It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.
I did promise you on Monday one potential last WHYBW to sign off with before the Christmas hols to mop up the few shows with remaining episodes this week. And here it is! How exciting. How reliable of me for a change.
After the jump then, the finale of Falling Water and as Netflix released all of Travelers today in the UK, I was able to binge-watch the final episodes, so I'll be looking at them, too. Thanks to its delayed airing, I'll be looking at the latest (not final) episode of Shooter, and I've also watched a few more episodes of The OA since I started it on Monday.
On top of that, I also managed to catch up with another of Netflix's French imports:
Dix pour cent (Call My Agent!) (France: France 2; UK: Netflix)
Sort of the French equivalent of Extras, Dix pour cent is set in a talent agency, where the various members of staff have to deal with all the problems that beset the 'talent', including the talent themselves. Except there's all manner of inter-agency rivalry, poaching et al to deal with, too, once the head of the agency pops his clogs.
The show's selling point in France is that series producer Dominique Besnehard was one of the biggest talent agents in France for 20 years and managed huge numbers of top actors, actresses and directors. He then persuaded a select range of these stars to appear as 'themselves' in the show to send themselves up, with episode one seeing Cécile de France (The Young Pope, Around The World in 80 Days, Mesrine) finding herself ditched from a Quentin Tarantino movie for being - gasp! - too old.
Which is a problem for UK audiences, since although there's a chance that some of us will be familiar with some of the stars such as Audrey Fleurot from Engrenages (Spiral), most of the stars are like de France and are going to leave virtually everyone scratching our heads in exactly the same way every American did when Les Dennis turned up in Extras, for example. Even if you do know the show features such cameos (which isn't obvious), most people aren't going to know fictional character from cameo, let alone know an actor's public persona and what they're sending up.
On top of that, it's just not that funny. Quelle surprise, given it's France 2, but the show's few jokes went flashing past unaccompanied by laughs. Oh, and the subtitling is terrible.
One to avoid unless you really know your French acting scene, I'm afraid.
Shows I've been watching but not recommending
Falling Water (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
1x10 - Circular Time
Well we've finally reached the end. Was it worth it? No. Not at all.
While the dream side of things was marvellously imaginative and frequently disturbing, when it fed through into the real world it was just as silly as its cult's green trainers. As with Heroes before it, the show had promised much in terms of team-ups between its separated leads by the end; as with the first season finale of Heroes, Falling Water's team-up was deeply disappointing, with our heroes coming together with some distinctly underwhelming dream-based superpowers after the lead-up that had been dripped to us over all the preceding episodes. It's a shame, as this could have been the pay-off that made it all worth it, particularly with the Groundhog Day-like plot of the final episode; instead it was just further excuses for inaction.
I'm sure a rewatch will show how everything joined up and linked together, but I don't really feel the need. Beyond some really interesting imagery and ideas, there just wasn't much to the show in the end, and the characters were either non-existent or desperately uninteresting and/or annoying. Oh well, what's 10 weeks of wasted viewing, hey?
Reviews: First episode; third episode
The OA (Netflix)
1x2 - Colossus - 1x4 - Away
In my review of the first episode, I did mention that the show felt like a mash-up of Room and other stories. How psychic am I, hey, given that as soon as Jason Isaacs turns up, our heroine is stuck… in a room!
Episodes two and three proved a little underwhelming after the imaginative first episode, with The OA continuing simply to tell stories while everyone connects, the show overall seemingly being able the need for human beings to learn to understand one another, even bullies, if they're to prosper in life. But episode four adds some more fantasy to the mix that lifts the show but towards its original promise and Riz Ahmed's turned up, too. Fingers crossed for the remaining episodes, then, since we could be looking at another Falling Water here.
Review: First episode
The recommended list
Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
1x6 - Killing Zone
After last week's misfire, this week's episode puts us back on track with Ryan Phillipe finally seeming like a marine at last, helped in part by a marvellous cameo by William Fichtner as his training instructor that owes perhaps a little bit to Clint Eastwood's turn in Heartbreak Ridge.
The mystery continues to engross, too, and despite a conspiracy theory always being an unpromising framework to any story, the show's providing some valuable realism to its structure with the idea that a conspiracy can only have so many members if it's going to be secret, and if you start killing lots of them off, you're going to start having logistical problems in terms of actually getting stuff done.
Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)
1x10 - Kathryn - 1x12 - Grace
Episode 10 proved to be the first disappointing episode since the start of the series, although that's more of a misfire than something truly bad, with a dream sequence thread that really didn't work as well as the writers must have hoped.
However, episodes 11 and 12 are a return to form. After writing yesterday about how Travelers is principally a human show that uses its science fiction ideas sparingly while focusing on character, the final two episodes are absolutely chocka full of hard SF ideas, ranging from how the show's consciousness transference process works using quantum entanglement through AI and on to the effects of time travel on continuity, with our heroes having changed the future enough that nothing's quite the way it was any more and they're not sure whose orders they're following as a result. All the season's major plot storylines come to a head, too, with a proper cliffhanger of a conclusion that makes you want to watch all the episodes again immediately.
Equally interesting are the character flips, with actors having to play different roles from usual. No, no spoilers, but in a show about rewriting human consciousness, you can probably guess how that might happen.
Kudos to everyone involved for the best and most human science-fiction show of the year by far (that I've seen, at least). If I had a minor gripe, it's that very little of the show was actually about saving the future, but that's a minor thing. Roll on season two.
Reviews: First episode; third episode
- January 3, 2017: What have you been watching? Including The Mick, Sherlock, Mechanic: Resurrection, The OA and The Bureau
The TV I watched in the week ending Tuesday 3rd January 2017