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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.


February 12, 2015

Review: Better Call Saul 1x1-1x2 (US: AMC; UK: Netflix)

Posted on February 12, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Better Call Saul

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, AMC
In the UK: Netflix. New episode every Tuesday

So before we start, let’s be clear what this isn’t. This isn’t a review for anyone who loved Breaking Bad, of which Better Call Saul is a spin-off. For starters, I didn’t love Breaking Bad, and I gave up midway through the second season. I didn’t mind it, I thought it was good, but it felt too much like hard work with not a huge amount of reward.

I don’t even really remember Saul Goodman in the original show either. All I know is what’s available in the Wikipedia article on him.

Already many of you will be getting ready to declare me “Unmutual”.

That’s fine. Because you’ll be watching Better Call Saul whatever I say and if you really need someone to tell you if the show's any good for a Breaking Bad lover or not, you can peruse any of the dozens of reviews on the Internet by people who’ve watched every single episode and have "Bitch” tattooed on each of their biceps.

No, this is a review for people who either didn't like Breaking Bad or never quite got round to watching it. Because there’s bound to be a whole bunch of you out there like me who are potentially interested in watching Better Call Saul but want to know if they’ll be lost and mystified and whether they’ll enjoy it or not. Those people need someone like me.

So with that out of the way, let’s go see if we’d Better Call Saul or not. I’d recommend reading that Wikipedia article I linked to first, though - it’ll help a lot.

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February 10, 2015

Review: Fresh Off The Boat 1x1-1x2 (US: ABC)

Posted on February 10, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Fresh Off The Boat

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC

Here’s a quick, fun little TV trivia question: when was the last time there was a sitcom about an Asian American family on TV? Or even an Asian-American*?

Have a guess. Go on.

Give in? It was in 1994 and it was Margaret Cho’s All American Girl.

There you go. Now you’ll ace it in the next pub quiz.

So that was 20 years ago. That must have been one hell of a toxic sitcom to have put US TV off Asians for 20 years. Or maybe it was something else that was responsible… However, it looks like the time is ripe for another stab at the genre.

As I may have noted once or twice, this season, ABC has been trying to up the diversity in its shows to appeal to underserved segments of the US population. So far, we’ve had black-ish, How To Get Away With Murder and Cristela, to name but a few. Coupled with that, we have the continuing efforts by all networks to have period dramas set in more or less every year since TV started. Given Fox got up to 1991 with Surviving Jack last year, it’s clear this season needed to advance things a few years to 1995, as can be seen from Hindsight.

Based on the book of the same name by celebrity chef Eddie Wong, Fresh Off The Boat - which involves no boats at all but sees an Asian-American family driving from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida to open a Wild West restaurant and trying to integrate into their new community - is both diverse and set in 1995. Which is possibly the main reason it’s being made.

And initially those are the nicest things that can be said about it, too. You could certainly, for the first episode at least, have also called it offensive, cliched, predictable, insulting, borderline if not actually racist, a Wonder Years knock-off and a whole lot else. But none of those things is especially nice.

So… diverse. And set in 1995. But that was about it.

And had I followed my gut instinct, I’d have dropped it like a hot potato straight after that. However, I noted that the showrunner/creator was Nahnatchka Khan, who also created Don’t Trust The B----. This was a bit of a mess at first, but over time, became a whole lot better and eventually one of the funniest things on TV.

So I thought I’d stick with it for another episode. And while I can’t report that the second episode was an hysterical riot, it did at least make me laugh a few times. Which is more than the first episode did. Here’s a trailer - you may wish to report it to the Race Relations Board, though:

* No Selfie does not count

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February 9, 2015

Review: Allegiance 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on February 9, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Allegiance

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC

Sometimes it can seem like all the Big Four US networks do these days is watch cable TV and then develop their own poorer, tamer versions a few years later. Certainly, if you watch Allegiance, you’d be tempted to think that all NBC had done for its latest spy thriller is to watch FX’s rather wonderful The Americans and come up with a weaker, stupider version set in the present day.

Allegiance sees a young talented CIA analyst (Gavin Stenhouse) tasked with helping track down some top secret Russia intel that a defector is trying to give to the US. The only problem? Unbeknownst to him, his Russian mother (Hope Davis) is really a KGB/SVR spy who recruited her American husband (Scott Cohen) and elder daughter (Margarita Levieva) to the cause. And they’re all named in that intel. Will they be able to stop him finding out their secret or will they be forced to recruit him to the cause, too?

If that sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because that’s pretty similar to the plot of The Americans, particularly its latest season. Typical, hey? Why can’t network TV be original like cable TV is, hey?

Except this is a shining example of how cable isn’t necessarily an original source in itself. Because just as Showtime went to Israel’s Prisoners of War to give us Homeland, so Allegiance is actually an adaptation of Israel’s The Gordin Cell.

One thing’s constant though: cable’s smarter than network because Allegiance is almost offensively stupid. Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Allegiance 1x1 (US: NBC)"

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Fresh Off The Boat

Do NOT watch the first episode. Just don't