What have you been watching? Including Hostages, The Odd Couple, X Company, Living With Models and Bosch

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’sLocate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Last one of these for a fortnight, as I’m on holiday next Monday. But somehow, following last week’s purge and with a bit of efficiency, I’m bang up to speed with practically everything and I’ve watched some new shows:

The Odd Couple (US: CBS)
Somehow, some strange sort of comedy lifeboat has been erected at NBC and floated off a big bunch of its more talented comedy actors to this CBS show based on the classic Neil Simon play/movie/TV series of the late 60s/early 70s about two divorced men, one a slob, one a tad OCD, who end up living together. Here, Matthew Perry (late of Go On) takes on the Jack Klugman role, once again playing a DJ; Thomas Lennon (Sean Saves The World) takes the Tony Randall role; Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) is Perry’s PA; Wendell Pierce (The Michael J Fox Show) is one of Lennon and Perry’s mutual friends.

But despite the source material, the cast and the likes of Joe Keenan behind the scenes, it’s not that good. There are times when it comes close to funny and there’s more intelligence than you might have expected of a CBS comedy, with Perry’s romance with Leslie Bibb in the first episode not going quite how you’d expect; Lennon is as good as always, as is Perry, even if Perry is a more natural fit to Lennon’s role. It’s also better at characterisation than you’d expect and never hits the miserable bitterness of We Are Men, But it’s never laugh out loud funny. Or even funny. Needed to be a lot better, basically, given its pedigree.

X Company (Canada: CBC)
Second World War spy action drama, based on Canada’s real-life spy training base Camp X. In this first episode, a bunch of non-descript young people overact a lot as they’re sent undercover into a French village, while a bunch of better characterised people are systematically killed off. This being a Canadian show, lots of the Nazis are quite nice, as are the Canadians, while the Brits, whether working for or against Camp X, are bastards. For reasons unknown, everyone German (some of them actually played by Germans) speaks German, while despite Canada’s bilingualism, everyone else speaks English.

The first 15 minutes is quite horrendous and I almost stopped watching after that, but after that initial attempt to woo the viewer with action, everything settles down and becomes a lot more interesting. It’s still not great, but one of the better efforts from Canada of late. Incidentally, as I predicted not so long ago, 2015 is indeed turning out to be the Year of Synthesia

Living With Models (UK: Comedy Central)
Ordinary schlub looking for a flat finds one… occupied by models. Close your eyes. Imagine the series. Whatever you just imagined is better than the series itself.

Hostages (UK: BBC4; Israeli: Channel 10 – aired in 2013)
This Israeli show that sees a surgeon’s family taken hostage to force her to kill one of her patients – the Prime Minister – has already been adapted by the US as Hostages. However, despite having seen that show, I quite enjoyed this version, as it’s considerably better – more low key in the exact same way as Prisoners of War was. Although many of the beats are the same, the structure’s different, more time is taken and it does actually feel like a thriller at times. There’s plenty of genre clichés, such as the “illegal gun dealer who demands more money from the man he’s just sold the guns to” and “the bad ass cop who faces down a hostage-taker single-handled”, but largely, it’s not bad, and it does everything better than the US remake does – a step down from Engrenages, naturally, but a step up from Salamander. Good to see BBC4 branching out into Sky Arts’ usual territory, too.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs and Suits. Oh, Vikings and Bosch are back, too.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
The Red Forest
The show manages to pull itself back on a track, with a time travel-tastic piece focused on both the main plot and an alternative reality. Unfortunately, there was also a very silly plant-induced hallucination scene. A good ep nonetheless
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Bosch (US/UK: Amazon Instant Video)
Lost Light
Commissioned for a full series, following last year’s successful pilot, this adaptation of the popular Michael Connolly series of cop novels is apparently very faithful. It also looks very good and has a great lead in Titus Welliver. But for the life of me I can’t see what the fuss is all about. The situations and the dialogue could have come out of a random amalgamator fed any number of 60s-80s PI/cop shows’ most cliched scripts, and there’s almost nothing new in it. But I’m only two episodes in so far, so maybe it’ll get better later.

Gallipoli (Australia: Nine)
My Friend, The Enemy
The second episode sees Gallipoli’s equivalent of the famous Christmas Football Match between the Brits and the Germans, with ANZACs and Ottomans halting the fighting to help each other bury their dead, who are rotting away in No Man’s Land. Full of gruesome horrors, nevertheless, if you manage to make it through the episode without blubbing more or less the whole time, there’s no hope for you.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Fortitude (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)
Episode 4 (5)
There was more Stanley Tucci this week, but unfortunately, he didn’t get to do anything much fun. What the show does do well, apart from Icelandic location filming, is to give us a novel situation where virtually everyone is both investigator and potential murderer, and to have the bulk of the problem-solving split between Tucci (the head) and Richard Dormer (the heart). However, although it’s a show that any network would be proud to have, it doesn’t really excel at anything beyond its location at the moment, so I doubt it’s going to be much remembered in five years’ time. Unless Tucci gets given a lot more to do.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First three episodes

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX) Gavel
Our ‘hero’ gets himself a new girlfriend, but then his ex- breaks up with her boyfriend and comes round for a shoulder to cry on. What will happen next? He’ll be a dick, of course, but a dick with a semi-amusing fantasy court room scene.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

State of Affairs (US: NBC) Deadcheck
Katherine Heigl is let out into the field and infiltrates possibly the hardest place in the world for a woman to get into within 20 minutes, while the FBI/CIA intercepts every single terrorist in 10 minutes, despite only knowing which cities they’re in. Oh dear. Still, it wraps up all the plot threads, critiques the influence of the private military, while giving us a cliffhanger that’s also a potentially satisfying conclusion to the series if it doesn’t get renewed. One of the best NBC dramas of the past few years, which is more an indication of how weak NBC dramas have been than of how great the show was. Pretty good overall, but you’d have been better off watching re-runs of Rubicon.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The recommended list

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
Rock Garden
A grim episode about online bullying/rape/’slut shaming’, as well as a poignant thread about domestic violence. However, some odd moments of epic silliness intended to bring some comedy relief only made the show look silly.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

The Americans (US: FX) Dimebag
Upping the icky quotient and taking the show right to the edge, we have our heroes’ best wishes for their teenage daughter contrasted with the need for Matthew Rhys’ character to indulge in some near-paedophilia in the line of duty. About as risky as US TV can get on the subject and singularly disturbing.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
The Return
In a neat bit of plotting, we have the present day antics all taking place on The Island, with Ollie and co dealing with Slade Wilson, while the flashbacks all take place in Starling City back in the day, complete with some returning dead characters. A small but lovely Felicity scene stands out from the pack of some generally fine moments and it shows how far the series has come that the murderous Ollie of the past now seems shocking.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
You Can’t Hide From The Dead
Continuing its aim to be the most visually innovative show on TV, we have pretty much an entire episode shot from various first-person POVs. It doesn’t really help the fight scenes, but it’s good to see the experimentation. One has to question how Hood and co could beat up all the previous people they’ve beaten up yet find US marines that much harder, and also how Carrie’s hubbie got so good at the fighting, too, but the show continues to prove its thoughtfulness, as the dead characters return to haunt the living and the violence of the regulars is contrasted with people who are a lot more peaceful.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes; third episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
The Kenyon Family
Oh goodie. It’s a cult militia. They’re always good. Except not this time. And Red’s lack of charm this episode when dealing with someone who has what he wants meant that Spader’s normally always-charismatic performance looked too arch for once.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC One/Alibi)
My Brother’s Keeper
Yet another surprising cast change in the police hierarchy, which once again sets us on the “you’re just a police surgeon, not a police officer” route we’ve already been down before. But we also got a welcome return to the more experimental, scientific Doctor Blake of the first season. You’ll guess whodunnit right away, but this is more an episode notable for the Blake-Jean interactions and general fleshing out of Jean’s background than anything else.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1) Fallout
The full-on Firestorm origin story is now done with, but around that central hub, we had a lot going on, including the arrival of Grodd. I should point out that Oxford University Press is not a journal, and also question who in this day and age knows Morse Code. A little unsatisfying but made better by the ending, although you do have to worry about what this is doing to Caitlin’s emotions.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC)
SNAFUOh well. Looks like we’re not getting that Black Widow origin story I was hoping for. I knew I was being overly optimistic there. But we did get Peggy coming clean as well as the death of an important character. Admittedly, because he and all the other men were portrayed as the enemy for most of the previous episodes, it’s hard to care, but at least the writers are willing to have a few killings.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave) Derailed
A return to the style of season 1, and we have the arrival of Tricia Helfer; Louis was also only implausible as a human being for the first half of the episode, so not bad all round. However, I should point out here that if Jeff really does end up taking anyone to the Loire Valley, he should probably expect to sit by the sides of the river Loire not the Seine when he’s there (there’s an obvious clue he should have picked up on there).
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Instant Video) Mercenary
All the things you’ve learned to love about the Vikings plus more in this first episode, although a bit more about the gods might have been nice. Admittedly, as GYAD has pointed out, everyone was a bit rubbish in the fights compared to how much more competently battles were fought at the time, but the copious amounts of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse made me very happy indeed, right down to little niceties like Æthelstan and Egbert using the informal second person with one another. Also good that they’re willing to show the more civilised side of the Vikings, with plenty wanting to become farmers rather than fight.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: Season one review

  • Gareth Williams

    I'm a bit behind this week mainly because I crammed all of Bosch in before House of Cards starts; I suppose I'll be behind next week too.

    So, Bosch: I needed a book for a train journey once and picked up one of those Thorne books from a charity shop. I don't normally read popular fiction like this but it was incredibly 'easy' to read and was quite enjoyable. I assume the Connelly books are of a similar ilk, and with the TV adaptation I had the same experience as with that book, especially as it's a full release series. It's just an easy, enjoyable, disposable watch.

  • aylwardreed

    Agreed. I'm enjoying Bosch though it's not mind blowing. Excellent cast, mind. Stick with it Rob, certainly episode 4 holds a lot more than what's gone before and sets up a more driving plot which I'm imagining will power the show forward it a bit more compellingly than the first 3 fun, but disposable, episodes.

  • Mark Carroll

    I'm up to the 'suitcase episode' with “The Americans”, so not too far behind now. I'm enjoying it, it's a good show, better than I expected lately.

    Thank you for the tip on “Hostages”. I'll add it to the list. You are making “Arrow” sound better than I expected at this point, good to hear it's still going well.

    My son's been watching “The Flash”. It's okay. They don't mention too much of their cringeworthy science, which is good. It reminds me a little of “Chuck”, I guess, but I didn't really watch that too carefully either.

    The kids have been watching plenty of anime. “Black Butler” seems less interesting than “Death Note”, but maybe I just didn't pay enough attention. (That seems to be a common theme.)

    “The Blacklist” was okay. It was almost interesting. Not the most plausible, but that's what we expect.

    I've started “The Affair”. Early days, but it's promising.

    I'm curious about where “The Walking Dead” is going. It may actually progress in some way after all, instead of more of the same. Perhaps I'll know more next week.

  • Did you watch the Sky versions of Thorne?

  • I'll stick with it, but might not be watching the next few episodes for a while. Plus I might wait to see what my mother in law says about them

  • Arrow's pretty good again – it's brought itself back from the brink

  • Gareth Williams

    I actually did. I don't remember being too disappointed that it came back. It was Sleepyhead that I bought, I actually read the first one not long after and the third one (whatever they were called) just before the TV series, just because it was being adapted too. I'd got fed up with them by then. I do remember that the the TV series swayed quite a bit from the books; there was certainly different killers in some of them. I seem to remember it seeming a bit low budget.

  • JustStark

    I'm up to the 'suitcase episode' with “The Americans”, so not too far
    behind now. I'm enjoying it, it's a good show, better than I expected
    lately.

    I'm still trying to find a way to watch it in the UK.

    Have recorded the first two Hostages though, will get around to that soon.

    And I've (via Cinema Paradiso) seen the first three episodes of True Detective. I loved the very clever moment of dislocation halfway through the first episode with the framing device, but other than that I'm not yet seeing why everybody thinks it's so special. But I will see it out to the end and hope that I uncover its secrets.

    Other than that, not much around at the moment… disks of Peaky Blinders series one, which wasn't too bad, but I must admit I ended up watching mainly for Sam Neil's brilliant Belfast gruff.

  • Mark Carroll

    I certainly thought “True Detective” worth watching, but it's not amazing, and once was enough. It's nicely acted and shot, and I am curious about that part of the country, so that helped. I'll bother with a second season if one comes my way, I seem to remember rumour of one here. I'm finding Cinema Paradiso very handy too for television I'd otherwise have missed or have to pay nice Mr Murdoch for.

    Rubicon was another hard one to get, at least when I tried, bah.

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