Assuming you all aren't too busy studying your statue of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for potential plot clues, it's time for our weekly round-up of the Amazon princessqueen's latest appearances in DC comics.
Surprisingly, last week's theme was radioactivity. First, we had the culmination of Celsia 451 in Wonder Woman '77, which gave us the eponymous villainess's nuclear-fuelled origin.Meanwhile, over in the continuation of the Darkseid War in Justice League #44, Superman took some bad radiation and went all bad. Lastly, somewhere over the gods's new home on Paradise Island in Injustice: Gods Among Us, the missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
If there's a message to take away from the latest crop of medical dramas that the networks have foist so far on us this autumn, it's that the American public like their doctors to be dicks. Dicks who are right and will make you better medically, but fundamentally, who are complete dicks with the bedside manner of a marine drill sergeant. We've already had lone-wolf racist surgeon dick Jennifer Beals over on TNT's Proof and an entire hospital of nurse and doctor dicks over on CBS in Code Black - particularly Marcia Gay Harden. And now we have 'actually used to be a doctor in real life' dick doctor Ken Jeong in Dr Ken.
I'm not sure the cause of this. Maybe it's 'the Donald Trump effect' making viewers crave a complete dick to order them about. Maybe it's nearly a decade of House that's conditioned everyone to be expect doctors to be misanthropic geniuses. Or maybe it's a realistic reflection of the US medical system. After all, Alec Baldwin was kind of a dick surgeon in Malice all the way back in 1993.
Whatever the reason, that's what we've got in Dr Ken. Now admittedly, Ken Jeong has made a career out of being a dick, first as a doctor (I'm assuming), then as a stand-up, then as the insane teacher, Chang, in Community and then as the funny naked crime lord, Leslie Chow, of The Hangover and its sequels.
He's funny and edgy. However, beyond the fact he's been a doctor in real life and he's also a producer and writer for Dr Ken, it's not clear why he should be shoe-horned into a multi-camera family sitcom in which he makes proctology jokes. Beyond the fact that TV doctors are apparently all now dicks and Jeong's good at playing a dick, even a mild dick.
And he is quite mild in this. The show dwells on two areas: home and office. Home is home. It's the same as any other sitcom family, with Jeong and his therapist wife (Suzy Nakamura) tusselling for control over home and children, Jeong being less sympathetic to his kids than she. Because he's a mildly dickish TV doctor, but also because that's how US family sitcoms work.
At the office, Jeong spends his time being dickish to his annoying patients, quarrelling and gossiping with his diverse, joke-playing co-workers, and tusselling for control over patients and staff with administrator Dave Foley (Kids In The Hall, How To Be A Gentleman, SpunOut). Even though Jeong and the cast do their best, the script never really delivers the funny in either domain, although Foley's inadvertent racism almost manages to raise some chuckles. Unfortunately, it crosses a line and just becoming unpleasant. The only other joke of note? Jeong looking for his daughter, Molly, in a night club and finding something quite different instead. And I've just spoiled that one for you.
Perhaps the only point where the show ever really becomes interesting is when Jeong acts and talks like a doctor. It may be dry stuff, for just for a moment, you might find your sleeping brain cells stirred into life.
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.
I always forget. I always go "Look how much I've done!" in the first week of each new Fall season, then forget that in the second week I've got to watch all the new programmes that start airing that week as well as the ones that began the previous week.
My, what a lot of tele I've watched this week.
Still, unbelievably, I'm actually up to date. This week, I reviewed the first episodes of the following new shows:
And after the jump, you'll find reviews of the latest episodes of: 800 Words, Blindspot, Continuum, Doctor Who, Heroes Reborn, Life in Pieces, Limitless, Minority Report, The Muppets, The Player, Rosewood, Scream Queens, Y Gwyll and You're The Worst. Some of them won't be making it to a third-episode verdict, particularly since the Barrometer is currently in a tanning salon somewhere in the Gorbals so too busy to pass judgement on anything, but you can find out which after the jump.
On top of all that, I also managed to watch the first episode of another new show, this time from the UK.
You, Me and The Apocalypse (UK: Sky1; US: NBC) As with most US/UK co-productions, particularly those involving Sky, this is a lukewarm affair that satisfies no-one, perhaps best evidenced by the change in the show's title from Apocalypse Slough. It sees a comet approaching the Earth, meaning that everyone goes a bit whacky at the prospect of the coming Apocalypse that will result when it hits. However, the action of the first episode is all set in the lead-up to the lead-up to the comet, introducing us to several different groups of people from around the world who are going to all end up together at some point. These include Mathew Baynton, Joel Fry (Plebs), Pauline Quirke (Birds of a Feather), Rob Lowe (like you need to know who he is), Paterson Joseph (Peep Show), Jenna Fischer (The Office US) and an almost unrecognisable Megan Mullally (Will and Grace). Unfortunately, it's all a bit weak and pathetic, not really knowing who its audience is, despite the occasional choice joke. The only exception to this is Rob Lowe's bad minded Catholic priest who is the Vatican's Devil's Advocate. Otherwise, eminently missable.
But if you think after all that I had any time to watch any movies or go to the theatre, you have a higher opinion of me than I do.
CBS is, of course, the king of the police procedural in the US. Police procedurals of all ilks dominate its schedules and the ratings, and arguably it does them better than any other network.
However, for years, it's tried to extend its procedural dominance into the medical realm, with a seemingly neverending stream of shows that quickly turn out to be low-rated, instantly forgettable one-season wonders: Three Rivers, 3 Lbs, Miami Trauma, A Gifted Man.
In fact, I've written pretty much this exact same intro to every new medical procedural CBS has come up with every year, so much so I'm bored of it. Maybe you are, too.
Trouble is, I fully expect I'll be writing it again next year since CBS's latest medical procedural, Code Black, is a yawnfest that's almost certainly going to get cancelled by the end of the season. It's based on Code Black, a 2013 documentary about LA County General, which is one of the largest and busiest teaching hospitals in the US, employing more than 1,000 residents at a time. The name 'code black' refers to when an emergency department's resources are so overstretched by an influx of patients, it can't take it any more, and while most EDs in the US only experience four such events a year, LA County General experiences it 300 times a year.
Time for more resources, obviously. Except that wouldn't make for a great TV show.
And neither would Code Black, in which a whole bunch of competitive, disparate, highly dull medical residents all learn how to be ED doctors at the hands of 'dad', aka Marcia Gay Harden (The Newsroom, Damages), 'mom' being Luis Guzmán (Narcos), the senior nurse who looks after them all. Harden's a bit hard and lacking in bedside manner following 'an incident' three years previously, something that concerns caring, sharing fellow doctor Raza Jaffrey (Elementary, Homeland, Spooks) but not so much hospital administrator Kevin Dunn (Samantha Who?), since Harden's abrasive training produces the best doctors.
And that's it, really. It's basically ER but busier, not taking the time to do more in terms of characterisation rather than have people explain who they are and how totes awesome they are, before performing perfunctory acts of dickery. It's just blood on the floor to blood on the floor, while a camera unsuccessfully rushes around to try to convey the impression of the original Code Black documentary. Nice, if you like medical porn, dull if you want an actual drama.
The trouble is if you just rush all the time in an attempt to convey pressure, you're not going to end up with tension. You're going to end up with confusion. And then boredom.
The camera goes here, the camera goes there, while the cast mumble their lines or shout them so that you never hear them. All you'll really know most of the time is that people are ill and the doctors are trying to help them. Learn much about the US medical system from it all? Grow to love a character? Probably not.
There are scenes, almost all of them involving Dunn, where the show is allowed to breath and for characters to grow. But they're few and far between, and sometimes oddly positioned, such as when Dunn starts talking about his eczema in the middle of surgery, to emphasise the point that people are spending too much time on characterisation and need to get back to some advanced doctoring.
But, ultimately, Code Black is just procedure with very little human interest. See you back here next year with the intro?
You remember Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, don't you? They starred together in a little known sci-fi TV series called Firefly, which was sadly cancelled before its time.
Or did they? Maybe they were really in a show called Spectrum, which was sadly cancelled before its time.
I'll get back to that in a moment.
Fillion and Tudyk have since gone on to all kinds of exciting projects, including Drive, Castle and Suburgatory. But recently, they crowdfunded a Galaxy Quest-esque new web series written and directed by Tudyk called Con Man, about the stars of a cancelled sci-fi show called Spectrum. While the star of that show (Fillion) has since gone on to fame and fortune, co-star Tudyk is resorting to attending sci-fi conventions and the like to make ends meet, with all the issues that brings with it.
Given that the crowdfunding for Con Man managed to raise $3.2m, the third highest amount raised for a film campaign on any crowdfunding platform ever, don't be surprised that first, the production values are actually quite high and that second, Fillion and Tudyk were able to invite some of their friends, former co-stars and general members of the 'Whedonverse' along for the ride, including:
Thunderbirds, as most of you will know, was a 1960s Gerry Anderson series that used 'Supermarionation' puppets to enact stories in which a family of brothers go to the rescue of people around the world in a series of advanced rocket-ships called Thunderbirds. Just in case this doesn't ring a bell (you do own a TV, right?), here's the lovingly restored, HD-quality title sequence to give you a rough idea of what it was like:
The show made a resurgence in the 80s and it was remade this year by ITV but using CGI. I thought it good for what it was, but it lacked a certain charm compared to the puppet version.
Apparently, other people agree. A recent Kickstarter project has taken three audio-only Thunderbirds adventure recorded in the 1960s by the original cast, and is using Supermarionation to create what are effectively three new episodes of the 1960s series. And here's the title sequence and a clip from the first one, The Abominable Snowman:
The one deserved winner from the lot was FX/FXX's You're The Worst, a semi-realistic romcom about a narcissistic, awful couple, who somehow make you love them all the same. And it seems like it's had some influence on broadcast TV, because now we have Grandfathered, a semi-realistic romcom in which a terrible awful human being is somehow quite lovable.
It stars John Stamos of Full House fame as a 50-year-old, narcissistic restaurateur who's never settled down and spends all his time wooing 20-something models whose names he can never remember. The only woman he doesn't chase after is his lesbian assistant - her being a lesbian was a job requirement.
So far, so the plot of anything involving Adam Sandler, David Spade et al.
Then one day, he gets two surprises. The first is the 26-year-old son he never knew about turning up on his doorstep; the second is Stamos' newborn granddaughter who he brings with him. Now Stamos has to learn how to be both a father and a grandfather as quickly as possible.
The plot, to a certain extent, should be setting off warning bells, if not a full-scale run for the hills. However, Grandfathered is surprisingly smart. For one thing, playing the mother/grandmother of the piece and 'the one who got away' is the fabulous Paget Brewster from Friends, Criminal Minds and Community - a woman whose IMDB profile photo is of her holding a fish.
Brewster has a great line in deadpan delivery, but she also gets some great lines. As soon as she starts delivering the standard clichés of "boy-men who are forced to grow up by events" comedies ("If you think one day looking after a baby makes you think you know what it's like to be a parent…"), she almost instantly gets to subvert them ("…hell, I can't believe you made me say that. I'm cool. I watch Portlandia. I almost went to Coachella last year until I decided not to.") and because it's Brewster, it feels real.
Stamos also gets some good lines ("I'm a 50-year-old bachelor. We're society's most worthless people") but alarm bells go off again when it's revealed that part of the show's ongoing plot is going to be Stamos' educating his newfound son (Josh Peck) in the ways of women so that he can woo the mother of his baby, who regards him as merely a friend and a good dad. Here again, though, rather than a neverending series of lessons in negging, 'treat them mean, keep them keen', etc, Stamos' messages to his son tend to be more along the lines of, 'Have you considered making an effort, wearing some nice clothes?' and the like.
The show makes references to and even includes a clip from Kramer vs Kramer, but does a much better job than that movie does of creating loving male parents/grandparents without creating antagonistic female characters for them to fight. Grandfathered has a heart and Stamos isn't incapable of change, he just has to learn.
Grandfathered's biggest issue for UK audiences is that a lot gets lost in translation. Even the title is a US pun that won't be obvious to most UK viewers (to 'grandfather' means to make someone exempt from something), and that's before you even start on the cultural significance of something like Coachella.
The show also makes a big deal of Stamos, who was the star of the huge Full House during the 80s, something which also gets referenced a lot. His character is to some extent 'Jesse Katsopolis' all grown up and there are photographs in Grandfathered of him from that time just to emphasise the point; Full House star Bob Saget even makes the first of several series appearances in the pilot.
And, of course, we never got Full House over here. To us, Stamos is one of the doctors off ER at best, but more likely a complete unknown. Full House references and parallels will be equally mysterious to most of us (heaven knows what we're all going to make of Netflix's sequel/updating Fuller House when it hits the Internet).
So while Grandfathered is a surprisingly enjoyable, grown-up, unmisogynistic romcom that both male and female viewers can enjoy, it's probably not going to be as funny for UK viewers as for those in the US. It's definitely worth a watch, since it's got bags of charm and heart, as well as Paget Brewster, but you might spend your time wondering if you're missing out on something.
Stewart Sanderson (Fred Savage) has a problem. He's an attorney without pizazz. He knows law as well as any attorney, but he's got no gumption and can't deliver arguments without using cue cards.
Stewart's brother Dean Sanderson Jr (Rob Lowe) has a problem. A hugely famous actor from his days playing an attorney on The Grinder, he has charisma and fire but doesn't know what to do with his life now his TV show is over.
Can you see where this is going?
Yep, it's Pulaski and The World of Eddie Weary, except this time with attorneys, with Lowe and Savage joining forces to become one combined good attorney. As with those old UK shows, much of the humour relies on the show within a show, The Grinder, which sends up US dramatic conventions, giving us all the standard dramatic beats and excesses but played for laughs. It also sends up actors, with Lowe mocking himself and others by playing Dean as a self-centred brain donor who thinks that playing an attorney on TV makes him almost as good as the real thing.
Unfortunately, it's not exactly rapier-sharp in its wit here. In fact, the in-show The Grinder is quite poor, not mocking anything in particular beyond an idea of legal shows from the 1980s, rather than anything more recent. At times, it looks more like an old Perry Mason, in fact.
But where the real The Grinder actually is funny is everything else. It's quite fun when Lowe uses his 'legal skills' to negotiate increased popularity for his nephew at school. It does well when real life starts acting like a TV show, with Lowe learning a Very Important Lesson from some charged dialogue at a bar. It's also good when Savage tries to act like he's in a TV show and fails and when guest star Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) says more or less anything, but particularly when he challenges Lowe's antics in court.
In fact, despite all expectations, it's not either that central hook or Lowe and Savage you should be watching the show for but everything else. True, given how much airtime is devoted to Lowe, Savage and The Grinder, that's not much by the end of the episode, but there are at least some funny moments in there.
It's not exactly a huge recommendation from me, since I spent most of the episode wishing it was a whole lot funnier, but The Grinder doesn't fall completely flat on its face in this first outing. Give it a try, but don't have huge expectations.
'Rags to riches' stories have been a popular genre for centuries, with the (literally) poor audience getting to imagine what life would be like for them if they were suddenly rich, typically showing that they have some inner morality from years of abjection and hard work that makes them in some way better than those who had been born into wealth.
Think Cinderella, Aladdin,Great Expectations, Oliver Twist oranything by Catherine Cookson, just for starters.
It's a worthy genre, but one with rules. So to a certain extent you have to admire Blood & Oil for breaking possibly the most iron clad of them all.
It stars Chase Crawford (Gossip Girl) and Rebecca Rittenhouse (Red Band Society) as a young working class couple who go to seek their fortune in the North Dakota oil rush, hoping to make it big with a laundromat for the no-doubt dirty workers. Unfortunately, their dream and most of their possessions soon evaporate into thin air.
More fortunately, just as things look their worst, an opportunity arises through which they might be able to make it really rich through oil tycoon Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges) and his wife Amber Valletta (Revenge).
Will they succeed? Will they make it big in life? Will their marriage be ripped asunder by all the temptations before them?
I don't know and I largely don't care, because of Blood & Oil's horrific transgression. Because our heroes, the one's we're supposed to root for, are complete fucking idiots.
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.