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TV Picks: 'Ghost Ghirls,' Streisand, 'Treme,' 'Rick and Morty'

November 28, 2013|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • Maria Blasucci, left, and Amanda Lund in the Yahoo! online comedy "Ghost Ghirls."
Maria Blasucci, left, and Amanda Lund in the Yahoo! online comedy "Ghost… (Shine America / Yahoo )

"Ghost Ghirls" (Yahoo Screen, always). Executive producer Jack Black is the muscle attached to this light and delightful Web comedy, created by Amanda Lund, Maria Blasucci and Jeremy Konner (from "Drunk History"), about a pair of scattered, self-involved, childish, competitive ghost hunters/whisperers/busters -- best friends since childhood, when they shared a "lemonade and talk to your dead relatives" stand.

Lund, as Heidi, is the more glamorous one; Blasucci, as Angelica, the less glamorous one. ("You're being so dramatic," Heidi tells Angelica at one point, "which makes me very upset because normally I'm the one who's dramatic.") "Which one of us do you like more if you had to date us?" Angelica asks Jake Johnson, whose house they have just rid of ghost Jason Ritter. "Say who's prettier, we'll give you a 5% discount."

The series, which debuted in September, was at one point being developed as a full-on sitcom for Syfy; it came to life instead as a series of a dozen 10-minute episodes, all of them now posted, and surely better, purer and weirder than anything Syfy would have made of it. The shorter, cartoon length suits it (and the Web, of course) well and frees the characters from any but the most rudimentary psychology; they have the depth and vividness of Bugs and Daffy. Lund and Blasucci are excellent; if they seem like improv comics now and again, that is, after all, the sound of modern humor. 

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Notwithstanding a certain having-a-comedy-party looseness, the series steers a steady course. There is a surprising lot of plot in each episode, and a lot of variety among them; haunted places include a baseball diamond, a middle school, a brothel and a woodland spa. In the two-part finale, Black, Val Kilmer and Dave Grohl play a deceased '70s Southern-rock band, haunting a recording studio, fighting too much with one another to finish their last song. Other guests include Bob Odenkirk, Jason Schwartzman, Larisa Oleynik, Natasha Leggero, Colin Hanks, Molly Shannon, Brett Gelman and Kate Micucci. Allan McLeod plays put-upon assistant Rudy. I watched them all straight through, for fun.

"Treme" (HBO, Sundays). This is a happy surprise: a five-episode fourth season of "Treme," David Simon and Eric Overmyer's story of life, death, music and food in the city of New Orleans, back from seeming cancellation. The end of the third season had felt conclusive enough: not especially definitive, in the spirit of the show -- which rolls along like the Mississippi, or any river of your choice, changing and unchanging -- but leaving its main characters in a moment of peace or possibility or renewed resolve. But, naturally enough, we are moving onward, into an extended coda, and a finish hopefully no more neatly conclusive than the finish we already seemed to have. 

The new season, all of its episodes written by Simon, Overmyer and/or George Pelecanos, begins on Election Day 2008; "A Change Is Going to Come" is its musical theme. "Treme" is about recombination and rebirth, about making things -- music, food, money, a safe place -- out of whatever's at hand; it has the complicated, joy-out-of-sadness tone of a New Orleans funeral parade. The milieu may be exotic -- the Crescent City really is a world of its own -- but it's the most lifelike show around; its protagonists are decent, their challenges familiar, their solutions (or lack of one) believable. They're deep, the way people are, without being disturbed -- only human. In my more perfect universe, this would be the cable drama everybody talks about and wants to imitate. 

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"Great Performances: Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn" (PBS, Friday). Brooklyn has changed somewhat since Barbra Streisand grew up there, back in the center of the 20th century -- the hipsters were all out west in Manhattan -- and so, one would think, has she. Nevertheless, the conceit of this filmed concert, from the borough's big new Barclays Center, is that she's come home, the same simple girl as ever she was. (Maybe so; she certainly lets her accent out for a romp between songs, and with "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long," within the song itself.) In spite of the hugeness of the venue, she both fills it -- her voice remains a big, thrilling thing -- and makes it homey; she is chatty, in a way that, though it may be scripted down to the last word, seems genuine, whether answering questions from the audience or interviewing her guests: Il Volo (three cute Italians boys, you probably knew); good-looking young trumpeter Chris Botti, who brings the pop-jazz; and son Jason Gould, with whom she duets, a little creepily, on "How Deep is the Ocean." (He can sing, though.)

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