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February 15, 2013

What did you watch this week? Including Community, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Monday Mornings, Seed and Southland

Posted on February 15, 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, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV).
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Spiral/Engrenages (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Suits (USA/Dave)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which. If I got the channels wrong, let me know and I'll fix them

Added to that list as of Wednesday is The Americans (FX/ITV). Southland (TNT/Channel 4) is back so that's going straight on the list again. We tried to watch the first episode of the new series of Community (NBC/Sony Entertainment Television), which would normally have been a cert to go on the list, too, but it was just so bad, the show has lost its privileges. Given that last night's episode had the lowest ratings ever, I'm thinking I might be abandoning the show altogether soon. Netflix's House of Cards is also going on the list.

Still in the queue: I'm whittling down the House of Cards queue; The Spa started on Sky last night but I didn't have a chance to watch both episodes (a common theme); Zero Hour started on ABC and is apparently ludicrous, but I've yet to watch it. I've also got to watch The Blue Rose, a New Zealand show from Rachel Lang and James Griffin (the team that brought us Outrageous Fortune and The Almighty Johnsons), and the third of The Doctor Blake Mysteries was on in Australia a few hours ago – hopefully, I'll have a third-episode verdict for you by Monday.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): Nice to see Felicity the IT girl promoted to regular and it was a good move to make essentially the whole episode a flashback. Manu Bennett needs to be promoted to regular as well, although it seems a shame to make the Chinese guy less of a mentor as a result. But a cracking ep and a nice comics callout with Billy Wintergreen.
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): Less ludicrous, more of a thriller this week. Could I just mention how much I like the music by Methodical Doubt, by the way?
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold (Channel 5): A Batman cartoon for kids, but I thought I'd watch it anyway. Quite a good ep, based on the Book of Job. A nice touch to have long-time Batman voice Kevin Conroy as Phantom Stranger and to have Adam West and Julie Newmar (Batman and Catwoman in the 60s show) playing Bruce Wayne's parents.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): Even better than the first episode, building up all the characters, giving us police beatings in a Life On Mars "things were different back then" style. The background to Blake and his days in military intelligence and Singapore was well handled (a call-out to McClachlan's Heroes II?), and the final scenes with the Anzacs were actually very moving. Looking forward to the third episode.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Another duff episode that tried to give some character and decent attributes to black hanger-on detective, but did so without any real crime-solving by Holmes. Entirely obvious who the baddie was, too.
  • House of Cards (Netflix): I'm up to episode four now. It's all beautifully made but there's a hell of a lot of plot filler suddenly arriving out of nowhere, and Robin Wright's charity is still ridiculous.
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1): Unlike Community, this really made us laugh. Why are its ratings dropping?
  • Monday Mornings (TNT/Fox): No better than the first terrible episode, to be honest. Good to see one of the surgeons standing up for herself against Doc Oc, but it was another piece of unsurprising predictability that made me feel sick with its mawkishness. It also has the worst dialogue on TV since… the last David E Kelley drama.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): A mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. A Selfridge-lite episode, with Piven in bed for most of the story, we got the world's most ridiculous 'hair bra' and a laughable dream sequence to roll our eyes at. But we also had a lovely reveal at the end when the Suffragettes come to the store. Next episode: John Sessions as Arthur Conan Doyle – this should be fun.
  • Seed (City TV): Funnier, nicer and cleverer than the first episode with fewer stereotypes. I'll keep my eyes on this one since it might actually get good.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Another soul-destroying look into being poor in the US, mixed with marvellously politically incorrect comedy. This week, we got the discovery that sometimes, even in the worst jobs with the worst bosses, it's better not to rock the boat and keep the guy who forces you to give him a BJ. Jody's revelation was… fascinating, too. And good to see Harry Hamlin finding work again, too.
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): A more personal season than the last one, by the looks of it, which is probably a good thing since Southland is at its best when it's dealing with smaller issue, rather than trying to deal with shootouts and arcs. Sherman's developing in big ways, too.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): Another slightly bland episode, more geared up to showing the squabbles among the slaves than anything else. Interesting that they've finally got round to giving us a gay soft porn sex scene.
  • Suits (USA/Dave): A little bit less plot than normal, with more character moments instead, so not quite the razor-sharp writing we've come to expect. But the Louis characterisation was well handled, making him less of a twat, and it's good to have a US show that has a character who isn't 'the best of the best', can't have everything they want and has to admit that that to him or herself.

"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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February 15, 2013

Friday's "CBS says hello to Jason Isaacs, Netflix goes after Pablo Escabar and Jason Ritter is US Gavin, not Stacey" news

Posted on February 15, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share




  • Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman et al to write for Black Mask Studios


  • ITV developing Cabbage and Pat

US TV casting

New US TV shows

  • Netflix to make Pablo Escabar drama [subscription required]
  • CBS unlikely to order many new shows for the fall
  • Virgin Produced developing The Whisky A Go Go

New US TV show casting

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February 12, 2013

Review: Engrenages/Spiral 4x1-4x2

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

Spiral aka Engrenages with Caroline Proust

In France: Last autumn
In the UK: Saturday 9 February, 9pm, BBC. iPlayer: Episode 1, Episode 2
In the US/Canada: Acquired by Netflix

Screw The Shield, The Killing and all the others. In the last decade, there have been, as all right-thinking people know, precisely two cop shows in the world that have been truly excellent and have mattered in any real sense. The first, of course, is The Wire. The second, far lesser known show, is France's Engrenages aka Spiral. The two are similar, comparable even, in that they both try to show their own country's native justice system, warts and all, while shining a spotlight into the recesses of society, all with as little narrative artifice as is possible in a watchable TV show.

Thankfully, even though The Wire has ceased to be, Canal+ in France - together with some lovely co-funding money from BBC4 - have kept Engrenages going, and judging by the first two episodes of the new season, one could even say "from strength to strength" because for my money, this is at least as good as the show's finest season opener in terms of narrative and perception, yet with a confidence that only comes with age… and the knowledge that because you are the best, you can do what you like at the pace that you like it.

When last we left our heroes and heroines - perhaps one should say 'heroes' and 'heroines', because no one in Engrenages is truly good, although there's a fair few evil doers along the way - things were going semi-pear shaped for everyone. Over-committed police captain Laure (Caroline Proust) was off murdering serial killers, amoral lawyer Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot) was signing a deal with the devil so she could save her business partner and secret love, Pierre (the UK's favourite French actor, Grégory Fitoussi, currently in ITV's Mr Selfridge), and ambiguous yet moral Judge Roban (Philippe Duclos) was monologuing his way into enforced retirement, thanks to Sarkozy's attempts to reform the French legal system.

In series four, as is tradition, we return not long after those events and yet everything's changed in quite surprising ways. While it's not all 100% tickedy boo, some things appear to be changing for the better for once. Karlsson may have to deal with some dodgy Russian mob types, but Pierre's got her back for a change and they're flirting at each other like crazy; Laure may be under investigation but she's finally getting her love life sorted and her new boss seems quite nice. Okay, so Judge Roban is off contemplating his navel somewhere and Gilou (Thierry Godard) is still self-destructing like crazy, but plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say.

And then up pop some leftie students, ready to party like it's 1968, ready to save hapless souls from France's oppressive immigration system and capitalism in general. Welcome back, Engrenages. How we missed you. Here's a trailer (with the usual suspiciously mistranslated English subtitles), plus the first few minutes in French:

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

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