Categorised | TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Spectre, Master of None, Flesh and Bone, and You're The Worst

Posted on November 13, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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.

The first of the mid-mid season shows made their way on to our screens/Internet connections this week. Elsewhere, I've reviewed the first episodes of Agent X (US: TNT), Donny! (US: USA) and Blood and Water (Canada: Omni). However, they're not the only new shows that have started this week:

Master of None (Netflix)
Aziz Ansari's best known from Parks & Recreation, but here he's playing a thinly disguised version of himself - Dev, a small-time Indian actor living in New York and trying to get his break in a business that's still not ready to accept Indian actors as anything except taxi drivers, doctors and convenience-store clerks, and then only with Indian accents. This is something that Ansari has one or two opinions about, which he shares with his other Indian friends, as well as his Asian friend and black lesbian friend. 

It would be tempting to assume this is basically Ansari's version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but actually, it's far more reasoned, genteel, likable Curb Your Enthusiasm, with each episode almost self-contained and exploring not just discrimination against Indians by the media, but a different facet of modern life, during all of which Ansari tries to be reasonably respectful and thoughtful in extremis. The first episode looks at kids and parenthood, with Ansari discovering that being the fun uncle only works for an hour or so, and that a full afternoon looking after kids is more than he can bear. However, of the six episodes I've watched so far, it's actually the least funny. 

Fortunately, things pick up after that, with some genuinely amusing episodes, particularly one that sees Colin Salmon doing a 'Patrick Stewart on Extras', and Parents, which is a spot-on look at the relationships between older parents and young adults, particularly first-generation immigrant adults. Guest stars including Claire Danes, H Jon Benjamin and Noah Emmerich also give the show a greater pedigree than you'd otherwise have thought.

While Ansari's squeaky voice gets annoying after a while, this is the first Netflix comedy so far that's been worthy of the name, and I'll be trying to watch the rest of it as soon as I've finished writing this.

Flesh and Bone (US: Starz)
Short version: Showgirls meets Whiplash at the ballet
Long version: A surprisingly loving, beautifully shot, eight-part mini-series about an abused young woman (Sarah Hay from Black Swan) who runs away from home to make it big at the ballet. Her talent is spotted by the head choreographer (Ben Daniels), who decides to make her a star, but he has very strict training methods. 

All of which is lovely and beautifully done, with some excellent acting, and even though I'm absolutely not a ballet person, some of the dancing was absolutely stunning and even moving. However, so far, the long version doesn't sound Starz enough, does it? 

So first add in copious nudity, sex and drug-taking, lots of mean girl scenes, maybe a hint of lesbianism. Then have new girl ballerina equivocating about whether to moonlight with another ballerina as a stripper to make ends meet. Then add in some truly hilariously bad scenes, such as when the choreographer is vigorously bumming another bloke over his desk while repeating to himself things like "I am the master of all I survey."

I think I would have watched this were it not for that kind of epic stupidity and excess that tend to dog Starz shows. But I doubt I'll get much further with it now.

I've passed a third-episode verdict on Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1) elsewhere, so after the jump, a look at the latest episodes of Arrow, Ash vs Evil Dead, The Beautiful Lie, Blindspot, Doctor Who, The Flash, Grandfathered, The Last Kingdom, Limitless, The Player and You're The Worst. But first, a movie:

Spectre (2015) (at cinemas now)
I actually saw this last week but completely forget to include it in my round-up. That should give you a clue as to what I thought about it.

As the name suggests, this introduces old Bond's eventual arch-enemy Spectre to us, except here it turns out that it's been Spectre orchestrating everything from Casino Royale onwards, for all kinds of pointless personal reasons involving Bond. Meanwhile, Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) is a new surveillance-obsessed bigwig intent on unifying MI5 and MI6 and getting rid of the 00 section in the process.

It's fine. Nothing great bar Craig and a marvellous four-minute long pseudo-tracking shot at the beginning, but fine, although there are parts of it that will make you feel like a great big chunk of story has been removed. It's more or less the same structurally and thematically as Skyfall. There's one age-appropriate Bond girl (Monica Bellucci), one age-inappropriate Bond girl (Léa Seydoux), a baddie who finally looks like he can take on this muscled incarnation of Bond (Dave Bautista), and Christoph Waltz does a homeopathically weak version of his usual routine, as the head of Spectre. I would give you the name of his character, but you can guess it.

Spectre's basically the conclusion of the Daniel Craig James Bond series, which has been setting up all the aspects of the Bond character from the previous films, just so that he can retire now it's all been set up. Of the four Craig movies, it's probably the second or third best, and like the previous Logan-Mendes Skyfall, it actually seems to enjoy the sexist and hokey aspects of the old series that it's trying to reintroduce, despite the pains Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace took to try to make Craig's Bond a modern hero.

Basically, meh.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Ash vs Evil Dead (US: Starz)
1x2 - Bait
Campbell and his minions go on a road trip to determine if female minion's mum (Mimi Rogers) is a Deadite or simply an amnesiac car crash survivor. Plenty of fun with some good yucks, and the fact the show's decided that half-hour episodes are the way forward means the story has no excess flab at all.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

The Beautiful Lie (Australia: ABC)
1x4 
Reality settles in as the two star-crossed couples have to deal with practicalities, particularly with a (spoiler alert) baby around the corner. The show does a little better at making Anna more tolerable, while simultaneously making Kitty unbearable, if understandably unbearable. Skeet's a tit, still, though. But a decent look at the messiness of life, life choices, and love.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
1x8 - Persecute Envoys
Probably the first completely unmemorable episode of Blindspot so far, with (looks up episode summary to remind himself) flashbacks to the big cover-up the tattoos are intent on exposing. Despite attempts to give the supporting cast personalities and back stories, they're not getting any more memorable either.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Grandfathered (US: Fox)
1x6 - My Amal
Another episode perilously close to excellent and recommendable, with Stamos trying to date one of Brewster's smart friends in the hope of finding his Amal (Clooney), only to end up reconnecting with Brewster on a road trip; meanwhile, the younger generation are trying to work out if 'friends with benefits' can work. A bravura opening scene with Stamos charming the socks of everyone with a baby as he watches kids TV, only to discover the secret messages in it designed to make it more tolerable for adults (right down to Sopranos references). But as well as the surprising maturity of the show, the highlight is the magnificence of the Brewster/Stamos scenes. They're almost up there with Brewster's drunk histories…
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Last Kingdom (US: BBC America; UK: BBC Two)
1x5 
Tedious Hero, son of Tedious Hero, now has a son called Tedious Hero, too. But despite not having that much Alfred in it, this was the first episode that could really be called 'good', thanks to some top battle scenes, Tedious Hero not being quite so tedious and some juicy intrigue and murder. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Player (US: NBC)
1x8 - Downtown Odds
Aka 'Romeo & Juliet in the desert'. Two rival ethnic gangs are at each others' throats and only The Player can stop all-out war from breaking out. A few shoot-outs doesn't quite qualify as exciting, unfortunately, and the 'someone's out to stop The Game' was probably a storyline that should have been saved until season two, given it's hardly established itself yet. The dialogue and acting from the gangs probably qualified as a hate crime in itself. Generally now feeling like the whole thing is winding up and people are preparing to move on to other things.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4x6 - Lost Souls
Basically, another Legends of Tomorrow establishing episode, designed to get White Canary and The Atom in place. All the same, given what the producers had to work with, a very credible effort, with some genuinely funny moments, surprisingly often thanks to Oliver, and it's nice to see the parents getting a look-in with the plots, too. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
9x8 - The Zygon Inversion
The first genuinely excellent episode this season was also a fanboy treasure trove, with references to everything from Harry Sullivan to nu Who's Black Archives. It also contained 'the speech', which is probably going to be one of the Capaldi Doctor's most iconic moments. Yet surprisingly, it was mainly an all-out homage to Peter Davison's Kinda, with its empty Osgood box full of wisdom, women leading the tribe of UNIT and the need to stop and get off the wheel of life and suffering. Thankfully, no snakes were involved. You could probably write a book on the subtext. 
Where can I watch it?

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2x6 - Enter Zoom
A stonker of an episode in which Zoom turns up and everyone wets their trousers as a result. Quite menacing and nasty in its own way, yet also full of the fun that the previous season had had but which had been missing of late.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Limitless (US: CBS)
1x8 - When Pirates Pirate Pirates
It would be hard for the show to live up to last week's Ferris Bueller tribute episode and despite efforts to give Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's character some background (and cash), the show didn't manage to do much better than merely entertain this week. But it still made its usual sterling efforts to find innovative ways of telling the story, for which it has to be credited.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2x10 - A Right Proper Story
A practically perfect episode, despite having the darkness of Gretchen's depression at its centre. As the episode title suggests and as Jimmy's "racist northern mining town" background has been intimating, it was time for his family to arrive and I was braced for the worst. But either there's a Brit on staff or they've been binge watching The Royle Family, because that was perhaps the most precise and accurate recreation of a (scummy) Northern working class English family by a US show in the entire history of US television. I'll never think of Tesco's the same way again.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Related entries

  • November 21, 2015: What have you been watching? Including Master of None, You're The Worst, Arrow, Doctor Who and Limitless
    A review of the TV I saw in the week ending Friday 20 November 2015
  • December 3, 2015: Question of the week: do you like to binge?
    Do you like to binge watch?
  • June 9, 2016: Review: Secret City 1x1-1x2 (Australia: Foxtel Showcase)
    A review of the first two episodes of Foxtel Showcase's Secret City

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