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An archive of all the blog's reviews of TV programmes, films, DVDs, plays, audio plays and gadgets. There's also an A-Z index of all reviews.


May 28, 2015

Preview: Mr Robot 1x1 (US: USA Network)

Posted on May 28, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mr Robot

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, USA Network. Starts June 24
In the UK: Not yet acquired

I want you to hack me as hard as you can

Over the years, the USA Network has struggled to work out what kind of network it is. Scroll back a decade or more in the timeline and most people associated it with the likes of country & western reality talent show Nashville Star. Then it started trying to do drama, with a brilliant but quickly cancelled remake of the UK’s Touching Evil, which was perhaps a bit too dark and unmarketable for the likes of USA.

The network didn’t abandon its attempts with drama, but the set back did lead it to start going a bit fluffier. By about 2007, Burn Notice, Monk and Psych were the network’s go-to shows, and while Burn Notice was obviously a much darker show than either Psych and Monk, it still wasn’t quite Requiem for a Dream. These shows had something of an 80s nostalgia to them, which led to the fluffy likes of In Plain Sight.

2009’s Royal Pains proved a game-changer, showing that fluffy and light were very much the order of the day on USA, leading us to the quite fluffy White Collar, the slightly fluffy Covert Affairs, Suits and Graceland, the really very fluffy Common Law, Fairly Legal, Necessary Roughness, Playing House, and Sirens, and eventually the still-fluffy Benched.

Now some of these were great, some of them really weren’t, but they almost all still had something of an edge to them, at least. And slowly, with most of the new fluff fluffing in the ratings, the pendulum has started to swing back over the past year or so towards USA’s skulking darker side with the likes of Rush, Satisfaction and, coming soon, Complications.

This is all for the good, since now we have perhaps USA’s darkest - and best - new show for quite some time, Mr Robot. It sounds fluffy, doesn’t it, with that name, but it’s really not. Think Fight Club if it was all about hacking or Batman, if Batman was a socially anxious coder who used technology to stop people faking identities, end the distribution of images of child abuse and bring down the corporate elite who secretly rule the world.

Rami Malek (24, The War At Home, The Pacific) is Elliot, a white hat techie at a cybersecurity firm. He has social issues, which means in between bouts of crying to himself at home from loneliness, taking morphine, having sex with his drug dealer, hacking people he knows about to find out more about them or talking to his new friends - the viewers at home - he’s busily putting the world to rights. Or to rights as he sees them.

In particular, he’d really like to destroy his company’s biggest client, The Evil Corporation, and one day he comes across 'Mr Robot' (Christian Slater) and his team of socially minded hackers, who offer him the chance to do just that and liberate society from this menace. Is The Evil Corporation really running the world? Is what Slater says possible? Can he be trusted? And is he even real or is he just the Tyler Durden of Elliot’s unmedicated, occasionally paranoid schizophrenic sub-conscious?

All these questions and more are asked and you will want to know the answers. If you’re in the US, you can watch the full episode below; otherwise, I’ll leave you with some trailers and we can talk more after the jump.

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May 22, 2015

Preview: Supergirl 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on May 22, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Supergirl costume

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, CBS. Starts November
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Is there truly no such thing as bad publicity? That is what George Schweitzer would apparently argue, based on how many hits the trailer for Supergirl got - 10 million.

Never mind that a lot of those who watched the trailer thought that it was nothing more than the Saturday Night Live spoof Black Widow sketch actually turned into a real TV show, with horrific cliches oozing from every pore. They watched it and for Schweitzer that’s all that counts. Presumably that’s what he’s paid to do and whether people subsequently tune in and enjoy the show is the purview of someone else.

But can a trailer truly convey what a show is like? Or by judicious editing can you make it seem like a completely different show? Even if that show is terrible and your show is actually quite good?

Someone needs to find out. That someone is me. Brace yourself - I’m reviewing the pilot after the jump.

But in case you haven’t watched it, here’s that trailer.

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May 13, 2015

Preview: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 1x1 (UK: BBC One; US: BBC America)

Posted on May 13, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, BBC One. Starts 17th May
In the US: Saturdays, 10/9c, BBC America. Starts 13th June

As we all know, it’s been a long, long time since any great acts of magic have been performed on these British Isles. Hundreds of years, in fact – perhaps not even since the time of the Raven King.

There are, of course, theoretical magicians still, those with the wit to discuss spells and the history of magic. But practical magicianship is something that no true gentleman would even contemplate. One might even conjecture that true magic is no longer even possible, leaving us with just street magicians and their mere tricks of confidence.

At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. Yet one Mr Norrell, a resident of the city of York and collector of rare books, maintains that in fact not only is magic possible, but that he is in fact a fair practical magician. And he would like to put himself at the services of the country in our current war against France and the tyrant Napoleon.

What say you?

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Preview: Mr Robot

I want you to hack me as hard as you can