Tag Archive | Chuck

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Third-episode verdict: Limitless (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)

Posted on October 7, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerLimitless.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Living

In contrast to all the other shows that decided with their second episodes to improve on their crappy pilots this season, Limitless appears to have been planned this way all along. Which is odd. The first episode was generic dullness - a continuation that bolted a police procedural format onto the superior Bradley Cooper movie about a slacker who takes a drug that gives him incredible mental capabilities but which has lethal withdrawal symptoms.

As I mentioned at the time, it was inherently not much different from any number of other CBS "clever people solve crimes" shows, such as The Mentalist, Numb3rs, Elementary, Criminal Minds, IntelligenceScorpion, and CSI, beyond a little more spit and polish, presumably acquired through experience of making so many identikit shows.

The oddest feature of the first episode was its messed up casting, with livewire Jennifer Carpenter from Dexter cast as the dull FBI agent who plays second fiddle to twentysomething musician-slacker Jake McDorman from Manhattan Love Story. What were the producers thinking, I wondered?

Well, it's quite clear what they were thinking now, since apparently, the pilot was intended to lure in the fans of the movie. But as of episode two, the series officially became a comedy with occasionally dark undertones. It became Chuck. A better Chuck than Chuck in fact, since at least it can manage to do action and Carpenter doesn't have to look like a lovesick puppy the whole time (poor Yvonne Strahovski). 

And as a comedy, it's actually quite fun, warm, engaging and inventive - considerably better and nicer, in fact, than just about anything CBS classes as a comedy. Best touch of the show so far, beyond some wildly inventive fantasy sequences, has been the recruitment in the third episode of McDorman's fellow lead from Manhattan Love Story, Analeigh Tipton, as his ex-girlfriend, newly impressed by the NZT-improved McDorman.

What it isn't any more is either a good police procedural, since its plots wander between dull and unrealistic, or a continuation of the movie Limitless, beyond constant acknowledgements of the existence of Bradley Cooper's character and the NZT MacGuffin. Tonally, it's off completely here: Cooper has evolved into something a tad evil, and NZT does little except make McDorman a bit more energetic, focused and smarter. There's little of the OCD, drive and mastery of the world that the movie's NZT brought to Cooper.

Indeed, McDorman is well cast as the driftless and not-that-smart-even-on-NZT lead, well suited to the idea of an amiable shmuck who can drag up inspiration from old episodes of Miami Vice and dream-sequence all manner of hard-boiled shenanigans and adventures for Carpenter, since he isn't allowed to go on missions with her, only stay in the back room analysing things on his regulation one pill a day.

I still think Carpenter would have been a better lead, and it would have been interesting for a change to have a show about a female slacker turning her life around, and not through setting up a cupcake business. The vestigial dark through-narrative about Cooper blackmailing McDorman also sits oddly next to the rest of the almost exclusively comedic and heartwarming qualities of the show.

But as it stands, Limitless is now a considerably more interesting, albeit different show than when it started. 

Barrometer rating: 2
TMINE's prediction: I'm not on NZT, but I think this has the potential to run and run. However, I'm not convinced it quite has that magical ingredient needed to make an audience love it.

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What have you been watching? Including You, Me and the Apocalypse, Limitless, The Muppets, Scream Queens, Doctor Who and Y Gwyll

Posted on October 2, 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.

I always forget. I always go "Look how much I've done!" in the first week of each new Fall season, then forget that in the second week I've got to watch all the new programmes that start airing that week as well as the ones that began the previous week.

My, what a lot of tele I've watched this week.

Still, unbelievably, I'm actually up to date. This week, I reviewed the first episodes of the following new shows:

And after the jump, you'll find reviews of the latest episodes of: 800 Words, Blindspot, Continuum, Doctor Who, Heroes Reborn, Life in Pieces, Limitless, Minority Report, The Muppets, The Player, Rosewood, Scream Queens, Y Gwyll and You're The Worst. Some of them won't be making it to a third-episode verdict, particularly since the Barrometer is currently in a tanning salon somewhere in the Gorbals so too busy to pass judgement on anything, but you can find out which after the jump.

On top of all that, I also managed to watch the first episode of another new show, this time from the UK.

You, Me and The Apocalypse (UK: Sky1; US: NBC)
As with most US/UK co-productions, particularly those involving Sky, this is a lukewarm affair that satisfies no-one, perhaps best evidenced by the change in the show's title from Apocalypse Slough. It sees a comet approaching the Earth, meaning that everyone goes a bit whacky at the prospect of the coming Apocalypse that will result when it hits. However, the action of the first episode is all set in the lead-up to the lead-up to the comet, introducing us to several different groups of people from around the world who are going to all end up together at some point. These include Mathew Baynton, Joel Fry (Plebs), Pauline Quirke (Birds of a Feather), Rob Lowe (like you need to know who he is), Paterson Joseph (Peep Show), Jenna Fischer (The Office US) and an almost unrecognisable Megan Mullally (Will and Grace). Unfortunately, it's all a bit weak and pathetic, not really knowing who its audience is, despite the occasional choice joke. The only exception to this is Rob Lowe's bad minded Catholic priest who is the Vatican's Devil's Advocate. Otherwise, eminently missable.

But if you think after all that I had any time to watch any movies or go to the theatre, you have a higher opinion of me than I do.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including You, Me and the Apocalypse, Limitless, The Muppets, Scream Queens, Doctor Who and Y Gwyll"

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Review: The Astronaut Wives Club 1x1 (US: ABC)

Posted on June 25, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

The Astronaut Wives Club

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

History is, of course, usually just that – ‘his story’. ‘Her story’ – women’s stories – tend to get overlooked.

Thankfully, great efforts are being made to redress the balance, to tell the forgotten stories of women throughout the world and throughout the centuries, to show what contributions they’ve made to society.

Unfortunately, much as it would probably like to be, The Astronaut Wives Club isn’t one of those efforts. The series is set during the early 1960s, when 'women’s liberation’ was just beginning and the US and the USSR were racing each other to be the first to put a living creature then a man then a woman in space, before finally they both aimed for the ultimate prize of putting a man on the moon.

The US efforts began in earnest with the Mercury Seven, a group of seven astronauts who would fly the Mercury spacecraft into orbit, but only one of whom would be the first American into space. Each of these men was married and as an act of anti-Soviet propaganda and to get the American people on board with the 'space race’, efforts were made to make these wives a form of American royalty, right down to a Time magazine journalist reporting on their every move – provided he only showed them and their husbands in a good, all-American light, of course.

Needless to say, beneath the surfaces of these supposedly happy, ordinary American wives, their happy, extraordinary American husbands and their marriages, a lot was going on, including infidelity and divorce, all of which these women and Time had to hide from sight.

Now, without these women doing what they did, these men might never have been able to have been astronauts – or at least be astronauts and have a family, normal home-life, etc. And many were accomplished in their own rights. So it’s good that their stories are told.

And they have been – in Lily Koppel’s book, The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story. And to be honest, that’s where they should have been left, because a 10-part event television series they do not make – or if they do, the wrong people are telling them.

The Astronaut Wives Club is dull. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. It shouldn’t be. But it is. It’s got a great cast: Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, 24, Dexter), Odette Annable (House, Banshee, Breaking In, Rush), Erin Cummings (Spartacus, Detroit 1-8-7), Joanna Garcia (Privileged, Better With You, Animal Practice), Desmond Harrington (Dexter), Evan Handler (Sex and the City, Californication), Bret Harrison (The Loop, Reaper) and more. It’s got space rockets, some of which explode. It’s got pool parties and heaps of 60s style. It also has real, well known events to recreate, such as famous Time magazine photos.

Time's Astronaut Wives Club

The recreated cover

But it’s dull. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull.

The problem is that much of the first episode isn’t really about the women. It’s about women with women, which it explores in entirely standard and dull, dull, dull, dull, dull ways. So on the one hand, the wives are all competitive and want their husband to be the first man in space. But since all they can do is compete verbally and can’t actually do anything to help their husband to be the first man in space, they simply snipe at one another and pick holes in each other’s accomplishments (“An unmarried woman travelling abroad. That must have been… an adventure”).

Then they realise that they each have secrets that could be revealed and that anything bad looks bad for their husbands, so they club together for solidarity, making cakes and so on. Annable’s Trudy Cooper is getting divorced and hates cheating men so she ends up manipulating events so that Dominique McElligott’s Louise Shepard can spot Alan Shepard cheating.

Except there’s also the fact they’re getting so much fame and celebrity that perhaps if they bent the rules, they might be the one who ends up a bit more famous than the rest, which is what Strahovski ends up doing, such as when she wears a dress that isn’t pastel-coloured in the photo above. Except maybe she’ll need the help of the others later on…

And so on. And I’m sure there’ll be more of that ‘women helping each other through adversity’ later, too, as well known historical tragedies will take place in future episodes.

But you’d be hard pressed to know what any of the women were actually like, what their own accomplishments were and so on, beyond the occasional throw-away line. In fact, you’ll end up knowing a whole lot more about all the members of the Mercury Seven than you did before, which is almost exactly the opposite of what The Astronaut Wives Club was trying to do.

So like ABC’s other 60s period piece, Pan-Am, before it, The Astronaut Wives Club is a pretty little bauble of a piece, full of decent actors and actresses and lovely attention to period detail, but with a plot that’ll send you to sleep despite all the excitement of its setting. Avoid.

Incidentally, it’s interesting don’t you think that despite supposedly being the most female-friendly of all the networks, ABC’s current Thursday night offering is this, followed by Mistresses. Not really demonstrating the full gamut of women’s experiences independent of men, is it?

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