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Preview: Berlin Station 1x1-1x2 (US: Epix)

Posted on September 29, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Berlin Station

In the US: Sundays, 9pm ET/PT, Epix. Starts October 16

'Peak TV' is the name given to the idea of there being too much TV for us to consume. Thanks to the Internet, cable, et al, it's a lot easier for a company to 'transmit' content; also, more and more people want to make content. As a result, that means there's an awful lot of TV out there being made by an awful lot of people. However, there's only so much talent in the world and it's starting to get spread pretty thinly, particularly around the world's media industry, which means that there's a lot of bad TV made by people who don't actually know how to make good TV.

A while ago I came up with the idea of 'cargo cult TV' - TV going through all the motions of a genre but without really understanding the rules of that genre. As a result, it's missing something essential. I'd like to expand that to encompass the idea of people making TV but not really getting TV.

Take Epix. Until recently, Epix like AMC - aka American Movie Classics - before it, was content to air other people's content before suddenly deciding to make some TV shows of its own. The first to make it out of the gates is Berlin Station, created by spy novelist Olen Steinhauer and set in… well, you can probably guess.

Now Berlin Station goes through all the motions of being both a proper spy show and a proper TV show. Nevertheless, it's cargo cult TV. Something intrinsic's missing from it, preventing it from being either a spy show or a good TV show.

Like other cargo cultists, Steinhauer and Epix have done their best to emulate TV producers. They've recruited a great big, top notch cast. The hero of the piece is our very own Dick Head, Richard Armitage, who's no stranger to spying thanks to Chris Ryan's Strike Back, Captain America and Spooks. They've got Michelle Forbes (Homicide, The Killing (US), In Treatment), Rhys Ifans (Elementary, Twin Town), Tamlyn Tomita (Babylon 5, The Joy Luck Club) and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), too. 

They've found a German co-production partner, hired some actual German actors and flown all the way to Berlin to film everything. They've even done what every other political show has done of late and 'stolen from the headlines' - and, of course, since there are very few headlines about spying these days, that means Yet Another Edward Snowden whistleblower plotline. And they've hired a proper European film director for the first two episodes - Michaël Roskam (The Drop)

All of which is designed to fool the viewer into somehow thinking they're watching a top, premium cable TV show.

Except they're not. They're watching pure cargo cult TV arse.

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What have you been watching? Including Hooten and the Lady, Doctor, Doctor and High Maintenance

Posted on September 19, 2016 | Post a comment | 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. 

Après lui le déluge. This week marks the proper kicking off in the US of a big selection of the Fall schedule, so brace yourself for a flotilla of reviews as the likes of Designated Survivor, Notorious, The Good Place, This Is Us, Lethal Weapon and Pitch head down the pipes towards. I've saved myself some of that burden by previewing a couple of shows already, including Speechless (US: ABC) and Son of Zorn (US: Fox); I've also reviewed the first episodes of Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) and Better Things (US: FX), and passed a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning (Canada: CBC). 

I'll do my best to keep up, but I might get caught up on some rapids somewhere - maybe by deciding to watch the rest of saison 2 of Le Bureau Des Légendes (The Bureau) (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon).

After the jump, I'll be reviewing the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You're The Worst, as well as the second episode of newcomer Quarry. But if you think that the list above is all I've been watching, you don't know me very well:

Home From Home (UK: BBC Two)
I tuned into this comedy pilot purely for old times' sake, since it starred my TV wife Joanna Page. It sees Page married to Johnny Vegas for some unfathomable reason and the two of them deciding to buy a cottage in the Lake District and dragging their kids along to stay with them. Unfortunately, in the transit down the motorway, they forgot to bring any jokes with them. Somehow, I doubt it will make it to series…

Hooten and the Lady (UK: Sky1)
There can't have been many people who, when they first heard of Lara Croft, thought to themselves "Wouldn't she better if she were split in half - one half an aristocratic archaeologist, the other an adventurer who likes diving off things and grunting?" Yet Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle) apparently did, as can be seen from his new Sky1 show Hooten and the Lady.

As nominatively determined to dreadfulness as its spiritual predecessor Bonekickers, it sees Ophelia Lovibond - last seen ruining Elementary - deciding the best thing to do to fight government cutbacks at the British Museum is throw aside over a century of archaeological best practice, revive the good old days of Empire and cultural insensitivity, and head off down the Amazon a-lootin' 'n' a-pilligin'. There she meets American petty criminal Michael Landes (Love Soup, Save Meand they strike a pact to combine his brawn and her brains in an effort to get rich and save museums. 

The show wants to be a sort of Indiana Jones meets the screwball comedies of the 40s and 50s, but in reality is a near-unwatchable fan fic version of Lara Croft meets Relic Hunter, but without the charm, stunts or wit of either. The decade and a half's age difference between the two leads doesn't help conjure an air of romance, either, even assuming there were more to either character than a thinly sketched character background more suited for a murder-mystery weekend.

Everybody involved looks like they're having fun out on location somewhere sunny. The rest of as we sit through their irritating, by the numbers, 'flirtatious banter'? Less so.

Doctor, Doctor (Australia: Nine)
After taking over most of Australia's TV channels, the omnipresent Rodger Corser (The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Beautiful Lie, Party Tricks) now makes his moves on the Nine Network with this surprisingly enjoyable Australian redo of Doc Hollywood that also feels like it's here to stick two fingers up at Seven's somewhat clunky 800 words, which has just returned for a second season, as well as wave in passing at ABC Australia's Rake and USA's Royal Pains.

Corser plays a top Sydney heart surgeon who's got one too many addictions for his own good. An incident at a party ends up with the arrogant Corser being stuck on probation for a year but, with few friends and the Australian health service in desperate need of GPs in rural areas, Corser finds himself sent back to general practice in his home town.

There, he has to deal with his politician mother, the fiancée he stood up and who's now married to his brother, his uninterested father, his gun-mad foster brother and everyone he grew up with. Oh yes, and not remembering any general medicine any more, so having to Google everything, half his patients being a plane-ride away, not being able to do any surgery or else he'll lose his licence, and an Irish nurse who's not going to help him quit substance-abuse any time soon.

Doctor, Doctor is actually a lot more charming yet simultaneously harder edged than you might think. Corser's character is as big a dick as Rake's, yet Corser is engaging enough to make you like him. The fact he's a coke-head who likes to party-hard on whatever other substances you might have to hand is also a lot darker than someone with a single incident behind him. There's also the coming to terms with general practice, as well as the denizens of the local hospital, which is pretty entertaining.

It's unlikely ever to make it to the UK, given Nine's strapped enough for cash as it is, but I used to think that about Hulu, too, and look what happened there. Give it a whirl if you can.

High Maintenance (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic - probably)
Originally a Vimeo web series and maintaining a lot of that feel, High Maintenance sees its co-writer-creator Ben Sinclair playing a pot-delivering, New York cyclist who encounters new and odd customers in every episode.

While billed as a comedy, it's probably better to think of it as a frequently amusing series of vignettes skewering characters, the first a katana-wielding strongman who seems reluctant to pay, the second a gay man who realises he's spending too much time with his fag hag flatmate rather than other gay men. With Sinclair an in-story Rod Serling, don't be too surprised to discover there's a twist in the tail with each vignette, the first having an absolute kicker of a resolution. But also be prepared for a lot of cringe comedy along the way, as the drug-focus of the piece means the show goes to some dark and uncomfortable places along the way.

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News: New Girl, Man Seeking Woman renewed; BBC Simenon adaptation; Broadchurch casting; + more

Posted on April 13, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Table read through for Starz's American Gods

Internet TV

  • Adam Long joins Hulu's When The Lights Go On

Australian TV

  • Zoe Bentoura, Matt Nable et al to star in Nine's Hyde and Seek

UK TV show casting

  • Sarah Parish, Charlie Higson, Georgina Campbell et al join Broadchurch

New UK TV shows

US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV show casting

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