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July 26, 2013

What did you watch this week? Including The Booth At The End, Orange is the New Black, The Almighty Johnsons, Satisfaction and Suits

Posted on July 26, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First up, 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.

Still in the viewing queue: Kerry Packer…. But otherwise I'm up to speed again, just in time to disappear for a fortnight on holiday. Oops.

New shows I tried this week
Orange is the New Black
(Netflix) 
Netflix's comedy-drama from the creator, based on a true story about a woman sent to a correctional institute. I only watched half an episode, but it was pretty good albeit with a little too much female nudity, so I reckon I'll be jumping back in at some point.

The Booth At The End (Netflix/Hulu)
At Mark's suggestion, I decided to give this one a bit of a whirl. And actually, it's quite good, if a little frustrating. Essentially, each episode sees an unnamed man (Xander Berkeley) sitting in a both at the end of a diner. People come to him who want things, sometimes trivial, sometimes seemingly impossible. And the Man looks in his book and tells them what they need to do to make that thing happen: it can as simple as making a phone call; or it could be to murder a child or set off a bomb, although he's at pains to state that he doesn't actually make these things happen and they may happen anyway. In In Treatment style, a lot of the plots of the characters mingle and part of the fun is guessing how they'll all mesh together, and it's also pleasantly theatrical, since nothing is ever shown, just described by the Man's various supplicants, so it relies a lot on your imagination.

The frustration is two-fold. The first is that there are very few answers and if you hang out to the end of the first season of five, 22-minute episodes, you still won't really get any gratification on that score. The second is that Netflix in the UK only has the first season, the second season being available exclusively to Hulu in the US - although since this aired on FX in the UK at one point, too, it might come round again.

But I asked a man with a book how to overcome that problem, and I'm currently in the middle of the first new episode, which has new characters and a new diner, so far. I'll report back once I've watched the rest.

Shows I'm watching but not necessarily recommending
Ray Donovan (Showtime/Sky Atlantic)
Actually, I'm not watching this, since I gave up midway through the latest episode. Just not something in which I'm interested.

Ray Donovan TV Schedule

Under The Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
Still no explanations for anything, and it's now starting to look like a 1980s Stephen King adaptation. Too many plot convulsions required to get the particular moments we saw by the end. But it's oddly compelling, despite being massively ordinary.

Under the Dome TV Schedule

Recommended shows
The Almighty Johnsons
 (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Hooray! What looks like the final episode for tying up all the loose second season plot threads, this was also half about setting up new plot threads. Looks like we're getting more storylines that are goddess-oriented, too. Yay!

The Almighty Johnsons TV Schedule

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
A slightly unconvincing alliance at the end. But a good episode.

Continuum TV Schedule

The Newsroom (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
I spoke too soon. While this episode was definitely less chaotic than the first episode, we had a return to the same weaknesses as season one, particularly the sexism, with pretty much every scene failing the Bechdel Test. Still, at least Aaron Sorkin is trying to engage with and understand the Internet now, even if he hasn't quite got the hang of it.

The Newsroom TV Schedule

Perception (TNT/Watch)
Perception catches up with Second Life how many years after it was trendy? Oh dear. And certainly on a TNT budget, it's not going to be able to recreate The Cell, despite its best efforts. The procedural was also completely loopy and implausible. But it did have some fun moments about the problems for our hero in distinguishing between reality and fantasy.

Perception TV Schedule

Satisfaction (CTV)
Not quite as good as normal, but there's still not many sitcoms that feature polyamory as a plot point. 

Satisfaction TV Schedule

Suits (USA/Dave)
A slightly unconvincing ending - and indeed main story. But it would take a hard-hearted viewer not to be moved by Louis's fate at the end of this.

Suits TV Schedule

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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July 22, 2013

What did you watch this week? Including The Newsroom, Suits, The World's End and Continuum

Posted on July 22, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Slightly later than usual, it's "What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched thislast week that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First up, 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.

Summer has arrived though and started to fill up my viewing queue with new shows. I'm continuing to watch Under the Dome, but it's getting close to being edged out of the viewing pile, what with it been the standard Stephen King fare. But it has its moments, so I'm sticking with it. The Bridge (US) is proving slightly inferior to the original, despite following largely on the same path, except the Aspie detective in this one is clearly more of a hindrance than an asset at this stage, and a lot less an unapologetic force of nature than Saga Norin was.

However, I'm on holiday in a week's time, so with all the new stuff I've had to drop Being Mary Jane from the viewing queue and my plans to keep watching Crossing Lines have been dropped because there are now much better shows to fill my time with. I've also abandoned Jane Campion's Top of the Lake, on the general grounds that it's Jane Campion and the trailer makes it looks dreadful. 

Kerry Packer… is still in the queue though, since I might just about get around to watching it at some point, and Orange is the New Black, Netflix's new comedy-drama from Weeds' creator set in a women's prison, will be available forever so I'm not rushing into it. I've also got last night's Newsroom and Ray Donovan to work my through as well, although the latter might not last long if the queue fills up any more.

I did have a little time to try out some new shows though: 

Room 9
The Africa Channel's Torchwood-esque (it's even got a Captain Harkness in it) import from South Africa. That turned out to be cock, though, with poor acting and over the top humour  - not so much X-Files as Miracles, with lots of ghosts and the like to investigate, and the production standards of 1980s Canadian syndicated TV to make it all seem realistic.  

Count Arthur Strong
BBC2's adaptation of the Radio 4 comedy about an old music hall comedian turned out to be paralysingly unfunny, despite Rory Kinnear doing his best.

But here's what I thought of this week's recommended shows:

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Another 're-orienter', with various new directions set up for characters, although good to see a certain regular character returning. Stronger on laughs than previous eps, weaker on plot drive. Also seemed to be a lot less for the female characters to do. They need to start plotting a course for a stronger story arc soon, too.

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
The budget that the producers had been saving up at the start of the season is now being spent well, with two episodes of strong sci-fi fun in a row, some surprise returning characters and the series arcs now tying together nicely. It still has a little something missing - the tight plotting of the first season - but it's about an episode or two away from having that and more again.

The Newsroom (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
The return of Aaron Sorkin's somewhat chaotic attempt to do the fun and import of The West Wing, except in a newsroom. Far less preachy than last year, more interested in talking about how journalists get stories than about how they should be covering them, it's certainly a step in the right direction. There's also far less outright sexism: everyone's about the relationships still, but the women are now allowed to be interested in work, too, and not be hopelessly incompetent at it. Having said that, Olivia Munn's character is now being called 'Money Skirt'. Still not quite the quality it should be, but not hitting anywhere near as many of the bum notes as it was hitting last season.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A great big kick in the gonads for any shippers out there and contained some of the worst 'Tourette's' acting ever committed to video. However, a decent enough procedural.

Satisfaction (CTV)
A good, funny episode, dealing with the problem facing any young couple that settles down: the loss of cool. 

Suits (USA/Dave)
The return of the best lawyer show on TV. Dramatically, it's still doing very interesting things, and the Machiavellian manipulations are still excellent. But, as well as the slightly suspect English stereotypes, the show is playing up the comedy angle more and more, which is in danger of destabilising the show. Definitely still recommended, though.

And in movies:

The World's End
The third of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg is a high school rebel who never grew up and wants to get the old gang back together for a 12-pub crawl in Newford Haven, despite their being in their late 30s now and all deeply in hate with him. Except problematically, most of the inhabitants of Newford Haven have been replaced by alien robots.

It has quite a lot going for it and will make you laugh a lot, since it is essentially the closest you're going to get to a Spaced movie. The ending really isn't what you're expecting and there's an element to the storytelling that doesn't appear in the trailer that will make you think you imagined it the first time you saw and will then turn out to be awesomely cool when you realise it's going to be repeated throughout the movie.

But it does have one colossal problem: the massive lack of decent female roles in the movie. Where Jessica Stephenson/Hynes should be, instead, we have nothing but men as far as the eye can see - Rosamund Pike, the main female character in the movie, gets minimal lines or things to do and like most of the (largely dialogue-less) women who feature in the story, she's there as an object of male desire rather than as a character in her own right. To a certain extent, it's justifiable in the sense that it's about boys who've never really grown up, but it's still a big problem with the movie.

Flawed but fun.

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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July 12, 2013

What did you watch this week? Including Camp, Ray Donovan, Perception, Under The Dome, The Almighty Johnsons and Continuum

Posted on July 12, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week 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, although I haven't had time to add Satisfaction to the mix, yet. I'll hold off adding The Bridge (US) to the mix as well, since although the original was recommended and this sticks pretty close to the original's plot, there's always a chance it'll go off target.

Still in my viewing queue: Being Mary Jane, which I never did get around to watching this week; Room 9, The Africa Channel's Torchwood-esque (it's even got a Captain Harkness in it) import from South Africa; Count Arthur Strong, BBC2's adaptation of the Radio 4 comedy about an old music hall comedian; and Orange is the New Black, Netflix's new comedy-drama from Weeds' creator, set in a women's prison.

I did manage to try NBC's Camp, a comedy-drama starring Rachel Griffiths that's set in a summer camp for teenagers:

While there were a few laughs to be had, although not many, in the first 10 minutes or so, as well as a certain fascination in trying to see if Rachel Griffiths' Australian accent would slip out in conversations with fellow Aussies (the whole show was filmed in Australia), by about the 15 minute mark it became obvious that a large portion of screen time was going to be filled with teenagers in bikini and that it was therefore utterly inappropriate for me to be watching it. So I switched off.

Here's what I thought of this week's regulars:

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Quite a dramatic episode in some regards since we saw the (probable) departure of a long-running and integral character. It was quite an artful way to write them out, given how important they are, and handled very impressively. That said, with no strong series A-plot, outside of this manoeuvring, we were left with various couples trying to establish or maintain relationships. This major plot development now out of the way, this does leave the show's ducks lined up for next week to forge forward, fingers crossed. Some fine acting by Keisha Castle-Hughes, incidentally.

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
After playing around with a bunch of other plots for a few weeks, Continuum returned to its main plot: Theseus, Alec, Liber8 and how much of the future is pre-determined. Interestingly, this episode saw Keira become more of a baddie, more in keeping with the evil future cop she should be in some senses, which was a fun twist in what was actually quite a dark and in some ways uncomfortable episode. More, please.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A slightly inferior episode, with a very dodgy plot hammered onto a somewhat interesting psychological 'trick', familiar to anyone who's ever seen videos like this. The eventual reveal is ridiculous, but no much more so than in any other procedural.

Ray Donovan (Showtime/Sky Atlantic)
A marked improvement over the first episode, thanks to the slower pace and fewer elements being thrown in the maelstrom of the plot. Donovan's 'fixing', however, has stopped being clever and has instead turned into simple gangsterism, making that less interesting, although his treatment of the trans prostitute was a sympathetic character note. There was also more comedy, making it a slightly easier viewing experience. But it's still not pleasant or that enjoyable.

Under the Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
More of the same. I'm really just watching for Rachelle Lefevre's hair now.

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

Read other posts about: , ,

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