What have you been watching? Including Room, Marvel's Agent Carter, Arrow and Endeavour

Posted on January 23, 2016 | 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.

It's been another huge week, full of new shows, continuing shows and returning shows. I've struggled manfully with them, but despite delaying WHYBW to Saturday to give me a little extra time to get through everything and then write about them, I'm still to cover three new series:

  • Mad Dogs (Amazon Instant Video): Shawn Ryan's US remake of the Sky 1 original brings back Ben Chaplin in a different role but none of the other cast for this relocated show about a bunch of old friends (in both senses of 'old') who reunite for a plush holiday in the middle of sunny nowhere. Before you know it, everything ends up going a bit criminally pear-shaped and holiday heaven becomes holiday nightmare. I haven't even watched the pilot of this, which has been sitting on Amazon for a while now, but given the original didn't overly impress me and I gave up after about three episodes, I'm not sure I'm going to be in much of a rush to watch this version either. I do hope they explain why it's called Mad Dogs, given the lyrics are 'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun'.
  • Baskets (US: FX): Co-created by Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis and Jonathan Krisel, this sees Galifianakis playing dual roles as twin brothers, one of whom aspired to clown school in Paris, but who ended up becoming a rodeo clown. It's apparently a bit Marmite, but I'll try to review it in the first half of next week.
  • Stan Lee's Lucky Man (UK: Sky 1): Marvel's Stan Lee gives us James Nesbitt as a Brit cop, down on his luck, who gets a magical bracelet that reverses his fortunes. It's Stan Lee, so could be fun, but it's also Sky 1 so could be stupid/mediocre beyond belief. Again, first half of next week for this one.

Despite those three failings, I have managed to cover rather a lot this week already, with reviews or previews of the first episodes of:

As well as a third-episode verdict on Cooper Barrett's Guide To Surviving Life (US: Fox).

The meat of the week's viewing has, however, been continuing and returning shows, so after the jump, you'll find reviews of the latest episodes of (deep breath): 100 Code, American Crime, Arrow, Billions, Byw Celwydd (Living A Lie), Colony, Endeavour, The Family Law, The Flash, Grandfathered, Limitless, Man Seeking Woman, Occupied (Okkupert), Rebellion, Second Chance, Les hommes de l'ombre (Spin) and Supergirl. Oh yes, and the two-hour premier of the new season of Marvel's Agent Carter. Pardon me if you were hoping I would carry on with Idiotsitter, but no thank you.

I'm pretty sure something's going to have give on that list soon, but I'm not quite sure what yet. Pity the first show to turn in a duff episode.

This week, I also moseyed on down to the cinema to watch a movie:

Room (2015)
Adaptation of Emma Donoghue's book of the same, which sees five-year old Jake (Jacob Tremblay) discovering that the small room he's lived in his whole life may not be the extent of the universe and that his mother (Brie Larson) has been keeping some important and very disturbing details from him. While that scenario (inspired by real cases) doesn't sound like a very enjoyable subject matter, both the book and the movie quickly switch things around and give us a genuinely moving tale of parental love, the adaptability of children and finding hope in extremis, so if you think it's not your thing, you might find you're completely wrong.

Not quite as initially claustrophobic as the book, the movie is still a magnificent piece of work, with Larson and Tremblay justifiably getting all kinds of award nominations. William H Macy appears for almost no good reason, except to remind you of all the roles he used to get before he ended up doing Shameless (US). Recommended - you won't even be able to watch the trailer again afterwards, without wanting a cathartic little cry.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

100 Code (Sweden: Kanal 5; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1x2-1x3
Moderately better and less exploitative than the first episode, with plenty of humour, too. Some good twists as well, including the arrival of an Irish ghost, and Mr Robot fans might be amused to spot Martin Wallström in the cast. But any programme that includes a dial-up modem sound-effect when someone connects to the 'Deep Web' is in trouble and oddly, despite the show's US creator, everything involving the Americans is terrible, everything with the Swedes a whole lot better. Likely to get dropped soon, but might just hang in there, now I've spotted Peter Eggers in a hoodie.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Billions (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1x2 - Naming Rights
A slight stumble in the show's second episode, with the impressive chess playing of the first episode largely replaced with dick measuring contests. The show also needs to be reassuring us there's a point to Giamatti going after Lewis, other than to measure his dick, because at the moment, it's not clear that Lewis has done anything much wrong. All the same, pretty good stuff, despite the criticisms from the first episode still standing (this week's exploitative sex: naked lesbians having sex and snorting cocaine off each other! For no good reason!). 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Byw Celwydd (UK: S4C)
1x3
Probably the show most likely to get the chop from my viewing schedule, it's been picking up over the past couple of weeks, but hasn't yet done anything that would move it to the recommended list. By now, I think it's clear that not only is it a flawed attempt to recapture the magic of Caerdydd, it's basically just a soap masquerading as a political drama. To its credit, the political manipulations going on are top notch and better writing than you'd get in most soaps. Unfortunately, all the relationships, acting, plotting and production values scream soap. And if baldy spin doctor doesn't instantly get sued for sexual harassment, there's no justice in the world.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Colony (US: USA)
1x2 - Brave New World
Sawyer from Lost laments having to collaborate with the alien overlords and drowns his misery by immediately becoming their most effective resistance-hunter. It's a hard show to categorise - it's got aliens, but they don't show up, so it might as well be set during Vichy France or a modern-day African dictatorship. Except then it wouldn't feature Americans. A good cast, but if I make it through to episode three, I'll be surprised, but you never know. And Carlton Cuse needs to stop doing the "Previously on…" for his shows - he's starting to sound self-parodic.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

The Family Law (Australia: SBS2)
1x2 - Tra-la-la-la-Law
Daniel tries to get the fractured family back together again by organising Christmas for them (prompting everyone to remember that Christmas is in summer for Australians). There's also a secondary plot about Daniel and his gal pal trying out for a talent agent who wants their cash, but resolutely only finds jobs for white people. Not as much fun as the first episode, but still full of moderately amusing moments and likable characters.
Reviews: First episode

Grandfathered (US: Fox)
1x12 - Baby Model
As usual above-average writing and a top notch cast, but fundamentally, it looks now like the show is falling back towards becoming a generic family sitcom. If only Paget Brewster weren't on this, it would be an easy cull, but somehow I still can't quite bring myself to chop it from the list just yet.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Okkupert (Occupied) (Norway: TV2; UK: Sky Arts)
1x2 - May
No one's convinced the Russians haven't invaded, and now the armed forces are starting to grumble about their new overlords. That prompts the Quisling PM to frown a lot, while Norway's Jack Bauer does plenty of cool things. Meanwhile, some of the Norwegians are discovering that having a bunch of oil-rich Russians around might actually be a good thing. Not as thrilling as the first episode, but with plenty of good things going on.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Rebellion (Ireland: RTÉ One)
1x3
More of the same as episode 1, as the Easter uprising continues, the Irish find themselves outmatched, but the fighting carries on, helped in part by some wily exploitation of English charity. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Second Chance (US: Fox)
1x2 - One More Notch
After having all manner of possible format choices ahead of it, unsurprisingly given that it's on Fox, Second Chance decided to go with 'manly police procedural'. Nothing too surprising going on, but actually quite amiable at times and with a few good jokes. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Les hommes de l'ombre (Spin) (France: France2; UK: More4)
1x3-1x4 
While pitched in France originally as a sort of House of Cards, the show's slightly spinning its wheels, dividing half the show into the 'state lies' plotline, involving the cover-up of the 'terrorist's' motivation, the other half to the machinations involved in the political campaign. The first, unfortunately, is sucking the energy out of the second, meaning it all feels a bit like scenes of a series of shags, usually involving the same woman, interspersed with people jetting around the world. A nice touch is that the hommes de l'ombre are being manipulated by people in their ombre, but it needs a bit more than that. With more of the sharper writing that we got in the second episode, this would be a slam-duck for the recommended list. Unfortunately, that's not quite its destiny yet.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First and second episode

Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1x10 - Childish Things
A bit of back story for the lamest of the supporting cast, and Martin Manhunter gets to use his powers a lot, as well as explain why it's probably a bad idea for him to do that. We also get proof that Supergirl's sister is the worst undercover operative in the world.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
2x3
Things get serious in the criminal investigation, but full marks all round for some staggeringly sophisticated discussions about race, gender, class and more in the US. Again, what the hell is this doing on ABC, rather than a channel where it might get appreciated?
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episodethird episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4x10 - Blood Debts
Slightly ludicrous bobbins, as usual, and how many times do we have to go through "Oliver goes dark again - will his friends pull him back towards the light?" But despite all that, some unusual revelations to keep the plot ticking over, as well as a few good jokes.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

Endeavour (UK: ITV; US: PBS)
3x3 - Prey
On the one hand, ridiculous in the extreme, with tigers and Leopard cults of west Africa all being blamed for murders in Oxford. The usual sterling effort by Shaun Evans and Roger Allam nearly manage to rescue that plot, and it's also fun for fans of Inspector Morse to see Strange becoming Morse's boss for the first time, as he was always fated to be. However, it's largely Anton Lesser's episode, with a couple of little scenes dominating the action, Lesser finally flexing his dramatic muscles to get the most of them.

But what really made the episode and placed it probably head and shoulders above everything else this week visually was the direction, with some properly fantastic moments. If the entirety of the last 20 minutes aren't on director Lawrence Gough's showreel by now, I'll be very surprised.
When's it airing near me?

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2x10 - Potential Energy
Picking up all the threads from the pre-Christmas episode, Potential Energy spirals everything off in new directions. While the Wally West plot isn't particularly welcome, even if it avoids the immediate cliches, and you can only wonder whether we'll ever get to see (spoiler alert) poor old Patty again, there are a couple of big developments which should prove for interesting viewing in the immediate future.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Limitless (US: CBS)
1x13 - Stop Me Before I Hug Again
What's that Limitless? You're tired of women being exploited in shows about serial killers, such as 100 Code, and being the pre-eminent player with form on TV that you are, you'd like to do something about it? Kudos to you. While a little less fun than previous episodes, proper dibbs to the show for not dropping the Bradley Cooper storyline straight away and for mocking the whole criminal profiler industry.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
2x3 - Scythe
The first not great episode this season, with Josh deciding to date a car. I think that's all that needs to be said.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC; UK: FOX)
2x1-2x2
The return of Marvel's "I wish it was so much better than it actually is" Agent Carter sees the return of all our usual favourite characters, but with the action moved to the West Coast. Most of the fun is from Hayley Atwell and James D'Arcy trying to out-English each other without mocking the audience, but the arrival of D'Arcy's wife (Lotte Verbeek) is very welcome, as is the replacement of the cudgel-strength "sexism is bad" repeated message of the week from the first season with a subtler dig at racism instead. All the same, despite there being so many good elements to it, the show's producers still haven't managed to make something properly compelling.

You need to be a Marvel fan with a lot of time on your hands and an insanely huge bank balance to get all the references to the comics, but given where the show is clearly leading (spoiler alert: the darkforce), I wonder how much of a crossover we're going to get with the currently filming Doctor Strange?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

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