Archive | US TV

An archive of articles about US television programmes and production.


September 25, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Blackhat, 800 Words, Y Gwyll, Doctor Who and Continuum

Posted on September 25, 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.

And relax. It's here. The Fall 2015-16 season is here. And I've got covered.

Elsewhere, I've reviewed all of this week's new programmes in glorious detail:

Wow. Ain't that a lot? I'm actually impressed with myself there. I'm about to be even more impressed: after the jump, I'll be reviewing all this week's regulars, too: 800 Words, The Bastard Executioner, Continuum, Doctor Who, Y Gwyll and You're The Worst.

But before I even get to those, I even found the time to watch a movie. It's like I just fed 5,000 people with some cod in breadcrumbs, isn't it?

Blackhat (2015) (iTunes)
Although to be honest, I wish I hadn't. I love Michael Mann. Chris Hemsworth is great in Thor. But Michael Mann directing a movie about hacking in which Chris Hemsworth is the main hacker? Oh dear.

Still, that's not the most oh dear thing about Blackhat - that would be the fact it's basically a Chinese co-production in which Hemsworth and Mann are almost hitchhikers, tagging along for the ride. The plot is that the two Chinese leads (Leehom Wang, Wei Tang) who work for the benevolent Chinese police come over to the US after one of their power stations blows up to find out what they can from the man who engineered the malware that caused it: Wang's former college roommate Hemsworth. He then has to track down criminals who may be almost anywhere in the world, with any target and any aim.

Mann does his best to both understand computer crime and make it interesting, but he's no Sam Esmail and this is no Mr Robot. Without sufficient purchase on the material, Mann just goes through the motions. There's a perfunctory romance between Tang and Hemsworth for no good reason. The merry band just fly from SE Asian country to country on sightseeing tours, turning up in the middle of beautiful looking locations for no genuinely good reason. And the story eventually sort of ends, not like Heat but like that episode of The Wire in which Omar gets attacked in prison. You barely know the film's finished.

It looks beautiful, of course, given Mann's presence. But it's soporific, mildly propagandist, doesn't know its material and almost never manages to excite.

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September 25, 2015

Review: Heroes Reborn 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on September 25, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

set_heroes_reborn_640.jpg

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC

It's probably almost impossible for the kids of today to appreciate just how exciting Heroes was when it first started, all the way back in 2006, when this blog was still quite young itself and had none of those twinges in its knee.

How fabulous it was to have an intelligent TV show that took superheroes seriously. How we thrilled at its weekly cliffhangers. How we marvelled at its pacing, its interesting characters, its interlinked serial narrative. How exciting was that! Each episode we'd wait to see which characters would turn up, what secret powers would be revealed and how it would all tie in with what we'd already seen.

The BBC acquired it very quickly, created its own tie-in TV series of documentaries, promised to simulcast it with the US and more, we were that desperate for Heroes content. As was the rest of the world. The cast went on world tours, where they met people thrilled by the new show. I even ended up reviewing every single episode of the show and starting Random Acts of Ali Larter

And, of course, we were all waiting to see what would happen in the season finale, when Peter and Sylar finally came face to face with the full range of superpowers they'd each spent a season acquiring and learning to use, while all those disparate characters were going to join in to help out. How awesome was that going to be, hey? It was going to be Marvel's The Avengers only five years earlier, that's how awesome it was going to be.

Except that's pretty much the exact moment when the series went to shit. As the finale aired around the world, time zone after time zone went at the exact same time-shifted time: "Was that it?" Whatever it was we were imagining was precisely 6x10^23 times more exciting than seeing Peter twat Sylar with a parking meter and fly off.

Who was responsible for the disaster is subject to conjecture. There were whispers that the super-duper finale, full of the best fight ever, had had to be cut because two of the cast members (cough, cough, Milo Ventimiglia, Hayden Panettiere, cough, cough) had held the show to ransom and refused to film the finale unless they got epic pay rises, resulting in a corresponding special effects budget cut. 

That wouldn't have explained season two, though. Or most of season three.

More likely, as show creator and former Crossing Jordan creator and showrunner Tim Kring testified, was that he'd never read a comic and didn't know how to do cool stuff. He thought origin stories were the best things about superheroes and it was those network bosses and the stupid old general public who were cramping his style by forcing him to have the same characters come back for the subsequent seasons.

Letting show and comics killer Jeph Loeb have anything to do with the show may have been the problem, too.

Anyway, that killed it. Interest in Heroes died and even the resurgence of quality in 'Volumes' Four and Five weren't enough to bring the audience back.

So with many people regarding the show as one of the most promising then subsequently disappointing TV programmes in US history, it's something of a surprise to see NBC bring it back for an event mini-series - if a 13-part series can truly be described as mini-, rather than "a standard length to quite-long-by-modern-standards single season'.

Both a continuation and a new beginning for the show, Heroes Reborn brings back everyone from the original series who doesn't have a functioning career right now - Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Jimmy Jean-Louis - manages to lure in Sendhil Ramamurthy and Masi Oka for a couple of quick cameos during their lunchbreaks, and then makes Tim Kring's wish come true by allowing him to create a whole new set of new characters, who are much cheaper and far less interesting than the original series'.

Then, taking everything Kring failed to learn from his next epic failures, Dig and Touch, it serves up a lukewarm, slow-moving version of the original series that just occasionally tries to be heartwarming but is just plain old nauseating instead.

And there's not even any Ali Larter in it? What's the point of Heroes, without Ali Larter, I ask you?

All the same, despite how not good it is, thankfully, it's still not as bad as Volume 3.

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September 25, 2015

Review: The Player 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on September 25, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Player

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

I'm sure a lot of you will have seen CBS's Person of Interest. In case you haven't, let me précis: a genius programmer creates the ultimate surveillance computer, able to predict crimes before they happen, and he recruits an ex-special forces soldier to help him stop those crimes. Initially content simply to be 'crime of the week', the show evolves over the seasons to partly become about a war for control of that computer.

Imagine then an NBC show in which someone had wrested control away of that computer from CBS and was using it to… gamble. What you'll have then is The Player.

Returning to his old Crusoe stomping ground to join his former Strike Back pal Sullivan Stapleton (Blindspot) on NBC, Philip Winchester is an ex-terrorist hunter FBI agent turned Las Vegas security consultant. While helping to secure some foreign dignitaries, things all get a bit personal and before you know it, he's on the run from police.

Little does he know that he's attracted the attention of a group of very wealthy people who have been tapped into the world's information networks for years and can now predict when certain crimes are about to occur. They'd quite like him to help the dignitaries and stop further crime. 

But they're not that bothered. See, what they really like to do is gamble on what's going to happen. It's all a big game to them. A game in which Winchester is The Player. Providing help but also supervising the game and making sure no rules are broken are The Dealer (Charity Wakefield from Any Human Heart, Wolf Hall, and Mockingbird Lane) and The Pit Boss, played by none other than tax-dodging action hero Wesley Snipes.

And as you might expect from a show set in sunny Las Vegas, rather than chilly grey old New York, as well as making you feel like you've taken something and lost big chunks of time, it's a lot more explosive, a lot more funny and a whole lot more ludicrous than Person of Interest

It's also loads of fun.

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