What have you been watching? Including Doctor Who, Really, Legends and You’re The Worst

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.

Things are very slowly starting to hot up in terms of new programming this month, although as per usual, I’ve utterly ignored everything new on British TV, including Secrets and Chasing Shadows. Elsewhere, I’ve (p)reviewed the first episodes of:

On top of that, I gave another Amazon Pilot a quick whirl.

Really (Amazon Prime)
Ooh, a relationship comedy that tells you how it really is. Gosh, how exciting. I haven’t seen one of those since Married. Written, directed and starring Jay Chandrasekhar, the big difference here is that it’s set in Chicago, also stars Sarah Chalke and Selma Blair, and in common with virtually every other couples comedy, it also features Mr Ali Larter (aka Hayes MacArthur). Otherwise, about as funny as tooth extraction and as incisive as a cheap fortune cookie.

After the jump, the regulars: Legends, Doctor Who and You’re The Worst.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Legends (US: TNT; UK: Sky 1) Rogue
A markedly more interesting episode than before, with the NCIS qualities of the first two episodes at vestigial levels, Ali Larter being given something interesting to do and the series’ main story arc being explored, with only minimal silliness. The arc itself has yet to be compelling since (spoiler alert) ex-special forces soldier is experimented upon isn’t exactly new or exciting but I’m a lot more willing to see how it plays out than I was during the first two episodes.

The recommended list

Doctor Who (UK: BBC1; US: BBC America) Listen
After the horrors of last week, we get possibly Steven Moffat’s finest script in Doctor Who history, certainly the best one that actually includes the Doctor. While I’m not sure it hangs together 100%, it’s a rule-breaking episode that changes what TV Doctor Who can be and even what stories should be, giving us a three-handed character piece that never takes the obvious route and gives us an idea on a par with the Weeping Angels for innovation that it then subverts in the cause of characterisation. Worth several re-watches, I suspect

You’re The Worst (US: FX)
Constant Horror And Bone-Deep Dissatisfaction
Another smart little piece, this time a flashback episode that shows what Jimmy and Gretchen’s lives were like before they met each other and then shows how they’ve already changed each other. With literate dialogue, moving moments and unexpected directions for the plot, it’s very much the best comedy on TV at the moment, possibly the best and cleverest rom com of the past five years, and I don’t think there’s been a bad episode yet. Watch it.
First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    Others seem to review this latest episode of Doctor Who very positively too. I did like it: it lacked annoying things and the script actually used time travel well, and I am growing increasingly hopeful about the show's future, but I didn't find it quite as amazing as others have. I do agree that it bears rewatching. Myself, I am always antsy about revelations the Doctor's past because I don't want to yet give up on the Cartmel masterplan and the looms and whatnot, but this snippet was done well.

    One problem I had is that I have no memory of ever having had such a dream nor of ever having heard anybody else mentioning such, so the episode lost a lot of its punch there. (Whereas, say, regarding the proverbial flying dream, which I've also not recalled personally, I was just chatting to someone a couple of days ago who just had one.)

    What else have I been watching? Honestly not much I'm afraid, certainly not such that it sticks in mind.

  • Ian Mond

    I'm watching Married and finding that it gets funnier. Especially once they drop the you can have sex with other woman conceit of the first episode. It's Pam Greer who makes the show. She's fantastic. But you're right that You're The Worst is not only the better show but the best comedy on TV at the moment – which I suppose isn't hard given how few are actually on TV, but still a great show.

  • bob

    “You’re The Worst (US: FX) … Watch it.”

    I did. I hope everyone else does too. Rob knows what he's talking about, people! Obey!

  • Robin

    Also one of the most perfectly paced Who episodes, on par with Girl in the Fireplace in that regard. Moffat's best since Eleventh Hour and on par with anything he did under RTD. So much better when he does bottle episodes…

  • JustStark

    After the horrors of last week, we get possibly Steven Moffat’s finest script in Doctor Who history, certainly the best one that actually includes the Doctor

    Really?

    Moffat used to write perfectly plotted episodes where every little thing was a facet of a whole perfect diamond, where everything was set up, everything proceeded naturally from what had gone before, and yet everything eventually worked its way back around to answering the question posed in the beginning.

    This seems to reach its apogee in the practically-perfect The Eleventh Hour, and since then he has apparently abandoned actually trying to tell stories: the last one I can remember was Christmas 2010. Since then, all his episodes have been little more than a few stand-alone sketches, joined by the flimsiest of narrative justifications, and his climaxes, rather than being seeded early with masterful misdirection like the Doctor's method of forcing Prisoner Zero to reveal itself, or right back to the revelation of the meaning of 'Are you my mummy?', they come out of the blue with no set-up, whether it's wearing a suit made out of shape-changing robot, flying home by the power of motherhood, or an ill-advised trip to the Doctor's childhood for no reason other than a malfunctioning telepathic circuit.

    It's very disappointing.

  • I think the Cartmel Masterplan is pretty much dead now. Stevie has made it pretty clear that Gallifrey has/had lots of kids and that the Doctor brought up kids the regular way.

    I've never had that dream either. Who's to say we won't now though…?

  • Not too keen to go back to Married because of Nat Flaxon or whatever his name is.

    Yes, not too hard at moment to be best comedy, but I might extend that off to “this year”, although Silicon Valley and Raising Jack (?) were almost as good.

  • Thanks!

  • I think Stevie gets bored when he's doing sequels in particular. He'd much rather start with a blank slate every time.

  • JustStark

    The Carmel Masterplan is real but it only ever applied to the seventh Doctor. Sometimes, when the Doctor regenerates, his whole past changes (and sometimes it happens when he doesn't regenerate but a new producer takes over the series). The seventh Doctor was a loomed reincarnation of the Other, the eighth Doctor had a Time Lord father and a human mother, the fourth Doctor was occasionally a Time Tot born under the sign of crossed computers, the twelfth Doctor slept in a barn like an idiot, and Time Lords are immortal barring accidents except for when they're not.

    I do, though, think that delving into the Doctor's past is generally a bad idea (and definitely was in this case) as it diminishes the mystery. One of the more sensible decisions Davies did was to reject entirely the idea of 'Young Doctor Who', but it seems Moffat is no longer so sensible…

  • Depends what you're looking for and what you think a story needs to be. There's a world of difference between David Lynch's Dune and David Lynch's Lost Highway in terms of plot resolution, plotting, the assumed realism of it all. I don't think Listen is necessarily something you can take to be explicitly 'real', any more than you can assume that Robot of Sherwood is intended to be an authentic depiction of what 11th/12th century life was like in Nottingham in England.

    Does Listen necessarily hang together? No. But then 11th Hour didn't either (Who actually build Prisoner X's prison? Using what tech?). But Listen is more a Lost Highway piece of work, where some things aren't literally true, some things aren't and shouldn't be explained, and where some things will be laid for later explanation (Steven's still explaining things that happened three seasons ago).

    Anyway, for my money, thematically the ending follows correctly from the beginning, even if you need a little bit of NerdFilla™ to accept certain things.

  • JustStark

    Does Listen necessarily hang together? No. But then 11th Hour didn't
    either (Who actually build Prisoner X's prison? Using what tech?).

    No, I think you're missing the point. Those questions are just backgrounds, and unimportant.

    The point about The Eleventh Hour is that each plot point follows naturally from the last (with the one cheat of the twelve-year gap), and the resolution is carefully set up at the beginning, but disguised. Every time something happens or the characters go somewhere it arises naturally out of what has gone before. It's the storyteller's sleight of hand.

    But in Listen, the transitions are arbitrary, and grossly so. Why do they end up with the young version of the boyfriend? Because Clara gets 'distracted'. Okay, that is just about allowable, but then the stuff with the astronaut comes completely out of the blue: old-Moffat would have set up the 'your descendant's an astronaut' reveal early on, but misdirected so that audience didn't realise it would become significant; new-Moffat doesn't bother, simply having the astronaut show up and get them on to the next expositional scene. Then the transition to the last bit, in the barn, is similarly clumsy: Clara plugs herself back into the TARDIS and they go back to that precise moment. Why? No reason. Where's the set-up?

    Who built Prisoner Zero's prison doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. What matters is that the resolution, the revelation, hinges on something set up but with its significance hidden very cleverly early in the episode, the fact that Amy has seen Prisoner Zero in its natural form.

    I have no problem with things not being literally true or things not being explained; but I do have a problem with plots that are basically sequences of loosely-connected mini-episodes rather than the perfect diamonds of plot that we know Moffatt is, or at least used to be, capable of.

  • But in turn, that misses the point. The point is to defy those expectations. It's a story where everything is like a dream.

    Why the great grandson of Pink? Because he's connected, certainly, but because we're expecting something else. The point is to wrong foot the audience by not following those conventions, to show us that the causality is something of mistake to have faith in in a show about time travel – just as it's a mistake to have faith in the Doctor being right.

    We expect the Doctor to meet the alien when he opens the doors. So he doesn't.

    We expect the Doctor to find the reason why great-grandson Pink shows up (and we me still might). So he doesn't.

    We expect to find the monster. So we don't.

  • JustStark

    If this were a single experimental story written in a dreamlike mode with dreamlike logic then I would see your point.

    However, it's not. It's Moffatt's new MO. It first became really obvious in A Good Man Goes To War and Let's Kill Hitler, the first of which has no beginning or end (it's an episode which is all middle, just stuff-stuff-stuff, with no real shape) and the second of which has exactly the same lack of structure as Listen (there's the intro, and then they go to kill Hitler — why? no reason, it's just arbitrarily there to justify the title. then there's the regeneration scene, and then when that's over there's another awkward transition to the ballroom, again with no real rhyme or reason other than 'we need to get to another scene so we can do more exposition', and then when all the exposition has been delivered the episode just ends).

    And then the same persists through the more recent Christmas specials, the ploddingly linear Asylum of the Daleks (drop them at point A, they go to point B, then get picked up again), and all the way through to the disappointingly over-long, self-indulgent flab of Deep Breath.

    So yes, you could justify the lack of structure in Listen on the grounds that it was meant to be a distinctive choice of technique to fit the theme of dreams and memories and whatnot — except that it's not distinctive, it's not been picked specifically for this story, it just seems to be how Moffatt writes now and it's very disappointing.

  • It may (or may not) be Moff's current working style and to some extent I'd agree that a lot of it isn't deliberate. But I think simply to say that this is more of the same is to mistake what seems more like a deliberate choice to me. Maybe it was all a big cock-up, but it's a cock-up that works in context.

  • Robin

    so you take against both the “ploddingly linear” conventional storytelling of Asylum *and* the messy narrative of Let's Kill Hitler? He can't win. (FWIW I agree that AGMGTW & LKH were awfully structured).

  • Robin

    same goes for his reluctance to do two-parters – and his preference to take things in a totally new direction when he does

  • Robin

    Where do you stand on Almost Royal? That's my comedy highlight so far this year. Incredible performances, a lightness & sweetness of touch, and the back story of the family and their posh friends is brilliantly seeded

  • JustStark

    so you take against both the “ploddingly linear” conventional
    storytelling of Asylum *and* the messy narrative of Let's Kill Hitler?
    He can't win

    Of course he can win: by doing the sorts of perfectly structured pieces that he used to do, whether it was on Doctor Who ('The Empty Child'/'The Doctor Dances', 'Blink', which for all its flaws is structured perfectly, 'The Eleventh Hour', 'A Christmas Carol'), on Coupling, or on Joking Apart.

    Moffatt used to structure everything as if it was a farce, which was great because farces are the most perfectly-structured form. For a farce to work everything has to be set up and pay off perfectly (see Noises Off for a great example).

    But he seems to have abandoned that, which is a pity, because so few people can manage it and he was damn good at it.

  • Didn't watch it. It was a faux-reality show about about the royals (fake or otherwise) set in America and on BBC America/E4 so in my Venn digram intersection of Hell No. But I might well have missed a trick there.

  • Robin

    Yes you have. Those were my misgivings too but it's been a delightful surprise.

  • If I have time, I'll try to give it a whirl. But it's new TV week in the US, so that might not be the easiest thing in the world. Fingers crossed, though!

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