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September 12, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Atlanta, Narcos, The Last Ship and Mr Robot

Posted on September 12, 2016 | 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. 

I've been a bit slack over the past week. Work's been a bit crazy and season two of Narcos has been taking up a lot of my time. Never fear, though, as over the next few days, I should - fingers crossed - be reviewing a whole batch of new US shows, including Quarry, Better Things and Speechless. I might even pass a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning, if I have the time.

After the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You're The Worst, as well as the whole second season of Narcos and the season finale of The Last Ship. But before that, one show I had been planning to do a full review of last week but didn't get round to because it turned out not to be worth it was…

Atlanta (US: FX; UK: Fox UK - starts November)
Written by Donald Glover (Community, The Martian), Atlanta also stars Glover as the Princeton-drop out cousin of an Atlanta rapper (Brian Tyree Henry) who's just about to hit the big time. Glover has to use his big brain, as well as his connections, to get in on the deal as well as help Henry deal with the problems of the music biz, race, sex and more. 

I've seen various articles talking about how Glover has 'redefined comedy' with Atlanta and it's fair to say that he's redefined in that Atlanta is as much a drama as a comedy and there aren't many jokes. Of the jokes that Glover does give us, most of which he gives to himself and concern being the smartest guy in the room, with no one on his level to talk to ("Do you know where the word management comes from?" "Yes, it's from the Latin word manus, meaning hand" "Oh… Management really means…"). Otherwise, while it does offer an insider's view of life for the poorer members of society in Atlanta, it doesn't offer that much that's new - apparently, people will treat you differently if you're famous, for example. How insightful.

I wanted to like this, since Glover's great, and I had had high hopes for it, given Glover started out writing for 30 Rock, but my 100% dislike of all shows about the American music industry (eg Power, Empire, Vinyl, Nashville) continues to have a 100% strike rate thanks to Atlanta.

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September 12, 2016

Question of the week: which UK online streaming services and apps are the best and worst?

Posted on September 12, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Prompted by an ongoing discussion elsewhere on TMINE, this week's question is one about usability: which online TV services do you find the easiest to use and which ones are the hardest? This question might have different answers depending on whether you access catch-up TV on a computer, TV, set-top box or a mobile device, of course.

For what it's worth and although I don't watch a lot of UK TV, I've tried various services on various devices and here are my thoughts (some of these are available on Sky set-top boxes in weird forms, but my wife's in a better position than I to review them, since I don't use the Sky box these days…):

iPlayer (Roku, Apple TV, Sky Box, iOS apps, OS X, Amazon Fire Stick): probably the easiest to use of the network catch-up services, even if favourites don't seem to transfer over well. Not as much of a back catalogue as I'd like.

Now TV (Roku, Apple TV, iOS apps, OS X): easier to use than Sky Go (see later) but no downloads! The arrival of ads on the service, usually for other programmes on Now TV, is an unwelcome move. 

Sky Go (iOS, OS X): hard to use, downloads haven't worked with Macs for about three years now, isn't available for many platforms, includes ads when streaming but not with downloads, and content hard to find. But a decent back catalogue of shows, including those available on the Five, UK Play and ITV streaming services, a huge range of channels, and does do downloads for most programmes if you're prepared to pay £5 a month.

All4 (iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X): hard to find content, downloads tend to expire after about five minutes, ads are annoying, didn't track playback position or favourites across devices (at least not on Roku until recently - I will check) and no Apple TV app (official C4 position: 'use AirPlay from an iOS device'). But does do downloads, is free and a good range of foreign shows thanks to Walter Presents.

Five on Demand (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick): Has about five programmes on it, none of them good. Not great to use either

S4C for iOS (iOS): easy to find content, but no downloads and problems with subtitles. Mostly subsumed into iPlayer these days, so not worth getting as a standalone app.

ITV Hub (iOS, OS X, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick): Fiddly to use, not much content, no downloads. But works. I use Sky Go instead now (see earlier)

UK Play (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X): Not much on it that I want to watch but decent enough. No downloads. I use Sky Go instead now (see earlier)

Netflix (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player): works on just about everything, pretty intuitive when actually watching things, even if it's usually hard to find content without using the Search function. But no downloads!

Amazon (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player): works on everything except the Apple TV; probably has the best of the iOS apps, downloads work just fine, no ads, interface could be a bit more intuitive, web browser interface makes it harder to find new shows. Given a choice, I'd happily watch any or all my content on this over the other apps.

And just for luck:

Plex (iOS, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, OS X, Roku, Sony Blu-Ray player, WD My Passport Wireless Pro): basically how I watch any of my content that's unencrypted and doesn't come from an online streaming service; works on every device I have and while the new interface is annoying, it works fine, offers both streaming and downloads, and even does music.

But how about you? And have I missed any good ones?

September 12, 2016

News: Walter Presents Réttur & Hellfjord; Mistresses, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll cancelled; German death-by-beer drama; + more

Posted on September 12, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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