Time for "What have you been watching this week?", my chance to tell you what I've been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we've missed them.
My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, The Apprentice, The Apprentice: You've Been Fired, Come Done With Me, Endgame, The Shadow Line and Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage's TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you'll be missing out on the good stuff.
Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:
- The Book Review Show: Surprisingly decent new BBC2 Friday night monthly magazine programme about books hosted by Kirsty Walk. Some interesting discussions, some interesting features – I'll be tuning in next month.
- Egypt's Lost Cities: Supposedly a documentary on how remote sensing data from satellites is hinting at lost Egyptians ruins in the Sahara. Actually about half an hour of useful information interspersed with an hour of close-ups of Liz Bonnin and co-presenter going "Golly, gee. That's amazing. Someone paid for us to go on holiday this year!" Largely a waste of my time and everyone's money.
- Endgame: Excellent episode. If you only watch one episode, watch this one.
- Gary Numan: A documentary on Sky Arts about how noted electropop artist Gary Numan has come into his own of late, now that everyone from the Sugababes through Basement Jaxx to Trent Reznor has admitted to being influenced by him. A bit sketchy, it largely focused on his work rather than personal life, and you didn't get to hear much of his recent stuff, but still a decent enough documentary.
- The Shadow Line: It turns out Stephen Rea has in fact been doing Anthony Sher impressions for the last few weeks. Or is Anthony Sher actually doing a Stephen Rea impression now? Either way, the arrival of Sher is awesome. What's not awesome is how many times I burst out laughing each episode at the sheer ridiculousness of the dialogue, the plot and, whenever they turn up, the fight scenes. Oh woeful fight scenes. Oh, and this week: "Decided not to bring a gun. Too noisy?" "That's right." YOU USED A SUPPRESSOR LAST WEEK, YOU NUMPTY. Couldn't you even improvise one out of an old Volvic bottle or something? It feels like Hugo Blick has been watching action movies to fill in his sketchy knowledge of violence, but didn't quite watch the right ones.
- Undercover Boss: Boss of a company goes undercover in a few of his/her outlets to discover what's really happening. Essentially, Secret Millionaire for the business sector, but largely ruined each week by the boss's inability to remain in character while undercover. The added frisson? Sometimes people get laid off for being sh*te. Generally, okay, but not as informative as Secret Millionaire.
I've still got VH1's Single Ladies as well as Love Bites to get through, as well as ITV1's Scott and Bailey. More on them next week, I'm sure.
And in this week's long list of movies, since I went out a bit, and also got laid low by no ro and had to stay in bed for a day:
- X-Men First Class: A little slow to start, this was actually a return to form, up there with X-Men and X-Men 2. Michael Fassbender is brilliant – I'm assuming his multi-lingualness is a tribute to his role in Inglorious Basterds – although he's a touch more Irish than SIr Ian McKellen, and definitely a touch more James Bond. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are equally excellent and Kevin Bacon is almost unrecognisable at first and doesn't exhibit any of the usual Kevin Bacon mannerisms you'd expect of him. January Jones is as awful as she usually is in everything except Mad Men. None of the big set-pieces ever quite hit the heights you'd expect, but a lot of them come close. It's also surprisingly adult, even given its 12A certificate. Plus there's a couple of brilliant cameos.
- Jason and the Argonauts: No, not the Ray Harryhausen one but the Jason London mini-series that managed to cram in almost every British actor going. In some ways better than the original and more authentic to the Bronze Age and the myths; in other ways, massively inferior, with none of the charm of the original or any of the decent fight sequences and at nearly three hours (it was originally a four hour mini-series) colossally over-long. Plus it was a tad sketchy when it came to the myths – Castor and Pollux as stonemasons and played by Omid Djalili and AN Other Guy? Fuck. Right. Off. But I did enjoy Angus MacFadyen and Olivia Williams as Zeus and Hera.
- Love and Other Drugs: Ignore the poster. This is not a romcom. In any sense. Set in 1996, Jake Gyllenhaal is a womanising, failing salesman who joins a certain well known drug company. Unable to succeed at first, his luck comes up when his company develops an exciting new product called… Viagra. However, by this point, he's hit it off with Anne Hathaway, who's very nice and all but unfortunately has first stage early onset Parkinson's. And so really most of the movie is actually about what happens if your girlfriend has first stage early onset Parkinson's. Nevertheless, quite touching – as my wife put it "Man making personal sacrifice for a woman: it's a formula you can't go wrong with."
- Morning Glory: Rachel McAdams is the producer of a New Jersey breakfast TV show who gets fired but manages to end up on a failing network TV show run by producer Jeff Goldblum and hosted by Diane Lane and Ty Burrell (from Modern Family). After promptly firing Burrell, she discovers her childhood hero, embittered war reporter Harrison Ford, is on contract to the network but not actually doing anything because he's such a dick to work with, so she forces him to return to work as the show's new anchor. Anyway, despite the poster and everything about the movie making you think this was probably going to be rubbish, it actually turned out to be okay. Harrison Ford does a nice job of curmudgeonly and it all falls apart a bit in the final act, but it's quite a nice piece about a career woman discovering a family at work yet not then giving it all up for love or anything silly like that.
But what have you been watching?
"What have you been watching this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films 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?
- June 11, 2012: Question of the week: are modern documentaries worse because they're shorter or because they're stupider?
Are modern documentaries worse because they're shorter?
- April 8, 2013: Rant of the week: Do we need professional TV documentary presenters?
Do we need professional TV documentary presenters?
- 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