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Review: The Returned 1x1-1x2 (US: A&E/UK: Netflix)

Posted on March 17, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Victor in The Returned

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, A&E
In the UK: Available on Netflix. New episode every Tuesday

There are remakes. Then there are unnecessary remakes. And then there’s The Returned.

First, there was a French movie called Les Revenants. That saw a whole bunch of people coming back from the dead and returning to their very much surprised loved ones in a small French town, who have all moved on.

Then there was a Canal+ TV series called Les Revenants based on the movie, which aired on Channel 4 in the UK and on Sundance in the US; the second season of that is going to air in France later this year. That saw a whole bunch of people coming back from the dead and returning to their very much surprised loved ones in a small French town, who have all moved on.

Then there was a book called The Returned. That saw a whole bunch of people coming back from the dead and returning to their very much surprised loved ones in a small US town, who have all moved on.

Then there was an ABC TV series in the US called Resurrection based on the movie, which aired on Alibi in the UK; the second season of that is currently airing. That saw a whole bunch of people coming back from the dead and returning to their very much surprised loved ones in a small US town, who have all moved on.

And now we have a US remake of the Les Revenants TV series called The Returned. This sees a whole bunch of people coming back from the dead and returning to their very much surprised loved ones in a small US town, who have all moved on. Worse, still it's practically identical to Les Revenants in almost every way - to the extent that alleged screenwriter and showrunner Carlton Cuse (Lost, The Bates Motel) and every other writer involved should probably relinquish their credits and give them over to the translators who translated the scripts into English for them.

You have to ask why this is happening. Sure, Sundance is a bit niche, but with Resurrection airing on ABC, it’s not like the concept’s not already getting a pretty good airing as it is. Yet here it is, not as good and not as creepy as Les Revenants, but filling our screens all the same on A&E, the network whose tag line is “Be original”. Oh sweet, sweet irony.

Still, let’s evaluate The Returned on its own terms, rather than merely wondering why it exists. After all, despite the fact we’re into episode two and at least three dead people have already turned up, no one in The Returned is wondering why they exist, so clearly a lack of questioning is all the rage.

As a show, it’s all right, but it’s supernaturally generic. We have a decent cast, some of whom look virtually identical to their French counterparts, including Kevin Alejandro (Southland), Michelle Forbes (BSG, Homicide, ST:TNG), Mark Pellegrino (Lost, The Tomorrow People) and Jeremy Sisto (Kidnapped, Suburgatory), with support from just about any reliable Canadian actor you care to mention (including Aaron Douglas from BSG, and Roger Cross from Arrow, 24, and Continuum). The various mysteries and secrets of the characters - assuming you haven’t already learnt them watching Les Revenants - are intriguing, and their various dilemmas are relatable. Well, apart from Pellegrino’s, cos he’s a git in this. If you watch the trailer at the end of the first episode, you’ll know that zombie-esque action is on the horizon, which is at least moderately more interesting than anything Resurrection was prepared to throw our way.

All the same, the characters are all colossally annoying in their inability to even call a doctor to ask WTF is going on. No one mentions what’s happened to anyone else, meaning that no one yet knows that they’re not alone in having a returned loved on. No one’s even mentioned zombies, except one of the zombies themselves, so that doesn’t count. Michelle Forbes hasn’t even had a line yet.

But briefly just to make comparisons with the original again, there’s none of Les Revenants' unusual qualities. No odd silences, no quiet pieces of direction, no genuinely creepy kid, no lovely Mogwai soundtrack. The Returned is like virtually everything else on A&E: decent, solid, slowly paced and with nothing about it whatsoever that could be described as revolutionary. It’s comfortable viewing for an uncomfortable subject.

And perhaps that’s the argument for this otherwise unnecessary remake: it’s more watchable for being less unusual, meaning that more people are likely to watch it all the way through to the end.

So should you watch it? Well, look at the picture above of Victor in The Returned. Now look at the picture below featuring Victor from Les Revenants.

Les Revenants

Would you rather watch a show featuring top Victor or bottom Victor? Once you know the answer to that, you’ll know which version is for you. And here are corresponding trailers to help you, too.

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What have you been watching? Including Backstrom, Young Drunk Punk, 19-2, Spiral and Galavant

Posted on January 26, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there's Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Lots of new shows to deal with this past week, including 12 Monkeys. Unfortunately, it’s my busy time of the month, so I won’t be able to deal with them at length and there’s a few third-episode verdicts I’m going to have skip, too. Fortunately, though, all the new shows don’t really warrant full reviews…

Backstrom (US: Fox)
Despite having been canned by CBS straight after its pilot, this adaptation of Leif GW Persson’s Bäckström books has been resurrected over at Fox and once again demonstrates that the US really shouldn’t be adapting Nordic Noir. It stars Rainn Wilson from The Office as the eponymous Backstrom, a Portland police detective who’s best thought of as Gregory House MD but without the talent, the charm or the looks, bungling his way from crime scene to crime scene being lazy and offensive and being proved right because the script demands it, rather than because of any insight. So the producers think it very funny that Backstrom have the nearest - and indeed only - black person around arrested because he’s black so probably was involved in the crime. My, how comically racist! Except the black person is involved in the crime - how actually racist!

There’s some decent supporting characters, including an MMA-beat cop (Page Kennedy); a New Age medical examiner (Kristoffer Polaha from Ringer, Valentine, Life Unexpected), whom everyone reacts to like he’s English, even though he doesn’t even have an accent; an investigator whom everyone reacts to like she’s French, because she is (Beatrice Rosen); and Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24) as Backstrom’s boss. But this is as lazy as Backstrom himself, trying to fake being intelligent and gimmicky by having Backstrom ‘empathise’ (saying out loud, “I am character x, I feel y, therefore I would have done z”) and come up with insight such as “Anyone who says ‘Absolutely not’ is absolutely lying”, rather than actually being intelligent or having insight.

Weirdly, between moving from CBS to Fox, there’s been some recasting and a lot of the funnier and smarter stuff has been removed, making it worse not better than it was before.

Young Drunk Punk (Canada: City TV)
After last year’s slew of 80s nostalgia shows in the US, time for some 80s nostalgia from Canada, with Young Drunk Punk, in which two teenage nerd punk-wannabes search for their destinies after leaving high school. Despite being written by and starring Bruce McCulloch (Kids In The Hall) this is very much like the previous half dozen Canadian comedies that have come by in having a total laugh count of zero.

After the jump, 19-2, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Cougar Town, Elementary, The Flash, Galavant, Gotham, The Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs, Spiral (Engrenages) and Togetherness. One of them’s on the verge of getting recommended, one of them’s going to be dropped, and one of them is on the borderline. But which ones? You’ll find out after the jump.

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Review: 12 Monkeys 1x1-1x2 (US/UK: Syfy)

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

12 Monkeys

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Syfy UK. Begins 9pm, 27 February 

For quite some time now, Syfy has been coasting. Gone are the halcyon days when Battlestar Galactica was the toast of the town. Indeed, with a schedule intermittently packed with wrestling, reality shows and knowingly bad B-movies, it was possible to surmise that Syfy had changed its name from the Scifi channel not just for trademarking purposes but so it could avoid having to show sci-fi, with what little it did airbeing anaemic-to-poor knock-offs (Alphas) or imports (Continuum, Being Human, Bitten). 

However, for the past couple of years, Syfy has been trying to raise its game in original programming. Sometimes, the quality's been awful (Dominion, Z Nation), sometimes it's been okay (Defiance, Helix), but so far, nothing's been great.

12 Monkeys doesn't quite change that track record, but given what's gone before it, it's surprisingly good. The film, 12 Monkeys, was a Terry Gilliam classic, itself based on the Chris Marker's 1962 'photo-roman' La Jetée, in which a time traveller from the future comes back to the modern day to prevent armageddon. However, time paradoxes mean that the story has more than a twist or two.

Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, as well as being a movie rather than a series of photos, adds many plots and sub-plots to Marker's story, portraying a virus-devastated future from which Bruce Willis returns to find out the source of the virus and prevent the future from happening. Along the way, he meets a doctor (Madeleine Stowe), with whom he falls in love and convinces he's from the future, and a psychiatric institute inmate (Brad Pitt), who is the head of 'the Army of the 12 Monkeys', the likely cause of the virus. And again, as with La Jetée, there are plenty of timey-wimey twists.

This new TV version moves things on slightly and straightens out some of the twists. Our new hero is Aaron Stanford - best known as Pyro in X-Men 2 but also doing serviceable secret agent turns in both Nikita and Traveler - and he's come from 2043 to find out the source of a viral outbreak that's set to happen in 2017. Why him? Because in the future, the few remaining survivors of the virus find not only a time machine that can 'splinter' someone back in time but also a message from a CDC doctor, Amanda Schull (Louis' helper in Suits), saying that he is the one who must help stop the virus from getting out. Will he convince her of what's going to happen? Will he be able to find who's really behind the viral outbreak? And how many time paradoxes will he encounter along the way

Here's a trailer.

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