July 3, 2015

Chris Pratt has psychic powers

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He made this video for the Parks and Recreation season 2 DVD five years ago. Woah.


News: Marisa Tomei to recur on Empire, drama investment halved, BBC job cuts + more

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July 2, 2015

Review: Zoo 1x1 (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

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CBS's Zoo

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, CBS
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1

Imagine what would happen if all the animals in the world suddenly decided that humans were screwing things up and they were going to run the planet instead.

Well, we’d be screwed, that’s what. Even putting aside what would happen if it was just the ants - they’d win all by themselves - even with overpopulation, there’s only seven billion or so of us and there's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects, just for starters, and they’re all largely bastards to begin with.

Okay, so let’s dial it down a notch and imagine it’s just zoo animals - and only a few of them at that - as well as maybe some cats. Not quite so worrying, is it? I mean, we’ve always suspected the cats were out to get us, haven’t we?

Yet so far, that’s all the thrills and spills we’ve had from Zoo, CBS’s latest attempt to capture the summer lightning in a bottle that was Under The Dome.

Based on James Patterson's (Women’s Murder Club) novel of the same name, Zoo is initially set in two locales: Botswana and Los Angeles. In Botswana, US ex-pat James Wolk (Lonestar) is jaded with life and off running safaris for tourists, when he starts to notice some lions acting strangely. They’re ganging up with each other to kill people and are even using battle strategies to do it.

Uh huh.

Meanwhile, newspaper reporter and conspiracy theorist blogger Kristen Connolly (House of Cards, Houdini, The Whispers) is getting all het up about some lions that escaped the local zoo, killing their keepers and some innocent bystanders. She blames the food, but person-hating animal pathologist Billy Burke (Revolution) reckons it’s all just a freak incident - until he goes looking for all the missing pet cats, that is…

Uh huh.

If that sounds ludicrously bad, then you’re right and you haven’t even been exposed to the toxic dialogue and characters yet. Frankly, with TV like this, the world probably would be better off with the animals in charge.

Here’s a trailer. Try not to laugh too hard.

Continue reading "Review: Zoo 1x1 (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)"

Preview: Impastor 1x1 (US: TV Land)

Posted yesterday at 10:00 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Wednesdays, 10.30/9.30c, TV Land
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a long tradition of comedy shows about men and women of the cloth. Think All Gas and Gaiters, Oh, Brother!, Oh, Father!, Troubles and Strife, Rev, Father Ted, The Vicar of Dibley. Ironic, isn’t it, though – all those shows are from this side of the Atlantic, rather than the very much more religious US. You could probably have a long think and come up with some US comedy shows about reverends, but you’d be hard pushed.

Maybe it’s too serious a subject for the US to tackle – at least, head on. But when they can come at it at an angle, maybe not.

TV Land – the comedy network for people who like things the way they used to be when they were young – is currently trying to bring a relatively younger audience, and given it was probably the last US network to have a go at a religious sitcom with The Soul Man, it seems fitting that they’re giving it another go with Impastor. The Soul Man was, of course, about an R&B singer who becomes a preacher. Whether it was ’too black’ for TV Land’s audience, only TV Land can say, but Impastor is certainly a whole lot whiter. But that doesn’t mean TV Land is forsaking diversity. Oh no.

Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Breaking In) is gambling addict and small-time criminal Buddy. When all seems lost and even his girlfriend Aimee Garcia (Dexter) has deserted him, he decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge. Fortunately, at the last moment, a vicar on the way to his new job intercedes. Unfortunately for the vicar, he plummets to his own doom instead and Buddy seizes the opportunity to take his place… and perhaps his possessions, money, etc. Except Buddy turns out to have an accidental talent for ‘pastoring’.

If only he didn’t have to pretend to be gay, too.

Here’s a trailer and if you’re quick, below it is the entire episode:

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News: Spike acquires 19-2, Transporter, Suits renewed, a Fatal Attraction mini + more

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July 1, 2015

The Wednesday Play: Leeds United (1974)

Posted yesterday at 17:02 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It’s quite easy to dismiss a lot of the late 60s/early 70s Play For Today strands as agitprop. I’ve done it myself, plenty of times. But it’s worth remembering that even when it was agitprop, that didn’t mean that everyone in the left wing was happy with the results.

Leeds United is one play that garnered considerable backlash… from trade unions. It was written in 1974 by actor Colin Welland (Kes, Z Cars, Straw Dogs, Sweeney!) who’s now best known as the writer of Chariots of Fire, for which he won the Best Screenplay Oscar and notoriety for his "The British are coming!" acceptance speech:

Directed by Roy Battersby and starring Lynne Perrie, Elizabeth Spriggs, Lori Wells, Josie Lane and Bert Gaunt, the play was based on the true story of a 1970 strike in Leeds by female textile-factory workers. What did they want? To be paid the same as their male colleagues. When did they want it? Now. Their biggest obstacle? Their own trade union.

While Welland, of course, survived the furore from the trade unions, Battersby didn’t fare as well. Despite being a Trotskyist and full-time organiser for the Workers Revolutionary Party, his career was considerably damaged. His third Play For Today, Leeds United would be the last of his contributions and he never worked on the series again. He worked very little on TV for the rest of the 1970s, but his career revived in the 80s. He eventually won the Alan Clarke BAFTA for ‘outstanding creative contribution to television’ in 1996.

Leeds United is this week’s Wednesday Play. Try not to blacklist anyone after you’ve watched it.

What TV's on at the BFI in August 2015? Including Six Centuries of Verse: American Pioneers

Posted yesterday at 16:17 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The BFI’s August TV output this year is dedicated almost exclusively to the one and only Orson Welles, including some special excerpts from the Munich Film Museum of some of his rarer, European TV work. However, there’s also a season dedicated to poetry on TV, with the likes of Maya Angelou, Andrew Motion, WH Auden and John Betjeman all putting in appearances.

More after the jump. But first, Lee Remick, Stacy Keach and others reading some of the classics of American poetry in the American Pioneers episode of Six Centuries of Verse, presented by John Gielgud, which will be airing on Monday 24 August.

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News: (American) Odyssey cancelled, more Brian Pern, no BBC1+1, Syfy's Channel Zero + more

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June 30, 2015

WGN America brings together Elementary and Person of Interest for a face-off

Posted 3 days ago at 08:14 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Like AMC before it, WGN America might be starting to produce original content, with the likes of Salem and Manhattan, but it’s still largely a network dedicated to showing other networks’ content. Its latest acquisitions are CBS’s Elementary and Person of Interest and to publicise the news, it’s got the characters of each show to face off against one another.

It’s both funny… and awkward. Who do you think will win?


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News: Janet King and Rake renewed, a NASCAR series, Joanna Lumley's Harmony + more

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June 29, 2015

Weekly Wonder Woman: Deathstroke #7, Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Four #8, Sensation Comics #39

Posted 3 days ago at 16:11 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Deathstroke #7

DC You’s new look for Wonder Woman launched last week, but you’d be hard pressed to notice it this week, thanks to all the Elseworlds versions in Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Four and Sensation Comics wearing variations of her outfits from Volumes 1 and 2 instead. Indeed, the only standard continuity Wonder Woman around is in Deathstroke #7 and she’s wearing her original nu52 outfit. But we’ll talk all about that after the jump.

We’ll also be looking at what happens when you try to put the Silver Age Cheetah on trial, over in Sensation Comics, and in Injustice: Gods Among Us, we’ll finally get round to answering the question “Who would win in a fair fight between Superman and Wonder Woman?” And so far, it’s not looking good for the last son of Krypton…

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Third-episode verdict: Humans (UK: Channel 4; US: AMC)

Posted 3 days ago at 12:32 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerHumans.jpgA Barrometer rating of 1

In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, Channel 4
In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

I have to admit I don’t watch much UK TV these days, of which Channel 4 represents a very small amount. All the same I’m going to go out on a limb and say Humans is one of the best science-fiction shows the network has made, perhaps since the hallowed Ultraviolet. Perhaps it’s because it’s adapted from a Swedish TV show or perhaps it’s because it’s a co-production with the US's AMC network. Either way, it’s very, very good.

Set on a parallel, modern day Earth in which synthetic humans (basically Blade Runner-esque Replicants) have become everyday appliances that can help around the home or take on dangerous or unpleasant jobs, Humans uses that situation to explore our attitudes to technology, what it is to be human as well as what humanity is capable of. What would we do if we could create people whose feelings we didn’t have to care about? Would we still consider them human in some way and treat them with respect? Would we use them and abuse them? And what would happen to our self-identities, if we had better versions our ourselves around to look at and compare ourselves against?

While the first episode felt a little bit too much ‘made in the UK’ and the second struggled a little with pacing, the third was a real blinder, both disconcerting and moving, the audience never being too sure whether to root for the ‘synths’ that have emotional capabilities or fear them, to cheer for the humans who might be at risk or be dismayed by their lack of empathy.

The show does particularly well at using each different synth to show how we treat a particular human group, with the central Asiatic synth a representation of domestic servitude, an attractive female synth a representation of how we treat sex workers and more generally women, and so on. Each synth brings up the question “How do these groups feel? And what would happen if they took power into their own hands?”

Simultaneously, they make us question our relationships with technology, the power we give it, the benefits it bestows, and even beyond - Rebecca Front’s medical synth, for example, is as much a commentary on the power we give healthcare bureaucracies over those in their care, as she is on the need for empathy in those who perform the care.

But as well as being 'good at issues’, Humans works well as a drama, too. Katherine Parkinson’s working mum has to work out if her new synth really can feel or not, and what position she herself can have in a family where all the traditional tasks of the mother are being provided by someone who’s not only better at them but there all the time - and is happy to tell her that to her face.

Colin Morgan’s attempts to reunite all the thinking synths while on the run from those who want to learn their secrets is just as interesting, as is his own secret, and William Hurt’s attempts to hold onto the memories of his dead wife, trapped within his failing, old synth that Front’s come to replace are somewhere between moving and comedic.

While it’s still all a bit made in the UK, married with the typical speed of an AMC show, Humans is nevertheless the kind of show that makes you realise all’s not lost for modern British television.

Barrometer rating: 1
Rob’s prediction: Should hopefully get a second season

Third-episode verdict: Dark Matter (Canada: Space; US/UK: Syfy)

Posted 3 days ago at 11:42 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerDarkMatter.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In Canada: Fridays, 10e/7p, Space
In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy

The best that can probably be said about Dark Matter is that it’s better than you think it’s going to be and that it gets better over time. A show initially so generic in its grungy, generic sci-fi ambitions, we all had a hard time working out if it was Blakes 7 crossed with Andromeda or Farscape crossed with Firefly. Since then, its essential core - generic characters in a generic spaceship experiencing generic science-fiction plots in generic outer space Wild West - has hardly changed. The characters are the same, the situations are the same and the tropes are the same.

But whether it’s now finding its feet or its original comic source has now been exhausted and the producers (who also wrote it) are trying to work out what’s better for the small screen, episode three felt marginally better. A more generic version of Blakes 7’s Stardrive, it was basically a ‘ship in a bottle’ episode that allowed everyone to interact and reveal more about themselves and the main plot. While pretty much everything went as you’d have expected it, there were a few surprise twists and despite the ‘gritty’ setting, it managed to be amiable and fun enough to maintain attention throughout.

More importantly, the very end of the episode suggests potentially more interesting territory is about to be explored: the crew may have lost their memories but (spoiler alert) they may never have had them and may only be clones of the real crew.

All the same, the show’s put enough of its cards on the table now that we can see there’s a peak quality threshold it’s never going to exceed. Dark Matter's generic space opera at best and to be fair to the producers, that’s all they’re aiming for. I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with it, but unlike its equally generic, Friday-night schedule buddy Killjoys, it does at least pass the time nicely and without many dull moments, there are some decent actors in the cast and it’s not stupid. And by both Syfy and sci-fi standards, that's pretty good.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Could well make it to a second season, but I suspect I’ll have given up before then

News: River Song has a Big Finish, Gotham criminals, Gaiman to write American Gods + more

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June 26, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Rules For Living, True Detective, The Last Ship and Suits

Posted 6 days ago at 17:30 | 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.

Last week, I had the bright idea to shift ‘What have you been watching?’ to Mondays, as several Sunday shows were finishing and Thursdays were starting to fill up with new shows.

Stupid idea. Very stupid idea. A quick glance through the schedules revealed that I should leave things as they were, as as well as replacements for the existing Sunday shows and a couple of returning shows, there was a whole bunch of new Friday shows to deal with, too.

Thankfully, I’ve just about made it through this week’s viewing selection, with only Sunday’s Humans to work my way through still. Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed the first episodes (and sometimes more) of:

That means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of the usual regulars: Halt and Catch Fire, Hannibal, Humans, Stitchers, Tyrant, Westside and The Whispers. We’ve also got the return of The Last Ship, Suits and True Detective to consider, as well as the second episodes of Clipped and Proof. Some of these are getting the chop. Can you guess which, Tigers?

But first, some theatre!

Rules For Living (National Theatre)
A dark comedy starring that Stephen Mangan (Episodes, Dirk Gently, Green Wing), Miles Jupp (Rev, Neville’s Island), Claudie Blakley, Maggie Service and Deborah Findlay from off the tele, as a family getting together for Christmas. Jupp and Mangan are brothers, Findlay the mum, Service Jupp’s actress girlfriend and Blakley Mangan’s wife whom Jupp has pined for ever since they were kids.

The play’s focus, oddly enough, is cognitive behavioural therapy and the idea that we acquire ‘rules for living’ over time that while initially helpful, can eventually lead us to fixed behaviours that only make us unhappy. Only by learning what our rules are and breaking out of them can we become happy.

The play’s conceit is to put each character’s rule on a scoreboard at each end of the stage, so that the audience knows the rule, when the character has to obey it and what the exceptions to the rule might be. At the end, everyone’s score gets tallied up and the winner ‘rewarded’.

Rules For Living is both very funny and uncomfortable; it’s also uneven and occasionally forced, with elements of plausibility being stretched very far at some points. But it’s still very enjoyable, occasionally saddening, occasionally raw and by the end of it, you’ll be wondering what your own rules might be.

Another quirk of the the play is that it’s staged ‘in traverse’ - that is, the play is in the middle of the theatre almost like a pit, with the audience mostly on either side of the stage.

In traverse

We were in the front row, which meant that we were as little as a couple of feet away from the cast (and some nice looking cake) at some points. However, if you want to avoid (spoiler alert) being hit by food during the food fight I’d recommend sitting a couple of rows further back or wearing something that can be washed clean easily.

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