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Third-episode verdict: 11.22.63 (US: Hulu; UK: Fox)

Posted on March 3, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Barrometer112263.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Sundays, Hulu
In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, Fox International. Starts 10 April

Three episodes into Hulu's first long-form drama, 11.22.63, an adaptation of Stephen King's book about a time-travelling teacher who wants to stop the assassination of JFK but doesn't know how, and three things have become clear:

  1. It's possible to be very shallow while still having oodles of screen time to work with
  2. It's possible to be a great author and have a great idea, but to still not bother doing anything with it
  3. That doesn't necessarily matter that much if you can create a decent enough atmosphere

The first episode threw a whole bunch of things at us: James Franco's teacher discovering pal Chris Cooper has a portal to the past; said portal being semi-useless as it only goes to October 1960; Cooper giving Franco the task of preventing the JFK assassination, as well as all his research, a guide to living in the 60s and a list of winners of sporting events to fund journeys into the past; and the fact that the past doesn't like being changed so does its best to stop people from doing just that.

All of which could be the basis of a fun and exciting two hour movie. However, since then, 11.22.63 instead has given us the frankly idiotic Franco going into the past… and living there for two episodes, so that we can experience the nostalgic thrills of living in the sanitised 60s - a sort of vaccinated time travel for those who want to think about noble white men helping the grateful oppressed deal with racism, homophobia, sexism, fundamentalism, domestic violence et al, with just the occasional punch and bit of bad language, without having to worry about intersectionality or being shot as a result of increasingly lax gun-control legislation.

Since the first episode, Franco has at least picked up a native helper monkey (George MacKay) to assist him in his endeavours. We've also seen the arrival of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, with the fleshing out of them as people. Franco's also got himself a job and whiled away a year or so, while bumping into love interest Sarah Gadon (The Border, Being Erica, Ruby Gloom).

However, more or less all of episode two was about Franco's attempts to prevent the family of a future pupil of his being murdered. It was a dark, quite nasty interval, in which Franco was once again epically stupidly, but it didn't really push the narrative along much. 

While Franco's performance is so muted, he seems like he's on quaaludes the whole time, the rest of the cast are more interesting and have fun characters, so it's much easier to spend time with them than him. It can also be quite funny when dropping in future references, such as when Franco claims to have served in Korea with the 4077th MASH.

But this is not a show intending to grip us with his plot. Neither is it in a hurry either to have any time travel fun or to really get to grips with JFK's assassination and its fall-out. To some extent, that's by design, since it's a nine-episode 'event series', and everything is leading to a twist or two, I'm sure. But it's relying on the King name to bolster the viewer's patience enough to get them through to the end.

If you like genre dramas that are more about atmosphere and nostalgia than about ideas, and if you want a show that investigates conspiracy theories without saying anything much definitive about them, 11.22.63 is certainly already delivering. But if there's anything great about it, the writers are saving it for the final episodes and I'm sorely tempted just to Wikipedia the ending at this point. I think I'll stick with it, but the show needs to up its game soon to prevent death-by-online-encyclopaedia.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with a female lead? Yes. Or even simply a different lead
Rob's prediction: It's a limited series so a one-off, but I can't imagine it setting the world on fire with its one season. However, as a first effort by Hulu, it's very good and could lead to more dramas being commissioned.

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What have you been watching? Including Hindsight, Elementary, Banshee, Spiral and Constantine

Posted on January 19, 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.

More new and returning TV shows mean the return of the backlog, I’m afraid. Sigh. It’s not easy this job with all its highly demanding… sitting in front of a TV and then writing about it…

Anyway, moving swiftly on, I’ll just promise that I’ll be reviewing Syfy’s TV version of 12 Monkeys either later today when I’ve finished watching it or tomorrow during my lunchbreak. One of those.

But last week, I managed to review:

Which ain’t bad. The Book of Negroes, I’m afraid, will have to go on the pile of ‘probably quite good mini series I haven’t watched’ because I'm now two episodes behind.

But after the jump.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Hindsight, Elementary, Banshee, Spiral and Constantine"

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Review: Hindsight 1x1 (US: VH1)

Posted on January 8, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hindsight

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, VH1

There is a stereotype that Canadians are basically the same as Americans – except smarter. Unfair? Untrue? Maybe. Yet, if we were to judge how Americans and Canadians approached almost exactly the same idea, it would be hard not to think that perhaps there’s truth to the stereotype.

A few years ago, Canada’s CBC gave us the mind-bending Being Erica, in which over-achieving Erica Strange MA is stuck in a dead end job, her personal life a mess, when a mysterious proverb-quoting stranger gives her the opportunity to do over key moments in her life with the benefit of hindsight, so she can fix her problems and grow as a person.

It was a lovely, jaunty, smart little show with a lot to say for itself and quite rightly, countries all over the world acquired it. Even the US. Many countries even tried to make their own versions of it, few actually getting anywhere with it. Even the US.

But now we have VH1 – yes, the TV music channel for oldies – entirely by coincidence and in no way doing anything that would require it to pay a licence fee to anyone, giving us what is essentially a remake of Being Erica called Hindsight. Except it's a lot stupider.

Becca (Laura Ramsey) is a 40-something secretary about to embark on her second marriage to Andy (Nick Clifford), a nice but definitely dull guy she doesn't really love, when she bumps into a Buddhist-proverb quoting stranger. Wouldn't you know it, she's waking up the next day back in 1995, on the eve of her first wedding to the hot but bad Australian Sean (Craig Horner from Legend of the Seeker). How did she get there? Who was the proverb-quoting stranger? Should she tell best friend Lolly what's happened and why they're no longer talking in the future? Should she still marry Sean or should she go off with Andy? Will the benefit of hindsight help?

These are the questions that Hindsight poses. You’ll notice that questions about the existential nature of reality, the self and one’s career do not feature in that list.

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading "Review: Hindsight 1x1 (US: VH1)"

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