What have you been watching this week (w/e December 24)?

Alex Breckenridge in Life Unexpected's Thanksgiving episode

Okay, let’s try this again given my last 20 minutes work just deleted itself thanks to buggy software…

It’s “What have you been watching this week?”, your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week.

It’s been two weeks since the last one, which was entirely deliberate and because of the Christmas schedules and not because I was working or anything. Oh yes. Over that time, there’s actually been not much at all, so I’ve caught up with just about everything. So after the jump Ancient Worlds, The Apprentice, Being Erica, Burn Notice, Community, Dexter, Dirk Gently, Hellcats, Life Unexpected, Misfits, Peep Show, Running Wilde, The Trip and a big chunk of BBC4’s ‘The Glory of Greece’ season – Delphi: The Bellybutton of the World and Gods and Monsters: Homer’s Odyssey.

  • Ancient Worlds: A nice idea in theory – an exploration of the ancient civilisations around the Mediterranean that were the progenitors to what we have today. Certainly beautiful to look at, it was flawed by a need for a narrative drive that basically through any real insight into the culture to one side. You’d have been hard-pressed to know that there were even women in those days, since there wasn’t a mention of them until midway through the third episode (and only for a sentence). Best thought of as a glossy travel guide that would have been better hosted by Bettany Hughes.
  • The Apprentice: Nice to see Stuart chucked out so spectacularly after bullshitting so much about his telecoms licence (clue: you have to provide telecoms services to be a telecoms company); good to see Margaret back, too, since Karren Brady has been very dull since that great moment in episode two; and nice to see the right woman win.
  • Being Erica: Well, the show’s been all over the place this season, seemingly as if the showrunner fell asleep halfway through. Plots were started with no real endpoint in sight. Important things would get raised one episode then dropped and never mentioned again the next. Worse culprits were the final two episodes. The penultimate episode was a real gamechanger. You could see what was coming a mile off, but when it came, it was still great to see it happen. And then… completely ignored the next episode for a standalone, season one-formula episode about the meaning of Christmas that made absolutely no sense in context. Very, very weird.
  • Burn Notice: Well, what a game-changer (probably). Although it could be argued that you only really have to watch the first and last episode of every season to get all the good stuff from Burn Notice, we might have to revise that opinion for next season. Everyone’s immunity to bullets is odd, though, and I’m hoping they get away from the damn stupid formula, since it’s getting so repetitive.
  • Community: The “claymation” episode wasn’t the most awesome episode of the show ever, but it was still amazing in all kinds of ways, particularly the little details. John Oliver, even as just a voice, stole the show again.
  • Delphi: The Bellybutton of the World: Beautiful to look at but I found myself arguing with a lot of it. That might just be me though.
  • Dexter: Words fail me. After the best season so far, they have to go and ruin it in a rushed, loophole-filled finale with a magic reset button. It all makes sense (kind of) and you can see how everything’s been architected to produce that ending. Yet still so many characters have to do so many stupid things to fit it all into the 40 minutes and tied with a neat bow that it doesn’t make any sense. How disappointing.
  • Dirk Gently: Very disappointing, given it was based on a Douglas Adams character and written by the creator of Misfits. A pilot for a series, rather than a straight adaptation of any of the books, it changed all the characters and made them less interesting, and strip-mined the books for anything that could be achieved on a budget of 50p and wasn’t too fantasy/sci-fi. Only the last 10 minutes was in any way interesting.
  • Gods and Monsters: Homer’s Odyssey: Best when dealing with the poetry and its meaning, this was often just an excuse to go to pretty places in Greece and talk to some Greek people (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Quite a few factual inaccuracies in it mind, so I feel like they should probably have hired an expert (like, erm, Bettany Hughes) to have presented it.
  • Hellcats: And we’re out. It’s now largely a soap-opera crossed with Fame, with almost all the political messages it had now MIA. Shame – the first three episodes were actually pretty good.
  • Life Unexpected: After largely treading water for most of the season, the show finally got its mojo back as soon as we were about to give up. We finally remember that Lux’s stay in foster care was probably a pretty heinous experience. Alex Breckenridge gets to come back and be effortlessly funny for the Thanksgiving episode. Looks like the finale’s going to be fun, particularly if they manage to get Erin Karpluk back.
  • Misfits: So the penultimate episode was essentially all about how the world’s worst superpower (the ability to manipulate milk) can in fact be one of the world’s scariest. And it did throw up some incredibly dark and disturbing moments. However, magic reset button. Damn. This week’s, on the other hand, had some other kind of reset button that changes everything for next season – which I liked – but it felt hurried, nevertheless (especially dealing with the death of Curtis’s teleporting girlfriend). Also, the general attitude towards Catholicism, Christianity, et al felt kind of appalling and you’d have thought that Jesus would have bought Nathan’s immortality way before the others. More inventive than last season’s, but the character moments weren’t as good, there was far more treading of water and reality started to take a nosedive. Still enjoyed it overall though, even if the two duff episodes in the middle make me feel it’s not quite as good as series one.
  • Peep Show: Lovely “bottle episode” this week.
  • Running Wilde: Oh well. It’s dead now. No more episodes until Fox works out when it’s going to get rid of the remaining episodes. The last one wasn’t exactly funny, but it did have some interesting takes on things.
  • The Trip: Finally caught up with the remaining episodes of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s bizarre adventures around northern restaurants. They were, it has to be said, pretty much the same as the first episode: beautifully shot, laugh out loud funny in places, bizarre and filled with some great impressions. But I couldn’t really tell you what the point of it was.

But what have you been watching?

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please. If you’ve reviewed something on your blog, you can put a link to it here rather than repeat yourself (although too many links and you might get killed by the spam filter).

  • Mark Carroll

    Dirk Gently: Well, I’m glad I didn’t miss anything, at least. Actually, the first book is what first introduced me to Coleridge.
    I haven’t watched much lately; family visiting for Christmas. A bit of Criminal Minds and Without a Trace, which are okay but the kind of thing we have already seen adequately much of. More of the advent calendar on the Colbert Christmas DVD (which is generally quite a good special). (Hmmm, I don’t know if at least the Global Edition of the Colbert Report is shown in Britain at the moment.) Visitors watched a bit of old Kojak and Rockford Files which are a bit painful and silly at times; between the two, it’s the former that has the most appalling fashions, and the latter the most strikingly cheap title sequence. Oh, and family watched Crazy Heart which, eh, was okay, some of the scenery was nice, but it wasn’t exactly the exciting puzzling sort of thing I tend to prefer. My wife suggested that Oscars often go to the correct people for the wrong films.

  • FX has stopped showing The Colbert Report, so as of next month, we’ll only be getting the global edition of The Daily Show

  • Been out and about so the most entertaining (in fact virtually ONLY) thing I have watched in the last week or two was a GOLD screening of last year’s Outnumbered Xmas special which I loved.
    I’ve been really lax. SORRY!!!

  • David

    Long time listener, first time caller…
    Misfits’ Future Simon episodes were outstanding & showcased everything that’s good about the show.
    Dirk Gently was a waste of time — pointlessly eccentric weirdo irritates friends & colleagues, hijinks ensue. Maybe it wouldn’t have looked so poor if Sherlock hadn’t shown how it’s done earlier in the year. Only highlight was the old woman, whose name I can’t be bothered to look up.
    The Trip has been one of my favorites this year. While the laugh out loud moments were laugh out loud funny, the better parts were the more real, human moments — Coogan brushing his teeth, trying to do tiny man in a box, the ah-hah! echo, which was wonderfully pathetic, Coogan trying to be serious & lecture Rob about the Langdale while Rob’s just worried about getting back before dark & staying warm. Great stuff. The Trip puts me in a peaceful mood, with the beautiful setting.
    Watched midway into the 2nd episode of Any Human Heart. While Hayley Atwell is beautiful, the show just seems to be the same thing over & over — main character has relationship problem while hanging out with famous person. Didn’t really grab me.
    Catching up on some American TV from earlier in the year — Justified (surprisingly good modern-day western thingy,) Archer (rude & funny animated,) Tower Prep (really dumb teenager live action show on Cartoon Network,) the remake of The Prisoner (Hayley Atwell again,) and Legend of the Seeker, which isn’t as bad as I expected, since Bridget Regan is lovely & the stories, while laughingly predictable, are entertaining enough.

  • Mark Carroll

    Ooh, I’d not noticed how well Justfied had been received, thank you, that first season is out on DVD next month so I’ll add it to the list. I did quite like the Prisoner remake; I think it was actually worth doing (and watching), and at least as a miniseries it wasn’t too large a commitment to find out.

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