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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.


April 21, 2015

Third-episode verdict: American Odyssey (US: NBC; UK: BBC Two)

Posted on April 21, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerAmericanOdyssey.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Two. Will air in May

Three episodes into American Odyssey, a sort of Crash meets State of Affairs meets Zero Dark Thirty that sees three separate characters investigating a single conspiracy in countries over the world, and we’ve not seen a single Cyclops. No pirates. No witches. Not even a helpful princess doing her washing. In short, there ain’t much Odyssey in American Odyssey.

There’s a lot of special forces soldier Anna Friel talking Arabic and wondering where she can find a PC with a USB port for her flash drive full of incriminating documents, while being passed parcel-like between different groups of kidnappers in Mali.

There’s a lot of corporate investigator Peter Facinelli looking pained as he discovers that it’s really not that easy to investigate incredibly powerful multinational companies in cahoots with the US military and trying to cover up the fact they’re co-funding al Qaeda.

There’s even a lot of trustfunder-turned-Occupy Wall Streeter Jake Robinson running around trying to find an email from Friel while the very obvious fake journalist he’s with comes up with really poor excuses for why people keep dying/going missing/changing their story et al as soon as Robinson mentions them to her.

But despite its supposed inspiration from Homer, there's not a single whirlpool or monster, goddess or dead hero to be spotted for miles, let alone a spouse at home weaving a tapestry every night to hold off the suitors.

What. A. Swizz*.

On the plus side, though, as I mentioned in my review of the first episode, it does all feel a step up from the usual military-industrial complex conspiracy theories that we’ve had up until now. There are some Greeks - or should I say ‘Greeks’ given the Alexis Tsipras-alike Greek ambassador is played by Orla Brady. There’s lots of Arabs in various shades of grey (well, mostly shades of black, but there are shades) and they get to speak Arabic… and French, because lo-and-behold, just turned up in episode three as a drug dealer, ready to parle français, is Spiral/Engrenage’s own Grégory Fitoussi - I do hope he didn’t quit to be in this.

Nevertheless, a step up is not the same as ascending to the top of Mount Olympus. Despite narrowly evading a “look around the room to guess the inspiration for the Leet Hacker’s password” scene, episode two saw a silly amount of moments where anyone who’s ever even received an email will know the show is being technically illiterate. There’s a heinous amount of coincidences going on, including one boy’s uncle whom he’s never met turning out to be the exact person on TV he was looking at unsuspectingly (and judgementally) earlier in the same episode. And there are so many suspicious deaths and implausible official denials happening that the baddies might as well put up signposts saying “This way to the government cover-up!"

So while it’s definitely in the upper end of the genre, with some lovely location work, a decent cast and a proper attempt to tie what could be very generic into real world events, American Odyssey is unfortunately a bit more of a miss than a hit.

* Oh, there is one obvious reference to Greek myth, BTW - there’s a character called Kharon scheduled to pop off in later episodes, Kharon/Charon being the ferryman who took travellers across the Styx to the underworld. Not to be pedantic, though, but Kharon isn't actually mentioned in The Odyssey, as he only appears much later as a figure in Greek religion. Oh well. Still. A. Swizz.

Barrometer rating: 2
TMINE prediction: Given its ratings, it’s unlikely to get a second season, and to be honest, it probably doesn’t deserve one

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April 20, 2015

Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)

Posted on April 20, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Messengers

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If I had to pin down a new trend in US TV, it would be “Bible stuff”. Time was, “Bible stuff” was pretty sporadic. A Highway to Heaven here, a Touched By An Angel there, but otherwise it was pretty sporadic.

The History Channel changed that with the appropriately named The Bible and ever since then, it’s been all the rage, although there have been some pretty obvious misses along the way. Right now, apart from the numerous “they came backs/went away” of Resurrection, The Returned, The Leftovers et al, we’ve got A.D. The Bible Continues on NBC (apparently The Bible left something out. Not The Bible. The Bible), Dig’s twaddling along on USA, Syfy’s had futuristic angels over on “world’s worst TV programme" Dominion and there’s a barrel load of pilots and new series heading our way just brimming with fire and brimstone, including a TV version of The Omen called Damien.

Now, turning up on our doorsteps like a bolt from Heaven is The Messengers, in which a meteor(ite)* falls to Earth unleashing an energy wave that gives a bunch of disparate strangers angelic powers - and wings - that might come in helpful for them as they come together to prevent the Apocalypse. Which might be coming a tad sooner than suspected, because that meteor(ite)* might well have been Lucifer himself… and he has a plan.

Continue reading "Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)"

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April 16, 2015

Preview: Wayward Pines 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on April 16, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Wayward Pines

In the US: Thursday, 9/8c, Fox. Starts 14th May
In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Fox. Starts 14th May

M Night Shyamalan is a director who first came to fame with The Sixth Sense, an audience-wowwing supernatural thriller about a child who can see dead people and his psychiatrist, Bruce Willis. The principal reason for its success was the twist in its tail.

Shyamalan repeated his success with Unbreakable, which also featured a twist, and as a result, his fate was sealed. As long as name was on the credits, whatever he worked on needed a twist. Or something weird, be it mermaids or Joaquim Phoenix. He tried to fit in twist-free movies such as The Last Airbender, but that’s not what the public wanted and they failed.

So now we have Wayward Pines, a twisty thing exec produced and directed by Shyamalan. It stars Matt Dillon as a Secret Service agent investigating the disappearance of two federal agents, including former lover Carla Gugino, in the eponymous Twin Peaks-like Idaho town of Wayward Pines.

Except his car gets hit on the way and he wakes up in the town hospital without his partner, his wallet or his phone, but with a very sadistic nurse (Melissa Leo). He meets barmaid Juliette Lewis who thinks it’s the year 2000 but that she’s only been in the town a year; he meets Gugino, except she thinks she’s been in the town for years; and sheriff Terrence Howard isn’t too helpful, but really doesn’t want Dillon to leave, even if there’s a risk that Dillon will snuffle up his ice creams. Not that Dillon finds leaving that easy at all, given the town’s Pleasantville-like geography. And death fence.

All weirdy and Shyamalany, hey?

Trouble is that Shyamalan is only directing and fellow exec Chad Hodge (The Playboy Club) is the writer. I say ‘trouble’, but that might be one of the show’s assets, as the script itself isn’t that bad - it’s everything else about it that’s the problem.

Continue reading "Preview: Wayward Pines 1x1 (Fox)"

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