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.
Thanks to the Easter Holidays and a whole bucketload of work that meant I wasn’t able to blog much this week, I’ve fallen a little behind with my viewing. Fingers crossed things will be a little easier next week, when I’ll have reviews of the first couple of episodes of Salem as well as of the first episode of CBS’s TV version of Bad Teacher.
But after the jump, the regulars, with reviews of Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, The Americans, The Blacklist, Community, Crisis, Elementary, Endeavour, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Surviving Jack and Vikings
Shows that I've been watching but not really recommending
I’ve already done a third-episode verdict on Silicon Valley this week and I’ve still to make my way through the second episode of the somewhat hard-going Gods of Wheat Street. But I’ve also been watching:
Agents of SHIELD (US: ABC; UK: Channel 4)
The Only Light In the Darkness
A drop-off again as we revert largely to standard Agents of SHIELD antics, but there were enough of the post-Captain America 2 reboot changes left intact to make the second half of the episode really good. Plus there was the guest appearance of Amy Acker as (spoiler alert) the cellist which was obviously a good thing and there was even a TARDIS reference for luck. Still not recommending this, though.
First episode review
Crisis (US: NBC; UK: Watch)
Here He Comes
I’m assuming the ‘he’ in the episode title is Fred Dyer – yes Hunter himself – the first guest appearance of whom this week made the show single-handedly awesome in and of itself. Unfortunately, Dyer aside, this was largely dumb, with our hero able to beat up a special forces guy, who in turn got shot in leg and shrugged it off before jumping onto a fire escape and running away. The acting of the two leads was pretty terrible, as per usual, but the reversal at the end promises the next episode might be better. All the same, on the edge of being deleted from my viewing schedule.
First episode review
Fargo (US: FX; UK: Channel 4)
The Rooster Prince
A disappointing lack of Billy Bob Thornton this episode, but what we got was great and the arrival of Adam Goldberg and his supposedly deaf friend (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t ASL…) offset the more general lack of Billy Bob slightly. The show’s now building up the other characters, but not making me really like them that much. I also didn’t buy Martin Freeman’s sadness at his wife’s death. Overall, some funny moments, but I’m not finding this as compelling as other people have been.
First episode review
Rev (UK: BBC2; US: Hulu)
We gave up on Rev in the second series when it stopped being funny and started to be miserable with the occasional laugh. But we tuned in for this special Easter episode because we’d heard good things about it. And largely, while we enjoyed the Easter symbolism and the guest appearances, notably by (spoiler alert)Liam Neeson as God, there wasn’t much funny. I’m glad we watched it, but we won’t be watching it again.
First episode review
The recommended list
Last night’s Surviving Jack and Vikings are still in the viewing pile, I'm afraid, as is the first episode of season two of Prisoners of War/Hatufilm. Otherwise…
The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV)
As well as a returning character and a look at Russian technology in 1982, we got a reference to MI5 (Philby maybe?). I enjoyed the French Connection look managed to achieve as well. But most interesting of all was the questioning of American values by the programme and its characters.
Surprisingly, Oliver North – one of the real-life principle architects of the Iran-Contra scandal back in the 80s – was responsible for co-writing this episode, which focused on the Contras. Even more surprising, it was really good. With great music, great scenes that advanced story, it once again made you feel for the Russians and outraged by what Americans were doing in Central America back then (paging Noam Chomsky…). And the main series plot is starting to get back on track, too.
Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
The Man Under The Hood
With Geoff Johns in the writing credits, you know an episode is going to be rubbish and this one was no exception, with Johns’s favourite trope (torture), awful dialogue, stupid motivations, comic book logic and more. Still, at least Laurel is getting better as a character and won’t look like such a complete plonker the whole time anymore. Someone should, incidentally, tell Johns that despite popular opinion, Green Arrow ≠ the poor man’s Batman, so he should stop writing it as such.
+ Seeing Red
Slightly all over the place with this one, full of big revelations, the fact Oliver actually gets injured seriously and doesn’t just magically heal, and of course that powerful end scene. But Black Canary is disposed off from the plot at the most unlikely time for the most unlikely reason, largely to get story arcs into place (the return of Nyssa Al Ghul or is this to get Malcolm and the League of Assassins back in?) rather than because it made sense for her as a character.
The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
The Pavlovich Brothers
Some good action scenes, the A and B plots intertwined well, although B was significantly better than A, and of course ’the confrontation'. A good cliffhanger, too. So now where’s the show going to go?
Community (US: NBC; UK: Sony Entertainment Television)
Not quite a triumph and the show played with its ultimate issue of whether it would be cancelled or not too much. But some great moments, particularly the end NBC sequence. If it doesn’t come back, I won’t be too bothered, but it would be a shame for it to go out on such a low-key note.
Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
The Man With The Twisted Lip
Another episode that borrows a title from the originals without having anything much to do with the true plot. But everything involving Mycroft worked well, the investigation was suitably Holmesian, even if as always the resolution wasn’t, and Miss Hudson’s brief return was welcome. Then there was the book, of course…
Endeavour (UK: ITV; US: PBS)
The show breaks a brief effort to venture into the working class and estates but runs way frightened after a few moments, leaving a somewhat predictable and highly preposterous episode in its wake. As soon as a kids home/charity popped up, it was obvious what was going to happen in the investigation, before it happened. But there were also plenty of surprises along the way, given that more happened in this one episode than probably any three given seasons of Morse. An excellent cliffhanger, all the same, that suffers slightly from the fact it’s a prequel so you know that he’s going to be all right. But as for Roger Allam that would be a different matter…
Games of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Breaker of Chains
Largely a gathering of the fallout from last week’s purple wedding, designed to move the plot from point a to b, but now without its merits. And there was that scene, of course, which has put a whole load of people off the show. Whether it’ll all have turned out to have been consensual next week, remains to be seen, but as shot, it certainly wasn’t, which is going to colour people’s views of Jamie for a long time…
Hannibal (NBC US/Sky Living UK)
A slightly lesser episode by Hannibal standards, but it still managed to contain the best line of dialogue this year: ‘Is your social worker inside that horse?'. The episode lost some of the season’s narrative drive in favour of a serial killer of the week, but it contained the usual extraordinary music and imagery, and it turns out that Will Graham scrubs up well when he’s not loopy. Now, of course, everything's up in the air so we’ll have to see where it’s all going tonight.
Surviving Jack (US: Fox)
Rhythm is a Dancer
Some laughs and it's still nice, but the shift of focus away from Jack was a bad move, given how much of the show’s humour depends on him.
Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Prime)
The first episode of the series so far that’s put me in mind of the Michael Hurst’s previous historical, The Tudors, thanks to its combination of silly sex and feast scenes. But it was the episode that introduced Ivor the Boneless to the show, and intriguingly, the producers have gone with Nabil Shaban’s theory for how he got his nickname.
- January 8, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Beowulf, Rebellion, 100 Code, Endeavour and American Crime
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....