Archive | US TV 2017

Reviews of new US TV programmes from 2017


February 2, 2017

Review: Riverdale 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)

Posted on February 2, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Riverdale

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Available on Netflix. New episode every Friday

If all you know about American comics involves superheroics, Archie is a bit of a surprise. First published in 1939, Archie is one of the few comics consistently still sold in US supermarkets, its sales often matching those of Batman at times, and it's launched numerous spin-off titles in its time, too - UK readers might not have heard of him, but you'll have heard of Josie and the Pussycats, who first started life in Archie's Riverdale.

Archie's success is odd, since it's not about fights, threats to the world, crime and existential angst. Instead, it's all about red-haired teenager Archie Andrews and his life, love, dreams and friendships in a 50s-esque small town, with a particular focus on his near-eternal love-triangle between girl next-door Betty Cooper and rich girl Veronica Lodge.

Archie, Veronica and Betty

The idea of an Archie TV series therefore sounds a bit bizarre. The idea of it being made by Greg Berlanti sounds even stranger. Sure, Berlanti is the king of TV comic-book adaptations at the moment, with Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and DC's Legends of Tomorrow swelling The CW's airwaves already and yet more in the pipeline. But those are all superhero comics and that's just not Archie.

Yet in the hands of both Berlanti and Archie Comics' chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Riverdale is actually delightful. Just delightful. Despite it being full of murder.

It takes a certain amount chutzpah to try to do Twin Peaks again in the exact same year that said show returns to our screens, yet Riverdale is effectively the 'Twin Peaks-isation' of Riverdale, taking all the familiar elements of the comics, throwing them up in the air, adding in a murder-mystery, then seeing where they all land in the present day.

Here, Archie (Shortland Street's KJ Apa) is a would-be musician and potential member of the Varsity football team. Having spent the summer working for his dad's construction company, he's now got abs to die for, giving best friend Betty (Surviving Jack's Lili Reinhart), Betty's gay best friend Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and members of the football team girl, boy and bro boners aplenty. Even members of the faculty find it hard to keep their hands off Archie - although Josie and her Pussycats seem immune to his charms.

Betty - who'd quite like her and Archie's friendship to be something more - is all ready to make a play for him and invite him to the dance, when into the Chock'lit Shoppe diner walks Veronica (Camila Mendes), the daughter of rich but disgraced Hiram Lodge, who's relocated back to her mother (24's Marisol Nichols)'s home town of Riverdale to start a new life. Instantly, she attracts Archie's attention. 

However, Archie's not quite himself because of what happened over the summer. What happened over the summer? Well, that's Archie's secret, but as narrator Jughead (Cole Sprause) reveals as he types out his novel at the diner, it might well have something to do with the mysterious disappearance of Jason Blossom, twin brother of the town's chief mean girl Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). 

What's fascinating about the show is how nice it is - almost a modern day Dawson's Creek or Hidden Palms - with literate, mature teenagers having deep, meaningful conversations with one another and generally being nice and witty. Veronica and Betty may be in a love triangle with Archie, but they also become fast friends, Veronica turning over a new leaf in her life following her father's disgrace to want to be more than just a stereotypical rich b*tch. And there's a scene of just Betty dancing by herself that's almost pure joy.

Indeed, everyone's almost impossibly mature, with Cheryl Blossom putting Betty down as being "fat, like season 5 Betty Draper", Veronica making over Betty later on to become "like season 1 Betty Draper". Mad Men references? It's a sign the audience for the show isn't expected to just be teenagers. In fact, with the likes of Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks) and Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210) playing Betty's mum and Archie's dad respectively, it's clear that the show wants to attract the interest of Archie readers who were teenagers in the 90s, too.

Even if you never read Archie, try Riverdale as it's a delightful show for people of all ages - one that avoids the saccharine with its surprising twisting of the story into Lynchian territory. 

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January 30, 2017

What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Magicians, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Posted on January 30, 2017 | 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 and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching. 

There were a few new shows on our global TV screens last week. I reviewed Canada's offerings, Mary Kills People (Global) and Cardinal (CTV/Super Écran), last week and this week, I'll be looking at the US's output, Detroiters (Comedy Central) and Riverdale (The CW), as well as anything else that emerges onto our screens this week.

A few more oldies returned to the schedules, too, so after the jump, as well as Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, Man Seeking Woman, Six and Timeless, I'll be revealing my thoughts on that latest from DC's Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash, as well as the start of the new series of Fortitude and The Magicians, and those final two episodes of The Crown that I never quite got round to watching…

 

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Magicians, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow"

January 20, 2017

Review: Six 1x1 (US: History)

Posted on January 20, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Six (History)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, History
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Why is it that dramas about Special Forces aren't that special? On the face of it, making an exciting show about the Special Forces shouldn't be that difficult. As A Bit of Fry and Laurie once pointed out, the SAS (and presumably other Special Forces) exist purely to be masturbatory fantasies for backbench MPs, so putting together a TV show involving Special Forces should inevitably result in something very exciting and, erm, climactic.

Yet, whether it's Ultimate Force, The Unit, Strike Back or now Six, somehow the resulting shows never quite hit the spot - they're close, but they're never really as satisfying as you think they'll be.

Six is interesting in this regard. Ten years ago, if you'd made a show called Six, the most anyone would guess you were doing was remaking The Prisoner. But thanks to their sterling work in dealing with Osama Bin Laden, the US Navy's SEAL Team 6 is the latest pin-up of the Special Forces world. That means you can call a TV show Six and it'll induce as much Pavlovian tumescence as if you'd called it Scarlett.

Trouble is, despite this launchpad, Six is all tease, no pay-off. The first episode follows a SEAL Team 6 team to a mission in Afghanistan where there's plenty of shooting and leader Walton Goggins (Justified, Vice Principals, The Hateful Eight) starts to blur a few boundaries by shooting prisoners. Two years later, Goggins is out of the SEALs and in Africa, working for a private contractor, while the rest of the team are thinking about doing something similar and/or having problems with their wives and/or the bottle and/or money.

Then Boko Haram come along and kidnap a group of school girls, as well as Goggins, and the team are pulling themselves back together to rescue him. 

Six takes all the worst bits of The Unit and few of the best bits. It tries to mix up the personal and the military, but without having any idea how to create distinguishable characters, particularly not women, who are a never-ending parade of "why aren't you here for me and your children?"

Which might almost be excusable if it could do action, except it can't. Shoot-outs and action scenes are surprisingly few and far between, and when they turn up, they're nothing special. Name an action TV show, any action TV show - you'll have seen better and something probably more realistic. 

But even little details let the show down. Maybe it's me, but giving your SEAL team the radio sign of "Delta 1" is only going to lead to confusion in the audience. And sure, kudos for managing to go with Boko Haram as your main bad guys, rather than ISIS (although a reveal at the end of the first episode shows Six is trying to have its cake and eat it), but having to have an officer explain to one of the world's premier anti-terrorist units who Boko Haram are is not a way to create verisimilitude.

More importantly, Goggins is just wrong as the leader of the team. Not for a second can you picture him as either a morally ambivalent hero or a SEAL. Now to a certain extent, that's not his fault - he was brought in not merely at the last moment but two episodes of filming after the last moment, which is when Joe Manganiello walked off the show with health problems. You can imagine Manganiello as "Rip Taggart":

Joe Manganiello

Goggins?

Walton Goggins

Not so much.

It's like casting Vinny Jones as a wedding cake designer - it's simply not believable. So even though the rest of the cast of SEALs are (indistinguishable) butch manly types who look the part, little seems plausible as a result of Goggins' presence.

If you have to watch a Special Forces show, there were at least a few good episodes of The Unit (Dark of the Moon is excellent) and Strike Back, so stick with them rather than Six, since Six won't have yours. Six that is.

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