manning one of Ghostman's "psychic" hotlines urged to threaten suicide to a caller.

So while Wootton's irreverent antics are sporadically funny enough to win him a cult following, the memorable moments ultimately prove too few and far between -- designed to make benefit for the glorious pay cable network of Showtime-istan.

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Default avatar cat

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Jan 31, 2010 3:44PM EST

This show just simply doesn't transfer to the American sense of humor (or is it humour)...
After watching the pilot, I am sadly disappointed. I expected a comedy pregnant with pauses and laughter but was just annoyed by these characters. While the genre is an exciting one and plays on people's willingness to be on camera, it does nothing to capture my attention. We've seen many people try to make a successful run of this genre, and everyone has ultimately had short-lived success. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry, Tracy Ullman... All of these seem to try and be overtly funny, when the subtle humor is what is more striking.
Overall, I give this show one star. Sadly, I am let down-again.

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Jul 9, 2010 2:11AM EDT

Well I think its clear that whoever wrote that review on LA LA LAND is clearly an american, who , as the programe demonstrates , shows just how brainwashed and dumb the American people can be . The reviewer clearly has no sense of humour .In Britain we have a whole genre of comedy that works in the same way as LA LA LAND does with help from robotic Americans .LA LA LAND is going to be huge and Ive never seen a review so out of touch in my life .... go back to watching your usual boring crap thats on ! When something new like this comes out as a comedy reviewer you should be all over it and not slamming something that is totally different ! Sacha Baran Cohen should team up with LA LA LAND and take America by storm ....and not for you all over there to watch because you just dont get it .....clearly , judging by your review !

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