Pop Diary: Reviews of "Pam and Tommy," "Box of Pin-Ups" and "Ladhood"

Pam & Tommy is too long (Hulu is frustratingly dealing out the episodes a week at the time and there are still three out of eight left) but otherwise extremely well done. 

We all know the story of the stolen sex tape, yadda, yadda, and it's a big joke because its stars are/were so tacky and dumb and who cares about what happens to famous people anyway. Except that the show does make us care, particularly about Anderson, who is uncannily and sensitively played by an unrecognizable Lily James. 

The early episodes play as parody and let us laugh at her and heavy metal drummer Tommy Lee (also well played by Sebastain Stan) as they go through a whirlwind I-guess-you-could-call-it-a-courtship and spontaneously get married. They seem to love each other but you can tell from the get-go that it's probably not a great idea. And neither is leaving their honeymoon tape in a safe where it can be stolen by a construction worker, (Rand Gauthier played by a funny, understated Seth Rogan) that Tommy treats like shit. 

Viewing the tape at home, a shocked Rand naturally shows it to his pal in the porn industry "Uncle Miltie" a.k.a. Ron Swanson's sleazy brother played by the always welcome Nick Offerman. These two goofballs then make use of the nascent Internet to sell copies for a massive profit and rest is tawdry history, except for what we start to see in the later episodes, which chart the horrible humiliation of this caused for  Anderson, contibuting to a miscarriage and derailing what might've been a career that involved more than her looks. 

All of it could've likely been done in two hours, but it's a well-told story, nevertheless, with a lot to say not just about the inherent sexism in our society, but the dehumanizing impact of fame and the lack of accountability afforded by online anonymity.

Box of Pin-Ups: The British Sounds of 1965 is an excellent three-CD compilation from Cherry Red Records' Grapefruit imprint that's been getting a lot of play around our house lately. The selection focuses mainly on the fuzzy, hard sounds that emerged as Merseybeat started to fade. 

As you might imagine, the Kinks, Yardbirds, Small Faces and Pretty Things are all on hand, but so are a host of others, including the Beatstalkers, Frays and Baskervilles, all providing punchy, rocking tunes that slot in well alongside those by the better-known acts. Early tracks featuring the likes of Marc Bolan, Rod "The Mod" Stewart and Elton John also feature. 

Buying it all on the original 45s would cost a fortune, but this set — all in great sound (some of it in the original mono), plus a 48-page, picture-packed booklet  — will only set you back 30 bucks or so and is well worth it.  

"Ladhood" is a British comedy that manages to blend the hilarious "Derry Girls" with "The Wonder Years." Show creator Liam Williams stars and narrates as the action switches back and forth from the present day to his teen years in mid-90s Leeds.

Young Liam and his mates lead funny but fairly aimless lives smoking dope, listening to hip hop and never getting girls, while also being harassed by a pair of sometimes friendly/sometimes hostile bullies, Rupert and Tin Head (an autodidact whose monotone holding forth on pretty much everything is a riot). 

Liam is a bright kid, interested in shaping a creative life and getting the hell out of town, but he's also got anger issues. The frustration of his daily life leads to much bin kicking and other forms of destruction. And when we shift to the present day, we see that not much has changed. 

Grown Liam is still frustrated and still kicking garbage cans when he gets pissed off. His failure to get a handle on things leads to the destruction of his relationship and causes trouble with his friends. It's sad, yet funny, and all very deftly handled. I'm glad to learn that a third season is planned.

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Our picks this week. Click the links to order from Amazon.