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.
Despite working from home for most of this week and ironically therefore having more time to write things but less time to watch them, I’ve managed to keep up with the vigorous summer schedules (blimey, I remember when summer was dead and there was nothing to watch. Now look at it). Not many new shows starting this week, though, although I have reviewed the first episode of Steve Bochco’s new TNT show Murder In The First. And I also gave Power a go.
Power (US: Starz; UK: iTunes et al)
To say I was putting this one off as long as possible would be an understatement. Stop me when you want to get off: night club owner is also a drugs kingpin in a series exec produced by 50 Cent. It just sounds like it’s going to be horrible. And it was. I managed to get through 10 minutes before just deciding that the torture, relentless 50 Cent soundtrack, abuse/debasing of women et al was really not going to make it an enjoyable experience. It wasn’t without its virtues: it stars Omari Hardwicke (Dark Blue) and Naturi Naughton (The Playboy Club), who are both good, even though Naughton basically only has to act selfish and stupid. The direction is fine and it’s well shot. It’s surprisingly bi-lingual.
However, the next 50 minutes of the episode might be the best crime show since The Wire, but I’d rather watch open-heart surgery, because there’d be more humanity in that.
After the jump, yet more, with a round-up of the regulars, with reviews of 24, Continuum, Crossbones, Enlisted, Halt and Catch Fire, and Penny Dreadful
Shows that I've been watching but not really recommending
I’ve already passed verdicts on a couple of shows this week:
But I’ve also watched:
Crossbones (US: NBC)
Apparently, submarines were invented by the Spanish in the 18th century. Who knew? Although there were a few, the Pirates of the Caribbean attitude towards women pirates is nevertheless odd, and John Malkovich’s accent is getting even odder. Not quite as odd as the visions he’s getting, but odd. The pirates all seem a little cerebral for a bunch of cut-throats, too. Nevertheless, after 20 minutes of forgetting how to buckle a swash, the show managed to find some good fight scenes, and there was some decent enough plotting and dialogue, including the ‘interesting’ notion that Blackbeard wants to establish an island state ruled along the Athenian democratic lines (no, really, he says that). Not exactly a must-see, but a lot better than I was expecting it to be.
Enlisted (US: Fox)
The General Inspection
A decently plotted piece that goes somewhere interesting and the live-action Donkey Kong scene was at almost Community level clever.
First episode Third-episode verdict
Penny Dreadful (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Closer Than Sisters
Another whole episode to devoted to just one of the plot strands, this time Eva Green and Timothy Dalton’s, and as with the Frankenstein episode, the show was much better for it. And since it was the Green and Dalton show, that meant we had to face some scenes as bad as those in the second episode. Writer John Logan also decided that Dracula was probably too interesting and so instead devoted the episode to the Victorian treatment of women and the insane, which was pretty grizzly in places but not really that great to watch, despite some good dialogue. Anna Chancellor was wasted in a 'mother role’, Green offered more of her trademark nudity and given the episode featured a grown-up Peter, the séance episode made no sense because of Green's trilling in a child’s voice when channelling Peter. What this show desperately needs is a script editor/showrunner who doesn’t write all the episodes himself or herself.
First episode Third-episode verdict
The recommended list
I haven’t watched last week’s Prisoners of War, let alone this week’s, which might be telling me something. Nevertheless, I still intend to keep watching. Let’s see how that pans out. But this week, I did watch:
24 (US: Fox; UK: Sky 1)
A general uptick in quality, compared with the previous episode. The British stuff is off ever so slightly (such as a reference to ‘citizens' by the Prime Minister in a TV broadcast), but only slightly and surprisingly good. MI5 obviously doesn’t have SWAT teams - that’s Special Branch/SO19 territory. If there's an NHS ginger beer dispenser anywhere in existence, I'd be astonished. And Jack was in a left-hand drive car for no good reason except to advertise the car to Americans. All the same, some (literally) explosive scenes that showed off how laughable Spooks was in comparison, and Jack and Kate are great as a team. But leave your brain by the door before watching.
Continuum (Canada: Showcase; UK: SyFy)
Three Minutes To Midnight
And suddenly Continuum gets good again, with a story twist that finally starts to fulfil the potential of first season and brings the second and third seasons into focus. In fact, so stunning was it, it could almost have been a season or even series finale, since it effectively dismembers the entire show in 10 minutes (spoiler: it was implausibly easy, actually, to get Liber8 to give up). Suddenly, all bets are off as to where it’s going. Just as a side note, it’s good to see them discovering some of the science-fiction ideas that made the show so interesting in its first season, too.
Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
The Watchers on The Wall
50% a build up to a battle, 50% an epic battle that probably could have been a movie, complete with giants and mammoths. And another death, of course. But interspersed in that were some noteworthy moments, including the revelation of Peter Vaughn's true identity. All of this leaves one episode to go this season and the realisation that actually, beyond more people dying and having fights, not a lot’s really happened this season, has it?
Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC)
Easily the best and most surprising show on US TV this week. After a slow first half, the episode really took off with a glimpse of the terrifying business tactics IBM used in the 1980s. There was also some very weird things taking place with Gordon and Cameron, with some strange personal stuff creeping in. But every time you thought you could see where the show was going, it went somewhere different - it’s a very slippery thing indeed. Pleasingly, the female characters got some rounding out, particularly Cameron who got to show off at IT - and proper IT, not the dumbed down TV IT you get on something like NCIS. Lee Pace continues to astonish, too, with his near sociopathic salesman.
Promoted to the recommended list as a result.
Suits (US: USA; UK: Dave)
And this might actually be the point at which I leave the show. The first episodes of new seasons always tend to be departure points for shows, as they introduce new characters, send series off in new directions, get rid of old plot lines and so on, and Suits is no different. We’ve got new boyfriends, old boyfriends, new jobs and more.
And I’m not really sure I’m interested in any of it any more. Where once Suits was about clever legal dealings outside the courtroom - almost chess playing with the law and negotiations - it’s now about people having arguments with each other and no one’s especially happy. The investment banking storyline, which could have opened up new avenues for the show, appears to be there just to give us more people being even bigger dicks than lawyers.
I’ll probably give it another episode, just to see if the producers are going somewhere good with this, but I’m going to need a lot more than what they’re offering at the moment to stick with it.
- June 24, 2014: Third-episode verdict: Crossbones (NBC)
A third-episode verdict on NBC’s Crossbones
- June 17, 2014: Third-episode verdict: Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
A look back at the first three episodes of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire
- June 20, 2014: What have you been watching? Including Murder In the First, Continuum, Suits, Old School and Undateable
A look back at the television airing in the week ending Friday 20th June 2014
- January 12, 2015: What have you been watching? Including Empire, Togetherness, Taken 3, Engrenages (Spiral) and Banshee
A review of the TV and films I watched in the week ending January 12 2015