Archive | Reviews

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 14, 2014

Review: The Gods of Wheat Street 1x1 (ABC1)

Posted on April 14, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Gods of Wheat Street

In Australia: Saturdays, 8.30pm, ABC1

So there’s this guy called Odin who lives with his family on Wheat Street*. Well, he lives with Athena, Electra, Tristan and, erm, Libby; his brother Ares is in prison while his sister Isolde lives round the corner. His mum, Eden, is dead, so she only drops round to give advice from time to time.

From all that, you might think you have ABC1’s The Gods of Wheat Street correctly pegged as Australia’s answer to The Almighty Johnsons. But you’d be completely and utterly wrong.

Because, beyond the names of gods and heroes – and the occasional visitation by the dead – this is largely a six-part Aboriginal soap opera from the people who gave us Redfern Now, both in front of and behind the camera, but without the benefit of Jimmy McGovern's guiding hand.

Once you get over that basic misdirection, it’s not that bad. It's a drama about finding hope, having dreams and wanting more in life in small-town Australia, even when you’re poor and it looks like life is trying to kick you in the you-know-wheres. There’s a certain nominative determinism to the plot: Odin is the all father who tries to keep his family together, despite not having any money, his employer having just died and pretty much everything being up for sale; Ares is always in fights; Electra has daddy issues; Tristan would do anything for love; and so on.

But it’s not great. The acting by most of the leads is not so much convincing as earthy. The dialogue has the occasional laugh. The writers aren’t afraid to look at issues like domestic violence, racism, violence against women and everything else you might expect given the set-up they’ve created, but they’re more interested in regular-type people with regular-type ambitions – doing well at school, going to college to study fashion, looking after the family, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, and so on.

I do find myself slightly compelled to watch the second episode, but only slightly. If you’re Australian, the show might well be of interest to you, even if it is all a bit worthy; but outside of Australia, most viewers are going to be hard-pushed to find much to watch in The Gods of Wheat Street beyond a mildly amiable drama about mildly amiable people.

* This review was written entirely in a style designed to irritate Giles Coren

April 11, 2014

Third-episode verdict: Surviving Jack (Fox)

Posted on April 11, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerSurvivingJack.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, Fox

Time for a third-episode verdict on Surviving Jack, a show that attempts to do for 1991 what The Wonder Years did for the 1960s without as good a soundtrack but with more clips of American Gladiators.

On the whole, it’s been a decent enough three episodes, each filled with at least the requisite Kermodian five laughs to ensure it’s worth watching. True, the only good character is Jack himself - Christopher Meloni from L&O:SU - everyone else simply existing to create situations where he is doctor-ish/army-ish when he should be dad-ish. But that doesn’t mean those other characters are entirely worthless and while they are pretty much the straight men and women of the piece, their predicaments are handled as well as The Wonder Years handled Kevin’s.

Given that the show is based on I Suck At Girls, don’t be surprised that most of those predicaments involve teenage son Connor Buckley sucking at dealing with girls, but rather than this being the traditional ‘ugly nerd with zero social skills aiming too high’ set-up expected of sitcoms, this is more ‘cute boy makes the same relationship mistakes everyone else does when they’re young’ kind of thing. Episode one saw him have his first kiss, two revealed he was actually quite good at sports and three had him actually asking someone out and not getting the reaction you’d have expected, all of which is surprisingly refreshing and probably shows you how tired other shows are rather than necessarily how fresh this one is.

Meloni is great as Jack; the show has some good one-liners; the female characters, even Rachael Harris’s, could do with some extensive development work but are not merely plucked from a box of stereotypes; and there’s some actual sensitivity to all the male characters for a change. Probably the best new network comedy of the 2013-14 season, since it’s more consistent than Enlisted.

Barrometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Will last a season and might even get picked up for a second one

April 10, 2014

Mini-review: Turn 1x1 (AMC)

Posted on April 10, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

AMC's Turn

In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

Wars should, by their very nature, be exciting. The Revolutionary War that brought about the independence of the United States of America from British rule is such a thing of mythology and eulogisation that it’s possibly one of the most exciting wars that can be discussed or depicted. And when you add in spies as well, and get some of the best British actors on TV to take part, surely you’re onto a sure-fire adrenaline fest, no?

No. Because Turn, based on the Alexander Rose novel Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring, is a veritable snoozefest.

Largely, of course, this is down to its being on AMC. Although the network has had its fair share of successes – Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead – none of them have got to where they are by packing every hour with a thrill a minute. And Turn seemingly takes great pains to do the same, without giving us sparkling dialogue or interesting characters to make the journey worthwhile.

Although the show is clearly going somewhere, the pilot episode really doesn’t give you that many reasons to go with it. Commendably avoiding the “British army were just as bad as Nazis” route trodden by The Patriot, Turn does take relative pains to be equitable to the Brits and to avoid hoary old cliches (no one says “The British are coming! The British are coming!” since most Americans still thought of themselves as British, for example).

Unfortunately, it does this by giving us a reluctant farmer (Jamie Bell) as a hero, his dodgy accented father (Kevin McNally) with a foot in both camps to talk a lot, a dull wife (Meegan Warner) and a slightly more interesting ex (Heather Lind) for Bell to pine over, and a British army officer (Burn Gorman) to pass out the law honourably in difficult times. The screen practically goes grey with boredom as soon as any of them appear. And when your TV can’t be bothered to watch what you’re watching, a show is in trouble.

Angus Macfadyen (Robert the Bruce in Braveheart) could be good fun as a Scottish mercenary-come-black ops ranger working for the Brits, if he weren’t mumbling every line, and Seth Numrich's organiser of the Culper Spy Ring is so square-jawed and all-American-before-there-was-an-all-American that he disappears in a cloud of blandness in virtually every scene he’s in.

I dare say further down the line – maybe one season or even two seasons from now – something might have happened and the hours of TV-viewing involved will have paid off a little. But at a time when there’s just so much good TV on – hell, this is on the same night as just Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, The Good Wife and Shameless alone – I doubt many people will have accompanied it that far or that it'll all have been worth it.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 318 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 339 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 396 397 398 399 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 416 417 418 419 420 421 422 423 424 425 426 427 428 429 430 431 432 433 434 435 436 437 438 439 440 441 442 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 450 451 452 453 454 455 456 457 458 459 460 461 462 463 464 465 466 467 468 469 470 471 472 473 474 475 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 486 487 488 489 490  

Featured Articles

Silicon Valley

Be nice to nerds