It's time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in May 2015. The entire BFI TV output this month is dedicated to Noël Coward, with a season of his plays and music, including several Q&As with the likes of Keith Barron, Dame Penelope Keith, Barry Day and Kit Hesketh-Harvey all turning up to talk about the man himself.
Among the plays is Private Lives. Guess what? It’s this week’s Wednesday Play (on Tuesday) – you can read all about it after the jump or simply watch it below.
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.
So it’s Easter next week and I’m away at weddings and then taking a brief break, which means this is the last round-up for a fortnight. Somehow, though, I’m practically bang up to date. How did that happen?
I even managed to try a couple of new programmes.
A family on a Florida island is big in the local community, having run a hotel for 45 years and one of their sons (Kyle Chandler from Early Edition) being the sheriff. Then their black sheep eldest son returns to the fold, brining all manner of misery with him.
That sounds quite exciting, doesn’t it? But on the strength of the first episode, I’ll be putting this on my low priority “To watch” list, since it was quite impressively dull, despite the lovely location photography. In particular, there’s a scene that lasts about three or four minutes in which the three brothers argue over about whether or not black sheep’s girlfriend can sit at the family table for lunch. I kid you not. The only thing that managed to make watching the first episode at all was a hackneyed flash forward to more interesting times, interspersed throughout the episode.
The Good Witch (US: The Hallmark Channel)
The Hallmark Channel’s one of those channels that I pay almost no attention to, whatsoever. I bet you don’t either. Did you know that Andie MacDowell has had a show running on it for three seasons called Cedar Cove? I bet you didn’t, unless you’ve been paying a lot of attention to my News pages.
Equally, since 2008, there have on the Hallmark Channel been no fewer than sevenThe Good Witch movies starring JAG’s Catherine Bell as the absurdly named Cassandra Nightingale, a good witch who moves into a small town and starts helping people with herbal remedies, magic spells, etc. Over the course of those movies, she’s got married, raised kids and had a kid of her own. And now she’s got her own TV series, which started last month. But because it’s on the Hallmark Channel, I didn’t notice any of this until now – because even I don’t pay that much attention to my News pages.
Anyway, I tried watching the first episode, in which somewhat miserably her husband from the movies has now died (Chris Potter from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, who’s too busy filming Canada’s Heartland to do more than a movie now and then). So now she has a potential new love interest in the shape of new neighbour James Denton (The Threat Matrix, Desperate Housewives) – how long will it be before he works out she’s a witch?
And that’s when I remembered why I don’t watch anything on the Hallmark Channel – it’s all twee rubbish, with the emotional depth of a Hallmark card, and as dreadfully written, too. It makes Charmed look like 24 in comparison. Avoid.
After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, American Crime, Arrow, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Community, The Flash, Forever, Fortitude, iZombie, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Vikings.
It’s Weekly Wonder Woman, which depending on how you view these things is either six days late or one day early. Just to explain, last week was a bit of a desert, with only Sensation Comics #29 offering us anything featuring the Amazon princess, and as it was a two-part story, I decided to roll it into this week’s reviews. And as I might be a bit busy tomorrow, I figured I might as well do everything today instead. There’s lovely, hey? In fact, I might do it again next week, the fact it being Good Friday in the UK next Friday having almost nothing to do with that particular decision. Oh no.
So after the jump, we’ll dive into Sensation Comics #29-30 as Wonder Woman defends an over-sexualised Miley Cyrus-alike from a crazy mansplainer. But as an added fillip, we’ve also got a guest appearance by Wondy and the rest of the Justice League in Batman and Robin #30. That Robin’s only gone and got himself some superpowers, which means Batman needs help keeping the young whippersnapper in line…
So what is an American crime? Well, according to the rather brilliant ABC show American Crime, it’s a regular crime but observed as simply part of a wider picture, in which systems and attitudes lock individuals into situations and behaviours they can’t escape.
Following on from an apparent burglary in which a veteran is killed and his wife raped, the show depicts how the crime and the investigation affects the families of those involved. But it also asks why the crime happened, how society views the crime, whether the crime is indicative of larger problems and whether there’s a middle ground that could be reached by everyone that’s unachievable thanks to the extremes and rules society lays down.
Following a first episode that was perhaps a little self-conscious of its own importance and that occasionally escaped from its combination of artful direction and verisimilitude to give us aspects that were a tad ‘writerly’ in their unlikeliness, the following two episodes have barely put a foot wrong in showing us the insides of the American justice system and how it can trap those who have barely done anything wrong or who would benefit from either treatment of human kindness. It’s tried to put in the shoes of junkies, drug dealers, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, Latinos, black Americans, white Americans, fathers, mothers and everyone else as their lives overlap and they fail to understand one another, only knowing their own lives and what society tells them to be.
The show's a hard watch. It is literally the last thing I watch out of every week’s viewing, not because it’s a bad show, but because it’s such a dishearteningly true picture of reality, without any glimmer of hope and goodness to relieve the misery, beyond the fact it’s on broadcast TV so can’t quite tread into the darkest realms. That's why I’ll only doing my third-episode verdict on a Wednesday, when the show airs a new episode on a Thursday. That's why the ratings keep dropping.
But as I’ve said before, if this were on HBO, there’d be no doubt that everyone would be calling it the most important, most realistic, most astutely observed crime drama since Southland or perhaps even The Wire. If you have any interest in quality TV, this is the one American show you should be watching right now.
Barrometer rating: 0 Rob’s prediction: With these ratings, it’s unlikely to survive, so catch it while you can.
There's something weirdly fascinating about the USA Network's Dig. The creation of Tim Kring (Heroes) and Gideon Raff (Homeland), it sees FBI agent (hello to) Jason Isaacs travelling to Jerusalem to catch a criminal, only to somehow get embroiled in an Old Testament conspiracy theory that involves unblemished heffers, cloned kids whose feet must not touch the ground and a long-lost priest's breastplate that allowed him to communicate with God. Bringing in all sorts of Jewish mythology in the same way that the similar Touchdid, it's nevertheless absolute bobbins in the Dan Brown vein that's only mildly less stupid.
Since the first episode, we've had all sorts happen but very little get explained, beyond the introduction of yet more conspiracists including Richard E Grant and the pairing of Isaacs buddy-buddy stylee with a sceptical Israeli cop (Ori Pfeffer). There have been plenty of chases, plenty of deaths, plenty of 'revelations' and plenty of biblical references, but nothing yet makes much sense.
The show has a few redeeming features: the Jersusalem filming and having half the show in Hebrew is lovely; the occasional local touch, such as having Pfeffer pick up his kid while taking a suspect to the police station, makes it feel like one of Raff's shows before he switched to US TV; a strong supporting cast, including Grant, Anne Heche and David Costabile, lift the show above the likes of Allegiance; and having a show that's firmly about Jewish rather than Christian traditions is novel.
But that's not enough, when faced with Dig's obvious stupidity and dullness. It's just tedious to watch.
Nevertheless, there's something oddly compelling about its strangeness. Normally, with such a high Barrometer rating, I'd have dropped it like so much CSI: Cyber. But for some reason, whether it's just the absolute strangeness of the show, Isaacs or the location filming, I want to tune in for more.
I absolutely under no circumstances would recommend Dig (or anything Tim Kring is involved with) to anyone, but I might well stick with it, right until the bitter end. At which point, I'm sure I'll rue my wasted time. But I think I'll still have seem something different from the usual US TV thriller. And perhaps that's Dig last remaining redeeming feature.
Barrometer rating: 4 Rob's prediction: It's only supposed to last a season and that's all it's going to get
After all, she’s quite important to the Daredevil comic strip.
Probably not, though. I mean if they couldn’t get Scarlett Johansson for Marvel’s Agent Carter, which actually had the entire Black Widow programme’s back story in it, what chance a Netflix TV appearance, no matter how good it might look?
Back in 1975, things might have been different. Angela Bowie acquired the TV rights to both Daredevil and Black Widow for all of a year and tried to create a TV series based on the two characters. That got as far as a photo shoot with actor Benny Carruthers as Daredevil and Bowie as Black Widow.
However, it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, so nothing happened. A shame or small blessings? You decide…
PS I should probably say “Next time, baby” for the full Iron Man effect. It’s not really me, though.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.