As you may have guessed by my infrequent posting last week, I was working my backside off so didn't have time on Friday for "What have you been watching this week?" (aka "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. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?")
Sorry! But it's here now.
So, after the jump, Cougar Town, Episodes, Kidnap and Ransom, Michel Roux's Service, Modern Family, Shameless (US) and Southland. I'll probably do proper reviews of Lights Out and Off the Map when I've caught up with them and I've already talked about The Cape. Oh, and we tried watching a bit of Wild at Heart on ITV but it was awful. Not making that mistake again.
Cougar Town (Hulu)
The arrival of the villainous wine bar owner was interesting but "these are the differences between male and female friendships" was nothing new.
Episodes (UK: iPlayer; US: Showtime)
So on the one hand, a painfully accurate (in some senses - I'm guessing that Tamsin Greig and Steven Mangan are also the producers of the show they write or else there are some serious rights issues to be negotiated) insight into the US TV industry and how it can mangle ideas, all while everyone is being terribly, terribly nice. Nothing much new that hasn't been said at all, but still on the nail. Lovely performances by Mangan, Greig and Richard Griffiths. However, was it actually funny? No. Not at all, which is a problem in a comedy. However, Matt LeBlanc is the guy we can really expect to bring the funny and he wasn't in it much. So I'll give episode two a shot to see if it gets better.
Kidnap and Ransom (ITV Player)
So we started watching about 10 minutes of Kidnap and Ransom - aka The Trevor Eve Show made by The Trevor Eve Production Company. Eve is a ransom negotiator and spends most of his time being tremendously stoic, focused, unexpressive and dull because this is serious, serious stuff. However, 10 minutes in I'm thinking that this actually looks like a bad episode of Saracen rather than anything new and exciting. Everything's gone wrong, and a lot of it has been various blokes sitting around in a car in a hot foreign country, staring at generic kidnapping baddies. Eve then goes home and bitches with his boss, Helen Baxendale. And we're bored now, so we turn over.
Five minutes before the end and we switch back. Trevor Eve is stuck in a car in a hot foreign country, staring at generic kidnapping baddies. And then it all goes wrong! Who would have guessed? Still, John Hannah is the real big bad and he's in the next episode so I might just watch that.
Michel Roux's Service (iPlayer)
Michel Roux - he of Masterchef: The Professionals - is, of course, the upmarket BBC2 answer to Channel 4's Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. So naturally, not content with giving him a cookery show, the Beeb has also given him a reality show rather like Jamie Oliver's, in which he takes a bunch of teenagers who don't want office jobs and tries to train them to be professional waiters and maitre d's. Since this is reality TV, naturally a sensible approach such as giving them some really intensive proper training, letting one at a time have a go at being a waiter, accompanied by professional waiter, teaching them about all the foods being served, etc, is ditched in favour of throwing them all in the deep end with minimal training and no one to do anything except keep an eye on them. Hey! Wadda you know? It all goes pear-shaped.
All the same, Michel Roux is obviously a jolly nice, committed, clever man and he's great to watch. It would be better if the show were as smart as him.
Modern Family (Hulu)
Quite a fun one, but I'm more concerned lovely wife and I are becoming more and more like the Dumphys (or they're becoming more and more like us). They even look a bit like us.
Shameless (US) (Showtime)
I have a confession. I've never seen the Channel 4 version of Shameless. I know. I should have. But I guess that lets me review this from an unbiased perspective. So this is basically (stop me if you've heard this before) about a poor working class family whose mum has either died or run away, leaving the drunken, unemployed dad, Frank Gallagher (William H Macey), to completely fail to bring up the kids, in turn leaving the eldest daughter to raise the family. No one's bringing in much money - Frank's on (dubious) disability benefits, the daughter works in a fast food joint, one son works in a corner shop stacking shelves, another tutors high school kids in science - and frankly their lives are a mess, so they'll do pretty much anything (hence the title), whether it's take blow jobs from the kids they teach, have sex with the muslim guy who runs the corner shop or date a rich car thief.
So this is 50% tragic, 50% fun and quite hard viewing, whichever part you look at. Coming from Paul Abbott and John Wells (ER/The West Wing), it's well written and there are some surprisingly tear-jerking romantic moments as well. It's also surprisingly graphic, with sex scenes and full frontal male nudity aplenty. I'm just not sure it's actually very enjoyable, and despite William H Macey's protestations in the press about how much he likes to get off his face, he doesn't ring true as Frank, even if the rest of the cast is fine and actually quite appealing. I'll try episode two though.
Southland (no full catch-up)
Episode two picks up the rest of the cast's plot strands after last week. Weirdly, quite a Homer-inspired episode with references not just to "the face that launched a thousand bullets" (yes, I know that's Marlowe but ) but also a murder committed by nobody. What do you mean nobody? Actually, Nobody is his street name Dewey (C Thomas Howell) is back, which makes no one at all happy, Stacey Haiduk's back to make Ben happy but it turns out that she likes to make all kinds of cops happy. Not the best ever episode but still one with plenty of nuance and an interesting argument about levels of privilege in the LA Latino communities.
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).
- January 28, 2011: Third-episode verdict: Shameless (US)
A review of the first three episodes of Shameless
- January 26, 2016: Review: Stan Lee's Lucky Man 1x1 (UK: Sky 1)
A review of the first episode of Sky 1's Stan Lee's Lucky Man