Categorised | TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including פאודה (Fauda), Incorporated, The Crown and Arrow-verse crossover

Posted on December 5, 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. There's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

Who launches new shows at the start of December? Not many networks, which is why I haven't reviewed too much in the past week, although you may have caught my third-episode verdict on Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix) if you were hanging on my every word. 

But with Thanksgiving over, all the regular TV shows have come back - at least until their Christmas breaks in a week or so. That means that after the jump, I'll be taking a look at the following regulars:

Canada
Travelers

US
Ash vs Evil Dead, Chance, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, DIrk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Falling Water, The Flash, Frequency, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, People of Earth, Son of Zorn, Supergirl and Timeless

The Internet
Goliath

For one week and one week only, thanks to the fact there was the four-way superhero crossover on The CW, Arrow also makes a return. Will I stick with it afterwards? Maybe - after all, not only will I be dropping at least one show this week, I'm also going to be promoting a show, too…

Surprisingly, though, a couple of networks decided that actually, the start of December is a perfect time to launch a new TV show:

Incorporated (US: Syfy)
Hailing from no less a pair of minds (or at least their production company) than Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Incorporated is one of those 'futuristic thriller' things set in the near future where the whole world's gone to pot: corporations now run everything and either you work for them in the 'green zone' living it up and holidaying on the beaches of Reykjavík now that global warming's properly kicked in or you live out in the 'red zones' in favelas, fighting for your life while trying to make a quick buck selling one of the last three or so cigarettes made from real tobacco that exist in the world.

Against this backdrop, you have former red-zoner Sean Teale (Skins) sneaking his way around a top company at the behest of Ian Tracey (Continuum, Intelligence, Travelers) in order to find out where the sister of pal Eddie Ramos is. Can he work his way to the top of the corporate ladder, by any means necessary, including framing his rivals so they get a visit from scary Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit)?

Incorporated is ostensibly a futuristic industrial espionage thriller, but is really 49% Gattaca, 49% Elysium and 2% Soylent Green. While clearly a lot of thought has gone into imagining this future Earth of self-driving cars and face transplants - although even today we have better IT - little thought has gone into working out why we should care about Teale and his problems or any really complex bits of industrial tradecraft. Oh look, here comes a scene where Teale has to steal some data from a computer while he's in someone else's office. Can he copy it all in just a few minutes? Now - maybe not. In 2074? Of course he bloody can with his 100Tbps USB 23.0 interface and still have time left over to play holographic Tetris with his cranial implant.

The only interesting and new thing about the show that I noted was the use of capoeira as the favella martial art of choice, which was a nice touch. Otherwise, slow-moving and oddly devoid of human interest.

פאודה (Fauda) (Israel: Yes; UK: Netflix)
Somewhat different from Netflix's other Israeli spy show - the comedy Mossad 101 - this is a political thriller from Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, based on their experiences of doing military service in the IDF's Duvdevan special unit. It sees former Mista'arvim (undercover counter-terrorist) commander Lior Raz (The Gordin Cell) being lured from his vineyard to supervise an operation - the capture of a Hamas leader known as 'the Panther' (Hisham Sulliman), whom Raz supposedly killed two years earlier. Except the Panther isn't dead and everything doesn't quite go as planned…

As with most Netflix 'originals', this is actually a simple acquisition, this time from Israel's Yes network, where the show aired last year, winning no fewer than six of Israel's equivalents of BAFTAs, the Ophirs, including Best Drama. I've only watched the first episode so far, and that's a relatively plot-heavy piece that leaves little time for any real character development. But it's action-packed, sympathetic not only to Arabs but also Hamas (surprisingly enough), and is pretty even-handed, with our heroes even taking unarmed civilians hostage at one point.

There's nothing I've seen, beyond its novel setting and authenticity, to make it stand out from any other good guy/terrorist Moby Dick piece, but it's certainly promising enough to make me want to watch more.

The Crown (Netflix)
I've been promising for weeks to cover this, but we've been stalled at episode 8 for a month now, so time to at least discuss what I've seen so far. The first of seven or so seasons, each focusing on a different decade of her life, The Crown is a moderately fictional biopic of none other than Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy from Crossbones, White Heat, Going Postal).

Season 1 starts off giving us a woman who had no plans to do much except be a wife, mother and horse breeder, until the death of her father King George VI (the miscast Jared Harris from The Other Boleyn Girl, Mad Men, Fringe, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and To The Ends of the Earth, when Netflix should have stumped up the cash to get Colin Firth to redo his The King's Speech turn) catapults her and hubby Philip (Matt Smith - Doctor Who, Terminator: Genisys) into one of the most constitutionally important roles in the UK. In an age of increasing modernity, with the monarchy increasingly looking like an anachronistic relic, Foy then has to find a role for herself as well as for the Crown, while juggling the competing demands of her husband, duty, previous kings and queens, her randy sister Margaret and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow).

While there are attempts to give the show some Game of Thrones-like qualities, thanks to the machinations of Churchill, abdicated uncle Edward VIII and quasi-father-in-law Lord Mountbatten (Greg Wise), The Crown really sits as a halfway house between writer Peter Morgan's The Queen and The Audience. Oddly episodic for Netflix thanks to the nature of real-life, the show is something of an unplanned origin story, going from historic incident to historic incident in the 1950s, showing us how Elizabeth might have evolved from someone whose most important thought was whether to take her husband's adopted surname to being someone with the power to depose the government if she so chooses - albeit running the risk of losing all power if she ever exercises it.

Unlike The Audience, which was firmly on Elizabeth's side, making her an ambitious woman with plenty of ideas for government that she has to put to one side, The Crown is less concerned with this Elizabeth and her supervising of Margaret's scandalous love life, and is more on the side of Philip, something helped perhaps by Smith's magnificent performance/impersonation. Here, Philip's more notorious qualities are toned down to make him a sympathetic, dedicated naval officer (albeit one who would rather have been in the air force), loving husband and father, and firm embracer of modernity, forced to abandon his ambitions and kneel to his wife by the necessities of the throne and the Crown. 

There are parts of The Crown that feel made up, particularly anything to do with Edward VIII or Churchill, and although a little research reveals that they are actually absolutely true, it doesn't help with the show's verisimilitude. Foy, who's shown herself to be sparky in other shows and is almost perfect casting as the young Elizabeth, is nevertheless done no favours by Morgan. He tosses her a few bones, such as being able to repair a truck thanks to her wartime service as a mechanic, or her requests for a proper education to supplement the constitution-focused training she got as a child, which she's able to use to outmanoeuvre polticians. But that's largely drowned out by thankless duty after thankless duty after tragic loss being dropped on her shoulders - such is the burden of 'the Crown'.

But it's beautifully made, highly enjoyable, far more palatable than Downton Abbey, frequently funny, frequently tear-jerking, often romantic and just like Elizabeth, finds a reason for the monarchy in this day and age.

We will watch the rest of it. Just as soon as lovely wife's finished Master Chef - The Professionals, The Grand Tour, My Kitchen Rules Australia, and Strictly Come Dancing. Oh yes, and The Walking Dead.

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
5x8 - Invasion!
The third in the Arrow-verse crossovers, so I'd start with Supergirl and then The Flash, if I were you. Done that? Right. Well, as long-time readers know, I gave up on Arrow at the start of the season, since I'd grown bored of it. But as well as this being a crossover episode, it was also Arrow's 100th episode, so it was a chance for it to redeem itself. And it almost did. Almost.

In common with Supergirl in actually having very little to do with the main crossover plot (Flash and Supergirl had next to nothing to work with, it should be noted), it was instead a retread of the history of Arrow, featuring guest appearances from not just everyone from the other shows who got their start on Arrow, but also the return of a few others and a nice joke about Colin Donnell's new job. Pleasing for long-term fans and it all felt a lot stronger than it did last year, but there was also a reasonable amount about Arrow's new enemies and allies - I see Curtis has gone full Mr Terrific - that season 5 fans hopefully didn't feel left out. However, none of that made me feel like I was missing anything so I won't be going back to the show again this week.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Chance (US: Hulu)
1x8 - The House of Space and Time
Chance has this strange habit of ending an episode, leaving you thinking you know exactly where the show's going to go next episode, only for it go somewhere completely different, not because of some surprising revelation but simply because people don't make the same leaps you make. At the end of the last episode, I thought to myself, "Surely he'll think that he's been the victim of a con, now, because clearly x has to be in league with y". Except Hugh Laurie doesn't think that and so does something different. Which means either he's stupid or the show is just a lot straighter and less twisty than I thought it was. It could all come together by the end of the season, but at the moment, I'm beginning to think this is all a bit daft. We'll see. Nice The Notorious Bettie Page tribute, though.
Review: First three episodes

DC's Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2x7 - Invasion!
The conclusion of the Arrow-verse crossovers, so I'd start with Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow, if I were you. Read them? Good. So, surprisingly, this was the best of the lot, managing to combine Legends' now trademark fun style and some proper comic book fights with little moments for each of the shows, with everyone getting something cool to do. On top of that, Brandon Routh even got to make a joke about having once been Superman or something (spoiler: he said that Supergirl looked a cousin of his). Pretty impressive overall, both as an individual Legends episode as well as part of the huge crossover, and oddly, I think of the four shows, Legends is now the one I enjoy most.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Designated Survivor (US: ABC; UK: Netflix)
1x8 - The Results
More soapiness about whether son of Kiefer is really son of Kiefer, while senior members of the FBI behave like idiots. For my own sake, I'm going to have to say I'm out, to avoid getting drawn into this silliness any more.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Falling Water (US: USA)
1x7 - Three Half Blind Mice
Thought the second season of Heroes was slow? You'll be praying for its rapid pacing and frequent team-ups after watching seven episodes of Falling Water. Finally, two of our three heroes are awake, in the same room together and talking, and as soon as one of them reveals something really important to the other one, off they pop, rather than ask a single probing or useful question. On top of that, no cool dream sequences this week. Still, at least we have a vague idea of what's going on now.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Frequency (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
1x8 - Interference
And another show bites the dust. Sorry, but I'm just so bored with the Nightingale investigations. I know it was an integral part of the film, but that was only 90-odd minutes long and I just don't care enough to find out who it is by watching hours more episodes this time. Off the list.
Reviews: First episode

Goliath (Amazon)
1x7-1x8
While the overall ending is in a sense exactly what you think it's going to be, the actual specifics are very odd, taking in all manner of strange detours about disability, friendship, disease, sexual harassment and more. Yet despite all the smartness, there's a certain degree of dumbness, with one particular action making you almost shout at the screen, "Don't do that, you idiot!" Except they do and it goes wrong in exactly the way you think it will, which is very unsatisfying.

On the whole, a very odd legal drama that makes you think a lot about the nature of the law, the nature of big law firms and little law firms, and the nature of jury trials, while simultaneously making you wonder if this was absolutely the best way of doing all of that. I probably won't bother with season two, if there is one (and it certainly seems to want one, judging by the dangling plot threads), but not too concerned that I spent my time on this one, since it was oddly good in places.
Reviews: First six episodes

The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
1x6 - Going Deep
Another Fry-free episode, this also felt like the first one of the season that was a proper CBS sneer-fest. That said, the episode still had enough of the show's DNA intact that it came up with a different angle and conclusion from the one you'd normally expect of a CBS show in which a man gets a divorce…
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lethal Weapon (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
1x8 - Can I Get A Witness?
Despite being the first episode that properly gives us a look at why Riggs is a 'lethal weapon', the worst episode of the season so far, being intermittently dull and intermittenly about kids and CHIPS
Review: First episodethird episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2x10 - Quid Pro Ho
Finally, some revelations about not just the season arc, but the series arc. And very interesting they were, too, as was the cliffhanger. And another episode where the crime actually fits well with the story arc. I don't think Lucifer's ever going to make the recommended list, but I don't think it's going to fall off the viewing list any time soon, either.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

People of Earth (US: TBS)
1x6 - Significant Other
Very little alien fun so despite the cliffhanger, I'm not tuning in for more episodes. Wyatt Cenac just isn't enjoyable to watch and neither are any of the humans in this show, unfortunately, which is a shame as the aliens are a hoot.
Reviews: First three episodes

Supergirl (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
2x8 - Medusa
The fact this was the only one of the four Arrow-verse shows in the crossover to not bear the episode title of Invasion should tell you precisely how much it fit with the rest of the crossover. On its own terms, though, plenty going on, although I think if I hear 'I'm Cyborg Superman' one more time, I'm going to switch off the show permanently. Given how many story arcs got wrapped up this time round, next episode might be make-or-break on the show anyway.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
1x8 - Space Race
I'm pretty sure the Apollo moon missions didn't use computers running DOS or that were capable of having viruses. That aside, quite a nice runaround that once again focused on Rufus (the interesting one, so a wise move) while also making the fun choice of having Katherine Johnson as the heroine of the piece and giving Goran Visnjic something to do except twirl his invisible moustache. Like I said, a show that makes history come alive, even if it doesn't make much sense at all.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

Ash vs Evil Dead (US: Starz; UK: Virgin On Demand)
2x9 - Home Again
A bit of time travel fun that probably would have made fans of the original movies giddy with happiness, but left me cold because I haven't seen them. But the usual gross out, gore and humour meant that it was anything but a disappointing episode for me. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix)
1x7 - Weaponized Soul
A promotion for a show that has never really had a great episode until now, which managed to explain virtually all the plot threads - although given the clues, that should probably be "confirm how you already thought everything fit together" - while still coming up with a whole bunch of extra twists, bonkers moments and clever plotting that will inevitably require a rewatch of the entire season. 
Review: First episodethird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3x8 - Invasion!
Already read Supergirl? Good, since that takes place after that episode and is the first proper episode in the Invasion! storyline. Lots of characters from all the shows come together and have a fight, while also having lots of fun thanks to new arrival to the universe, Supergirl. There's the usual misery and moping thanks to Flashpoint, of course, but there's also the usual light heartedness we've come to expect when the Arrow characters come to visit. A very decent effort.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Son of Zorn (US: Fox)
1x8 - Return of the Drinking Buddy
The first animated character other than Zorn to turn up in Calfornia is a thinly disguised Ram-man from the He-Man cartoons - here, voiced by Rob Riggle - and the whole thing gets ever so serious when they go out partying. Hilarious, but serious. Because it's Son of Zorn
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)
1x7 - Protocol 5
After apparently completing their mission last time, our heroes have to decide what to do with the rest of their lives, giving us a character episode where we learn a bit more about all of them - particularly when they're off their heads on hallucinogens. I honestly could have done without the surgery, mind. Still, seven episodes in and still not a bad episode. That's impressive.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

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