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February 22, 2013

What did you watch this week? Including The Spa, The Americans, Banshee, Go On, House of Cards, Mr Selfridge and Shameless

Posted on February 22, 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)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (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

Still in the queue: plenty to go in the House of Cards queue and there's this week's episodes of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Vegas, Elementary, Archer, Zero Hour and Community to watch, although I think Community's days as a watched programme are numbered in this house. On top of those I have new US show Cult to watch – basically The Following but on The CW and with the guy who played T-Bone on Prison Break – which I'll try to sneak a look at over the weekend, as well as new Australian show, Mr and Mrs Murder, which sees a husband and wife team cleaning up murder scenes (literally) and then doing some detective work of their own. I've also got Channel 4's one-off spy drama Complicit to give a try, but Guy says it's a bit rubbish so I might skip it.

I did get round to watching Sky Living's The Spa, which stars Rebecca Front. It's as dreadful as every other Sky 1 and Sky Living comedy, I'm afraid. In particular, we had a scene based on someone being told to tell someone they were 'clinically obese' and mishearing and saying they were 'clinically a beast'.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars as well as some of the shows I'm still giving a try.

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): A rather excellent episode all round, set against the backdrop of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and suggests how it could have resulted in World War 3. There's excellent usage of archive news footage and intriguing to see the Soviets transferring and imagining it could be an attempted coup by General Hague. 'Operation Christopher' also showed just what the KGB was capable of if necessary. There's also a humorous suggestion that Christopher Hitchens (ish) was basically a Soviet sleeper agent, pretending to be a new-wave conservative to hide his true plans to spy on the US. Very much recommended.
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): A living breathing advert for Windows 8 and way too teenage and soapy. Even James Callis couldn't keep a straight face. It was redeemed by the use of the BSG alert klaxon during the museum robbery scene.
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): Is it my imagination or is the title sequence becoming more and more animated with each episode? I could have sworn the albino didn't move until this episode. A decent flashback episode, this one focusing on Hood's time in jail, that paid off well if you'd been watching since the beginning. Very, very brutal, mind.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Somehow feels less involving than previous seasons. Mark Pellegrino turning up in flashback was good, as was his English accent, but Sam Witwer's needed work.
  • The Blue Rose (TV3): Still hasn't found its feet and neither comedic nor dramatic enough to be compelling. But I'll give it a week or so more yet.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Not seen all of it so far, but I'll tell you one thing: Sherlock Holmes doesn't know how to build a molecule with benzene rings in it properly.
  • Go On (NBC): Has reached the point where ideas are now being thrown out randomly, whether they work with particular characters or not. They finally gave the blind black guy something to do with some funny retcon – he's a former cop and has mentioned it loads of time, but because everyone's been so self-involved they've ignored him – and Piper Perabo does a funny New Jersey accent.
  • House of Cards (Netflix): I'm an episode or two further along now and enjoying its twisty turniness. Not convinced Kate Mara's character would allow herself to have pictures taken in the nude, and the latest episode had the usual American belief that unions are little more than organised crime in disguise, even teachers' unions, but lovely stuff. The show actually used the c-word as well, which was remarkable. And if you wondered what happened Joel Schumacher, turns out he's directing House of Cards now. Definitely still recommended.
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky1): Yes, that was Maxwell Caufield.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): The show's starting to become a little self-mocking and Jeremy Piven is starting to spiral out of control, presumably thanks to the punishing schedule. The archness (and hair bra) of his aristocratic sponsor is also starting to grate, as are the accents of some of the cast: some of the Selfridge children's US accents are wobbly and Amy Beth Childs, who was good with a Northern accent in Sirens, is clearly struggling with a squeaky cockney. Still, we did get John Sessions as Arthur Conan Doyle and a seance, and next week, we're going to be getting Michael Brandon (Dempsey from Dempsey and Makepeace).
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): For once, you wanted to side with Steve against Fiona in their dramas. All of a bit of a jolly jape, though, all the mean girls at the swimming pool were good, but the ending was a refreshing change to the status quo. Looking forward to seeing what happens next week.
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): And so the bleakness goes on. Loving it. Best moment: Cooper's fire-fight, although his continuing self-closeting and kindness to the Downs girl were close seconds.
  • Suits (USA/Dave): A great finale marred somewhat by some of the worst English stereotypes since The Patriot or possibly Three Men and a Little Lady. It does feel though that it's not actually doing seasons any more but is just one long continuous show that occasionally takes breaks.

"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 18, 2013

Review: Engrenages/Spiral 4x3-4x4

Posted on February 18, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Engrenages

In France: Last autumn
In the UK: Saturday 16 February, 9pm, BBC. iPlayer: Episode 3, Episode 4
In the US/Canada: Acquired by Netflix

Very much a game of two halves, this Saturday's episodes. After I waxed lyrical about the show last week, episode three decided to be all contrary and a bit of a disappointment, an unremarkable plot expander, redeemed by just a few twists and turns.

But then episode four turned up. Episode four, which contained not just a big helping of WTF, but topped it all off with a massive dose of OMG. No, I don't know what French texteese is for Oh My God. I'm assuming not OMD.

Continue reading "Review: Engrenages/Spiral 4x3-4x4"

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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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