September 1, 2014

What have you been watching? Including Legends, Forever, Outlander, A to Z, Selfie and Intruders

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It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there's Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Okay, I’ll admit it – I hadn’t intended to leave it quite as long as a month before I started blogging again. But what with work, August, bank holidays, etc, I actually didn’t have the time – until now.

But now I’m back and I can cast my own back over August’s viewing, making it look like an almost deliberate decision. After the jump, I’ll look at the few recurring shows I’m still watching, as well as those that finished their seasons while I was away.

However, before that, let’s have a look at some of the new shows that popped up in August that I was able to take a gander at. There’s a few I missed out on (e.g. Garfunkel and Oates), but not that many, fortunately, so here’s pretty much all of August’s new TV rundown as well as some previews of some new shows that have already slapped their pilots on the Internet.

A To Z (US: NBC. Starts October 2, 9.30/8.30c)
A relatively benign and almost fun romcom that chronicles the relationship ups and downs implausibly named Andrew and Zelda (hence the title). To flip the format slightly, Andrew is the romantic one who believes in fate, Zelda is the uptight lawyer. To not flip the format at all, there are also a couple of best friends who don’t really do anything unexpected or different.

On the whole, though, it’s not bad. It does, however, shoot itself in the foot almost instantly by having narrator Katey Sagal explain that the series covers the whole x number of days of the relationship, dooming the relationship from the beginning. And while there is an easy get out (the break up then get back together again), it puts a significant downer on what actually might have been quite a nice, feelgood show. It also doesn’t help that Cristin Miloti plays Zelda, because she was the mother in How I Met Your Mother. And died in that.

Immigration summary: Lenora Crichlow (English) plays Zelda’s best friend. Otherwise, surprisingly all-American.

Forever (US: Starts September 23, 10pm, ABC; UK: Sky 1, October 2014)
Ioan Gruffudd is a New York chief medical examiner… who also happens to be immortal. Whenever he dies, he wakes up in a nearby watery mass (e.g. river, lake, sea). He’s a bit fed up of living, despite having acquired hundreds of years of expertise in languages, science, medicine, etc, and a deductive skill that puts Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes to shame, so spends his time with the dead, trying to work out a cure for his immortality. Along the way, though, he helps to solve crimes.

Obviously, this is Highlander without the sword fights. Well, I say ‘obviously', but right at the end of the first episode, there’s a massive Highlander reference (spoiler: someone is found dead with a Masamune katana in their chest, just like Connor MacLeod’s). This comes right down to the show having its own Rachel in the shape of Judd Hirsch, constant pining over a long-dead wife and a potential new love interest who’s a NYPD cop. But there’s also a bit of humour and although it might seem like a procedural as well, any show that has one of its chief suspects arrested and his house search and then allows him to continue investigating the crime and examining the evidence is clearly not going for mimesis.

Gruffudd is good, Hirsch is Hirsch and everyone else is just okay. There’s a bit of promise with a series arc that involves a potential adversary/friend for Gruffudd. But it’s not inspiring or compelling, so I doubt it’ll last that long.

Immigration summary: Ioan Gruffudd is all-Welsh, of course; Lorraine Toussaint is from Trinidad; Donnie Keshawarz is American-Canadian-Afghani. Otherwise, all-American for a change.

Intruders (US: Saturdays, 10/9c, BBC America; UK: BBC2, Autumn 2014)
BBC America appears to be confused here in that they seem to think that they should be making programmes that are BBC programmes, just in America. So we have a largely all-Brit cast, including John Simm and James Frain, faking American accents (badly) in the kind of poor sci-fi/fantasy that BBC1 seems to do so well these days (eg Outcasts, Paradox). Here, we have a secret society that seeks immortality by hiding inside other people’s bodies, which might seem an interesting idea at first, but instead gives us some rubbish devil worship scenes and Simm meandering around feeling sorry for himself. Almost lone American Mira Sorvino is wasted.

Immigration summary: Simm and Frain – both Brits - as is Millie Brown, who's a possessed kid. She learnt her American accent watching the Disney Channel, apparently: beat that, American child actors!

Legends (US: TNT. Wednesdays, 9/8c, TNT)
Sean Bean is an undercover FBI operative who can psychologically transform himself into another person for each job. Unfortunately, not only is he starting to find the lines between himself and his false identities are blurring, there’s the distinct possibility he might not even be who he thinks he really is. Oh dear.

Unfortunately, this promising idea gets squandered a lot, thanks to TNT’s efforts to turn the show into a sort of NCIS, with a tedious backroom staff watching and listening to Bean’s every move and arranging hacks of banks and official records in mere seconds, as the case needs it. As a result, Bean’s superb versatility and Ali Larter, who plays Bean’s ex-girlfriend/FBI handler, are the only reasons to watch the show. Having said that, the third episode almost managed to register as “not bad”, rather than “terrifyingly awful”.

Immigration summary: Sean Bean – apparently, the kind of Brit who can pass as a stuttering West Virginian for up to nine months at a time, when no American could.

Outlander (US: Starz. Saturdays, 9pm ET/PT)
Post-War nurse while off with her genealogy-obsessed husband in Scotland, touches a stone circle and finds herself back in 1743, where she meets a buff Highland lad, fighting the Red Coats. Will she succumb to his charms like that fortune teller said she would?

Largely, if it weren't for BSG's Ronald D Moore behind the scenes and the fact that it airs on Starz so there's plenty of sex and violence, this would be on The CW, trying to appeal to teenage girls alongside Reign. I did watch this with my lovely wife and neither of us could find anything that appealing or romantic about the show; buff Highland lad seemed a bit bereft of charisma and charm as is WW2 nurse; and her hubbie (Tobias Menzies from Doctor Who, The Honourable Woman, Game of Thrones, et al) was actually quite nice. We never got as far as episode two.

Immigration summary: Literally everyone is either British or Irish. Everyone.

Selfie (US: Tuesdays, 8pm/7pm, ABC)
Loose updating of My Fair Lady for the social media age, with Eliza Dooley (former Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan) coming a viral cropper and recruiting marketing guru Henry Higenbottam (Harold and Kumar’s John Cho) to rehabilitate her image. Instead, Higgins tries to rehabilitate her and make her less self-centred.

Created by Suburgatory’s Emily Kapnek, this is a marked disappointment, although it still displays her usual wit and intelligence in a few places at least. There are few laughs, few decent characters apart from those inherited from the original and only the beginnings of a vestigial romance between Gillan and Cho. I’ll probably watch episode two, but it’s on thin ice.

Immigration summary: Apart from Gillan, there’s also David Harewood (Homeland) as her boss.

Movies

Guess what? I also watched some movies!

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Admirable, joyful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with an origin story showing how the slightly dickish 'guardians' come together to defend a utopia from an intergalactic religious zealot (the wonderful Lee Pace from Halt and Catch Fire). There's a lot to like about the film, which isn't quite as good as Captain America 2 (IMHO), but I didn't love it, possibly because of the characters (except for Groot). It does have the best soundtrack of the Marvel movies, too.

Transcendence (2014)
Scientist Johnny Depp dies and gets turned into an artificial intelligence, where he starts to get both world-changing and human-changing ideas. For about 90% of its run, it appears to be a modern-day, biologically enhanced version of Colossus: The Forbin Project, before the ending flips everything on its head. A real slow-mover, it does feature some very interesting ideas, but is still massively too long. Definitely best seen at home.

After the jump, the regulars, including The Last Ship, Halt and Catch Fire, Suits, Tyrant, Doctor Who and You're The Worst.

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So much horror on one stage

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July 26, 2014

Holiday! Celebrate! Again!

Posted on July 26, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Crete!

Yes, it’s August again, more or less, so it’s time for my annual pilgrimage to Greece. That means no blogging for give or take the next three weeks.

Beyond that, the Daily News won’t be returning until September, for three awesome, well considered reasons:

  1. Most people are on their holidays in August, too, so I’m not getting up early to write something no one’s going to read.
  2. Most TV people are on their holidays in August, too, so they’re not actually going to be making much news I can get up early to report on.
  3. I need a break and after three weeks of holiday, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get up early to report on anything anyway.

But despite having pruned my viewing to a minimum, there are going to be shows over August, both regular ones I’m already watching and new ones. In particular, Ali Larter will be back on TV for TNT's Legends on August 13th. Can you imagine me missing that?

Ali Larter at ComicCon for Legends

Ali thinks that’s ridiculous, too.

TTFN and If you're going on holiday, too, have a nice time – let us know if you had fun!

MediumRob


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July 25, 2014

Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #33, Batman and Robin #29-33

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Wonder Woman #33

I’m going to be off on holiday for the next three weeks or so, so before I go, I thought I’d sneek in a 'Weekly Woman Wonder' on the most important title of the month - apart from Superman/Wonder Woman that is - namely Wonder Woman. Strange that that should be the order, hey?

I’ll also be playing a little bit of time travel to cast my eye back over the past few issues of Batman and Robin which have featured a reasonably well written but spectacularly poorly drawn Diana, simply because it’s an interesting look at how she’s now viewed in the DC Universe. And because it’s quite interesting.

Continue reading "Weekly Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman #33, Batman and Robin #29-33"

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It's a Scots off!

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

So who is Scotland’s greatest son? John Barrowman?

John Barrowman at the Commonwealth Games

Or Peter Capaldi?

Peter Capaldi blowing the bagpipes

Only you can decide.

What have you been watching? Including You're The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits and Halt and Catch Fire

Posted on July 25, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there's Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

With August and the summer holidays approaching, it’s going to be the last ‘What have you been watching?' for a few weeks, so I’ll leave you with this one as a happy memory. And because the holidays are upon us, I’m going to be ruthless with a few shows that might have got as far as a third-episode verdict any other time of the year. So I’m not bothering with last night’s Rush, Satisfaction or Marriage, because the shows aren’t good enough for me to go to any effort in catching up with when I’m back from my holidays. They're probably going to be cancelled anyway.

This week, I’ve managed to review the following new shows:

But after the jump, a round-up of the regulars, with reviews of The Bridge (US), Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Suits, Tyrant and You’re The Worst.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including You're The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits and Halt and Catch Fire"

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Review: Y Gwyll/Hinterland (DVD)

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hinterland DVD main screen

Y GwyllStarring: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries
Price: £15.15 (Amazon price)
Released: 30 June

One of the most bizarre things about this year's airing on BBC4 of the S4C show Y Gwyll (aka Hinterland) is that it was largely in English. Every scene of each of its four episodes had been shot in both Welsh and English and a completely Welsh version of the show had aired on S4C in October/November 2013. Yet BBC4, which has been prepared to air on Saturday nights during primetime shows entirely in French, Flemish, Swedish, Danish and Italian, decided instead to air the last-minute hybrid English-Welsh version that BBC1 Wales had chosen to air in January.

Viewers who were aware of this wanted to know why and probably would have liked to have seen the fully Welsh version, at least to compare and contrast, but perhaps also because it was actually very slightly better. Now they can. Because while Arrow Films, the home of Nordic Noir DVD releases in the UK, released that hybrid version on DVD last month as Hinterland/Y Gwyll, a few weeks later, they very quietly also released the Welsh version as Y Gwyll/Hinterland, too.

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Third-episode verdict: Welcome To Sweden (TV4/NBC)

Posted on July 25, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerWelcomeToSweden.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In Sweden: Aired starting in March on TV4 in Sweden
In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

Three episodes into the TV4-NBC English language co-production, Welcome To Sweden, and the big problem I had with the first episode is still true: it’s just not as funny as it should be.

The show does pretty much everything right in terms of production in this romcom based on American Greg Poehler’s real-life attempts to adapt to life in Sweden when he emigrates there to be with his girlfriend. It’s shot in Sweden, has Swedish writers and has Swedish actors. It’s got a decent array of characters. It has a bevy of guest stars, from both sides of the Atlantic, including Will Ferrell and most of the cast of Parks and Recreation. It plays with stereotypes but knows enough to transcend them. It’s not afraid to have half the show in Swedish, half in English. There aren’t even any male-female stereotypes to deal with, despite its being a romcom.

But the joke count in both Swedish and English is remarkably low, and most of the situations on the show can be found in any romcom, whether it’s “having sex in the room next to the parents” to “passing the immigration department’s tests”, without really doing anything innovative with one. Each episode gives perhaps one or two laughs at most, usually from the Swedish side rather than the American side, although episode two saw Poehler having to pretend to be Canadian when some American-hating Iraq war refugees turn up at his language class. And when the laughs aren't coming from the Swedes joking about Poehler’s height, it's from the guest stars playing versions of themselves, whether it’s Will Ferrell’s hopelessly well adjusted, Swedophile who learnt Swedish by listening to husky-toned language tapes, or Parks and Recreation’s Amy “Greg’s sister” Poehler and Audrey Plaza playing themselves as self-centred, vapid druggies.

In other words, the central set-up isn’t that great; it’s the few things in each episode other than that that actually provide the very gentle comedy.

If you like Parks and Recreation’s first season, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. If you speak Swedish, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. Otherwise, you’ll almost certainly want to love Welcome To Sweden, but you just won’t find it that funny.

Rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but funnier things have happened

Watch the Hannibal season 2 gag reel

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Because nothing says funny like Hannibal does it?

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News: Amazon's Man In The High Castle, Sky Arts marks Kiefer Sutherland, 50 Shades of trailer + more

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